Days 4-8: No Bat Belt

There’s a scene in Dark Knight Rises where Batman is trying to climb out of a prison. The climb could mean death if he falls- so he has a safety rope tied around his waist. He works out, gets stronger, makes the leap, and falls. The only person to make this leap and survive was a child, with nothing but desperation and fear to spur him.

Bat man’s prison mate says:

“make the climb as the child did. Without the rope.”

He doesn’t need more strength; he needs to let go of his last tether to safety. He needs to know that there is nothing to break his fall, and he’s truly risking everything when he leaps.

This weekend was a time of removing my bat belt, my safety, my rope. Strand by strand, I unraveled and dissolved it, thanking it deeply for all the times it had saved me, but also recognizing that I hadn’t yet been ready for it. I wasn’t yet worthy of a bat-belt, a lightsaber, or a spear; I needed to learn to be strong on my own, first. Leaning on the assistance had me not trust my own strength or worth, to the point where I felt helpless, scared, certain I couldn’t make it on my own.

Dark Knight Rises: Prison Escape Scene

And so, I took off the rope. It was a painful, days’-long process.

I’m preparing for the climb again now.

These days had some victories: I discovered again how good exercise has me feel. On days I couldn’t go to the gym, I went on hour-long walks, bringing my focus to breath, and the feel of my feet on the ground as they rolled from heel to toe. I canceled some friend dates (thank you for being so understanding, friends ❤️) and I also reached out and called people, and wrote to one friend, when the despair got too heavy to carry alone. (Thank you for lending your steady strength and compassion in my dark pit, friends ❤️)

I’ve leaned on trainers, a counselor, and friends – but I haven’t leaned too much. There’s a balance. There’s a time when no one can prep us for the climb but ourselves.

I realized I had been hanging onto someone as he made the climb for us both, and we both fell.

But accepting help from community with deep gratitude is an important step for me. Hitting rock bottom and not being able to show a “perfect” face to the world has had me discover that many people are understanding, kind, and empathetic. They didn’t judge me. They didn’t even seem to think twice, just held me or let me cancel…

yes, there were those who surprised me with a lack of empathy, but having no resources to deal with that also made turning away from those few, and dropping those communications very easy.

There’s nothing like having absolutely nothing left, to teach a person how to say no, and how to say thank you.

And so here we are at Day 8 of the training. I’ve bribed myself with inspiring shirts to get me in the mood to go work out 😉

Day 8: Padawan

I’ve stuck with the challenge of dietary change (I’ll put a sample day’s meals here, one of these blog posts…maybe tomorrow …), of drinking half my body weight in ounces of water daily, (not as hard as it sounds, especially if you get some exercise in,) and of exercise.

I have discovered that I am most unhappy when I don’t allow myself to be as expansive as my nature demands: so when I was living in the “shoulds” of: closed off, reproachful blame, and victimhood; when I wanted above all things to understand why, I felt sick. I don’t need to know someone’s reason – all I need to know is that they chose.

As soon as I allowed myself to do what people told me I “shouldn’t,” which is: love, forgive, understand, be okay about things, let go, be actually happy about things just as they are, AND continue to wear my rings because they mean that I belong to myself now, and are inscribed a with these words: Present and Wonder, that I must live in now,

I felt better. I feel – good.

Ready to make the climb and leap with no rope, no bat belt.

What if I fall? Oh,but my darling,what if you fly? -Erin Hanson

Leap

“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.

weightsleap

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 —

 Leap.

 And do not think about the ground.

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.
gloves
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

Courage

roar

 
Soapbox Alert: let me drag out this old, worn box and climb up on it for a minute (or two).

People who are slinging around the words “cowardly” and “selfish” when it comes to suicide…those people lack courage in my eyes. They lack the courage of heart that is also called compassion. Deep compassion can be painful; to face that we don’t understand but can still allow – to say “I don’t know,” and really understand that we do NOT know what someone else’s experience is, and therefore cannot label it and make ourselves more comfortable. Because, let’s face it, we want to KNOW. We write stories about others – we project – because we want the illusion of understanding and control. When really, we have no control in this life. Everything is impermanent, we are going to suffer, we are going to experience loss and sometimes things are not going to be tidy or make sense – it’s the deal we make when we come in the door of this beautiful, painful, messy world.
What do we have control over? Only ourselves. Our actions, our thoughts, our choices, our speech. These things add up to: our learning; the evolution of our own soul during our own journey here in this place, together and alone.

