Thursday, February 21, 2013

strength to strength

so much has happened in the months since my last post...
i now own a business called two trees herbals.  i make lotions, teas, salves, bath bombs, goat's milk soaps, lip butters, and flower-petal facial cleansers...

   and my children have finally experienced       
  a) having a room of their very own, and   b) snow!
what else has changed in the past five months?  well, friends...lots. 
 sit down, sip some tea, listen up:

i used to think i was a flake.  now i know that people called me that because they couldn't handle my constant creativity.  now i revel in my flakiness, hug strangers, hand out heart-shaped soaps and kisses on valentine's day, break out dancing in the aisles of the supermarket.

i used to think my weaknesses defined me. i hid when i was sad or ashamed.  now i know that it is my strengths that define me, that when i dwell in my strengths, i lift everyone around me. the weaknesses are there, yes, but they just aren't that important!

i used to think my periods of depression were unhealthy.  now i know that as a woman, i naturally flow through periods of introspection and vision, periods of action and joy.  when i feel sad i call a friend instead of hiding. when i feel tired i go inside and dream.

i used to think that since i didn't have a career or a car or a title or a bank account or insurance that i was not important or successful. last week a college student asked if she could interview me for her class titled  "success and creativity".  she said "you are the most successful creative person i know!" boy did that spark a radical reframe! i realized i had been living from one belief system and defining success by another.  by my beliefs, i am a raging success.  i have wonderful friends, healthy children, a flexible mind, and i walk lightly on the earth, helping wherever i can. also, i have good dance moves.

i used to think i could make the world better by sacrificing myself.  i thought if i kept my head down and worked tirelessly for others, i would be a good person.  now i know that a good person is lit up, radiant, joyful, inspired.  a good person is not drained and miserable. you can never be hungry enough to feed another person.  it doesn't work that way.

i used to think that i had to be an expert before i could teach.  now i know that if i feel a need for anything, i can just create it.  as soon as i realized this i created an herbal business, began facilitating a women's circle, teaching a yoga class, organizing a conference, proposing and planting a tea garden on someone else's property, and publishing articles in magazines.  i don't have to wait for anyone's permission.  i can just create where i feel led.  whoa! did you guys know this??

i used to think that my poor decisions and weaknesses were awful mistakes that i had to put behind me.  now i know that people living huge lives do not have small problems.  they have huge problems.  we are given huge problems so that we can get over them and then help others with huge problems.  i have learned that the very things that tear me up, bring me to the boil, and devastate me are my keys to helping others. my experience of marriage to a tyrant enables me to guide other women out of marriages to tyrants.  my fury at prejudice against mothers inspires me to create free childcare programs wherever i go, and to support and inspire mothers to stay free, wild, and creative. my brush with extreme poverty and deprivation, and my refusal to ever feel anything BUT abundant and joyful, helps me fight poverty and the mentality of scarcity wherever it crops up.

i used to think that i was one fish struggling upstream alone.  now i know that there are many of us all swimming together, and that i am the fish, the water, the rocks, all of it.  there is more going through me than i know. when i can step back and remember this, re-center myself in my divine purpose as an instrument of expression and evolution, all is right with the world.

also:  north carolina is cold.  you have to wear layers.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

there is always a response.

Yesterday my ego got dented a little because we met two mothers and their children at the Annenberg beach house.    One of these mothers removed her beach cover up and the other mother exclaimed gushingly about her gorgeous, youthful, runner's body.  Later when I removed my beach cover up there was a very conspicuous silence. Shallow, oh how I know, but still.  I went to bed convinced that I am both old and ugly and will never have a clean bathroom.

But when I woke today...the morning was charmed. The boys woke happy and we had a lovely dream-sharing session; I cooked garden omelettes for them which they not only ate, but ate with appreciation; and then, even though we left the house twenty minutes late, we caught a bus immediately and arrived at our destination on time.  The bus was not crowded.  We got our own seats.  The boys did not whine or kick the other passengers; instead, we entertained each other with homespun stories about dragons and unicorns and brave fish-children.  Both children hugged and kissed me and told me they loved me as they stepped off the bus to meet their father (okay, so I got my head stuck in the door.  It was a little bit embarrassing.  But the driver opened the door again, my children love me, still a red-letter day.)

