Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fear Cannot Withstand the Fire of Your Warrior Spirit

This post and the next are inspired by Andrea over at ABC Creativity and her recent post about fear. I have been experiencing, directly, much of what she illustrates, and now, because of her, I can articulate it.

A lot of us say we suffer from anxiety, but anxiety is really just another word for fear. When we feel anxiety, we should be asking ourselves, "what are we fearing in this moment?"  Then we should ask ourselves, of course, if the fear is real or simply anticipatory.

For me, lately, I have come up against one of My Main Fears: that no matter what I do, I am not enough.  This is most definitely anticipatory.

I imagine that no matter how much I do today, it is not enough. That tomorrow, also, will not be enough.

For example, right now I am learning how to create what this rockin' coach calls "first level goals." I am learning not to focus on the Ultimate Giant Shiny Goal and then get completely overwhelmed by all the reasons it is so totally impossible.

I am learning to think, what could I do in the next week that would, eventually, lead toward that Ultimate Giant Shiny Goal.

I have a notebook now that I write little tidbits in and yesterday I wrote a bunch of tidbits that will grow into a large chunk of material that I need for my new website (tease!).

But at the end of the day, I was disappointed in myself. Why didn't I do more? Why couldn't I push myself more?

But it was "more" than I have done in such a directed manner in many months.  It was...enough. For that day. For this time in my life. For where I am at.

Enough will change and morph over time. My enough of two months from now may or may not resemble the enough of yesterday.

When I am standing in my tutu at the lake's edge or when I am seeing my own bare feet against the wooden floor of a dance studio, I never doubt my enough-ness. I know I am exactly where I am meant to be and I am exactly WHO I was born to be.

When I am at the lake and in the studio, fear is powerless over me.

Where are you most on fire with your own warrior spirit?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Do You Know How You Got Here?

That path through the woods is clearly marked. It leads somewhere, and when you step upon it, you know where you are headed. In this case, it led to Marcy's retreat cabin where she spent some time last week (a very different sort of place compared to where I took my retreat in the spring) and where we took lots of fun photos.

Paths through life are not like this. Most of the time, we don't realize we are even walking on one, much less why we are there or where we are going.  This is okay because it allows us to more spontaneously respond to the walking. We aren't so focused on a goal ahead of us that we trip over roots and rocks or miss the chance to walk over to the side and see something unexpected.

Most of the time, the paths we are walking (and there are many being walked all the time) are more like spirals, turning in and out of themselves and winding in and out of others.  Looking back, we think we can follow one path from beginning to this current place, but really? There's no way to map all of it out this neatly.

Yesterday I mentioned the small moments, the small events that seem small at the time but end up being so vital to our lives.

I often shorthand my own story for people by saying that during my 40th year, I attended a friend's wedding and danced for the first time in too long and that dance led to my new life as a dancer and movement educator. It led me back to my essential self and forward to my happy self.

But it wasn't that simple, not at all, and I think it's important that we recognize this complexity in ourselves and not over-simplify. I think our stories are too important to tell them in one sentence, and I think that the magic and miracle of our lives is contained in the details.

There are so many things that happened that led me back to my dancer self that when I begin to think about the fragility of it all, I get a little sick, but it also makes me fill with Big Gratitude, and it reveals to me, once again, the sacramental nature of life overall and the beauty of being guided by something divine, the beauty of succumbing to the divinity the resides in all of us and in everything.

Our lives are not accidental strings of coincidences. No way. Just my path back to dance proves that, because one tiny misstep and I would not be where I am today.

Dancing at a friend's wedding? That was just the most obvious turn in the road.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Importance of Small Moments

I am just over 42 years and 7 months old.

Sometimes when I think about that, I freak out.  I feel...behind.  I think it's all impossible or too late or what am I thinking!? It can turn into a dream-feeding frenzy of sharp toothed negativity.

Sometimes when I think about that, I think, Cooooolllll....

Because my body is stronger and healthier than it has ever been.

I am as flexible, and in some ways more so, than when I was 16. Which is saying a lot.

I am freaking HAPPIER than I have EVER been.

I have depression, anxiety, body hatred, eating disorders...all of it, UNDER CONTROL, in its proper place...meaning out of my life.

I am on fire with ideas and creativity and energy.

All because I returned to my true love, my passion, my purpose...all because I got up and danced at a wedding.

All those seemingly little tiny things that happen to us every day? You never know which one will change your life completely and forever so be thankful for every single one.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Losing My Self in Tutu & Galoshes

Marcy went on a short retreat this past week and found a delightful spot for some picture taking, which made galoshes more necessary than ever, as you can see above.

I am learning, bit by bit, to be more comfortable in front of the camera, which is very much about being more comfortable in my own skin.

The main thing I noticed?  When I am dancing (even in VERY slow motion in a stream with feet on slippery shale), I am not aware of the camera and the shots turn out the best.

