Mirror, mirror (On Frogs and Princes, Dragons and a random Mycroft Holmes)

I think it’s one of my big talents that I mess up, so you don’t have to.

Every dungeon-going team has to have a clown, don’t they, who stumbles forward and sets off all the traps, so the group can move forward into the dungeon safely (and somehow the clown avoids being incapacitated simply because they’re goofy and clueless?) well: that would be me.

This is a story about my real-life prince. He told me a thousand ways that he loved me: I didn’t see them. He told me in the most beautiful letter I have ever received, and in the most incredibly thoughtful, perfect gifts. Seriously the jewelry he chose for me is my favorite color, elegant, fun, with an element of playfulness to it- it could have all been tailor made just for me. A lot of thought and heart and a whole heck of a lot of generosity went into the choosing of these gifts. And I won’t even describe (because this is a memory for me alone to cherish) the tenderness in his eyes when he watched me open them and put them on.

I still saw lack. We don’t have this, we don’t have that. We aren’t engaged. We aren’t in Hawaii. (Seriously – I have been a cranky, awful, difficult little princess!)

He patiently addressed my upset. He didn’t tell me I was being an awful little princess.

Instead of being excited for what we have now, and loving the moment we are in and the loving way we are together,

I became the worst version of myself. The Wicked Queen may as well have had my heart stabbed and held hostage in a box; I was lost and deeply sad. He loved me anyway.SW_Heart_Box

Last night I felt a deep well of patience, tenderness, love and honor in him that I tremble in fear to think I could have lost.

Look; he’s not perfect- I’m not putting him on a pedestal. I already did that early on, and he toppled off pretty hard. But he’s still the absolute best man for me and the best example of a good man that I know.

And I nearly threw this away.

How? I’ll tell you, so you can avoid it.

Frog Farming.


I have a prince. I was very busy trying to turn him back into a frog.

Why? Fear. Past lessons that need to be actively un-learned.

If I fall into lack of self-love, I can’t receive the love he gives – I can’t even see it. Deep down, I don’t feel I deserve it, so I can’t receive it. Self-esteem battered and low from previous relationships, having fallen into a vengeance-minded frog pond of my own, (“well, Fine! If this is what they think I’m worth, If this is how they think I deserve to be treated, then this is how it will be! I won’t eat, I won’t take care of myself, in fact, I won’t be good to myself at all!”) I threw my crown into the deepest, muddiest part of the pond, simply because the frogs I dated treated me, not like a princess, but like a frog. Do you see how this doesn’t work? *Don’t join them in their pond if you wish to marry a king, my dear. If you would marry a King, you must first be a Queen.*

Then when he gives, on some level I actually *fight* him, which manifests itself in the feeling that he’s not giving in exactly the right way or saying the magic exact words, so therefore it isn’t real! It’s somehow evidence that he doesn’t care, just like all the other frogs!

And asking for what I need? Forget it- that’s telling him what to do, and if he didn’t read my mind and think of it himself, it isn’t real. I’ve done that, the inner-wicked-Queen voice insists. I’ve done that! All those frogs I told over and over what I wished for and wanted and what would tell me I was truly loved, and they turned and used those things against me!

And – assuming that he really loves me? Knowing it and being secure in that? Forget it. I can’t assume it, because something in me whispers to me that if I DO, I’m deluding myself and falling in to making excuses, and doing it all for a man again.

A-ha. *There* it is. That’s the answer. Notice that “again.”

This is, I think, the key to frog farming.


In the past, I dated frogs. Frogs that I pretended for a long time were princes. I’d make excuses for their behavior, and I’d stick with them. I’d give myself what I needed in order to “fix” that they didn’t.

(There are needs it is good to take care of for yourself, and needs that absolutely go along with relationship. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)

I’d hang on even though they treated me very badly, because I was proud of my loyalty. I thought eventually they’d see my amazing, loyal heart, and they’d start being kind to me. I thought if I treated them well, they’d learn from my example. I didn’t just join them in the mud- as I’ve said, eventually I helped them, by taking off my own crown and throwing it into the deepest part of the pond.

So here’s the part where I hold up the magic mirror that shows things as they truly are, and I take a good, long, look.

