I've turned a corner...
I used to think saying NO to things meant depriving myself, punishing myself. I think I've finally flipped it... meaning... that I can say NO to simple pleasures now, for greater rewards later. I think I've been working on learning this for decades. I've made many small steps and some large steps in this regard. And I just keep packing the lessons and resilience in that good ol' pack on my back, and sharing as I go, because... I share. I'm a sharer. If I could benefit from what I learn, so can someone else, somewhere, and we're all in this together, right? Right.
So. Delayed gratification.
I can't help but think about Sawyer from Lost and his "long con:" Get in there, down n dirty, do the work, stick to it, don't make a fuss about it, play the part... and at the end, it will all pay off. The big reveal. Of course, conning people is dishonest and gross, but you see where I'm going with this.
It's about the long game. The long game takes faith, persistence, and a willingness to get uncomfortable and really, really, honest with yourself. it takes seeing your weaknesses, your limiting beliefs, your nonsense. All the bullshit. The long game requires the gift of perspective, the wisdom of knowing how the journey works, and the foresight to keep going, knowing... it's just plateau, a pause, a minor setback, or a distraction. The long game... takes commitment. Investment. Patience. Focus and intention. And purpose. Why do it at all, right? For me? Well, it's to be an example, it's to prove... that people can transform. That dreams come true, that visions can come to pass. For my son, most of all, but for anyone, really.
And getting this into my stubborn head means... I become limitless. In a way. Seeing the circle, the journey-path, the circular nature of growth and working toward any significant goal... understanding how I work, how to manage anxieties when they bounce up, how to navigate around resistance, how to find my own center, my own peace, despite the rest, well... I can put any goal into that circle, now. See? Maybe only one at a time, because, busy-working-Mom, but still...
- time management
- creative goals
- fitness goals
- side gigs
Anything, really. Pick one... get started... and get ready for the circus. It all becomes much more doable and possible... once you get how it works. But you don't get to that level of knowing how it works, without continuously trying things. Again. And again. And again. And again...until you see the patterns.
Easy? Nah. Possible? Yeah. Been off sugar for a few days now and I feel fantastic. I thought I felt great before, but... now I remember why I loved Paleo so much and got such great results. It's just better for my health, and the temporary indulgences... are illusions. I think I had slowly become addicted to sugar again, without realizing it. In any event... no cookies unless I make them myself. With like... almonds and cocoa butter and coconuts or whatever. You know.
SO there it is. My son is calling me away for a transformers parade in the other room, so... SOUL COOKIES. xoxo
I can't concentrate.
I have plenty of time. Little man is with his Dad. Laundry is done. My little foot heater thingy is on. A warm blanket on my lap. Hummus and veggies, ice water, a big comfy pillow. My Beans on my feet (my favorite LL Bean moccasins). All the things. I have all the things. And I am re-reading the same blasted paragraph over and over and over again, thinking about monkeys and spaceships and whether I'd like those steamed bun things GHT keeps talking about in their social, and whether to make those "poop" cupcakes for my kid, and that I really, really, do want chocolate. But I have "poop" in my head now, and who the hell came up with that? Stupid. Chocolate and poop should not go together. Just stop. I don't care if 4 year old boys think it's funny, they don't know things, they're 4. It poisons my chocolate experience.
I was hungry though. So, I thought... eat. Get food. I ate the food. Back to the script... still stuck. Dipped into the social again... NO, DON'T... I know. I did though. :shrugs:
Emma Gonzalez, you have my heart in the pocket of your rad, torn and shredded jeans. I wore those in the 80s, girl. Donnie Wahlberg style, but we won't talk about that. You're a force of nature and you've got the breath of the divine in you, no doubt. I can't imagine what you're all going through, I'm not in those rooms with you. I have so much Love for you and all these kids, ALL the kids. SO much. And I wish I was there in the park with you. And here's something silly... I have #March guilt. Or, more to the point, non-march guilt. I remember back in 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, going in to protest the war in Afghanistan, with a friend from school. We were ducking helicopters so we wouldn't be caught smoking our Parliaments on TV, because... we were idiots. #priorities Whatevs. But the raw energy, the movement of that day... being a part of something, part of a collective voice, that was so much bigger and stronger than we were... it was powerful. And I wanted to support these students, I wanted to be there.
