Right Now Revisited

Winter is nearly over and yet the weather outside fails to reflect it.Being a northern girl, I do enjoy a little snow and cold.I think the bleakness of a winter landscape can be a call to slow down and look inward. A ” snphotoow day” can be a time of reflection.I like to bundle up, brave the sleet and snow, and take long walks.I like to think that this inner journey can help prepare us for the rebirth of spring which is,  truly, right around the corner.

I can’t remember why, but recently I decided to Google ” Being Fully Present ” in a search. It was on my mind.Yes, it was the title of a December 2013 post I did.For some reason, I needed to explore this topic once again.This post could easily be called “Being Fully Present Part II “.

I stumbled on a site by author and speaker John Kuypers.There were many great points he made about the subject.In fact,when I taught my yoga class that morning, I shared some of his writing  during the final savasana ( which I NEVER do, by the way ).There was one point he made in a piece called  “Opening To Presence ” I found especially revealing.

“We aspire to develop openness to situations as they are by practicing awareness, acceptance, and presence.We learn to relate to people and experiences without strategy or manipulation.”

Without strategy or manipulation.

That really spoke to me.I think there have been times I have had expectations of certain people or things that made me feel as though I had to prepare and protect myself.I think that this could explain a little bit about why we are NOT fully present at times.Here are some examples.

We may block out our feelings during a crisis because we need to function without breaking down.After the crisis is over,we may not have an easy time processing those feelings once we have repressed them.

We may anticipate hurtful comments or criticism so we prepare to defend ourselves.By doing so, we may not really be able to hear what the other person is saying.

We may be resistant to change and blind to the possibilities that are available to us in the present because we want things to be as they were in the past.

Sometimes I think of how our minds and hearts can be bogged down like the hard drive of a computer with too much useless data and/or viruses. Once they are deleted,we can be more aware and alert.

Coincidentally, as I looked at more posts on John Kuypers’ site, he also did a blog post on Robin Williams as I had done some months back.He argued that William’s was not “weak enough”. In other words, he was not able to accept his, as the saying goes in recovery, ” powerlessness over addiction”. As a result, he did not seek out help.This made me think  that this kind of vulnerability is not only necessary in the face of addiction but as we come to grips with life’s challenges moment to moment.Somewhere along the line, we were made to feel like we are supposed to have all the answers, look amazing, and never make a mistake.If we do “the right thing ” ( whatever that is ), everyone should agree with and applaud our efforts.On top of that, if we are hurt, angry, or disappointed for any reason we should “get over it ” because our feelings don’t really matter anyway.God forbid we admit we don’t have it together and need some assistance.

I can see now how we are stifled by experiences that  were painful and we have to take time to examine them if we want to move forward. In childhood, we may have been trapped in situations we had no control over that made us feel powerless.As an adult, we may hold on to beliefs that limit us. such as ” I am not deserving “, ” that is impossible “, or ” if I am successful, I will lose my friends and be alone “.

I think what I have come to realize since my last post on being present is not just why we should be present but why we are not present.The challenge to being present is when we see what is not working and need to make changes.It may mean letting go of a relationship, adjusting to a new way of doing things, facing fears.When we exercise, we build muscle after we exert ourselves, break down muscle fiber, and allow for repair and recovery.This causes the muscle to become stronger.It works in a similar fashion with flexibility and endurance.Even gaining balance can mean falling down several times before we can maintain it.We have to go beyond our ” edge ” to see the changes we seek.

The tricky part, in exercise and as in life, is not going too far and getting injured.Injury can be a result of doing too much too soon which can backfire costing us more time, Maybe you set an unrealistic goal that sabotaged your efforts.Perhaps you ignored what your instincts we’re telling you about someone else’s motives and trusted them when you shouldn’t have.This made you feel embarrassed and disheartened and undermined your confidence.Sometimes we get injured randomly, by no fault of our own.Regardless, injuries take time to heal and when we consider all the potential for getting hurt, we can easily justify staying “stuck”.

Last week, I made the decision to leave a job that I found very stressful.It was also, in sharp contrast,  a situation I felt comfortable and secure in.Wow, now there is something to think about.How many times can we truly identify a situation or relationship that is stressful and yet feels secure at the same time? How can that be? Maybe we have accepted or adapted to a level of stress or discomfort in order to maintain a sense of comfort or security.A trade off.There comes a time when we are willing to leave the “devil we know” to face the unknown.There, most likely, will be adversaries on our path wherever we go even if they are within ourselves.When we get to a point where we are  truly ready for change, it’s usually because we have simply had enough.

Change requires effort and action but also a shift in perception.This can happen in an instant if we are truly present.I had an opportunity to see this in “real time” yesterday.Someone made a remark that caused me to be agitated and upset.It wasn’t so much the remark as it was what was underneath it; a history of disappointments, hurtful remarks, and resentment. How can this be different? I stopped to jot down a few things.

We get angry when……

# 1 We are forced to set boundaries.We would rather if people would just ” know” our limitations and respect that.We don’t want to be the bad guy.We resent having to say no.

#2 We want to meet others expectations and we can’t.Many times this is because we have no idea what they are because they are not communicated ( or they won’t admit they have any).We are made to feel like we failed and yet we were never given a chance to succeed.

#3 When others do not meet our expectations OR they do meet our expectations in the worst possible way. For example, if it looks like a snake, it’s probably a snake.If it bites you, why are you surprised? It’s a snake.Unless you want to be bitten, avoid snakes.Sounds simple right? Even so we expect others to be what they are not and get angry at them for being themselves.

This observation, which I received as a result of being present, helped me to feel better because it helped me to acknowledge my own need for growth.Sometimes it’s them,sometimes it’s us. Most times, it’s both.We have to take some responsibility.What do I need to view differently? What are my motives here? Am I projecting my own frustration on someone or something that is not capable of being more than it is ?

The sun is out, the snow and ice are melting.Maybe it is just within me.

 

 

Comments Off on Right Now Revisited

Filed under Uncategorized

Thanksgiving- Gratitude is The Reason For the Season

photoI am inspired to write a quick post about Thanksgiving as I was driving in my car yesterday and some ideas came to mind.

