I read something today that shook me. Deep. Way down deep, in a big WTF sort of way... it had to do with the local school wanting to arm security guards. And then I hopscotched to an article about the psychological effect of gun violence, drills, and paranoia on young children.
I don't think I have to describe the feeling inside. I think we all feel that horror; it's a mess. The uncertainty. The rage, the confusion, the sadness.
But, here's what I noticed, as I read through the inter-webs: my father's generation grew up this way, during the Cold War. They grew up (our Baby Booming parents) hiding under their desks, wondering whether bombs would fall from the sky. It was "war time." There was the big button. And then we were into the Cold War.
I had a chat with my Dad about his childhood. And it was so different... this was a war machine, not unpredictable civilians shooting each other and kids in schools and movie theaters. So much is different, but still, there were parallels. Duck and Cover, they called it. They hid under their desks when the sirens went off. They never knew when an air raid might materialize. This generation had its share of anxiety growing up, for sure.
I read here about the fear and anxiety over current politics and threats to our safety, and how they echo the fears of the Cold War era. We are re-living those fearful childhoods, through our baby boomers. It's palpable. The tension, the air thick with the memory of it, of hiding. Are we safe, are we safe?
And on the other hand, we have the current kids. The group my son will be joining in the fall. These kids are in the beginning stages of learning "active shooter drills." The Boomers had fall-out shelters, and now we are talking about "safe rooms." The threat is very different. But the fear is real, for both. I shudder to imagine my son growing up in such fear-based, dark world. And anxiety begins to tug at me, too. But then, I stop. I breathe. I ground myself. And I remember...
My generation is a special one. And I'm definitely talking about my own privileged youth: my friends, my school experience. Of course, not everyone had a positive experience, for personal reasons. But I'm talking about the vibe of the nation. The Reagan Years. We grew up in the age of bliss, in many ways
I watched the first choreographed music video, ever, on MTV (back when they just played music videos) along with many of my Gen X counterparts who were lucky enough to have cable. (You just heard Video Killed the Radio Star in your head just now, didn't you?) Oh - ah- oh...
I grew up with Dolly Pops and He-Man cartoons and Voltron and Smurfs. US in the 80s... in the middle class neighborhoods... there were TVs everywhere. Abundance. Too much, I think. We had it good. New Wave vibes and Boy George and John Hughes films. Lisa Lisa. Janet. Blondie. Bon Jovi. The Rubick's Cube. Watchu talkin' 'bout Willis? Different Strokes. Beepers and pagers. Madonna. Atari... Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger. The arcade. Neon shirts. Webster. Asymmetrical skirts. Princess Di. Skorts. Tina Turner. Scrunchies. Keds. Miami Vice. Knight Rider. Human League. Wham! Bowie. <3 The Go-Gos. Mr. T. FAME! Flashdance. Shoulder pads. PRINCE. Garbage Pail Kids. Whitney Houston. Mr. Wizard's World. Mall bangs. Mr. Rogers. Peak Michael Jackson. We Are the World. Hands Across America. Farm Aid. U2, The Police, Sting. Debbie Gibson. Selena. BRUUUUCE. Weird Al. COMING TO AMERICA. Roller rinks. New Kids and Tiffany... we crossed into the nineties and the Seattle grunge exploded! Kurt Cobain and the Nevermind album, oh my God! Chris Cornell. <3 We met John Mayer. Dial-up internet entered the home.
I could reminisce for hours. There was pretention, to be sure, but I remember the freedom, the bliss, the culture, the abstract art, the vibe... like it were yesterday. I think a lot of us do. TURBO AND OZONE! Sorry, that just slipped out. So, we sort of packed it up inside, and carried it along with us. Many of my counterparts still quote their favorite childhood shows and nostalgia. it was so much a part of us, and it was the beginning of an addiction to technology and instant satisfaction, as well.
For a lot of us, our parents worked outside the home. Latch-key kids. Oh, yes... who else had keys around their necks and walked home from school to empty houses? And usually, that was perfectly safe. Not a care. Our biggest threat was the potential weirdo in a van with candy. We had more TV time and we were a spoiled bunch... What we didn't grow up with...was a looming fear of danger and imminent death. We thought we'd live forever, we were invincible. Our battlefield was Love. <3
And for so many of us, it still is. We are Hippie 2.0, streamlined for greater efficiency. Hyper-Connected. Love x Love X Infinity. Nothing is impossible. Stubborn as all get-out. We will survive. Win. Achieve our dreams. Because better days are possible. We've seen them. Great things happen and dreams come true. And good guys win.
i mean, we wanted to solve our problems with dance-offs...
My point here... is that our kids have an amazing gift, to help them navigate through their childhoods.
They have us. The 80s kids. The Gen Xers. The hope-and-dreamers. The big Lovers. The idealists. We were in a magical sort of bubble, as far as violence went. Sure, skirmishes existed, but not in our backyards. Not at home, not in America. We didn't know about any of that, we were safe. We were eating Fun Dip and Razzles and learning about Aids and safe sex. We were saying no to drugs (well, some of us said yes. No, not me. I was a drama queen, but straight as an arrow.) We learned about global warming for the first time. We were learning joy and empathy, indulgence and moderation, not fear and paranoia.
Granted we still had socio-economic division and racial conflict and all the rest. We had the good ol' haves and have-nots. But we weren't living in a constant fear of destruction. As our parents did, and as our kids are. We're in that blessed middle. It's a sacred space, because we've known innocence. We know hope. We know Light and goodness and abundance and harmony. Believers.