I came into this relationship limping with so many wounds, my princess dress in tatters, it’s a miracle I still have a heart to give.

I saw him for the Honorable, incredible king-to-be that he is. I took a terrifying chance, and when he asked, I gave him all my heart. (With a moment of second-thought near running away, thinking for a second I was in a dragon cave after all. But that is a story for another time 😉 )

Yes, the wonderful man I am with says stupid things sometimes. Things that hurt my feelings. He also apologizes and makes amends. I took those human mistakes as signs he was a frog, and I refused to let him prove otherwise. He is NOT a frog like those others, but for a long time, I held on to the memory of the warning signs because I thought I was protecting myself.

“I won’t make excuses for him! See that thing he said, and that one, too!”

The problem is that over time, someone’s behavior and choices WILL show who they are. Consistently! Only I wasn’t seeing it. Not all the time. Yes, I appreciated him, but I still hung on to every single “proof” I could find that he was like the others. My crown was still in the mud, and I kept trying to kiss him back into being a frog.

Because somehow, that would make me safe?

No. Denying myself love, sabotaging it and making it into the hurtful dragon cave, frog-pond trap I had always experienced “love” to be, did *not* make me safe.

The human brain likes to predict… in fact it is important that it learns to do so, as it is a “supercomputer” that still can’t store enough, so it develops shortcuts and memorizes patterns.

Then it can see a pattern, label it, and utilize most of its resources for synthesizing new information it encounters that doesn’t fit patterns.

The problem is, sometimes it will get pretty shifty about trying to MAKE things fit patterns it recognizes, so it can move on. It’s like a lazy Mycroft Holmes, in love with its old filing system.


So rather than allow me to have THE love I have been looking all my life for, this Holmes of mine that sits in his library in his old dressing gown and worn slippers would rather turn the new love into the old relationships that hurt and failed me.

To keep things just as they used to be.

So. This is all to say: I messed up, now you don’t have to.

Reclaim your crown. Clean the mud off, put it back on, straighten it, and know you deserve love- the love you have always given others.
See him for who he really is; see him without fear-lenses clouding your vision.


It’s a fine line. Test your love, observe and see his choices, but once you’ve found out that he’s truly honorable, *don’t bloody turn him into a frog.*

Because eventually, even the most loyal and persistent of princes won’t want to live in a mud pond. Welcome him into the palace that is your heart, that you’ve been making ready just for him. If it took him a long, long time to find you, understand that it will be harder to open the doors. The hinges will be stiff – but he worked hard to be here, so you can work hard too.

Believe. Be brave. Re-knight your love. You truly do deserve it.


magic earrings from my prince!


“What if I fall?
but oh, my darling…what if you fly?” – Erin Hanson

When did you stop dancing?

 I once asked Baryshnikov how he leaped, so high and so free. How he broke the chains of gravity.

He said (and it’s the only thing he’s ever said to me, so listen up:) “When I leap, I do not think about the ground.”

So today in crossfit I had a crazy experience.

This was coming on the heels of an emotional drive there, in which I gave myself a pep talk. “It’s time for you to stop hiding,” I decided. “You thought it served you. It doesn’t. You put on weight, you slouched, you did everything you could in order to hide. You thought it would make you safe; that people wouldn’t look at you, then.
But safety isn’t going to help you rise. You’ve got to leave it behind now. Time to hold your head up. Expand. You’re afraid the scary men will come for you if you shine too brightly, aren’t you. Let them- you are strong now. You can defend yourself.”

There’s this thing called box jump. It seems a bit silly and not very difficult – you just jump onto a box. that’s it. with both feet at the same time. I couldn’t do it – I could do one foot at a time. I’d go as fast as possible; I’d alternate legs – I made it challenging for myself to make up for the fact that I was too afraid to take both feet off the ground at once.

 Now – I can jump rope, and I can do it fast. Both feet at once. But I can’t go very high, or so I told myself, which kept me from progressing to more advanced moves…

 today, my trainer Aaron Anderson said : try with both feet.

I said no, Aaron, this is a mental thing. I truly can’t .

