codependence · grace · habits

Wandering Eye.

It feels like a physical exertion, a CrossFit-style grunting effort, to bring my attention back to myself.  Recently, when at home for a few minutes, or in the morning just sitting in meditation, or writing my Morning Pages, I’ve been asking myself, “What would I be thinking/doing/writing if I were single?”

While this doesn’t feel like the “best” thought to have (“Gee, aren’t you ungrateful,” or “You’re going to attract that experience if you keep thinking about it!”), it does become effective when I truly allow myself to sink into that wondering.

There’s work for me to do on my co-dependency front.  My tendency to abandon what I want for myself is so great sometimes that days can pass without really thinking about what I want for me.  My thoughts swirl with “us” or “him,” and I become crankier, more controlling, less amiable, because that’s not where my real energy or power comes from.

This is not new information for me.  But it feels even more relevant to “come back to center” as we talk about inviting tiny humans into our existence.  I “know” (as in, read books and blogs and heard from others) that having children is an experience that can overtake your life.  In some iterations, this isn’t altogether negative—the rotation of your internal planet has shifted, and you just learn to plant your crops at different seasons.  In some iterations, you become so distant from your internal compass that you have no home within yourself anymore, so focused are you on the needs, desires, passions, and cravings of others.

And yet.  Presently, the effort of will it feels like to bring my thought habits back to myself is Herculean — as in DEMIGOD.  But this thought precipitates the notion of “god,” which then brings me back to the solution.

I am wholly unqualified of myself to stay in my own lane of my own volition.  I need divine intervention of the highest order, and sometimes that is asking what would I be thinking about if I were single, because it brings my focus to what God/Fate/Love/Nature wants for me.

I’m at the place of inviting whatever powers that be into my mind and consciousness (as it is merely a habit of mind, not of heart or spirit) so that I can perform whatever duties in this life are being asked of me.  I can’t know what I want for myself—from career moves to which socks to wear—if I can’t hear my heart over my head.

 

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grace · love · the divine

That Lovin’ Feelin’

10.2.18Approaching tomorrow’s final day of Deepak and Oprah’s 21-day meditation, “Manifesting Grace through Gratitude,” I’m moved to share near verbatim what today’s meditation was about: Love.

WAIT!  Before you hurl into your morning coffee or cereal bowl, hear me out.

More specifically, they were talking about the responsibility for love, and from there I’ll quote:

Love is my closest experience to the feeling of completeness.  On the path of gratitude, I transfer the responsibility for love from another person to myself.  This is no small step; it is the very key to transformation. 

If a child is asked why it feels safe and taken care of, it will point to its mother and father.  This is how we learn to give the responsibility for Love to someone outside ourselves.  That’s only natural in childhood when we needed loving, secure parenting.  Today, however, when I look for love, looking outside myself is certainly viable, but it’s not transformative.

“WHOA,” is what I wrote in my notes as I dictated what I heard this morning (I write down what they say, because it’s how I learn best).

Whoa, indeed.

“Moving the responsibility for love from another person to myself.”  God, that sounds important.  God, that sounds hard.

I appreciate this idea that this is how love was modeled and taught and necessary for us to learn and be in childhood.  (Though I always smirk a little whenever Deepak mentions the love of one’s parent as wholly beneficent… since it’s a rare human who gets to experience it that way.)  What is reassuring to me about this idea is that it means I didn’t f*ck up by depending upon others for love and security — I’ve just used that tool for too long.  Especially if we feel that our parenting was imperfect then it makes abiding sense that one would continue to try to get that model completed into adolescence, young adult and adulthood.

Who knew there was an expiration date to human-dependent love, though?  No me!

When I think about reigning, pulling, retracting my external claws from my need for others to complete that circuit for me, there becomes so much freedom.  Because the responsibility of and for Love is wholly mine.  I don’t need to depend upon the unstable ground of others’ emotional availability; I can bring it alll the way back into myself to depend upon the constant of Divine Love.