I clicked a FB event, saying that YES, I was "interested." I'd go to a march. I'd support these kids, their trembling voices, their righteous and real tears. I would go. I wanted to go. Sisters, friends, compassionate hearts gathered in Central Park... I am WITH YOU, I will bleed with you, feel with you, heal with you! LET LOVE RULE!
And the day came... and I was at the beach, ocean-side, planting grass on the south shore, with hundreds of girl and boy scouts. Huh? So, what happened?
My best friend ever, decided a few years back to go back to school. It was a crazy-proud moment for a bestie to have. I gushed like any good bestie would, support her all I can, and I buy her lunches and food and stuff sometimes cuz... students be poor. I get it, I was there. Sandwich years. It's hard to change your life. And it's been a long road for her, going back, as an adult, when she could've surrendered to her station (<---- bullshit, no such thing) and gotten a mediocre job. She's rocked it, hard. And she deserves every accolade. So, when she wanted to volunteer for the Town and plant some dune grass, cuz that's who she is... hell yeah. Let's go. Cuz that's what besties do. She needed me, and Emma Gonzalez wouldn't know if I was missing...so... it was actually very cool. I had no idea that locals did this: replanting sea-grass along the sand dunes on coastal beaches to help with land erosion. Go Gaia. <3
And the whole thing... this whole week... student protests, gun reform, college years, finishing this book, it's all got my wheels spinning all over the place. Remembering my own path... to get to right now...
To have the time (which is a resource) to create...anything... is indulgent, indeed, in a world where many can't eat or get clean drinking water and still struggle for survival. I'm always looking to improve and grow and create, create, create...because I can't not. But... I sure as hell appreciate how far I've come, and where I'm at, and what my blessings are. And we can be grateful while reaching forward for more. We can be both.
Oh, the odd jobs I picked up. Cleaning my pops' house for allowance. The babysitting. Blockbuster Video days were good times with great friends and shitty hours, and I loved it. Late nights and cheesy diners with solid people. And I remember working at a local bakery, for the female equivalent of the soup-nazi. This broad was ferocious. "DECRUMB THAT PLATE, SAVAGE! SMILE BIGGER, BIGGER, NOT THAT MUCH. No cookie for you!" I'm exaggerating. But wow, I still have nightmares, sometimes. I got my hand stuck in a gigantic, evil, fresh-orange-juice machine. It was intense. I started writing my first-ever novel there, which will never see the light of day. Ever. But the things college students put up with... Anyway. I did what I had to do... to get through school. Because I was hungry. Like Scarlett ripping down her mother's drapes and scrapping for every financial opportunity, I was just hungry.
"As God is my witness, they're not going to lick me..." - Gone With the Wind
So, I appreciate anyone who goes through it as an adult: it's degrading and humiliating and isolating and wonderful and inspiring and magical, all at once. And it was worth it, in so many ways.
Higher ed is about so, so, so much more than that piece of paper. That's honestly the last thing it's about. Schools, in general, are a microcosm. A training ground. We learn who we are, what we're good at, we learn to form relationships, we get exposed to new writers, artists, thinkers, new ideas. We learn debate, we learn to form concise arguments based on critical thinking, not just blind repetitious rhetoric and nonsense. We learn originality over regurgitation. We learn to write, really write. To craft structure, narrative, flow, semantics, grammar, usage, and proper spelling. We learn the mechanics of language, and get real-time critique, and the motivation to improve our craft. We get exposed to philosophy, we learn that people have been pondering what we ponder since the first fool looked up at the night sky! We get exposed to new and different people and peer groups. We learn... our story. That of humanity, as much as we can, through observation, study, science, and art. We learn to discuss. We learn to form a skillset. We learn to evolve. We appreciate our minds, we honor science, we celebrate creativity and the freedom to express. It's about so much more than books and paper.
Any good college ought to teach its students how to think, debate, reconcile, come together, move forward, and solve problems. Mine did, at least. And it was a simple state school, right here, in New York. Because we get out what we put in. And when I finally went back to school, mid-late twenties? I was all in. For me, for my future, whatever it looked like.