 He said, okay, so just stack two weights on the ground. Start low. do it with both feet.

 So I did …

and I encountered a young me who used to fly. She was a dancer. She broke the chains of gravity and she really flew. She was proud of her leaps… I had forgotten all about her, and how those moments off the ground felt like the reason I was living. How flying became an obsession. How, in my pre-Juilliard days, my joy, my reason for living, was dance. I felt my spirit unleashed when I danced – I felt set free.

 and then, I fell.

It’s not the falling that is the hard part. injuries heal, though my knee will never be the same …

it’s the fear that stays with you.

 I was in a show – I had to dance, something I had choreographed myself, on a little walkway that was built around a live orchestra. The audience and orchestra were below me – and they seemed so FAR below me… and I fell one night.

 It wasn’t a big deal. After that, I was more careful. But something happened …

 I apparently wrote stories in order to protect myself.

 “you are too heavy.”

“you are a more earthy dancer. Do modern, Stick to the ground.”
“you have big, strong legs. You weren’t made lightly – you weren’t made to fly.”

 Now I know what it was that came up and choked me, when I spoke to Baryshnikov.

 That longing came up again today. So silly – so small…. jumping on to a stack of weights, and jumping off again.

 Every single jump (there were about 150 total, then I added another weight and did more)

 I was terrified. Paralyzed. Legs shaking.

 I was sobbing in crossfit; I could hear myself over the music, my breathing fast, panting like a terrified little girl.

 I kept going.

 This is a small thing….but each jump, I was taking that little girl by the hand and asking her to choose.

 Leave the ground.

Leave the ground.

Don’t think about falling.


photo by Mark Edward Lewis

IT’s not the falling itself or the injuries – it’s the feeling of terror that shocks through your entire body when you feel the unknown, the loss of control. Unsure where you’ll land or what will happen next.

 That blind panic has kept me grounded for so many years. In trying to protect myself from ever feeling that fear again, I was actually living inside it. I was knee-locked, grounded, weighted down, my wings clipped, never to feel the joy of reaching as high as I could again…

 I had thrown stones at my own mockingbird, and I had killed her with the relentless weight of my fear.

 So, here’s the thing: a big step can look ridiculous to anyone on the outside. Those weights looked like nothing. People thought I was injured; they were kind –

They didn’t know I was forcing myself through the scariest thing I have experienced in years.

 But I did it.

 It doesn’t matter how low that leap was. I did it, over and over until the little girl inside me released her stranglehold on the ground.

 Leap. Leap. Do not think about the ground.

 We are not here in this life to be as safe and comfortable as possible until the day we die.

 Leap. For your dreams, for your crazy desire to feel free of this earth for one moment, for the thing your heart yearns for that comes up in your throat and chokes you with tears when you try to speak it aloud —


 And do not think about the ground.

Do Not Try This at Home

When are you going to listen to her,
put her first
before the din of voices
“I am doing this for you,” they say, reproachfully,
and you are grateful, so very grateful –
as you put her needs aside just one more time,
just one more time,
you smile and laugh and thank them for their generosity,
and give and give and give the listening, support, presence – you can’t figure out why they want it-
your presence you diminish in your mind,
your presence you apologize for,
and so you let them decide for you. What you need. What you like. What you are so grateful to receive.

She gets so frustrated your stomach pitches as the wind buffets your house;
she’s shrill and childlike so you feed her
sugary treats to keep her quiet,
chips and, well, whatever she wants… because food is easy.
You grow soft as she pads herself thick,
inside this house she cannot defend.


What if you spoke her aloud?
What if you said “what I really want is time,”
what if you said “I want to do my work,”
what if you said “I am in pain, I want someone to rub my back, please, would you do that?”
What if you said “I would like to hear that you are proud of me,”
what if you said “I do not have the energy right now that you are asking for,”

Okay. So one day you do,

and they do not hear.
They continue as though lightning hasn’t struck the old house
as though it isn’t heating up the night as the flames consume its creaking, groaning beams

still, it’s burning.
Will you continue to live there, because to them, it still looks like the old house?

