Category Archives: resilience

How To Be a Better, Smarter, more Balanced You

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2016 is looming: it’s an olympic year, a national election year, and a leap year. because everyone else out there is telling you how to be a stronger, fitter, faster, taller and more beautiful you, i’ve decided to focus our work on the inside.

these tips won’t make you slimmer, but they will help you unload crap that isn’t yours in the first place and then maybe you can start to see your real value and you’ll feel lighter on your feet and in your heart.

let shit go: will what’s bugging you matter in 6 minutes, 6 hours, 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years. as a bazillion philosophers have stated, often what’s bugging us is not the situation but our attachment to the situation: expectations, narratives, and old stories which shape our appreciation of the situation. once you can name the hook, you’re released, it’s crazy awesome. apparently socrates said, “the secret to change is not to focus on fighting the old, but on building the new.” try it.

can’t let shit go? try EFT tapping: http://www.emofree.com/eft-tutorial/tapping-basics/how-to-do-eft.html — i recently had a situation that really bugged me, someone called me negative and it hurt a lot because i’ve worked very hard to overcome lots of that. thanks to the resulting introspection (always seek a silver lining) i relearned: 1) that what i was called was a projection of the person who said it; 2) that courting bad feelings is as powerful as a drug*; 3) that running a moral inventory of the good i have done and the people who admire me is the best proof there is of my value in the world; and 4) we are all a little messed up. “those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.”

*Despite their differences, pride, shame, and guilt all activate similar neural circuits, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and the nucleus accumbens. Interestingly, pride is the most powerful of these emotions at triggering activity in these regions — except in the nucleus accumbens, where guilt and shame win out. This explains why it can be so appealing to heap guilt and shame on ourselves — they’re activating the brain’s reward center. source http://time.com/4042834/neuroscience-happy-rituals/

stay off social media if it makes you feel like crap. the actual, rainy, sunny, snowy, arid, warm, cool, hilly, flat, leafy, barren world is always more beautiful than the screen version. getting out is good for your heart (physical and metaphorical). bring garden gloves and an empty trash bag on your next walk, and clean up as you go along. you’d be surprised how much trash is out there. (as for that last sentence, the same can be said of social media.)

you can’t please everyone, so don’t try. work on you and your life will unfold before you.

practice gratitude: it’s everywhere. it’s proven. taking stock of and being grateful for all that has happened in your life will help you see how far you’ve come. and believe me: you’ve come far.

don’t do for others the things they can (and need to learn) do for themselves: sure, i’m better at it, i’m faster and i’ve got more experience, so yes, i can drive my 17-yo son everywhere, but if i do that, he doesn’t learn to drive, does he? and then i get stuck taking him everywhere.  you’ll see this theme repeat itself elsewhere through this post. the best teacher is encouraging and allowing others do their own thing — remember toddlers: ain’t nobody gonna help them with their pants until they ask for help.

organic interaction / engagement: if all of a sudden you find yourself hot under the collar about something someone else told you about, chances are you weren’t supposed to know about it in the first place. TEST: if you have to be told something to get wrapped around the axle about, consider this: you’re hearing about it from someone else’s perspective and it’s quite likely you’re not getting all the facts, nor the other sides of the story. and trust me: there are ALWAYS other sides to a story. especially stories which don’t concern you. one word: YIKES. if you like that drama, you’ve got other problems. (i speak with experience, see immediately below.)

more:

fight your own battles: filters filters filters. man, if i had $100 for every stupid thing i got involved in which had nothing to do with me, i’d have about $12,000 and I’d be writing this on a beach somewhere. but the fact is that i’m on my couch at home and my getting involved in dynamics that had nothing to do with me did me absolutely NO favors whatsoever. it stretched my ego, it inflated a false sense i had of myself, and it set off recurrent shoulder pain.

more:

check the mirror: when you point at someone else you have three fingers pointing back at yourself (try it, i’ll wait). you can’t accuse someone of something you aren’t already experienced with already. in other words: you can’t project what you do not have. you think someone is stubborn? you are too, otherwise you’d just let it go. think someone else is negative? you are too, otherwise you’d just let it go. accusing someone of talking about you behind your back? don’t look now, but you just won a hypocrisy sundae. think someone else is mean? you are too, otherwise you’d just let it go. that said, it’s ok — we all do it. learn to be cool with that discerning side of yourself, the one you would rather not talk about at cocktail parties. why? because it has helped you avoid potentially irksome experiences, but never go on someone else’s opinion of anything. i’d never have eaten a Reuben if i went on my friend’s advice.

altruism gives to the giver too: everyone has a talent. serve others only for the sake of serving them and seek nothing in return. volunteer once a month for at least four hours somewhere, but ONLY in a place where you can do your highest good. are you skilled at accounting? see if there’s a shelter that could use your help. do you like public relations? find an organization struggling with outreach. are you an amateur carpenter? check out a local church. they are always building amazing things for other people. i can bake, but i prefer to write. so i volunteer to help others to love writing, i’d rather do that than make lasagnes for people. (even though my lasagnes are awesome.) i love to give the gift of yoga too.