In my opinion, Thanksgiving is about, well, giving thanks, being grateful.Many times we strive to be better, have more, do more, etc.This is a good thing but how many times do we take time to appreciate what we already have ? I think that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it isn’t super commercial and it mostly centers around preparing food and spending time with family and loved ones.Unfortunately, in recent years , this is becoming eclipsed by the Christmas season, or should I say XMAS, the “holiday season”, and/or Black Friday, the season of buying and doing, a consumer holiday.My question is this; how much more do we really need? When is enough ENOUGH.

Before this sounds like a slam on materialism, this can also apply to our lives.As I was driving, I was thinking about how hard we can be on ourselves about what we want to achieve and what we have failed to achieve.If we are not grateful for what we have already done, the improvements we have made, the steps we have taken, and the great things we already possess, how can we truly create space for more?

Forgive this analogy but it is like being constipated.

We have to let go of  old things to properly digest new things.We have to pause and be grateful.I think we have all experienced people in our lives that are never satisfied.What ever you do, they are never happy.It is like feeding into a black hole.When a setback or unexpected problem occurs they snap.I think of it as having no reserve in the tank; constantly running close to empty. They seem to be looking for an excuse to explode or stew in their disgust.It would be nice to just evict these people from our midst but they are many times people closest to us like a loved one, family member, co-worker, or employer.I can recognize this pattern in myself towards myself. That is something I can do something about.

Gratitude, looking at the things that are going well or have improved, creates the space for more.

Over the last couple months, I have taken a break from drinking alcohol.So far, so good, but it isn’t a miracle cure.There is still so much more I would like to improve.Suddenly, if by magic, I have been expecting new behavior patterns to emerge overnight.It doesn’t work that way.

Little things mean a lot and I am grateful for little things like my loving, supportive, hilarious, and provocative husband, my home ( as humble as it is ), my health, my noble and reckless animals, my understanding family members, and my creativity which I am still nurturing day by day.I am grateful for my relationship with God, my soul, my mind, and my intuition.I am grateful for the unique place where my life is now, though I clearly do not always like it or ” get it “. Most of all, I am grateful for the ability to BE grateful and recognize what I DO have, but it is definitely a work in progress.

I honestly don’t see the tide of consumerism and materialism turning anytime soon.I do see that there are those, like myself, that are taking the time to drop out on the shopping spree and tune in to the bigger picture.Holidays aren’t going anywhere but we can choose how we celebrate them.

Won’t you join us for, and in, Thanksgiving ?

 

 

Comments Off on Thanksgiving- Gratitude is The Reason For the Season

Filed under emotion

Seeing Through a Private Eye

photoFor the past couple months, off and on,  my husband and I have taken great pleasure in watching episodes of ” The Rockford Files” on Netflix.We are on season four.I imagine this was partially inspired by the recent passing of actor James Garner.Before I go any further, let me say that this post is not going to be about death.I also want to express that it is not a longing for ” the good ol’ days “, although it is no secret that I am a fan of 70’s T.V. and movies.This post is going to be about LIFE, right here, right now.

Okay, now that I have that out of the way, why do I adore this show so much? I do like the characters, the script, the fact that you can recognize that it is filmed in Los Angeles , the clever introduction with random answering machine messages, guest appearances by celebrities like Isaac Hayes, and of course, there was the car. Who could forget the Pontiac Firebird and all those exciting car chases, many of which James Garner drove in himself ? The theme song, written by Pete Carpenter and Mike Post, went on to reach # 10 on the record charts and I can remember how much I liked the bitchin guitar solo.Those things all make for vintage television.I can remember when this show was on the air( now I am showing my age).It was the first ” adult ” show that I chose to watch myself.No one else in my household seemed to be aware of it. It was on friday nights, I thought James Garner was attractive.Other than that, I can’t remember any specific episodes.

Revisiting this show as an adult has been a different kind of experience because I am more aware of what this private investigator is up against.Jim Rockford seems to bear the mark of an antihero, which was a popular theme in that era.During the late 60s , early 70s, there was the sense of people working outside, or around, the crumbling infrastructure.To be on the side of justice, you had to find a way to maintain your integrity within a rigid or corrupt system.( Sound familiar ?) Movies like Serpico, Dirty Harry, and M.A.S.H. quickly come to mind.There was an attitude at that time that said,”I am doing my job in spite of how I feel about your system.You may not like me because I don’t have the right appearance.I may bend or break a few rules but I am honest.You need me because I get the job done.” In Rockford’s case, he speaks his truth with wit and sarcasm even in tense situations.What’s more, he stops just short of being overtly rude or snarky.

I like that.

He is an ex-con(which I didn’t put together the first time around) who lives in a trailer by the beach and seems to be barely making ends meet.The simplicity of his life is enviable, though, even in the shadow of the wealthy and powerful.He is a man living on his own terms.He  maintains a close relationship with his father and has a few loyal, yet some times shifty, friends. For such an charismatic guy,his relationships with women seem spotty.Well, I guess that comes with the territiory.In spite of his faults, you would feel secure turning to him in a jam.I can identify with this man, even as a woman.He pays the price for his freedom.He is constantly under the scrutiny of the police, working with unreasonable, and sometimes dishonest clients,and having to face life threatening situations on regular basis.There is no handbook and sometimes he seems to be making it up as he goes along.Being resourceful lends itself, at times, to slightly unethical behavior as he is not above impersonating someone or breaking and entering  to get information for his case.

I may not be in mortal danger, staring down the barrel of a gun, but I know what it is like to have to live moment to moment.I know what it is like to have to believe in yourself and your instincts when there doesn’t seem to be a clear direction.I know what it’s like have to maintain a sense of self, a certain dignity,in the company of those who may see you as worthless.I know what it is to have to grit your teeth, smile, and ” shake it off”.I just wish I could do it with more of Jim Rockford’s charm and style.I also wish I could be as scrappy in a fist fight, fending off thugs and intruders so effortlessly.

Well yeah, it is television after all.In this case, we really DO want to see the good guy win because he is not always good and we identify with that.That kind of realism makes some of the more implausible things forgiveable.

I can remember my mother watching soap operas in the afternoon to wind down as she remarked,”These people have beautiful homes, clothes,  important jobs, take vacations, but where do they get it all? You never see them working.” She found amusement in this and so did I. Today, this seems to be the standard  in most television, movies, and music.I wrote about this is in a previous post, ” Art and Life “. People many times look to movies and television as an escape from their everyday lives.That is understandable.A little sweetness, a happy ending, some great clothes, and an exotic location and I am on board but please give me a little grit, some peppery remarks, and/or a certain irreverent attitude that I can bring to mind as I face my day.It helps me to feel less alone in the world.