High on the love of my children, and higher still from being free of them for four hours, I wandered through the Santa monica farmer's market.  A gorgeous organic farmer met my eyes.  "Hello, beautiful," he said, and handed me a free peach, winking.  One of those Segue-straddling city ambassadors hailed me to ask if I needed anything.  "You are such a beautiful woman," he said. "That smile!  You remind me of Diane Lane."  (Yes, I admit that the minute I got home I googled Diane Lane to see if this was a compliment.  It was.)

 I giggled to myself.  What was going on?  The more I laughed, the happier I felt, the more ridiculously responsive the world was.  I stopped into Wells Fargo to use the ATm.  Actually, I had no money to withdraw, I just knew that on Fridays Wells Fargo hands out free water and coffee and I wanted some.  One of the banking representatives walked up to me.  Uh oh, I thought.  They're on to me.  No, no, not on this charmed morning.  He'd simply seen my yoga mat and wanted to ask me where I do yoga.  He chatted with me longer than strictly necessary and as I was leaving I heard his coworker ask him  excitedly "did you get her number?"

WHAT WAS GOING ON?!?  Please understand, this NEVER happens to me.  I mean, I made it through my twenties without being picked up ONCE.  (I never even went on a date until I turned thirty one. And even then, I had to pick up the tab.)  I had twenty minutes before yoga class.  I was, apparently, gorgeous.  I decided to buy myself a cup of tea to celebrate and write in the sunshine.  The moment I sat down the phone rang.

It was my lawyer.  I developed an instant Pavlovian stomachache.  He's a lovely man, but almost always the bearer of bad news.

"Are you sitting down?" he asked.

Now I understood.  I was about to be knocked flat yet again by the unenlightened @#$%@#s at the Santa monica Family Court. The Universe felt slightly bad about this and was throwing me the bone of one charmed morning in recompense.

"I got the evaluator's report this morning," my lawyer said. "He's going to recommend that you be allowed to move away and also be granted sole custody.  He could see indications of emotional abuse in the father's behavior and recommended that he not be allowed to even visit the children for longer than two weeks at a time. It's a slam dunk. Congratulations."

I levitated a little bit.  I really did.  The guy sitting next to me put down his newspaper to gawk at the spectacle of my butt hovering over my chair.  Oh wait, maybe it was that charmed morning thing again, just making my butt irresistible on top of everything else.

The whole world opened up to me in brilliant color.  I loved everyone I saw.  And it dawned on me...everyone wants to be seen and loved.  All morning I'd been shooting love out at people, sharing my joy, and they'd been responding.  There is always a response.

In this long, agonizing, painful fight for my children, I've lost faith at times, because it took so very long to come.  But in the end, there was a response.  I just loved my children and held on as hard as I could to what I wanted and now...there has been a response.

Hallelujah.  I am so very very grateful.  We are North Carolina bound in two weeks. incredible drizzling of icing...THERE IS A HYBRID CAR WAITING FOR mE THERE.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Toothy Decision, Part Two

So. Despite almost-daily oil-pulling and much-increased decisiveness in many areas of my life, the pain in my tooth got so bad that one day Anainn said to me: "why do you look like a devil?" I was drinking lemonade at the time, making a sort of tube with my tongue to try to keep it from hitting my sore tooth.  I went through these contortions unthinkingly every time I ate or drank something too hard, too hot, too cold, too sweet, or too...well, anytime I ate or drank.

It was time.  I phoned up the UCLA dental clinic and decided to come in as an emergency patient to avoid all the x-rays and scans they would require otherwise.