Because I'd been so broke that I couldn't get my last 7 bucks out of an ATM. Because I ran out of that last package of Ramen and I was always run down and sick, because I was malnourished. Because I couldn't afford a doctor, and my medical issues were real and needed real care. Because I lost an uncle to cancer, then a grandmother to a broken heart, and she spoke often about the great privilege that I had as a woman... being able to get an education, how easy I could have it, and how I should soak up every scrap that I could because women before me fought hard for it. Just...for the opportunity, that I pissed away right after high school. There were so many reasons... but I'm glad that I went back.
I started at a community college. The n'er do well, the screw up, the black sheep, the class-cutter, dark and brooding, borderline/suicidal songwriter, that weird sullen kid who thought the world was against her... went back to college and got straight As and charmed her teachers, with a smile. Because I wanted to be there. It's funny, looking back... and knowing where I am now.
I wanted to be an advertising executive back then. Skirt suits and power pumps and print ads... A city girl. A loft on Madison, a weekend house in the mountains. I wanted to design a commercial, with my own slogan, for a top brand, to air during Superbowl. That was my big dream when I started college, after years in retail management. I didn't want to sell, on the floor... that was peanuts, I wanted to sell brands, I wanted to entice entire social groups and drive their customer behavior with my words and images. I wanted to find out what their problems were and find all the things that would solve them... and point out solutions, with ad messaging. Jingles and one-liners and storyboards and product placement, I was all about it. It sounds so shocking, almost, coming out of me, now. How free-spirited and artsy I've become, right? I wasn't always this way. I was cut-throat, once.
I took Marketing, PR, Sales 1 and 2, Advertising, Direct Marketing, as well as Psych classes, so I could get into people's heads. Sociology, to understand human compulsions and behaviors. Desktop Publishing, to learn about design, graphics, computers... and those lessons still stick. The programs, however, have been long-since outgrown. (Does anyone remember Quark Express? And Photoshop 1?) I remember practicing cold-calling in class, and mock sales calls, with my professor. I was selling "Doggie-Mints." I cut and pasted my magazine ads. No... I cut (with scissors) and pasted (with a glue stick.) Then made color copies of the new image. Homework was a lot of work. And I would dress up, on my presentation day, and sell my mints. I loved it. I was good at it. I was funny, snarky, and charming, my work was often an example for the class of how to do it right. I nailed the advertising spiral and could follow my simple ideas into production and distribution, theoretically. I got the concepts, they made sense. And I kept getting high As. I was blown away. Up until then, I assumed that I was stupid and lazy, a troublemaker... based on my high school experience.
Just before applying to 4 year schools, to transfer, we all (business-program classmates and I) went to see some self-made millionaire entrepreneur guy, at the Westbury Music Fair. I can't remember his name, I think he was a big deal in hospitality at the time.
And I remember the moment... I got shook. He had a hard Long Island accent. Fuggedaboutit.
"This kind of life isn't for everyone. You go after your dream, you get lonely. Not everyone wants you to get there. They'll throw you off, convince you to take a desk job, play it safe, get that 401K. You gotta want it. You gotta be okay alone, hungry, and restless... and you gotta keep going, til it hits. Til it works. It's hard work. You gotta have what it takes, and guess what... most people don't. That's the truth..." Something like that. My idealistic shimmer began to fade, at that moment. I remember the doubt oozing in, fast. Did I have it? What it takes? I didn't know... how do you... know? It's the same thing that threw me off music. Am I enough to try this? Can I do it? Can I handle how hard this might be? What if I'm not that one-in-a-million?
When I was young, every dream was accompanied with a proviso: Don't bother.
I switched to Liberal Arts, soon after. I fell into the humanities, where it was cozy and safe and artistic...and I would stay there, until library school. Until... now, actually. Art, literature, philosophy. And perhaps... all is as it should be. Perhaps. But.
There were times, while taking Women's Studies classes, and finding my roar, my voice, that I began to consider entrepreneurship again. Everything comes back around... I made my own soaps, lotions, sugar scrubs. Mimi's Garden, it was called. I had an 800 number, business cards, an email address, a Yahoo Business page... (they were big in the 90s-00s). I made one sale to the local 5 and dime, where I also... worked. (Yeah, she totally felt sorry for me.) And I realized how much I had to do... better labels that didn't soak through, a website, selling, phone calls, networking, craft fairs... I could do all of that, I was sociable, smart, driven, creative, but... there it was again. Was I enough? Could I follow through, could I handle how hard it would get? Could I keep investing into it? Was it worth it?