I had an outspoken friend when I was 18 who told me, ” People are always saying’ be yourself, be yourself ‘ and so I was and nobody liked me”.

I will never forget that.

There is a drawback to being our most authentic selves.Sometimes people don’t like us.The truth is, we can not make people like us no matter what we do anyway.We may as well be ourselves because, as Oscar Wilde said, “Everyone else is taken.”

I said in the beginning that this was not going to be about the ” good ol’ days”.I am sure there were people watching 70’s T.V. wishing it was still 77 Sunset Strip or Leave it to Beaver.Times change and that is not a bad thing.In some ways, our world has improved.There is a saying,” The more things change, the more they stay the same.” We are in a different time but I think the world still needs antiheroes.We still look to those who inspire us to be all we can be while, at the same time, help us to recognize and accept who we are and what our unique contributions are, too.

Whenever I write these posts, I come to some kind of a conclusion in the process.Here is my latest; watching The Rockford Files is like a visit with an old friend.In my case, that “old friend ” is me.It’s the part of me that speaks her mind, longs for adventure, and cherishes individuality and freedom.When I first saw this show, I was young enough to to see this in myself and nurture it.Now that I am older, I can use a reminder now and again.This would seem especially true when my back is against the wall and both ” cops” and ” robbers” are breathing down my neck.I have more than my share of days when I ask myself,”How did I get here?”

After a brief “visit”, it becomes crystal clear.I can hold my head a little higher.

Being yourself is a dirty job but hell, somebody has got to do it.

Thanks,Jim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments Off on Seeing Through a Private Eye

Filed under Creativity, Uncategorized

30 Days and “Counting”

photoI decided a month ago to stop drinking alcohol for 3 months.How did this come about? Well let me start this story at the very beginning as it was part of a process.

One thing worth mentioning is that there is a wealth of information about everyday life that it is easy to forget if it is not documented.

I have been keeping journals consistently for over a decade now.I had been keeping them longer than that,  off and on, from the time I was in my teens.In recent years, I was inspired to keep a journal by the book “The Artist’s Way”  by Julia Cameron.The book advises the reader to journal three pages of stream of consciousness,  long hand writing first thing in the morning.They are referred to as “Morning Pages” although, for me, they haven’t always taken place in the morning.I haven’t even done them every day, truth be told.I have managed to make them a consistent part of my life, though,  and can’t really imagine my life without them.

In May, I was having some car repairs done.( yes, again ).I took some time to sit by the river downtown while the car was being worked on.It was a lovely spring day that was sunny and breezy.I sat on a bench, pen and notebook in hand, to pray for wisdom and listen.I asked about finances somewhere along the line.I got the intuitive sense that if I gave up drinking alcohol, it would help my finances.This came to me as  something more than just not spending money on alcohol.It felt more like a kind of shift, a lifestyle change.Hmmm.

It didn’t feel restrictive or heavy.It felt more like a different way of doing things.

Let me say this, in my heart of hearts, I do not believe I am an alcoholic.If I am, then it will come out sooner or later.I do not believe I am in denial.I have struggled with the “lifestyle” of drinking.Playing music in bars, working in restaurants, and being married to someone who is in a similar position has set the stage for this.I don’t think that this is uncommon.I also don’t look at booze as ” bad ” so to speak.I compare my situation to what happens when you go to the doctor to get an x-ray.It doesn’t necessarily pose a threat to the patient, but the technician steps out of the room because they are doing this all the time.I am in an enviroment that puts me at risk.

After I received this guidance, it took some time for me to actually try it out in earnest and take it at face value.

Several months ago, I did something called “counting” which was inspired by a book called “Money Drunk,Money Sober”which Julia Cameron co-authored with Mark Bryan.The practice of counting is writing down ever penny you spend, what you spend it on , as well as every penny you earn .After a month, you begin to get a very clear picture of what you have been doing with your money.I did it during June and July for 4 weeks.This was not earth shattering for me but it was very revealing.For one thing, I earned more than I thought and I spent more than I thought.What did I spend it on? Well, the number one thing, besides bills like mortgage and utilities, was food.When I say food, I mean groceries, the stuff you prepare at home.The second was alcohol.Now, I didn’t separate going out alcohol from staying home alcohol.Because I was I was doing this exercise, I was more mindful of what I was spending out.It was still more than I expected.I wasn’t spending as much money on gas for the car, clothes, dinners out and/ or entertainment.In fact, the money spent on alcohol was rivaled what I spent om food.Whoa.

Where does this leave things? Well, food is a tough one because I need to eat.I buy the food for my household ( my husband and I ) and I do enjoy cooking and eating healthy food.Food is not only about sustenance for me.It’s also about connection and creativity.Now the question is, is there another way to find that? Have I been squandering my creativity in one place? I work with food and drink and have for many years.I also connect with friends in this way. Actually, from a caloric point of view, alcohol consumption can be eye opening. One leisurely Sunday, I took note of what I drank over the course of a day and the calories they contained.   900 Calories!!    I got a good scare, that’s for sure. After that, I decided to hop on the wagon for 30 days.It was a good thing, at the time, but it only seemed to scratch the surface.

As I pondered abstaining from alcohol, I looked at different articles on the internet written about how sobering up changed their lives.I am not talking about the standard AA ” bottom out” kind of experience but more of a health and wellness variety.In other words, did you notice physical changes, better sleep, more productivity?.Let me take this time to say, I have nothing against Alcoholics Anonymous.It is an excellent program that has helped many lives the world over.I just didn’t see it as a fit for me.

As a result of my search, I stumbled upon Hello Sunday Morning, an online support group more focused on the idea of, as they put it, ” changing our relationship with alcohol”.This seemed to make sense to me so I decided to check it out.It centers around the concept of taking a voluntary break from drinking for a period of time, like 3 months or a year,writing about your experience and connecting with others doing the same thing.I decided to give it a try for 3 months.The people involved in this seemed to be predominately from Australia and the UK.Some are heavy drinkers looking to quit for good.Others, like myself, are doing it to experience a new way of life and don’t see themselves as “Tee total” forever.May I also mention that I am not recieving any endorsement from this group.It is just something I am doing.