The point of this is simply:
one day, you’re going to have to let someone down. Maybe a lot.
Don’t let it be you. Not any more. Your very life depends on it.


this was written for Rabbi David Zaslow on his request for poetry dealing with light and darkness. Thank you, Rabbi David – 


By Rivkah Raven Wood


fire dancer – photo by Rivkah Wood

today i hold the sun
on one shoulder,
my arm curled around it
painfully; it burns, but i blaze joyous – I can.
a woman walking to the river
with a bright jug- lush colors painted
to hide the cracks, the scars, sunlight gilding the mended places;
ancient traumas survived, traced and mapped in molten fire.
I breathe and lift my head to the light- this is the heaviest task.
Always the desire in art is that it seem easy,
effortless, simple.
I am Achilles of Troy
defiant against that early darkness that comes with my choice.
Tomorrow, perhaps, I’ll lay down the sun;
its glory trumpeting scarlet, oranges, shading the mountains in luminous gold
may I shine my life so unabashed; may my releasing burn so brightly
as I sink beyond the horizon –
letting go never came quietly to me.



Jeffrey Staver, New Year’s Eve 2000 by me (in the mirror behind him.) 




Power of a Word

(*note: if you use this facebook app thingy, after you’re done, go right away into settings – apps – and delete it, because apparently it accesses a ridiculous amount of information.)

I did that Facebook word collage thing. My most used word was “love.” It’s a pretty nifty way to check in with the “word of the year” one-word new year resolution.


Yes. 2015 has been about love. Finding out what love is. Learning what love feels like (dear wounded young-me: it doesn’t feel unsafe. It doesn’t feel like longing. It doesn’t feel like lack or pity or regret. It doesn’t feel like fear and danger, scrambling to prove your worth, make up for someone else’s accusations and blame. It doesn’t feel like lack or  inadequacy. You only thought it did, so you found, allowed, and created those things. Love feels like safety, peace and growing. Love feels rooted in honor. Love feels like questions and risking only in that it might be time to shift the status quo, It might be time to leap and listen to someone else’s perspective. Love feels like respect – for one’s self and one’s own needs and boundaries, and for the other and their needs and boundaries. Love feels like home. Love isn’t the games you thought you had to play in order to be interesting, or the manipulations and power plays that left you so confused, shaking and dizzy.  Love feels intrinsically interesting in simply being authentic with another, and learning their true self. Love feels like trust – and when the Demons of fear come up to tell you to distrust, love feels like completely knowing those are just fear and damage voices from your own past. Of your own creation. Love feels like being trusted, and holding your head up with shining heart, knowing your lover believes in you – love feels like choosing actions that show love and gratitude for his belief in you. love feels like abundance. Love feels like an energy flow of giving and receiving, not hanging on and holding back. Love feels like loving yourself, nurturing the relationship entity, and loving him are all in harmony and a constant flow.)

I’m so grateful to the counselors, healers, teachers, hard work, and examples in life who all helped me see completion of that particular broken place, that Groundhog Day lesson on endless repeat. Over. Finally.  2015, thank you for realizing my one-word intention in life. I taught myself how love feels through the long, slow and difficult process of becoming whole. Of loving this flawed being that I am – as I am.

look- I’m not perfect in this. I’m still struggling with the idea that I can be beautiful to him even though I’m not blonde and tall. I still struggle with perfectionism and fear. I always will, because I am human. The difference is, I am now safe to know I’ll be true to myself  I’ll walk away from anyone who tries to crumble my self-worth by telling me I’m not honorable and not trustworthy. I’ll walk away from anyone who tries to tell me I deserve unkindness and lack-mentality living. I love my life and myself enough to let go of anything that dims my light  and doesn’t appreciate my heart.

When the self-talk becomes kinder and more compassionate, what we accept and allow in our lives shifts, too.

This is how to make room for love. Teach ourselves how love feels by having the courage to practice love-in-action.

2016: I’d like to see love still infusing the collage, of course; it’s a garden that needs watering, and it’s a joy to nurture. I’d like the central word to be: writing. Completion. It’s time to see my novels, my babies finally born. I’ve worked on them so long. Time to laser focus. Love makes this possible – it’s a solid foundation from which to build. Success will be what form it needs to take. I don’t know what it looks like, but I know what it feels like: completion.

