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Imagine that…

Cleaning out the gutters is messy business, but clean gutters let the water flow and I am all about the flowing, so I am happy to endure whatever gets that going.

Yesterday my Tai Chi teacher gave me a massage, and much like when he worked on my elbows and let loose a trauma from my college days, this time he worked on my shoulders and as he did I had some realizations. One from my teenage days and one from early motherhood, when i would contort myself around the car seat to soothe my crying baby.

I’ve been willing to contort my own experience to (in my own estimation) aid someone else’s. Not quite healthy. And I’ve done it a lot. I have gotten pretty good at sitting with my own pain, but I have pretty limited capacity to sit with someone else’s. I move into fixing, reframing, whathaveyou. I think now is the time that I get to learn this lesson – how to be with someone in pain without my own stories about it. Just to be present. Compassionate. Present some more. But not take it on as my own responsibility. Measure my own worth by my ability to defuse someone else’s pain.

May be totally obvious to nearly everyone else on earth, but these lessons are dripping out for me one by one and my greatest wish is to integrate them as I’ve got the opportunity. None of it is comfortable, none of it makes me proud or happy. It makes me see that I’ve had a whole lot of weird compensation measures to try to make sense of my life, and quite frankly, i’m extremely excited to release them, uncomfortable though they may be.

I’ve had enough experience to be able to see these things coming and begrudgingly welcome them. Thankfully, my husband has been so magnificently supportive of all of these little steps I’ve had a safe enough space to be ok despite the pain, even when it includes him. That’s remarkable and I am so very grateful. But, it’s still uncomfortable.  But ever-so valuable.

With this surgery coming up, I’ve got a lot of time to integrate the lessons i’ve been acquiring, physically (what i’ve learned about standing, walking, breathing and moving), emotionally (taking off the masks and holding them up to the light), mentally (disengaging from the stories I could distract myself with indefinitely) and spiritually (surrender, trust, and the privilege of being alive at this time). It’s weird to be excited about discomfort, but I am. Because I know the only way out is through.

I also know that what looks like an abyss is often just an oil slick, seems like it may go on forever but it’s not very deep at all, just daunting. And my experience teaches me that the bravery to face things pays off (with peace between the ears – a treasure beyond measure).

Emergence

There is something exciting about being in a bad place. Emergencies lead to emergence. No mud, no lotus. Lots of aphorisms tell us that this is a time of great opportunity. And while the poor little sapling is feeling terribly uncomfortable in that quickly-growing-impossibly-too-small shell, the sapling can’t draw up plans to break free. It just has to be and wait and keep on holding the vision of freedom.

I’m not in a bad place by any objective measure. I’m in quite a remarkably good place. I am blessed to have a happy, healthy family, food and shelter and increasing health. None of this is intended as complaint, simply a documentation of process. Often I’m in an excited mood, eager about evolution and peace and the awakening of our species and planet. And, today, that’s all still there, too, it just is accompanied by a certain discomfort, foreboding and … well, there’s simply no other word for it than “gunk.”

But, I feel the gunk coming loose. I feel a shift in my identification with gunky things that I thought were my cross to bear. I am extremely conflicted about leaving things i’ve been hopeful about (relationships, supplements, styles of exercise) but that haven’t worked for me by any reliable measure. I am ready to let them go, but there is a grief process I seem to need to go through as well. It’s cool. I’m ready for it. I’m typically not one to balk at discomfort.

Lots of people are, and they are certainly entitled to take their own path. I think it was Vivekananda who said: though each may take a different path, all are on their way. And while I know I often seem prescriptive (something I am definitely willing to release), I truly and wholeheartedly encourage everyone to do what s/he wants to do. That’s how I purchase my own freedom, and even when the costs are high I know it is worth it.

I’ve gotten a lot of flack about the tight-knit-ness of my family, and I’ve gone to great lengths to try to spread our wings. Most endeavors in that regard have been spectacular disasters. And now, with this surgery coming up I can give myself permission to allow us to be who we are naturally. It’s not like we hide in the house and refuse to go out (although that IS what I intend to do at least through Thanksgiving). I’ve been trying to get us “out there” more to appease people who judge me. But the truth is, the connections we’ve forged in the last several years are absolutely marvelous and were completely unexpected. I am tired of trying to engineer community, when I can be like Einstein:

Although I am a typical loner in my daily life, my awareness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has prevented me from feelings of isolation.

Yeah. That feels right to me. We may not see our dearest friends too often, they are there, and I am here, and that is enough.

funny how things go

Ebbs and flows… ebbs and flows… inhales and exhales… dichotemy and the paradoxes of life. It’s a pattern we all know deeply, yet for some reason it still often surprises me.

