Tag Archives: memoir

So I’ve Figured out This Much… #writing

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So I’ve Figured out This Much… #writing

The vertigo has been helpful, or at least it has pushed me into the direction I mean to head. I have been taking prednisone for it. On Tuesday (three days ago) I got an 80mg shot of it in my ass. From my understanding, that’s a strong dose. My doctor said, as she was seated on one of those round leatherette-upholstered low stools that roll around the linoleum while glancing between me and her computer, “Hmm. Should we just go for it and give you the 80? That would likely do the job… we may as well while we are here…” and she ordered it.

I don’t claim to know the difference between 2mg of prednisone and 100mg of it*.

*“Of it.” That was such a Doug Turnerism. He would say “of it” at the end of sentences… after the sentence had paused, even and we were ready to move on. And he’d just say “of it.” Like an old man. And I guess it’s because he was an old man… but it was like this all-encompassing tie off, so to speak, of what he was expressing… so that I suppose, to him … maybe it was a complete thought? That none of us would wonder if he were done? Or if he’d heard himself? Hard to say. Of it.

Anyway, the prednisone has kept me awake longer — and when I say “awake” I mean staring-at-the-ceiling-maybe-I-should-just-go-do-some-laundry-or-walk-the-dogs-in-the-cold-dark-night-alone-or-join-a-neighborhood-watch-patrol-do-they-even-have-those-anymore-maybe-we-should-get-a-ring-doorbell-but-that’s-an-Amazon-thing-no-better-not-do-that-but-what-will-help-us-stay-safe awake… in other words awake and stupid.

But I was also awake and aware enough to shift gears from thinking about letting Jeff Bezos have any more of my money for things than I’m comfortable with to figure out what to do about my writing at least for now and whereas Miriam, (a reference to my first book) is concerned.

I’m going to keep that manuscript and keep writing for the Unpulled Pin (fiction based on real shit) to flesh that out and because it’s so helpful to me emotionally, and it’s sort of essential to set the framework of her origin story. Then I’d launch into Miriam with a new beginning basically being me:

Miriam wanted to be a writer; and she was good at it, plus there was no getting away from it: it was in her blood for many generations and she sees it in her own children as well. She also wanted to be a good person. She also grew up with some really weird shit going on in her home. While some of it resembled Running with Scissors and it wasn’t as thoroughly dark as August: Osage County, it was haunting like Long Day’s Journey Into Night it was true that it ended ok, because Here She Was.

She knew her story was good enough to fill some pages, especially because she was healthier now, after, during and because of her therapy, yoga and having a family of her own, but she also knew that “tell alls” are for presidents and their lovers.

But this wasn’t going to be a “tell all” — she’s not out for blood anymore; that ship has sailed, but Miriam knew her story was interesting enough to share and be helpful for people who thought they were alone: upper middle class, adult children of well-educated, connected and upwardly mobile alcoholics.

So Miriam was at a crossroads: she could write her book about her story, but she’d have to tell the truth and to her, that “truth” part was at odds with being a good person. People who loved her parents didn’t really KNOW her parents, and while her parents were pretty fucked up people, they also deserved some dignity. But then she recalled what Anne Lamott said in Bird by Bird,

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.

Sounds good.

So there’s that. It’s going to be a story about a story. Funny, now that I reflect on the last few days — I’ve been humming “Paperback Writer” to myself, especially the lines “It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear, and I need a job so I want to be a paperback writer…” What I’m doing is a story about a writer who wants to write a book. Pretty meta.

So I have determined that I will channel Miriam with me as my muse and maybe sass it up a bit from time to time to make things seem super outrageous so that people won’t know up from down? I’m not going to sweat the details right now — that’s a way to keep from writing. I’m just going to get going.

In the meantime, Mary Oliver beckons:

Later!

A thought regarding chakras and behavior.

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A thought regarding chakras and behavior.