So there I was, in the waiting room, reading my book about the Feeling Body (yeah, I know, I know, there are other genres besides soft psychology) and feeling oddly excited.  I checked in to make sure---yes, what I was feeling was not dread, but excitement.  It was exciting to be here at the dental clinic, having stepped WAY outside my comfort zone and chosen to follow through on self-care.  They ushered me in after an hour's wait, back through room after room of empty dental chairs, into a tiny little warren where they'd packed, for no apparent reason, everyone.

My student-dentist introduced himself nervously and rapidly began to tell stories---about Ludwig's Angina, a rare but spectacular condition in which one's molar migrates down into the neck and starts to throttle the jugular...and a rare case, experienced recently by his colleague, in which a wisdom tooth migrated into the brain and caused modifications in personality. Wow, I thought, dental psychology...never a field I had considered!  I expressed how interesting I found this and my dentist seemed mildly astounded to have found an appreciative audience.  "I talk a lot," he confessed.  "I'm a nerd."

"Me too!" I exclaimed.  "I'm a plant nerd, totally obsessed.  I can't tell you how happy I am to be in nerd hands."  He pulled down his dental mask and grinned at me, and I knew I was going to be okay.

Nerd Dentist and his supervisor gently explained what was going on with me---a rogue wisdom tooth was growing sideways instead of down, drilling into my jawbone ("and headed for your cheek!  Imagine if it pushed right through!" said Nerd Dentist, wide-eyed) and abscessing a molar in its selfish journey to freedom.  Something had to be done about this, of course, since if I left the problem unchecked I would "explode with pus and die" in my Nerd Dentist's elegant description. I decided to have both suckers pulled.  This was not a popular decision.  They called in reinforcements---five people, by my count---to try and convince me to have a root canal instead.  I have read about root canals.  They are dangerous, have longterm health effects, and cost lots of time and money.  They frequently have to be redone.  I heard nothing to contradict this from any of the people who spoke to me, except for the possibility that my bottom molar might "migrate upward" in search of its lost mate.  That actually sounded rather romantic.  I've been trying to "migrate upward" for some time, myself.  Teeth, apparently, mate for life.

"So what you're telling me," I said (though I was partially numbed so it sounded less erudite in person) "is that the difference between a root canal and having it pulled is basically $1000?"  "Pretty much," said Nerd Dentist.  "Yank it," I said.  Decisively.

I had an odd sense of creative euphoria.  I wanted to talk about so many things.  I wanted to write a poem comparing lying in a dental chair to waiting for a bus.  I wanted to invent a little dental-chair projector that a patient could operate while she is being operated on, projecting books and pictures up onto the ceiling.  I wanted to hear more about spectacular tooth disorders.  Some of this may have had to do with the anesthetic.

The little machine they put in my mouth to separate the rogue tooth from my jawbone sounded exactly like R2-D2.  I wondered, "is this why nerds become dentists?"  I giggled a lot.  I kept reminding my body to relax, consciously unshrugging my shoulders and breathing deeply.  The surgery went on and on and on. Apparently my tooth had "curvy roots".  Sample dialogue:

Nerd Dentist:  "No, I had success with this that one other time, remember?  I just elevated and elevated it distally and corkscrewed the sucker out."

Assistant #1:  "I've never seen that work."

Nerd Dentist: "Well, it only works if it's REALLY elevated.  Well, I'm gonna try it. Maybe I'll make a believer out of you with this one."

Assistant #1:  (mumbling) "I doubt it." to me:  "You okay?"

I wanted to tell them they were like good cop and bad cop, but there was so much gauze and equipment and so many hands in my mouth that I felt a little like I did when I was giving birth to Xir.  Like, "that part of me isn't supposed to stretch that far, I'm pretty sure."

Eventually, after I'd mentally composed the tooth/transit poem and memorized the stucco pattern of the ceiling, they got all the little pieces ("corkscrewing the sucker", apparently, hadn't worked this time) and sewed me up.  I told them I wanted to see my tooth.  It seems that no one asks that, because they seemed confused and rooted around for awhile.