We saw the end of the Cold War. We saw the Berlin Wall opened and then destroyed, joining the east and west. We saw resolution. Handshakes. We saw eruptions of joy, celebration, and community. Acceptance. Understanding between diverse groups. We've seen moments of peace and wonder. We've also seen riots and disruptions and worked to resolve them. And with so many social injustices, there is always more work to do. But we're doing it. Tables are turning, grounds are shaking, and ways are changing. Step by step. We've been taking down walls since the eighties.
Why are we unique? Because we are in the middle. And not in a holier-than-thou-super-special-snowflake way.... but, meaning that we are the balance. We can raise children with tools to dream and believe and hope, and to do the work. To imagine. To create. To manage anxiety and emotional eruptions. We can tell them that human beings can love each other, work together, trust each other, and succeed, together. We can instill them with beliefs that are empowering, because we've been there. We've seen bright times, and we know, they'll come again. We can infuse them with Love, in a time of fear. With our feet on steady ground, filled up with hope and that glimmer of Light and peace-time goodness... we can hold space for our parents and keep them grounded. We can comfort our children and guide them through. And we can continue to dream, hope, and imagine a better and safer world. We've seen glimpses of it. We're the ones. We're those people. We're that generation that guides the ship. That lifts and inspires and motivates and makes.
Change happens. Reform happens. Tragedies happen, but we rise from the ashes and demand change. We rip down walls that separate us, we celebrate each other, we Love.
We Love. And we'll keep on...
The very word makes so many people squirm. (Not you, you just made a rather naughty face, didn't you?)
Laughs aside, I'm not just talking about sex, here. It's much more broad and inclusive than that. As many of you know, I've been on a quest to recover my youthful, more slender, and athletic body. For years.
I've tried vegan (fail). Vegetarian (okay, but cholesterol went up, too many simple carbs, I didn't do it right.) Paleo (success for a year or two, until I quit smoking, and then it stopped working.) Recently, within the past six months, I tried keto. Then to Bulletproof and intermittent fasting. I've officially tried everything.
Looking back, I've been "dieting" since puberty. From the moment my well-intentioned mother noted that my thighs were "getting chunky." I had love handles. I still remember the feeling inside, the introduction of body shame. How rotten I felt, how I wanted to disappear. I don't blame her, that was the culture we lived in. It was the 80s. Thin was in. And she wanted me to be the best I could be. I get it. However...
Here's what I've learned, over the years...
I'd lose about five pounds, quickly, the first week... each time I tried something new. I'd exercise regularly. Each diet called for an uptake in whole foods. Lots of veggies, less processed crap. The rest? It's all just playing with macros. More fats, more carbs, more proteins, whatever. But the underlying principles are all the same: eat more healthy food, move your body, and chill out. That's it. The rest is marketing. And I have nothing against marketing if the product or idea is a healthy and helpful, conscious one. How else do we learn about things that might help us out, save time, point us toward something better? I have no problem with sales or marketing, in general. My point is that there are a myriad number of ways to regain your health. And I'm in it for the long haul. If some diet tells me I'll only eat dolmades every other week on a cheat day, well you can quite respectfully go fuck yourself. Not happening. If some book tells me to cut out coffee, I'll stop reading it. No way.
Diets are repressive. They can be punitive. It means taking away things, to optimize results in a short period of time. They are full of sacrifice and seriousness. Sometimes illness and deficiencies force people into strict diets. I have full respect and admiration for those who make this their lifestyle because it's their purpose in life. They are fitness and health warriors; it's great. But it's just not me. I'm done with extremes. Once I found my inner sanctuary, my healthy middle... I want everything to find balance. Homeostasis is my goal, in me and in my world.
So, here and now... I find myself asking... why diet? Am I healthy? Yes. Healthier than I've ever been. I've learned how to take care of myself. I have hypothyroidism, and I've learned how to navigate that. I can't really claim victim-hood there, anymore. I know what to do.
Beyond that, a few years back, I started to experience anxiety, joint pains, sleeplessness, hot flashes, migraines, acne (!?) and so many other things... that I was convinced had to do with gluten. Or a combination of gluten and hypo, at a minimum. Until I learned about peri-menopause.
Women are very special creatures. We begin as young girls, carefree and learning and absorbing the world. We grow into our bodies and start to become fertile for reproducing. Life! We create life! In our bodies! Goddesses, indeed, and we need very special hormones to do this; so we enjoy PMS and cramps and bloating and all the good things all through our childbearing years. And somewhere around... yes... our forties... our bodies start to change. We lean closer and closer into our non-childbearing years. Now, menopause isn't official until a woman has missed her period for at least one year. (Sexy-face reader is starting to squirm now, I think...periods, what? I've been fooled...)
So, peri-menopause, the time before the change, can last for 10-15 years. And with these slow, subtle changes, deep inside, within our cells and fluctuating hormones... that big change begins. A deep, subconscious anxiety manifests that may take years to name. And it spreads. And it can wreak havoc on our own inner and outer balance. It's so important to see it for what it is, and begin to manage your life, around it. it's real. And it's worth exploring, to get your life back. It's so worth it.
Once I understood what a hot flash was, and correlated it to kundalini and energy and eons of women's storytelling and sisterhood circles... I began to see the patterns. We grow into a different sort of sacred wisdom, as we age. And with that letting go, comes a new wave of creativity. Wanderlust. Art. Raw inspiration. Passion. An innate ferocity rises up. A rebirth, into the life of a cultured and curious woman, leaving the young maiden behind. And the process, as it starts, can be rattling. Life-shaking. it's literally a waking up, into a new chapter of Life. As a new woman. And it can be thrilling and inspired, or moody and repressed. Like anything, it depends upon perspective.