I’ve always been interested in the unseen; stuff that includes science, but that transcends it because even science and proving its truth has to come from something, like a gut feeling, an inner knowing, something that makes us stay curious and interested in the answer or result.

My mother was super smart, talented and clever; she also (like all of us) battled her demons. Sometimes she won, sometimes she lost. Her behavior though, even in the clear-headed days, was something that I now understand as being mostly in the “upper chakras” of 4th (love / boundaries), 5th (voice & truth), 6th (vision & sound: reality) and 7th (intuition). In her escapist behavior (her “demon” side), she also stayed there, but the behavior was focused on herself: what she loved, what she said and heard in *her* truth, what she felt intuitively. Because those concepts were run through an unhealthy filter, her behavior was unhealthy.

And so the loop continues.

As a yoga instructor and someone who likes to investigate sources of pain or observe confusions in myself or others, the chakras are crucial to how I perceive the world. But my knowledge is limited while my curiosity is constantly in bloom.

Recently, I had a biofield tuning session. (It’s woo-woo to some: energy blended with sound healing science but it has real effects on me.) In that session, I discussed some social interactions I’ve endured with people that have left me confused and exhausted. I explained that I’m so tired of this pattern of people and their behaviors repeating themselves in my life. That they’re so familiar to me — the energy reminds me of my interactions with my mother: going around and around in circles when all I’m trying to do is go from A to B to C. Without batting an eye, she said, “They’re in their upper chakras. There’s no grounding. They just want to exist in the fantasy that all is well and they don’t need the things — like health insurance and consistent income — that you and I and others see as reasonable and normal for a solid existence. The truth is too much for them; they’re not grounded. They want to have it come to them because they ‘wish it to.’ To be grounded means that you have accept and know who you are [1st chakra], what you’re responsible for having created in your life [2nd chakra], and the guts to do it or change it [3rd chakra] if it’s not working … if it’s not healthy or balanced.”

It was literally like a window had been opened and a fresh breeze of clean air had flowed into my lungs.

There’s nothing wrong with embracing love and intuition and vision and singing your song… but launching from solid ground and a knowing of your skills and limitations is the only way you’re going to make any sense. Remember: airplanes have wheels, birds have claws, and angels have feet for a reason.

The other risk — not nourishing or tolerating the upper chakras — is anger, confusion, and disappointment because we have to also acknowledge that we don’t know everything about ourselves [1st]; that there are things we have yet to create / we’re not DONE yet [2nd]; and that we must continue to change and do [3rd] in order to live well and balanced.

I often describe Mom as just being capable of landing one toe on the ground for most of her life. Now that she is with God, free and she is safe, I don’t have to worry about how hard she will crash when she would eventually come down. ❤

Change… Organic and Otherwise

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We rented a house on the Outer Banks (“OBX”) of North Carolina, which is a place in and of itself accustomed to change despite the earnest and feckless desires of mere mortals who decide to defy Nature by building houses yards from the Atlantic.

We arrived on a cool March afternoon after driving several hours from our roost near Washington, DC. The two younger sons traveled with me and my husband in our giant SUV. They in the back seat enjoying their various iDevices and occasionally participating in conversations as we collectively listened to the entertaining and dubious Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff.

The sky was overcast, the winds pretty fierce and the shoreline was booming as the high tide was due in a couple hours. My youngest son, known as “Thing 3” to anyone who’s familiar with my writing (which has taken a back seat to my 11-times a week yoga teaching schedule) has been renamed “Tech Support” from time to time because of his interest in all things technological. (Don’t confuse “interest” with “competency” as he’s still learning and when I got a new computer a few weeks ago he scrubbed my old one and it took a shit ton of data supposedly stored on the “CLOUD” with it… but it’s only 1s and 0s right?).

