Before we got engaged, I was pressuring Jordan to do it. I was 27, convinced that if marriage was not in our future, then there was no point in continuing. What I didn’t realize was what I really wanted to know. I still wasn’t sure whether he wanted to marry me or not. Once he proposed, and I realized his answer was yes, I was faced with a question I hadn’t really given much thought to—Do I want to get married?
I wasn’t questioning of our relationship–I knew I wanted to be with him for the foreseeable future. But it was that foreseeable part. What about all the unknowns? Was I really going to stand up in front of everyone I know and commit to another person for a lifetime, knowing how much I don’t know about what the future holds? Knowing how out of my control it all is? Knowing how bad the odds are that something like this could last? Knowing how much I have changed in the past seven years and how much Jordan has changed in that time as well? Isn’t it kind of disingenuous to make that kind of commitment?
It felt like it to me. After all, I don’t simply want to remain married to my husband for the rest of my life. I want to remain in love with him, I want our love to grow, and keep growing. I want us to have a healthy and dynamic sex life, I want us to have harmony and peace in our home, I want us both to be given the space and time we need to develop our passions and projects. I want it all, and I know how rare that is. And I know how much work it takes. Because I have been working on it with him for the past seven years.
Unlike a lot of my accomplishments, my relationship with my husband is something I can say easily I am very proud of. I was single for many years, convinced I would never find love. So I know how it can sting to hear someone speak about their great love life. But I am not proud because of fate. We have both worked incredibly hard over the past seven years to keep our love alive. A lot of sacrifices have been made on both sides, and we have both had to grow, heal, and transform in a myriad ways to keep our connection to each other.
But even though we have a great relationship, the idea of the marriage vows scared me. I think it might be because of the way we met. We started talking one day at a party and have been together ever since. It was easy to find things in common—we attended the same elementary, middle, and high school in New Orleans, where we still live together, with a community of people that are still among some of our closest and oldest friends. Since I had known who my husband was since I was 8 years old, I thought I knew him. We were always running in similar crowds but were never lovers or even really friends. If you had told me just 30 minutes before we started talking that I would end up marrying him, I don’t think I ever would have believed you. Even now we look at each other and sometimes get another wave of surprise. Like, wow! I can’t believe my person in life is you!
Remembering this, I felt discomfort making a vow like till death do us part—couldn’t the same shock happen the opposite way? Couldn’t I be just as blindsided one day by the reality that we shouldn’t be together any longer?
But the more I thought about it, the more my understanding grew. The answer to this question is yes, but that doesn’t mean a wedding shouldn’t happen. I have come to understand the ritual of marriage as just one among many human traditions where we attempt to create permanence where there is none, where we grasp at eternity even though our time is brief, and where we attempt to forge acts of infinite, unconditional love even though as humans we are so finite, so submerged in our individual conditions. The act of committing my whole self to someone else, to summoning all the devotion I can muster, to reaching deep into my reserves of compassion and patience and humility over and over to keep the fires of our love burning bright—these acts are sacred, because they are an attempt to transcend the mundane aspects of my humanity.
I quickly realized I wanted us to share in the writing of our own vows. We started with a brainstorm of words and values that we share and prioritize in ourselves and with each other—self-love, devotion to God, humility, humor, honesty, community, the land, and integrity. After that, I wrote a draft, and he edited it, as he often does with my writing, and we went back and forth a bit. I am so happy with the way they turned out and to share them with you now.
A week into married life, I realize how important it is to me to share these vows even more publically. I have committed myself to the ritual of maintaining and open, honest, unconditionally loving, sexually monogamous relationship with another human being yall! I been practicing the past seven years but now I feel the weight of the commitment more than ever. I want to share that commitment with all of you. I want accountability here. I want all of yall to know that I am going to do my absolute best.
Do you vow first and foremost to love yourself, to be kind and gentle with yourself, and devote yourself fully to your own personal divine connection? We chose this to be first because this has always been a firm touchstone in our relationship. Before we even present an issue or conflict to the other, we check-in with ourselves—is there a way we could love ourselves more here, be more gentle, and be in better relationship with our individual sense of the divine?
Do you vow to always turn towards your passion and follow it with hard work and dedication, and to support your partner in doing the same? Jordan and I are both self-employed, and very driven by our passions and this is something we also put at the forefront, because we know it’s vital to each other’s happiness.
Do you vow to be honest, especially when it is difficult, to be vulnerable, especially when you feel hurt, and to speak from your heart, even when your belly is full of fire? Communication, communication, and then, even when you don’t feel like it at all—a little more communication—honest, vulnerable, and from the heart.