It dawned on me how all these years I have been looking for something like this.It’s one thing to be in serious enough shape to consider rehab but what about the rest of us? How about those who just want to drink less? I know that this can be the subject of great debate. There are some who don’t believe there is a such thing as moderate drinking, All or nothing seems to be the norm.In sharp contrast to this, I see myself as being a part of the population whose needs are not being addressed.

It has been 30 days since I have had alcohol and I feel pretty good I am, in fact, sleeping better, saving money, and discovering how to socialize without it.I have been recording my spending and earning, though nor quite as diligently as before.The most troubling expense for me, aside from alcohol, would be groceries and that seems to be roughly where it had been before.Although there is always room for improvement,I can live with that for now.

The hardest thing about this process is looking at all the things I would like to accomplish and knowing that there is only so much I can do in each day.In order to be at my best, I have to take time for me. When I don’t take time, or have time, for the things I enjoy, alcohol serves as a quick fix, or makeshift alternative.I now seeking out the things I enjoy that don’t involve alcohol.It could be a good book, dancing, writing, visiting with a good friend, or finishing a long postponed project.My creative side needs more attention.That is becoming more and more obvious.

I am only  1/3 of the way finished with this journey but I feel as though there is still so much to learn.I am not in a HUGE hurry to get there but, yes, I am looking forward to having a glass of wine again, no joke. Time goes by so fast and I want to have something to show for the 3 months.For now, I am open to all the richness that this experience has to give.

Comments Off on 30 Days and “Counting”

Filed under Creativity

Drinking the Kool Aid

photoThis has been a subject I have wanted to post about for months.

 

When people use the phrase” Drinking the Kool Aid ” , they are making a reference to the Jim Jones cult suicides that took place in Guyana in 1978 where followers knowingly drank poisoned Kool Aid. This tragically resulted in the death of over 900 people.I can vaguely remember this incident on the news.For me, being pretty young, it remains hazy along with Watergate, Patti Hearst,and the gas crisis.I can remember the atmosphere of what seemed to be tumultuous times.I can remember my mother saying how Nixon was a  “crook” ( she was a regestered Republican by the way) and how Patti Hearst was ” brainwashed” into her invovement with a bank robbery.As a kid, looking up to my parents and other adults, it made me feel like the world had gone crazy.I guess it had and still is.

Nowadays, when someone talks about drinking the Kool Aid, it’s means stepping over a line into some kind of collective insanity.It means being baptized, if you will, into a way of perceiving the unreasonable as completely acceptable.It means taking the plunge into “the new normal”.

After mentioning to a friend and co- worker about my facination with the Jim Jones incident, he turned me on to the Source Family Documentary.I didn’t know anything about this early 70’s California group so I was eager to check it out.With this bunch, there were no mass murders or heavy drugs.They preached the gospel of health food, yoga, and self awareness with some and marijuana sexual impropriety thrown in.I am sure people did feel disillusioned by it all but it lacked the gore and horror of the Manson Family, Waco, or Guyana.

It’s funny how when you mention something cult related, many act like, “Pfff, stupid people.I would never do anything like that.” It’s relatively rare to find anyone who has been closely involved in cult activity.The major consensus is that no one would ever find themselves in such a compromising situation unless they were completely guileless and naive.

Think again.

Something that really stuck in my mind about the Jim Jones,” People’s Temple ” was that they originally had an air of legitimacy.For one thing, they were very racially integrated, which was huge at that time.They were politically active and they were speaking to people’s concerns.Remember, this was during and right after the war in Vietnam, assasinations, and major social upheaval racially, sexually, and socially.

The Source Family was a outgrowth of Jim Baker’s( note Baker, not Bakker) hugely successful Source Family Restaurant on the Sunset Strip.Let’s face it, if anything speaks loudly, it’s money.This restaurant hosted many celebrities and was featured in restaurant trade magazines.

So where did it all go wrong?

I don’t know.Maybe abuse of power, egos, lack of integrity, any number of things.What really spoke to me, about the Jim Jones thing in particular, was how committed people in the group were to one another.It wasn’t all about the leader.This was their community.These were friends who may have had similar experiences, beliefs, goals, and ideas.They didn’t want to let their friends down.

Think about that.

Although being involved in bonafide cult activity may seem very remote to most of us, I believe we have all been involved in a group of well meaning individuals that have exhibited similar behavior.Think of the family that looks the other way at a loved one’s addiction and creates a whole support system and coping mechanism around that.The boss who bullies their employees by making unreasonable demands that everyone complies with in order to keep the job.Of course we see this in religious institutions but also in street gangs and organized crime.We even see it in friendships and intimate relationships.”Drinking the Kool Aid” means you are doing something that no one would even consider, even yourself, if they weren’t as closely involved as you are now.

Even if cult involvement seems a little off your radar,I am sure unhealthy behavior is something you are familiar with.In fact, I would even go so far as to say that it is commonplace.What constitutes unhealthy behavior anyway?

Here are a couple thoughts to ponder.Are you involved with people who are very insular and rarely interact outside their group? Can you introduce new ideas? Are they threatened by your personal growth? Do they allow for disagreement and/or dissent? Can you voice your concerns openly without fear of ridicule, intimidation, or shame? Can you choose to reduce contact with the individual or group harmoniously or will that create an incident?

One thing that bears mentioning is that group energy is very powerful.Unity and solidarity are wonderful things and we can benefit from being part of a group, community, partnership, or relationship.It is a means of protection and support.Not every family is 100% functional ( I wonder if there is such a thing ), not every job is a warm jovial place where are input is welcomed and applauded, and not every relationship is without a fear, jealousy, or suspition.We can’t be expected to ditch our family, job, and primary relationships just because they fail to meet our every expectation. Our government has problems but are we ready to overthrow it? Drinking the Kool Aid is a different matter,though.

When you ” drink the Kool Aid” so to speak, you have already shut down the internal warning system we all have that told you things were going terribly wrong.You already gave up the fight and stopped asking questions.You convinced yourself that you no longer had any choice.When the few survivors of the Guyana massacre were interviewed, they viewed it as more of a murder than suicide.Once the followers were that isolated and far from home,they were trapped.The question is, then, when did the real loss of power begin?