So what is Courage?

Compassion is courage , in my eyes.
Forgiving someone else, truly forgiving (and having the strength to either wipe the slate clean if called for, or maintain any boundaries necessary to protect and honor ourselves) – that is Courage.
Saying “no” with loving energy when we need to honor ourselves and honor another with honesty- that is Courage.
Choosing to live our truth – Courage
Choosing to be honest in word and action, and that means even speaking when we’ve done something hurtful and could avoid conflict by being silent – Courage.
Sticking with a relationship and learning from it, or leaving when it’s truly time to leave – Courage
Remaining sensitive in a world that batters the heart – fighting to keep that sensitive heart open – that’s courage too.

Staying loving and open … the deepest courage there is.

Therefore: whether he lost the battle with despair & bipolar disorder or whether he didn’t and we are jumping to conclusions (because we can’t really know what happened)
Robin Williams was an example of courage, in my eyes. We tend to deify a celebrity when they die – we also tend to vilify them. Why don’t we let a person be a person, and honor their journey & struggle? He was a person who gave other people a lot of himself. Let’s leave it at that. I hope kids and adults alike will learn from how he lived. I hope we will all learn from our own responses, here. While we are still alive, we can learn; it is never too late to make a different choice. There’s nothing wrong with being wrong and choosing to learn – that’s what we are here for.

medal

Anger: Four Steps to Release and Heal

Anger. What is it, why does it happen, and what is the healthiest way to deal with it?

These questions have been coming up as I have carried anger for the past three days. That doesn’t feel good in my body or heart, so I decided to really examine what was happening.

I came up with these key things: four ways to diffuse and heal the anger.

 

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1) Name it.

What am I REALLY feeling? Anger is a secondary emotion – there will be something underneath it.  So go through, list the things you feel out loud. “I feel angry because ________.”  Keep going until you run out of reasons. Then, dig deeper.
“I feel minimized because _________.”
“I feel used because _________.”
“I feel threatened because _________.”
“I feel betrayed because _________”
“I feel afraid because _______”  whatever comes up, name it.  For each one, list reasons until you run out of things to say. Let yourself cry if you need to. purge it.

When you have done this, sit silently with your heart and give yourself love. Give yourself approval. Remind yourself that you are safe. No one can harm you or detract from you without your permission.

 

2) Reach Out.

Connect with other people who remind you how loved and how incredible you are – not necessarily with words, but simply with the way they are happy to be around you.

When we interact with others, the way we relate to them is a reflection of ourselves. We are creatures who project — and that’s why if we find ourselves continually saying negative things about others, if certain words/phrases keep repeating/patterns keep repeating with every relationship, it’s time to examine ourselves. For example, if people say their ex is “crazy,” (they’re likely to say that about all of them), it’s time to take a hard look at their own issues. Or If we are continually suspicious of others, it’s time to do some counseling to heal whatever it is in us that is living in a lack / fear of loss mentality.

So : go interact with the people you have good things to say about. The people you love. The people who make your heart smile. The people who know, love, and bring out the best you.

3) Take Personal Responsibility.

After a time, if the anger cycles and re-cycles, it’s time to examine what it’s trying to tell you. Anger is a signal. I was told once by an incredibly brilliant person that “Anger is a sign that we need more self-care.”
It can also be a signal that our boundaries have been crossed in some way. It can be a signal that we aren’t being true to ourselves.

In my case, I betrayed myself in a huge way. I kept silent. I fell into old people-pleasing behavior and did not speak what I wanted or what I didn’t want; I didn’t speak what I was feeling — I did something that was NOT o.k. with me in that moment.
It was a very horrible, difficult experience, and the rage aftermath was nearly crippling.   Apparently I have healed so much that my subconscious is telling me in no uncertain terms, it is NOT ok with self-betrayal anymore.

