change · kindness · love

Almond milk of human kindness

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“Allow yourself to give yourself a comforting thought,” said Deepak Chopra in the Oprah meditation today.

I’m re-listening to the Manifesting True Success 21-day meditation, since it was so dense and rich (pun intended).  Day 5 is about the “Successful Mind,” and how we can beat ourselves up and punish ourselves so badly for our own perceived failures.

To echo yesterday’s blog, what growth is there in that?  What newness of thought?  What inspiration comes from the same well-worn habits of mind?

If I begin to note the thoughts I have throughout the day about myself and about others, how kind are they?  I want in myself and in my partner the quality of kindness; I’ve written it repeatedly on the list of things I want to attract, in a romance or a friend.  But when I pause, I note that there’s a litany of thoughts that are less than supportive, kind, and loving.  They’re not scathing and awful (all the time), but they are limiting and diminishing.  These thoughts do steal my oomph.

So, if I allow myself the gift of a comforting thought, I will get the benefit of holding that thought along with the unknown, unintended benefits of oomph as well.

What joy is there to be had when the thoughts begin to turn?

*Short blog post today. Relationship come-to-jesus conversations dominate the morning time; not bad, just … hard. Xo,m.

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career · change · despair · faith · fear · hope

Rock Saves.

As you may have noticed by now, I’ve been in a bit of a maudlin mood since attaining a job in retail. Since that time, in the last week alone, my sponsor had to let me go in order to focus on her own healing work, I got a traffic ticket while on my way to visit a pregnant friend, and my four stalwart neighboring trees were torn down. 
Plus, I slammed my pinkie in a drawer. 
It’s been a No good very bad day, and you can call me Alexander. 
It’s been pretty bad, and even before the tree massacre, I was on the phone with a friend saying that it felt like a series of trap doors: just when you think it can’t get worse, it does. I wouldn’t be surprised for “The Big One” to hit, or my car to break down. 
That said, yesterday, in a funk over the trees (read: hysterically crying over the loss of everything solid in my life — yes, perspective is a lost art), I drove my car in to work instead of taking public transportation. On came the NPR, because it’s what I usually listen to in the car. 
But it wasn’t right. Sure, it’s informative and I enjoy it in a way, but it’s not fun. It’s not uplifting. Unless it’s A Prarie Home Companion. 
And so I put on a CD of one of my favorite bands, playing one of their most famous live sets. 
I immediately pressed through to one of my favorite songs, one I can count on as an uplifter, and as the song progressed, I turned the volume louder. And louder. 
As I sat in that toll bridge traffic, I began to sing along. I began to smile. 
I played a series of 4 songs, the last one on repeat as I climbed the circular parking garage. And I felt better. 
I have this kind of amnesia when it comes to music: I forget that Rock Saves. 
I can go for weeks without music, maybe a few songs on the radio here and there, but not volume up to 40, ear-ringing, loud singing, smile-inducing music. 
I felt transformed by the end of my trip from Oakland to San Francisco. If there were another trap door opening beneath me, I felt as though the music was giving me upper body strength to cling to the sides of the trap, and hoist myself out. 
The trap may be open beneath me, and it is always an option to fall in, but somehow I felt like I was climbing out of that one. That, for that morning, that previously sob-fest morning, I was not going to continue on like that. 
I parked my car and walked toward my job with an actual jaunt in my step, and a bit of that subversive, “I’ve been listening to music really loud,” half-grin on my face. A cute 20-something said hi to me as I jaunted down the sidewalk. 
I’ve been walking to work looking solely down at the sidewalk, internally commenting the awful smell of human waste. 
Yesterday was a different morning. 
Sometimes I feel like I could be diagnosed with manic-depression, the way I can swing from despair to hope! But, perhaps it’s normal. And I’ll never really know, honestly. 
When things are going well enough, I never feel the need for anti-depressants, and even when they’re not going well, it’s always temporary, and not debilitating. 
So, maybe, simply, Rock Saves. 
Maybe, simply, I have a fount of resiliency that I only seem to find in desolate moments. 
Yesterday, as I drove to work, I drove through a portal of grace. 
Things are not different. All the externals remain the same. 
But I have that grin on my face. And I’ve been singing in my car. 
change · confidence · despair · self-acceptance · self-worth · work

Answering the Caterpillar.