During times of uncertainty, people are more likely to give up some personal freedoms in exchange for a sense of security.This is nothing new.We see it today with the rise of radical religious fundamentalist groups.We hear it echoed on angry talk radio.They call for a quick solution to the ” problem” meanwhile the problem is us.I am always suspicious when I hear leadership talk in terms of ” us and them” as if the “them” are people we have nothing in common with. ” They ” are only vaguely human.

In Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way” she describes something closer to our everyday experience.She uses the term “crazymakers” to describe people who are master manipulators that create chaos and distraction in our lives that cause us to lose focus on our own pursuits.These are the one’s that call you for help when you are about to go on an important job interview or much needed vacation.They seem to have absolutely no regard for your valuable time and their timing seems impeccable.With crazymakers it is necessary and possible to set boundaries.It may take some re conditioning on our part and that responsibility lies with us.

You may ask,” why are you writing this? what does this mean to me?” I suppose this is a dilemma that I face daily.Crazymakers, so to speak, seem to be a mainstay in my life.I soon as I seperate from one there seems to be another waiting in the wings to take their place.Crazy people can be charismatic and inspiring as well as frustrating.If that were not the case, people would not follow them.We all have had that friend or loved one that was fun to be around and, perhaps, pushed us to do and be more than we thought was possible.Then again, they left us exhausted and sometimes angry.Today, I am more in touch with my own needs and personal convictions and have a easier time recognizing what my limitations are.I know when to say no.

Is it wrong to want to break with the rest of the world’s ideas in pursuit of a different kind of society? I don’t think so.I think there has to be a ponit you ask yourself,” is this what I signed up for?” If it goes against your core ideals and beliefs, it’s time to bow out while you still are in a position to do so.

In addition to hearing the term,” drinking the Kool Aid”, I also have heard the term,” I didn’t drink the Kool Aid “.

Translation :  I saw what was going on but I didn’t buy into it.

We can’t always stop the insanity  going on around us but we don’t have to invest ourselves in it.We can’t always prevent others from being beguiled by a magnetic, sometimes maniacal person or being burned as a result of a unsolvable conflict but we can protect ourselves.We can be a witness.We can be the voice of sanity.

So don’t pick up the poison, no matter what form it takes.It may be easier now than later.

 

Comments Off on Drinking the Kool Aid

Filed under emotion

No Sense Makes Sense

photoIn the wake of Robin Williams suicide, I am compelled to contribute my thoughts.Yeah,  I am sure by now your a little tired of reading about this subject.That’s alright, I am too but I need to write this anyway.

Williams was a true genius.He could transition from mapcap lunacy to thoughtful insight at the drop of a hat.His comedy had a rare quality of letting the viewer peek behind the curtain occasionally to see the softer, sometimes sadder side and it was believable. He revealed the pain behind the playfulness, the tears behind the laughter.

Watching an recent interview, I was astonished by how profoundly sane this man sounded.Even though he would interject with various characters, voices, and facial expressions, he sounded intelligent and lucid.When he was asked about the on going war in Iraq, he appeared to be sincerely concerned and yet exasperated by the whole situation.We live in a world where we  have been doing the same things over and over again, for centuries, expecting a different result. That is crazy. Robin Williams. like many comedians, was a court jester who used his humor to make us laugh and because of this, he had a license to address uncomfortable truths.

What a lightning rod he was!!

Comedy is most effective when it serves as an antidote to the pain of life.Strangely enough, I had a dream the other night where I was at a party with some people I work with.I looked out the window into  the street and witnessed a breathtaking bolt of lightning hit the ground and then catch fire.When I woke up, I looked at a dream dictionary online to find the meaning.One source said that lightning represents a sudden insight and awakening and/ or a shocking turn of events beyond our control.Lightning is powerful and unpredictable. Imagine being a sensitive person who is constantly bombarded with stimulus from their environment.It can be uplifting at times but also draining.Powerful energy like that needs a place to land.It has to be grounded.A lightning rod is grounded to the earth. I am sensitive myself and I am constantly being reminded how important it is to stay grounded.For me, this means staying connected physically to the earth by spending time outdoors, being exposed to sunlight and moonlight, breathing in the freshest air possible, and even walking around in bare feet when as I can.This is an essential piece of the puzzle that is missing in our high tech society.To the modern world, this seems so simple, how could it possibly make a difference? It doesn’t make sense.Well, it doesn’t have to make sense as long as it works.

It doesn’t make sense for someone like Robin Williams to take his own life.He had millions of fans worldwide who adored him.He had colleagues who respected and admired him.He had family members that probably depended on him.How could this happen? As someone who has, and still does struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, I know what it is to be in a similar position.To the outside world, it doesnt make sense.Nevertheless, when you are in a place of despair, the only thing that make sense, truly makes sense,  is ending it. Period. Think about the nature of addiction.To an addict, it makes perfect sense to spend their last dollar on a cocaine binge.Recently one of my dear, recovering friends shared a story about  partying with another guy one night who said he couldn’t buy more drugs because his rent was due the next day.To that my friend replied, ” Rent??? Rent is tomorrow!! “.We both roared with laughter at the telling of this.It revealed a sobering fact. When you are an addict, the addiction is doing the talking.The addiction is calling the shots.You can’t reason with an addiction.Once you are in the throws of such a thing, you are completely powerless and it’s only the grace of God that will keep you alive.

There are two things that infuriate me about the way society deals with depression.The first is that we should never be depressed.We should never be sad or even angry.Actually, why even have feelings or emotions at all? It just gets in the way.It’s a major inconvieniece.Snap out of it.

The truth is, in my opinion, it’s okay to feel sad.It’s essential to allow yourself to grieve a loss or acknowledge pain,  disappointment, or resentment.Sad is not bad.Bitter is as important as salty, sweet, spicy, and sour.When working together, all these components create rich flavor.We live in a time when people crave more and more sugar. (Are we seeing a pattern here?) We want a quick fix and a happy ending to every story.Life doesn’t always happen that way.In fact, experiencing a time of disillusionment and despair can be like a rite of passage.A “dark night of the soul”,  if you will, that can lead to a place of more meaning, gratitude, and purpose.Elizabeth Lesser’s book , “Broken Open”  does a fine job of arguing this point. She shares powerful examples, some deeply personal, of failure, tragedy , and loss and the gifts they can bring if we are open to them. Still,as a society, we don’t always have the patience to endure that part of the process.