So, that said... I considered that a lot of the issues that I had, might not have to do with gluten. I had never been tested for gluten allergies: I just read the books, and made assumptions. I had a conversation with someone who had true celiac disease. And she salivated at the idea of being able to eat what she wanted, when she wanted. How convenient and wonderful it would be. How she'd never choose to live in such a way, and how challenging it can be. And I thought... here are all these people, on this bandwagon, intentionally choosing to live this way. And why?
I began to research. Ask questions. And experiment with food.
I tried a dish of italian pasta (imported). Bread (whole grain, proper bakery). Sweets. Pizza (drools)... Fine, fine, fine...fine! American boxed processed pastries...not so fine. So, I think American processed wheat has its problems, for sure. I don't know enough to explain it all to you adequately, or why it made me feel gross. You can look that up. But... whole and ancient grains? Especially from the Mediterranean area? I do just fine with them. My body loves them. And they're delicious. Quinoa. Farro. Buckwheat. Couscous. Even some beans, I tolerated just fine. Garbanzo and lentils, do very well. Black beans and cannelini in moderation. Small amounts. I'd read so much about lectins and anti-nutrients and I kept waiting for the discomfort I was supposed to feel. And it just. Didn't. Happen. At first, I felt duped. Then, I felt like celebrating! I CAN EAT CARBS! But I didn't overdo it.
So, I don't have a gluten problem. I have hormone problems, that beg different solutions. I learned that when the woman's body skips a period, for example, estrogen is very low. Estrogen, and balanced hormones, in general, help produce other feel-good hormones. So without that happening, we reach for the fix elsewhere. If we're cutting carbs, we'll keep reaching. This causes stress, cortisol goes up. Weight is retained, for survival. Because I MUST BE DYING to be eating in such a way. I must be starving, so let's hold tight to our water, our salt, our fat, everything... to stay alive. (Listen, this might not be true for everyone. Granted. Maybe you excel on a high-fat, low-carb diet. That's awesome. This isn't about you, so get over it.)
I'M DONE. I'm just done with it. With suffering, with sacrificing, with apologizing for my belly and my love-handles. With hurting myself, denying myself, to fit some stereotypical ideal. I'm done. I'm done suffering.
So, these days, a healthy lifestyle, for me, looks like this:
- daily meditation, sculpting a beautiful and peaceful inner world, first thing
- yoga (sometimes 5 minutes, sometimes 30), dancing (sometimes Shaun T, sometimes my playlist while I freestyle with my boy or without, for fun)
- a balanced, Mediterranean way of eating, with proper portions and occasional indulgences without guilt; lots of fresh, vibrant, living foods, much less meat
- I limit my sugar intake to less than 90 grams per day, usually way less, but never more
- lots of socializing, music, art, creativity, activity, fresh air, and beauty
Once I found a way to allow simple pleasures back into my life... even if that means one cookie after lunch, a glass of wine at night, time out enjoying myself... everything changed. Because I'd learned to handle moderation. The hot flashes slowed and seem to have stopped :knocks on wood:. The plateau broke and I began to lose weight again, steadily. I stopped retaining water. I slept through the night. I can focus and get things done. And I'm not a cranky bitch.
My body was crying out for carbohydrates, for so long... while I starved it, seeking a body that I haven't been in for about 20 years. But, listen, I love this new skin. This body. It made life. It finally doesn't hurt, or ache, and I want to care for that. I will never again take a pain-free body for granted. It's a gift. Am I giving up my healthy lifestyle? Hell no. I'm giving up abuse. I'm giving up workouts that feel like mindless torture. I'm giving up outside programming that doesn't meet my needs.
I choose to feel good. To nourish myself with a wide variety of healthy foods, and to enjoy indulgences, gratefully, with pleasure, when I choose to. To enjoy my body, to move it, to practice what it can do, to honor it. To maintain strength, flexibility, and peace of mind. With a current and healthy purpose, that honors NOW and not my past: to keep up with my son, to sculpt a new and exciting life, to make the most of my moments, to live wildly and joyfully, to explore my creativity, while I can.
We've just all got to find what works, for us. As individuals. That's all. Everything will work... for a while. What works for you... into your nineties? For the long haul? Fasting and binging for me? No. It worked for a little while. Hardcore weightlifting and high protein? No. For a little while. But I want to build lifestyle that will nourish, support, and care for me into the next 50 years. At least. I'm building a healthy and long-lasting relationship, with myself. Tasting, traveling, adventuring, dancing, playing, smiling, laughing. Gratefully. Out loud.
Life is for the living. <3
I recently had a revelation about my fitness goals. And I went hard at it, full steam, for a week. I dropped a pound and a half, I felt all the soreness in the right spots, my posture was better, I had electric energy...I was focused, feeling great. Hopeful. Meal plans and workout routines all over the place, tacked up in order. I had... ORDER. Plans!
At the end of week one, I was supposed to fly out to ATL to see my mother.
It was a TERRIBLE day to fly, the skies were crazy with fog and rain and diverted flights. I had a fantastic sandwich and a coffee, then I felt weary and achey and run down, the longer I waited. Bumped for an hour. No... two hours.
And here is where I shocked myself: I had a niggling feeling, a gut response...that I ought to just go home. I have never done this, ever. Normally, I would continue on, suck it up, grin and bear it. Suffer. And probably be sick when I got to where I was going, and complain all weekend.
But... I listened. And I bailed. it was inconvenient, messy, it was fishing my luggage out of the plane, it was waiting for my ride to come all the way back. But...I trusted my gut.
I got home and collapsed. I was running a fever and from then on I slept and ached for the next three days. But I was so glad that I listened to myself. I couldn't imagine...having to deal with how sick I felt, in another state, in someone's else home. And having to fly back.