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Yesterday afternoon, I drove back from the dentist and
stopped to pick up lunch and a drink before I returned to my final afternoon at my job.
As I stood on line at Peet’s coffee, the tall cute guy
behind me rifled through his pocket, and out fell a green Crayola marker.
Without a cap.
This only happens to two types of people: wackos, and
teachers. I took the risk.
He replied he was a teacher. And then came the most dreaded
question on the face of my earth:
“What do you do?”
It’s one of the first questions people ask when they don’t
know one another. It’s a function of the desire to orient and locate you on the web of
society and potential commonality: What do you do for a living?
And, honestly, the idea of answering this question has kept
me from dating. Because what people are asking is not simply where are you
employed, (to me) it’s asking if you are
employed, what your social status might be, what your interests are, what your
value of your self is.
They are asking, Who are
you?


And I haven’t wanted to answer for as long as my response
has been, I’m a glorified secretary.
Sure, over the years when I’ve spoken to friends about this,
they’ve replied, you don’t have you put it like that. You are a marketing
specialist, you are in customer service, you are an executive assistant, an
education administrator. You support the people who make things happen, you run
offices, you hire and fire people, organize office events, facilitate publications. You reconcile expense reports.
AND ALL THIS READS TO ME LIKE GLORIFIED SECRETARY.
FUCK!
And, the point is that I
haven’t felt comfortable telling others that’s what I do for a living.
Because it makes me feel less-than. Because I interpret what
I do as not good enough for me. Because I feel that it doesn’t speak to all
that I am as a person, and surely, answering that one question for anyone is never an indication of who they are as a whole.
But, I have felt it a pretty good indicator.
I am small. I have zero power. I do boring repetitive tasks
while chained to a computer desk. I get condescended to and underestimated. I have the copy machine repair man on speed
dial.
BLECH!
Get out of here!
I don’t want to be that person. Because, I’m not that
person. It’s stuff I can do, but it’s not all of me.
Perhaps, though, it means that I need to hold others’ answer to
that question more lightly, because I’ve only had one answer to that question
for a very long time, and it’s never spoken to who I am as a person. So maybe I
can be more open-minded toward others whose answers don’t titillate me.
But, whatever comes of my relationship to others’ answers, I
know that I haven’t been able to budge my relationship to mine, no matter how
much work on “self-acceptance” and “perspective” and “gratitude” I’ve done. And so, the only thing to do is to
change my answer, not my relationship to it. Yet.
So, yesterday, when cute, marker-covered dude looked into
my eyes, and asked me what I did, I was able to answer easily, truthfully,
and proudly: I’m a teacher, too.
(you know, part-time, after school two days a week, but,
it’s a start!)

authenticity · change · hope · work

To Infinity and Beyond!

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True to form, I’m running late for work. With today’s direct
deposit pay-out, I was reconciling my financial situation before getting
started for the day.
Seems like if I can manage to gain steady employment by
December, I don’t have to touch my savings. If not, I have until January. But,
who wants to touch their savings, especially if it’s modest?
I have a third interview with the private high school in
Walnut Creek on Monday, to be their Homework Tutor/Student Mentor. Seems like a
good sign, but I’m not counting chickens; I’m still looking around for sure.
But, I gotta say, not having a full-time job as of tomorrow,
I feel like I’ll have more time to look – but also to focus. To get clarity and
not just fire off resumes willy-nilly.
I won’t write a maudlin blog about how much my place of work
has meant to me over the past 2 years – I’m going to see most of my coworkers
frequently, as I’ll still be teaching there on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
There was a nice send-off snack at our staff meeting on Wednesday with my
favorite snacks. And my boss wrote a really warm blurb about my departure for
our weekly e-newsletter.
There have been more hugs this week than before, mostly from
members of the synagogue, who I won’t see as often. But I do feel like I’ve
become a part of the community, not just worked in an office. And for that I’m
grateful, and it’s something that won’t change. I’ll still be there at our big
events, probably.
But, I’m also immensely
grateful that I won’t be sitting at that desk come Monday morning.
I won’t leave my newbie replacement alone too long this
morning, so I’ll sign off now. Perhaps there’ll be another more sentimental
missive about the place with time and distance, but, for now. It’s just a
change. And, right now, change is good.
Trick or Treat, muthafuckas!

change · faith · recovery · self-care · spirituality · work

A word, if you don’t mind?