Here is the second.

I realize that severe depression is a little different.I get it.It can be debilitating.What then? Reaching out to a friend,talking to a councilor,or attending a support group can be a huge help.Medication may be recommended in some cases.Okay, got it, but this is what makes me angry.

What about food? No one ever seems to ask, “What are you eating?

Your brain, my brain, everyone’s brain needs quality food to function.When depressed, some reach for unhealthy foods while others stop eating all together.Unfortunately, this is when we need nutrients the most.I realize that there are various books on this subject and I am not completely alone in this matter but by and large, this viewpoint is ignored.I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered a troubled soul whose diet was abysmal at best.I am talking about loads of sugar, processed food, caffeine,you name it.And  what about water? Are you kidding? Not everyone is quite as reckless.There are those who eat fairly well but are they eating what they should for their specific needs? Are they getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids? B vitamins? Do they have a food allergy?.It is astonishing what havoc an allergic reaction, for instance, can create in the body.Something so tiny and insignificant as a nut or mold spores can create such a complex immune response in one person while it does nothing to another.I, personally, can eat peanuts and shellfish all day long without incident while for someone else,  it is life threatening.I used to think I had to avoid all dairy products until I realized it was lactose that was causing me trouble and not casein.I can tolerate some cheeses and not others.Go figure.For me, there has been a lot of trial and error.Look, I am not a nutritionist so I can’t diagnose anyone, not even myself, but I have learned from my personal experience how food can affect mood.Unfortunately, in the case of depression, this is usually a last resort.

It doesn’t make sense does it?

I will tell you what also doesn’t make sense, the far reaching impact of a seemingly tiny act of kindness.A kind word of encouragement, a phone call, a hug, or even a simple, “I hear you” at a time when no one seems to be listening can mean the world to someone who desperately needs it.It can also be the difference between life and death.

Another thing that bothers me, while I am on the subject, is how hard performers and artists work to maintain their level of excellence and how little it is appreciated.For someone like Robin Williams, it appeared effortless but I am sure it wasn’t.It takes years and years of practice, experimenting, rejection, revision, as well as countless hours pacing the floor waiting for the phone to ring.This is something even the greats strugggle with. Uncertainty is something that even a talent as famous and sucessful as Robin Williams had to grapple with.

Again,it doesn’t make sense.

There is one thing that is beginning to make sense to me, as I write is this.

I have been guilty of wanting to understand everything.I want guarantees.I want to know how, exactly, it’s all going to work out before I make a move.This is poison.It paralyzes you.When you analyze you paralyze.

Insight doesn’t always come about by searching or reasoning.It can be like a bolt of lightnining.

Thanks,Robin.Thanks for all the laughter.Thanks for all the hard work.Thanks for showing us earthlings that you are more human than we thought.Most of all thanks for giving me the ability stop being so damn hard on myself (at least for today) and accept that I am not alone.Even the brightest stars fight the same fears and demons.I wish you could have come out of the other side of this despair without taking your life but maybe we wouldn’t have paid attention.Again, No Sense Makes Sense.

I love you.

Rest in Peace.

Comments Off on No Sense Makes Sense

Filed under Creativity, Grief

Saying Goodbye

photo 2

I  have decided to put my dog Janet put to sleep.Her health is clearly declining.How do you know that you have done all you can do? How can you tell “it’s time”? This would seem to be a painful dilemma.I’ve been through this before and I wonder if it can be different. Is there another way to approach this?

At this moment she is resting though she does not seem entirely peaceful. Her breathing seems labored.I don’t want her to suffer.Part of me wants to drive down to the vet this instant and do the deed. Not unlike ripping a bandage off a wound, quick and simple.The other part of me will see her lift her head,  looking suddenly alert and think  ” maybe she is improving”.Who am I kidding?

I am going to miss her.The truth is, I already miss her because a part of her is already gone.

I knew several months ago where this was all going.Given her age, I opted for medication over surgery.I tried changes in diet, extra vitamin C, and fish oil.I have tried to make her comfortable.We took rides in the car  while I was running errands.I took long naps cuddling with her.I started to cook meals for her.I wanted, mostly, for her to know that I love her.

What am I afraid of facing here? I think that I am reluctant to acknowledge change.Life is moving on and so is Janet  but that’s not really it. It’s me. I am different. I have changed.After experiencing the death of so many loved ones you would think that I would know the drill by now.This time is different, though.I don’t want to share too much of this.I don’t want to have to explain or justify myself.This is my pain.However,  I believe that Janet will always be with me.How can she not be when the love I have for her is so alive? Grief is a very individual process.For me, the hardest part of it is not losing someone but the perspective it gives you.You can never see your life quite the same way again.It can feel lonely but at the same time it can feel like a treasure inside you.

A couple months ago, I wrote about Janet’s illness in a post called  ” Future Now”. It is always ” now” and now has elements of the past,  present, and future all wrapped up into one.While I write this, she is besides me but my mind is already thinking about her passing.I also see her in my mind’s eye, voraciously chomping on her ball in the back yard, dropping it to the ground, stomping her paws impatiently while she waits for me to throw it again.I see the emaciated, timid creature that I brought home 11 years ago after I approached her “owner” about letting me have her.It is heartbreaking and poignant that she is almost at the same weight that she was when we found her.She is leaving our lives much the same way she came into it.

Yes, okay, it’s time.

It was a little over a year ago when we adopted a second dog, Beulah.I had wanted to just keep everything “as is” but life is always changing.I didn’t think the Janet was sick but she could have been and I didn’t realize it.I just knew it was time to adopt a second dog so we took the plunge.The older I get, the more I can appreciate living in the moment.Each moment is unique,  informed by the past,  inspired by the future. ( I am going to tweet that! )Once you know, you have got to go with it.

For almost a week I have been struggling with a sore ankle. I don’t know how I did it but I believe it is a resurfacing of an old injury from years ago.It has forced me to spend as much time as I can off my feet.The irony is that it has forced me to slow down.I mean literally forced me.This made it easier to postpone various tasks in favor of staying in and consequently, spending time with Janet.Being home, it’s impossible to deny her condition.Being somewhat immobile, I can’t distract myself as easily by keeping busy.

