Wednesday, May 28, 2014

EXCITED. ALSO SICK & TIRED.

First of all….when you put something out to the Universe in a strong and declarative way, it will often come back to you (for good or ill).  In my last post I declared: "I am a writer!"  And guess what?  Within a few days, someone offered to PAY me to write for them.  It will be a new blog and when it is up and running, I'll announce it here.  Soon.  Excited!


Other than that, it's been a tough month and I am in a contemplative state of mind.  I always worry a bit that this blog is too close to a personal journal, then I have people tell me how much they can relate to my experiences and it only encourages me to continue in this navel-gazing vein, thinking we really are all in this life together and there may be only a few discreet human experiences, but hundreds of ways to interpret and live them.  So here goes...

I'm back to feeling a vague sense of queasiness a lot of the time.  I feel like it's the first day of a bout with the flu.  Tired, sort of tummy sick, a little head-achy, just want to moan and sit still.  Then it passes and I'm fine….until out of the blue it hits me again.  I spent a year like this not long ago and underwent every test in the book with no diagnosis (but I did lose 25 pounds!).  I don't really want to do this again.  I'm managing, but I'm frustrated and a little scared.  And my level of compassion for people who have real, debilitating, chronic ailments is at an all-time high.  I cannot imagine….

I'm trying to clean up my diet again; I'd gotten lazy and gave in too often to my sweet tooth.  I gained a few pounds and the carb cravings were back.  So maybe that's it.  I don't know; I really don't.  I just feel like whining about it, but that does no one any good and puts out to the Universe exactly what I don't want!  They say, when you are asking for what you want, to be clear and positive; don't say what you don't want:  "I don't want to be sick; I don't want to be sick; I don't want to be sick"…is heard as sick sick sick!  Say instead, "I am strong and healthy; I am strong and healthy; I am strong and healthy"…and health and strength abound!  Worth a try.

Also, I'm in burn-out mode and all of the above may also be the physical manifestation of the mental and emotional toll of my usual habit of over-committing, over-extending, over-scheduling, over-worrying, over-working, overly-perfectionistic tendencies.  Sheesh!  I just can't seem to learn this lesson!  How many times have I been here??? (A lot, I tell ya!)   So, the Ugly Critic Monster has shown up to berate me for being a slacker and unable to keep up the pace, unable to let criticism and conflict roll off my back, unable to just forge ahead like "normal" accomplished and highly functioning people can.   I've taken to the sofa with my TV remote and crocheting.  I have stopped committing to things and am telling everyone I'm on a summer hiatus beginning June 1st.  I am only going to do EXACTLY what I want to do and that will not include any meetings, few social engagements, no obligations.  So there!

When I'm in these sick and tired states I tend to get sad and think about all my regrets and mistakes.  It's a nice wallow, but I get sick and tired of that soon enough as well.  Then I decide to fix me.  Again.

My latest "fix me" fix is re-reading Grain Brain (by David Perlmutter, MD) to get me eating right again (cut the carbs!!!)  And I've just started reading Buddha's Brain (by Rick Hanson, Ph.D.) to get me thinking right.  (It is not lost on me that all this emphasis on "brains" is the opposite of living from the heart -- a goal of mine -- but I'll deconstruct that inconsistency another time.)   Buddha's Brain, at least the first 70 pages, is an enlightening discussion of the evolution of brain development and the biochemistry of feeling states and how we actually reinforce, chemically and neurologically, that which we think and feel.  And, the great part is we can train and re-program ourselves to think and feel better!  We can pursue practices which literally change our brain's response to pain and suffering, anxiety and depression.   So, that seems like a good goal while I'm on hiatus from  eating every sugary treat within 10 miles and being overwhelmed with tasks and depressed about people not appreciating my efforts.  (Poor, poor pitiful me.)

Please (please!) tell me you can relate to this rambling.  Or if not….

I'll be back soon with the always uplifting and simply hilarious tales of another gardening season at IvyWood, which is the name I secretly gave our property many years ago.  It reflects the wooded greenbelt that runs adjacent to where we live and also the absolutely ill-advised decision to plant ivy ground cover over the slope behind our house.  It is generally ill-advised for me to even go outside, actually.  But I'm giving gardening another shot this year; maybe I should write a book about my experiences:  Green Brain.

At least that's the view from here… ©


Monday, May 12, 2014

EXPRESS YOURSELF




When I was a kid I made up stories in my head about adventures.  I was always the star -- I was the leader, fearless and cunning; my side-kicks in this were two boys and together we led a pack of cool kids who operated on the edge -- sort of "bad", but in service to the "good".  Robin Hood types, I guess.  I never wrote any of these stories down.  But I played them out in my head, fantasies that moved across my mind like a movie reel, while I was drying the dishes or sweeping the sidewalk or sitting in class.  