Do you vow make time for one another, even when it may feel like there is none, to listen to the words of the other, reflect upon them, and make changes when they are needed? Creating time. See #2, workaholics. We both have a way of dissolving into our passions and missing times to connect. Being willing listen, to really hear, and ultimately to change patterns of behavior is vital.
Do you vow to play and to laugh, to enjoy the little things, to cherish each other, and to always say yes when asked for another embrace? Silliness and love go so well together. Like sprinkles and rainbows.
Do you vow to be slow to anger, quick to forgive, and eager to apologize? I feel like I am always learning when to retreat and re-center and when to assert boundaries.
Do you vow to put each other’s commitment to one another above all other things, to stand for each other in times of trouble, and to act from a place of trust even if it feels broken? Ultimately, if something is going to last, it means you have to persevere through times when it doesn’t feel good, or right, or like the other is fully there. Sometimes you have to be the anchor. Sometimes you have to be the force that lifts the weight from the bottom of the sea.
Do you vow to contemplate, regularly, what it means to love and what it would mean to love better, with greater integrity, with more compassion, with deeper trust, and with full dedication to God? For me, this vow and the one above work hand in hand. I discern whether to remain committed based on the answers I find contemplating these questions, and then re-commit with greater clarity.
And do you vow, above all else to love Jordan/Kezia, with all of your heart and your soul, with your hands and your feet, with your words and your deeds, sharing in the love that reverberates through each other and to all of those present today, devoted to one another and to the dream of a more loving, harmonious world? In summary, this is what we think it means to love—and we are going to do everything we can to do it.
I know a lot of people have a lot of different kinds of feelings, values, and philosophies that come up for them around the concept of marriage, or even long-term relationships/partnerships in general. So I just wanted to share a little about how I found meaning in the process. And now that I am married, I know that our journey is really just beginning. I would love to hear from yall what your struggles and triumphs have been.
What is real? What is an illusion? What is true in my thoughts? What is a lie? I’ve come to feel that these questions do not have logical and rational answers, but instead the answers are a choice we have to make. There’s no denying or avoiding this choice—denial and avoidance are simply various options.
Be brave enough to feel the urgency of this. In every moment, you are already making a choice, whether you are conscious of it or not. So what are you choosing? What reality are you living in? And why?
My choice is that the reality is love. What is real, is love. What is an illusion, is the absence of it. What is true, is that there is love. What is a lie, is that there is none.
And let me be clear—I am not talking about mamsy-pambsy feel good love like everything is all good so don’t worry about it. I’m talking about the stark, irrational, deeply honest love that is unconditional. That’s right, the un-conditional love, the love of the goddess, the love of the holy mother, the love of Jesus Christ our Savior, the love of the nameless one, the love of the holies of holies, that deep juicy rich transformative kind of love. This is the reality.
The love that requires me to drop my judgments and my opinions. The love that requires me to speak my truth, and assert my boundaries with passion and precision. The love that requires me to drop my projections onto others and accept myself fully.
The love that requires me to BE love rather than SEEK it. To speak love into being rather than bemoan its lack. The love that requires me to see my whole self, and reveal it to myself, so it can all be loved, for if any part of myself is withheld from my own consciousness, I am setting up a wall. I am forcing the love that is to be limited, conditioned upon my own hiding.
We are all narcissists, at times. A narcissist is anyone who believes that we should only love when there is merit. It is love withheld, love made conditional, it is the effort to control love. That we should love one another when they fulfill our ideas of what a lovable person should be. We begin this bargaining with ourselves. We try everything we can to keep ourselves from actually loving who and what we are. Instead we adopt long and complicated stories about what it would take to just love and accept ourselves. This is the emptiness that we all know too well, the loneliness even when we are never alone.
We must be brave enough to face what the alternative really means. Unconditional love. We’ve heard about it before but do we really have the strength to believe it?
That’s right, Un-conditional. We say that, but do we understand it? No conditions.
Meaning, I love you even though you are pedophile. No conditions.
I will love you even though you are a murderer.
I will love you even though you are a psychopath.
I will love you even though you are a rapist.
I will love you even though you have abused your own family members.
I will love you even though you have molested your own family members.
I will love you even though you have abandoned your children.
I will love you even though you have refused the love of your partner.
I will love you even though you have rejected your gifts.
I will love you even though you are a terrorist.
Can we do it? Can we fathom it? Can we be it? Is it possible that there is love for even these people—and if we can’t imagine it, then is there really love for any of us?
