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A Force to be Reckoned With

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

“Your normal coping mechanisms of “I’m going to make a ‘to do’ list, and once I finish my ‘to do’ list I will feel better” are just not going to work anymore.”  Sandra Tsing Loh

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”   Mahatma Ghandi

Change…or die!  These were my choices.  Of course, I chose to change.  You may think this is a no-brainer but I’m not talking about changing the wallpaper in my dining room, the color of my hair or my address.  No, I’m talking about epic change as in extensive, heroic, journeying and possibly the involvement of supernatural beings.

I read similar words in Christiane Northrup’s book, The Wisdom of Menopause.  Her health and sanity at risk, she faced a similar choice during her perimenopause years, change…or die.  For some, death is literal, others figurative.  Either way, it is death.  So to avoid death and truly feel alive again she had to give up the fantasy of how she thought her life would be, let go of everything she thought she should be, ditch all those crazy illusions, get real and find the courage to say enough is enough!  So, she and her husband parted ways.  She switched up her career and ventured out into the unknown.  Sound familiar?

Dr. Northrup thanks menopause for her new found life.  And she is not alone.  “We are awakening in masse”… she explains, “40 million strong!”  We women are a force to be reckoned with as our bodies and brains are literally being rewired for the second half of life.  As our hormonal veil lifts, we are no longer living in an estrogen cloud which keeps us focused on “the needs and feelings of others.”  We are now refocusing our attention on ourselves.

What we may call raging hormones during “the change” is actually a fabulous opportunity to reinvent ourselves!  After watching thousands of women go through this process as well as experiencing it herself, Dr. Northrup writes, “Menopause is an exciting developmental stage…one that, when participated consciously, holds enormous promise for transforming and healing our bodies, minds and spirits at the deepest levels.”

Perimenopause and menopause can be an exciting and extremely liberating time of our lives if we choose to fully embrace it.  It’s also scary as hell as we begin to see another side of ourselves.  A side you only see on reality T.V.

So, do not be freaked out if one day you have this overwhelming desire to spend a week at Burning Man in the Nevada desert in the middle of summer with your best plutonic male friend of ten years, Mr. Y, only to find that you have been secretly in love with him all this time.  Don’t freak out even more when you leave your family and run off with him only to then suffer the pain of him going back to his family.  This is what happened to Sandra Tsing Loh, author of The Madwoman in the Volvo:  My Year of Raging Hormones.  Some of us flip out.  Some of us turn our worlds upside down.  Some of us turn inwards.  Whatever turn you take during this crazy stage of life Sandra urges women to indulge a bit whether it be with a Dr. Pepper, chocolate, Chardonnay or a personal trainer.

Burning Man

I definitely indulged!  Still do.  And, I don’t regret it.  Sometimes it is necessary to shake things up.  But I am more careful these days.  I have found some semblance of balance and sanity amid all the insanity.  And, let me tell you, simply cutting back on sugar, alcohol and eating more kale is not the cure-all that the books promise.

The cure-all requires big epic change on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.

For me, knowing more than my diet had to change if I was to truly embrace epic change, thus avoid an early death, was a pretty big motivator to make some really tough decisions in my life.  Leaving my marriage after 22 years was one of them.  Honestly, it was and still is the most difficult choice I have ever made.  I continue to struggle with it.  But, this leap along with a few other big hurdles has resulted in some very positive changes.  Not only have I changed the way I eat, I have changed the way I play, the way I pray, the way I live and I the way I love.  And, it’s working for me.

I knew deep down inside I was the one that needed to change.  No one could do that for me.  And, I could not wait for others to change either.  I could not wait for a hot sexy man to kick down my door and scrape me off the floor or for society to wise up and catch up or the status quo to revolutionize or the planets to align or a higher power to intervene.  It was all me.  As my friend Susan brilliantly said, “The most difficult battles are the ones we need to change within ourselves.”  So, I battled it out; my own personal Armageddon.  But the outcome has been worth it.  My second coming!

