We Have to Change

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I was just watching Goodfellas with my son and husband. Then when it was over, I went upstairs to wash my face.

It occurred to me that unless we see this pandemic crisis as a life-altering moment, all is lost.

What matters is that we change. If we don’t change, the same things will continue to recur. We will go back to being unwell.

My parents were both addicts. My father to his pride and my mother to her escapes.

They did not change. They faced numerous crises. Nothing changed.

I have relatives and friends, who think that things should be different — but by the hand of others — when this is all over.

Nothing will change with us unless we change.

I do not need the J.Crew sweaters. I do not need the Coach leather. I never did.

My mother had literally 120 vintage Coach leather purses, handbags, and briefcases when I gutted their house last year. Most of them never saw the light of day and they were scooped up for pennies on the dollar at an estate sale.

I do not need the cheap crap made in China. I do not need the cheap crap made anywhere. I have enough cheap crap. Do you need your cheap crap? Really need it?

Yesterday, I colored sections of my hair blue. I decided I was bored. That I needed a change and what the hell did it matter anyway — even if I had to go in for a job interview, it wouldn’t happen for the next six weeks at the earliest anyway. I wanted to live a little of the childhood I didn’t get to live.

That’s not a tail; it’s a hose. 😏


As a child, I was the grown up. I had to take care of my mother. I had to pack for my father to leave for his big job and I made arrangements with him and his secretary to pay the bills because my mother was emotionally and tactically unavailable. I’d ride my bike up to the bank around the corner with signed checks and the utility bills in my messenger bag.

I’d get off my bike, park it outside the branch office and walk in with all the papers I’d need — the statement , the check, the proof of residency — to make sure our power, or our water, or our phone, or our heat wasn’t cut off. I would face the teller behind the 1” of bullet-proof glass and slide my papers into to welled tray at her window. She would take the papers, verify the funds, use her rubber stamp here and there, sign or initial various papers with her teller number and then slide them back to me under the glass. I’d ride back home and call the utilities with the verifying information and hope we were safe for that month.

After a while, I realized that I needed a system. The haphazard approach was not efficient or emotionally stabilizing. Sometimes it didn’t work, sometimes I was late with the payment. So I devised a plan. After talking with my father, we had agreed that a consistent time each month would be best.

I had created a standing appointment: the 24th of each month or the Friday closest to that date. In the morning, I’d quietly go to my father at his bedside and ask him to sign the checks I’d made out to whomever was due the payment. I was 14. This went on for years. Sometimes I’d make the deadline, sometimes I wouldn’t. The reactivation fees for the service we’d exploited was often 1/3 the cost of the monthly fee and my father greatly resented having to give them more of his money to get back what we had before. Sometimes a few days would go by.

But he knew he had to pay it. He was a father. So he’d pay the reinstatement fee. We’d pay the overage for them to simply flip a switch and turn things back on. Even though I know now I wasn’t responsible for any of this, I felt I was. If we missed the deadline, it was my fault. If we went without water service, it was my fault. If we went without power, it was my fault. No one ever said that it was or it wasn’t my fault, but I knew that if I’d only gotten things arranged sooner or earlier, than it wouldn’t be my fault.

This went on for years, well beyond the time I thought it would transition back to being his responsibility. And it wasn’t an issue of not having the money. It was that he lacked the executive functioning skills to properly deal with it or simply chose to abdicate onto a child. After all, it’s so much easier to not deal with bills… At the time I felt it was an honor to serve the family this way. I felt as though I was like a partner.

I realized many years later that I was only band-aiding the situation. My father and mother were not going to change unless something catastrophic happened to them. In time I came to realize that their catastrophes could be out-catastrophed and nothing ever changed. They continued to calcify and corrode their relationship and our wellbeing.

There was never enough gravitas in any situation to get them to change.

So, as an adult, with my parents long gone, I see clearly now, that COVID19 makes me feel like I’m 14 all over again. Except it’s everyone who has something to lose now.

If we don’t change, this will happen again. We will be confronted with huge choices.

Can we stop our compulsive and mindless behavior?

Can we sit with “now”?
Can we be OK with not being OK? Can we pause? Can we decide we don’t need it?