This anger is mine, I own it, it belongs to me.  When you say that, you stop putting it on others. You stop saying “He did ….x,y,z” and listing the actions and circumstances that triggered you into reaction, that were a catalyst for the anger response. We can waste years of life if we continually justify our anger with someone else’s actions — because the focus will always be on something we cannot control. We will be in reaction, telling the harmful actions and choices over like rosary beads, re-opening the wound and reacting again as though it just happened. The stress hormones will flood the body anew. I can feel them come up even now, if I play over in my head the circumstances that led to my anger.  This is not healthy for the body or soul,  and it keeps us stuck. Stuck in old circumstances that no longer exist (the past does not exist except in our own head, since everyone’s experience of a moment is different!) stuck in reaction, basically — it keeps us a victim.

So. Owning the anger is an empowering thing.  I KNOW people can do absolutely horrible things, and depending on the degree of the harm, there may need to be years of processing anger. This is a healing step.  But once the healing has occurred and enough time has passed, there is a time to own it all, take responsibility for our emotions, and know that we can make choices.  We can’t choose what others do. Sometimes we are truly helpless and someone else’s behavior is deeply violating. What we can choose is how we heal, how we walk forward, how we honor ourselves – how we talk to ourselves from that moment on. We don’t have to take any responsibility for what someone else chooses to do – if they treat us badly, we don’t have to choose to say “They treated me badly because something in me is not worthy of respect,” or “I invited that,” or any other variation of taking blame for someone else’s shitty behavior. No…what we can instead choose is “I love myself/I am incredible/ if they can’t see it, their problem,” and so on. This is owning our anger, owning our response, and knowing that we deserve better and can walk away faster next time.

I uncovered that the person I was truly angry with was myself. I was livid with myself for staying silent, for freezing and complying, falling into a very long-ago established abused-victim behavior. I was furious with myself for being afraid to speak up. Underneath that, I was deadly afraid. If I had betrayed myself again, when would it stop? When would I finally learn my own worth, stop caring so much what others think, and SPEAK UP when something wasn’t ok with me, or when a boundary had been crossed?

This was a harmless, innocent situation, (albeit thoughtless and rude-) and yet the old harms came up due to a chance dynamic.  What, I wondered, would teach me to believe in myself and know that I was valuable and speak UP?

The answer is : the anger. The anger is teaching me. The anger is there TO teach me. I just had to stop ratcheting around the room like a burning ping-pong ball, and create stillness. I had to stop running from the anger, I had to stop reaching out to try to communicate with the person I had been angry with, I had to look within and tell it, “Ok, anger, I am listening.”

Every human being is going to experience anger. If we could stop putting shame and fear around it and start listening to what it’s trying to tell us, we might all be healthier with it.  Anger in itself is not a bad thing. It’s natural and it’s vital to our survival. What is important is how we use it – if we can create some stillness and listen to it, if our subconscious feels heard and honored, it won’t try so VERY hard to get our attention.

 

 

4) Self Care.

Now it’s time to remind ourselves that we are loved — and that we are accepted and whole just as we are, anger and all. When something happens that triggers anger, there is a great vulnerability afterward, and the self-esteem will take a big dip.
We  need to feel some solidarity and safety, and the awesome thing is, we don’t need anyone else to give that. We always have that available, because we can give it to ourselves!
A good start to rebuilding self-esteem and feelings of security & being loved is to do some self-care practices.  Cook a healthy, delicious meal, or take yourself out on a date! Take a bubble bath, or do some self-massage with oils or scents that soothe you. Take a walk in beautiful surroundings. Write a gratitude list, and really ask your heart to feel the goodness of these things in your life. Exercise – do something that isn’t a punishing chore, but fun and playful! Something you enjoy. Write yourself notes about why you are awesome. Write affirmations (short and sweet!) and say them to yourself while meditating, or while taking a walk.

Do the things that empower you, do the things that make you feel most YOU.

If we feel empowered and safe, we will experience less anger. If we feel loved, we will experience less anger. The constant work is to give these things to ourselves.

