Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dancing with Kali...


Last year around my birthday, I wrote a blog about the Weighing of the Heart. I weighed out my heart last year and felt like I had a good grip on who I was and where I was going. This year, I feel like my life and my world is more about Kali than Ma'at.

This year, situations in my life feel different. At 48, I feel conflicted in a conflicted world. While I treasure my family and my job, I treasure the people in my life and am filled with gratitude that I am loved and that I have this great capacity *to* love, even when situations are complicated, I still find myself more anxious this year. More edgy. More perplexed by a world that is filled with so much hate and xenophobia. At times, I feel more anxiety than I know how to manage. I feel overwhelmed, the illusion that I have some control is dispelled and I feel like a failure on so many levels - as a parent, as a daughter, a friend, even some days as a teacher and partner.

My dad just spent the week with me. We talked a lot about the world and life and mythology. I told him the story of Kali and how, to me, it feels like Kali is dancing in the world. She is the dark goddess. The goddess of destruction:

Kali is the fearful and ferocious form of the mother goddess. She assumed the form of a powerful goddess and became popular with the composition of the Devi Mahatmya, a text of the 5th - 6th century AD. Here she is depicted as having born from the brow of Goddess Durga during one of her battles with the evil forces. As the legend goes, in the battle, Kali was so much involved in the killing spree that she got carried away and began destroying everything in sight. To stop her, Lord Shiva threw himself under her feet. Shocked at this sight, Kali stuck out her tongue in astonishment, and put an end to her homicidal rampage.
Hence the common image of Kali shows her in her mêlée mood, standing with one foot on Shiva's chest, with her enormous tongue stuck out.

When Kali dances in the world, there is great chaos. She is the goddess of time, and she represents the destruction of ignorance. One of the beautiful things about Kali is that when you face Kali as she dances around you, she can remove your fears and bring you peace. Lately, I feel that by facing my fears I will, eventually, find some peace. 

At the same time, I watch Kali dance on a scale bigger than just *my* life. I see American political candidates extol the virtues of xenophobia. I watch other American political candidates surge in the polls spouting their violent rhetoric against planned parenthood and migrants. I watch fear turn so many into the mob in The Crucible. I watch innocent men and women being detained or worse shot, in single shootings or mass shootings, and I forget to breathe. Because Kali dances and she is drunk on blood.

But the beautiful part of the Kali story, is that her consort, the equally powerful god Shiva, knows what he must do to stop her. Shiva throws himself under her feet. Knowing only one thing can stop destruction and chaos, only one thing can end the violence - love. Kali, realizing she is dancing on the one she loves, stops. Now, perhaps, love isn't the best word, she puts out her tongue because she is embarrassed, and she feels remorse for her actions. But in a way, all those ideas come together in my mind. This idea I feel deep in my heart that love is the answer and that we, as a nation and as a world of people who must learn to live together, must have a recognition that destructive anger only brings more destruction. There are some that agree. Some countries that aren't giving in to fear, some political leaders showing kindness, not cruelty and I have hope.

I've found kindred minds reading Humans of New York  (I think you might need a facebook page to follow this link) for the last few months. Recently, the page has been featuring the stories of Syrian refugees struggling to survive. There are over 16million followers of this page. This morning I cried reading the feed. I don't know if the actual story will show up when you click on the link, but it is beautiful so far - the story of Aya. And so very deeply sad. I want so much for the story to have a happy ending. You can pick any of the refugee stories to read, it is not so much the story that is important - it's the comments after each refugee's story. The thousands and thousands of positive comments people leave.

These stories remind me of Kali, that even in her destruction, there is hope. And I have hope. So do most of the people that follow this page. They see that refugees aren't savages, they are humans. Humans running from war and tragedy. And I see how we, as a nation, or at least 16 million of us, also want to believe in hope. In kindness. In love. It doesn't matter if their faith differers from mine or yours... They are human beings who are just trying to live good lives free from war and terror.

And I guess, like my last post, for me it comes back to love. I believe in love. I believe in goodness. I believe in humanity. We are all a little broken. We are all a bit wounded, but deep inside, we were created to live and love. Even as Kali dances around the world, in the end, just like in the mythology, it will be love that saves us.

Peace and love to you all this holiday season,


Saturday, November 14, 2015

On hockey, terrorism and love


Tonight I went to a hockey game. I took a co-worker and his daughter. We sat in the suite. I have done this with many of my friends probably close to two hundred times over the last five years.

While we were watching the game, I had this moment. I looked in the arena and I thought, If a terrorist came into this arena right now, what would I do? How would I be safe? He couldn't get in through the door from the outside it's locked with a pass code, but he could easily jump in from the front and shoot us all quickly. There really isn't anywhere to hide. I would be unable to protect myself.

I sat in that seat stunned by my own thoughts. I couldn't believe I had let that entire scenario play through my mind. And it had fully played through my mind. People screaming, chaos, panic, bloodshed. Had I given in to fear? Was this how it was going to be for me from now on? Looking for a zealot in every dark corner?

Today, I got an email from a student's mother. She had taken her child on vacation this week as a way to 'ease her child into Europe with a wonderful first trip to Paris' was how she put it. They are, at the very moment I write this, still in Paris mostly on lockdown hoping to fly home tomorrow. I had been praying for their safety and had written an email to my student's mom on Friday without really expecting a reply. I couldn't believe how relieved I was to read that both of them were safe and okay - shaken, but okay. And that's how I felt - shaken, but okay.