Do we need the vacations on the massive cruise liners? I know a friend who booked a cruise on a smaller vessel that is environmentally aware and doesn’t dump its garbage into the sea.

Do we need the waste and soulless existence in empty experiences? I get the need for a break and a shift in perspective but we can do more. We can grow.

What are we running from?
Can we confront it? (I assure you it’s not that scary.)

About mindless consumption: This isn’t a matter of choosing the better brand. It’s a matter of looking in our closets and realizing we have enough. It’s a matter of looking inside our medicine cabinets and knowing we don’t need another kind of lotion or to try another anti-aging cream or yet another fabulous mascara. We are enough.

Eventually we will die. The crap we will leave behind is overwhelming to consider. I had to sell my parents’ homes and one of them — oh my lord! — was a museum to a sea of unused anything, unopened that, collections of this and waste.

Would any of us look at the person who may be on a ventilator in an ICU and say to them, “You really should have done that addition to the house”? Does it take people dying to realize that none of what we fret over doesn’t matter and that everything we avoid does matter?

Who will we be when we come out of this experience?

Let’s live responsibly and with presence. What are we so afraid of? Share love. Share compassion. Unload your burdens. Create space in your heart. Let shit go.

Thanks for reading.

Task List — For Our Mental Health

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I was on a telesession with my therapist today.

We both reflected on how everything — EVERYTHING — is different now, since undergoing a state-mandated semi-lockdown. Where I live only essential businesses, and the employees therein, are permitted to function as though business is normal.

For the facilities where I lead yoga practices, we are learning new ways, just as you likely are, to function in the world. Lots of FaceBook Live yoga classes and Zoom yoga classes. In that vein, she and I had our session over screens. Only my camera didn’t turn on and she was forced to listen to me but not see me.

We spoke about how we are both coping with all of this. Overall, I am ok; I do feel though that the two-weeksness of this is starting to get to me. That I miss my friends and hugs and seeing people I’m accustomed to seeing. I’m not sleeping terribly well, but I’m working on addressing my sleep hygiene routine.

Last night I was up later than I’d like.

I let someone get to me online. I let it continue for days. This person is not unknown to me, we have known each other all my life. Nothing this person does surprises me. The flair for coarseness, attack, and cruelty is common, nothing special; but it still makes me mad. So last night, I had decided I’d had enough and I opened a can of whoopass. I let it out — the anger I’d felt at being treated the way I was treated –for no good reason other than spite and smallness– a few months ago when I needed help. Even during that time of need, it was absurd of me to think the entrenched behavior would suddenly change — this person is pretty sick. I was not let down.

So I told her that I was disappointed in myself; that I wasn’t more like Jesus. That I wasn’t walking my talk of calmness and stillness in this time of global suffering, fear, and pain. “I was insulted, attacked personally — but that’s par for the course with this person. Linear conversations are impossible; it’s all reactivity. Once backed into a corner, then out comes the puffadder and it’s all hiss and spit,” I said.

“Did you ‘kick dirt’ on the viper? Did you defend yourself against the attacks and insults?” She asked.

“Yes. I won’t be intimidated. This person literally means nothing to me. There is no ‘there’ there,” I said to her. “I just don’t like that I wasn’t being more…. ”

“Yogic?” she asked.

“Yes. That I didn’t …”

“Let yourself be insulted and treated like crap? Take the abuse?” she added.

“Yes. That.” I realized where she was going. I remembered that I wasn’t on a yoga mat. I wasn’t giving yoga. I was practicing discernment. I won’t be intimidated.

“Then you took care of yourself.” She said. “Look. What you do to protect yourself is perfectly within boundaries of self-care and within the boundaries of intelligent living. When someone acts like a jerk, then you are forced to respond in kind. Likely, it’s probably the only way this person knows how to communicate. There’s likely a lot of rage inside…”

Then I recalled the best phrase regarding irrational behavior by angry people: “You can’t provoke a rabid dog.” I heard it from … wait for it … “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” stated by cast member Margaret Josephs.  I saw my therapist’s reaction: raised eyebrows and a nod of agreement. She laughed softly when she heard where I heard it.

Don’t judge. We’re in a pandemic.