I wish everyone healing in this continual process… I know I feel a lot better 🙂

Holy Sh*t. The Biggest Challenge Of Your Life. (You May Need Goggles For This One)

I think maybe our minds are wired for hypervigilance- after all, it’s not the relaxed and “it’s all good” happy-thinking ones who survived in the jungles and forests. Maybe it’s encoded in our DNA to worry, to focus on the problems or small hints of possibly-approaching-trouble and develop those hints into stories of What Might Be. So it takes a lot of work to train the mind away from this stuff -and it’s easy, in times of illness, weariness, hunger or stress, for the mind to slip back into those old worn pathways. The “What Ifs” —

I made the worries and upsets large in my mind, and forgot my sense of humor. I left it behind somewhere lost in a pile of emails, to-dos, cold remedies and grim watching of the numbers on the scale-

I forgot the simple joy of being alive in this beautiful world;

I forgot to celebrate my strong body, and instead I began to watch it suspiciously for signs of weight gain…

I forgot, even, the joy of boxing; I made it a task, a thing I had to do. On the days I would miss, I would get on the scale four or five times in order to “make sure” my weight hadn’t gone up.  I made myself a Project. To Be Completed. To Be Perfected.

I forgot why I was in nutrition school… I forgot why I was in a Maggid program…I forgot the heart, the reason that drove me to seek to learn these healing arts, and they became a To Do List, a Must-Do, Have-To-Do List that had drained away my joy completely.

I forgot that people cared about me – and I forgot to look at those people and see how incredibly dear they all are.

I forgot to look with fresh eyes and see how incredibly full and rich my life is.

I mean…not too long ago, I thought everything would be perfect “If only I could lose that weight.” I was so happy with my amazing, kick-ass life, but not happy with my weight, which had gone about 20lbs beyond my body’s normal “set point” during a difficult relationship. The relationship ended (whew!); I lost the weight.

Soon, I got used to my old “skinny clothes” being a bit baggy, and the gratitude feelings shifted – I started to nitpick every flaw, wish my muscles would be larger, more defined, wish I could box faster, stronger, longer — it became “If only I could lose MORE weight…”

Then, I woke up, and realized that if I didn’t change my thinking, this would continue indefinitely.  I would never be satisfied. I’d never reach a moment where everything was perfect.  As soon as I realized that, I noticed most of the people around me carrying on a similar theme.

The What-Ifs and If-Onlys and But-I-Don’t-Haves were the bulk of conversations.  They seem to be huge occupiers of many of our time, thoughts, and energy.

Say I gave a present to someone and they didn’t appreciate it. Worse, what if they saw it, shrugged, and then started talking about all the things they DON’T have. I dunno about you, but I wouldn’t really want to give that person a present again — or if I did, I’d be prepared for the reaction and wouldn’t, maybe, put as much loving energy into the finding, choosing, and joyful giving of the present as I had before.

I think that’s how it is when we forget gratitude for what we have. When we instead focus on what we lack…why would the universe want to give us more of the juicy good stuff, if we can’t appreciate what we have been given?  And anyway, where is the fun in complaining? yecccchhhh.

I dunno about you, but I don’t want to be a  party pooper in my own LIFE.  It’s like showing up to a birthday party the Universe is holding in my honor, and having atrocious manners the whole time, or sitting and moping about a Past Life and reading its old letters, listening to its old droopy love songs, and generally missing the entire party by behaving like a wet sock! ew!
I don’t want to live with lack-goggles on any more. They’re so dreary. It took me a little while but my sense of humor is back, and I found a pair of hope-infused gratitude goggles and they’re back firmly in place.

 

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Here’s all it took :  laughter (someone called when I was in the midst of a Very Grim Day with a to-do list a mile long, and made me laugh…)
Somehow that particular moment, that laughter and lighthearted exchange shook the Grim Goggles off my face, and I saw the sun on the trees across the street. I saw the loveliness of the world on my way to complete my errands, and I even saw how blessed I was to be on such an errand – voting!! – for which privilege women in the past had fought a really tough battle.

Then I entered into a conscious effort to change my thinking with these tools: Medition. Writing. Self-care. The practice of awareness- of truly being right here right now, one breath at a time, and seeing my world with new, fresh, conscious eyes.