Today, I also had to unfollow a friend on facebook for posting that 'if nuclear weapons worked in Japan they would work even better in the Middle East'. The post hurt too much. It made me too sad to even look at in my feed. It was so much hate. So much anger. So much fanaticism to deal with fanatics. And even though it made me sad to do it, because I care about the person and I acknowledge his own frustrations and sadness, I hit the unfollow button. Even at the car shop today, after spending two hours laughing and joking and talking about life with the guy behind the counter, as I was finally checking out, he started to tell me what HE would do with THOSE people in Paris.

I looked at him, smiled kindly and gently but firmly said, "Sir, I am not the person you want to have this conversation with."

And he said back to me, "But you know there are a billion of 'em, right?"

And I said, "Less than 1% are radical, but sir, really, you do not want to have this conversation with me." And he uncomfortably backed off.
Tonight, at the hockey game, for a moment I almost cried. I realized if *I* - a person of almost perpetual positivity - could sit in a stadium and contemplate terrorism, it's no wonder the world is afraid. It's no wonder we are all edgy and scared and feeling tremendously alone. 

When I got home. I put on the fire, made myself a cup of Bengal Spice tea and started to write this blog. I realized I don't want to be and won't be that person. I won't be that woman that looks in every movie theater, and hockey arena, and taxi cab, and plane seat for the bad guy. For the evil extremist that wants to kill me. I am not going to let fear win. 

Because over the last few days I have been thinking about love. About the people I love, the family I love, the child I love, the children I love, the sister and father and students and life I love and I am not going to let fear win.

I wish you all peace. And love. And I hope you can use love to find your own way through the hate and the fear and the rage and the helplessness. If possible, I hope you can find your own peace and your own reasons not to give up on love, on humanity, on peace, and on kindness. And while you process and find your own way, I'm going to try my best to be one of the caring people Mr. Rogers spoke so eloquently about:

Peace, love and light,


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

HSP or 'Why Haunted Houses are No Good Very Bad Places' for me


When I was in the 8th grade, my dad took me, my sister, and her friends to a haunted house. I have no idea what possessed me to go along with this, but I think my sister really wanted to go and being the 'older sister' I figured I could 'handle' it. He parked the car, left us to our own devices and said he'd be back in an hour. I felt anxious, but thought it would all be good fun.

My whole life I've jumped at loud noises and been uncomfortable in dark, windowless, tight spaces. We paid our money and waited in line. The music coming from the house blasted rock concert loud. I found myself feeling disoriented. As we waited in line, haunted house actors dressed in costume jumped out at us - usually causing me to scream. My entire life I have hated being startled.  By the time we got near the door, my heart pushed against my rib cage. My sister and her friends were giggling and talking. I was the 'older' one - my sister used to call me "Miss Maturity". (I wish I could record for you the singsong way she'd say Miss Maturity. I'm pretty sure it wasn't a compliment.) But in my family, I felt like I had to be strong; I had to be 'in control' so I ignored the warning signs that going inside that haunted house was a no good, very bad idea.

We finally got to the front door. Once inside, we were plunged into complete darkness. That's when the strobe lights started. The music blared as someone jumped out of the darkness and reached for my face. The flashing lights and makeup distorted the figure and I screamed. From there, it only got worse. I started crying. Deep, ugly tears of absolute panic. Halfway through the the haunted house I curled up in a ball on the floor, sobbing and going through the first (and only) full-on panic attack I have ever had in my life. The only thing I remember after curling up on the floor was some guy finding me, getting me up, and leading me out the back door into the cold night air. I remember his disgusted look, as if I had somehow ruined his evening. Maybe he was angry that I held up the traffic through the house because of my fetal floor position. I don't know. The moment I felt the night air on my face, the noise seemed to lessen. I vaguely remember the beam of his flashlight and being led to the area where my sister and her friends would eventually exit, then watching him walk away. Somehow I made it home, but I have no solid memory of the night past being led out of the building by flashlight and blaming myself that my emotional state had upset another person.

I found this article today while researching anxiety for a health class with one of my students. It's not the first article I've read on the topic, but I thought presented good ideas:
Clicking on the photo of me will take you to a simple test to see if you are a Highly Sensitive Person

This photo of me at 20 months and 4 days old shows me reaching out and offering my dad a flower. I was a giving, loving, and joyful child. I believe, even as this age, I had some symptoms of HSP. As I aged, I remember crying. A lot. Struggling with loud noises, feeling overwhelmed with information, not knowing how to navigate complicated emotional situations were almost daily experiences. Kids teased me for crying all the time, and I learned to hate myself for being emotional. I remember how humiliated I felt because I cried when David Banner's wife died on The Hulk tv show and he walked away down the road, alone. He must have been so sad - and I felt every bit of it.

In fact, I still cry over books, tv shows, movies, commercials, music and love letters. And I struggle not to feel humiliated every time. Once, while watching a tv show with someone I love, I couldn't stop myself from crying. The person with me said, "Are you crying???" and I felt like a failure for not being able to hide it better and for being too emotional. I moved past feeling ashamed and I said to her, "It's not kind to make fun of someone for crying. It makes the other person feel bad. You may not understand why someone else is crying, but that doesn't make the other person a bad person for expressing how she is feeling." I probably could have handled it better, but at least I said something instead of holding it inside.