It was a tough "no." But a smart one. I lost some money, but I gained incredible peace of mind. And today, I am so grateful to be up and around and back in routine. And yeah...still working out. And more motivated and inspired than ever, to take care of myself. On all levels.
Wow, how often do we say yes, blindly, because we're afraid to rock the boat and make things hard?
Always, always, always trust your gut. It knows... xoxo
Oh...when truth hits you in the face. Do you know what I mean? You've got your reasons, right? The reasons, all sound and practical and proven, why it won't work, can't work, won't ever happen. And then one day, things get jumbled around: up is down, black is white, hope is all around you...and for a second... you try it, and it DOES work. Which turns all those tried and true reasons...into excuses.
What are you talking about, Stacie? Stop dancing around...spit it out...
Okay. I've had these reasons. Why sticking to a good fitness routine just couldn't work:
- I quit smoking, see, and my metabolism sucks, so...
- Who has time? I work. I'm not a stay-at-home Mom!
- Only when my boy is with his Dad, then I can do it.
- Joint pain. Hurts. Ouch.
- Can't afford to keep paying gym memberships and not going.
- Can't do it at home, my son won't sit still while I work out, it would never work.
- I need to write, there's only so much time!
- I'm healthy, my bloodwork is perfect!
I know, it's getting deep in here, right? Deep with BS.
I do believe that we have to want things...in order to commit to them. I believe we have to have the right mindset, we have to want what comes to us on the other side of our goals, we have to be ready for all of it. I believe in timing. All true. So, I don't know if the timing is just magically right...or if I finally just... stopped bullshitting myself. I like to think it's little bit of both. I mean, we don't intentionally get in our own way... it just happens sometimes. We don't see it when we're in it. And if you're me, you don't listen when people tell you that you're in it. You just say whatevs and keep wading through the lovely river De Nial because it's pretty there and the air smells like jasmine and honeysuckle and you don't have to get uncomfortable and exert effort.
Anyway. I'm outgrowing those bits. Shedding 'em like old skin.
I reached a milestone at the end of last year. It was a tough year in many respects, but also one that was filled with so much growth and expansion. Travel. Wonder. Connections. New experiences. New faces. Change. Pain. Hurt. Healing. Anxiety. Meditation. Massage. Reiki. More healing. So much healing. But... by the end of the year, I was at a good place... physically, mentally, emotionally. The trifecta! I felt as if...it was all coming together. Finally. My trip out west to see the horses really pulled it all together, in a beautiful way. They carry great medicine, these animals, and that's not just flowery talk.
Also, had I passed another birthday. Another year? They go faster and faster, don't they. And I knew that I wouldn't waste more time. I reflected back on 2015, a big year of changes and dramatic weight loss and pushing out boundaries and facing fears, and so many other things. And I always attributed my weight loss (95 pounds) to stress and smoking a few cigarettes every day. But... in retrospect, I remembered that I was doing hours of cardio every night. On top of spending hours packing, moving, repairing things, and walking. And working. And walking. And parenting. And writing. And walking. And writing. I was constantly moving. It wasn't the damned cigarettes. It was me.
I thought about that. And I figured... well... if that was me then, I could do it again. I had a much simpler and more concise goal, then. It was almost... survival... to keep moving. There is something to be said for that primal surge of energy, that momentum, that movement... in search of something or when running from something. That drive, the compulsion, the obsession, in it. And there was the issue... I'd grown too comfortable. I was tucked up in my hammock, relishing on the fruits of my labor, no longer running toward or away from anything. I was still. Being. Watching. Listening. Lazing.
I think everything happens for a reason and that I needed that time. I do. I think...I needed to go through the ups and downs, the trials, the surprises, the spiritual study, the internal healing, the quests, the mistakes and misjudgments, the letdowns and embarrassments. I think they all built my inner strength. I think that time focused and rejuvenated my mind, protected my healing heart, and reconnected me with my soul.
Because here's something I've learned, or rather, remembered: our bodies learn quickly and our muscles remember what we ask them to do. The challenge is in the mind. So it is with everything. Will I do what I said I would do? Or will I give in to quicker, easier fixes? It's not about the actual physical movement; it's not about the sweat. It's about the choice, the follow-through, and the resolve to finish. The mindset.
Every time I press play or lace up my sneakers, now, I hear myself...inside my own head: "how I do this, is how I do anything." I don't run or ride a bike, but I do hike, and it's what I said over and over as I hiked through Mashomack, alone, in cold, harsh November air. Whenever I hike the greenbelt. When I foolishly schlepped my luggage up seven steep blocks of San Francisco streets, when I was supposed to be resting from whiplash injuries. When I walked the northern tip from Embarcadero to the Presidio. When I explored the Pacific shore for hours, along Fort Ord's dunes... up and over jagged rock and sand. When I crept out of Austin's city streets and down to the river, into the woods, to the edge of the park, in unexpectedly stifling heat...without a bottle of water, and then all the way back again. Schmuck. And when I hike...anywhere, really. Yeah, the scenery is different, and nature compels me and invigorates me, for sure, but really...it's all the same. Start, continue, finish, stretch, hydrate. HYDRATE. And replace the negative talk inside my head with positive words. Just keep going. You're almost there. You can do hard things. It's funny...I had to travel all over the country to teach myself such simple discipline. Huh.
Also, here's the kicker: for a hoot, I loaded up a home workout and let my little boy in on it. Just to see...
"Mommy is going to do her exercise now, okay babe? Can you read those books, and do your legos for a bit?"
"Okay, Mommy." He was curious. "What exercise? Like this?" And he did his fancy yoga moves, from daycare. Can it be this simple?