"Why?" asked Nerd Dentist, handing it to me.

"Maybe the tooth fairy will come and defray the cost of this appointment!" I joked.  But really, I just wanted to see this little trouble-making part of myself, this tiny bit that had the will to strike out on its own.  It had a crazy hook on the end, where it had climbed over the jawbone, but otherwise it was a perfect little pearly baby tooth.  I kind of loved it.

I checked inside again.  I wasn't feeling excited anymore.  I was feeling tired, and in pain, and a little sad.  I let these feelings be.  I realized how rarely I allow myself to mourn a loss.

"You okay?" asked Nerd Dentist.  I realized that up to now I'd probably been the perkiest patient of his life.
"I'm sore," I said.  "But I'm also sad to lose this tooth.  Doesn't it represent wisdom?"

He looked right at me.  "Yes," he said.  "But now it's on the outside, where it can be seen."

He warned me several times not to smoke while I was healing.  "I don't smoke!" I finally shouted.  He leaned in meaningfully. "Not even marijuana," he whispered.  I rolled my eyes.  Why does everyone always think that?  Is it because of being a plant nerd?  Or the perkiness?  Anyway, he gave me his card and told me he wanted to see me again.

I think he meant for a follow up visit, but I'm not sure.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Toothy Decision

I've been having some problems with my teeth lately.  This could have something to do with the fact that the last time a dentist saw the inside of my mouth, Bush Sr. was in the White House.  Or it could have something to do with the legal system of Santa Monica, whose insane delaying tactics (going on a three year custody battle here people, and of that, two years have been bureaucratic delays) have caused a fair amount of tooth-grinding in moi.  Or there's an eensy weensy quite negligible chance that my diet (sugary tea, homemade brownies, and hazelnut chocolates) might have something to do with it. But really it's none of these things.  It's because I'm indecisive.

No, really, it is.  Decidedly.  I read this in You Can Heal Your Life, courtesy of the amazing and multitalented Laura Alvarez.  Teeth, according to author Louise Hay, symbolize our ability to make decisions.  When we are struggling with choices in our lives, our indecisiveness can manifest as tooth trouble.  Well hmm.  I'm pretty sure that the Wikipedia article on "Indecisiveness" has my photograph as the illustration.  And if not, it's just cause you just can't trust those damn internet sites. 

As fate would have it, the visit to Laura that introduced me to this fascinating book came hot on the heels of a session with my MFT.  She, too, had given me a book to read, titled Addiction to Perfection: The Still Unravished Bride.  It's a Jungian analysis of the Medusa complex, and I have been unable to put it down.  The Medusa complex is a series of symptoms that manifest when our ego and our spirit/unconscious are out of tune with each other.  Although I've yet to finish the book, from what I understand it is easy to "freeze" (or be turned to stone, hence the name) when faced with the dark entirety of our shadow selves.  Often this complex afflicts women who try to hard to attain ideal states---spiritual or physical---and ignore or cut off their feeling body to do so, regarding it as weakness.  Eventually the feeling body revolts, and at the point when the strength of this revolt matches the will of the ego to maintain the "ideal", total paralysis ensues.  There can be no forward motion because the forces oppose each other perfectly.  

Well gosh, that sounds familiar too.  Remember that whole long marriage to the spiritual teacher and the six hours of meditation a day?  Yeah, me too.  TOTAL PARALYSIS.  Indecision.  Tooth problems.

But the universal unconscious has my back!  Flitting about the internet the evening before these momentous events, I had happened upon two articles.  One discussed oil pulling, the Ayurvedic practice of swishing pure oil about in the mouth for several minutes and then spitting it out.  Apparently the oil draws impurities and bacteria from the teeth.  The other held forth on the healing properties of amber, specifically its use as a "teething" necklace.  These ancient resins, according to the article, have both sedative and antibacterial properties as well as being mildly analgesic.  