When you are deeply absorbed in your joy, there are no worries...there is no consciousness of Self as separate...there is no sense of time.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Link Love & Hugs

Go here to see where Marcy and I will be spending much relaxing time over this (official) summer!

This woman's workbook (FREE!) is really rockin' my goal-setting world. Well, if I actually had a goal-setting happens to be something I totally SUCK at, and she is helping me, or her workbook is helping me, to stop sucking quite so much. Furthermore, the fact that I am endorsing a workbook is amazing because I tend to generally suck at those, too -- no matter their content, but especially if the content is asking me to name and narrow my ideas about my life and where I want to go with it and all that sort of scary shite.

I found said Wonder Woman through this other, long loved Magic Maker of Sparkle-osity.

As I admitted honestly (and with no pride in the matter whatsoever) on twitter*, in the past, I have totally not gotten (due to my own thickheadedness) this woman's work. Now I LOVE it! Like, what was up with me!? I have no idea but I have seen the (ducky) light.

Which reminds me, quite a few weeks ago, I gave back into brainwashing hypnotizing twitter. Are you following me or what!?

Have I mentioned this man's singing bowls? He rocks 'em. Big time. Really. When I sit and listen to his stuff, the writing just pours out of me. I write about ten times more than I intend, AND I use it before bed to calm my mind and scrub away the daily ICK so that I don't have so many of those damn nightmares that are always chasing away my sleep. (He is NOT providing me with good chocolate to say this. Which is a shame but also the truth.)

This blog is always great but this post was especially beautiful in its honesty and its optimism.

Here is a new dancing friend who is full of inspiration.

One thing I do love about twitter even though it is evil is that it is another way to get to know people and the 140 character limit, which is just virtual chatting, tells you a surprising amount about someone -- like if you were in a coffee shop and kept hearing snippets of stories. Here's someone I am getting more glimpses of and really adoring.

And finally, an important conversation in the yoga community that revealed some of the biggest problems I encounter in said community.  People assume they know too much about your body and mind and heart, that's for sure. And as I point out in the comments, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  Sigh.  Big kudos to eco-yogini for standing her (classy) ground.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Life is Not a Pie or How Fear Creates Scarcity

(One of the many houses located here which remind me of a cake...mmmm...)

(Beware: Post filled with large number of metaphors.)

I have written before of my realization that I see love as a pie.  You know, that if someone else gets a piece of love pie then that diminishes my piece of love pie. But unconditional love, I am finally figuring out, is infinite in nature. More like Pi than Pie.

(My favorite actual pie is graham cracker cream...yum...but I am also fond of cherry pie and apple pie and pecan pie...and now I am off track...)

A few days ago, as I was unearthing yet more fears (which is part of why this work is so damn hard; it never seems to end), I realized that I not only see love as finite pie but I see all components of life that way.

I realized that besides the fact that holding onto irrational (and rational, for that matter) fears was creating physical exhaustion, it also turns out that I am totally always and forever competing in absolutely every way possible (too many adverbs there but they serve a purpose).  No wonder I am worn out at the end of the day; no wonder I wake up tired!

I realized that I see everything as competition because I fear there is only so much happiness/success/wealth/fulfillment/beauty/peace/calm/friendship/etc. to go around.

Pie. You see? Only so many pieces. Only so many plates.

When you are raised in an environment where distribution of positive attention and love seems to be dependent upon, well, every single thing about you being just right, good enough, perfect, you can imagine that life starts to feel like a big race where you have not been told the course or how long it goes or the rules.  All you know is that there is some sort of prize that you are craving and you have to try to get it.

The other thing you know is that even if you get a glimpse of said prize, that glimpse is fleeting. And off you go again! Running, jumping, frantic, frenzied...

Eventually every single thing feels like this. So a simple conversation on twitter, for example, starts to seem way too important. Being right or being perceived as right or at least being perceived as "not wrong" or not stupid becomes disproportionately important to your sense of self.

You also start to get a little buzz from it all.  You know...the adrenaline of it.  Even though it makes you feel a little sick, you are used to it.  It is what you know. It is how you feel alive a lot of the time.

Yet you know from past experience that this whole thing is like the Wizard of Oz and that behind that curtain, at the end of the race, there is...nothing.

You have been lied to. Good enough, just right, and perfect do not actually exist. Nope. The designer of this race was just messin' with you, seeing how fast you would run and for how long or just enjoying the sight of you trying so freaking hard.

This is just downright confusing to those us of raised on this golden path...that it leads to nowhere and to nothing? How can this be?

Here is the Big Point: the thing that really doesn't exist is the competition.

There is enough for everyone.

We can all find exactly what our heart desires at the end of the path, because, of course, it is of our own making.