What a relief!  To allow myself to simply love others without needing them to fill or fix me.  To love my mom and dad and partner without NEEDING them to make me feel something.  What a relief to them, too, huh?

The “very key to transformation,” Deepak calls it.

What growth is there in that.

 

cancer · grace · heroism

Is a hero born, or made?

me December 14 2012 oakland plateletsThis is the question I posited to my students as we began our novel this week.  Their responses reflected the duality of the answer.  A person may be inherently brave, but unless they are given opportunities to produce that quality, they may never be so.

As the dawn arises on Yom Kippur, 2018/5779, I note that it is 6 years since the morning I was diagnosed with Leukemia (AML, for the curious).

I use the Jewish calendar to mark my date, as Yom Kippur is a whopper of a day to be diagnosed.  According to tradition, the evening of Yom Kippur marks the closing of “The Book of Life,” sealing us—or not—for the coming year.

Not overly cataclysmic, is it?

On this day, 6 years ago, the dawn rose on me slightly wasted away.  I hadn’t been able to swallow much food; I’d had strep throat for almost a month.  My tonsils were white with infection and swallowing unleashed a spire of pain.  Down at the other end of things, my digestion held nothing in and Ganges’ water poured out.

I felt frail, had rippling spots in my vision, and for several days now, had been suffering night sweats and chills, my brain beginning to go fuzzy, thoughts arriving with little to adhere to.

Clearly, I was sick.

But I’d also just started a new job and I was sure my health insurance from the graduate school I’d left in May had lapsed, so I hadn’t seen a “real” doctor.  A friend did take me 2 weeks earlier to a hacienda clinic somewhere in deep Oakland, where the doctor — who was friendly and competent — took a throat sample, confirmed strep throat, and prescribed antibiotics.

Two weeks later, my throat was still belodged with golf balls.

On the morning of Yom Kippur 2012/5773, I called my friend to drive me to the hospital.  When I opened my apartment door she said, “You look like sh*t.”  G-d loves true friends;)

I’d finally accepted that eating yogurt, drinking chicken soup, and swallowing herbal pills were not going to cut it, just as the Western meds had not.

On the drive to the hospital, my friend pulled over so I could puke out the open door.

I waited on a stretcher in the ER.  It was a few hours and not much else later that the staff came back to say, “You do have health insurance.  You are covered by Kaiser hospital—go there.”  And they loaded me onto an ambulance to travel across town.

(I would later discover that my grad school was a little procrastinate-y about canceling graduates’ health coverage, so mine was set to expire after September.  It was Wednesday, September 26.)

On a cot in a private ER room in the bowels of Kaiser hospital, I lay for several hours.  The nurses had put in an IV of saline and I was feeling remarkably better.  Maybe it was just extreme dehydration?

Sometime around 10pm, I asked one of the nurses occasionally checking in on me why I was still there.  I felt better.  Give me some gonzo strep meds, and lemme go.  She replied that, frankly, she didn’t know why I was still there either.

Close upon midnight, a cute doctor walked into my small ER room.  I can’t recall if I was laying down or had sat up, but he rolled the tan pleather-covered stool over to my cot and sat himself down beside me.

“You do have strep throat.  You also have Leukemia.”

. . .

. . .

. . .

In the next handful of minutes, I asked him for something to write on.  Somehow there wasn’t anything, so we tore apart a tissue box so I could write down what he was saying.  My brain, fuzzy before, had become swaddled in cotton.

What I wrote on that cardboard scrap were a bunch of numbers.  They were about my blood.  Those numbers told the doctor that 48 percent of my blood was cancer.  Half of my body was invasion.

Deep into the night, the sun having set on Yom Kippur sealing everyone into — or out of — The Book of Life, this man told me I now faced death.

He told me a few more things, like I wouldn’t be going home that night.  Like the next day, Thursday, they’d take me to surgery to insert a “port” in my chest.  Like the kind of chemo they needed to give me couldn’t be fed through my paltry extremity veins; it had to be dumped directly into my heart.