This morning I am thinking about creativity, its source and its expression.  I just read a Facebook post by one of my writing heroes, Anne Lamott, where she admonishes us to not waste one more minute being timid and shy, procrastinating and denying the urge to create.

I started writing about 40 years ago.  I have boxes and boxes of journals, essays, poems, musings; a notebook full of newsletters I've written and edited for organizations over the years;  a file folder of published pieces of which I am quite proud.  I started writing and performing "stand-up" poetry 7 years ago; writing essays for UU Sunday services around that time as well.  I started this blog in 2012 and have written 122 essay posts for it.  I have four poems in a recently self-published chapbook by my women's poetry group.  Seventy people came to the book launch last month.  I just found out I will have four pieces (two poems and two essays) in a Northwest Women Writers anthology next year.  I've written song lyrics that are being performed and recorded by my musician friends.

So, why is it that when people ask, "What do you do?" my answer is "I'm a retired Social Worker." Why is it I can NEVER say, "I'm a writer."  Why is it safer to be a retired something or other (I had socially-recognized value once!) rather than to declare that the thing I most love is what I do?  (Even when a huge part of that career was writing -- home studies, grants, newsletters and other communications of all types.)

I think it's the timid and shy self-depracating tendency to not believe in one's creative urge that Anne Lamott talks about.  I think it's the rejection letters from magazines and Random House's reluctance to seek out my talent and make me rich and famous.  I think it's the little girl who still lives within me, who was quiet and anxious a lot of the time, who was taught not to call attention to herself, the one who always played it safe and never took risks, who played out being powerful (even the leader of boys!) within her rich fantasy life -- the fantasy that felt so impossible within the real world that it became a movie of the mind.

But what would happen if we all lived our passion out loud?  What if we identified by our creative center rather than the practical worldly way we support ourselves.  (Sometimes, if we are lucky, they are the same thing, but often not.)   What if we asked "what do you love?; who are you?" instead of "what do you do?"  The checker at Safeway might answer: "I am a dancer."  Or the teacher may say, "I am a potter."  Or the longshoreman could respond, "I'm an opera singer."  Or the computer programmer declare, "I'm a farmer."  Wouldn't that be a wonderful way to know each other?

And maybe that would free us to claim our own power, not relegating it to live within a fantasy life, but rather embracing it in the real world.  Who doesn't feel more powerful when actively living the "real me" rather that the one we try to fit into a mold of who we are "supposed" to be?  Maybe I would have been a classroom leader, a force for good, rather than the little girl in the middle of the pack, hoping for cool friends and accolades by association.

We all have a creative urge, a rich inner life that is moving through us, rising and falling, looking for expression.  What if our very purpose for being alive in this world was to allow this spark to ignite; to practice, fail, keep going; to know each other's deepest longing for expression and to support that quest joyfully and with celebration.  What do you love?  Who are you?

I'll start:  I'm a writer.

At least, that's the view from here…. ©


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

YOGA DIALECTIC

I forgot.  But now I remember.  After a two week hiatus from my regular Yoga practice, I was back in class today and struggling through even relatively simple poses.  I was stiff, sore, and weak.  Atrophy is swift and sure, my friends.  Fortunately, our bodies are resilient and easily coaxed to health again unless we've let it all go for months … or years.  And even then, with patience and self-acceptance, we slowly build to a place of inner and outer strength...

That's the stuff I WANT to say to myself.  The mantra that REALLY went through my head today was:  "Damn it, Donna!  Why didn't you find a Yoga studio in New York?  I bet they have them there!  At the very least why didn't you just plop down in that groovy "Mad Men" apartment and do a few downward facing dogs on your own?  Reading 10% Happier (a funny and inspiring book by ABC Nightline anchor Dan Harris about discovering meditation) is NOT the same thing as meditating!  And then, last week when sweet grand-daughterAngel was with you every day why didn't you keep up the morning Yoga and meditation "demo" you tried at the beginning of the week with her?  Just because she was squirmy and impatient didn't make her any different from YOU, now did it?"

Yes, I berated myself today.  I counted breaths and endured poses.  I scolded my sore wrists and punished my tight hamstrings.  I listened to Karen, my amazing Yoga instructor, remind us to be gentle, to be accepting of our bodies, and realized I prefer to accept my strong, supple body rather than this stiff old thing that showed up at class today.   Big, bad, goofy Ego even started to look around the room and compare!  Bad! Bad!  I was reminded of this little poem I wrote many years ago when I first started Yoga practice.