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Dear Molly,
First of all, congratulations on closing the Addams Family.
I heard it was a fantastic run to packed houses nearly every night. And brava
on finally getting that one song that was giving you trouble. Fist pumping is
highly appropriate!
But, I’m moved to write to you today because I want to make
sure you realize how many irons you have blazing right now, and ensure that
you’re taking the proper time for yourself. (Although, I must say, I wouldn’t
be writing if I thought you were!)
As soon as the show closed, you began a new one the next day, yes?
Rehearsing almost daily with a dozen monologues to memorize by next Friday? You’ve been
searching for a new job or jobs, as well as having interviews or coffee dates with folks several times a week. You’ve been sitting on weekend
mornings for a portrait artist in order to make some cash, and you’ve begun
teaching on two weekday afternoons after work and before rehearsal.
Forget about your dishes, we’re way beyond them now! Have
you seen your car? Your apartment? Where is the calm space you so crave at
home? How about that outstanding parking ticket you need to dispute at the
Berkeley parking office? And the fellowship meetings you are barely attending and
the crispy, crackling nature of your office interactions right now?
Is it fair to say that you’ve got a few things on your
plate… AND that you’re not taking the normal care of yourself that’s necessary
for your health? Is it true that you’ve been feeling tired and coming down with
something?
Something’s got to give, my friend, and I don’t want it to
be you.
Yes, I know this is an uncertain and shifting time, and your
home is always a reflection of your mental state. I know it feels like there’s
no time for meetings, but doesn’t there have to be? It’s terribly uncomfortable for you and those around you when
you’re this wound up.
However, I do want to come back to say, I am writing all
this because I am in support of you. I
want you to achieve your best in all you do. I just want to remind you to set
first things first. Weekends, which have been your farmers market and cooking-for-the-week days, as well as nesting and organizing days, have been robbed by
all this new work.
Maybe — and I’m just throwing this out there — you tell the
artist you can’t sit with him until after your show opens? I mean, the worst he
can say is no, right? Maybe you ask a friend to help you with the enormous
bookcase you inherited from your upstairs neighbor that’s been standing, disassembled, in the
center of your apartment for a week? Maybe you really schedule that time to go
to the parking office, and don’t blow it off this time because you’re running
late for work?
Look, the bottom line is you’re in a huge amount of
transition right now. You’re taking a leap of faith that you’ll land somewhere
new and different than where you’ve been. You’re doing this to support your
art, and to support the idea that you have more to give to the world than a
well-crafted spreadsheet. I am in awe of you for taking the risk.
In truth, both ways are risky: to stay is a risk to sanity,
to leave is a risk to livelihood. But, I do have faith that things will turn
out well for you (Yesterday’s interview was promising & the second interview is set.). You are doing all the right things… you’re just not leaving
time for the rest of the “right things,” and that’s where I’m concerned.
So, take a minute to consider my suggestions. See if you can
come up with your own solutions, and talk to your friends to help you through
this quite chaotic but exciting time.
As a friend once said, The only difference between anxiety
and excitement is breathing.
So, breathe, Molly. And I’ll see you when you land, safely.
Yours, 

alcoholism · change · clarity · trauma · travel

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

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October marks 10 years since I left New Jersey to teach
English in South Korea for 18 months. Having barely finished the icing on my 23rd birthday
cake, I rolled my newly purchased suitcases onto a JFK flight and was off to I
didn’t know where.
The process felt almost instantaneous – register with an ESL
teaching recruitment site; have an informational call with them (when they told
me you’d make more money in Korea than, say, Thailand or Taiwan); have an
evening interview call with a pre-school in a town on the outskirts of Seoul on
Tuesday; board a plane on Friday.
I didn’t know what I was getting into, and despite all the
good parts, the landing was a difficult one. If I did have it all to do again,
my life to live over again, I wouldn’t have gone.
I know people say not to regret things, and that each
experience was for learning, and certainly this one was: I met great people,
had unusual experiences, got to travel to places I’d likely never have been and
endear myself to a classroom of wide expectant faces.
But. It was not easy. And, yes, if I could do it again, I
wouldn’t go. I was too fragile when I went. I was too lost to be uprooted. Yet, I
don’t know what would have happened if I’d stayed. Korea was where I eeked
along the bottom of an alcoholic lifestyle, and I’ve often said that if I
hadn’t been in Korea, where there was little access to drugs, and mainly only
to booze… that if I’d still been in the States and on the trajectory I was on,
things could have gone a much different way.
As bad as alcoholism is, add drugs into the mix, and it
quickly becomes a 4-alarm fire.
That said. It was rough. There was a half-hearted suicide
attempt, gang rape, alcoholic stupors. There was racism and sexism and a
feeling of alienation from everything you recognize.
There were antidotes, or places of brightness, for sure. I
met some of my best friends there, ones who I’m still in regular touch with. I
dated a very charismatic Canadian who went on to work for the U.N., who’d put me
and my coworker up at his great aunt’s place in the orangutan paddock in a zoo
in Jakarta, Indonesia. I hiked up ancient Buddhist and Hindu temples; ate dog
stew, which was actually very good; planted my feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time.
I traveled to Osaka, Japan to renew my work visa and still
remember the glint of the flat rooftops outside the city as the train barreled us
from the airport to the city center. I spent a New Years in a cabin on a dock
in the warm waters of Malaysia and partied in a sprawling, palm-encased home in Singapore the following one.
I went to Korea because I didn’t really know what else to
do. And to quote Carroll’s Cheshire cat:
“Would you tell me, please,
which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on
where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where
–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which
way you go,” said the Cat.
“– so long as I get
somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do
that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
I’d walked long enough, and I’d found something. I didn’t know
where I wanted to go, just somewhere else. Yet, despite the intervening years and nearly a decade of sobriety, as I begin now to set out
again to simply go “somewhere else,” I’m tempted to recall what happened
last time I didn’t know where that was.