On Friday, the radioactive liquid that nurses and doctors would wear thick rubber gloves and a yellow haz-mat suit to deliver, would begin pouring into me.

Later, I would mis-hear one of my oncologists tell me my cancer was one that had a 20% mortality rate.

I would, even later, discover that he’d actually said 20% survival rate.

That mis-hearing meant that on the phone with my best friend back East, I would get to tell her that this was a good cancer, an easy cancer, a no-worries Hakuna Matata cancer.

And that would help to save me.

I’d spend 10 of the next 24 weeks in a hospital room.  Because of the type of cancer and treatment I’d receive, I needed to be hospitalized for a full week for each infusion of chemo… that is, after the first round of chemo when I’d need to stay hospitalized for an entire month.

I … “celebrated” (not at all the right word, but I leave it for irony) my 31st birthday in a hospital gown.

But.

I began to figure it out, if there was such a thing.

First off, I began again to write my daily blog.  I’d called one of my best SF friends and asked her to write on Facebook what had happened (Leukemia) and where I was (Oakland), and for people to come visit me.

I was never, ever going to go through this madness alone.

My nuclear family live/d on the Eastern seaboard, and my created family lived in The Bay.  They better come visit me, yo!

And they did.

The nurses continued to remark that they’d never seen someone with so many visitors.  There was not one, never, not even one day that I spent without a visitor to my hospital room.

There were friends I hadn’t seen in several years since moving from San Francisco to Oakland.  There were folks who didn’t know me directly, but had heard of my call for visitors and came, in droves, to sit with me, laugh with me, read to me, cry with me.

That first week, a petite woman I knew only by sight came tottering into my room laden with an enormous, fuzzy blanket because I’d told her friend that the blankets “on the inside” were threadbare and depressing.  I’d lose 25 pounds that first month.  I was cold.

Slowly, the “figuring it out” thing looked like: visitors (but also a sign on the door that read, “Do not disturb, Meditating.”), blogging, a subscription to Netflix for the first time, my first smart phone so I could check the Kaiser app, a clock radio tuned to the 24-hour Christmas music station as hospitals are a cheerless and musicless sterility, markers and notepads, get-well cards from the whole country taped over the staid hospital paintings, a garland of dried flowers as live ones weren’t permitted because of my vulnerability to disease they may carry, earplugs, an eye mask, so many warm hats, normal street clothes instead of a hospital gown so long as they could access the port in my chest (One day, a doctor walked in as I was puttering about the room and asked me where the patient was!).

When I felt able, I walked around the glassed-in circumference of the floor trailing my IV stand I’d named “Fred” because he was my dance partner, towels and soap from home so I didn’t feel like an inmate (I still can’t abide the scent of Kaiser hand-soap and so hold my breath).  When chemo brain wasn’t on me (think “mommy brain”: a vague dissolution of thoughts and inability to focus your vision on a page) I had books to read, comedy dvds from one of my first San Francisco friends, and a yoga mat so I could stretch my bed-ridden body on the cold, germy, linoleum floor.

Travel mugs and tea bags, bottles of fizzy water as flat water tasted like metal, crates of Orgain protein drink as the Ensure they supplied went straight through me like the vegetable oil it was.

During this time, visitors would tell me how brave I was, how courageous.  That they’d read my blog and couldn’t believe how strong I was being.  How I was, with such certainty and determination, traveling through a gauntlet that no human being, let alone a thirty-year old woman, should be required to navigate.

At the time, this did not feel like bravery.  Bravery feels like a decision, like something you’ve chosen to do.  This, the manner with which I was going through cancer, did not feel like a choice — it felt natural, like breathing, like Of Course I would reach out, accept help, eat chocolate-chip banana bread and wear jeans.  (tearing up over here)

Of Course I would make brand new friends.  Of Course I would laugh.  Of Course I would rail.  Of Course I would upset doctors’ orders and go the hell home when it was marginally safe to do so at the end of my infusion weeks.

OF F*CKING COURSE I would dispel that darkness back from whence it came.