You can be your worst enemy or your best ally.  It’s your choice.  I have decided to be my best ally, accept the changes my brain and body are going through and use it to my advantage.  Actually, I am not just accepting it; I’m embracing it, cuddling it, squeezing it, hugging it, and loving it.  Because this epic change is not only inevitable it is transformational!  And, the really cool thing about this is that as we change, “It is a safe bet the world is going to change, willingly or otherwise, right along with us,” says Dr. Northrup.

So, get on the bandwagon and join the movement my friends!  Choose Change and prepare for your second coming.  Sending all you beautiful intelligent sophisticated raging women out there (and the men that love you) healing vibes and lots and lots of love.

Dear Sugar Daddy

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Last night was the strangest poetry night ever.  It was the regular Wednesday open mic at the Ugly Mug in Orange.  Rachel McKibbens, poet, activist, and essayist was the featured poet.  The place was packed and I was sitting in a puddle of sweat form both the summer heat and my nerves.  I was planning to read a new poem I wrote, Dear Sugar Daddy, but I was nervous.  The poem was different from anything I had written before.

As the open mic got started, it was announced that we could read two poems or four minutes.  Typically it is three poems, five minutes.  But, there were so many people to see Rachel we would have been there till Friday if they kept to the usual guidelines.  My poem was close to five minutes.  I wouldn’t be able to read it.  I was so disappointed. Raundi, my BFF and partner in crime suggested I cut some parts.  I considered it, but I would either have to cut the funny stuff or the profound stuff.  I decided for the integrity of the piece, to not cut any stuff and save it for another night.

A few minutes later, once comfortable with my decision, Ben Trigg, one of the Two Idiots Peddling poetry, sadly announced that Rachel would not be performing tonight.  She had a family emergency.   Again, another disappointment.  Rachel is a truly remarkable poet. Her candor is both painful and powerful.  But through her words, she brings true healing to those who have known suffering.

But, as happens in life, when one door closes, another opens.  Because Rachel would not be performing, poets would have the usual three poems or five minutes.

So, it seems the stars were aligned in my favor last night because I was able to read my poem.  And, I was truly grateful for the response.  It was a hit.  But, I will let you decide. Per a friend’s request, I have posted it below.

By the way, Rachel’s family emergency:  a family member came into the Ugly Mug ranting and raving about Rachel not telling the truth, blah, blah, blah.  Honestly, her behavior made it impossible to believe any of her rants only to confirm the beautiful power of Rachel’s poetry. Keep on writing Rachel. There are those of us that want to hear what you have to say.  Actually, we need to hear what you have to say.

Here is a link to her website:  http://www.rachelmckibbens.com/

And a link to Two Idiots Peddling Poetry: http://www.poetryidiots.com/


Dear Sugar Daddy

Oh Henry, it was not because of Clark

You would have killed me before long if I continued to indulge in your divine sweetness.

Like oxygen is to fire

You stoked my sweet tooth

And fed my cancer

How I craved you

 

Your milk chocolate Kisses

And Gummi bear hugs

Melted me

And that almond nougat center of yours

Stuck to my insides

Your Laffy Taffy tongue could undo me in one licking

And the way you commanded those black licorice whips

You brought me to my knees

I prayed for salvation

As you placed Necco Wafers in my palm

Body of Christ

Amen

 

I still remember the day we met

I hit Payday

You were pure Almond Joy

With your Strawberry Starburst smile

And Milky Way eyes

I was on Cloud 9

You always had that affect on me

 

Like the day we played Double Dare with X rated candy hearts

You wrapped me in Bubble Gum Tape

Tootsie Rolled me in your Pop Rocks quarry

And Fun Dipped me in your old fashioned soda fountain

I was a red hot Atomic Fireball

Boom

 

Or the time we arm wrestled for first Dibs on that blue raspberry flavored Blow Pop

You won

The bubble popped

The gum stuck in my hair

We tried to wash it out with peanut butter cups

But it was of no use

I had to cut it all off

Every last strand

I knew then that I was in love

 

 