That speech, that one speech, from that one man... that was meant to inspire... was tinged with negativity and bitterness and condescension and had forever seeped into my head as a warning... that I probably wouldn't make it. Because I might not "have what it takes." Wow... funny how ideas are formed. Maybe he was right, and maybe not, but, I'll tell you this. Whoever this "big shot" was... I can't even remember his name, and I'm pretty sure he faded into obscurity as the years went on. So... there's that.
When I got my Masters, I really learned how to research, how to ask the right questions, and how to organize and access information for optimal flow and knowledge access. You'd be surprised how much learning "the reference interview" can improve your daily quality of life and cut down on bullshit and nonsense. Just getting to the core issue, to the heart of it, when folks are accustomed to dancing around topics out of habit... "what are you really looking for? What do you really want?" And solving the problem from there. It's a game-changer. Some of the relationships that I made in that program were life-changing, in small ways. The degree got me a professional certificate, to be sure, and that got me a great career, eventually. But again, the lessons I learned in those classrooms, beyond the assignments, were priceless.
And later, I went back for a professional certificate in management. And I met amazing people, some I still talk to, and my teacher... taught more about life, gut feelings, relationships, common sense, compassion, respect, and ethical behavior... than what any curriculum could tell us. His class made me a better human. And I was introduced to Leaders Eat Last, which changed my workflow dynamics, forever. Thank you, Sinek. A cared for staff, who eats first, will always go that extra mile and put in the time and effort. Morale is everything. We learned about gut instincts and intuition from Blink, thank you Gladwell. And we learned all about crisis management management styles from My Iceberg is Melting. I love this little book... we were exposed to so much great reading and so many perspectives in that class. And the greatest lessons were about life and leadership... not merely nonprofit or business management. Which is how it should be. Great ideas have legs and wings. Mediocre and narrow ones sit and get left behind.
I find myself at a crossroads, sometimes. Having spent most of my adult life working in service of... people... learning their behaviors, patterns, energy, attitudes, motivations, inclinations, moods, and all the rest. There is a very real part of me that remembers the allure and feistiness of that wannabe advertising executive: fire and sass and creative hustle; hard work and fun rewards. All-night projects, new idea butterflies, presentation jitters. There was a magic to it, an energy, a synergy, in working with a good team. Still, there's a part of me that wants to merchandise any good idea at the drop of a hat, from promo ad to shelf display. If I had the means. Because it's fun, because it's a challenge, because I'd get to employ everything I know. There is a fascinating science and thrill behind it, that used to keep me going for hours.
I get a taste of that in book displays, and PR and so forth, but it's quite different. Libraries are about people and service and information and advocacy, literacy and community, learning and growth... not bottom lines and cash flow. They should be anyway.
So. I have a stifled business woman inside of me that's been saying things, lately. And I'm listening, and I'm curious, and I'm open to where she wants to go and how that might optimize my creativity in some way.
But I also have this wild streak, the artist inside, that resists conventions and rules and anything exacting and spreadsheety. Ew, math. (Although, when I focus, I'm actually quite crafty with numbers. It's just not as fun.)
I am a paradox. A hurricane in a teacup. I just don't really make sense, do I? I spent an evening, recently, looking up MBA programs, because I wanted a challenge and I miss that side of myself, sometimes. I miss that roar. The honesty, the ambition, the hustle. The integrity in doing it right and getting results, despite the fleeting emotional hub-bub. The joy of taking an idea to notes to flow charts to storyboards to hard copy and backing it all up with a presentation. Going to battle for your idea, standing firm on how it will do good and help others in some way. And there's something to that, to... the presenting. Perhaps it's the same part of me that craves performance. An audience. And not just any old attention, but the energy of a rising and falling crowd. The vulnerability. The challenge in it. It's exciting, it's... alive. Pure potential, raw essence to be sculpted with new and emergent ideas.