no pedestals: don’t put people on pedestals. here’s why: 1) you’re equal to them in many ways or else you wouldn’t idolize them, so own it; 2) they will screw up and disappoint you and when that happens they will need a soft place to fall, so be that for them; and 3) it’s really unfair to them and you’re just hiding in their shadow.

consider the source: are you hearing things third-hand and getting all hot and bothered about it? are you being insulted? is someone saying something in a back-handed way to you? “consider the source,” is what my mother used to say to me.  again: “those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”

speak authentically with others: let it all hang out. everyone pees and poops; everyone has fears (trust me). if you can’t be who you are, and if you have guards up to protect yourself, your relationship will be set upon those parameters: mistrust. own your weaknesses and your strengths and be cool with it or else it all just end up in your face. it happens. that said, know when to flush the toilet and move on. if people can’t handle your sincerity, it’s them.

keep an open mind: nothing inspires growth more than being confronted by and working with an uncomfortable truth, for truth is the greatest teacher. it’s the hanging on to old beliefs and inflexibilities which causes the most trouble. if you like to blame other people for all your problems, guess what? the problems will still happen because you’re giving the other people who cause all your problems all the power. grab the keys and unlock the doors.

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end the victimhood, it’s just really sad: do you want pity or support? ian mckewn, author of Atonement once said that he dislikes speaking about his older books when promoting a current one. his answer was brilliant: he’s moved on and doing so makes him “an employee” of his former self. that struck me. when we keep telling our old narratives: traffic at the airport, a horrible boss, a tough childhood, or a traumatic experience without noting the blessings we’ve been given to live days without those experiences, we are totally missing the point. i’ve done all of that and i wish i hadn’t (see, i’m doing it now).

more:

get to the essence of what’s really the point: you’re not mad at what you’re mad at. i’ve written about this a lot. short and sweet: if you’re bothered by something or someone else, it’s likely NOT the other person / event, but a deep feeling inside you triggered by the situation (going back to that socrates quote). for example: if you’re cut off in traffic, it’s not the cutting off, but the possibility that you feel invisible and diminished. (that’s deep. so work with it…) this stuff is insidious, so it’s important for you to address these things because they will be triggers for subconscious and really random behaviors.

don’t enlist others to fight on your behalf: while at times it does “take a village,” don’t set your own hut on fire to get people to help you put out the fire. another aspect of this is economical: no one else can make the points you need to make, nor can anyone else stick to the points you need to make. only you know your story. strength in numbers, sure, but let people have their own perspectives, even if they don’t align with yours.

ok, but what if you’re a rescuer?: if you do get involved, chances are you might agree with the person you’re defending, but stick to what makes the most sense for you. also, beware of people who like to stir up stuff just to be the hero who shows up in the nick of time to fix it? do you know someone like that…?

sprinkle all experiences with a sense of kindness and optimism: no one likes the DMV, or Verizon customer service, but it’s a part of modern life. if you’re at the DMV, maybe remember the truth that your being there keeps someone employed and that person’s employment is bringing home money for a family.

time is a human construct: everything unfolds and happens as it should. consider this: the sun doesn’t rise and set, it’s the earth which turns away. the people you meet, the situations you encounter, they were all meant to be so you can step onto your true path… humans are the only species who’ve wrapped their arms around space and time. do you see dogs wearing watches? only that rabbit in Alice in Wonderland wore a watch and we all know what happened then… everything else acts on a boundless continuum. stop wondering if things are flowing: they are. trust it. it might not be sunshine and roses, but everything we experience: “good” or “bad” (also human constructs) present an opportunity for growth. those who exist in the past and make decisions based on judgement and comparing, they are the ones who are stuck in a rut. they are the ones who can’t move on. the universe flows without them…   Thomas Merton wrote, “You need not know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need, is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.”

the lessons will continue until you master them. while the road to hell is paved with good intentions, do you wonder why the same things keep happening to you? do you keep having the same arguments? do you still befriend chaos? are you throwing glass on your path? do you get in arguments which aren’t yours? do you step into situations, thinking you’re advocating when in reality you’re holding back the real people who desperately need to step into their own power? how much of that “helping” is your ego? and then you wonder why it all feels so yucky and familiar? this is the Universe telling you to MYOB. leave it to the professionals. remember what happened to Dorothy in Wizard of Oz? she spoke up for everyone but herself and she got zip out of that black bag AND she was deserted. Just. Like. That. talk about road to hell. don’t be Dorothy: know what is yours and what’s not. Dorothy got swept up because of her own resistance to be accountable for her actions and boundaries: she wouldn’t curb Toto (don’t get me started on terriers)… then she got all upset and ran away. pick your own battles and you will indeed find there’s no place like home.

people do all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. who knows why you did what you did, who knows why percival did what percival did. you have to take care of yourself. it’s that air mask on the plane analogy we know is true yet we might consider passé. the more you concentrate on percival, the less you’re taking care of yourself. you can’t save percival, change percival or persuade percival. this is well-documented: 95% of all our behaviors are subconscious based on experiences we were exposed to during our first five years of life. until we realize that, and until we understand that we’re already preprogrammed / conditioned to behave a certain way, there will never be change.

letting go is the same as letting in: clenched fists can’t make way or hold onto changes which are definitely coming our way. do you want to keep your fists and fight off the changes or do you want your hands ready to grasp the opportunities which have been trying to come your way…? if you’re slipping off a mountain shear, having your hands ready to take hold of a new anchor is the only thing which can save you.