My whole life I've hated feeling sensitive and I've struggled to navigate my own intensity. I'm not sure I ever swam in the shallow end of the emotional swimming pool. I've spent most of my life trying to keep my head up in the deep end. The problem with being an emotional person in this society is that being emotional is not really considered 'okay' - especially in most relationships. I can't count how many times I've been told to just relax, calm down, stop over reacting, don't be so emotional about things... I had one partner tell me these sort of words, while patting my leg like a dog who needed training. The only worse time was when a guy patted me on the head and told me to just stop crying, it's all going to be okay.

Having researched HSP lately, I better understand my deep struggle making decisions - especially decisions involving people. Having to chose one person over another, having to make hard choices about what people are good to have in my life and what people are negative and toxic I find extremely difficult. I can see that toxic people are bad - people who yell, who rage, who drink too much or complain all the time. People who have no empathy, who have no idea how to be kind. People who use me for information or for... well... other things. I have a difficult time knowing when that is happening. Not too long ago, I found the term "beck and call girl" and realized that term described me within many of my relationships. In the past, I have dropped everything for someone else's life, even when it meant incredible discomfort and complications in my own. I worry all the time I will disappoint someone or hurt someone, and often I put the needs of others before my own health and happiness.

I also think HSP is part of the reason in my life I've struggled with food. First, I have a strong sense of taste. The sensory input of the taste of the food fills my whole body when I take my first bite of a meal. But that isn't the only issue. Food also numbs other sensory input and I am sure in my life I have often used food as a way to put space between me and overwhelming emotional input. I've felt tremendously stressed lately, and I've used food to escape feeling flooded by frustration and other emotions. Knowing more about HSP has helped me get back on track and better handle feeling emotionally flooded.

Lately, I find myself taking time to hang out in my bedroom more. I even close my bedroom door, something I have seldom done before. Owning that I am feeling flooded and taking care of my needs to (as I call it) 'defrag my hard drive' has helped me more than food ever has. I've taken up coloring and doing some meditation. Both have helped me focus my stress and anxiety in a more productive way. It's a process; getting healthy always is. In the past, I never would have admitted I have sensory issues. It would have made me seem imperfect and broken.

I'm neither. I'm just an emotional person in a world that doesn't always welcome emotional people. My goal at this point in my life is to worry less about how others react to me and instead, focus on not being so hard on myself when I feel emotional. Being emotional and sensitive isn't a fault, it's a blessing. In time, I hope to actually believe that.



Friday, September 18, 2015

The Minutiae of Grief (or 'Rational' vs 'Emotional')


A few days ago, I got an email from an ex. It was a canned 'I'd like to be connected' email generated from a popular website. The email had a photo and some current information. Our relationship didn't end well and when I got the email, I felt the lid I had welded shut on that time in my life blown off; frustration and aggravation flooded my heart. All those memories of feeling dismissed and helpless were almost as raw as the day everything ended in a whirlwind of confusion and dismay.

Then, at three am this morning, I logged into my yahoo account. I couldn't sleep and for some reason I got a nudge to go and look at the account I hadn't logged into for over a year. Apparently, yahoo mail has a new feature where you can search old yahoo instant messenger messages. I searched for candyxxxhoo, Candace's old yahoo account. And there they all were! Every single message we had shared since 2009 when she created her account (after I begged her to get one). We IM'd almost daily, up until a few days before she passed and was too sick to type. It was beautiful reading through some of our old messages. I didn't read through them all, there were over 2,000 conversations; the ones I did read through gave me an accounting of many of our sorrows and joys. The most recent messages, before we were no longer able to chat, were about the house I had recently purchased and how she couldn't wait to come and visit me - both of us knowing that wasn't going to happen.

Finally, in my English 12 class this week, we have been reading the Herbert Mason version of Gilgamesh; one of my all-time favorite mythic tales. We were at the part where (spoiler) Enkidu dies. I read the passage* about grief out loud to my class. I got teary eyed at the end of the passage. My students looked at me with compassion and kindness. It was a moment of me being terribly genuine and vulnerable and my students responding with understanding and compassion. It was... amazing.

It's that time of year where the Autumn Equinox hovers around the corner; it's not too surprising this week has been about connecting with grief. I struggle with the emotional side of grief. Rationally, when my relationship ended and when my best friend passed away, I knew I had to pick myself up because hey... life goes on. After a while of rationally processing the situation I put away being 'hurt' and moved on with my life. I had my daughter to take care of and after all, relationships sometimes end, right? I started dating again, and in time found someone with whom I hope to share my life. I am grateful for having love in my life and for these present moments of happiness and joy. I look at my daughter and every single day see glimpses of Candace's face looking back at me. Certain funny faces she makes are faces her mom made. I don't even think she knows that, but each time I see her face squish up 'just so' my heart skips a little and I feel the ache of loss.

I guess I didn't realize that you can be happy in your life yet still have moments when you grieve something from the past that you didn't even know you were still grieving. The relationship I spoke of earlier wasn't the best of relationships - it wasn't all that healthy. It was, however, important to me. I loved, deeply. It ended abruptly and I felt left behind, dazed, and wounded. It feels like the end of a relationship isn't that different emotionally than having someone you love, die; it is an end to a connection, the 'price' of love.