When we pulled in to the OBX driveway, he said, “we’re under a storm surge warning which will cause high surf from tomorrow night at 8pm until the following evening at 8pm.” He was correct. The waves were truly the highest I’ve ever seen and the accompanying winds gave me pause to recall my numerous dreams I’ve had wherein I’m in a seafront home and utterly surrounded by sea water. I haven’t had one of those dreams in a while, and as stirring as they can be, I don’t wake destroyed as one might expect.

Back in early March, most of the east coast endured a nor’easter named “Riley” (is it me? When did they start naming winter storms? Are they like the names of Mother Nature’s children? I think we should rename them things like “Scott Pruitt”; “industrial age” and “Valdez”) and what about gender neutral names? “Riley” is safe, I must say, different from “Katrina” or “Hanna” or “Andrew” I believe most storms used to be named after females, but it’s not so far off when we will have a Storm Robert or Nor’Easter Stan… I digress (get used to it).

Riley slammed where I live with 70mph gusts and 40mph sustained winds for an entire weekend. Power went out all over the region, but not at my house. My father stayed with us overnight and that was probably enough for everyone, mostly him. His power was restored the next afternoon. Where I’m from, Buffalo NY, my cousins got slammed with several feet of snow. Boston got hammered … it’s how it goes. But down here, in OBX, it appears that the seas still have not receded. Riley pushed the sands up the shore; buried in-ground pools and turned 6′ privacy fences to knee-high shin scrapers. Pools installed behind some of those now-demolished privacy fences are overcome with sand.

Here’s my view from the deck of the house we rented… the “bush” below is what’s left of the first dune garrison. I’ve marked up the photos immediately following to explain what the what used to be what.

In this next photo, the steps leading up the walkway used to take you to another “bridge” over the first dune garrison and then you would descend a second set of steps to sit access the beach. Locals tell me these steps, walkways and bridges were installed last Easter. Bummer. These first two photos are of the same property; the one immediately to my left (north). You’ll notice that things look relatively normal and typical for a winter recovery. What you won’t notice is the missing dune line because it’s been so completely taken out. Nor would you notice that the shore’s depth to the water is probably 100 feet shallower.These next photos so perfectly depict for me the example of the objective “luck of the draw” that Nature and Fate so deftly provide at every moment. This is the seaside of the house immediately to my right (south). I’ve marked it up to explain what the what used to be what. If you examine closely, in the area marked “pool” and you don’t believe me, you’ll see a set of entry / exit ladder handles for access to that pool (almost in the dead center of this photo). The fence line outside the pool and hot tub used to be 6′ off the ground. I doubt the owners of this property have personally viewed the situation. I can’t say I blame them. Slightly “above” the box marked “pool” is another box that denotes what used to be a pool next door.

This is what used to be the entrance driveway belonging to house to my right (south). The red area denotes a driveway. The green denotes the grass / foliage and the blue is the water that said ” HAHAHAHAHAAAAA!” to all those ideas of driveways and gardens.

While these situations certainly aren’t’ catastrophic and none of these properties are a total loss, these are changes. Most people who own beachfront property usually just have to clean out the cobwebs, freshen up the carpets, steam clean the curtains and wipe down their windows to prepare for the rental season. The owners to my south are probably wistfully recalling those days of such burdens. We met a man one morning during our walks who owns a home several doors south on the shore here. His name was Bob. (For reals.) “It was the most beautiful property on the island,” he said (and I get it, we all think our home is the best or our kids are the smartest and best looking), but even what survived the storm wasn’t terribly impressive to me… it looked pretty weathered and neglected compared to other properties around his house. He had “a gorgeous pool” since surrounded by and filled with sand. Hanging at a 45˚ angle was a woeful five-and-dime “TIKI BAR” sign hanging and flappimg from one nail. Just below it was a faded and operative rainbow-themed windsock that somehow fared better than his obliterated privacy wall. It’s weird what survives these storms. “I’m screwed,” he crowed. I nodded in sympathy even though I didn’t agree with his summary. The house is still standing. He’s not exactly homeless and the lot alone is worth at least $2mm. And it was not t his only residence — he chose this lifestyle to rent their home in OBX to vacationers and then travel by RV the rest of the year. But who am I to decide who’s screwed and who isn’t? Bob was sad, but he was feeling sorry for himself. I heard later from neighbors drinking beers on the 20′ of boardwalk in front of our house that Bob opted to NOT have the maintenance and cedar fortification of his dunes and now he’s reaping that. Walking by Bob’s place a few days later I noticed that all evidence of the pool is gone and the sand is flat where it used to be. It seems that everyone has a Tiki Bar here.