So we continued in our session, leaving that stuff behind. “This pandemic is going to show everyone what they are truly made of. If someone has been a decent person all their life, this pandemic will highlight that. If someone has been irrational, erratic and unstable all their life, this pandemic will highlight that. There will be no ‘gray zones’ here. It’s important to everyone that we heed the messages people show us and that can help us live better.”

She is very concerned about her clients’ ability to feel normal during these days. She said she has a task list that everyone should know and do every day:

  1. Wake by 8:30am.
  2. Leave bed by 9:00.
  3. Shower sometime after waking.
  4. If you don’t shower, at least change your clothes.
  5. Limit the time you spend looking at the news to 30 minutes and do it only once a day, at least two hours before bedtime. Why? The news is not radically changing every day  — it’s important to be informed, just don’t be obsessed; it’s not good for you.
  6. Be creative (or do things that activate your left brain) for an hour: read a book or magazine, listen to music, meditate, garden, look at Pinterest, make cookies, make your bed, organize your closet, plan your dinner.
  7. Practice gratitude: the grocers (truckers, stockers, cashiers, farmers, food producers), pharmacists, first-responders, front-line physicians and medical staff are working hard to help us. We are NOT in this alone.
  8. Do something active for at least 30 minutes: get up, stretch, go for a bike ride, walk, dance, garden, walk your pet or walk your neighbor’s pet, practice yoga,
  9. Do something social: pick up your phone and make a phone call. Or FaceTime or Skype someone. Better yet, if you can call someone you’ve known for a long time, but haven’t spoken to in a while, so much the better: that time together will remind you that your life hasn’t spun out of control, that you still have people who bring you back to yourself.
  10. Treat yourself like your own best friend.

How are you doing? Have you noticed how people in your life or their treatment of you has changed since COVID-19 has unleashed itself?

Thanks for reading.

So I’ve Figured out This Much… #writing

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So I’ve Figured out This Much… #writing

The vertigo has been helpful, or at least it has pushed me into the direction I mean to head. I have been taking prednisone for it. On Tuesday (three days ago) I got an 80mg shot of it in my ass. From my understanding, that’s a strong dose. My doctor said, as she was seated on one of those round leatherette-upholstered low stools that roll around the linoleum while glancing between me and her computer, “Hmm. Should we just go for it and give you the 80? That would likely do the job… we may as well while we are here…” and she ordered it.

I don’t claim to know the difference between 2mg of prednisone and 100mg of it*.

*“Of it.” That was such a Doug Turnerism. He would say “of it” at the end of sentences… after the sentence had paused, even and we were ready to move on. And he’d just say “of it.” Like an old man. And I guess it’s because he was an old man… but it was like this all-encompassing tie off, so to speak, of what he was expressing… so that I suppose, to him … maybe it was a complete thought? That none of us would wonder if he were done? Or if he’d heard himself? Hard to say. Of it.

Anyway, the prednisone has kept me awake longer — and when I say “awake” I mean staring-at-the-ceiling-maybe-I-should-just-go-do-some-laundry-or-walk-the-dogs-in-the-cold-dark-night-alone-or-join-a-neighborhood-watch-patrol-do-they-even-have-those-anymore-maybe-we-should-get-a-ring-doorbell-but-that’s-an-Amazon-thing-no-better-not-do-that-but-what-will-help-us-stay-safe awake… in other words awake and stupid.

But I was also awake and aware enough to shift gears from thinking about letting Jeff Bezos have any more of my money for things than I’m comfortable with to figure out what to do about my writing at least for now and whereas Miriam, (a reference to my first book) is concerned.

I’m going to keep that manuscript and keep writing for the Unpulled Pin (fiction based on real shit) to flesh that out and because it’s so helpful to me emotionally, and it’s sort of essential to set the framework of her origin story. Then I’d launch into Miriam with a new beginning basically being me:

Miriam wanted to be a writer; and she was good at it, plus there was no getting away from it: it was in her blood for many generations and she sees it in her own children as well. She also wanted to be a good person. She also grew up with some really weird shit going on in her home. While some of it resembled Running with Scissors and it wasn’t as thoroughly dark as August: Osage County, it was haunting like Long Day’s Journey Into Night it was true that it ended ok, because Here She Was.