But we were raised powerless, thinking the Wizard was in charge and held the prize, and letting go of that illusion, letting go of the panic and the feeling of scarcity, this is some of the hardest work I have done to date. Understanding that all of us can be happy and all of us can have fulfillment? All of us can get a piece of an infinite pie and it can be any pie we want.

Wizard be damned. He was/is not the baker after all.

You are Not Mentally Ill Just Because...

We love to label people (geeks, bookworms...), and we, ourselves, often look for that defining label, which will make us feel safe and whole and, well, kinda "done" (mother, CEO, photographer, etc.).

The mental health industry is no different.  Take a cluster of symptoms and give them a name.

But there are many brave psychiatrists and psychologists who are daring to question the very model of mental health, illness, and treatment, and one faction in particular fascinates me.  There are a group of professionals who are finally saying that most mental "illness" is really just one form or another of complex post traumatic stress disorder.

Shit happens. It hurts. Your brain changes. You are changed.


I say Duh, but it is so important that the premises most people in the profession take for granted are being challenged.  And the brave souls who are doing this are truly brave because it can ruin a career to go up against institutions of immense power like the A.M.A. or the pharmaceutical industry.

For me, this has been clear for some time. Some of us are born, perhaps, more "sensitive" to our environments than others, shit happens, we are injured.

Sensitivity + Trauma = Mental Injury

Those clusters of symptoms that the profession likes to label? Seems even more obvious to me in light of this equation.  Imagine that a bunch of humans put through the same types of traumas end up exhibiting similar characteristics. Wow. Big leap there.

I mean, this is not the stuff of Einstein.

Let's get clearer on this, shall we?

Here's a little list for you:

You are not "mentally ill" just because:
  • are sad. There is probably a reason. No, that's not true. There is ALWAYS a reason.  Dig for it.
  • have no energy. Figure out why. There are so many possibilities with nutrition alone.
  • hate your life. Change it. Many of us make choices about our lives when we are young and stupid and this doesn't mean you can't make it wonderful now. Get unstuck!
  • are grief-stricken. There is probably a reason. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, at the end of her life, said she was sorry for creating the steps of grief because not all people are the same, and she fears she did great damage.  Yep.
  • don't fit into the 9 to 5 world. Humans are vastly different creatures but we think there is only one model for living and it includes a "regular job," a house, and children.
  • are filled with fears and anxieties. There is a reason for each one. Find them all. Deconstruct them. Also, you can grow your bravery.
  • are not able to be around the people who abused you. Imagine that.
  • are not okay with the abuse that was perpetrated upon you as a child simply because you "survived" and they didn't "mean it."
  • have big emotions. Again, we are all different.
  • hear voices, see big chickens, whatever. As long as those voices and chickens aren't telling you to kill yourself or hurt someone, who cares?! Madness used to be seen as partner to genius. And sometimes it still is: Watch this movie.
  • are socially inept or anxious in public situations or don't like to meet new people or like to stay with small groups or don't want to stand in front of hundreds and give a speech or have no clue how to find a significant other. Watch this movie for a beautiful portrayal of community and unconditional love.
  • feel broken. You are not. You may have bad coping mechanisms; start identifying them, understand where they came from, observe them, commit to stopping.
  • have to check the stove/door/cats/etc. over and over. Again, developing big mind will allow you to see what is happening in your brain and stop identifying with it.
We are frighteningly close in this culture to turning all difference into illness. It makes a few people a lot of money. Let's stop lining their pockets, shall we? Let's take back our minds and bodies and hearts and souls; let's commit to doing the work and living this life on our own terms.

No more comfortably numb.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ignoring Mental Injury

I want to talk more about this concept of "mental illness" versus my preferred term "mental injury."

To begin with, as one commenter pointed out, mental injury feels like something that has an we can heal and move on. I love that observation.

Another difference, of course, is that injury clearly implies that something happened to make you feel this way, react this way, be this way.

And something did happen.

This is one of the dirty little secrets of the mental health community: There is a REASON you feel the way you do, but they like to brush that stuff under the rug and hand you your pills instead.

Expressing that reason fully, having it validated, and then figuring out how to move beyond it is the real solution to most mental injuries. So why don't we just do this?

As psychiatrist Judith Herman points out in her very important book, we can't admit all of this because it would mean, at its very base, admitting to and exposing the vast array of abuses of children and women in our Western culture.  (Also see the work of Alice Miller, in particular this book.)

(And for an infuriating read on how we have pathologized women to keep them in their place, go here.)

All of this admitting to how abusive we are as a culture has huge implications for how this culture does business in general (and by "business" I mostly mean "war"), and for a good read regarding that go visit my friend, who is getting delightfully fired up about the macro (whereas I work in the micro).