Anyway. Here's what I have to say about that, if I could reach through the ether to my younger, doubting self: you just don't know what you'll excel at, what you'll love, what you'll find joy in, where your success will come from and what that success will look like. You just don't and can't know, not yet. So, go forth, and try it all! Follow your heart: try, try, try. All of it. Wear it out, with trying. You might be as good as anyone else who might try. And just as worthy. And it's not about whether you can "handle what it takes," it's about finding the right fit. If it's the right thing for you, it'll work, it'll click into place, and you'll handle it. But you won't know what works and what doesn't until you try it out. Gain experience. Try things. Hot shots and big-talkers like to make themselves sound pretty darn special. It's mostly smoke and mirrors, though. The great ones make less of a fuss, they just... get it done, and keep improving. Their work stands for itself, they don't need to pimp themselves off as a good this and a good that. They just are. i think the trick is in finding that thing... that you can do... that stands on its own. It just is. They don't tell you "I'm a great painter..." because their paintings are already great. Their art speaks for them. Right? I think it's the same with anything. Find the thing you do that cuts through everything else and communicates what you're about. And don't talk about the thing too much, just do the thing.
Maybe. What do I know? I know I'm procrastinating and I should be doing something else... so I'm off to dig in, renewed and refocused.
But try. Just go try. And try more. Keep trying. The magic, is in the trying, anyway. That's what makes a life-story worth telling, really... all of the glorious things that we... actually tried.
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
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...
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.
I thought I had come to California looking for horses. That's what drew me out here; the wide open land given to these majestic creatures; throwbacks to a wilder and forgotten west. I swooned for their photos, I fell into them. The wildness that was still in these creatures, the neighing and bucking and kicking and running into the horizon, manes in the wind. Unbridled. Free. Charging mares, leading herds, tending foals. And perhaps I will still find them when that time is right.
But upon landing out here, I was taken by the water, foremost.
The Atlantic shores are beautiful, but for some reason, these waters...the Pacific...are different. The shores she touches. The stories she swallows, the secrets she holds. Oh, these waters hold so much. They have seen and felt so much. And in that, as a whole, as a body of water, a being in its own right... she is that much more calming. It's a powerful, cleansing presence. A deep healing. Not to mention the sheer majestic and aesthetic beauty of the area; it's no wonder writers and artists flock here over the decades. The vistas are unmatchable.
But Steinbeck. I was first hit as I toured Cannery Row, which is now a giant consumer-wonderland. Which is fine. I bought a souvenir or two, some t-shirts for my son. A refrigerator magnet. I'm a sucker for that stuff, within reason. My first day there, as I was walking up and down the streets, weary from a few hours in the car after leaving San Francisco, I snuck around back, behind a closed shop, to the boardwalk. Or pier, whichever. All the chairs were turned upside-down on the tables; this particular deck was empty.
I considered Steinbeck's writing, his growing up in Salinas, and his visits to this very bay and other points along the coast. And the man, the good friend Ed Ricketts, who inspired Doc. His trouble with marriage and relationships, in general. And the water! Oh, it's impressive. Overwhelming.
I had read a little bit about Steinbeck the night before, because someone in San Francisco mentioned that the area was great for writers, being that it's "Steinbeck-land." Now, of course, I knew who he was, I read Of Mice and Men in school. Grapes of Wrath. I did the assigned reading, but never delved fully into the man that he was: his motivations, his sorrows, his dreams.
As I toured the area and the Steinbeck exhibit in Salinas, and as I read more about the man... I felt such heartbreak. Disillusionment. Internal battle. Here was a man who saw great injustices and great stories and he had to get them out. He had to. And they were good stories with great themes. What I found heartbreaking, nearly tragic, was how his novel The Winter of Our Discontent was received and critiqued, as it won the Nobel Prize for Literature. But it was more than that.
John Steinbeck was a highly sensitive man, it would seem. A deep, mysterious, brooding, Piscean artist, who felt that the world was spinning off its rails, losing its morality. He saw the coming of the fifties and sixties and to him it was a breakdown in society and decent values. He felt things deeply. He felt his world crumbling and wanted to write about it. Fight it, perhaps. But at a minimum, provide a chronicle. He went out on the road with his dog, Charley, and wanted to revisit and recapture the America that he once knew, after spending time away, in New York and Long Island. he wanted to see real people, small towns, local bars, not the affluence and facade that he'd been living in.