I realized this week that it is okay to grieve. It is okay to say to myself that even though I am in a place of joy, I can still have tender spots in my heart that are painful when poked.  I realized, that makes me normal - it doesn't make me a failure for not 'being over it by now'. The rational part of me had been whispering that I *really* should have moved on with these issues; I felt stupid for still feeling hurt about events that happened in the past in a relationship where there won't be resolution or answers. I felt broken for being vulnerable and still caring. For a while, I even felt I should stop missing Candace.

However, the heart is not ruled by a rational timeline; the heart has its own timeline. And the heart, or more accurately my heart, doesn't want to be punished for loving by being denied the time it wants and needs to grieve the loss it feels. It's on its own timeline and that doesn't make me weak or broken. It makes me human.

I guess the rational part of me is just going to have to be okay with being imperfect. Turns out, I'm just fine with being human.


*Here is the Gilgamesh piece on grief:

All that is left to one who grieves
Is convalescence. No change of heart or spiritual
Conversion, for the heart has changed
And the soul has been converted
To a thing that sees
How much it costs to lose a friend it loved.
It has grown past conversion to a world
Few enter without tasting loss
In which one spends a long time waiting
For something to move one to proceed.
It is that inner atmosphere that has
An unfamiliar gravity or none at all
Where words are flung out in the air but stay
Motionless without an answer,
Hovering about one’s lips
Or arguing back to haunt
The memory with what one failed to say,
Until one learns the acceptance of the silence
Amidst the new debris
Or turns again to grief
As the only source of privacy,
Alone with someone loved.
It could go for years and years,
And has, for centuries,
For being human holds a special grief
Of privacy within the universe
That yearns and waits to be untouched
By someone who can take away
The memory of death.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bikini Babe?


I've just come inside from trimming the rosemary bush next to my front door. I also tried to use the same hedge trimmer to trim the weeds around my fence - you know, the wrong tool for the job.

And I did this yard trimming... in my bikini top and shorts.

And my biggest concern was the short battery life on my little trimmer and how I don't have a rake to rake up the rosemary.

My neighbor came home on his bike - his name is Gary. He's a university professor who teaches early middle eastern literature. I enjoy our chats. We talked for a while about how I need a REAL weed trimmer and not some hedge trimmer that isn't designed for what I tried to force it to do. Gary and his wife have the most beautiful yard. They never say anything to me about how mine is, um, lacking in tidiness. We get along really well and it is one of the reasons I like where I live.

I do have pink flamingos in the front yard though, so there's that.

Yet, there I stood in my front yard in a bikini and not once did I think - OMG I'm in a bikini, he can't see me in a bikini I'm sooooo fat. Honestly, I'm a size 18 on a good day.

I didn't care. I've been wearing my bikini on the back porch to sunbathe and mow my back yard, but haven't ventured out into the front yard yet. I mean CARS drove by while I worked in the front yard. And I was in a bikini. And you know... I didn't really think about it. I just worked on my lawn.

I've come a long way from the fat girl ashamed of herself and her body. I know there are some larger women who are so angry and think things like,  "Screw you all if you don't like how I look." But that's not me. I'm not an angry person by nature. There are no demands on anyone - you don't have to like how I look in a bikini or you can like how I look in a bikini. That isn't really my issue anymore. Would I wear this to a public pool? I don't know, maybe. I don't particularly want to attract attention, nor do I want to avoid it. I kind of just want to weed my front yard and get some sun.

Here is a pic. Not a great pic because I have been working in my yard. But an unedited pic none-the-less.

I'm still a long way from being happy with how much I weigh - but no longer because I hate my body. More because there are so many things I want to do and my weight prevents me from doing them. So I keep on the journey. I've been stuck at the same weight for four months now. At least I haven't put more weight on and even though my weight hasn't changed my body has. So I don't get upset, I keep taking care of myself and eating well (or trying to) and exercising (more of that this summer for sure). 

I am done with having people in my life who spend their time telling me all my faults and how if I would just do 'this': lose weight, talk more, talk less, be more friendly, be less friendly, be more spiritual, be less spiritual, write more, write less, sing more, sing less, don't think so much, tell better stories, be more grateful, be more kind, be nice, be less messy, be more respectful, be less demanding, be less serious, be less self-absorbed and solipsistic (I actually had to look that word up when my ex called me that - thus the 'ex')... the list goes on and on. But always with the idea that if I would just follow these helpful suggestions, I would be more desirable. I'm done letting criticism push me down - it makes the work of being happy in my own skin so much harder. 

Criticism is the wrong tool for the job. Criticism, void of compassion, is empty and destructive. 

I don't need anyone to tell me how to be. I'm not perfect, however,  I'm desirable just the way I am.

I'm done having people in my life that reflect back to me my own critical nature. Lately, I'm spending time with people who are kind to me and at the same time honest when I ask for input. I have some events going on in my life that have made me nervous and anxious. And these people around me that appreciate and respect me say things to build my spirit, not tear it down. These people have changed me. They've helped me realize it's time for me to be kinder to myself. If that means wearing a bikini even though I am NOT the typical size of a woman that wears a bikini simply because I want to, so be it - they love me and cheer me on, because that's what people that care and respect you do.

I love who I am and how I am in this world. I love that I see the world as a beautiful place, even when the people here do some ugly things. I love how I treasure every moment I have here.

I love how I see the best in people - even when they don't see the best in themselves; it's high time I do the same for myself.

peace and love,


Saturday, June 13, 2015

ISO: Passion


I woke up this morning after an... odd evening and even weirder night of dreaming. I laid in bed with this vague 'something isn't right' feeling.