Come on, man, who do you think I am?

Well.  I’ll tell you.  I was not a woman who would have predicted she’d perform with grace under pressure.  But I am someone not surprised by it.

The forge within which this graced power was found was both existent and new.  The iron and lace with which I juggled daily and hourly trauma was both inherent and gifted.

The ocean of love that I sailed atop was both revealed and materialized.

What makes a man?  Is it the resident components of one’s constitution, or a sum that is worlds greater than its parts?

What does The Book of Life record: our past or our future self?

I must trumpet the acres of new growth and discovery that have germinated from this hardship.  But, too, I must acknowledge the seeds, roots, and Redwoods of faith and fortitude that were already there.

I am, at present, who I always and ever was, and I am, at present, who I never imagined I could become.

 

camping · community · confidence · courage · doubt · grace · insecurity · laughter · love · self-esteem · self-love · serenity

Confidence: How To.

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Think of something you know you know how to do. Something
you enjoy knowing how to do. Maybe it’s making the lightest quiche, or playing
the drums, or changing a bicycle inner tube. Maybe you know that you know how
to plant seeds that germinate, or fix this computer bug, or mix the perfect vermillion. Maybe it’s as simple
as knowing you know how to hug a child, or tell a good joke. Find something that makes
you feel competent and confident.
Experience that feeling. The surge of blood through you, a
sense of guidance, purpose, direction. A sense of being the right person for
the job, in the right place at the right time. A feeling of ease and tension
release, of certainty and even exuberance. I know how to do this – I love
doing this.
For me, about 2 years ago, I realized it was (car) camping.
I know how to do that. I knew when we
needed wood, when we should start the fire, how to put it out. I knew how to
set up my tent, how to walk in the woods, how to avoid poison oak. I knew how
to brush my teeth at the tap, and use my headlamp to find my missing sock. I
knew how to have fun, how to do what needed to be done, how to help others
because I knew how to do these things.
What if… we allowed for the possibility that we could have
that feeling in more places in our lives. If we could recognize the mastery we have in some areas, and allow that
sense of confidence and competence support our less certain attempts. Maybe, it’s just knowing that I know how to
put on liquid eyeliner with deft precision. Can I allow that to fill up my tank
a little? – Come to think of it, can I recognize that I know how to fill my gas
tank! (If you grew up in NJ, you might not!) 😉
But the point, today, is that although there are many areas
in which I am not an expert, and that will always be so, and there will always
be something to learn in the places I want to become more adept… there are also
a host of places that I haven’t recognized I’m doing pretty well.
I think this is what they call, “building self-esteem.” What
a concept.
But, it’s true. People in general, and people like me, tend
to dismiss what we think is easy for us. For me, I have tended to dismiss my
writing when its complimented, since it can be so easy for me. What’s the value
of something that is wickedly simple for me?
Somehow the idea that valuable things are hard things came
into our zeitgeist. This is not to say that you or I needn’t work for what we
want, but it’s about recognizing what we have, and sometimes what we’ve been
given, that we take for granted.
I take for granted that I know how to put on crisp eyeliner.
I learned it, I do it, it’s a part of me. So, I forget it’s not something everyone else knows. I take for
granted that I can write this every day, for better or worse! I take for
granted that I can talk to the children at work and make us both smile. – Well,
that one I don’t. I don’t take the smiling for granted, just the knowing that I
know how to do it.
If I were to go through a given day or week, and take note
of the things that I seem to “instinctively” and “intuitively” know how to do,
how many things would pile onto that list?
Sure, there are blank spots, there are gaps, there are wide
berths of where I want to know and learn and be more. But they’re gaps. They’re
not the whole.
If I tried to recognize that I could feel the same
self-esteem while cooking eggs in the morning as I do when making a teepee out
of wood in a fire-pit; if I could remember to feel adept and facile when I
parallel park my car; if I could allow a sense of ease and confidence for the
simple act of knowing to pause in today’s heavy sunshine,
I imagine that delightful, intrepid poise can offer a
foundation for my less assured endeavors.  

