It was the summer when I was 18 that I moved to San Francisco on a whim. Leading up to the move, I had spent almost a year living on the streets in New York City. When I tried to go home to the little town in New Jersey where I grew up, I was painfully reminded of why I left – there was no going back.
I wanted a fresh start, so when my friend Joe asked me if I would go to the west coast with him, I said “yes” and the next day we were in a car and on the road.
The transition to San Francisco was more difficult than I expected. I thought California was sunny everywhere, but when we arrived – San Francisco was cold and rainy – I cried and cried! Joe and I were two kids completely alone and unprepared for this new place that was very different from New York City.
Our first employers quickly became our best friends. I don’t know if we had ever felt so loved and unconditionally accepted by anyone in our lives. They were open and kind and caring. David and Devon were a lovely couple who were tragically beginning to be very sick with ARC (AIDS Related Conditions).
They were dying.
Our hearts were breaking.
We spent Christmas Eve at the hospital with them when Devon’s pancreas began to fail. A few weeks later, after Devon got out of the hospital, they packed up everything they owned and moved to Eureka to live out the rest of their lives.
We never saw them again.
Before we met David and Devon, it took us both some time to get work. Of course, our money ran out and we ended up living out of our car for a few weeks. We did what we could to be presentable – taking showers at the bay and keeping clean, getting up early and looking for work, talking to the local kids about where to find food, get medical care, be safe.
I remember talking to my mom on the phone while we were living out of the car, and I told her everything was fine. I wanted her to not worry about me, but I was also afraid that if I spoke about my situation, I would not have the strength to move past it. I knew that if I stayed focused on getting work and a place to live that it would happen. (And of course, it did).
By the second or third month in San Francisco we were finally starting to make some money. We moved into a dingy 28-day-stay residential hotel off of Market Street near the Castro District. It was a place to sleep and that was all. In the evenings, while Joe was working at David and Devon’s store, I would go to the basement of the shop and snuggle up in a blanket by the furnace and read books.
Being poor and not knowing many people, I spent a good deal of time at the library. Finding the library doors locked one day was a shock! It was shortly after the quake of ’89 (1989 Loma Prieta earthquake) and the city had shut down all of its libraries to save municipal funds during the emergency.
I had to do something, so I explored the city and found a glorious, gigantic, used book store. I spent hours in that store! It was heavenly. I browsed every section—I could not help myself. Though I barely had any money, that day I bought three books – The Man Who Fell To Earth, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and a curious looking purple-covered book called Be Here Now. I remember thinking, Ram Dass, isn’t he one of those guys who did stuff with Timothy Leary? I don’t know why, but I should know this. I should know all of these books.
Looking back, I am glad I bought the three books together – they all had a profound affect on my imagination and life experience. The simple message and playful design of Be Here Now was a necessary juxtaposition to the heaviness of the other two books. I think ultimately, Be Here Now turned out to be a primer for the deeper Vedic and yogic studies that were to be a part of my life in the years ahead. I played with the ideas in that book – and it was a playful book – even though I didn’t understand it completely, I just knew it was good – like play – and was able to find some peace. My now-ness was intense, but I was right there with it. Somehow I knew everything would be ok.
That was a long time ago – but what a time!
I am finding the older I get, the more open my heart is becoming. With the capacity to feel love also comes a greater capacity for grief and pain. Loss doesn’t get easier, but it shifts.
This lecture by Ram Dass helped me with the grief I’ve been going through not only from the death of my sister, but also the end of a love relationship. It is difficult to describe the waves of sorrow and anger that have passed through my body over this last year and in particular these last few months. What struck chords with me in Ram Dass’s lecture (besides the message of love – which it all boils down to anyway) were these questions: Who is to say anyone dies too soon? Who is to say anyone’s path is the wrong path?
The end doesn’t make the experience any less valuable. I keep finding as my painful feelings settle, there is an underlying expansive feeling of love. Sometimes that feeling is heartbreaking, but when the heartbreak opens up it is radiant and boundless. It’s like seeing the Divine in everything, it’s so beautiful it hurts, and yet, once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
Eventually, if you can stand to keep looking, the hurt turns to bliss.