I got up, made myself some huevos rancheros, some yerba mate tea with milk and came back to bed. I couldn't sleep, but also couldn't figure out what was pushing against my mind.

I closed my eyes for a few moments and entered this half awake/half asleep arena. In this shamanic state, I heard the word 'passion'. Without controlling the images that flashed through my mind - I saw people I know and have known and I saw their passions - dancing, acting, singing, writing, biking, journeywork, camping, drawing, disney, painting... Lots of people, and lots of activities that spoke to their hearts. I sat up in bed with this clarity about what it is that has my life feeling skewed.

I've lost my passion.

In my twenties, my passion was spirituality. I wanted to know everything about everything spiritual. Why did people believe the way they did? What brought joy to people's hearts? What purpose does faith serve in someone's life? What do different religions say and why do people follow them? What is the beauty in divinity? I spent fifteen years searching out those questions - from prayer meetings, to sweat lodges to shaman retreats in Hawaii.  I'm not sure how or why, but the inner desire to seek that information just shifted. I was still curious, but didn't feel that passion to continue to seek.

In my thirties, I think my passion became mythology. I loved reading it, couldn't get enough of it. I wanted to understand the connection of humanity to universal mythic ideas. It was a natural extension of my curiosity about religion. It was during this time I lost almost all of my faith. I chose to spend time with people of no faith, who openly mocked faith. I delved into mythology deeply and passionately.

In my forties, I found my faith again. It looks pretty odd to an outsider, I suppose. A full on mishmash of different ideas from different cultures and times. It has no real form, but I found I was terribly unhappy without it. Terribly lonely. And I guess, I believe in magic and I missed finding the magic in my life on a daily basis. I found reconnecting to divinity was essential to me not losing myself when in my mid forties I became a sudden parent. My belief in something more than myself has helped me be a better parent and a better person. I cherish my love for mythology and it is an important part of my faith, but I can't say either of those things are my passion anymore.

So what am I left with? I think I am left with a desire find desire. And I don't know where it is going to come from. However, my past passions have been mental and spiritual. This time, I want to pursue something active- hiking maybe. But on my own terms. In my own way. I don't want to over-push myself and injure myself again. Running was filling that passion void in my life for a while, but when I hurt myself I had to give it up. There was a time when biking was a passion of mine, I don't know if biking will hurt my knee or not, but I might try it again. I know that part of the struggle I am having in my life right now has to do with a lack of my own passion - and replacing passion with distraction or someone else's passion.

And that is what is comes down to for me: passion versus distraction. Distraction is easy - and I have done too much of that lately. Distracting myself instead of listening to myself. Addiction can also be a very easy trap to fall into - but while distraction and addiction tear you down, I think a true passion for something you love builds you up. It reinforces your own strength. It clears your head and helps you find your center.

I think I am missing my center. I am at my best when I am connected to myself. When I listen to my heart. When I choose good people to have around me. People who send me notes like this and remind me of my value, my beauty and that I am, at my very core, a passionate woman:

It is time to find the passion in me again. I'm not sure it is something I will do with someone else. Not to say that my passion for whatever is next won't lead me to meet new, wonderful people or find ways to relate to people I already know.  I have this feeling, it is time to listen when Marc Cohn says, "Dig down deep" and explore what it is that pushes me to grow, heal, center and continue to get healthy - as my weight goes down, my body can do more. And I want to find out just what that means.

With love,

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Dancing past perfection


Perfectionism shows up at the oddest moments in my life. In the past, it crippled my ability to be present in the moment and enjoy my life. Friday night, I realized how far I have come in my effort to move past perfectionism.

Psychology Today defines perfectionism this way:

"For perfectionists, life is an endless report card on accomplishments or looks. It's a fast track to unhappiness, and perfectionism is often accompanied by depression and eating disorders. What makes perfectionism so toxic is that while those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure, so theirs is a negative orientation. And love isn't a refuge; in fact, it feels way too conditional on performance."

In my life, I have struggled with perfectionism. I can't even measure the hours I have spent trying to avoid failure and 'predict' what someone else wanted so I could appear 'together' and on top of my game. When I was in the throes of perfection? I was never on top of my life. I was too busy trying to prepare for the next problem before the next problem ever showed up. 

Dancing Friday night brought back some of those past struggles with perfection. As a birthday wish of someone I care about, I agreed to go dancing - contra dancing, actually. In the past, I would have politely deferred; I would have been terrified to look stupid or incompetent.

Friday, I took a deep breath and realized I have come a long way from earlier struggles with perfection. I knew I would be dancing with someone who enjoyed deancing, who would help me if I needed it, and I knew I could let go and just have a good experience. 

I grew up terrified to make mistakes. Mistakes often meant screaming and yelling, so learning to move past that fear and just relax and enjoy the moment has been a goal of mine the last few years. I've worked hard to move past the mindset that liking myself depended on earning approval of others by being perfect. That view of the world led to a lot of unhappy relationships, friendships and experiences. 

Friday, when I got the invitation to go and dance, I didn't even hesitate. I realized I have grown past a great deal of my anxiety and I decided to just enjoy my evening and let the night unfold as it would unfold. We got to the hall and the first half hour we learned some of the basic dance moves. My partner smiled at me, and I leaned into that and had fun A couple of times I stumbled trying to figure out what the moves were, but he was patient and the other people there were very kind and accommodating to any missteps. I had a wonderful time, even when things sort of fell apart during the last dance we stayed for of the evening.