And something to begin thinking about:

Humiliations, spankings and beatings, slaps in the face, betrayal, sexual exploitation, derision, neglect, etc. are all forms of mistreatment, because they injure the integrity and dignity of a child, even if their consequences are not visible right away. However, as adults, most abused children will suffer, and let others suffer, from these injuries....Most people tolerate this blindly because the origins of human violence in childhood have been and are still being ignored worldwide. Almost all small children are smacked during the first three years of life when they begin to walk and to touch objects which may not be touched. This happens at exactly the time when the human brain builds up its structure and should thus learn kindness, truthfulness, and love but never, never cruelty and lies. Fortunately, there are many mistreated children who find helping witnesses and can feel loved by them.  -- Alice Miller

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Most Mental Illness is Manufactured

It's been a while since we've heard from PissedChick and here we go...

First of all, the disclaimer that I am a little tired of writing: I am not referring in this post to someone who is so "ill" that they are in danger of hurting themselves or others. Period.  (Though I might be, considering the results Finland has had treating severe schizophrenia with relationship rather than pills.)

Second, this is a response to the post I wrote on Friday in which I dared to assert that love is the cure and not pills. Forget the fact that a large portion of the medical establishment agrees with me. No, I mean, really, forget that fact because I don't trust them when it comes to matters of the mind.

Third, educate yourself. It's the only way to survive and thrive.

But to begin, let's imagine a little scenario, shall we?

Let's say you go to the doctor because you have a cluster of physical symptoms, and based on that cluster -- but with no actual evidence derived, say, from tests! -- the doctor diagnoses you with a form of cancer and starts treatments based on that not-supported-in-any-way diagnosis.

You would go to another doctor, right? At least, I hope you would, since this physician is clearly a freaking nutbag!



When it comes to matters of our minds, we believe them when they say "it's chemical," without actually being able to test said chemicals. Without even knowing themselves exactly how all of this works.  (Again, educate yourself. I am not making this up. It's all out there. Just look at the number of books written by MEDICAL DOCTORS in the last year about the racket that is pharmacology in mental health.)

When it comes to matters of our minds, we believe them when they say "it's genetic," again without them actually being able to point out said genes, and without them, of course, taking into consideration that we have never ever been able to separate "nurture" from "nature," and that perhaps -- just perhaps -- something that looks "genetic" (i.e. familial) is actually maybe -- just maybe -- in the environment (i.e. FAMILIAL).

Now, the question becomes why do we believe this load of shite when it comes to our minds? A load we would never ever even consider when it comes to our physical bodies?

Because we want to.

Yes. I said that.

Because we want to.

Why else would placebos work just as well as the pills?

Because we want to believe we are being helped.

To complicate this whole thing, please, take ten minutes of your life and look into the historical evolution of the idea of mental illness. Discover for yourself that ideas of mental illness change over time -- and not because of anything concrete but because of CULTURE. Discover for yourself that ideas of mental illness are also tied to place. Why is that?, you may wonder.

Start wondering, for God's sake, START WONDERING because curiosity is your greatest weapon in this war.

(If you're new to this whole thinking outside the box thing, please start reading this website. The author is amazingly thorough and completely COURAGEOUS. And read here, too.  Also, if I have offended you in any way, so what. This is life and death, and we are being killed in many ways by these "medicines." Furthermore, I am writing for people who are ready to move on and get better. No more pussy footing around here. And in conjunction with that, I will no longer use the words "mental illness," but I will from here on out use "mental injury.")

(NOTE: Comment rules for this post: I will not post comments that clearly demonstrate the post has not been thoroughly read. I will not post comments that do not take my disclaimer into consideration.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Medicine Makes Me Sick & LOVE IS THE CURE

(A frog on a turtle at one of our favorite places)

Literally. Medicines make me sick.  Long, long ago, when I very first met that sweet frog in the above photo, we thought we should do things the way other people do them, and so when my depression and anxiety seemed too big for me or us to handle, I went to the doctor, said the right things, and got my prescriptions.

Which made me immediately and profoundly ill, including by increasing my never-before-so-physically-expressed-inclination-to-hurt-myself.

That sweet and oh-so-wise frog got rid of those pills post-haste and proclaimed, "We will figure this out ourselves, no matter how long it takes..."

And it's not been easy.  Pills can seem easy, and they numb you, so they can even feel easy, but I've yet to meet one single person who has been "made better" by them. I've yet to meet one single person, who, really, has any improvement beyond the numbing, which, when you feel so badly, certainly can feel like an improvement of sorts.
(*Though I should not have to note this, I will: I am not referring to extreme psychiatric illness wherein the patient is actually a possible harm to themselves or others. End of the obvious...)

Fast forward 17 years and we have done it ourselves. It has been damn hard, but it has been honest. It has been real. It has been my own journey and not some side-effect riddled, pharmaceutical induced, big money (not)joy ride.

This is all to explain why I get so freaking furious when I read about all the damage these damn drugs are doing to people.  Besides NOT helping, oh, wow, they are actually HURTING.