It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live. –Marcus Aurelius

Happy New Year! It’s happening!

Thank you.

Just When You … #mommywars

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I wrote a couple weeks ago about returning to the paid working world. The compulsion thrust itself at me on the heels of believing we would go penniless due to the impending college bills for our three sons. I was anything but a yoga teacher. I was anything but a leader. I panicked. 

I started a search for jobs on LinkedIn and an app named “indeed” and started to ask friends and former coworkers for their impressions and ideas. 

After a few days, I realized this wasn’t about just college. I began to feel my mortality. 

I believe that if you’re a normal, balanced and participating member of a progressive and valuable society, there’s an inner need inside you to add to that progress and that value. It’s not just a matter of “giving back” but also a matter of an exchange of a higher energetic vibration: that when you do something which you value and you are recognized for it (free or not) then that also raises the energetic vibration of the world around you. 

It’s very simple: when you are valued, and told so, you feel a sense of reward. That sense of reward goes with you to your car on your way to the grocery store / park / day care / carpool / walk with the dog / answer of the phone. That raises the energy you possess and which you share with the world (corporeal and spiritual) around you. 

This is easy for me to say, right? Last week, I was completely unhinged after a soccer game due to a self-proclaimed ignorant center ref’s increasingly faulty calls. I behaved like an ass. I regret that and I am happy to say that our coaches accepted my authentic apology and that I had repaired back to my normal cheerful self in the stands yesterday. I thought I could take a vow of silence, but … no. My son’s matches are such a pleasure to watch.  

Right after the half, one of our players erroneously made an own-goal and and gave the other team a point. Because I was visually accustomed to hoping for a shot into that particular net for 45 minutes, I cheered when that shot was scored. We were still ahead, but our coach smiled at me and said, “NO! Not ‘Yay!’ …” Whoops. I sucked it up and said, “That’s my karma for last weekend…” and those who were in the know knew exactly what I meant and they laughed. My point is that after I verbally charged that ref last week, I lowered my own energetic vibration. I put myself in a bubble of discontent, which I deserved. And to prove the point, I felt as though my karmic debt was settled with my own public display of ineptitude exactly one week later at the scene of my outburst.  

We are all learning something all the time. We are all teaching something all the time. The lessons will continue to be taught and learned until we are finished learning and teaching them. Then a new one. And another. And another. 

I feel that my outburst was directly related to my sense of needing to be “of” or to add value “to” the world. That sense of ‘place’ was suspended (I believe) until I learned my place *in* the world. Again. The week following my urges to find work, my oldest son needed me to drop off something to him at school –immediately– in order for him to complete a test in this math class he’s taking, which has problems that looks like this: 

 

for a math problem, this sure has a lot of letters in it…

The next weekday, which was a day off from school due to a teacher workday, my youngest son fell off his bike and hurt his knee. Then two days later, my middle son needed me to take him to the doctor’s for a strep test (negative). These things occurred in the middle of what most people would consider a 9-5 workday.  

doesn’t this happen at your house?

What I failed to realize, in the midst of all my urges and needs, was that I was right where I was supposed to be. My place in the world was clear to everyone but myself. I was not holding a space for myself. I was holding a space for everyone but myself.

I have a friend who wanted to become a therapist. She had successfully ended her graduate work, although as a mother, that had its challenges. As a form of her internship, she was engaged part-time in the services of a group home for runaway teens and was enjoying it. Just as a full-time opportunity arose, one of her children became very ill. When she was ready to return, the part-time work was still there (because it seems there will always, sadly, be kids facing troubles), and in the midst of the full-swing and coming opportunity to join full-time, another one of her children needed her long-term advocacy. Her place in the world for that season in her life was to be not far from home. 

We sighed and shook our fists at the fates, at the belief that women, specifically mothers, have to either fit someone else’s definition of success by doing and having it all (career, family, marriage, hobby, Bravo-TV), or redefine their lives for their children’s wellbeing. We sighed at our consternation of feeling “trapped” by motherhood, yet knowing deeply inside that we could never change a thing about how life has played itself out.   

She and I are the type of people who could go either way: be stay-at-home mothers (because all mothers are full-timers) or have a career. Careers change and come and go; motherhood is a one-time gig, no matter how many kids one has, and while the world might be changing, motherhood will never change: our children’s needs are constant, unpredictable, demanding and wholly irreducible. 