community · connection · faith · grace · healing · isolation · laughter · spirituality

Too Hot to Handle

There’s a maxim around here that goes: G-d will never give
you more than you can handle.
To echo Wednesday, bullshit.
I think this phrase is missing a key point at the end of it: G-d will never
give you more than you can handle with the help of others.
I think G-d or the Universe or life will always give us more than we can handle *alone.* I think, in
fact, that’s the point. In order to be able to handle that which is handed us,
we
must reach out for help from
others, or help from “god,” which often comes in the form of help from others
anyway.
I think it’s important that we are given more than we can
handle alone, otherwise, surely, we all would. If we could live like Sandra Bullock in “The Net,” ordering
pizza via the internet, watching a yule log screen saver, and never knowing our
neighbors, we would. But I still think about that movie every time I nod or say
a passing hello to my neighbors: I am not anonymous; I am not alone.
In that movie (sorry, y’all!), Sandra’s character gets
accused of something or other, but no one can identify her, and her identity
gets stolen. No one except one character (her shrink) actually knows who she
is, actually recognizes her. The neighbor says, no she doesn’t think that’s her, even though they’ve
lived in proximity for a dozen years.
What kind of challenge of growth is there in that? If we
were intended to live in isolation, there wouldn’t be all this talk about
connection and community, mehta and helping one another, and my understanding of tikkun
olam
(repairing the world) has a lot to do with
eliminating disconnect.
I opined to my coworker, who was listening to Pandora the
other day when one of these new modern radio songs came on (I don’t remember
which one). But it was one that eventually has a chorus of voices yell, Yeah!,
or Hey!. And I theorized that the proliferation of “modern” songs that feature a chorus of voices at some point is a call for
connection, to refill and replace the actual being with others—if we hear a
chorus of voices yell, Hey!, on the radio, we want to yell along with it, too. For a
moment, we are also connected to those voices, even though they be
computer over-layed with one another.
This “new” sound I hear has a lot of that, and my opinion is
that they’re also trying to create community in the best way they know how, to
create a moment of connection and a feeling of being a part of a crowd…even
when you’re just driving alone in your car, and the person next to you is as
well.
I do think “G-d” gives us more than we can handle. In the utter inability to handle things on our own, I think
we’re intended to reach out to one another or to a “power greater than
ourselves” for help, for guidance, for support, and mostly, for laughter.
The amount of laughter you can have alone is much less than
what you can have in interaction with each other – like I’ve been saying about
random connections with store clerks or bus passengers: You never know what
will be said by the other, and it creates something totally unique.
This morning, with all of this on my mind, in my notebook is
a printed quote by Anais Nin:
Each friend represents a world in
us,
a world possibly not born until
they arrive,
and it is only by this meeting that
a new world is born.
I make it a point to say hi, or at least nod to or acknowledge
my neighbors, to let them see my face, and I theirs, as I rush in and out of the building at
the ends of a long day. I want to be able to recognize, and possibly say hi,
when I see them on the street, and, mostly, I want them to be able to pick me
out of a line-up. 

abundance · acting · authenticity · grace · gratitude · happiness · joy · life · performance · spirituality · theater