I’m pretty excited because I’m going to be getting a new left hip on october 10th. I haven’t been able to tie my own shoes in maybe 5 years, so I imagine something old will become new again. I’m excited for the prospect, although it doesn’t cure the autoimmune disease, so it’s not like I’ll come home “fixed.” But I do expect to appreciate what gains I do make.

Homeopathy teaches we have a wound, a wall, and a mask. Essential wounding, conscious or unconscious, drives us to build a wall to protect the vulnerability, and then to put a mask on the wall so as to make it less obvious as a compensation. Those masks add to our sense of identity and inherently maintain a certain defensiveness about it.

The dismantling of these masks and identities requires the release of the defensiveness, and a level of honesty about the original wounds along with determination to find the resources to address the wound for actual healing. This has been a pretty slow process for me, and a repetitive one. I’ve found the repetition frustrating at times, but washing machines go round and round because that’s how you get clothes clean.

For example, I’ve been clear my whole life that my mother never wanted children. I was her fifth. I hold several tender spots about this, ranging from explicit clarity about not having been wanted (but here it is and we’ll deal with it) to profound frustration in a world where authorities mandate individual choices and individuals capitulate for whatever reason (in this case, the Catholic Church).  I have moved in and out of equanimity with these feelings over the years, contemplated areas of relevance in the unfolding of my own life, and try to teach my children the lessons i’ve gleaned. And even this example is a fractal of enormous problems culturally. How many of the children born are actually wanted? Right? We have millions of people desperate for a baby, and others who have been raped and forced to bear the child – and millions of examples in between.

We are such a flawed humanity. Our educational system doesn’t teach us how to develop health and wellness, it teaches us how to do what we’re told (and what we’re told has very little to do with our whole person development). We exercise our pre-frontal coretex without regard for the emotional container that holds it- and increasingly little attention is paid to even physical development as schools cut gym and recess more and more. And then even when they DO offer these opportunities for physical activity, the “educational” components can be destructive (think bad form sit-ups in gym class and ruthless bullies on the playground – and don’t even get me started on school lunch).

Will we ever get our shit together and provide an education in wholeness and wellness for our youth? When I experience how much my childhood set the stage for illness and isolation – and I had a pretty darned good childhood compared to so, so many children.  What can I do to support them? what can WE do?

Something, I hope. It will be interesting…

 

out of body

I’ve been focusing on embodiment a lot lately, and yet yesterday I spent a good portion of the day outside of my body. It’s funny, since I spend a lot of time focusing on embodiment. Actually, it’s not funny. It is a little frustration, but given that I know I have all kinds of patterns that don’t serve me, I have to appreciate when they come up so that I can sit with them and address them as my most evolved self.

but, sometimes, i’m just a scared kid trying to dance for approval.

which is ridiculous because 1) sometimes I’m aware of it and still can’t seem to alter the pattern, 2)I’m 50 years old and, 3) I’m a terrible dancer.

I remember the first time my attention left the present moment. I was in second grade. I was remarkably unhappy on that day, and i shifted. I just went into my imagination and placated myself with some imaginary thoughts. I remember that the teacher didn’t single me out but something that she said jolted me back into attention. I was fascinated that I had been “somewhere else” and still able to sit in my chair. As you might expect, I started doing it often. I think it got to a point where I was rarely “where I was” – if ever.

Yesterday, my friend Melba had to remind me to breathe like 10 times. and i still only gave halfassed breaths when she reminded me. Um, excuse me, i thought i was trying to teach this stuff. I felt like such a failure! such a fraud!

Until I remembered that I’m not trying to teach anything. I decided to begin creating a body of work extolling the virtues of the breath as a way of keeping myself in the breath, because I understand the benefits, I want the benefits, and talking about the benefits keeps the breath a major priority in my life. And I did it to trick myself. To force my own hand into making this stuff a priority, because when it’s not a priority I abandon it (because I have a relatively short attention span) and in the abandonment, I slowly (or sometimes not-so-slowly) degrade into a more anxious, awkward and ungrounded version of myself.

Yesterday, in my inability to ground myself in my breath and thereby in my environment, I proved to myself the need for this work. Without it I revert to old coping mechanisms about appearances and avoidance of discomfort. (ok, anyone who has met me as an adult will question this “avoidance of discomfort” bit. I typically barge head-on into discomfort – but that is in part because of lessons learned the old way).