Despite this, some women know about themselves that they are not cut out for the doilies and teddy bear tea parties under the dining room table and other at-times mind-numbing activities. They know those moments will send them to the padded rooms. They need adult stimulation and interaction, they need not to be constantly answering “why ____” when chances are their child really isn’t tracking (and neither are they), and I applaud them. I  support those women. For some of them, that choice was a clear as tap water. For others, that choice was rife with ambivalence and guilt. I want all of them to know this: that I’m helping to take care of their child when I volunteer at school. I am honoring them by honoring their child and I know they would do the same were the roles reversed. 

The bottom line is that these mothers all fiercely love their children and to them, no matter what they decide, they know that being a contented and purposeful person means they will be a contented mother and being a contented mother means they can raise content, secure, and resilient children. 

I wasn’t there. I was nodding numbly at the imginary motivational speaker in my head, but I wasn’t there. I still felt I brought no value. Without knowing it, I was still ceding to an extrinsic value system. Then I finished Steven Pressfield’s War of Art, and it became clearer to me: my value system was what he termed “heirarchical” — I placed my value in the opinions of others. The outside world was where I had based my worth. What I needed to do was switch my perspective to what Pressfield calls “territorial,” to wit: that when you are doing what you do for the sheer SAKE of doing it, not just (or at all) for praise, you are in your “zone” / territory and that judgments of the outside world fade away (because they don’t matter and never will, nor should they) and that you fall in [love] with your calling. 

Some of us are at work at jobs we don’t like. Or those which drain our last bits of enthusiasm. I am hopeful that there is something in that daily existence which we can find that brings us satisfaction or contentment: the smile of a customer, the reliability of the work, the appreciation of a co-worker, the paycheck… that “thanks, Mom,” from a child. It’s no surprise to me that I was wanting daytime work outside the home as a possibility of escape and validation as well. Just when we think we have one situation sewn up, another one pops a seam. 

Raising teenagers can be DEPLETING — they are like zombies: dirty haired and ripped clothes; grunters, their circadian rhythms are all out of whack, clumsy, music seems to be the only thing which quells them, they turn toward the scent of food, they offer only monosyllabic replies, and roar when surprised or disturbed. 

What I liked about working is that the jobs were often finite and certainly NOT defiant; that I had support from peers; and that I wasn’t always the boss who denied and disciplined. With teenagers, everything is a negotiation. Those maternal ghosts from toddlerhood, “Do you want to move your body, or do you want ME to move your body?” are like a fantasy, an ice cream sundae, of discipline. 

I sort of miss those days. My back doesn’t.  

Once I have taken stock of my place in where I am, where things are in my life and how my family needs me, I can step back and figure out how to get into what I [want to] do in a “territorial” way which sustains my spirit and fuels me for the inevitable moments when heirarchical demands raise their heads. And maybe even then, I can find a way to become territorial about those situations, because let’s face it: unless what we do is rewarding, there is little drive to keep doing it. It shouldn’t always be about the money. It needs to serve the spirit — that sense of accomplishment, that we did it all by our BIG PEOPLE selves — as well.  

Thank you.           

              

To Gaffe is Human, To Hiss is Reptilian: When PC People are Just as Offensive.

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While I consider myself somewhat deft with words, I can be “awkward” with them, not malevolent, nor an idiot, but well, ignorant. I’m one of the first people to point and laugh at myself. I take great pride in being able to condemn myself for being a complete buffoon at times.

‘nough said.

I was asked once to facilitate (pro bono — which is my pleasure) a meditation experience for a group of individuals associated with a suburban PFLAG community. I was honored to be asked and I considered it a privilege to serve. All I knew at the invitation was that I would be serving an arm of the organization which supports the family members of PFLAG members or otherwise activist.

I decided a yoga nidra would be best, for our first time together. Yoga nidra is “yoga sleep,” where you’re not actually asleep, but are in somewhat of a twilight state as the practitioner talks you through various states of internal physical awareness via muscle release and tiered outward cues such as the *awareness* of the sensation of the clothes on the body, the ticking of a clock or birds outside the room, etc..

So I arrived on time.

I went to the correct room.

I asked for the person I was supposed to meet. The liaison, if you will. I was taken to the liaison.

We shook hands and I was not introduced to the group, which I found a little confusing.

So I rolled out my mat (not expecting that I would be setting up in front of people, which is really sort of an awkward moment, because part of the cache of meditation — at least in my realm — is that you “encounter” it; you “discover” it — all ready and waiting for you. You don’t watch the practitioner set up, unroll its mat and arrange its chimes and then introduce itself. Almost every encounter I’ve had, the person is already there, in its pre-Zen state and waiting to facilitate. The exception was with Tara Brach, where the room was so big, and there were so many people (220+) that she came in when everyone was settled. (Sorta like Mass. But it wasn’t Mass. I’m shutting up.)

BUT THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN. >breathe<

So I enter the room, put down my bag, seek the room for somewhere to place my coat. No one said anything. So … I take off my coat and place it on a chair. I wasn’t offered a hanger or assistance or anything. (And I’m a newbie! A GUEST! — The room started to take on a surly tone to me…)

So I gear up and just take it all in stride. After asking for consent, I spray a light mist of lavender and rosemary oil / water to help induce calm. I turn on my music (chanting monks) turn down the lights and do my thing, starting the nidra / awareness with a guided breathing exercise and then visualized relaxation from the top of the head to the tips of the toes and back up.