YOGA DIALECTIC

Walk through the door,
Say hello,
Remove shoes & socks

Unfurl mat, 
Pause
Notice feeling

Sit
Seek quiet
Breathe

Notice
The space around my breath
The pause between my thoughts
Delicious moments of stillness

We begin…..
A signal to monkey mind 
to swing gaily from branch to branch:

Ahhh…this feels great.
Wait…this is hard…
I can’t do this….
She’s better than me….
Even he’s more limber…
Am I doing this right?...
Just breathe…
I’m better than her….
I hate this….
I feel fat….
My wrist hurts…
Oh good this one’s easy…
I’m thirsty….
I feel like crying…
What time is it?...
Do I feel strong?
Exhausted…
Light…

Lie down
Let it go
Resting in shavasana

Notice
Space around my breath
A pause between my thoughts

Delicious moments of emptiness
The unexpected moment of loving 
my perfect imperfect self.

Namaste.
************************************

I forgot, but now I remember.  Breathe.  Begin again.  Smile.
At least, that's the view from here… ©

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A BITE OF THE APPLE


Hmmmm…. ya know when you make a big deal out of something and it ends up being, well…easy?  Or wait, maybe that's just me who has that particular habit.

So, this New York thing.  Yes, I've been a homebody of late. Yes, I hate to fly.  Yes, I tend to need lots of quiet down time, away from people, to restore my introvert's energy stores for pursuing my equal love of socializing and novelty.

All of that came into play when considering the NYC trip with my gal-pals (see previous post 4.18.14).  Well, I went and now I'm home. And, baby, I took a big bite of that Big Apple!  Success!

We had a great time -- midtown Manhattan condo on the 17th floor of a short-term rental building.  The elevator door opened right into our apartment!  So Mad Men!  (And we were one block off Madison Avenue to boot.)  We walked and walked and walked.  We skirted the financial district; walked along the Battery at the south tip of Manhattan, waving at the Statue of Liberty; stood in silent awe at the 9-11 Memorial; gawked in Times Square; strolled the Strawberry Fields in Central Park;  ate at a sidewalk cafe in Little Italy; had foot massages in Chinatown; and hung out in Washington Square and found the building where "Friends" (from the TV show) supposedly lived in Greenwich Village.  Between the three of us we saw 6 plays and had a night of music, 20 feet from the stage where one of my blues faves, Jonny Lang, was playing.  We spent an afternoon inside MoMA and stood on The Top of the Rock atop Rockefeller Center.   We visited my DIL's best friend at a restaurant where she bartends while auditioning for musical theater parts.  She comped us plate after plate of Happy Hour fare.  We had a most memorable meal was at a fine and beautiful restaurant across from Carnagie Hall.  We felt like Ladies Who Lunch.

We were lost a lot of the time; got our directions switched so often that we were walking in circles or at least back and forth over the same territory more than entirely intended.  We eventually mastered the subway, with only one little glitch of not quite knowing local from express when the train to Central Park just kept moving on by all the way to Harlem.  Laughter ensued and a kind man stopped to assist us as we hovered over our subway map in the Harlem station trying to figure out how to go back south again.

New York, at least where we were, was clean, safe, and friendly.   Super friendly.  We didn't hesitate to ask for directions and advice and without fail the locals went out of their way to be helpful (see above). Two cops even tried their best to discern where the deli could be that we were trying to find -- even though we had not a clue of its name or neighborhood.  Duh!  The cab drivers were the best -- friendly, helpful, and completely safe and sane behind the wheel.

I'm thinking this reputation of NYC being so badass is largely overblown.

As for my own personal journey on this trip:  By Day 2, I was out on the street, in the flow of the crowd, walking against the light, with confidence and purpose, briskly moving along as if…as if… I was back in Chicago, where I lived for 7 years from 1973-1980.  Back feeling a part of something huge and alive. Loving the diversity, the verve, the electricity of differing people, languages, music, cuisine.  I didn't feel overwhelmed or alien or alone or afraid.  I felt at home.

That said, the noise, the long lines to do touristy things, the constant tangle of traffic and people did occasionally wear thin.  I longed for quiet and dark.  My bedroom was bathed in light all night long from the windows of office buildings on either side and and behind our building.  The horns and sirens never, ever stopped.  Still….

Being back now to my bucolic neighborhood in my small town (only 100,000 pop.)  I find myself conjuring images of scenes from NY.  I see myself there, with my friends who were able, fun, and easy companions, and I realize I had blown the whole thing out of proportion.   My head was hell-bent on trying to keep me down on the farm.  My heart said….You go, girl!  And I did.

At least, that's the view from here…. ©