So, my failure and fraudulence, instead of breaking my resolve has only steeled it. And it reminded me, this work isn’t for “people who need to slow down”. It is for me.

pre-meditation/post-meditation

I don’t teach meditation. I’m not particularly good at it, and there are many excellent teachers. I shift styles, and I know that is frowned upon but it’s my best shot at consistency, and really the sitting is what i’m after. The spiritual benefits come when i least expect them (which is, i think, the point) and only when I fully release myself, which is challenging for me. My body is requiring a whole new re-development of how i engage in the world. It’s exciting, and I feel it is the product of getting better at listening, little by little. I’m accepting my body as my guide – I’m not sure to where, but I am trusting that it is encoded with my essential unfoldment. My mind has been trying to take me all over creation and I am exhausted. I’m trusting my body now. I’m giving it the next 5 years without question. If, at the end of 5 years I find my body has led me astray, maybe I’ll check back into strategizing shit. I’m thinking odds on that are pretty low.

But, this space leading into meditation is wide open. Tucker sees design companies trying to shortcut the design process all the time. skipping the steps that makes the thing organically viable. No, no, no.. .that takes to long. let’s dive right in and just see how it goes. and sometimes it goes big (rarely for long), but you can tell the stuff that’s had it’s process. And frankly, the process is FUN. the exploration is infinitely creative and variable, directions can be followed and abandoned as suits the buoyancy of the thing. So, I want to explore PRE-meditation – from the state of “i think this is valuable” to the tiny skills and choices that prepare the body and mind to be able to sit for 10+ minutes and fully plug into that which is essential and be restored by it.

And then, after you develop that capacity, and you start to feel the freedom that comes from meditative practice, having cultivated it in bits and habits, you can bring it off the cushion more naturally than someone who went LIFE. Successfully sitting in meditation. LIFE. Bringing it into our day, into our choices, into our habits, into our breath (i mean, we’re breathing anyway). This, too, is important and goes undiscussed in general meditation circles. or at least the ones i’ve sat with.

I want to live in meditation. i want to live in cocreative partnership with nature, receiving and expressing Life Itself with and through every iota i come into contact as the ever-unfolding present moment of pure unconditional love. I know it’s a big goal, but what other goal could possibly compare?

once upon a time…

Lake Angelus, Michigan is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It certainly was to me. I used to answer the phone, “paradise, may I help you?” I had 700 glorious square feet and a porch to end all porches.

People came to that porch from far and wide. It was a rare night that some surprise visitor didn’t show up, usually several. You couldn’t blame them, it was on the breezy side of the lake.. a little storybook house down a stone path and a series of steps. and I always had a lot of wine. and beer. and scotch. and fruit and cheese and bread. and maybe my autoimmune disease makes more sense now. At least I had fun. So much fun there.

Lake Angelus is on my mind because I’m ready to move again, and I have no idea where, but I am trying to spend time basking in my favorite places I’ve lived and what has made them great. I’ve lived in some great places.

Bloomfield Court in Birmingham was an absolutely cherishable time, too, for so many different reasons. The lovely and powerful Gaile Stallsmith moved in one day. I was on the phone with Reggie and said, “a beer commercial just pulled up” as Gaile in her Mazda convertable, followed by a Uhaul truck and about 10 ponytailed men in various luxury sportscars pulled down the narrow street. Near the end of my time there I made a great friend in the building across the street (I hadn’t even known there were other rentals on the street) and we had so much fun with the neighbors. I could walk to my job at The Community House. I listened to Under The Table And Dreaming on a constant loop, drinking wine i bought by the case with a revolving door of lovely young women that building seemed to attract, and my very quiet upstairs gentleman neighbor.

And while it wasn’t my best year, living in the carriage house on Division street in ann arbor was, architecturally speaking, divine. Sortof. It’s one of those things that if i could own that house now, with just a bit of work I could easily make it into my dream house. I seem to love brick and windows.

That’s what the monastery holds for me. Standing in the brick library with the windows and fireplace, or the main hall. these rooms impact me physically with active gladness. My current house doesn’t do that. It has some lovely aspects, but we’re ready to feel more markers of “home” in our next location.

i’d like to buy a vowel….

I was never comfortable in my body. i liked it well enough, but it weirdly wasn’t natural to me. As my prefrontal cortex took over, the awkwardness grew and I came to believe I really was my mind, being carted around in this body who wasn’t very good at it. Not terribly bad, but just a bit off.

Last year I was re-learning how to walk. Tai chi had me coming to understand that I had some essential flaws in my movement which would obviously be contributing to my overall disfunction/autoimmune. When I would slow way down and pay attention to the distribution of weight, i had no limp. when i sped up, i may as well have a peg leg. But there was still a problem, and it went deeper than learning to walk. i had to re-learn how to stand.