Being There

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See, there’s two things I’d forgotten in all the sturm&drang of rehearsals & work & sick & crossing bridges
& lack of down time: I’m actually good at this acting thing. And I enjoy it. 
In the maelstrom of preparation, I forgot why I was doing this.
As I sat in our reserved cast seats in the front row of the
audience, watching the other actors before my scene perform, I got a
few minutes to gather myself, and reflect. Something the director said during
the “let’s get PUMPED” speech before we got into costume helped to remind me:
She said, This is for you. This isn’t
for your friends, your parents, your partners: This is for you.
This is for me, I
repeated to myself. I remembered that this isn’t for a resume, for a good story
to tell when I’m older; this isn’t for accolades or for money. I am doing this
acting thing,
because I enjoy it.
Because it’s FUN. Because, once I do get through rush hour traffic from Berkeley, once I do find parking in the Mission behind some dude drinking Steel Reserve and
selling electronics out of his car, once I do get upstairs through the weird
haunted building, I come to a black box theater.
In that theater, I’m there to have fun, to enjoy myself, and
to share myself. I’m there to engage in something I thoroughly enjoy, just
for the sake of it
. How fucking novel.
It was and is nice to have been sought out during the
wine&cheese reception after the show by a cute little gay boy and his girl
friend, to have them sidle up during a conversation with a beamish grin, and
tell me how great my performance was. That they got chills. To ask if I did
that thing with my hands on purpose, and wow, you did? Wow. That was so great.
It’s gratifying to know that something that I actually enjoy
doing is enjoyed and appreciated by others—that’s true, too. (We are only so spiritual!)
But then, isn’t that the point of theater, too—to affect
another person. To affect an audience, to help them experience something? Sure, Mol, sure. Yes, you can enjoy the
accolades, too. As long as they’re not what’s driving you.
In the chaos of rushing to work, to rehearsal, to home, to do it all over the next day, I began to feel weary. I began to feel like
maybe I’m not cut out for this—that
maybe this hustle is a younger person’s game. Maybe it’s too late for me to be
high-tailing it all over creation in service of a pipe dream.
I really was beginning to wonder if I would audition again.
Part of my delay/hesitance recently, is that I knew I was in
a production that was taking all my time & memorization space. Part of it is that I
know I’m going out of town in April, and didn’t want to audition for anything
new when I’ll be gone. (Cuz, it seems to me that working actors can’t
really take vacation…)
And, part of it was/is just plain exhaustion and feeling
grueled instead of fueled.
But, I am getting to see that perhaps this is just part of the
process. Part of that “put in the hard work to enjoy the results” thing that I’m so
loathe to do most of the time. HARD
work? Meh.
But, perhaps that’s what’s required here, to get the feeling
I had last night. Sure, I fucked up some lines, but people didn’t seem to
notice. I still got to feel the sense of “right place.” In the chair, on
the stage, in front of lights so bright you can only make out shapes in the
audience; hearing the sound cues, the mounting tension of my scene, the
mounting tension I bring to my scene.
Getting to be there, getting to sit in that chair and show you what I’ve got –
It was… well, enlivening.
There’s a phrase I’ve heard to name those times when you
are so engaged that you feel out of time, out of the chaos of place, when you are so in something that
“time just flies,” – it’s called being “in the flow.” When you are so engaged
in what you are doing, when you are so enjoying what you are doing that you are somehow matching the heartpace of the Universe. When for moments or even hours, you just feel in it – your speed
aligns with the speed of life, and you flow, you coast, you glide.
In it. To be IN IT. In life.
There was a moment, too, as I sat in the dark audience
awaiting my scene that I remembered something I sometimes do: I survived cancer to be here, and I am HERE. Staking a claim. Making a name. Claiming my own.
The gratitude I felt to get to be in that PUMP YOU UP circle before the show: All chaos, time
pressure, toll bridges are lost – and I’m just there. 

fate · god · grace · sobriety

BFGOG

This’ll be a short one, due to time, and that I feel quite
drawn today (insert cartoon image of me—get it?).
I’ve been sitting with this phrase since last week, when two
work occasions brought it to mind: “But For the Grace of G-d, there go I.”
The 16-year old sister of a student got locked up in a 5150
last week, for mental and drug-related reasons.
An unstable woman my age sought to get all bases of her soul
covered by coming to my work before she gets sent away to jail.
It’s been 10 years, nearly 11, since I was in a padded room
or a barred cell.
But for the grace of god, there go I.
Call it grace, call it luck, call it divine intervention, call it none of these. I don’t know why, and I don’t test my chances. As best I can, I stay in
the middle of the boat, make phone calls, meditate, get outside help, and just continue to try, because there is a gossamer slip of distance between those
lives and my own.
Call it whatever you want, including random chance. Just
call me grateful.