I sat down next to Janet and told her, “If you want to go, it’s okay.If you want to stay let me know.” I prayed to God, “Please let me know if this is a mistake.” It’s probably not, but…

Maybe a new part of my life is being birthed in the midst of the sorrow.One can only hope.

 

Comments Off on Saying Goodbye

Filed under Grief

Alterations

photoI have been switching from my winter to summer wardrobe this week.That means taking summer stuff out of the attic where it is stored and packing away the winter stuff for next season.It seems a little late to be doing it but the weather has been so unpredictable these days.When I do this, I take time to re-evaluate what I am actually using, what I need to donate, and what I may need.It can be a pleasant surprise to see what I have packed away and forgotten I had.This time around I came across a couple skirts that needed taking in so I decided to try my hand at a few simple alterations.Let it be known that I am no seamstress.I have no formal sewing training and very little experience.Nevertheless, these were not expensive items and if I wasn’t wearing them, what’s the difference?

About 10 years ago, a woman I worked for gave me a sewing machine.She was a whiz at making her own clothes, curtains, you name it.She told me that she didn’t have any training either but just started doing things and taught herself.To see her designs, you could never tell.She encouraged me to try my hand at it.For me it was more of a creative opportunity.Looking back I can see the machine was a very generous gift.

I have heard it said that you learn by doing.When I first got the machine, I used it to customize some T shirts and hem some pants.Yes, it was a little ragged but that was kind of the idea.Somewhere along the line I packed the machine away and didn’t pull it out for years.At my husband’s urging, I set up the machine at our dining room table( if you could call it that, we barely ever dine there) and left it set up.He thought that this way I would be more likely to use it.He was right.

The idea of altering something to fit you specifically is almost a lost art these days.For the most part, unless it’s an expensive suit or dress,  we just pull a piece of clothing off a rack in a store, try it on,  and expect it to look amazing.If it doesn’t, we may think there is something wrong with us or the clothing but we generally don’t invest time to alter it or have it altered.It is just supposed to fit.

I have a quote posted on my wall by George Bernard Shaw that says, “Life is not about finding  yourself, it is about creating yourself” I have often tried to find a tried and true pathway to my goals but it is, many times, something you have to take time to carve out.You may have to grow into it.You may grow out of it.You make take another’s experience to heart and learn from it but it will never quite match your own.Why is it then that I wish someone would just hand me some kind of formula for my life when I know deep down, I would end up creating my own in the end?

I have had an idea for a book on health, fitness, and wellness for quite a long time but it is finally something I am taking steps toward doing.Baby Steps.I have always been fascinated by different styles of diet and exercise.I can’t say that I subscribe to any one method fully although I have reaped the benefits of my interest and participation in such things.That was the primary motivation for practicing yoga as well as getting certified to teach.It was also what inspired me to train for and complete my first marathon.Writing a book, for me, requires compiling all of the lessons I have learned over the years as a result of personal study, experimentation, trial and error.Perhaps this idea stems from a desire for a book that I wish I had during my journey of self discovery.I think it also reflects a desire to serve and help others.This is a dimension of my life that I never really understood before.It is beginning to take shape.

Writing can require alterations.You start with ideas, raw material, and then trim and shape them into something more focused and cohesive, something that fits.

Sometimes you have to take things in, sometimes you have to let things out,and sometimes you have to cut something off and let it fall away.

Speaking of what fits, I am stopping now so I can fit in a workout at the gym before teaching yoga tonight.I am cutting it short.More on this subject in future posts.

Goodbye for now….

 

 

Comments Off on Alterations

Filed under Creativity, Fitness

Hey Random Stranger

Here I am thinking of what I would say to me…..if I wasn’t me.

GetAttachment

A four leaf clover

 

I finally completed my first marathon.( that is one positive thing to report).It was supposed to be in December but the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis was cancelled on account of  bad weather.I originally thought I would do New Orleans but, lo and behold, it was Nashville this past weekend.My initial goal was to finish, which I did.Was I happy with my time? Well,it wasn’t anything to write home about, a modest   4:57:02. Next time, I hope to improve.I am impressed with myself that I followed my instincts, hydrated and fueled properly, and didn’t injure myself. It was a stunning spring day with full sun.The down side to this was by about mile 14 , it was beginning to feel a little warm out there.I felt like I was starting to bake.There was a girl not far from MetroCenter that I passed and though she seemed visibly younger and in decent shape,  she was limping painfully.I thought,” Uh, oh.Note to self…” Aside from sore quads, I finished the race unscathed.

One thing you realize when running a marathon is that you are not alone.There are some who are faster, some who are slower, but you are certainly NOT ALONE.I was waiting about 40 minutes in the cue just to get started.Lots of people run marathons.There were more runners doing the half marathon from what I could see but there were all kinds of people there.I even passed a sweaty white Elvis on the way ( pretty impressive).I had read somewhere that I should have my name written on my person somewhere but I didn’t.That’s okay, the spectators had it figured out.They held up signs that said ” GO RANDOM STRANGER”.That was me.

Now that I am back in town, I am in the midst of a personal crisis.I have to meet with my boss tomorrow about a complaint and I am not taking it well.It is the second one in a few weeks.What am I doing wrong? It isn’t like I am not trying.Do I like my job? Sometimes. I try to be conscientious and work hard. Most times I am just glad it pays my bills( barely).I think I am being found out.This is a bigger dilemma than just my job.It is my life.At the present moment, the things I am most passionate about are not what’s keeping a roof over my head and food on the table.I have been trying to work it out but I feel like I am on borrowed time.

I am angry, deep down.Am I angry at my boss? Not really.I can see her side.Hey, if momma is not happy,  aint nobody happy.I get it. I guess I am angry at God.

God what am I doing wrong?

Why am I stuck in this place? Where is the open door? What is the solution?   

I realized at that moment that I didn’t have any faith for my situation. None at all.I seem to be hitting the wall.I have been in this place time and time again and I have yet to overcome it.It is like seeing the marker for mile 20 and wondering how I am ever going to make it to the finish line.

So okay, what would it be like if I was talking to another person? What if the random stranger really was me?