The contra dancing took place in a small gym in Seattle. It was exceptionally hot , there were a lot of people, and not a lot of ventilation. The dances were pretty long, and after the second one, I took a break to get some water. My partner wasn't around (he'd gone outside to get some fresh air) and a very nice man asked me to dance. I agreed but told him I had no idea what I was doing. He laughed a little and said he did know and not to worry. I smiled and we moved onto the tremendously crowded dance floor. The dance moves baffled me! No one really knew what they were doing. I stuck with it for about ten minutes while the caller on the stage kept giving out instructions. I found myself so confused and maybe it was the heat, maybe it was so many people on the floor, maybe I was just tired, but I started to feel that old anxiety. The room started to feel really small and I knew I would not enjoy the dance. This was not an 'uncomfortable but just push past it' moment. I looked at the gentleman who asked me to dance and said, "I can't do this. I'm so sorry, but this is more than I can do tonight." He smiled at me and said that it likely would have been easier to understand if we had been in the middle of the line instead of the very end, but it was okay and he walked me over to the side of the dancing area. By the time I left, he sat talking to two other ladies and we smiled at each other as I walked out the door.

Perfectionism would have, at one point in my life, prevented me from ever even going dancing! My fear of making mistakes in life crippled me from moving forward. Friday night, being able to know what I could and could not do, being able to take care of myself and speak up for myself when I knew my limits, felt so liberating! I had so much fun just dancing and laughing and twirling and enjoying myself - and seriously it was awesome exercise. Not only did I accomplish something I would have avoided in the past, I got a great workout - win/win!

I suppose once I go to a karaoke night and actually sing.. I might really have mastered this whole perfectionism thing :). 

One 'step-to-the-center' at a time.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The cost of integrity


I am a parallel parking genius.

Well, until last Sunday, when I was sure I could fit my car into a spot that I realized, belatedly, was too small.

I did all the right moves, but ended up stuck between the curb and the big, brilliant, red Durango parked in front of me. Even though I tried really hard to unentangle myself from the mess, I ended up scraping bumpers with the Durango. Hard.

As I threw on my flashers and stopped my car so I could leave my name and number, the person I was with suggested I just leave. "It will be expensive", "People can be territorial about cars and can be crazy!", "That is what insurance is for...", "Just go, it's barely a scratch..."

So, even though I protested, I drove away.

I want to say here that I have no judgment about what people choose to do in situations like this. We have to listen to our heart and do what we think is the right thing to do. And honestly? It frustrates me that I drove away at all, but I did. Yet as I drove, I knew it was the wrong thing for me to do.

I told the person I was with that I really needed to go back and leave my name and number. And amid, "Let me out, you aren't thinking clearly..." comments, I left off the person I was with to get some coffee, and took a deep breath.

I turned around my car and headed back. Alone.

I do not doubt the situation could have gone horribly wrong. I've seen people get extremely angry. I once had a road rage experience with two guys in a truck. I wasn't going fast enough and didn't get out of the carpool lane fast enough for them to pass. They passed me on the LEFT of the carpool lane in the BERM screaming the whole time.  I got their license plate number and ended up calling the police because I was so frightened for the safety of me and my daughter.

About seven years ago, when I was t-boned, the woman who hit my car got a lawyer, sued my insurance company and walked away with a lot of money. A lot of money. She even got up on the witness stand (with her lawyer asking questions) and under oath, in the courtroom, lied to the judge about what I said at the scene. My car was totaled, hers was barely scratched, and she took me to court. And then lied about something I never said at the accident.

But even knowing that, even knowing that it could end up badly, I went back. Because that is what I knew I had to do. It would be a lie to say I wasn't a little scared. I mean, there I was, alone, having to tell someone, "Hey, I hit your car." But I believe in the goodness of people. I have been told I live in a 'make-believe world' where I think people are nice and kind and good and one day I will be in the real world and find out people aren't.  I'm not delusional - people can be cruel and back-stabbing and vicious, but I try to go with the good first. If I turn out to be wrong, I turn out to be wrong. I'm still going to believe in people and that they will do the right thing.

So as I drove back to the scene, the man who owned the Durango was standing next to his car with the driver's side door open, getting ready to leave. I opened my car window and shouted, "Hey, please don't leave, I hit your bumper and I want to give you my name and number." He hadn't even noticed I hit his bumper.

I parked my car a little distance away and walked up to him. He was older, had a cane and a worried look on his face. At first I thought he was worried about his car, but it turned out he was worried about me! He smiled at me and said, "Young woman, that was very good of you to come back." (When was the last time someone called me young woman? ha!). When I looked at the damage, I saw that I had scraped the bumper worse than what he realized. He was very kind. Told me not to worry about it, he had an employee who worked on cars and that guy could buff it right out. I looked at the bumper again and knew no buffing was going to fix the scrape. I wrote down my name and my number and gave it to him. He told me he hoped he didn't have to call and thanked me again for being honest.

He called today, and actually started off the call apologizing that he had to call me at all. I said to him, "I hit your car. I will take responsibility for it." He was very nice and we talked for about ten minutes. He told me his friend had buffed out the majority of the damage, but I had scraped off the paint and his friend would try to just sand and paint the area, but it might be that he needs to replace the bumper. I ended the call by saying, "I appreciate your integrity and concern, and I will make sure I take care of what happens. And I'm really sorry I hit your car. Please call me back when you know the cost and what you need from me." He thanked me again, and we hung up.