"I nearly always write - just as I nearly always breathe..." - John Steinbeck
And later, when his novel was shunned so hard, despite praise from others, he put his pen down and never wrote another novel. And to feel that kind of pain and humiliation inside, is just heartbreaking to me. And I could feel how soothing those waters were, and must've been, to him. And to so many.
In reading Travels With Charley, just now, being that I was so taken with the man and his story and his need to see the country... I can't help but reach back and pull some lessons out...or some parallels, at a minimum. It's what I do.
Steinbeck came from a family of Republicans, and changed a bit when he saw more of the world and got out his his hometown. His perspectives on Life changed. When he'd returned home, arguments would ensue:
"Let's just be friendly and loving. No politics tonight." And ten minutes later we would be screaming at each other.
And so it was, and so it still is. Steinbeck knew he was nearing his last days. He felt his world deteriorating. I can't imagine the ache inside. Well, actually, I can. I think so many of us can, which is why he and so many writers like him are so resonant. Particularly now, in this climate, when the world feels divided and torn up, much like it did then. Those of us who truly do feel deeply want to find things to mend; to help that ache. And it's a humanity-sized ache, a global ache. There is a real and dire need to heal someone, something, anything, everything. Or a touch of madness grows in the absence of that longed-for resolution. And in that madness, oh, does distraction blossom. Numb, numb, numb the ache. With a drug, a habit, a spoon, a television, a drink, an over-zealous need to disappear into something other than what is, rather than live a healthy balanced life. And it's not easy, we've all got our things. Hopefully our addictions don't harm and make us ill.
And how did moderation become such a rogue idea?
We seem to be commanded by a world that favors extremes. Extremes in diet, in entertainment, in lifestyles, in just about everything. Nice, easy, simple living has become a lifestyle choice, something that has to be taught and remembered, rather than...just how things are. We have to be told and reminded with blips and beeps and timers and gadgets to relax and breathe and sleep and eat. I get it, John Steinbeck, I get it. The players have changed, the scenery is different, but it's the same game. And now, we have the internet. And do you know how often you're meme'd John? A lot.
I walked the coast again, and thought, in imaginary conversation with this writer I'd become enmeshed and obsessed with...
Despite the flack you got about that one book, John Steinbeck, I mean... wow, man. You did it. Didn't you? Your books are required reading in schools and libraries. Iconic. Champion of writing the proletariat. Great sense of place and giving voice to the everyman. You are part of the canon, good sir. I wish you could've seen it happen, in the flesh.
It's a lazy Sunday.
It rained most of the morning. We stayed in, played with cars, danced to the ukulele, we sang. Threw in some laundry. We ate a quick lunch; leftovers. Don't feel bad, they were delicious. And now we're sitting in the living room. Some sort of golf is on.
And a commentator said something that just...resonated.
They were discussing Dell's $36m contribution to help support recovery efforts down in Houston. They all wore ribbons, for solidarity. #IStandWithTexas And this man spoke, after the razzle-dazzle they had to do (I'm paraphrasing, here, it's not verbatim):
"Americans are amazing. We may seem to have our divisions and difficulties, we seem to be divided on so many issues. But when disaster hits, when things like this happen, we pull together like nothing you've seen. Strings of experience and emotion that resonate within all of us. And tragedy and hardship bind us together."
I found myself agreeing with him. Nodding. "Yes," I said to the television screen, as if it could nod back.
These strings. These things, that bind us together. Even from the golf channel guy, this is just a truth. And a beautiful one.
And I can't help but reminisce; remember those weeks during and after Superstorm Sandy.
The fear, the uncontrollable and unknown that loomed, the anger, the petty violence when the gas ran out. The impatience, just... all the ugly things we saw. But also, the beautiful things we saw in each other. The way we all came together when we needed to. All of my friends that now bicker back and forth on FB about Trump and so on, back then, all equally chipped in and donated and cared and worked to help friends or strangers empty out basements. Provide blankets and gloves and jackets and clothing and soap and toothbrushes and anything else that you could think of...to the closest and hardest hit areas: for us, the Rockaways. The south shore had a lot of damage. Jersey Shore. There was a lot. And it took a while, for sure. I still run into families who haven't quite made it to even, financially, since the storm hit.