It lasted about 30 minutes.

Usually, people in a nidra go OUT in less than 10 minutes. That doesn’t matter because my constant chatter in a low tone helps them come in and out of the “zone” without any major disruptions. My voice is like a sound in the background.

At the end, I rang my chimes but kept the lights off.

I talked them through a gentle transition “back to the room” while reminding them to keep their eyes closed because I was going to turn on the light. I prompted everyone to cover their eyes so the light could slowly filter through their lids and that would be gentler for them. I prompted them to sit up for a final quote and closure.

I read a brief quote and we did our Namaste thing and told them to keep their eyes downward to reduce light shock. I packed up and left with the lights all the way up. (They were fluorescent which didn’t dim.) People were rubbing their eyes and exiting their various meditative states as I was slinging my bags over my shoulders, etc..

AS I WAS WALKING OUT THE DOOR, I said to the group, “Goodnight Ladies, thank you very much for letting me serve.”

The liaison whipped around, looked up at me, rushed me at the door and hissed, “YOU MEAN ‘GOODNIGHT PEOPLE OF ALL GENDERS‘ !!!”

I…

You could have bruised me with a breath….

I was stunned. Speechless. Searching, frantically, in my mind for the reason for my error –surely this was my fault!– seeking preparation documents I read in my head for data that disclosed the details. None. None anywhere. I had absolutely NO idea I was working with a “gender identity” group; I was told I was serving an arm of family members of persons in the PFLAG community… I was NOT AT ALL AWARE I would be serving a Gender In Transition group. That’s when introductions and liaisons with an ounce of tact and who know what the hell they are doing come in handy.

What if I’d said ‘Guys!’ — would I have been cheered? Would I have been stoned? People say ‘guys’ all the time and mean no offense at all. The next time someone says, “Goodnight, Guys!” I’ll be waiting outside her car the next morning.

I’m a YOGA teacher. I’m all “about” peace love and kumbaya; I screw up but I … hell, I have close friends …no. I’m not going to say, “SOME OF MY FRIENDS ARE _____.” Because that doesn’t matter. That’s NOT … this isn’t about ME. This, to me, is about humanity. That we all need to give each other a freaking break… No malice aforethought, then no malice whateverthought.

I may have screamed at my kids’ soccer ref, but I am NOT an asshole INTENTIONALLY. I’m very open-minded.

I was so horrified and mortified by my gaffe. Of course I said, “Yes! Absolutely! ‘Persons of all genders,’ of course!” But at that point, I felt as though I seemed insincere and just like a jerk (some of my best friends …’).

One of the other “leaders” in the group looked at me sympathetically. She It seemed to convey that she it knew I was so sorry. I began to feel sorry for her it that person because it had to work / see / breathe with the liaison.

I started to say, “I apologize. I had no idea that … of … I… I’m so sorry…”

But the damage was done — the liaison, who was 20something, hissed at me while smiling, “YESSSSSSSS” and closed the door.

IN. MY. FACE.

Liaison: 1

Suburban housewife: 0

To them, at that point I’m sure I seemed like some assholic suburban hater who was about to go home and pray for their souls and for God to cure them.

I can tell you this: the sense of contempt I felt with when I entered that room at first to serve was directed at ME, prejudicially. I was discarded. I was not at all included. I was the “outsider.”

And that sucked. And that was ironic. Because if the whole philosophy of the energy of the world I’d like to say I inhabit is the one that does its best to see all things and appreciate all things and not be haters and be inclusive and all that… then … like … what the what?

There is no way, ever, to prepare yourself for the possible unintentional offense you are about to slew onto someone else and for which you will dearly pay JUST by being ignorant — not biased, not prejudicial — just unaware.

I forgot to add, that to me, all the participants in the room were clearly “female” in what I would consider gender cues: heels, lipstick, jewelry, and affect.

How was I to know:

a) that I was speaking to a gender-identity-in-transition group when it was never disclosed and
b) that saying “ladies” (based on nondisclosure) was the wrong thing??

This is where I’m awkward, but HUMAN:

If you have a person who is transitioning into “female” gender, and it “fooled” (irony, but get me a better word and I’ll take it) a presbyopic suburban mother like me, then wouldn’t that be a good thing, a goal? (Shoot me now?) How am I to know of any discomfort on the side of the person who is in transition? When does just being a person who serves out of kindness and for the greater good and says something apparently totally inappropriate turn into being a hater? When does my gaffe transition into NON-PC? Fodder for the angry rhetoric of people who just want to fight?

Because I was serving a meditation practice I felt I could sail with some assurance that the odds of offending the practitioners would be pretty high, given especially that I was not lecturing or reading… or singing… egads.