change · friendship · grief · love

Can I get a Witness?

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You want it to be done. You want to stop referencing cancer,
or marking time as “before I got sick,” “when I was sick.” You wanna stop the pang of knowing that “sick” was more than a bad cold. You wanna stop remembering
what it felt like. And you want it to stop being dramatic, and making you feel
dramatic.
You want the, “Oh, you cut your hair” comments to not sting as much, since no, you didn’t cut it, it fell out. You wanna feel neutral
when you see a t.v. show where someone’s diagnosed with it, and stop silently commenting, No that’s not at all what it’s like. You want to stop gagging every time you smell Kaiser hand soap. You want to stop
feeling the fear and the grief and the heartbreak you’d felt when you were
sick.
The feelings you couldn’t really feel then because you had
to just soldier up. When you were told, You could be a poster child for cancer.
When you had to be braver than you wanted because you needed to not scare your
friends.
And, there were the few friends you knew you didn’t have to be
brave with, or braver than you’d felt. There were the few who let you cry the
Ugly Cries, and the one who laid in your narrow hospital bed with you while you
napped, all wiped out from chemo. The one who went to three health food stores
to get the right kind of protein drink, since you couldn’t eat solids. The one
who bought your own bejeweled reusable cup in which she brought you green
shakes, and who packed and unpacked your hospital room with you every single
chemo round, and stayed overnight at home with you the first night after your first
release.
You want to remember the witness, and you want to forget
why you needed one. You want to offer the deepest gratitude and you want to stop feeling
gnawed by the uncertainty of that time.
You want to love the witness, and you want to stop being
reminded of what it was they held you through.
There is no forgetting, there’s only fading. And I don’t
want to forget it really; I just don’t know how to process it all still. Though it seems I am nonetheless.
I was on the phone with my mentor yesterday, talking about this one friend who showed up for me then and how, post-cancer, our relationship hasn’t
been as strong or connected. That somehow it’s almost like cancer, or acute
trauma, was the foundation of our friendship, and now that it’s passed, it
feels like there’s not much more to go on.
I told her how sad I am that we’re not like we were,
but that I don’t know that I can or if I want to be otherwise.
It reminds me of a quote from a movie that will make you
groan. But. In Speed, Sandra Bullock
tells Keanu Reeves that relationships based on intense experiences never work. (She later jokes, they’ll have to base it on sex, then. And that’s not really
an option with my friend, cute as she is!)
So, what do you do? I told my mentor that my friend was a witness
to that hardship, and about my pattern of how difficult it is for me to let go of certain things
because I’m afraid people won’t believe me. That my experience of something
will be called into question, without someone else to verify it. My friend is
my verifier and my witness. Without a current relationship, who will remember?
Without the reminder, who will believe me?
So, it’s about more than her, isn’t it? It’s about more than
needing her continued friendship as a point of reference of truth in my life.
It’s about my own ability to hold truth and facts for myself without outside
validation.
And that, is a lifetime process.
But it brought up a lot of grief yesterday on the phone (which is why there was no daily blog). The
star-pupil cancer patient. Who wore bright colored socks and leopard print
chemo caps. Who had her own stash of organic herbal teas and would walk into
the hall to fill her own ceramic mug from home. The star cancer patient who
worked so hard not to be one, now processing what it actually felt like
underneath all that “Chin Up” posturing that was half-posturing, half-I’m
totally awesome, and cancer can fuck itself.
But the friendship has suffered since I’ve been healthy. And
I don’t know how or what to do on that. I think releasing the attachment of my
friend as witness, of needing a witness
is a good place to start.
I don’t want to remember and I don’t want to forget. And
until I find a place of peace with “what went down,” that division will always
cause me unrest.