I might be half asleep,  and my mind is spinning off on Floyd Mayweather the boxing champ, and his tactics in the ring. I’ll be going over boxing moves in my mind, and thinking how to be better, faster, stronger — and that’s when I’ll realize my mind is monkeying away. I’ll breathe deeply into my belly. I’ll notice and name the beauty around me. I’ll say to myself “Be here now. I am here, breathing the crisp air that’s coming through the window. The sun is shining in a patch on the ceiling, I’m looking at the green, sunlit leaves of a tree.”  I’ll name the things I experience.  I’ll drop back again into the present.

That’s the practice  of waking up. That’s the practice of becoming present — it’s what meditation teaches us. It’s like a heavy bag workout for the mind…and I think it’s going to be a constant practice for me.

You think Floyd Mayweather is a champ? You think boxing is tough? This is gonna be the biggest challenge yet,
being here for your own life!  Actually being in it. Think you can do that? 
I ask myself,
and then I grin.  I always did love a challenge.  (It also cracks me up that my inner voice sounds, sometimes, a lot like Rocky’s trainer.)

So. Are you ready for this challenge, Dear Reader?

All we have to do is begin to be aware of what we’re grateful for, and it’s like our eyes are opened and we can actually see more clearly the people in our lives we are so blessed to have, the moments of peace, the beauty.  (and of course, the cats.)

From there, once I “woke up,”  I saw what I had been doing to myself.  I had utterly forgotten to enjoy being alive. I had gotten so caught up in trying to achieve and trying to reach a specific goal, I had forgotten to be grateful for living, and enjoy it.

And here’s a thought: what if I never achieved this “important goal”?  What if THIS is my great life’s work, just the every day living that happens in between trying to achieve things?  Wouldn’t it be better to do my best to be present, right here now, if this in-between-on-the-way-to-a-goal-place is my life? And I’ll take that one step further — what if the struggles, the small frustrations, the striving itself is the Big Work I am here to do?

What if.

It pays to be present in the small things, rather that get through them as quickly as possible so that the real business of living might finally, finally begin —

the real business of living is now. and now. and now!  And with all its imperfections, with the feeling of being left out sometimes, and the feeling of sometimes not communicating clearly with our partner, and the feeling of tiredness and wishing we could just catch UP for once…

This business of living is a really lovely, fun thing.  I’ve got my Gratitude Goggles on now, and I can see it so clearly.

Do find yourself a pair – they’re all the latest rage in Paris, I hear…  :o)

Imagesyllabus (this is stolen from some cool teacher on tumblr, by way of a cool teacher on Facebook. O, modern times, you do leave me breathless. I shall have to loosen my stays.)

Book Love List

this is inspired by Sioux, whose blog you can find here: http://siouxtrett.wordpress.com

my blog entry will not be so clear, concise, tidy and understandable as hers;  I am a sprawling, messy writer.

Here goes:

a “Love List” for my book-    Image

My poor book that I have not worked on in over a year, because I’ve gotten too busy with FEAR RESPONSES, HEALING and OLD DREAMS.

My book that is really begging for attention again, like Figaro does persistently in the morning, his silently obstinate furry face totally un-ignorable — my book, you’re going to get my time and attention again and to merry hell with everything else.

Everything else being:

Fear Response: a certification that will lead to a business that is a side-passion in a health-related field, that will lead to more certain income.

Old Dream: a Maggid certification/ordination… this is in lieu of rabbinical school, which would have taken a lot more money and many, many more years. This has been two years of training, and it will be over in September. It doesn’t really feel like a “detour” as such, because it will add to my writing, and it has been a very rewarding experience. It has also challenged me to face and conquer some major demons, so I feel it has been a unique opportunity that is actually completely necessary on the road to completing this particular novel. (AND I have had to really conquer the fear of rejection, so that will serve me immeasurably as a writer. I  have a much thicker skin now, thank God.)

HEALING:  Figuring out the whole “love” thing (which, duh, no one ever figures out – it’s a cosmic joke, it’s why we are here in the first place, isn’t it, so I’ve gotten over trying and have gladly let go of the old – and may or may not lampoon him mercilessly in my book- and am enjoying the new and keeping it in perspective. I’m not sure I believe in romantic love any more, to be honest…there is love. But the romantic thing is, perhaps, a dopamine-flooded illusion. Maybe.) I’ve been focusing a LOT on boxing this year. I am stronger. I am healthier. I feel awesome. I’m getting good at boxing. But working out so much means sitting and writing has become anathema. I’ve tried to find ways to stand and write.  I’m still working on this. I think the fitness aspect will help the writing, actually, if I get more methodical about exercising early in the morning and then hitting the keyboard.