So this morning I woke and did several minutes of oil pulling with coconut oil.  Instant pain relief.  Amazing.  I followed the oil pulling with an inspiring and revitalizing yoga class in Santa Monica with Gigi Yogini, whose facebook post, in that beautiful Jungian synchronous way, had initially led me to the oil pulling article.  During the class Gigi asked us several times to set an intention.  Again and again, I affirmed my intention to be decisive.  (Although I have to admit there were a lot of other options that would have made REALLY good intentions, so it was REALLY hard to be decisive about decisiveness.) Again and again, we joined breath to body to intention, linking body and mind as allies, pulling spirit and ego together.  And afterward, the brilliant Briana (more synchronicity) and I headed next door to the bead store, where I decisively purchased some rather expensive but undeniably beautiful amber. Two strands. (I got one for my son too. Ahem, SEDATIVE qualities)

When I decide what I want, when I state it and believe it and follow through, it is truly amazing how quickly it comes to pass.  And my teeth?  I've decided they'll make it until the universal health care kicks in.  Which I've decided will be soon.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

So...another year, give or take.  The figs are getting ripe, the grapevines are crawling toward the top of the pergola, the boys are getting bigger and the 12x12 is still 12x12.  This morning I turned the compost and shoveled forkfuls of it around the tomato and broccoli plants. I bribed my offspring with quarters to gather lemon balm and mint leaves for tea.  I plucked nettles for my morning eggs and then stood with my chin in my hand and looked, really looked, at this space that has been my home for so long.  Had I known I would be here for two years, wouldn't I have put in fruit trees?  A pond?  Built an outdoor room?  Sewn curtains? Covered the cinderblock walls with murals?

If I had known I would be here for so long, wouldn't I have made a greater effort to build community?  To volunteer, start a nonprofit, involve my children in the workings of this ecosystem?  To create a band, a babysitting co-op, a couple of beehives? To learn to sail or surf? To run for city council? What on earth have I been DOING?

I've been twiddling my metaphorical thumbs, waiting for the life I expected, somehow feeling OWED, subconsciously assuming it will find me.  HA!  Wanting so many things that I am afraid to select one, finding that I am, in effect, choosing to have nothing.

I have been feeling a ferocious need to roar into focus, gather up the beads and string them, LIVE.  If here is where it is, so be it.  Leave the wasted time where it lies and move forward.

Did you know that nettles heal their own sting?  It's true: squeeze the juice of a nettle over a nettle rash and it will disappear.  The problem is the solution.  So if my problem is a lack of focus, wanting too much, then I shall give myself EVERYTHING.  I shall strike out in every direction that gives me pleasure: painting, surfing, hiking, sewing, gardening, traveling, making love outdoors, having dinner parties, doing yoga, writing, creating necessary changes, learning.  I am going to have it all.  I am going to make a sincere effort to have it all.  Because fearing that I will somehow fail in having it all has held me captive long enough.

And I owe this world my full, glorious, LIVED life.

My last post, written nearly a year ago, featured this song.  I wrote it in a depressed daze, feeling I'd left myself behind, praying that I would stop wanting so much.  I remember thinking that if I could just forget how much I'd wanted, dull down my frantic desires, I would be at peace.

I know better now.  Our appetites are beautiful.  Our gargantuan, articulated, immense WANTING is the fuel that drives us to create, to innovate, to heal.  When we stop dulling our desires with pastimes and rubbish and self-recrimination and invented drama, maybe we will start feeding ourselves---and by extension, our world---with the deeply nourishing things we truly want.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

making art of everything

recently i found myself at the end of a day with the strong feeling that not only had i not accomplished anything, but that i had actively made the world worse. i was miserable.

but i had determined to record every night. so i took all of my mawkish misery and wrote this song. over the next week, i spent some time recording the sounds of the day-to-day dreary things i find so oppressive, as well as the beautiful things i love to do, like watering the garden or snipping herbs into a salad. i looped these sounds into the recording and turned it into a celebration: both of a terrible mood, and of ways to get oneself out of it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

cupid and psyche

i'm sure you are all familiar with the story: it has different faces, beauty and the beast, east of the sun west of the moon, the polar king. it has been haunting me lately. nearly every culture has some version of it; mustn't it then hold something very important to learn?