For one thing,I am not alone.Everyone goes through a period of failure, confusion, discontent and doubt.Most times, it is the segway to something better.It can’t last forever.Keep moving forward.

At this moment I am on my porch and my cat is sittng besides me.We are trying to make her an outdoor cat.Why? Because she has destroyed countless items and furniture by marking them.Yes, I have tried all the usual remedies for removing the scent but she finds new things to destroy.Today was the last straw.She doesn’t want to be an outdoor cat, though.The neighbor’s cat bullies her.What’s odd is that they look like twins.Same size, same color, everything.

I guess we are in a similar place.It reminds me of what a coworker told me years ago. “Anne, ” he said, “I feel like you haven’t been able to piss and mark your territory, you know what I mean?” I think I do now. We can’t help but to want to mark our territory but it may not be ours to mark and yet still don’t want to go outside.

My comfort zone,  if there was such a thing,  is shrinking.

One thing I learned from my marathon training was that you can’t push through ” the wall”. You can only dismantle it, brick by brick, moment by moment, and step by step.

So okay random stranger, what now?

RUN YOUR OWN RACE

Take a step.Do something you love.Set a goal.Think of what you want( not what you don’t want).Do something everyday towards your goal.Anything is better than nothing.

For me, writing is energizing and empowering.Sometimes I think ” who is reading this? how can it matter?”Then again, it’s something.Something Real.I am bearing witness to my truth.That is important AND significant.So many times I read something or watch a movie and think, ” this isn’t real.who does this speak to? not me.” Maybe what I write can speak to someone else.

I haven’t written in a while but your going to be hearing a lot from me.For the moment you, dear readers, are going to be my stand in for a life coach.

Being done with a race can be a bit of a let down.I fondly remember the training days as well as the race day and it is something I feel a slight ache for.I WILL do it again, though not next week or anything.

 I am reminded of what another spectator sign said,” If a marathon was easy it would be called YOUR MOM”

Nice!

Comments Off on Hey Random Stranger

Filed under emotion, Fitness

New To Me

photoAs it turned out, in spite of how indifferent I was to the outcome and/or spectacle or the 2014 Super Bowl,yours truly was one of four winners of a Super Bowl pool that was going on at work.This meant I had extra, unexpected cash.I made the decision that this winning must be dedicated to something other than bills or necessities.It would be for a dress.Ah, yes.

I had something picked out already.I saw it last week at a trendy boutique and it was on sale.SOLD.After making that purchase, I had some cash left over.I didn’t hesitate.I went to troll the aisles of the local thrift stores.

This kind of shopping serves a duel purpose for me.It’s economical as well as rewarding.Strangely enough, I feel like it gives these items a new life, a second chance.I know there are some that would frown on this sort of thing.Someone elses discarded stuff?I can hear it now, ” Do you have some kind of a poverty mentality? Don’t you believe in abundant life, a benevolent universe? Do you feel unworthy?”  NO.I feel joy whenever I see a piece of clothing, an appliance, a book, etc that is of exceptional quality waiting to be discovered.Perhaps I am reading too much into this( I usually do) but it makes me think of people around us, or even ourselves for that matter,  who are in the same position.We may feel passed over in our lives.”How did I get here?” we wonder.

Well, how does something end up on a thrift store rack?Someone may have gone through their belongings and decided that they had some stuff that was no longer useful to them.I emphasize that because just because you have a belonging that you are not using, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t useful to another person.Maybe you bought a new couch.Perhaps you have things that were “outgrown” as is the case with children’s clothing. Maybe you lost weight and wear a smaller size.It could be a book you have already read and don’t see yourself reading again.You may feel the need to give away items after the end of a relationship.On a more somber note, this can happen as a result of death.

In this way, it is like the cycle of life.Not everything has to be “brand new” for it to be appreciated and/or meaningful.

When I shop for previously owned items, I get a charge that is not quite present when shopping  for new items.I see possibilites.I am willing to take chances.I may even buy something that is not right for me but I have a hunch it’s perfect for someone else.When it comes to music, I have never stopped listening to vinyl LP’s.Sometimes I will even purchase a cassette that I can only play in the tape deck in my car.Lately I have been listening to U2’s “Wide Awake in America” as I ride around town.It’s remarkable how something so inexpensive and random like that can brighten your day, or someone elses.The only problem with this is that if you are not careful, you may end up with a bunch of “stuff”.That is why I have a few guidelines.

First, I consider the what I am looking for.For instance, It may be something specific like a wool sweater, a food processor, a pair of black slacks.In this way, I can stay focused and don’t get distracted by all the other things I may see.Second, I don’t ever buy something just because it is cheap.If I don’t need it, I am not buying it PERIOD.Third, once I buy something, I try to simultaniously get rid of something I am not using very much.This one usually relates to clothing.One last thing to bear in mind, there is no use in having something if you don’t use it or have somewhere to put it.

I realize that whatever we may be looking for in life is actually looking for us.The question is, are we ready for it?Have we made time and space for it? For several months, I have been in the process of clearing out and reorganizing.This is yet another continuation of my previous posts,  “Making Time” and ” Creating Space”.I am reminded about something Cheryl Richardson said about how when you take care of your finances responsibly,you are sending a message to your subconscious that you are able to handle more.I believe this can be applied to relationships, possessions, and/or opportunities.

There are days when I walk through a thrift store in sheer amazement over all the great stuff I find.Other days, I see nothing special. Then again, someone else can find exactly what they are searching for.It’s a timing thing.It’s also a very individual thing.

That is why this kind of shopping speaks to me on a personal level.

It’s symbolic.The very item we are looking for may be waiting for us,  gathering dust on a shelf next to a bunch of “junk”, waiting to be discovered.It could be something that another person found insignificant and it and yet it means so much to us.Maybe there are times when we could feel unwanted and passed over.Maybe we feel like our talents and abilities are nothing special.Then again, who is to say that we are not exactly what another is seeking?There is a saying, I don’t know who said it, “There is a supply for every need.” Whoever did has probably spent time trolling the aisles in a thrift store.

Just because we are not shiny and brand new doesn’t mean we aren’t sought after. Just because we have blemishes,made mistakes,and felt used doesn’t mean we aren’t valuable.

Now if you readers will excuse me, It’s time to reorganize my closet.

Comments Off on New To Me

Filed under emotion