What if…something about you that you believed was your worst liability — for instance, surviving a devastating trauma and learning to live with it the best you knew how but also accepting that it’s embedded in your bodymindfield and part of who you are — actually drew someone to you for a healthy reason?
And what if…you had a really long and difficult time finding your place in this world, finding your people and your livelihood, and you learned that you had a personality type that 1% have — and the other 1%-ers are introverts too, so good luck finding them, right? — and then you met someone who’s so close who seems capable of being a mirror that reflects you back to you, and that you can do the same for them?
I’m just going to shut the fuck up now and take this in.
Yesterday was rough. A dear friend for over 20 years was in the hospital having breast cancer surgery with preparation for reconstruction. We’d had ceremony Wednesday night for support, a gathering of friends to hold her and another friend with a serious health issue in our big collective heart as we move through this difficult part of the journey, walking each other home.
I shared part of that ceremony with three other women, and we laughed a lot. Fishermen’s Friend does that to people. May our laughter contribute to the healing of all.
Dear goddess, bless you for the gift of levity in the face of the unknown.
The surgery was longer than expected — 9 hours. Pauline’s older sister Marie was there at the hospital with her, and I was Marie’s contact person to post progress in the ceremony’s Facebook event for all to see.
Surgery started at 8. By 10:30 am, Marie shared that the sentinel lymph node that was removed and examined was cancer free. Good news. Marie said the surgeons expected her to go to the recovery room about 3-4 pm.
At 5 pm, I’d heard nothing and contacted Marie. Marie texted that Pauline was in recovery but she (Marie) was still waiting for the doctors to come talk to her.
And then, finally, the news came that both surgeons were pleased with the outcome. Whew.
I also did some deep digging and writing yesterday morning to a friend on something he’d challenged me to examine. I love doing that kind of self-examining work, and I needed time to let it cook into coherence.
It takes attention to go within so deeply. I went back to a time when my legs went out from under me, the beginning of not wanting to be here, having learned very young of the existence of unspeakable cruelty in a very personal way. Wrote it, sent it, went out to meet the day.
After my morning obligations were met — and my networking group laughed a lot — again, thank you, dear goddess — I came home and crashed. I needed my own space and stillness to let my earlier self-examination continue to unwind its gifts and flow through me with attentive care.
I lay in a heap of exhausted sorrow and realized this happens when I go there. It depletes me to remember. This is why I don’t do it often and not just for anybody. It’s always for me, really. I could have said no, but I was curious about where my behavior was coming from too.
I cried. My tears felt good and tasted salty.
I didn’t get stuck with the raw bleeding heart sensation. It was there but wasn’t as intense. It’s open and tender today, a bit achy.
It’s vulnerable, revisiting a trauma. Sometimes the truth — or a truth, because when the spiral comes back around, truth will be different, with different insights — is hard fucking won.
I learned something valuable about myself, that I need to push, and sometimes I push against others, and it’s probably not very pleasant to receive. I come across as blaming and misunderstanding, rightly so, on a superficial level. I grasp at an excuse to push. And really, it’s an indicator that I need to set a healthy boundary and perhaps offer a challenge myself.
Where does this behavior come from? I push to get out of the box, the box of being violated, disrespected, dishonored, crushed, silenced, dominated, overpowered, overlooked, robbed of my agency, minimized, underestimated, isolated.
I push to make space for me, to stand on my feet, connected to heaven and earth with the horizontal embrace of humanity as well, life force flowing through me freely.
I am a troubled person too sometimes, and I’m working on it. I’m trying to think of a name for the troubled part of me, because I can, much of the time, come from a healthy place, and when this troubled part comes out, I’m usually aware of it but sometimes not, and I need others to help me see it so I can do my healing work.
I’m learning toward Harriet, because I don’t know anyone named Harriet. “I’m wondering if Harriet would like to say something.” “Hi, Harriet. What are you experiencing now?” “Harriet, what do you need?”
Do you have any other suggestions for a name?
Eventually my energy moved toward equilibrium, and to cheer myself up, I remembered my favorite cartoon, What’s Opera, Doc? I must have watched it half a dozen times. Elmer and Bugs sing Wagner. Elmer is pretty funny, but Bugs is my cartoon hero. He’s brash, witty, unpredictable, a wisecracking carrot-eating trickster — and oh, yeah, he’s Jewish.
Third time: thank you, goddess and Chuck Jones, for the gift of levity.
Then the good news about my dear friend’s surgery.
Feeling so much appreciation for my offspring, my sistren and my brethren, for the ability to process and learn, to dive for a fish and come back up with one in my hands. Today, it’s all good.
I’m summarizing polyvagal theory, originated by Dr. Stephen Porges, from a 10:48-minute video interview of him. I’m doing this for my own understanding, and I want to share because it’s a new way of thinking about traumatic responses. It has major implications for my work, and I’ve added my own comments in brackets. I am sure I will continue to refine my understanding.