October 14, 2015
17 thoughts on “A little help from my friends and Ram Dass”
I love this! Especially that the end does not make the experience any less valuable. That is everything! Xxxh
Ram Dass left his body yesterday! Jai Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Ram!! Ram, Ram, Ram, Ram, Ram, Ram, Ram, Ram, Ram!! 🌈🦋🕉💖🕉💖🕉💖🕉💖🕉
Hi Holly! I just read this some hours after seeing and posting on your facebook post. Thank you for sharing. It is fascinating learning more about the journeys of people that I know, but don’t know…yet with whom I know (recognize) harmonious resonations. One of your lines that jumped out (resonated) with me is, “With the capacity to feel love also comes a greater capacity for grief and pain.” As time passes I find this common well continues to widen and deepen. Simple beauty makes me cry. I often find it impossible to fully emote a song, because in so doing, the emotion will physically get in the way. This is a bit of a conundrum for me because tapping into the emotion of a song and it’s meaning is where the deepest beauty of the song and its reciting resides. Go any tips on this one? Again, thanks for your sharing. I have my old copy of “Be Here Now” laying around here somewhere. I think I’ll go look for it!
Hi Rob! Yes, common beauty – so much common beauty in life!! It’s good to cry. It’s also just about impossible to cry and sing at the same time – but to find a balance with the vulnerability and performance can be pretty joyful and moving. I don’t have my old copy of Be Here Now anymore – everything I have ever had in terms of material possessions are gone from those days, but wow – so much informs our lives.
I guess tips on performing and emoting. Get grounded, be in the moment, and open your mouth. 🙂 You have a rich and beautiful voice, the emotion already coms through.
Aww, thank you, Holly! If you ever want to take a trip down memory lane, you are welcome to borrow my copy of “Be Here Now”. 🙂
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Thanks, Rob! I might take you up on that – looks like I have more stories to tell. An old copy might help me remember stuff. 🙂
Thanks for reading!! 🙂
Hi Holly, Tremendous Surrender and being able to see clearly the beauty and wonders of Creation has put you light years ahead of the norm. I am taking a leap by thinking you might be interested in a marathon about stopping abuse on the USA Station this Sunday. (It has to Stop).
Holly: Thank you for sharing this. I’ve dipped a little into Ram Dass’ writings but I know more about him from watching the documentary “Fierce Grace”. You’ve been through so much in your life… I wonder if you would change any part of it. Despite all the upheaval in my own life, I don’t think I would change any of mine. As you say, there is an “underlying expansive feeling of love,” which I think uses our upheavals as a means to expand. I always love your posts.
I don’t know if I would change any of it. At least, I don’t think I would go back in time and try to live parts of my life over again (and change it). I agree in thinking/feeling the upheavals help us to expand. I ask for more gentle transformation now.
I feel like I am safer now in my life to actually feel – so some emotions run very deep. I am feeling them while at the same time trying to be a dispassionate witness to them. There is a lot of push and pull with that.
I can’t imagine life any other way.
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I saw Fierce Grace a few years ago. I loved that movie. I must watch it again. 🙂 Thanks for reminding me of it.
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Thanks Holly! Great writing!! 🙂 ❤
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Thanks, G! A lot of shifting going on.
..”Sometimes that feeling is heartbreaking, but when the heartbreak opens up it is radiant and boundless. It’s like seeing the Divine in everything, it’s so beautiful it hurts, and yet, once you see it, you can’t unsee it. Eventually, if you can stand to keep looking, the hurt turns to bliss”…
– so beautiful & true… I am going thru something similar right now, & can’t quite bridge the gap yet (cuz of some fear I suppose), but hope that I’ll get there… bridging the chasm & when the hurt turns to bliss.. thank u much for posting this.. ❣
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Sending love. It comes and goes in waves. Choosing to live consciously is not always easy – but what a gift!
sometimes this bliss turns back to pain, too. Going through another big wave of grief over my sis tonight, but I know i just have to feel it. Let it move through.
u are brave Holly, & it is necessary too of course…”the way out is always ‘through”.. Om Mani Padme Hum.. sending healing vibes..❣