What will your collage look like in 2016? What is your central word intention?

Apparently, we don’t have to know how to do it, or what it will look like. We just have to set the intention and leap.
Loving and living into it : now. Today.



Making a Change for Good

I’m so grateful to be alive this day and about to begin work on my books.

We all have so much – it would be easy to focus on the things we lack, the little complaints- they can fill our consciousness.
I’ve grown so allergic to complaints, I will actually walk away if I hear them. Life force and time are far too precious to me to spend focusing on the things that come along with being alive.

I had an awesome boxing session last night. Instead of “it’s too hot,” we enjoyed a shorter warmup time and the benefits of bikram boxing. 😉

Seriously! I know it sounds “Pollyanna,” as our world is addicted to complaining, goissiping, criticizing and whining – behaviors that keep us stuck in a lack mentality- (focusing on what we lack, operating from what we perceive we lack)

I dare you- on this day I dare you to begin the mental shift. Let’s focus on what we have. Beginning with life.
It can be actually physically painful to carve new neural pathways – but with persistence and practice, life will shift in profound ways.

And if you’re talking and I walk away from you, gently reminding you first that I’ve taken all the victim-talk I can tolerate, the choice is yours…scoff, get offended, insist on your complaints, or step up with me.


Start Again, I Heard Them Say…

The birds, they sang at the break of day

‘start again,’ I heard them say – ‘don’t dwell on what has passed away

or what is yet to be.’

Ring the bells that still can ring

forget your perfect offering

there is a crack, a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in

Anthem, Leonard Cohen

High Holy Days took me by surprise this year. I had gotten off the plane at 3am from visiting my new love, opening door after door into a new life that holds both promise and challenges; trembling with fear and a last-minute feeling of unreadiness,

my center hadn’t arrived home yet. My body had, but the rest hadn’t caught up yet.

“I’ll go to this service tonight just to catch up,” I thought, not really defining what “catch up” meant.

“To get centered again in my community and spiritual life.” and then, the famous last words I have said every year so far: “It’s just Slichot. That’s just the threshhold of High Holy Days – not one of the heavy services. I can handle it.”

It’s “just” Slichot.

Slichot – when we do the heavy work of forgiveness. I don’t know about you, but forgiving is sometimes far more difficult for me than owning my sh*t and apologizing. With apology, I can do my own work – I can use compassion, which is my strongest muscle. I can take accountability and it doesn’t matter whether someone accepts my true apology or chooses unkindness in response – I have done my work. I keep doing it. I take responsibility and work toward closure.

Forgiving others isn’t so hard, either…

except this year. This year, I have been thrown with jarring force against some boulders in the stream.
One who has taken his own life by his own choice,

and one who left me years ago without a single word of apology or explanation.

These both I am having trouble forgiving.

On a deeper level, I am having trouble forgiving myself.

What for? What did I do, that I cannot forgive myself for these losses?
It’s not always rational, the way the heart cries out.

So, I just listen. I listen and sit with the grief this year. The grief, the anger, the incomprehension.

The name that keeps repeating itself in my life – all three men bear the same name –

Friend who killed himself. Teacher who betrayed. Love who has become in many ways my guardian angel, for better and for worse – they all have brought me deep challenges.

As I grow older I am learning we aren’t always blessed with answers, with closure. Sometimes we just have to sit with what is, as wild, messy and incomprehensible as it may be.

So I find myself this year in a dark wood, the right road lost …

and yet, I know I’m exactly where I need to be.

Sitting with the anger, the mourning, I breathe in simple gratitude for my life as it unfolds around me. In the stillness, which is really the sounds of my neighbors coughing, shuffling, a whisper here, a sigh there – the usual sounds of stifled laughter markedly absent from this service, although there was laughter even this time –

I call in courage. Courage to grow larger than this grief, so I may contain it;
courage to expand and adventure bravely, and laugh again around the sharp edges of fear –

Courage to open my heart yet again to someone who, simply because he’s human, is given the power to cause hurt –

Courage to shift into a new rhythm that means traveling, being open to change, sitting with the fear every day and moment it arises, as it is hitting me hard and fast now in the shock of such deep changes –

“I work on forgiveness,”
“I forgive,”  as the rational mind can’t set a timeline for the heart.