By the way, this whole post is based on a Facebook thread where some brave friends and I debated the use of “they” as a singular pronoun in common parlance per an article in the Wall Street Journal

One of my friends said to me that nothing I said was offensive and I answered,

Well, it was to them. Or her. Or … fuck. You know. That person. My friend who hooked me up with the group was disgusted by their behavior. She said their treatment of me was EXACTLY the opposite of their entire charter. I am sure I was not of their “ilk” which clearly offended — but how the eff do they know? It was boggling. The sad part is that I am reluctant to do anything like that going forward. Shit… if we can’t be who we are, warts and all, screw them.

Then we summarized with the simple Occam’s Razor: that some people are just ready to fight and that’s that. As another friend said, if we spent more time thinking about how we are alike rather than different, we’d probably get a lot more work done and have more peace.

The subject of diversity and inclusion and race and gender and personhood has often made me confused: if we see race / gender / sexuality / creed / ability and celebrate diversity then racism / division isn’t so far-off a call. On the other hand, if we include and endeavor color / race / ability / creed / gender / sexuality -blindness, then we risk being considered insensitive.

Everyone is unique.

Which means no one is.

But some people just want to fight and divide.
Thank you.

postscript:

I wrote this on my Facebook wall:

this reminds me of a moment at the end of Jerry Seinfeld’s “I’ve Told You For The Last Time” when he returned to stand-up after the end of Seinfeld the TV show. 

After the monologue, Jerry came back out to the stage and said he’d be happy to take questions from the audience, and “entertain your curiosities.”

someone in the audience, a woman, shouted out “It’s my birthday!” and Jerry said, “It’s your birthday! Happy birthday… … what birthday is it?” 

the woman shouted back something unintelligible, but it was along the lines of privacy. she didn’t want to say how old she was. 

Jerry waits …. maybe a second or two and says, “Oh. So you want attention, but not *too much* attention…”

and to me, that is where we are at times. we want relevance, but not too much relevance. we want inclusion, but not too much inclusion. we want exposure, but not too much exposure. we want freedom, but not too much freedom. 

i am always grateful for the discourse on my wall. i have always thought that i have some of the smartest friends on the internet. (sometimes that’s not saying a lot…. HAHAH! that was a joke!) and there are plenty of people on my wall, lurking, watching the action, wondering how pear-shaped this conversation will go: will we start insulting each other? will we use ALL CAPS… will we take things personally? 

and i have to say, so far, the answer is that we’re all sharing. sharing our humanity, our experiences, our biases, our concerns. i think we’d all like to live in a world full of peace, where conflicts are resolved over rounds of rock-paper-scissors. but we don’t. and it’s unlikely we ever will. 

i adore all youse guys, gals, kids, babes, doofuses, brainiacs, dudes, geezers and peeps.

you all help me learn how to be a better me.

Ps — if you’re going to be a troll, buh-bye. I’m open for a sensible, respectful and rational dialogue.

Dear Therapy, (dispatches from the bunker)

Standard

I’m at this ever-so-familiar point in my experience with you, which is inevitable.

Transference. That fantastic adolescent stage of The Work when I become a snarky dismissive teenager again.

I’m assigning to you whatever emotions, biases, fears, hostilities and actions I would to a person of significance in my life. At this juncture, despite my obvious progress, it all becomes Mother, again. You are my Mother. Your agent, another ever-pleasant and helpful therapist with the wingback chair, low lighting, doilies, sets of clocks and tissues, commercial carpeting, collections of I’m OK, You’re OK books, posters explaining states of emotional identification, is Mother.

Sigh.

Editorial note: buckle in. This post goes all over the place but lands without much turbulence.

Due to my track record, and my intellectual tendencies to do all I can to learn about “law of diminishing returns in therapy” and to debunk the “value of long-term psychotherapy” I have to say that I am yet again at a crossroads: I don’t like this … this occasional visit to you to tell you about my nocturnal dreams (heaven forbid my life ambitions) and memories and the pattern I exhibited in choosing some friends (boy- and girl-) who were like Mother: distant, brilliant, funny, competitive, self-absorbed, unreachable, private and terrified.

Two weeks ago, the death of a former friend whom I’d unknown (read: hung on every syllable) more than 11 years ago rocked my world. She was all the things I’d apparently (and unwittingly) looked for in a friend. The news and my reaction at first were other worldly, as though on a ticker tape: “HUMAN FEMALE CONTEMPORARY OF REMOVED YET SIGNIFICANT PERSONAL HISTORICAL CONTEXT ON SEPARATE EXISTENTIAL PLANE HAS EXPERIENCED CELLULAR AND SOMATIC FAILURE. CHECK BOX HERE TO ACKNOWLEDGE RECEIPT OF THIS DATA. THIS MESSAGE WILL SELF-DESTRUCT IN … 60 DAYS.”

She is the first of my mommyhood friends to go to God and she was young, vivacious and super-involved. After initially processing the news, I thought I was ok. What I was unprepared for was the just-hours-away first shipment of hungover emotional detritus ranging from authentic heart-wrenching sadness to fervent antipathy due to how things died between us. How from the beginning I was dazzled by her glitter trail, slack-jawed and dazed like a five-year-old in Health-Tex clothes and Mary Janes at the tetherball pole and almost two years later, at 34, wrapped soundly by the tether around the pole as she slapped the ball again and again and again ever tighter.