The thing is... he watched the workout. And he watched me. He wasn't playing, reading, building, or doing anything... but watching me workout. He was learning. Imagine? I always say that everything is our teacher... so yeah, that applies to him, too! I even heard some "go Mommy!" And "this is how to be a hero! Yeah!" <---- PJ Mask thing. Honored to be among the ranks of Gekko, Owlette, and Catboy.
I think back to sneaking a smoke behind the garage. Washing my hands afterward, so he couldn't smell it, feeling like a dirty criminal. Vapes and oil and mood swings and more excuses. And how... if I didn't make the conscious choice to change... in so many ways... that is what he'd be learning from me. Smoking. Playing small. Hiding. Apologizing. Giving up. Eating crappy food. Laziness. Excuses. The opposite of what I'd come to recognize as... simple self-love. Nurturing. Replenishing. Nourishing. Strengthening. Persevering.
And here I was, coming through for me... and teaching him, simultaneously. Wow.
He can't wait to get his own little dumbbells and he's already practicing pushups. And PS, loves to box?! He was getting out his Lego-won't-work-angst by throwing jabs and hooks and uppercuts at my hands. He's got some fire in him.
And I said...what? What did I say? It would never work? Famous last words...
What the hell was I waiting for?
Ready or not...just like that, a new chapter begins...
Into the Wild
The more I simplify, the more I see.
It's not about you, it's not about me.
It's not about the gods and idols
in which we might believe.
It's about Life. Spirit. Art.
People. Nature. Energy.
The rest tends to become a bit noisy.
But the wind, the Sea,
the cool Earth, they calm me.
The fire that begins such
a dance of divine alchemy.
Birdsong at sunrise.
The wolves howling at dusk.
Hawks circling, deer hiding,
and horses running wild.
The innocence in the eyes
of a sweet, young child.
Yes, the more I simplify,
I see it's not about such idle wishes.
Life is for the living and exploring,
it's for creating, and not for waiting.
I can see exactly how I've gotten here.
It's never too late to take the Captain's seat
S. Hammond, 2017
My own nonsense to share...
Was off tech today. Lots of running around. Also, recovering from last night:
Pizza. Also, loafing and binge-watching TV. The winner? Fringe. From the pilot, and a few episodes in. I think I want the box set. Such good writing and acting.
I was halfway self-loathing and judging as I sat there, in a heap of laziness - cozy blankets piled high, fuzzy socks on my feet. "Get up, go do something, write something. Create! You're a sloth. Get up!"
Then, I was so mad at myself for negative self-talk that I grabbed some ice cream. It just all went downhill...I was up way too late, numbing myself. It had been a rough few days, emotionally. I was stuck. Not writing, not working out, not juicing, not anything-ing. Just sitting there, letting my inner weakness have its way with me. I let it all go and binged.
Today, in my crap-food hangover, as I bought new boots (just threw my last holey and soggy pair in the trash) and drove around enjoying the sunshine...I felt great. I'd given in to myself, after all. I threw a proverbial virgin into the volcano. I ate the pizza and it was good (this excuse only works in NY, where the pizza is phenomenal.)
I woke up, and was right back on track. One bad night, and not giving in to a reckless weekend, etc... It was a blanket-fort night, with all the trimmings. And that's okay.
I think that's huge. Allowing our crumbles and making peace with them, and moving right along. Also... I feel it was all for my own good, bear with me:
In watching Fringe I reconnected with my Joshua Jackson fan-girling of yesteryear. I looked him up, saw how he's jaunting through India chasing elephants to help preserve their herds and bring awareness. WOW.
Boom...clarity. Right back into Wild Horses and lots of writing. Charged up. THE HORSES!
Funny. Life will always kick your ass back to where it's supposed to be. Even if you eat pizza. All is well. xoxo
A few weeks ago, I was on the west coast chasing horses. It was a dream; a magical and inspired adventure. I made new friends, I fell in love with photography as an art, and more than that... these horses. This was on private land, and they're given hay, and checked on often. But they're as wild as they can be; in a world that hunts them down by helicopter and pushes for their euthanizing. It makes me all the more grateful for rescue groups like Return to Freedom who hosted me for this photo tour.
I went out there because I am writing about the free spirit itself: the untamed, free-willed, creative magic, within all of us (though I'm writing for women). I write about the symbolism; the shamanic inspiration and medicine that these beautiful animals give us. I dreamt of them for weeks. I had a vision of two horses; one black and one white, and they showed me the simplest truths about Life. I wrote it all down, and of course it'll be in the book.
Out there, in California, we rode in a safari buggy (I forgot what they called the vehicle) and had a picnic lunch in the hills of San Luis Obispo... so it definitely wasn't jumping out of pickup trucks in the wilds of the Sierra Nevadas... but there were sacred moments, to be sure. With the animals. Inspired, beautiful, connected moments.
It was hard, for me, in general, to think about. Something so majestic, fast, intelligent, and wild... rounded up and put behind fences. For us to gawk at. When they were once so unbridled and free. I apologized for my species, mentally, as we approached them. And I asked each one for permission, with gratitude, as I took their picture. One of them will be on the cover of my book; I'm grateful that one of my new friend yelled "stop," as he spotted the great scene on top of the hill. And we all got busy snapping photos. It was a surreal and moving experience and was the perfect culmination to a year of exploration and seeking wildness. And while all my previous travels were planned and calculated, this last trip... was last minute and unplanned, which added an extra dash of magic to it.
But as with any journey, it came to an end. I found myself back in routine, back behind a desk, coming down with a virus, tending to a sick child, and my whole world slowed down and became obligation after obligation, once again. And this happens, for those of us who juggle their wild with pieces of family life and steady income. I had all but forgotten the wonder that I was so lucky to experience. Just a few weeks ago.