But, beyond that...in those moments...the Love that came through in the darkest times.
I began a novel that I've yet to really write, during that storm. When I had done what I could to get some useful goods to the Rockaways, via local friends with big trucks... and I couldn't find anything else to organize within my own space... and there were no more candles to assemble or devices to charge up, driving in circles...
I became still. So still. And how still my little sphere of the world was. Outside.
I was moved to tears when we lost power for days. It was autumn, and after the storm moved out, I sat outside and marveled at the sky. At the neighborhood. Others around were scurrying about, stocking up on water, reading by flashlight, praying together, feeding their neighbors, or anything to just keep warm and busy... but I was awe-struck with the night sky. The Northeast was dark and I couldn't believe how many stars were really up there. They were just pouring down on me, layers upon layers of them, billions of flashes light. They're up there and we just don't see it, beyond the haze of artificial light pollution.
I glanced up and down the street. And for a few moments, I was back in time. A past, before electricity. I could see, in my mind's eye, horses tied up and drinking water. A saloon, down the way. Lanterns, instead of streetlights. The scenery and the technology was different, but people...were the same. We're all sort of the same, deep down, at the core of things. Work, rest, eat, sleep, play, love. Repeat.
And in those same moments, I flashed forward. Looking back is easy. But what if our future looked like this? Seeing how a few days' inconvenience had rattled and disturbed people, so deeply, I began to wonder how truly prepared we'd be if we had to take care of ourselves. How dependent we'd become on technology. Our computers, phones, automobiles, all of it. How dependent. How disrupted we'd be.
Anyway. Always the artist...always finding the beautiful moments to boil down and take with me.
But I can't help but think back to how a-light I was, being among people-helping-people. Giving to give, and how that felt. The strength in numbers, the unity, the hope, the bounce-back, the community. It changed me. Naysayers and the dooms-dayers were running in circles with their hands in the air and bibles in their pockets, saying that we had it coming. 2012, this was THE STORM. We were done for. End of days. REPENT. No. Wasn't true then, and it's not now. That's all fear and nonsense and they are very convenient ways to take your money; from my perspective. Weather happens, it's part of life on this planet, but it doesn't target anyone over anyone else. I think most of us understand this simple concept. But then, many didn't, with all the Mayan calendar hullabaloo.
The only real change I'd seen was a change in consciousness. That, I believe in.
I just find myself feeling so invested in what Houston is going through, because we were so close to it, here. it brings a lot back. It's devastating to witness, even if you aren't directly impacted in a big way. To just be close to it, near enough to it, to feel all of that pain, suffering, cold, and fear. It's an ominous sort of can't sleep tonight feeling, that lingers. A wariness. A haunting sadness and grief, for so many. It felt crippling, for days.
I've been there. I remember. But I got by, back then, by doing what I could in my immediate circle. Finding bits of solitude, away from the noise. Finding hope and lightness again.
So many of us wish that we could do more, so we do what we can: we donate goods, we share information, we invest in benefit concerts, we help each other, we pray, we send love and light and peaceful blankets of energetic obliviousness to sleep beneath. We do what we can. It's a lot to feel. It's just, a lot to feel and process at once. But it settles. Water recedes. Economies adjust in some way, and people adjust. Big storms like this leave a huge imprint. They can be tragic and heartbreaking, but also incredibly inspiring, as they bring out the very best of humanity, as they follow their hearts to give and help, however they can.
Because people, in general, love each other. That's the deep-down truth. We just care about each other. And I wish I could do more. But I've done what I can. Donated where I can. And will always continue to. <3
Sending Love and Peace, Texas. xoxo
I've heard from quite a few astrologer friends that when Mercury is in retrograde, as it is now, that all kinds of things go screwy. Gadgets don't work, electronics misfire, everything just seems to not work right. Including our communications with each other. I can' prove any of that, but I do have a iPhone story...
My little boy is in hardcore potty training. He is rewarded for long stretches of success with...toys. Yes. He's not punished when it doesn't work, but when he gets it right...positive reinforcement. Tonight's win was made possible by Addicted Consumers r Us: the Disney store. We stopped to eat dinner first, he even used the big restaurant potty! Yes, score! All was well.