Dr. Porges says that polyvagal theory is the understanding of how our body reacts to various challenges. The autonomic nervous system [involuntary, like heart beat] has evolved in vertebrates, changing and adding new circuits that function in a hierarchy. The newer circuits can inhibit older circuits. The older circuits were circuits of defense. Continue reading →
The planting of a tree, especially one of the long-living hardwood trees, is a gift which you can make to posterity at almost no cost and with almost no trouble, and if the tree takes root it will far outlive the visible effect of any of your other actions, good or evil. ~George Orwell
How are your trees doing, the ones you planted?
If you haven’t planted any, time to get busy! Fall planting gives the roots time to get established before winter, ensuring stability and adequate nutrients for growth in the spring.
Even low-water trees need regular deep watering in the summer for the first few years, especially where summers are hot and dry (like here in Texas).
Ginkgo biloba leaves, courtesy of ScienceDaily.com
I’ve planted several trees at my place. I’ve lost a few, mostly ones that can’t tolerate a cold Austin winter. These have survived a few years:
moringa (foliage dies with first freeze, comes back from roots in late spring)
When your children are grown, let trees become your babies. Plant them, tend them, enjoy them, and they will outlive you, reminding those who knew you of you, and after everyone who knew you has passed, they will provide for posterity.
Just got back home yesterday after taking my second 10-day vipassana course at Dhamma Siri, Kaufman, Texas. I reached new abilities to sense subtle sensations and found deeper stillness and inner silence. Reentry into the real world has been easier this time as well.
Plus, I made eye contact with a bobcat. More about that later.
While it’s fresh, I want to put into writing what to bring next time. I am into avoiding unnecessary suffering for myself, and others. It doesn’t mean that I can’t sit with some discomfort and be equanimous — and discomfort is inevitable unless you already are sitting still for 12 hours a day, day after day. Your low back, mid-back, upper back, shoulders, hips, knees, feet — at least one area of your body is going to feel the strain — and this is an unavoidable part of the process.
The pain and discomfort are necessary to get the full vipassana experience. Meditation isn’t all about transcendence. It’s about learning to witness and accept the truth of what you are experiencing with equanimity. You become more familiar with your mind, craving what isn’t there and feeling aversion to what is there.
I’m tired of turkey and all the traditional Christmas and Thanksgiving meals where a big slab of meat is the centerpiece. This year I decided to do something different: most of the foods are round in shape. (Okay, look, I’m an Aquarian, and I’m allowed to be quirky. I thought it would be fun and different and still delicious.)
Here’s the menu:
beet-pickled deviled eggs
salad with mixed greens, pickled beets, feta, and walnuts
baked brie with roasted cranberries, served with round gluten-free crackers
meatballs with marinara sauce
roasted brussels sprouts with fig balsamic vinegar
mashed potatoes (not round but my daughter’s favorite, and I rarely cook for her any more so a special addition to the menu)
arancini (risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella, breaded and deep fried (something else I almost never do)
It seems like a fun meal to make and share, and if you’ll notice, it has a lot of red, green, white, and golden foods, so it’s seasonal, it’s seasonal! And there’s a lot that you can do in advance, so it’s not so stressful the day of the feast.
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life… I think that what we’re really seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our innermost being and reality, so that we can actually feel the rapture of being alive.” ~ Joseph Campbell
If you’re looking for gift ideas for those you care about, here are a few suggestions. Since I am a licensed massage therapist, that’s where I’ll start.
Although there are a few people around who don’t like to be touched, most people enjoy a professional massage that’s tailored for their needs: the right modality, the right pressure, the right length. One thing people say they’d do if they had unlimited resources is to get massages more often.
Massage gift certificates are welcome gifts, especially with a personal note from you letting them know how much they deserve to be pampered. If the recipient is a busy person, adding the promise of watching the kids or making dinner afterwards so they can enjoy the afterglow is an extra nice touch. Continue reading →
These days I’m doing Functional Movement System training 5 days a week and doing 15-20 hours of massage per week. Just had my 62nd birthday, and I’m feeling pretty darn good! Illness, including even seasonal allergies, seems to be avoiding me.
To keep my energy levels high and to feel great, I’m making a green drink each morning. Here’s what I put in it*:
A small handful of berries. I used blueberries today. They contribute to brain health.
Another fruit or combination, like apple, banana, or pineapple. I find green drinks most palatable when just mildly sweet. Avocado is good, too.
Greens. I add a big handful of power greens (chard, kale, mizuna, and arugula), enough to cover a dinner plate well. They add vitamins and minerals and fiber and other healthy benefits.
A chunk of ginger root the size of the end of my thumb, for digestive health.
Same size chunk of turmeric root, an anti-inflammatory.
A bit of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar, up to a tablespoon, for alkalinity, nutrients, and to keep candida levels down (if I haven’t already drunk it in a glass of water).
3 tablespoons of coconut oil for energy.
A half scoop of whey powder for protein. (I use a half scoop because I am small.)