I work on forgiveness.

Midnight Moonlit Confession:

“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
― Ray Bradbury

From time to time, I write to a particular agent in Jerusalem to check if she’s still alive, and if she’s still waiting for my book(s).

She writes me back within a few minutes. In my mind, she’s sitting there, tense over her computer, in complete readiness to spring forward into the world with my books. It’s childish and vain, but there it is: this vision of an agent who, like Miss Havisham, wears a cobweb veil, waiting for The Day, is the only thing that keeps me writing, on the more difficult days.

I try on first sentences like I’m searching for a wedding gown; I cry with the pain of it, sometimes, when it’s beautiful, which sounds arrogant but I believe it’s simply growing pains…
not really. Let’s be honest.

Beauty, a particular ache of perfection that hints at something vastly magnificent that we can’t ever quite grasp, has always made me cry. It’s in certain musical intervals. It’s in the reaching of a dancer’s leap. I even tasted it in a beer, once, on a hot day in Cambridge with the memory of the Bridge of Sighs lingering with the bitter sharp cool wetness of beer and river on my tongue.


photo by Kyle Cassidy – taken in an Arroyo, Somewhere

I never cry when blocked- that’s a horrible dull numbness, searching the unchanging dense foliage, pushing with aching fingers at the gate, longing for a pathway back into the seductive, dangerous, sometimes incomprehensible forest that has wildly overtaken my life. I feel in dizzy in love, some days. Other days, it’s Duty, and a coiled urgency in my belly tells me I am writing too slowly.

I don’t talk to anyone about it. I have a superstitious fear that I would talk out my books, and they would no longer need to be given life.

I could not write when I was lying to myself, insisting I was happy in a relationship in which I didn’t feel safe, understood, valued or adored. The words (my soul, really – my life force – my heart beats between the covers of so many books) deserted me, disgusted with my betrayal of self.

When I finally faced the truth and left, the words burst through the gate, yapping, leaping around me, licking my face, wagging their tails so hard their furry butts wagged too. I fell down under them- covered with glorious, panting, dog-breath laughing, stiff-pawed, floppy-eared, roll-around-on-their-backs-waving-their-paws-in-the-air words. My heart bursts with the reunion. About 1/3 of myself – I sobbed in relief. I wept with remorse that I hadn’t known so much of me was locked away; I only knew an awful numbness, an endless barren ache of longing and self-hatred.

My hands no longer shake; I no longer feel afraid, now that I’m whole again. What the heck was I doing in my moldering wedding veil, waiting for someone else’s approval for my life, self and work to be astounding? Waiting for someone else’s permission to shine – just because they said they loved me? Stifling a third of myself in order to fit with what someone else desired?

While an agent who has never met me in person but only knows my words waits for years with incredible, steadfast belief in my work.

The writing is writing me, now –  it’s creating my life. I no longer force or strain. It flows like the River Cam under the Bridge of Sighs. This is my marriage – a true marriage of soul to the soul’s purpose. I have dug myself so deep into these books, there’s no returning –

This is just to say: we have this life here – right now. What is the purpose of fear and hiding? What if we each had the trust and love in our Mad Creator, the Artist Formerly Known as God (or Life Force or Breathing or Time or Shakespeare or multiple Creators, whatever it is that makes you tick)

To be our weird, incredible selves that are works of Live Performance Art and damn what other people think, be wide open to them anyway and let them criticize if they must (which is a great detox, when they show off the furniture of their minds, likely mass-produced at Ikea, and weed themselves Out of our unique cottage, mansion, mausoleum, hobbit-houses) love us if they Get It, and basically have their own experience? What if?

I think that is what we’re here for. That’s what love means.
It means valuing so much what we have to give, that we give it to ourselves, too.
It means trusting in our own strength enough that we no longer silence ourselves.
It means believing in the power of Love enough that we endure any kind of ridicule for not fitting in, so that we might bravely shine our lives because somebody else might need a candle in the dark sameness, to be inspired to let their own shine forth –
It means to not stay around arguing with those who do not understand us, to not let those cobwebs of Expectation, the veil society mundanely dreamed for us, dull our senses, blot out our purpose –

It seems like far too many glorious people shrink themselves for fear of criticism.