Now, I am 50 years old. 49 when this came up, but that is a lot of years to be essentially tweaky in the way one holds one’s body in space. About 6 months ago, I could see my “dead spider” tai chi in my legs and finally switch to unbreakable leg. Big difference. Huge difference.  But it still wasn’t all of it.

I’m not sure this is all of it, but i’ve just learned an essential tilt in my hip that has been messing with my breathing MY WHOLE LIFE. I can’t tell you how many pranayama classes, protocols, exercises…. All of them close… none of them transformational (well, maybe all of them transformational in some ways, but not in the freedom of the breath). This tilt I can finally understand finally solves the breathing problems -so my guess is as I practice this more balanced standing, i will be relearning breath, too. and as i learn from my breath, i can re-learn all of the activities of my life, but now each of them stemming from the depth of my connection – instead of in search of it.

Practicing this new standing has made a whole bunch click into place, the foremost being the breath, but equally important my ability to feel the energy coming up through my legs and stabilize it for a really relaxed upper body. this has never been available to me. I can still only do it for a few minutes at a time, but because I have somatic experience of the alignment, I feel like I just got vowels. Like i’ve been living in a sea of consonants. I had a “y” so I could make some words, but geez. Suddenly 5 quick additions (or even 1 addition would be a big deal) and the world opens up. Now I know why i’ve been carrying all of these letters around. Oh, how I wish I had  been exposed to tai chi (gene’s version) ages ago.

Moose is one of my animal totems. Awkward elegance. People laugh, because lovely as I may be, I fall down a lot in winter and other, less explainable not-quite-at-home-physically. I really did figure that it was (and i am ashamed to even say this) “because I am so spiritual” but my body calling foul and demanding my attention really has been such an enormous gift I can’t even begin to fathom how crazy I would have driven myself had I continued what I now call “the chase.” This body is way the fuck smarter than I am. This prefrontal cortex started telling stories and may well have just spiraled into space. It had all my attention. Now that my body has my attention, all of life has my attention in a much deeper way. Stopping with the constant mental story telling allows life to unfold fresh and new in each moment, as an expression of life – of which you are part.

powerful stuff

Last month, our big opportunity for Josie to be out in the world having fun came to a crashing halt with the Cranston Fire that evacuated Idyllwild Arts Summer Program. Huge drag, she came home just 3 days into a 2 week journey. The school evacuated quickly, and the firemen were heroes, as firemen are. After 11 days, she was able to go back and retrieve her belongings.

I wrote to the head of school about a week after the fire explaining that Josie worked hard to come to Idyllwild and I was curious how they will be handling compensating for the aborted session. The head of school wrote back and said, “we’re focused on the property and children still in our care. i’ll address this next week.”

A dozen days later, I wrote saying, “I neglected to mention that Josie’s homeschooled, and this represented a huge opportunity to be with kids her age and with interest in the arts – this is why she spent 16 months working to be able to do it. She made an investment in herself through you, how are you going to handle it?”

They wrote back letting me know that they are assessing the events of the fire. Tell Josie we said hi.

I got emotional and sent back a quick “B-. I wonder how you’d like it if someone withheld a year’s worth of your salary without speaking to you about their intentions”

The next day I sent a demand for a full refund. They sent me a note saying if I purchased the travel insurance, i should be able to get something back, but they’ll send a check for the $30 in credit she had at the camp store.

I freaked.

I don’t usually freak. I don’t usually get So. Damned. Mad. about shit. But I couldn’t shake the anger. And sadness. Disappointment. Frustration. Wish for things to be different. Anger again. Pipedreams again. ARGH.  Do I have to sue them? Seriously?

So, I get home and talk to Tucker about it and I’m visibly agitated by the whole thing. He asks: Did you do a feminine power practice around this agitation?

I’d thought about it, but I hadn’t.

So I did.

And, I’ll be.

Over the next 10 minutes I could see the whole thing as a gift. My dear friend who I rarely see is a lawyer. I think she’ll help guide us, giving us a great excuse to get together with a little more regularity!

This semester’s electives for homeschool will be 1) the US Judicial System and 2) documentary filmmaking.

We’ll sue them and make a movie about it. Seeking fairness, Josie becomes a teenage activist. Right. Fucking. On.

We needed a project. I thought we’d have one come that was slightly more pro-everything, but we can’t always be pro-everything. sometimes we have to stop others’ taking advantage. sometimes we have to hold a boundary. sometimes we have to stand up and advocate for ourselves or others who are being treated unfairly. Life isn’t all roses.