she leaves the safety and familiarity of her home to wed a monster. he has either been threatening her family or promising them great wealth in exchange for her; either way, she does it out of duty. there is the suggestion that she never really fit in with her family anyway. she perhaps had no clear enough dreams of her own. does she accept this marriage as a sort of assumed purpose, hoping it will give some direction or definition to her life? she is young and strong and wants to test her powers. she feels she could take on a monster, perhaps even redeem him. she is eager for the chance to test herself. it is a relief, in a way, to have something to do.

her optimism and enthusiasm win him over. he treats her kindly. she begins to identify with him despite his repulsive appearance/invisibility. she feels she can be his ally, though everyone else misunderstands and fears him. it makes her feel important, special, to be the one who sees through his roughness.

but she longs to see clearly. she is confused by others' opinions and projections and needs a definitive answer about who this creature really is. has she been misled? is he truly as terrible as others seem to think? or can she trust in her own perceptions of his kindness and character? is he fooling her? is she offering her most intimate self to a monster?

so she takes her mother's advice, though he warned her not to. in the night, when he lays himself beside her in darkness, she holds a candle up to his face. she wants to see him clearly. that is not too much to ask, surely? but she is violating an unspoken agreement, the understanding that she should never look too clearly, too directly, that she should only perceive him in half-light and fumbling, that too clear an answer, too objective a look, would destroy the half-truth half-world they had established. illusions would fall in the face of what was really there.

but of course what was really there, what she sees by the forbidden light of the candle, is BEAUTIFUL. that vulnerable sleeping center of the beast, undefended and unmasked, is a god. and for the first time she knows, without illusion or pretence, that she loves him.

but a drop of wax falls and wakes him. he is furious to have been seen so clearly. it defeats him, his need to be a powerful beast, to hide behind the terror and the half-truths. he wanted to be the only one seeing. he did not want to be seen in return. so he casts her out. he takes everything with him: her possessions, her very home and the land it stands on. her daily context is gone. her illusions are gone. the monster/lover has flown and left her bereft.

she has nothing. she is cold and heartbroken and hungry. yet somehow she forgets all else, she forgives his unforgivable actions, she begins a wrenching and heroic journey in pursuit of him.

but why? why should she seek him now? why, in the face of his clear abandonment and cruelty, does she not go on and build a life for herself in other lands? isn't the onus on him now, the weight of proving himself, winning her back?

whatever her reasons--embarrassment to face her family, a lack of any other perceived purpose for her life, love--she follows him. she is told by everyone in authority that the journey is impossible. she is told that her physical body cannot go where he has gone. in some versions she learns to fly on the back of the wind. in others she is sent to the underworld, to meet the queen of the dead.

having made it to these unreachable kingdoms, she has one more battle to join in order to win him. in one version she must resist the temptation of great beauty or she will stay forever in the underworld. in another she must defeat a hideously ugly rival for her lover's affections by tempting her with beautiful dresses and golden combs. either way, vanity seems to be the final hurdle. once she has overcome it he is there, waiting to be rescued from (in one version) life with his mother or (in another) marriage to a she-troll.

her devotion has liberated him. but she has grown older and worn in her journey. she is no longer perfectly beautiful, or perfectly innocent. she has changed. she is no longer a fitting decoration for the illusory pleasure palace of their first wedded days. will he love her?

he will. they are wed. he has shed the guise of the monster forever. he brings her to the heavens to share the cup of immortality.

so who is she? (wisdom, womankind, the soul, the human spirit?)

who is he? (god, truth, man, ego, the shadow, the mind?)

why does he forsake her for looking at him clearly--although it is this action that eventually leads to his freedom?

and why is it that she is the one who must fight for his liberation, why doesn't he have to overcome any obstacles on his own? or if he does, why don't we hear about them?