To love someone is not to accept their behavior, nor to trust them. To love is to believe that no matter what anyone has ever done, no matter how much damage they have caused, no matter how dark their road has been, there is a light that they can turn to. That there is a wound that can be healed, and a place where love can blossom once again. I’m willing to stand for love in this way, no matter how many times I’m rejected or told that I am being ridiculous. No matter how much I am taught that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things, that there are good people and bad people, and that I have to dole out my approval accordingly. That I have to open my heart to some and not others…no I am just not going to do it.
To be clear I am not saying let’s all go wound ourselves by exposing our hearts to the whims of other people who are deeply wounded, and who have turned away so profoundly from the love inside of their very own hearts. Just because we remind people that the reality is love does not mean we then accept their behavior, one that is rooted in the lie that there is no love after all.
After all, this love I am talking about is not satisfied with surface level stuff, this love I am talking about, it is like a heat seeking missile and where it sees the absence of love, where it knows that there is someone lost in the illusion that love does not exist it is not afraid to call it out! To explode upon this illusion a bomb of truth, and to set up firm boundaries, lines in the sand, to demand, choose love is real on this side, or know that I will never be silenced until you do.
That’s right I will not stand for anyone who wants to promote these lies any longer, and I will stand in peace and devotion, with my arm outstretched. Choose this reality with me. Stand on the side of the courageous, of the strong-willed, of the truth-tellers, of the mystery lovers, of the boundary pushers, of the artists, the wild eyed ones, and let us howl together as we build up this new world where yes, again and again yes, the reality is love.
If we are to be this kind of love, if we are to trust that this love is the reality, start within. Start within. Do whatever you need to do to make this reality alive inside of you. Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t take anyone else’s needs a priority over your own. Work as hard as you know how to work on this love and believe that you will find it. That you will sow it. And that it will grow. And then once it grows, by its very nature, it will want to spread.
It will want to pour out of you, like the water going over the rocks, like the sprays coming out of the broken fire hydrants attracting the children like moths to a flame to play in its beautiful and messy and broken freedom.
Oh yes, this is the love I am talking about. Can we all decide today to choose it as our reality? What more will it take it make it real than our own collective determination? We are all making a choice, right here, right now. What is yours?
Snakes are one of the most common creatures in the dream space, and they almost always signify some kind of lesson about our relationship to fear. Like love, fear is a tricky word, because it has such drastically different meanings to different people. When I think about the kind of fear snakes seem to engender, I relate it to what I call primal fear, or the visceral sensation in your body that you are about to die. So, if a snake is present in your dream, you can frame your understanding of the dream as, how could the way I relate to the snake in my dream reflect my own relationship to my primal fear?
When beginning your journey with your primal fear, remember that this sensation is completely natural and essential to your being. I would contend that like love, it is always present in our bodies to some extent, the part of our soul that is aware that we are alive. To be alive, in a sense, is to know this fear, to know that our existence precious and particular and inextricably linked to the current space and time we find ourselves in. All living things are equipped with the capacity to feel this depth and intensity of feeling. This fear, in many ways, is what keeps us alive.
Even though primal fear is quite natural, it is very difficult to experience, because it is intense, energetic, and completely engulfing. Not to mention, it can be linked to traumatic experiences where death truly was imminent. When you are having and intense experience of primal fear, there is basically nothing else that you can experience except it. Often, it is totally overwhelming, and a common response of the mind is to do something to numb, distract, or deny the sensation. While in these moments we may feel like we have ‘conquered’ our fear and are thus in control of it, quite the opposite is happening. Instead of allowing our primal fear its rightful place as one of our most powerful teachers and guides, we live our lives in constant management mode, doing whatever we can to avoid this most primary sensation, and as such, being completely dominated by it.
When faced with a sensation of primal fear, the first step is to make as objective an assessment of your external situation as you can. Are you in a situation that is objectively life threatening? Are there steps you need to take to preserve your life? If so, of course, take them.
But there are probably many other times where this kind of fear arises in your body that have nothing to do with an actual life or death situation. It is in these moments that the real work begins, because it is in these moments that our primal fear connects us not only to the desire of our bodies to continue existing, but also to the desire of our souls to live out the lives we were meant to live.
So if you are faced with a snake inside of your dream, pay attention to the way you react to it. Do you feel fear in the presence of the snake, or something else? If you feel fear—an intense form, one that is not so common in your daily life, the invitation of the dream is to begin to expand your capacity to sit with and embrace that feeling as an important part of who you are. I often compare this process to strengthening a muscle—begin wherever you are, and then push yourself just a little bit more. Can you allow yourself to feel this fear for one minute a day? How about 5 minutes a day? How about a full 10? As you strengthen your capacity to feel this fear, you are making it possible for your experience of this sensation to transform—you may even find that there’s something you like about it!
