On Sunday, June 18, I went to one of a number of memorial services for Marie-Josee Mont-Reynaud, AKA MJ, who had jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge nine days prior, stunning a large community of her friends, lovers, and admiring acquaintances. Toward the end of the service, someone was passing out googly eyes, and I put two of them on my chest, over my heart. One fell off. The other stayed on, even through a sweaty, five hour drive to Dance Camp.
When I got to Dance Camp, most people who saw it commented on it. Was I trying to call attention to my cleavage? It looked like an eye looking back at them. Why was it there? I told them about the memorial service, and how the theme was “Make love visible,” which had been MJ’s goal for her photography. I also talked about how MJ wrote a retrospective on the ten-year anniversary of her first suicide attempt. In it, she addressed the reason for wanting to end her life. She said that there wasn’t a single precipitating event, that it was more of “…a general sense of being lost and confused, not knowing myself and what I wanted, and then feeling isolated by not knowing how to connect with others from that place.”
That got me thinking about the places in myself from which I feel unable to connect with others–and also the places within others, including MJ, that they must be sitting with, increasing in isolation and loneliness, the inability to connect, and the sometimes fatal consequences of that.
I resolved then and there to allow others to see more deeply into me, into those places I might think too ugly, too unworthy, too grisly to share…and look deeply into others as well, for what they might be covering over with similar fears. And I realized the intimacy workshops I do supported this kind of connection–and that I could tweak them to do that even better.
In nearly every conversation at Dance Camp, people would mention the eye, and we would wind up connecting deeply. I moved from anxiety about small talk into deep presence, and deep sharing, and actually enjoyed connecting instead of feeling awkward.
Suraya and Revay, two of the luminous beings I connected with at Dance Camp
I realized that so much of the tension and awkwardness I can feel in social situations comes from some notion of how I think I should be feeling or acting, rather than simply coming from what’s true. (Quick shoutout: Jonathan Bender has done an amazing job of helping me get underneath this in some of his “anti-networking” networking workshops.) When I feel into this permission to simply be with what is, I feel relaxed. The conversations the googly eye kept sparking enabled me more than ever to bring this relaxed and comfortable quality to my conversations, and feel that I was truly OK just the way I was.
I began to think about a new approach to my counseling work: Full-spectrum Healing. To replace the segmented ways we show up in various parts of our lives. More on that soon.
The eye persisted. It was there when I woke up the first morning of camp. It stayed on all day, and the next day, too, and the next, sparking more and more heartfelt conversations. It persisted through dancing, rolling around on the floor, sweating in 100-+ degree weather, through showers, multiple changes of clothes, and even stayed on after a dip into the lake. The googly eye watched over my heart through the end of camp, and all the way back home to El Cerrito. Back in my bedroom, I stared down at my chest with the eye still attached, and decided it had made its point. I removed it and put it on my altar, where it remains.
In MJ’s and my Jewish tradition, we don’t look to notions of an afterlife of the soul, but rather, how the living might carry on the work that the deceased began when they were alive. The eye above my heart and the conversations it sparked brought more connection into the field of whatever conversations I entered. I am now determined to bring those pathways into both my everyday life, and the counseling work and training that I do. Lives, or the quality of them, may depend on it.
How will I make love visible today?