It’s time for a Revolution of outrageous, courageous, radical self-esteem. Because I want to see your weird soul colors, friends. I’m selfish like that. I want to see ’em shine. Open the floodgates. Let the dogs out. Write those songs. Weave the poetry. Paint the fucking walls in legends and fairytale colors. Burn that wedding veil. Smash the cake. Stop waiting to live. It’s here now – it’s time.

I’m arrogant enough tonight to proclaim this, to anyone who reads this far.

With the luscious Capricorn moon singing in my veins of letting go, closure, healing, release and rebirth, I set my veil on fire.

Not waiting any more for it to finally be safe to be myself. Not shrinking myself so another person will approve and “love” me.
I owe it to the words. I never want them locked up again. It was far too painful.

(The agent who waits, believing in my magnificence…God bless her. I’ll send her cake.)

If Miss Havisham had had enough courage, generosity of heart and love for the world and her own weirdness to throw that wedding cake AWAY, set fire to her white clothing, dance with gratitude that the groom left her, she could have spun, with her life, a masterpiece. (instead, she lives in one, immortalized in cobwebs. Let’s not share her fate…)

Speak Truth


Speak the truth – respect me, respect yourself.
I no longer have room in my world for less
(Both coming and going)

Passover — I know what I am choosing to take with me, and what I will leave behind.

It is so clear.

This is the time when change can happen in an instant, clean and irrevocable. This isn’t the time of slow inward change, that mirrors the trees in winter. Like the natural world that surrounds us in the Spring, we burst forth into blossom. Action, movement, life – it is time to trust that we have done the work during the long slow winter, and seize the change – catch the rising tide- now!

Quick- there’s no time to ruminate! What will you take with you- you’ve only room to carry one thing.
One thing that will define your future life- one thing that is your expression in the life to come

Other years, there maybe other things- what Is it this year?

What do you leave behind?

No one said the leaving would be easy. It is fast, but not necessarily painless.

But : “the shell must break before the bird can fly.” (- Aristotle)

We burn the chametz, the remnants of our ego, our puffed-up places of illusion

In fire –
In candlelight.

Beautiful, purifying, painful – depending on how close you are to the flame.

Chag sameach. This year is the first year I can say : I am ready.

Going the Distance: Boxing and PTSD

There’s an interesting thing that happens during boxing training sessions.
Invariably, I’ll reach the point where my arm muscles say very clearly “Nope. Can’t move.” They feel utterly weak, as though I couldn’t possibly even lift my arms in the 12-14 oz. gloves, let alone hit a target with speed and accuracy.

When I’m working the bags alone, this is often when I stop. “Okay, I sweated, my muscles won’t move any more, I got a good workout, time to stop.”

When I’m with my trainer, I push through.  I take that one minute break and push on to another round.

Then another round.

I find that my arms WILL lift. They will lift by force of will alone, then from my feet to my hips to my core, they’ll hit hard.

Then, magically, the weakness disappears.  The muscle exhaustion and soreness is gone, like it never existed. A feeling rushes in that I could go another hour. I could go another 30 rounds if I had to. I could “go the distance.” I could get through every round, and do it with strength and speed.  I am unstoppable.

It’s an incredible feeling. sparwbrandon

This PTSD battle has been challenging in ways I could never have imagined. It’s been fascinating, too, when I remember to turn on the “observer” and distance from it.

So much is unfolding, it’s taking a strength of will very similar to that required in boxing in order to simply get through the day, some days.

For those reading this who also struggle with PTSD,

here are a few things I have learned.

It is actually not good for us to do things like guided meditations. It seems like it would be a great thing, yeah? For many people, it is. But for PTSD, closing the eyes, telling one’s self to “relax,” these actually can be harmful practices and cause deep triggers in the subconscious. It can also strengthen a component of PTSD: dissociating.**

So here’s a helpful and good practice:  grounding.

There are three types of grounding: Physical, Emotional (or Mental), and Safety.