She knew her story was good enough to fill some pages, especially because she was healthier now, after, during and because of her therapy, yoga and having a family of her own, but she also knew that “tell alls” are for presidents and their lovers.

But this wasn’t going to be a “tell all” — she’s not out for blood anymore; that ship has sailed, but Miriam knew her story was interesting enough to share and be helpful for people who thought they were alone: upper middle class, adult children of well-educated, connected and upwardly mobile alcoholics.

So Miriam was at a crossroads: she could write her book about her story, but she’d have to tell the truth and to her, that “truth” part was at odds with being a good person. People who loved her parents didn’t really KNOW her parents, and while her parents were pretty fucked up people, they also deserved some dignity. But then she recalled what Anne Lamott said in Bird by Bird,

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.

Sounds good.

So there’s that. It’s going to be a story about a story. Funny, now that I reflect on the last few days — I’ve been humming “Paperback Writer” to myself, especially the lines “It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear, and I need a job so I want to be a paperback writer…” What I’m doing is a story about a writer who wants to write a book. Pretty meta.

So I have determined that I will channel Miriam with me as my muse and maybe sass it up a bit from time to time to make things seem super outrageous so that people won’t know up from down? I’m not going to sweat the details right now — that’s a way to keep from writing. I’m just going to get going.

In the meantime, Mary Oliver beckons:

Later!

A thought regarding chakras and behavior.

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A thought regarding chakras and behavior.

I’ve always been interested in the unseen; stuff that includes science, but that transcends it because even science and proving its truth has to come from something, like a gut feeling, an inner knowing, something that makes us stay curious and interested in the answer or result.

My mother was super smart, talented and clever; she also (like all of us) battled her demons. Sometimes she won, sometimes she lost. Her behavior though, even in the clear-headed days, was something that I now understand as being mostly in the “upper chakras” of 4th (love / boundaries), 5th (voice & truth), 6th (vision & sound: reality) and 7th (intuition). In her escapist behavior (her “demon” side), she also stayed there, but the behavior was focused on herself: what she loved, what she said and heard in *her* truth, what she felt intuitively. Because those concepts were run through an unhealthy filter, her behavior was unhealthy.

And so the loop continues.

As a yoga instructor and someone who likes to investigate sources of pain or observe confusions in myself or others, the chakras are crucial to how I perceive the world. But my knowledge is limited while my curiosity is constantly in bloom.

Recently, I had a biofield tuning session. (It’s woo-woo to some: energy blended with sound healing science but it has real effects on me.) In that session, I discussed some social interactions I’ve endured with people that have left me confused and exhausted. I explained that I’m so tired of this pattern of people and their behaviors repeating themselves in my life. That they’re so familiar to me — the energy reminds me of my interactions with my mother: going around and around in circles when all I’m trying to do is go from A to B to C. Without batting an eye, she said, “They’re in their upper chakras. There’s no grounding. They just want to exist in the fantasy that all is well and they don’t need the things — like health insurance and consistent income — that you and I and others see as reasonable and normal for a solid existence. The truth is too much for them; they’re not grounded. They want to have it come to them because they ‘wish it to.’ To be grounded means that you have accept and know who you are [1st chakra], what you’re responsible for having created in your life [2nd chakra], and the guts to do it or change it [3rd chakra] if it’s not working … if it’s not healthy or balanced.”

It was literally like a window had been opened and a fresh breeze of clean air had flowed into my lungs.

There’s nothing wrong with embracing love and intuition and vision and singing your song… but launching from solid ground and a knowing of your skills and limitations is the only way you’re going to make any sense. Remember: airplanes have wheels, birds have claws, and angels have feet for a reason.

The other risk — not nourishing or tolerating the upper chakras — is anger, confusion, and disappointment because we have to also acknowledge that we don’t know everything about ourselves [1st]; that there are things we have yet to create / we’re not DONE yet [2nd]; and that we must continue to change and do [3rd] in order to live well and balanced.

I often describe Mom as just being capable of landing one toe on the ground for most of her life. Now that she is with God, free and she is safe, I don’t have to worry about how hard she will crash when she would eventually come down. ❤