All right. Okay.  long apologia over. Now to the Love List for my book (Which is, for now, entitled “Steampunk Torah;” merely a description of what it was when it was a weekly serial – it needs a title of its own–)

I love you, Archives. I love you so much. You are unique, dangerous and weird and I still haven’t completely explored you. I am excited to figure out  the dark powerful mystery that surrounds you.

Characters I love dearly:  Jac, Professor Malone, Is.  You three are supporting characters right now, and I love you so much. I am not sure how you sprang out of my brain; you are hilarious and clever. You behave in ways that surprise and delight me. I have had to add a sequel simply so I can preserve your lives — and the sequel is duly added — you are not going to die on my watch.

I love that these things are in this book:  Shrødinger’s Cat, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Amaranth, the “unwilting” that was mentioned in John Milton’s Paradise Lost as a flower in Eden, that happens to contain more iodine than the average grain, which happens to dissolve ink, and so it is used as a “murder” weapon against a Manuscript.  I still have to perfect the method of iodine extraction here, but I’m very proud of this research.

I love Mari’s journey that people will never read.  How she began as a heroine who simply reacts to the men around her, and how I realized that, and how she is now shifting to drive her own story – to create her life, not react her life.  I love how her “life” in this sense mirrors my own awakening.

I love the “villain” characters who grew from people in my life, who came across my path like ugly little gifts, to become the love-to-hate kinds of nasties that one needs in a book. And I love that they are faceted, not just plain nasty.

I love the illustrations that grow in my head until I need to put the colors of my book down on paper.

I love that you haunt my dreams still, book, you maddening, sprawling piece of weird adventure.  I wonder what is going to happen next. I wonder how you grew – truly it is a mystery to me where you came from.

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I love that an agent in Jerusalem whom I never would have met under ordinary circumstances (but you propel me out of the ordinary, and I love you for that,) stayed up all weekend to read you, book, and then told me she needs to know how you end — I, too, should love to know how you end —

I love the fun contraptions: the “Certainty Principle” which uses the spheres in their paths as a sort of guiding principle to manipulate space-time realities of human beings;
the wearable double-boiler (dangerous!) and wings; Figaro, who is not really just a cat, as he seems to follow his own space-time rules, but then, that’s a cat for you; Professor Malone’s clockwork carriage (highly dangerous, do not try this at home!), the Manuscripts…

I love the questions you make me ask, such as:

Who is to say that magic does not exist, since it’s all just bendy science, and therefore entirely provable and possible?

If the nature of space-time as we perceive it is defined by our limited perceptions, what if our perceptions were to be given a little shove of encouragement to expand?

Where will I find an editor who believes as passionately as I do in the semicolon?

When are you going to be finished?

Getting Clear – Honoring Yourself

I wrote this almost two years ago, and I’m finding it is time to revisit it.

I do have to add that I no longer agree with my words regarding the man in question; I’m not going to change the words of this post, however, because regardless of what someone else chose to do with their time here in this life, my own learning turns out to be what is important.

Getting Clear

I just finished a coaching assignment, writing about “my ideal partner.” it was surprisingly difficult.
How often do we actually think specifically about what it is we want?

I have been allowing what comes into my life…not asking for what I want and need.

He was persistent and determined, I loved him- he is a truly wonderful person- I was flattered and thought it must be right. It got to the point where I needed him to persist. I needed to “test” him, pick arguments or push him away a little, in order to know that he was loyal, that I could be safe. Because I wasn’t safe…he had been dishonest, out of his own fear. I could not handle dishonesty, but I pretended to myself that it didn’t matter. He left too many times, in pain and confusion of his own. I dealt with the shattering of abandonment again and again, accepted, understood, and forgave, and endured, and didn’t notice that I was betraying myself.

Here’s the thing I have learned, that is easier for me to put into words than into action: unconditional love does NOT mean that you ignore your own needs.