Riley and its ilk are largely organic phenomena. I have little doubt that humanity and our “advances” have greatly sped up the oft-debated climate change process, but by and large, isn’t all change, effected directly or indirectly by humans, thus organic seeing as how we arent’ exactly inorganic to the planet?

I miss writing. I enjoy the yoga teaching, but I really miss the writing. Things have changed so much in my life (as I’m sure it has in yours) in the last several months that at times I feel as though I’ve aged 10 years. In my little tribe we’ve experienced a fair amount of turbulence, but what is life without change? And change without turbulence really isn’t change, it’s just “different.” The short of it is that parenting is not for wimps. The long of it is that it’s been difficult being a parent. Three boys, all teenagers now, and the boundary-pushing, shitty attitudes and straight-out rebellion is exhausting. I’m not so absurd to say that “I wouldn’t change a thing because all of it is a blessing…” because trust me, I’d change plenty. Kids make stupid choices and end up hurting themselves. We all did it and we will all do it again and those of us who managed to get here, this far, I guess are the norm… there are a lot of us still out there, aren’t there? So does that mean that the odds my kids will all make it to 90 with fun and compelling stories but not horrific ones of personal destruction and devastation? I sure hope so. I don’t like change. I don’t like my kids growing up and I don’t like my dad getting older. I can fight it, like an idiot, or I can continue to look for the silver linings (not necessarily the blessings) of even the most crushing experiences, for every experience is a teacher.

Thank you.

Trying to Make Room for Discomfort #Yoga

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I teach a restorative yoga class every week. I recently read an article in Yoga Journal which claimed that a restorative class is an “advanced” class. I found that classification to be rather confusing and certainly counterproductive for anyone who would like to take a restorative class, because in all reality, a restorative class is the least physically demanding class one can take. 

But when we think about yoga, which isn’t really just about the physical (it’s really SO not about the physical, it’s just that we westerners tend to think everything is about the body when it’s more about the spirit), describing restorative as “advanced” has legs. Restorative yoga IS advanced IN that it requests of you that you let it happen. My dermatologist asked  me a couple weeks ago while he was stitching me up after removing a basal cancer cell from my chest, “Will yoga work for me?” And I said, “If you let it.” He laughed nervously. I raised an eyebrow and said, “Now you’re on the mat and you didn’t even know it.” 

And that’s the truth. Things will work, in the manner in which they are supposed to, when we let them. 

While I was reading the article, I was reacting: “this is such a turn off… this article needs to start a different way….” and I still believe that because those of us who teach or rather, endeavor to inspire yoga in students / other people, is that we don’t want anyone to feel as though they don’t belong. Especially in a restorative class, but like so much in life, many of us also tend to bite off more than we can chew. Such as it is with people who might attend a restorative yoga class and think it’s all about letting go… which is the only thing I used to believe: that all yoga is about letting go… making peace… but what if that doesn’t work anymore? What if (as I wrote a couple weeks ago) letting go (or writing with love) is just not possible sometimes? What if we try and try to find the lesson, to learn from or let go of that which irks us?  And it just doesn’t come or it feels forced, contrived and fake? 