It was time to sit my ass down: to fine-tune, tweak, and edit Wild Horses & Mistakes. I had everything I needed... I just wasn't ready for it to be over. When I woke each morning, I'd be walking out of the mist from some dusty mountain pass, with dirt on my knees, wind tangling my hair, sun in my eyes, hawks circling overhead, and horses... running free. Stopping for just a moment, to throw me a glance. So, I wouldn't forget. And I haven't and I don't believe that I ever will. It was an experience that changed me and expanded my art. It pushed out my edges. I vowed to buy a new camera, with the right lenses, and I was already planning a trip to find some wolves upstate, and there would be more horses. Perhaps next year, I'd be one of the ones jumping out of pickup trucks to capture their real magic. I felt on fire, inspired, alive with art and creation and hope and the sheer awe of nature and wildness. But as the mundane routines churned on, the wildness waned. As it does.
So, instead of knuckling down and finishing this book, I let the allure of shiny things pull me away for a while, because it meant creating. So, I poured myself into a side project, for days, uploading, rearranging, fine-tuning, creating, writing. Making. Making something new. Being that I have laryngitis and can't sing... web-building was my next best thing. And when it was done, this little in-between thing, I saw the pages staring at me again. Finish me...
It's never easy putting a project to bed, changing gears from wild creativity to honed seriousness and minutiae. Shifting back into the narrow boxes of ego and planning and strategy and business. It's just not easy for me, but I know it's a necessity... in order to set this project free. And it will do more good out there, then stuck in this old laptop.
I look out and see the others, my kindred, the seekers, those in wanderlust: traveling, experiencing, being, doing, sharing...and I find the inspiration to dive back in. To make real my experience, through my words. It was a gift to witness these horses and I do plan to make it a more common experience... with wildlife and natural spaces, in general. That which we focus on...grows. I am a conservationist, and I'm trying to be diligent about where my energy goes.
I'd been wriggling around trying to figure out how to encapsulate and stretch that feeling, that wildness, that wonder. And the answer was so simple that I overlooked it. The answer was art. It's why we paint, draw, write, sing, dance, shoot photos, or create anything... to capture moments and stretch them out. To take that wildness, that rawness, with us. So we don't forget.
So, stay creative, out there. Stay wild. xoxo
Hi. That's me. Baby me. Toddler me. Right about the age my son is now. The seventies, man. My brother had given me a haircut, *just before* school pictures. Mom was pleased. :sarcasm font: I think it worked for me.
1970s... Avocado greens and chocolatey browns and burnt oranges and that putrid vomit-colored maize-yellow. Bell-bottoms. My Mom's disco albums. Yeah, vinyl. I learned to dance the Hot Chocolate from one of them. I learned about (and fell in love with) Donna Summer from another.
I saw my grandparents a lot. I had one grandmother who delivered Avon, knew everyone in town (and they still mention her, to this day) and she lived in house dresses (look it up, they're like mu mus..) I had another grandmother who was a NOW (National Organization for Women) cardholder, worked in the city, commuted in sneakers and changed to pumps at the office, knew all the subways, and took us to see Broadway shows once a year. One was Grandma...one was Mimi. Can you guess who was who?
I loved them both, dearly. But I associated with Mimi the most. Honest. Eye-rolling. Sharp-tongued. A riotous and often inappropriate sense of humor, behind closed doors. She was the one who'd laugh so hard that tears would stream down. I get my fire, my sass, my passion, the marinara in my veins, my joie de vivre...from that side. The Italian side.
My other Grandmother, on my father's side (British/Dutch/Canadian)... had lessons to teach, just in her presence. In her stories. I wouldn't appreciate them until much later. They lived hard through the depression, my father's parents, and they both worked at Grumman. They had four boys, and they both worked, and rarely saw each other. They were scrappy, they had to be. They were thrifty, because they learned to be. My grandmother, boy, she could... make a dollar holler. She hit up garage sales, tag sales, thrift stores, and always gave to others the little that she could. We often got new school clothes from the rag bag (donated clothes that we got from the church in Glen Cove, cheap). So she'd often give us things to help out, even though they weren't Rockefellers, either. She wasn't a barrel of laughs or charm or high-fashion. She was a tough old broad. She got hit by a Mack truck crossing the street and broke a hip, in her... sixties? She was up an delivering Avon again, pretty soon after. That's how she was. Tough as nails. Vocal. Opinionated. In your face if you didn't submit. I get my grit and low-bullshit-meter from her.
My childhood was informed by some powerful women, although I didn't see it at the time. I won't tell you about MY mother, because, well, she's alive and well and reads this and it's just none of your business.
But my grandmothers: one was fighting the patriarchy, working, earning her worth as best as she could, trying to lift that glass ceiling up... just a bit. Caring for herself, putting herself first. She came from an Italian family that let the boys go to college and the girls... learned to cook and keep a husband happy. From the get-go, she said... "this stinks." She just knew how wrong it was, how it didn't align with who she was. My mother's side is where I get a lot of my... resistance to conform into a role. Like Becky Sharp, Scarlet O'Hara, Jo March, and so many other controversial figures of women in literature. I will hardly just go and be a wife... Because this fire burns inside... for more. For passion, for exploration, for challenge, for vibrance, for intellect, and color and travel and excitement. For a LIFE, not a sentence.
And I think, through most of her life, (I have a recording of an oral history I did with her, that I cherish), she silently stewed and let a fire grow inside, that would emerge later. And it did.
They're both gone, now, all of my grandparents are, and I feel it's okay to discuss them here.