On the other hand, if you don’t feel fear in the presence of the snake, notice what you do feel or how you behave/react towards the snake. Are these feelings or reactions familiar to you in your daily life? Try to make a point of noticing when you are in situations where you feel similar to how you felt in the snake dream. Once you begin to be aware of these situations, ask yourself, what if there is a deeper fear here that I am avoiding? Is there a way to take a step closer to my fear rather than away from it?
In some sense, many of our day-to-day anxieties and worries can be traced back to our avoidance of our primal fear. If we are courageous enough to stay with the energy our primal fear presents when it arises, there are many benefits. Connecting to our primal fear and allowing it to be present in our bodies creates the possibility for us to know our most fundamental and true desires, since in the light of our own death, the path of our hearts becomes illuminated. Eventually, through practice, you can even come to experience your primal fear not as fear at all, but rather as the sensation of your own heart yearning, lighting a fire inside of your belly and pushing you towards the path you were intended to walk.
How do you experience snakes in your dreams? What’s the most powerful snake dream you’ve ever had? I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts..and as always…keep dreaming!
The time has come for a new American Dream, since the one we have been dreaming together has become a nightmare. We dreamt of free speech and we got hate speech. We dreamt of the pursuit of happiness and we got students armed with guns killing other children. We dreamt of freedom and we got unarmed water protectors having their flesh burned off by the very same water they are trying to defend. We dreamt of a democracy where each person’s vote counted and we got a government where the voices of those who have money and power count more, and the votes of those living in poverty count less. We dreamt of equality and we got merit. We dreamt of education and we got indoctrination. We dreamt of racial harmony and we got tokenism, ignorance, bigotry, and injustice. We dreamt of a criminal justice and we got courtrooms where we play out our old fears and prejudices over and over and over again, strengthening them each and every time we come to a verdict.
In the nightmare, we are told that everyone is given a fair chance, that this is possible. In the nightmare we are told that if we vote for the right politician and follow the laws and pay our taxes, then we are good citizens. In the nightmare we are told that if only we work hard enough, we can live a life of comfort and security. In the nightmare we believe that if we simply take care of ourselves, everything will be all right. In the nightmare we believe that if we own a certain type of car and wear certain clothes and live in certain neighborhoods, then we are successful and happy. In the nightmare we believe if we have 1,000 likes on our Facebook page, then we should feel good about ourselves. In the nightmare we are convinced that if we can surround ourselves with other people who look and think and act like us then we have community. In the nightmare we are thought of merely as consumers and we do not mind because we have forgotten how to see ourselves any other way. In the nightmare we allow our creative powers and resources to be used and abused for selfish and greedy means. In the nightmare we readily sign away our power in exchange for an image that they feed to us.
In Ta-Nehisi Coate’s book Between the World and Me he speaks of white people as the dreamers and I take that to heart. I do believe white people, me, have a particular responsibility for today’s nightmare, because we created and we maintained this dream, and it was always built on lies. Stories we told ourselves like Manifest Destiny and State’s Rights and Eugenics and Merit and an Equal Playing Field, fantasies that white people were destined to have it all—and why? Because we wanted to believe we were better. Eventually we stopped saying that part, even though on the inside, we still believed it. Why? Because we are still convinced that the ones who win are better off, that the winners are the good guys and the losers the bad. This is the seductive dream that gives us a false sense of security. The time has come for us to awaken from this nightmare and dream a new dream.
The very core of the old American Dream has been shaken, because too many people have lived it and proved that it is no longer true—the part where if you work hard, you will achieve the good life. But even before it collapsed it was always a nightmare. It might sound good, but inside that dream lives the seed of a nightmare, the nightmare that if you do not achieve these things, you are a failure, you have not worked hard enough, you just were not good enough after all, and also, if you do achieve these things, then you are better, superior, more worthy. When we believe that dream, we create this nightmare, and this nightmare has now overtaken us.
So I pray that we can all come together and focus, focus on creating this new American Dream. In this new American dream there can be no winners and we cannot rely merely on our judgments. In the new dream, we must admit our ignorance. In the new dream there will be no criminals, and there will be no victims. In the new dream, we can’t pretend like we can figure out who is worthy and who isn’t. In the new dream, we must understand that what makes us different from one another is what is precious about each other. In the new dream, we must embrace the depths of all that we do not know.