It is evil.  There is no other word.  And it is evil, because these companies have been fully aware of what they have been up to.

I think of all the people out there who were not lucky enough to meet a sweet frog.  All the people who were not lucky enough to be made immediately ill by these pills.  All the people out there unlucky enough to feel just that tiny bit better which has kept them hoping, well, maybe the next drug will be the one...

Guess what? It won't be. Because it's all fraud from the ground up.



And all the people out there who are relatively well?  You remember that, too -- LOVE IS THE CURE.

Give it away for free, ya know?

And read stuff like this so we can all stay angry enough to love each other better.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Pain in My Butt is Making Me Happy or My Energy Paradox

(Sunset at Chautauqua)

My butt hurts.

I am sitting here typing and I cannot get comfortable because my ass aches. And my upper thighs. And around my hips.

And it makes me happy.

Back up.  (Beep beep beep...ha!)

When I went to study for a week with the internationally known and respected Butoh artist Maureen Fleming, some of my biggest lessons from her were not about dance or movement per say (though there were plenty of lessons in those categories).  Some of the biggest lessons were more personal...about they WHY of this creative life and the HOW of the dailiness of it.

Something that really stuck with me was how Maureen became this Maureen.  She was told that she would eventually be paralyzed and never dance again, and her work then became figuring out how to make that not true. Which she did. So dancing and moving every single day, for her, is a matter of, literally, keeping herself moving.  (And watch this to see how far she took it and continues to take it...)

Speaking of dance being a life and death thing... (what a smoooooottthhhh transition...not!)...

Last week, as I wrote about here, I was complaining about always being tired. And as I said, there is reason for this. When you've barely slept deeply since you were about 4, you have issues with sleep. Period.

As Marcy sat with me on the steps, she gently, after I was done with the crying drama, reminded me that this is why I have to push myself to dance more, not less.  When I get this bone tired, I think I have to "rest" and I think "rest" means to sit still.

This is where the "Powering through" and Big Girl Pants comes in.  Marcy is right (or "sometimes always right" as she likes to say).

I must push myself to expend more energy and then I will sleep better and deeper with fewer bad dreams and have more energy.  There is no sweet and easy way about this.

I must push. Period.

At first this will be hard, but then it will get easier.

For me to be balanced is not the same as for you or her or him being balanced, you see. For me to be balanced, I have to move move move as much as I can every single day. This creates more energy in the long run, not less.

It also keeps my head clear and my heart open (and furthermore, it also happens to mean NO chronic pain, something else I have had to deal with for most of my life).

For me to move, to dance, to move some more as many hours a day as possible, this is my matter of life and death.  Dance is my path through this life; it is not just something I do.  It is something I am.

The next day I was told that I was to put all of this into practice. No more getting away with my teaching being my only movement for the day.

I obeyed. And thus my aching arse.

I tap danced for the first time in probably a year.  Tap dancing is not the intense internal work of, say, butoh or yoga, but it is FUN.  I forgot HOW fun.

Forty five minutes of tap dancing and I was loaded with excitable energy for the rest of the day and I did sleep better, more soundly.

Imagine that!

I cannot remember but somewhere I read that troubles falling asleep and bad dreams have everything to do with not living our lives to the fullest during our awake hours.  I believe that I have bad sleep habits that need to be broken that center around hyper-vigilance, for sure, but there is something to that other theory.

What are you not doing during your waking hours that calls to you at night?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Teetering on Knowing

Though this photo is not something you would use for a "photo," if you know what I mean, there are a couple of things about my personality that Marcy captured in this shot.

First, if you look at it bigger, you will see that my mouth is FLAPPING. It usually is. I am...chatty. It's how I figure this thing called Life out. I talk it through. I talk out ideas. I talk out my plans. I talk about solutions to problems. Marcy calls me MonkeyBird for good reason. So even when she is trying to take my picture, I am talking, and in this case, I am talking out my discomfort because I cannot stand to be in front of the camera.

Second, just look at what I am doing. I am trying to find my place, get balanced, and I am doing so in a rather...precarious manner. I mean, check out my twisted ankles and splayed feet and keep in mind it had been raining so those rocks are slick. I never choose easy. I am always just a bit off-balance. I tend to often...almost...fall.  It's like I don't have a real sense of the edges of my body and their relationship to the outside world.

But I think this is what makes me a wonderful dancer and a good movement teacher.

It also can be what makes things a bit more difficult for me than they have to be, but some of us are built like that...built to really test ourselves.  And that's okay.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Find Your Damn Big Girl Pants (she says to herself)

On the kundalini yoga video by Gurmukh, there is one part that always makes me laugh, and I quote her often when I am teaching.  There is this posture where you are seated and basically doing these big giant beautiful bird wings, and when you first learn this posture, it can create spontaneous cursing. It is hard. Your arms feel like bags of wet cement. That does not go away over the years. There are always days when this pose is hard, but there are days when it starts to feel effortless and that is why we practice.