Physical grounding is simply looking around one’s environment, naming very specific details, noticing them, feeling them. My fingers are on the keyboard. It feels smooth and a little warm. My forearms are resting on the desk. They’re in soft, warm sleeves. My feet are on the floor…

Name each thing. feel it. Get very specific. What colors do you see? Name them. It may feel elementary, but try it a few times – it has the effect of immediately bringing one back into the present moment, this place and time. It is *impossible* to be triggered and grounded at the same time.

There – that’s it – The antidote.  How to turn the kryptonite into a superpower! This may seem very elementary, but the practice of staying present every moment is a very challenging one. Our minds are like puppies- they love to run off and play with butterflies. When you have PTSD, it’s an added challenge, as our minds leap to anxiety, or ruminating over the past in order to try to “protect” us from it happening again.  The mind continually wants to “warn” us. The mind will also dissociate, or completely detach from the present moment in, again, another effort to protect.

If you’ve ever tried to train a puppy, you’ll know that chastising really doesn’t work. praise does. Gentleness and patience are required. It’s the same with the brain. When it wanders off chasing butterflies, even if it’s been a whole DAY of dissociating, notice. Whenever you finally notice, notice. Then name your present surroundings. Name what you are doing.

If you’re deep in dissociation, maybe set an alarm – every hour, if need be. When the alarm goes off, just check in. Where am I, What are my surroundings, what have I been doing?  Notice, don’t beat yourself up – save your strength for the real fight…

other types of grounding:

Emotional (or “mental”) grounding.  What am I feeling? Does the feeling have a place it’s living in my body? does it have a shape or a color? (note: VERY important – do NOT ask “why” you are feeling something. The rational mind would like to label and understand every feeling, but with ptsd it is vital simply to allow the emotional mind to be heard and recognized without needing to rationalize it. This is how the emotional mind will heal – and this is how ptsd will eventually understand that it is safe now, it doesn’t need to “warn” or “protect” us any more!)

Scan the body during emotional/ mental grounding. Name how you feel inside. If it feels safe, close eyes.

And the last technique: “safety” grounding.  This is coming a little closer to dissociation, so use with caution and keep checking in to make sure you’re in the present moment, in the room, in your body.

Safety grounding: What is my favorite color? really picture it. What is my favorite animal – is there a specific pet?  Who is my favorite person? What is my favorite place, and what is it like? Imagine details.

This is a great way to feel safe again, but do make sure to stay present.

There have been times during the day when I will say “Ok, enough. I want to bury this again; I lived with it for years, I know how to hide and bury it. I don’t want to walk this ‘warriors’ path’ of fire any more. I don’t want to heal this.”

But I look into the eyes of my friends, loved ones, parents, and I know I have to keep going – because if I don’t heal this, I’ll cruise along just fine and then there will be another storm. An argument I can’t handle, that makes me want to abandon everyone; a fear-attack that leaves me shaking and crying, inexplicable onset of worry and lack of safety…

yes, it would be easier to put down my gloves and stop battling to stay present every day and to ride out the painful attacks that are coming because I am actively treating and curing ptsd.

Yes, it would be easier for me.

But I’ve got to push through one more round. Because of the people I love – because they deserve to know me without this creature who is inhabiting my bones right now, who tells me to fear.
Also, beyond and underneath that, because I deserve it. I deserve every second of life I get to have – and I deserve it without shaking hands, without heart-stopping fear, without insomnia, without anxiety, and without self-sabotaging, hiding, isolating, dissociating or “checking out” so I’m not really experiencing my own life. I deserve to experience my own life and to really be here for it!  We all do.

i deserve to relish this life. Every day, I live in the gratitude that the moments of reveling are stretching to hours, that beautiful adventures have come my way the moment I chose to step into the ring, put on my gloves and fight this monster –

You can do it. Go one more round. Just one more.  Ground yourself in the moment, revel in the present moment, in the feeling and complete certainty that you are safe. In this moment, you are safe.

When the fear comes, keep going. Go one more round, and you will be unstoppable.ring

**information in this article is from the (work)book Seeking Safety by Lisa M. Najavits