Then there was that infamous night you gave me a candy diamond ring

Down on one knee

You asked me to marry you

I slowly sucked the precious stone down to the stump

My saliva dissolving the red jewel down to a syrupy puddle in my heart

And said “yes”

 

You were my Sugar Daddy

And I wanted to have your sugar babies

 

Damn, how I loved to climb your Mountain Dew six pack

Count how many licks it took to get to your Tootsie Roll center

Tickle your skittles

Wiggle your Joe Joe’s

Butterfinger your Doughnut hole

And get lost in your package of Whoppers

Drunk on your liquid cherry cordial insides

I would howl at the Peppermint Patty Moon

While I prayed to the Sugar gods for more

 

But like all good things, it had to come to an end

I could not live on sugar alone

My doctor said no more

To keep my cancer from coming back

 

We were both devastated

After being joined at the hip, like melted Junior Mints

 

But instead of ending things, I became bitter

Trying to change you

I stripped you from your bright colors, sugar coating and gooey caramel filling

Took away your nuts, your sprinkles and your Good Humor candy center crunch

But as I tried to soften your insides it only hardened your shell

And we ended up in Big Hunk fights

 

When I finally realized changing you would not work

I tried to quit cold turkey, complete abstinence

I cleaned out my cupboards, threw out my hidden stash

And poured every ounce of you down the drain

But I became delirious

And my hallucinations got the best of me

Gummi worms were crawling all over my skin and Swedish Fish were swimming in my eyeballs

I could not take it

 

So lastly, I attempted to replace you with other sweeteners

But there was no substitute for you

 

I was in such denial baby

Quitting you was like trying to bite through a jawbreaker

You were my crack

My Dopamine Ding Dong

Bursts of euphoria would rocket me straight to Mars when you entered my bloodstream

I was addicted

No amount of Good and Plenty could satisfy me

And, my willpower was no match to your Pixie Stick

How I wanted to pour every last sugary granule down my throat

Let you dissolve in my mouth

Enter my veins

And travel to every corner of my being

 

Until one day, I hit Rock Candy bottom

I could not bear to live without you

So, I drank an entire case of Coca-Cola

Swallowed the Bottle Caps too

And hung myself from the rafters with Red Cherry Twists

They untwisted

I fell to the ground

Smashing into a thousand little Reese’s Pieces

 

That was when I finally admitted I was powerless over you

And came to believe that a Power greater than us could restore me to sanity

I began to let go

Joined AA

Went to my meetings

Found a Mentos

Read my literature

And worked my 12 step program

They were my Lifesaver

 

Since my spiritual awakening, I live a healthier life style

Green juice and flax seed cookies have replaced those late night candy bars, butterscotches and lemon drops

 

But I still long for you

Dreaming of those sweet lazy daze tangled in each other’s arms

Giggling at the comic strips wrapped around little pink Bazooka rectangles

Melted, hot, and sticky in a pile of wrappers and empty bottles of root beer

Puffing on bubble gum cigarettes

While the room filled with powdered sugar smoke

I Know that I Know Nothing

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

 

“We don’t know a millionth of one percent of anything”…..Thomas Edison

“I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong”….Bertrand Russell

 

There are some things I just don’t understand.  Like, how two brothers from Chechnya justify killing innocent people at a Marathon or, how people can believe the Holocaust never happened.  I don’t understand why airplanes don’t fall out of the sky or people can’t stop drinking when it is affecting their job, health and family.  I don’t get war, murder, rape, racism, conspiracy theories, cancer, football or why I have gained so much weight this past year.

I suppose there are some things, like flight for instance, that I may not understand but there is actually a clear- cut answer.  I know it has something to do with air pressure, gravity, thrust, and lift.  For a full explanation, I can look it up on the internet or get a book on the subject.  But that is only if I truly want to understand it.  I don’t.  And, I can live with the fact that I don’t get it. 

But there are some things that I don’t get that are much harder to live with.     