And so, it looks like the price of integrity might be financially expensive (how much does a new Dodge Durango bumper cost anyhow? ugh). However, it was never about the monetary cost - that doesn't matter; the price of walking away from my integrity would have been much, much higher.


It really was worse than the pic makes it look...

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A letter home


Dear Candace,

I'm curled up in a blanket outside. The birds are chirping and my coffee is almost drinkable. Yesterday, in preparation for Mother's Day, M. planted a bunch of flowers. She insisted we go to look at plants, then picked out a beautiful snapdragon, potted it and put it on the kitchen table. Her love of plants mirrors your own.

Remember that time you came to visit and the plant in my living room was screaming at you that it was dying and you saved it? You were always so in touch with the green world. She's not always as patient as you were with the whispers of the grass and trees and flowers... but in time, I suspect she will hear it more clearly. I signed her up for an organic gardening class next year. It's what you would have done. I don't hear the earthy world as clearly as you did, I've always been more in touch with the watery one. She for sure gets her love of the earth more from you than from me. She doesn't really even like to swim.

She went to her first prom last night. She looked so much like you. It caught my breath a couple of times. She's got your stubbornness, humor, kindness... can you believe she will be 15 next weekend? How did that happen? Only a short time and she will be off to college.

I have the photo of the two of you above my bed. I remember how unhappy she was that day because you took her out of school to get the pics taken and that you didn't care because you knew it was important. You were in the middle of one of the rounds of chemo, but you looked stunning. Probably because you never took a bad photograph!  It's a beautiful photo and it captures the connection perfectly. I have one of your whole family in my office. I look at it every day.

I often find myself remembering what you taught me about friendship. Until I met you, I didn't really understand what it took to be a true friend. You showed me rather than told me - through your actions, your laughter, your anger, your honesty and your kindness - more about unconditional love than anyone I had met. Your spirit showed my spirit its value. I sometimes wonder if you were preparing me to be a better person simply by being with you. You used to say I was the most spiritual woman you knew, that even when I could so easily take the low road, I took the high road. I wish I could say that was true, but friendship sometimes makes it easier to not see another's flaws. If anything though, being friends with you helped me shine all the brighter.

But of all the gifts you left to me, all the life lessons, the memories of swimming at midnight down at the lake, the rehashing of relationships until 4am, teaching me how to be more aware of people, how to weed out the people who were mean or unkind to me... the best gift you gave me was trusting me to raise your daughter.

And in case I didn't thank you enough - not just for all you did for me, but all you did for your family, and for everyone who ever asked anything of you... Thank you.

And thank you for thinking... no... for knowing in your heart I would be a good mother for your daughter. I never thought I would be a mother and when that happened, especially because of how it happened, it simultaneously shattered my heart, and then completely filled it.

I think of you every single day and have a million questions about guys, and life and choices and love and what the heck am I doing? You know... the questions you always helped me find answers for - especially when I started spinning in my head about what to do. You listened, you told me your thoughts and you called me on my crap when I needed it.

I just wanted you to know, even though I believe you already do, she is doing well. I am doing well. We are doing well. And if I am half the mom you were on Mother's Day today... then it is because you were my role model and my best friend.

Miss you,


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Because you can never predict love...


All day long I've wanted one thing. To go to sleep. Went to bed at 9:30. Couldn't shake the feeling I was forgetting something. Finally remembered I needed to put a warm pack on Yannah 's incredibly swollen face. She's sleeping at the foot of my bed, so I got up, warmed a washcloth and prepared for drama.

Instead, as I placed the wash cloth on her face and gently talked to her, she just looked at me. Three times I reheated the washcloth and three times she let me press it against the hard, swollen lump just behind her eye. She never resisted, never whined, just looked so sad and sick. But even feeling incredibly hurt, she still was patient with me and didn't doubt me. She still let me do what I needed to do. And I got teary- eyed.

Because she isn't demonstrative. She isn't overly affectionate. Sometimes I'm pretty sure she isn't even that thrilled to see me, truth is, she kinda likes guys :). But at the end of it all, she knows me. And I know she's hurting. And I know I love her, and she'll get through this just like she did last time. And I know she knows her pack.

But beyond her, I realized tonight my daughter and I couldn't have a better third family member- she's patient, tolerant and other than some chewing issues? The most unassuming member of this clan. And I know now, that while I'm sad she never became a guide dog, I can't imagine my life anymore without her.

I think I can finally sleep.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

I'm an explorer!


That's me on the left and my sis on the right. I was maybe 8 or 9. Skinny! 

I grew up loving exercise.

Okay wait. That is wrong. Let me rephrase that.

I grew up loving to explore.

I can remember being very young, may be 9 or 10? and I would get up at 6am on Saturday, make myself a bullseye (egg in a window, bird in a nest - you know, a piece of bread with an egg fried in the center), and watch the morning cartoons on the tv:  Electrawoman and DynagirlThundercats, Voltron (my favorite was when the spaceships were cats),  Superfriends (with the Wonder Twins of course)... the list could go on, but after cartoon time, I would put on my tennis shoes or my sandals, or my boots, sometimes I'd kiss my mom (who would be up by then with her cigarette and coke) on the cheek and go on a 'walk'. My mother never asked where I was going and knew I wouldn't be home for four or five or even six hours. I was going off to explore. I don't know how she did it - my mother worried about everything. But I guess we lived in a small town and my family lived in a very close community, and she felt safe that nothing would happen to me. As I walked out the playroom door, I would hear her say, "Be home for dinner!" and off I would go.