So entwined with my current writing, Wild Horses and Mistakes, I set out on an intentional journey... call it shamanic, call it psychology, call it catharsis, call it healing the inner child, call it whatever you want... it's all the same to me, with different labels. We are but a story, and we can revisit our stories and pull meaning out, to inform the present. It's all a big spiral dance, around and around and around.
We go through childhood and collect all these stories, these ideas, that other people make up about us, and if we already feel small... we believe them. And it takes years and years of crawling out of those stories, and becoming our own people.
I can see it now, the whole pattern, as it's taught to us (of course, not everyone follows this):
birth: we're given a name, an identity, and put into the "system"
school years: our teachers teach us to memorize things, and often scold us for our originality or finding our own answers. We're often dumbed down for being resourceful or creative. It must be done their way, or we get "bad marks." So, we must get good marks, and so we conform. And often, if we're lucky, we find those one or two special teachers or counselors, that connect... and keep us going.
college: optional, but many take this route. To... fit the right mold to get the right job, to "be what they want," so they get hired to work for someone else's dream.
then...marriage, kids, two cars, vacations: and so we get out of school, we find careers, we find a partner to play this game alongside us. And for a while it's good, life is good. We played a good game, we got there! We did it! We ticked off everything on the card, look!
And then... those lost embers of glowing imagination, of magic, of dreams, of non-conformity start to bubble up through the cracks and demand change. This isn't what I thought. I did everything right, how come I'm not happy? I have a good life? Enter the mid-life crisis. Sometimes, if they're lucky and already have a healthy relationship, couples ride through it together and they both change. Often, they split because one will not change for whatever reason. Or worse, they stay together, yet grow apart, living a show within a show, for the kids, for the neighbors, and everyone is miserable.
Or... maybe you're still single, and none of that affects you at all, and you just feel like you're in a hamster wheel. Waiting for real life to start. For that ship to come in. For something to finally make sense and give you the unmistakable direction that you've been seeking. We've a got a wacky sort of society that breaks us apart and we scramble to put ourselves together again, later in life. And some of us don't make it that far, we become that system and lose our identities, altogether. (But not really, I truly believe that there is always a spark that stays lit.)
I'm not sure what I'm rambling about today, it feels a bit messy. And maybe that's the point, but it has to do with childhood, dreams, and how our fears and self-esteem are managed. I look at this little bright-faced girl and I wonder how she did it. How did she make it to now? And she can't tell me, because she had no idea. She was a child. Innocent. She just woke up and showed up. it was later that she started hiding and living in made-up worlds that made much more sense.
I've been doing this work, this self-study, this inner-journey for a few years now. And at the outset, it was about the present and the immediate stresses of life. And then it was about adulthood, in general, and then adolescence. And so on. It's like time-traveling, revisiting my life, all the way back to here... to early childhood. I think deep within each of us are these innocent children who want to play, dream, fly, sing, dance, and maybe see outer space. And it doesn't always work out that way, because we start believing in the limitations that others give us, throughout our growing up.
And this... is the mess. The bags, the burdens, the stifled dreams in our backpack, that we walk through life with. Unrealized dreams. Attention not given. Perceptions of love withheld. Mistakes, abuses, pain, trauma, fear. Carried forward, in our bones, in our minds, in our memories. Our...mess.
I first got into this intentional self-development, living with my eyes and heart wide open, fully aware, life-out-loud, hoping to heal. To get there. To that place, where I healed it all. And life would be a walk in the sunshine where nothing caused me trouble anymore, because I did all my work. Yay, I'm fixed, let's go heal the world! :throws glitter in the air:
:insert ironic laugh here:
No, unfortunately. And for me, freedom, epiphany, boundless creativity, inner change and transformation comes not in my ultimate and grand healing... but in deep acceptance that I will always have this pack on my back; my mess. My stuff. That stuff can change, things go in, things come back out. New experiences and joy go in, fear and pain go out. But then with adventure comes risk, and more sometimes more pain, so in that goes. And this, I think, is Life. That pack will always be there, it's my story, it's who I am and where I've been. And stories change... I'm constantly emptying and refilling the pack. But I'm owning it. Seeing it, knowing it, being with it. And traveling along anyway, open and trusting, knowing that pack will always be there. And that's okay. Because we've all got one. And I start thinking more about... searching through each other's backpacks rather than... feigning perfection. Because it's a lie. One I won't buy anymore.
And that little girl? That young, sweet, innocent little Stacie? She's still in there and when she's scared or nervous or overly exuberant or excitable, I just carry her too, with everything else. I pick her up, hold her close, and carry her with me (symbolically, of course). Because I can keep her safe and I can do my best to bring her what she wants. I think that's what all of our anxieties are about, really. That little young boy or young girl that has fears and anxieties and doubts and worries... but also, also... big dreams and hope and resilience and magic and wildness and that wonderful, playful, beautiful optimism.
Hello, heart. I see you. I'm listening.
It's been a minute.
I've been doing lots of reflecting, writing, regrouping, lately. As I reflect over the past year, what I've done and seen, what I've learned, where I've traveled, what I've come to see and understand about myself, and about my perceptions of others... I am just blown away, at the process. At who I am now, when I look back at who I was then. I've made another lap around the circle. The absolute truths I knew then, versus the illuminated and ever-changing perspectives that I have now. Oh, these blessed spirals.
And I'm writing through all of it:
Wild Horses and Mistakes: The Year I Followed My Bliss, Accomplished Absolutely Nothing, and How it Changed My Life Forever
(Subtitle is a bit long...it's in progress, but that's the feel of things.)
Meaning, I didn't "do" anything but choose myself, my priorities, my health, my joy, my creativity. I didn't have a list to tackle or a pile of to-dos and must-haves. I followed my heart, my intuition. My wild horses. And that's a concept, in and of itself. It's never just about the horses, is it?