I felt compelled to perform. To join in the chorus of mutual persons who knew her and voice my once-knowing of her. To be a part of something, despite my personal perspective, which likely everyone else was feeling: her loss. I shared on my Facebook wall about her some kindnesses and candor: that our relationship had ended years before, but that her loss was significant to me nonetheless. Most of all, I was sad that I would never see her again and thus, the exchange of another awkward civility between us was impossible. Everything I wrote was sincere. I took it down after a few days because I felt sticky, as though I didn’t belong: those people still deeply loved her. I share this here and now, likely at risk to my friendship with mutuals, but that’s how life is. I’ve never been a faker. When we share these intricacies with people and then they die or we divorce from them, our loss of them also become a loss of ourselves as well, I think. That part of us / our relationship (or co-identity) we have and which they held (in their own value system) has ceased to be held. It’s “floating” out there, vulnerable and alone. That can be hard. 

Our relationship imploded, as many have, due to my allegiance to and advocacy for my children over the relative intensity, tenure and we-all-know-it’s-really-not-healthy but we-will-deny-it-because-its-easier friendship with this person. Just like so many others. So many others with people who so energetically reminded me, in one shape or another, of my woeful habit of picking people who were stunning/terrified, cheerful/angry, energetic/hostile, altruistic/competitive, ____ and ____ and ____… and ____ (read: just like me) to populate my consciousness.

As Rumi said in his poem “The Guest House”:

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

he may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

Yet here’s the difference, this time: I am wiser. I understand now that my “selection” of those vipers (energies) in my life had little to do with them, and everything (or at least more) to do with me. This is what maturity has given me: extremely poor distance eyesight and a mirror to hold at 18″ away. That somewhere in the lineage of all these souls, are lessons about myself. About my predilections (will I EVER spell that word correctly?) due to history.

Rumi continues,

the dark thought, the shame, the malice.

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

‘Guide from beyond.’ I like that.

I’m done with saying “conditioning.” At some point, I must cease blaming this stuff on my former life and wake up to the pattern and see that the tenor of familiarity in those people is what hooked me — because honestly, I KNEW.

Not two months after she vaporized from my life, I’d lined up another vacuum. And then four more in two years’ time. If I’d just slowed down for a few breaths, stepped back, checked in (as if a 34-y.o. pregnant mother [with braces and bad hair] of 2 boys under 6 could really do that: STAYBUSYSTAYBUSYSTAYBUSYSTAYBUSY BLOCK ALL INTUITIVE FEELINGS) and assessed, I would’ve walked run. I would’ve kept things high level. But there was something in ME. Every single one of those people was just like me: floundering. We just didn’t know it. I’d like to chalk it all up to battle shock, loneliness and sadness from her exodus, but no. It was me.

In retrospect, at almost every relationship genesis, the other person was in pain and I think I was there to save the day. Not to assuage their pain (initially, anyway) but to somehow apply my kindness to them to alleviate the guilt I unconsciously felt about my mother and my inability to fix her and have some semblance of normal. (Now I know it wasn’t my job — that this is all part of the lesson, the journey in life that we are all on — we are here to do the best we can with what we have and love one another, no questions asked, and mind our own business while at the same time effecting peace and harmony as much as we are able. Right?)

Oh Therapy…  the magnifying-glass-under-the-sun, focusing-on-the-leaf feeling I have toward myself (me, being the leaf, the sun and the glass, all at different times) and my hesitancy to go forward with your agent? What of that? True to my other -ections, I need a goal. I need to have an end point, an expiration date. A “best used by” date. Something that tells me, some form of pee-on-the-stick, get-a-prick-of-blood test that tells me… I am good. And not just “good” in the sense of how my father would say, “We’re good…” as in “has everyone used the bathroom and we’re good to go?” -good:

he will make good his promisefulfillcarry outimplementdischargehonorredeemkeepobserveabide bycomply withstick toheedfollowbe bound bylive up tostand byadhere to.

But GOOD… (have you ever looked up “good” in the dictionary? My word….) — these are great:

for good those days are gone for good: foreverpermanentlyfor alwaysevermoreforevermorefor ever and everfor eternitynever to returnforevermoreinformal for keepsuntil the cows come homeuntil hell freezes overarchaic for aye.make good 

TRUE EXAMPLE!:if I don’t get away from my family, I’ll never make goodsucceedbe successfulbe a successdo wellget aheadreach the topprosperflourishthriveinformal make itmake the grademake a name for oneselfmake one’s markget somewherearrive.

That good. The “those days are gone forever -good.”

My mother has died. Corporeal and somatic and cellular death occurred over a year ago. 19 months, 7 days and 20 hours ago. -ish.

I would like to move the fuck on. For good.

Being a student of life, an examiner, a truth-teller and a “seeker” (whatever the what that means), instead of moving the fuck on, I instead have found myself dissecting the lint from my navel and wondering about shit which simply doesn’t matter any more.