And then to Disney for a toy. I admit, I am a fan of Walt Disney, the Mouse, and its kingdom. I grew up with the characters, the magic, the dreams...and find it all wonderful for engaging the imaginations of children. Jiminy Cricket and wishing upon a star? The Lady and the Tramp, love on the wrong side of the tracks. Snow White and true love's kiss. Sleeping Beauty, my all-time favorite, could you tell? Sweet Rose, raised in the forest by three magical, enchanted Aunties....she was friends with all the creatures, big and small, and joins them all in sweet song, dance, and frolic? Once Upon a Dream? Oh, I was hooked. Fast.
The boy wanted cars. The CARS-cars. I indulged in a small dancing Groot for my desk. Because focus. (Just kidding, I just wanted one. It's cute and fun and silly and makes me feel sparkly. I don't need to justify my Groot to you, so get over it already. I AM GROOT.)
We even get a reusable Disney shopping bag, perfect. Back to the car. All tucked in...WHERE IS MY PHONE? :gulp: (expletive, expletive, expletive.) Back in the stroller, power-walkathon. Weaving, bobbing, Nascar-esque diva speed. We get back to Disney. Tear the giant mound of stuffed animals apart, because...he was there. Sorry, Disney. The pile of Woodys. Sorry, again. A kind Mom with her own gang of boys felt my distress, she heard the sister-call. "Hang on, put your number in, let's find it!" She dials...we wait. Older boy #1 thinks he hears it. "DISNEY, CAN YOU TURN THE EMPEROR'S CLOTHES SONG DOWN, FOR TWO SECONDS?" They...oblige. Thanks, Disney. Sorry. Again. Pretty sure my phone is on silent, because "work."
No dice. No sound. Nada. Zip. Silence. Stomach convulsions. Every joint in my body aches, because stupid tension. Because missing phone. Thanked everyone, left my info with the patient manager, who of course, was super-Disnified through the whole thing. (EXCELLENT customer service, they train 'em right.) Forlorn. Exhausted. Annoyed. Frustrated. Wit's end. Imagining what I had to do...call phone service, freeze, lock phone, all this stuff which is making my head implode. But breathing, it's just a thing. I can do this. Handle-able. My little dude: "it's okay Mom, we will find it. Let's do this..." Cool as a cucumber.
"I hope so babe, I just hope no one stole it. Sometimes when we drop things, people walk off with them..."
"Maybe not, Mom, let's just see..."
Me: silent eyerolling and cursing. Oh, the innocence. Praying. Dear Jesus, Mary, God, Buddha, interdimensional beings of Light and wisdom, Shiva and Shakti, spirits, grandmothers, Gaia, Gods and Goddesses and guides and angels and legos and faeries and GI JOE AND MARY POPPINS AND ANYONE LISTENING ANYWHERE... please help me find this phone. PLEASE. I need this win. I just do. Puh-Lease. I'll do a hundred crunches tomorrow. AND squats. And I won't complain about my neck. Or other stuff. Please. Just please.
Hit the restaurant that we stopped at first...on our way back to the car.
"Did anyone, by any chance, turn in an iPhone?" Girl nods.
"Yes!" Insides stand up at attention, in wait.
"With flowers on the case, and cracked safety glass in front?" Please, please, please...
"Yes, hang on..." :tears, lip quivers still praying to anything not nailed down: Manager returns... IT'S MINE! Good as new. In my hand. I hold it tight as it it might fly away, into the night air.
"See Mom, there it is! We found it, I told you..." This kid. And here's what Yoda baby says next. Listen:
"when we're very nervous, we don't get it. When we aren't nervous anymore...we get it!"
Smiles. Me...barrels of tension roll off onto the floor. Oof. Really sorry, Disney. You were great. I was panicked But you were great. Really. I'll send you a card.
And we think we're raising THEM. We had a great talk on the walk back to the car. People don't always take things when they see them, sometimes people return things, because they know someone is looking for it. Because really, people care about each other, really. We just forget, sometimes, when we get scared. But mostly, we take care of each other. Mostly people are good.
What an adventure. This boy. My heart. xoxo
Super grateful to have my phone and am seriously considering backing it up and using alternative photo/video storage. :) Just in case.
(Get your sh*t together, Mercury. Seriously. Sheesh. it's nice blaming a planet...)