Anyway, during this posture/movement, Gurmukh, says, basically, if you feel like stopping, don't!

When I say this in a class, it makes students laugh. They don't expect it. Yoga classes are so often about "being kind to your body and listening to its messages," and here I am telling you, "Right now? In this pose? POWER THROUGH and quit your whining!"

Am I a military drill sargent or what?  ((giggle))

No. But I am a proponent of utilizing this gift of will power that we have all been given. I am a proponent of pulling on your Big Girl Pants and Getting the Job Done. I am not soft in person. I am not soft when I teach. I pull your courage out of you no matter your resistance. That is my job. I am not going to let you get away with less than your best or your strongest.

(I sound all growly there, and I am, but I am also not. My students trust me or this wouldn't work.), that is so totally how I teach other people, but then I am this total softy wimp when it comes to myself.

Physician heal thyself and all of that.  This is human, of course. I mean, most of us are better at seeing the way out for others. When it comes to ourselves, we tend to not notice the light switch resting under our hand in the dark room.

I know how to feel better. I know how to get better sleep. I know what I need to do every single day.

That doesn't mean I do it. It doesn't mean when I do do it that I am not kicking and screaming.

Where are your Big Girl Pants? Are you willing to pull them on or do you act like they are lost?

Monday, June 13, 2011

On Tiredness & Trauma

My post on being sleepy generated, of course, lots of wonderful advice about vitamins and food and other techniques. I really do appreciate all of this. Know, though, that I utilize much of it and have tried nearly all of it. I am a researcher by nature and a problem solver, so no stones go unturned (to an obsessive level of curiosity).

That said...

I can sleep...the real issue is the bad dreams. It makes for poor sleep and it makes for waking up spent due to experienced trauma while sleeping.

This is a trauma issue (which is why I linked to this old post in that new one; it's the most important piece of this puzzle).

Trauma, of course, creates physiological issues, so something like calcium before bed (which I often take) can help me to fall asleep and stay asleep, but it does nothing to stop the dreams and the tossing and turning and the basic nighttime anxiety.

Things like prayer and singing bowls help with that, for sure, but not all the time, because this is such a complex cocktail of ick.  (I highly recommend the work of this man; he is a rockin', amazing ninja of a helper, and I am listening to him as I write this.)

This is why ABUSE is SO FREAKING AWFUL. Obviously abuse is awful for a million reasons, but above all, it CHANGES WHO YOU WERE BORN TO BE because it effs up the most basic things about your body and brain and heart.

This is not to say there isn't a way out, but it can be very frustrating and sometimes crying on the stoop is all you can do.

Then you get up off the stoop, brush off your skirt, and get back to work, knowing that this is your work...that this takes constant effort...that there is no letting up or taking time off...that tired is part of the package for right now and too bad. Things happened, things are done, the consequences are still here, but I have a beautiful life and it will only keep getting more long as crying on the steps does not become my primary activity.

Courage. Tenacity. Strength. Constant Effort.  Those are my main vitamins in this battle.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Waking Up Sleepy

(Our favorite house on the grounds of Chautauqua Institution.)

Marcy had a day off this week, and she did her usual Marcy thing: She bounced out of bed and commenced working on a wide variety of projects.  Okay, there may have been a momentary pause as she announced, "I need ESPRESSO!"

But you see, the thing is, she doesn't actually NEED espresso.  No.  She needs it in that she loves it, but she does not need it to wake her up or to give her energy or to soothe her into her day through some espresso making ritual.

She wakes up and is simply ready to attack her day with vim and vigor. She is a happy and healthy animal, much like a kitten, who is all like, "Hey! I'm alive for another day! Cool! Let's see what we can do!  Let's see what mischief we can get into! This is so cool!"

You get the idea, and maybe you are lucky enough to be like her.

I am not.

I wake up sleepy.

I either have nightmares, from which I awaken with the aftereffects of dream-induced trauma, or I wake up not refreshed because I have not slept well for more than a couple of nights in a row since I was quite young (see this post for an explanation of that), and well, it can be hard to catch up on about 40 years of bad sleeps.

So there we were: Marcy ready to rock n' roll her way through her day and me...not ready for much more than sitting and staring.

The day Marcy had off was also my day off from teaching, and Marcy was trying to encourage me, of all things, to use my day well, ogre that she is, by perhaps working on some of the many projects that I claim I want to work on.

And I got grouchy, of course, but this time, I ended up crying. That is how tired I am: You can come on over and find me crying before 9 AM on our back stoop.

I am sick and tired of being this tired.

I save up every ounce of energy I have for teaching and just getting the basics done in terms of my own "work." But I want more, damn it.  I want to choreograph and make little films and create workshops.

I. Want. More.

But I am so eff'ing tired.