If we admit our ignorance, how do we face all of the injustice? In times like this, when we make a stand, let’s make one for dreaming a new dream. It is the pattern of the nightmare to allow ourselves to become the righteous and others the villains. Us against them, them against us, the good guys and the bad guys, the criminal and the innocent, the right and the left, the crazy and the sane—these are the divisions of the nightmare. It’s not to say that we must all grab hands and pretend that none of these differences exist, or to pretend that we are not hurt when others cause us pain. Everyone has a right to say it—in fact you have a duty to express the pains that are in your heart, and to make your boundaries known. But this does not make you right, and the one who has done harm wrong. Your pain is not your validation. It is your salvation.
In the new dream we will learn to savor our grief. In the new dream, our tears will be our justice. We cannot make the mistake of allowing our pain to define us and become victims of our precious wounds. In the new dream we will learn how to make our wounds our strengths, our obstacles lessons and opportunities to grow. In the new dream, we will not allow ourselves to drown in our own fear and hate because in the new dream, there is space for contradiction, there is always room for both, for fear and desire and hate and love, and because of that, there is always peace. In the new dream, we do not have to be right to do the right thing, and we do not have to be wrong to do the wrong thing. In the new dream, we will learn what it truly means to forgive.
In the new dream, we can only hope that each thing reaches its own potential, but we can’t pretend we know what that potential is or should be–we cannot project our own paths onto others. In the new dream we will not look to others to determine our paths, we will look inside of ourselves. In the new dream, there will be no need for opinions, because the heart has no opinions, and in the new American dream, we will all lead with our hearts. In the new American Dream, we will not define ourselves by our accomplishments and our ideas, but rather by the contours of our very own souls.
Let us dream again, dream more, dream harder. It is vital that anyone who has the courage or capacity to hope and to dream do so now. It is time for the dreamers to awaken and commit to their dream, and to walk towards it, step by step. When we fail to act, we fall into the nightmare that nothing we do matters. This is how we become trapped in the illusion, when we become consumers instead of creators, when we believe the lies they tell us about who we really are and what we are capable of.
It is time for us to find a vision that lives inside of each of us, to recognize it and tend to it for the health and safety of this new collective dream we are trying to give birth to. It’s vital that we practice our ability to hope, our ability to dream. The dreams we have at night can be thought of as nightly revelations of this truth. There is this breathtaking truth inside of you, and it’s wounded and gnarly and gorgeous. Just take a closer look inside of your very own dreams and you will find it, glittering there, and only you will ever really be able to see it. It’s our own secret precious treasure, that fire that burns inside of us, and our only job, really, is to keep that fire burning, and not to ever let it go out, and to keep walking towards it, even when we can barely even tell it is there.
So if you are in the position to dream—please do it. And if you someone who has a stable roof over their head, or if worse came to worse, like if your home and all of your belongings were flooded in a storm, that you have people in your life that you could turn to, then you are in that position. If you are someone with that degree of material security, then you need to find your way to hope right now, allow that roof over your head to be your reason, allow the breakfast you ate this morning to be your reason, allow the warm pillow you will rest your head upon tonight to be your reason, hope on this, hope for all of those for whom none of those things are guaranteed.
Because when you find your way to hope you will find your way to vision, to your truth, and to your dream. Believe your dream is there and then find it, and once you find it keep your eyes on it and follow it. We need people to be creative right now, to focus on the resources that they have and the people they can influence, to let themselves feel the power that they have right here and right now. It’s really important that we do not get lost in the wider story, that everything is doomed, that what we do and say doesn’t matter. If we have learned anything, it’s that the people we listen to and read and watch on TV are no longer any better at figuring out what is going on than we are. We need vision right now, your vision, not fearful speculation. It is okay to be afraid. In fact, it is terrifying to be hopeful in the face of darkness. But find the fear that is asking a question of you, not the one that is telling you the way things are. Lead with your heart, the thing that loves, and listen as it tells you where to walk. Dreaming and fearing can sometimes feel like the same thing. Love is the difference. When we love, we turn our fears into hopes. When we love, we turn our circumstances into visions. When we love, we dare, we jump off the cliff, we climb into the cave, and we come face to face with the snake, and we dance, and when we dance, a new dream is born.
And when you do this—can you share it here with me? I would love to hear what your dreams are—all kinds and shapes. Thank you so much for all the dreaming you have done already. It’s what keeps my fire going even on windy nights, and for that, I am so grateful.