My walks took hours. I never knew where I was going. Sometimes I'd go behind the community clubhouse and see where that led me, or I'd take the path behind the Cooper's house and go into the woods. I would walk and look at trees and rocks and streams. Sometimes, I'd go to the abandoned tree house in the woods, or sometimes I'd go to the pond down the road. One time, just for the heck of it, I walked all the way into town! Then I called my dad to bring the truck and come and pick me up. Granville, the way I walked, was about six miles from my house. It doesn't seem like much now, but then it was really far away! Sometimes, I would walk in the other direction. Just to explore. Just to see what I could find. I would call my dad from the craziest places, and he would get in the truck and come and pick me up. No cell phones, so I'd have to find a pay phone or ask a stranger if I could use their phone to call my mom. Sometimes I'd have to call collect. Worst case, I'd have to walk home, although I'd try to find a shorter route! Almost always, my mom would answer the phone, I'd tell her where I was and she'd locate my dad and twenty or thirty minutes later he'd pick me up. We'd talk in the truck all the way home. He was never once angry or upset. Sometimes he'd ask how I ended up where I ended up, but since he was the one that had first taken me on long walks at seven or eight years old, he never scolded me for exploring. Some of my best memories are my long walks with my dad.

For me, growing up, Saturday afternoons and Sunday afternoons were times to explore. It didn't really matter the weather, I was out there finding that abandoned building, sneaking into locked houses that were for sale (I have this weird thing where sometimes doors just open for me. Wasted talent!), watching frogs in the pond, finding rocks or cool leaves. The world was my treasure and I just wanted to find out everything I could about it. I explored my world like that until I was 13 or 14, I think.

I don't remember why I stopped exploring. School got harder. I went from not caring that I didn't have a lot of friends, to really wishing I had a lot of friends. I gained a tremendous amount of weight when I turned 15. I was put on a bunch of hormones and steroids which didn't help the situation any. But somewhere in my mid-teens exploring shifted to exercise. To regimented movement. And it didn't take long for me to realize I hated exercise. Maybe the switch happened when I tried out for the track team, someone made fun of my slow running and I quit. Or in gym class when I was afraid to embarrass myself and the gym teacher told me if I wasn't so fat I wouldn't be embarrassed. I don't know. Maybe it was the neighbor boys' endless teasing. Maybe it was the chaos at home, but the net result was that I quit exploring.

And maybe that is the crux of it. I started to see exercise as harmful, not as fun or adventurous. Gym class was an opportunity for others to tease and for me to demonstrate just how uncoordinated I truly was. No one said, "Hey, exercise doesn't mean you have to be able to hit a ball perfectly! Go love what you love! Go swim! Go explore! That is exercise!" I just gave up on moving. And for 30 years I have seen exercise as torture.

Until recently. Until last summer. Until I started running. I didn't love running. But I loved moving. I started to remember how I enjoyed being outside. How I enjoyed exploring. Don't get me wrong, those first months of running were exercise and they were not an adventure! But as I moved, I think I woke up my muscle memory. I started to think about moving not as torture, but as fun. Part of it was seeing my daughter play lacrosse as well. Seeing the girls on the field move in such grace reminded me of the things that made me feel graceful. Swimming, exploring. I think that is why I kept running even when I knew something was wrong with my knee. I was terrified if I stopped running, this fire I was developing for movement would go out. That once my knee started to heal, I wouldn't have the motivation to go back to moving.

Turns out I was wrong. Maybe it was the walk with my friend Lori when I realized I could go much farther than I thought I could. That no one was going to tease or be mean. For 30 years I had held on in my head to what kids in school had said about me - I was fat, ugly, not good at sports, etc. and used it as an excuse to abstain from exercising. Those old recordings in my head faded. I started to hear new ones - or maybe in my case, older ones. The ones that said movement was adventure!

It helped that I had motivation. I took on being a full-time mom. The relationship I thought would last, ended. Somewhere in that mix, I started to get to know my Self again. I unlocked my heart and found that I missed exploring. Not just exercising, but exploring everything about me! Looking in to see what was there. Turns out, exploring showed me that I hadn't always hated my body. In fact, there was a time when I was comfortable in my own body. There was a time when my body didn't feel like my enemy. And I started to embrace my own joy.

That translated into coming to see exercise not as torture, but release! I don't get to explore much right now, seeing as I'm not really allowed yet to go for long walks or bike rides. But going to the YMCA 4 or 5 times a week, putting on my headphones, escaping into my workout mix, singing along in my head, closing my eyes...  I could care LESS if anyone thinks I am weird on my machine sweating until I can barely open my eyes for the salt, exercise has become fun! When I close my eyes I think about all the things I want to do. I think about the people I love. I think about places I want to explore: Africa, or Greece, or Mexico, or Hawaii, or a thousand places! Or even exploring my own back yard. No longer is exercise torture. It is hard work, but I have tapped into that part of myself that remembers how much I love to explore.

I'm remembering what passion feels like. What being alive feels like. What loving myself and the world feels like. In the process of making friends with my body and loving my body and remembering that I am a woman who likes to explore, things have changed.

Exploring my true self and embracing her has made all the difference.