Terrorism, cancer, alcoholism, conspiracy theories, and well, my ridiculous weight gain.  Yes, my weight gain.  I have gained over 10 pounds this last year.  Some say that I needed to.  My Doctor believes it is from chemo-induced peri-menopause.  I believe both to be true but there is something else I cannot deny.  I am binge eating at night.  O.K.  I am not eating an entire gallon of ice cream.  I do stick to the pint size dairy free vegan version.  But, I’m still eating way too much when I am not even hungry.  I know many of you can relate.

I get that being worried about my weight gain seems pretty trivial in the whole scheme of things, even a bit silly, but I assure you it is not.  Why?

There is a common denominator between all of those things I listed above.  All of these “things” are either a result of or are in service to our need to get rid of the anxiety that comes from living in ambiguity. 

What is ambiguity exactly?  Ambiguity is uncertainty.  It is the not knowing anything.  Socrates got it over 2,000 years ago when he said, “I know that I know nothing.”  This he believed to be true wisdom; to admit that we know nothing and to be able to live happy productive lives with this knowledge, or lack thereof.

But most of us are not Socrates.  Living in this unclear, indefinite, equivocal state is not just unsettling; it scares the shit out of people.  And, humans don’t tolerate feeling uncomfortable for very long.

There was a great scene in Madmen, when Dr. So and So (sorry I don’t remember his name) told Don Draper,   “People will do anything to alleviate their anxiety.”  Then the doctor rides off in the middle of a snowstorm in New York City on New Year’s Eve at one o’clock in the morning on skis for a supposed “house call,” while Don heads upstairs to the Docs apartment to fuck the Doc’s wife.

 

So we drink, smoke pot, have sex with other peoples spouses, over eat, join fundamentalist causes, misuse political positions and for the truly disturbed and extreme, murder, rape and plant bombs at marathons, anything to alleviate our anxiety. 

The one surviving brother of the marathon bombing said that his older brother was “upset” by the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that anger was the motivation.  He felt like he never belonged here and he didn’t have one American friend.

Not only was anger the motivation.  Fear was the spur and ambiguity the muse.

Our anxiety over ambiguity shows up everywhere.  In our politics, religions, schools and social lives as we try to manage, organize, command, control and even escape the unease from the uncertainty of life.  Dr. James Hollis, a Jungian psychologist says if we are truly honest with ourselves, “There is a fascist within each of us, a Nervous Nellie who wishes comfort at any cost.”  And Hannah Arendt wrote in Crisis of the Republic, “Throughout history the totalitarian mind is obsessed by a need for the world to be clear-cut and orderly.  Accordingly, subtleties, contradictions, and complexities are felt as intolerable, and have to be eliminated by whatever means.” 

Thank god the majority of us choose what seems like more simple vices, food, alcohol, sex, or religion.  But, simple as they may seem, you can go overboard and can cause a lot of harm to not only yourself but to others as well.

I admit I have tried a few other vices.  Sometimes they work (in the short run), most of the time they don’t.  In the long run, they always catch up with you.  And it seems when you get rid of one vice, another one takes over.  Take my emotional food binges at night.  Yes, that dairy free Coconut Bliss ice cream is to die for.  But is it really?  Is eating ice cream and gaining weight which results in too much estrogen in my body which could result in my cancer coming back worth it?  No, absolutely not, but I do it anyway especially when I am most tired and weak.  When ambiguity comes creeping through the dark halls of my soul late at night and I cannot resist the temptation of that sweet sugary something to alleviate my unease, I am putty.  

No, I need to get to the core of why I am eating if I am truly going to change.  I need to let go and accept ambiguity, embrace the unknown, learn to live in the midst of uncertainty, feel uncomfortable at times, and sit in my unease, then maybe I have a chance to not only fit into my jeans again, but maybe I can truly embrace a deeper more meaningful life.  James Hollis says, “Psychological, political, social and spiritual maturity is found precisely in the capacity of any person to tolerate ambiguity.”

I am getting there.  I really am.  I feel some progress but apparently, I still have more work to do.  I suspect we all do.

So, as I continue my journey, read the papers, watch the news, struggle with our world’s anxieties and that pint of ice cream at midnight, I will remember Socrates’ wise words, “I know that I know nothing.”  Or, do I?