If you accept things that go against your own core values, you will not be able to act from your highest self. You will fall into reactionary behavior, you will get sucked right into your own conditioned responses…in short, for both people, no matter how much in love you are, the relationship will not be bringing out the best YOU you can be.

This was the truest love I have ever known, but harmed by a toxic cycle of fear and reaction.
I am learning so much from this, and I am finding I want to teach others, and help them with what I have learned. Then, this deep love will still have a purpose. It will be putting some good into the world. It won’t have been for nothing.

I only saw the good things, of which there were many. This is not about him being bad in any way. He’s one of the most amazing people I have ever met. Because of that, I put blinders on myself and ignored warning signs, because I wanted to believe in a beautiful fantasy.
I accepted his choices that went against my deepest values, because I convinced myself that loyalty to the one I loved was more important than anything else. I’ve been reacting my life.

I am taking responsibility now–and grateful for this lesson. I made the choice to ignore my own values. I am not regretful of this- I learned a lot from it. Nor do I regret loving so deeply, because I found out how magnificently loyal my heart is. I am proud of that.

Examine what you are at the core without judgment, accept it. Then, it’s time to start working with it. Whatever you are, don’t hide it!

I know I am deeply loyal, and could no more betray someone, abandon someone or shirk responsibility than I could cut off my own arm…this is a truth that’s in my bones, it is who I am. The important thing is to love that, not pretend it doesn’t exist, if someone comes along who has different values. It doesn’t make them less, or you less. The key is to be so clear in who you are, that you remove the emotion from your decisions. If you’ve already mapped out what is truly vital to you, you will no longer be in a reactive state when other people come into your life. You will be acting from your truest self.

We are all so different. If we learn to love who we are, and stand up and BE who we are without hiding, if we let the people go who do not mesh with our own core values — without rancor or judgment of them or ourselves, just let them go, as they need their own kind of people, you see — then , we can begin to have clear lives free of toxicity.

Sit down and articulate your core values. What makes you who you are? What makes you happy? Then go one step further, and define what you want. Get specific. It’s surprisingly difficult to actually write it out. We might think about it vaguely, but rarely do people actually spell out their visions, dreams, intentions, desires on paper.

Creating my life is fun- it feels like I’m a kid again, where the daydream is nearly as pleasurable as the reality would be. When we actually get specific, not just about what we want but about how that would feel, we call things into our lives. Creating your life with intention, honoring who you are, knowing that it’s possible and that it’s not “selfish” is a very empowering thing! I highly recommend it. take a moment to really think about what it is you want in your life, or to create in the world with your time here. Happiness is a choice, it is accessible to everyone regardless of external circumstances. To want to be happy is not selfish- it actually leads to greater compassion for others, and more ability to put healing in the world.  

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The Distance

The Distance

My ancestor was named “Gentleman Jim” because not only was he one of the first to wear gloves, he was one of the first to box in a new form that had something called “the distance.”

The distance: a specified number of rounds. A stopping point, even if no one had fallen. To “go the distance” meant you had boxed all the rounds and you were still standing.

It’s my hardest lesson right now. When to stop boxing. I’ve hammered it into my very bones – my guard is up, that glove next to my cheekbone so familiar I don’t think about it now – my body knows what to do – and I love it. My gloves are a part of me. They feel like home. I feel strong; I feel ready.

But the distance is a new, scary, unfamiliar lesson… and it’s a hard one. I was not prepared for my next challenge to be… stopping.

To take the gloves off and leave the fight… go the distance, and then stop – that’s going to be the toughest fight yet.

Put down the gloves. Let down my guard. I’ve forged a soul of steel and now
softness is the scariest thing imaginable.

love – it is the only match I fear – he will still come in past my guard patiently, though my glove has stung him a few times. I don’t know how to do this anymore; I was never going to allow this again- So I slip. Feint. Even pull out the “Ali Shuffle,” then jab with a slip so I can load my uppercut, just outside his view …

but this is not how to win this kind of match.