But when those not-roses come, really addressing the feelings it evokes, getting curious and caring about what you’re feeling and what you need can turn things around in quite the jiffy.

Powerful stuff.

healthy attachment

I’ve been remiss. haven’t been writing so much (because I have been working on a da Vinci journal ala Barbara Sher whom I am very excited about, but that is another story).

My body goes in cycles. I mean, everybody’s body goes in cycles, but i have distinct cycles of rest and work, procrastination and bulk accomplishment. My body has periods when it *can* eat processed foods, and times when it is having none of it. Things I wish were permanent, and other things i just wish would go away entirely.  Then there are things like  journaling, meditating, juicing…. these are things I can do daily for years and then fall off the bus with. And then I’ll get another inspiration and move into the practice again. I am this mosaic of personal practices. and today a tile fell off.

About 3 years ago, during our trip, i found Tandy Guitierez who had what was first ‘pimp your mat’ then ‘mat and kitchen’ now ‘unicorn wellness.’ I love Tandy. What she provides is outstanding. She is a great pilates trainer, with exceptionally good cuing and balanced 30 minute workouts that she keeps fun to do and are real and powerful. I found her through the online autoimmune community and she was just the best solution possible, especially traveling. Being able to go to her website and “just press play” kept my range of motion, strength and flexibility better than I’d been able to do – and in a more balanced way than I’d been able to do – for some time. But, last August I had a flair up that I haven’t been able to get back on the mat. Not in the same way. I have PT, but my strength is shit and I don’t really know how to use my arms yet. I know that sounds ridiculous, but last year I had to basically re-learn how to stand and walk because I jacked my body up so weirdly throughout my life. i have these strange tensions and compensations… It’s weird. and, i feel i’m making progress, but i really don’t have it down.

So, a full year after I quit using Tandy’s awesome workouts, I just pressed the ‘cancel my membership’ button. and i feel awful about it. i love tandy. i love her so much, i’ve paid for a year of service i almost never used and I don’t even feel bad about it. i’m delighted to support her, and her service is a steal. but i can’t keep doing it.

to everything there is a season

and it’s really important to embrace the season as it arrives and to wave farewell as it retreats. this hanging on is bullshit. and expensive. and full of crap like guilt which is truly ridiculous and has no place in a relationship like this.

Being willing and able to give things up and not have it mean something, just gentle knowledge that it’s time.

i’m getting excited about things again

Several years of illness really harshed my mellow. But it also restored a much deeper and truer mellow from which I had unwittingly led myself away. I believe our bodies are on our side. And mine certainly made me stand up and do an about-face. a whole bunch of reevaluation. New habits, new practices. Getting back to really simple basics (my kids used to call my range of motion exercises “baby exercises” both because they looked so simple and some other reason i forget…) like re-learning to stand. Noticing all of this freaking tension I hold randomly in my body. Releasing it. Checking in again.

I really was on a pretty intently-moving train of trying to “figure out” my health, the right formula, the thing that would make me “normal” again.

Oh, let’s face it. I never was normal to begin with.

Why on earth would i be becoming normal now?

It’s ok! I mean, No, thank you.

Normal is not the goal. Awake is the goal. Expressing love is the goal. Simply being is the goal. But if you absolutely must have a goal, facilitating remembrance of wholeness and relationship is the goal. Pretty good goal if you absolutely must have one.

This shift in focus (health was definitely a big part of the goal, spirituality was a big part of the goal, relationships were a big part of the goal) to a single goal (evolving! which has room for mastery in all the other goals!) certainly still incorporates inputs from all of the facets of my life. is my compassion growing? is my patience growing? or is my frustration growing? and if it is, at what cost? and which, of these many delightful tools might we want to use to turn back to God, to patience, to presence, to truth?

Evolving as an individual and as a collective is simply the most interesting thing in the world to me. None of the news of the day holds my interest, dramatic and invasive as it may be. Yes, the world is happening. Yes, infinite perspectives on things could have you quite mad or quite happy. But for what? What is that anger in service of? The fulfillment of what value does that happiness represent? These deeper questions, these essential questions, are the ones that bear the most fruit.

I have a lot of anger, and I am so grateful for it. It’s part of what spurs me on to really embrace compassion. I watched a comedy special that reminded me that my anger is necessary. Not to stew in, but to be driven from to make real my commitment to the sanctity of all life. Because enough really is e-fucking-nough.

 

(https://www.indiewire.com/2018/07/nanette-netflix-hannah-gadsby-lesbian-comedy-1201981484/)