Again, how does one get over almost 40 years of bad sleeps?

We have a bunch of things we are going to try, but that's where I am right now: sleepy and sick of it.  Wanting to up my game but just getting by playing the game I already play.

Sigh.  (And cue the yawn...)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Time at Chautauqua

The setup for our meet and greet
I get a lot of free stuff, especially books, because of this blog. This stuff is sent to me with the understanding that I MIGHT write about it. I am clear, up front, that if I don't like it, I won't even mention it.  I am not out to turn Blisschick into a critical, product review sort of blog, so I have no interest in writing about things I do NOT like.  (And you will notice...I rarely write about anything because I am that picky for my readers!)

So when Chautauqua Institution contacted me about coming, expenses paid, to a two day blogger symposium, I a) knew what they were asking for and b) was more than happy to go along because this is a place that is near and dear to our hearts.  We would go anyway.  We have been going for years.

I am especially fond of the Institution during off-season for its quiet, and this early Spring, I chose to go there for my retreat, as you may recall.

The Athenaeum, location for our symposium
The symposium was interesting and informative and now I have a list of events that Marcy and I want to attend. (We will have to pay our own way for those!)

If you've never been to Chautauqua, check out their site. It's this indescribable university/salon*/spa/retreat/vacation that runs a nine week season, each week around a theme.

(*Using "salon" in the old way, of course, and not talking about some giant hair place! Giggle...)

As a virtual girl and a TED lover, I think, well, what's the point of driving somewhere and being around all those people?!  But the President of Chautauqua totally changed my mind about IRL!  HA!

The cute doors in our room

For one thing, being in front of actual people as you discuss ideas lends a depth that is almost impossible to get online.  Especially considering how easy it is to misunderstand people in this format. We lose so much information when we can't see people's faces or hear the tone of their voices.

Secondly, the grounds of Chautauqua are covered in Victorian houses and the charm of that era penetrates the overall experience.  It is quiet there so you can hear your own thoughts more clearly.  And there are big old trees that carry stories in their blowing branches.  The lake, though small for this Great Lakes girl, laps peacefully at the edges of the institution and the rhythm of the lake is definitely the rhythm of the place itself.

A lovely, spider like chandelier
Third, and very interesting to me, is that Chautauqua attracts some of the best and brightest from across all the performing and visual arts, from all over this country. We are going to see Chekhov's Three Sisters and Pink Martini, just for starters.  I also want to see something by their professional summer dance company.  High quality without the cost and mess and noise of really big cities.

Dessert the first night
The main thing about the Institution that sets it apart from, say, Disney or some other typical American family vacation, is that the moment you set foot on the grounds, you feel transported to another time, when things were simpler and slower and you could savor and contemplate ideas the same way you might savor and contemplate that yummy dessert above.  You walk on the grounds and immediately you know that you need a picnic blanket, a journal, and a good pen.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Sublime Zoe Keating & How the Cello Cleaned My Insides

Monday evening, Marcy and I and two friends ventured to Cleveland to the Beachland Ballroom to see avant-garde composer and cellist, Zoe Keating.

I have been loving her music for some months now, and as soon as I started to use it in my movement teaching, I noticed something special about it:  Zoe's music is topped by nothing else (so far) in its ability to bring out the deepest levels of body honesty to which I have been witness.  Something about her work unveils people.

I knew that seeing her live would be wonderful, but it was beyond anything I could have anticipated. She is sublime. There are not enough words.

First, hearing her work live felt like a cello-induced reiki session. An energy healing. A bath of sound and vibration that scrubbed out my insides, that filled me with optimistic joy and vitality.

Second, she, herself, was truly inspiring. I kept thinking about the thousands and thousands of hours of dedication to this thing that she loves beyond reason.

That level of love is what separates the great from the average.

Here is a short film about her that captures her personality and work life beautifully, and here is her Flickr stream, which demonstrates how her artistry permeates every single thing about her.

Marcy took some awesome photos of Zoe and our time in Cleveland here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gluten Brain Fog, Part One Million

Marcy and I were at the Chautauqua Institution for part of the weekend (more on that another time), and we walked down to my favorite part of the lakefront there and ended up taking some photos that I actually...liked.  Weird.

Hellloooooo, GLITTER Kitty!!

I have Gluten Fog Brain today and I am feeling pretty upset with myself for it.  While we were away, I thought I shouldn't bother the kitchen with my gluten free needs. I mean, how dramatic and attention-seeking is that!?

So instead, I thought I could just be careful on my own.


There is potential gluten everywhere, and I got some.  I deserved it.  I need to learn to stand up for myself and take better care of myself.  I will never again not inform hosts that I have special and important needs.

Because this feels awful.  Yesterday, I could barely think a cohesive, non-paranoid thought.