Pause…and learn something new: perhaps this man is different. There is a good man out there, who doesn’t deserve to stand in the ring, to fight a battle and take the blows meant for a far lesser man. It’s time to stop that fight – that creep is long gone, banished with a hundred thousand hits over the course of a year, when I watched my sweat form pools drop by drop on the floor and knew it was my body’s way of weeping – knew I was washing him away in a tide of salt- I could see his weakness, his lies, his toxicity leaving me with every drop. I forgave myself for allowing him into my life- I learned to trust myself again, to trust that I would never again allow someone to treat me badly.

It’s exciting, really – it’s the one thing we can say “never” about; I will never allow someone else to treat me badly. I will never again experience that particular kind of life-wrecking pain.

As I became stronger, he became…utterly ridiculous.

Eventually, after 20lbs had been sweated away and my boxing gloves had faded, were worn and cracked with use, his face no longer swam in front of my glove as a target on the heavy bag. If he came into my mind at all, it was with surprise, and “what on earth was I thinking?”

Every time I wrapped my hands in preparation for another bout, binding my hands and arms like tefillin, I told myself I was binding my heart to my own power and locking that loser OUT. Then twenty pounds shed turned into thirty pounds; I dropped the weight of him I was carrying like a rancid crucifix across my back – left it behind in drops of sweat on the floor measured over the course of a year. Shed the way he had aged me, found joy again and youth again in new companions and new life — I stopped being a victim.

Every painful fight was a triumphant step forward.

Waiting for a good man to walk into my life, I met a few who made me realize that I had forgotten how to put down the gloves and open my arms. That I can fight may still be a good thing, however – there IS a time to fight – to ensure I will never be treated badly again…

But even so, I believe that not all men are untrustworthy. That not all men seek to control; that not all men will try to chip away at me until I am small enough for them to feel bigger – I still believe there are men out there who deserve all the love a woman can give, though I have yet to meet him, and though it’s scary, so scary, to open this heart –

I’d best accept it. Go the distance. Leave the ring. Learn what true courage is and be vulnerable sometimes, be open again; only this time, with a power that nothing can shake. This time, there is a difference. I bring more of myself when I love that self for the first time in my life – and no one can take that from me.
What I have to give I can give freely now, knowing that there is a solid core of strength in me that no one can diminish.

I don’t need to fight because I am now a warrior. It’s a paradox that comes when you’ve fought your way out the other side – the deepest strength is required for not fighting. The biggest fight any of us will ever face is : no fight at all.

My ancestor did it. He wore gloves in a world of bare-knuckle boxers; he went the distance in a world of “fight until someone is down,” though it was a new thing and I bet he came under much criticism. Perhaps his nickname “Gentleman” began as a mockery, schoolyard bullies giving him a title to wear through the ages – he turned it into fame. His courageous blood lives in my veins. I can do this.

Maggid process- Finding a Story–Letting Go

Maggid process- Finding a Story--Letting Go

With such a magnificent blaze the trees let go – I wish to burn as brightly.
Sometimes when I’m supposed to find a Maggidic story, the story finds me.
Often, it’s something I don’t really want to examine all that closely- so I might push it away for a time, but always it comes back, standing outside my door, wagging its tail,
and I have to say…all right. Come in. I’ll learn you, story, and I’ll tell you to others.
The pain that comes with the kind of clarity this requires is not small…
sometimes it involves facing things I’d rather not face, letting go of things in my life that I’d rather were “Forever,”
but when I finally sit down, let the story come fully, crack my heart open and let it really feel, there’s a cleansing that happens with the burn of loss. There’s the feeling that I am open, clear, and living absolutely fully again without blockages of things that aren’t really in alignment with my chosen expression in this life. There’s an immense feeling of power, as though my life force is no longer diluted…

but it’s hard to remember that, and hard to let go when the heart is aching with loss.

That’s when I look to the trees in the fall and winter as guides. How they celebrate the letting go–and how dignified they are when they are bare; what courage it takes to sit with emptiness for a time, to allow the barren branches to be, rather than trying to cling to the old simply so we won’t have to experience the pain of loss…
when we truly let go, and stand with open heart and bare branches, that’s when there is room for the new, beautiful, pure life to grow.

Let go…let go…let go, and feel with what radiant light you burn – glow, like the trees, with magnificent fire, and trust that something new that is good for your heart will grow where there are now empty branches.