The answer, then, according to this article, is to make room for what bothers us. In the purest tradition of Rumi, be the “Guest House”: we need to make room. Set a table, be inclusive, open the door laughing, invite and have tea with what bothers us: learn from the energy which keeps us in balance. If something is pulling us one way, surely something is pulling us another way to keep us upright. Make room for the thing that bugs us the most. That’s where the teacher is… 

Just be careful, though, to not confuse the identity of the teacher. Try not to assign a value judgment (good or bad) to either side. Sometimes the very thing that bothers you and that you make room for, is the very thing you THINK you need to let go of….   

For example: I don’t like to quit. I find quitting to be something that weak-willed people do. So for me, which is the greater discomfort: staying in a toxic situation or walking away from a toxic situation because I don’t like to quit? To me, quitting is like letting go. So for this conversation, making room would mean that I stay. At what point does a character attribute (perserverance) become a flaw (stubborn)? It’s a fine line. 

I recently walked away from a situation in which I found the toxic energy to be familiar. Not just familiar to other things I’d experienced in my long-ago past, but even identical to situations with the exact same players. When I framed it in this context: that I needed to make room for what chafes me, I began to feel very confused. With what, exactly, am I having tea? For what am I making room? And of what, exactly, was I “letting go”? Was I letting go of my anger and outrage? Was I letting go of a desire to be treated professionally (just because I have a different set of standards)? When does my own prideliction for truth and fairness become a feckless pursuit? Was I refusing to have tea with the concept of quitting? 

Does my staying on, having tea with, and opening the door laughing mean I have to compromise my mental health? Even when, as Rumi says, my ‘house’ (spirit) will be violently swept clear of my ‘furniture’ (habits, ideas, fears, ego)? When does “be cool, man” become “give up, man”? Rumi says to treat each guest honorably for they are sent as a guide from beyond…. OK. But what’s the lesson? To what am I being guided? 

I get it. Sometimes we have to sit next to the mouth breather on the bus or at the movie or at the game or on the committee. Sometimes WE ARE that mouth breather too, but when does making room for that mouth breather become fruitless? Who’s “to blame” when the mouth breather’s breath becomes toxic? Is it us? Are we too sensitive? Are we to blame because we decide to not say anything because we don’t want to offend the offender? At some point, making room for the mouth breather, at least in my life, meant that I offered some gum or a glass of mint tea. Or even coming right out with it and saying as others nodded in agreement, “Dude, your breath is RANK.” When that tea or gum was continually rejected, I decided I need to leave the room. I decided I was going to sweep my house clear of its furniture. I was taking my ball and going home because, honestly, I have only one life.   


I find that when my body starts to react, then that’s when I need to do some investigating. That when my family is affected, or more appropriately, the way I treat my family, then I need to do some investigating. I agree absolutely that we all need to make room for discomfort because life is full of disappointments and frustrations and “surprises” and that if we don’t get our shit together and figure out who’s being the baby here, then we are really part of the problem, if not The Problem. 

Making room for discomfort has legs. To a point. To me, there’s yet another fine line between being amenable to discomfort and being a freaking masochist. 

So despite making room for and waiting for the mouth breather to drink the tea, I paid the check and walked away to spare the others at the tea room. I quit. I promised myself last year I wouldn’t let my tea get cold. That I wouldn’t go through it again in front of myself or in front of them. I chose my discomfort: I chose to stop doing something I cared about a lot to spare myself from continued discomfort and toxic breath. I sacrificed myself now while I am still useful and happy so I didn’t have to sacrifice myself later as a bloody stump. My head is high, but my heart is sad. I walked away earlier than I’d have liked to. I have learned that I have a limit, and that’s just going to have to be ok. 

The lesson here is to not walk away because you can’t take the heat. The lesson here is to stay and make room for what bugs you, to learn from it, and to let it toughen you because life is hard. Continually feeling mistreated because you don’t like the way things roll out though, makes you the problem. I didn’t want to be the problem anymore. Even though my standards were in line with others’ at some point you have to decide which battles to fight. Make room, for sure, but don’t give up your seat. Walk away when your bus gets to your stop. Walk away after you finish your tea. 
Thank you.