My gluten intolerance started very early in my life. I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel by the time I was about ten. This is a huge red flag.  As I got older, it started affecting my brain, which I was unaware of, and so I have spent my entire life thinking I am somehow broken or crazy, when really? I just needed to eat a bit differently.

To say this angers me is an understatement.

Especially since I found out that as early as 1959, physicians were talking about the connection between gluten sensitivity and things like depression, schizophrenia, psychosis, etc.

Think about that!  Since 1959!  Now...think about all the women who were institutionalized and then electroshocked or given crap treatments like "cold bath therapy."

Think about all the people, right now, popping pills and then not feeling better and blaming themselves...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Movement Saves My Life Every Day

Somehow my camera was on some weird setting that I never use, and I got that very cool peony shot. Accidents can be fortuitous!

A few weeks ago, Brandi from Joy Rebel Yoga asked me to write a post about the importance of movement in my life. You can read that piece right here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

An Extended Date

Today, I head with Marcy to the Chautauqua Institute to attend an invite-only bloggers' symposium. They are putting us up in the grand, old, main hotel there, and we are being wined and dined. It's just an overnight thing, but Marcy and I have not been away together in far too long, after spending so many years taking care of elder cats as they passed from fur to sparkle suits.

It is still pre-season at Chautauqua so it should be relatively calm. My time is very structured, but Marcy will get to just walk around, draw, take photos. Perfection.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Happy = Healthy & That is That

I have written about the beginnings of my disordered eating and my first diet at the age of four right here. (That post was initiated by a post I had written that was an overview of my eating and image disorders, asking the question "Do eating disorders ever go away?", which can be found here.)

In the past, I have done the starvation thing. I have done the counting calories thing. I have weighed myself after using the toilet to see if there was a change. I have exercised excessively because I...ate food (gasp!). I have gotten down to nothing but a small pile of lettuce on my plate so that I could show my friends I was "eating."

Now I do not even think about things called calories. If I want ice cream, I eat it. And you should, too. If you don't, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.

I do not own a scale, because they are EVIL. PERIOD. Get over it. Throw it out. Stop beating yourself with it. IT MEANS NOTHING.

And now?

Unlike before, when I fought for every single decrease in size like the survival of this world depended upon it, unlike Now I am the healthiest I have ever been...and the smallest thanks to MUSCLE.

But this size thing did not happen because I TRIED or because I WILLED it. It happened because I am living my joy, which happens to be dance, and my body is thrilled with that. My body is all, like, "THIS IS WHAT I WAS TALKIN' ABOUT!"

But this is my body. This is my path. Neither are yours and your body is different and now I am on this serious learning curve about HOW different our bodies really are and how much UTTER SHITE this culture feeds us (ha!) every day about why people are heavy or why people aren't this enough or that enough.

We have been feed utter shite, too, about what healthy LOOKS LIKE. And it does not necessarily always freaking look like me or like that athlete down the street or like that "healthy" model in that stupid magazine.

When I have told people in the recent past that I lost weight NOT due to some easily explained physiological process but rather because I am HAPPY, I was way onto something...more than I even thought.

And here is one tiny piece of that puzzle. Go read that. She explains why calories in and calories out thinking is just crap.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Blind as a Bat = Happy as a Lark

The other day in a Kundalini yoga class, I was putting people through a visual meditation, and I got something myself, which is rare. It was a wall surrounding me, but it was an old, old wall, crumbling, with trees and flowers and mosses starting to grow over and around and out of it. It was lovely.

Those bits of wall that were intact, though, can cause me troubles. Those old crumbling bits are made of my emotional injuries, and I can be blind sided, startled by the fact that I can trip over them, have really rough days. I have found so much joy in my life that I expect there to be no more of the depression left in me. No more of the body image crap. And then...there it is!

I am in a Nia class as a student (something I really enjoy being at least once a week). I am having fun. I am wearing shorter pants due to the weather. I look in the mirror and realize that I am obsessing over my thighs. They appear, to me, to be the size of elephant thighs. They are grotesque. I want to leave. I cannot bear the sight of them.

After all this time, one thing I do know now is what is happening when I see things like this in the mirror.  Just a few years ago, you could not have convinced me that it was an illusion, but now I know it is my brain playing tricks on me. That does not necessarily make it easier to tolerate, but it does mean that I am now ready to pull out whatever sword I need to defeat the little f'er.

Instead of panicking and leaving the class, I took a quick walk around the track right outside the studio to try to calm myself.  When I walked back in the room, I knew what to do: I took off my glasses.

I am quite blind and this eliminated seeing myself as more than a colorful, moving object in the mirror, and it allowed me to sink back into the experience of healing dance.

At some point in the coming days, I will look in the mirror and see myself for real and I will know I made it through this brain craposity. It happens like that -- snap! here is the body dysmorphia and then snap! it is gone.

For now, watch out if you see me in a class without my glasses...I may run right into you but at least I will be smiling.