I have been given numerous “signs” to move on. Signs and messages that have told me “All is well” and “You have been written a blank check by God” and “For every shame there is a star.” Those are the audible ones. The supposed more subtle ones are the breath-by-precious breath fact that I am here, every day, aspirating and exchanging gases with the trees and the grass.

There is no “thing” I’m doing “wrong.” Therapy is …. Not my mother, but I’m beginning to treat it as though it is: I’m dismissing it, arguing with it, wondering about its value and its harm. My therapist is lovely — as transference (in my case) dictates, I’m polite with her. I’m talking and “listening” and nodding and “Oh? Yes… Well…” -ing while at the same time … inwardly hostilely wondering, “What the fuck is the point of this? Can’t we just exchange casserole recipes and be done?”

I told her yesterday, “I miss my sense of humor.”

“Really? What do you mean?” she asked.

“Well, I used to be really flip and funny, before …”

“Before what?”

“Before this. Before therapy. Before ‘help’ and ‘healthy’ got in the way…” I squirm in my chair. Instead of looking away, I look right at her. With dead, laser eyes and a sneer beginning its curl on my upper lip. “Oh, I know… it was a defense …”

She said nothing.

I continued. “Was it wrong? Maybe. No. It wasn’t. But it was certainly more fun than this.” (Pass the sugar, my venom is getting acidic. I need you to think it’s a nectar first….)

She adjusted herself.

I sat there. Put the old well-intentioned pillow (covered in who knows what) on my lap. I wanted a blanket. I trusted no one. I knew I’d done it, was in for it. I was expecting some sort of comment along the lines of, “Well, I don’t take much of what you say with any weight. At least you’re you. Much of what you say is figurative emotionally, loaded with a lot of irregularities. And I don’t take it that seriously…” which is part of the rambling and incoherent voicemail message my mother left for me three days after my birthday a few years ago. The other part of the message is the blaring daytime television talk show playing in the background. She left the message on the heels of yet another argument we’d had when she called me earlier in the week to say happy birthday to me and then remind me that it was she who should get the presents because she did all the work, “HEE HEE.” My eyes rolled so much they spun themselves out.

“But it was all a joke, don’t you see, Mally. You take everything so seriously…”

God, I’m screwed.

What do you do with that? Yes, I still have that message. Part of me says, “IT’S POISON! GET RID OF IT!!!” and the other says, “NO! IT’S DATA! IT’S PROOF!” and then another part of me says, “You’re 47. Move on.”  To which I reply, “Move on and keep it –move on? Or move on and delete it –move on?” It’s hard to decide.

Why? Because like most of us, Mom had a different face for each place. I’d like to say that I’m pretty consistent, but the fact is that we’re all a little scared inside. Hence, the faces.

So, Therapy, what do we do?

A message I woke with in my head this morning was “This is life. Everyone has their shit to deal with. The more you inspect it, the more you find… How much more do you want to find? It’s all about you anyway — your deflections and projections and transferences and ruses to throw Therapist off the scent by bitching about other people are all about you anyway… YOU DO KNOW THIS… Accept it. Accept what’s yours, learn what you can and grow up. Cut it out.”

Her wings are her fingers.

Her wings are her fingers.

It wasn’t quite that Joan Rivers-esque, but it was close. Wouldn’t it be funny if my Messenger were Joan Rivers? It would be The Best.

Mother is gone and I have learned. The latent vipers I welcomed have also vacated. I don’t give all my bandwidth to the vacuums anymore and yet… . Egads, I don’t want to be a vacuum. So this requires Radical Acceptance of what is and screw the rest. After all, what are we going to do? Unring a bell? That’s crazy. The thing is: we all have stories. We all have -isms.

My goal, I just realized 20 minutes ago when the computer locked up and I was concerned I’d lost all this post (which I hadn’t), was that I think I’ve have resumed with Therapy was because I had a certain, alien, expectation of Therapy, that I would emerge from it somehow taller, Scandinavian, in fabulous boots, and perky. That all my shit would be gone and my baggage replaced with a new set of Louis Vuitton — all of it, from the key fob to the casket — and I’d be ready to pack in new experiences, taller experiences.

I honestly thought I would be scrubbed of stuff. It’s like when I rowed in the stroke seat for the first time; the coaches just automatically assumed I knew that I wasn’t supposed to pull the hardest, but that I was simply supposed to set the time. Well, I did both, and I screwed up my back. I wonder how many other people think that Therapy somehow has a new YOU waiting at the end of the ever-distant and moving finish line? But that’s not it, is it? That’s not at all how it goes. I’m going to emerge emerging wiser and older with my same mismatched luggage, two rolls of animal print duct tape, some WD-40 (one of the small cans, I’m 47 after all), and toolkit instead of an array of showy new designer luggage and casket.

And that’s the point. We are who we are, with all our baggage and shit and we can still get fabulous boots. 

I’m feeling that when I bring this wagon back to center, that when I identify with these moments of transference and realize that they are really about ME, then change can happen. 

We’ve got this. 

 Thank you.