Anyway, I know you'll enjoy getting under the hood, peeling back my chest-plate and seeing my heart and my reassembled guts in this new sacrifice to the Gods of Creativity and Musing. I can't wait to share it and set it free, but I am deep into revisiting, mindfully, each place, chapter, and section.
The Soul writes; the ego edits.
The past year has had me up in the clouds, soaring with birds of prey as they watched the wilds below. Galloping across rugged terrain, not knowing where I was going, stopping at water holes, weathering storms and fire, and just knowing that I'd get there. Somehow. It's had me waking in new places to new faces, smelling and sensing and feeling new things, absorbing new vibrations, and healing on levels so deep that I didn't think I'd ever reach them. It's had me shatter illusions and chase new ones, only to see them disintegrate in my fingers and drip slowly out of my hands, back into the seamless expanse of energetic alchemy that surrounds us. Constantly. And it does. We are, at all turns, exactly where we need to be.
Hold out your hand, take one step, and begin. It really is that simple.
We are sublime players and doers and crafters and actors and creators...who can, at our best, move effortlessly through what may feel like a heavy minefield of pain, disappointment, shattered hopes, dramatic fears, deep loss... and we can get through, easily, with all that we need... when at our best, most true versions of who we are, as living, breathing, dynamic, sensing, beings.
The past year in question began last fall with a trip out to the east end of Long Island, the furthest trip I'd taken solely and purposefully on my own... it was an hour or so away. I stayed in a bed and breakfast and unearthed a sacred chest full of memories, pain, stories, and experienced powerful growth. And that trip began a quest, a Campbell-esque journey of my own. Because I saw that not just solitude, but the allure of the new and strange and unknown, brought the most amazing spiritual insight. In the way of facing our own demons, our most disturbing beliefs about ourselves and each other. Because it's all thought, really. Perception and response.
And I can't possibly sum up in one blog post all the truths I've witnessed, the stories I've rewritten, the deep healing, the pain. The numbing, seething, darkest pain that I never thought I'd see eye to eye again. And meeting it, head on... and surviving through it. And the freedom in that. Finding the most special souls who understood what I was experiencing, as I experienced it. Possibly keeping me in one piece and lending me their strength. Flashlights. Candles and Light and Love and symbolism and reminders and guidance and whispers and hope... and faith. Always faith. Just... keep... going. And the passing of Life before my eyes as we got rear-ended and sent back to the starting gates, at the peak of Bliss and perfection and understanding. Always, the pendulum swings. And the gratitude for those setbacks, for those life-changing illuminating moments: that remind us in such a powerful, unmistakable way... what is truly important.
Self, family, friends, community. And living through to heal. When we take that often painful, scary and tumultuous journey within, to know ourselves, deeply... we begin to heal. In healing ourselves, we heal others. But also, we heal the karmic past, the residue, the eons of pain that lingered heavy in our bones. Women who came well before me and were stricken down and cut out for their wisdom. And the gift that these times bring, in carrying that wisdom forward. In never letting that Light die.
I could write for days about it, and I do, in this new project. I write about a lot of things, though, because really... it's about a divine and very human balance. It's about seeing energetically and intuiting and listening, but it's about using that insight to sculpt the present moment, here and now. It's about meditation and self-love, and also about using your voice and knowing when to let your tiger teeth show, just a little. it's about loving and doting and giggling and cherishing our babies and kids... and knowing that we can also plan and strategize, make the right decisions, and plant our feet firmly in soil, getting it all done, while we dance in the clouds, looking down upon it all in gratitude. It's about a healthy, grounded, free-flying balance of all things. It's about equilibrium, and what it takes to find the right balance, for each of us. Because it's different. That's the key. One doesn't suit all. That's why we do this work. It's why I do. To find what works for me, and to utilize it here, now, in my Life, in my world, for myself and for those that I love. it's about authenticity. Truth.
Wild. It's not about being reckless and obnoxious and surly and crude and promiscuous. Although it can be, without apology, but not always. For me wildness is about nature. That includes human nature. Just as a wild mare runs through a barren landscape, she knows to stop for water when she sees it. She knows to rest. She knows to protect and teach her little ones. She knows when to run and when to fight. Intrinsically, it's in her nature. It's in her wildness.
So, finding our wildness I think, is more about finding...ourselves. And listening.
Good things coming. Wild Horses is writing itself, and I'll not rush it. But it's coming, more every day. Writing it, living it, has changed me. It's brought me back to my natural, wise-woman-wildness in all the most beautiful ways.
somewhere, out there
is a Love that is bigger
than what we Fear
bigger and broader than our
our grandiose, religious
oft' arrogant misgivings
our pointing, our preaching,
somewhere, out there
under this luminous Moon
is someone fighting the sharp knives of disillusionment, too
there are more of us, everyday
and sweeping the rest of it away
rise above the narrow rules set forth
when we were mere young fools
Great Spirit, Unconditional Love, have come through many great Ones in our time, here
to hold one over the other, to elevate idols,
to worship one and condemn another,
is to perpetuate further division
and so it goes
division begets divison
hate begets hate
arrogance begets more arrogance
when all we really ever need is Love
to be seen, accepted, acknowledged, appreciated
Indeed, Love...is all we need
if we could see beyond those surface, material ties
we are but one people, connected eternally, energetically, divided by labels and lies
if all of it were to vanish,
and we were left with
You and Me
no churches, no government
no internet feeds, no programmable TV
could we eat, play, ponder, gaze, survive, and love?
of course we could
and we have done
the way forward is with Love
the way forward
is as One