Tag Archives: humanity

When Coffee is not just “Coffee.” Awareness, Attachments, Anxiety.

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So I’m about 10 days into experiencing this clean eating / diet detox and I have to say that for me, it’s not about the food. I don’t have attachments to food; blessedly, I’ve never been an emotional eater, I actually think I have a good relationship with food (“Hello sandwich, how are you today? I will eat you when I’m hungry…”), but I have determined, that what I do have, is an attachment to tradition; an attachment to attachments.

Because I’m not a big coffee drinker (as so many writers are — I simply can’t do it: my body / GI can not handle the huge thrust of caffeine, so I have one serving a day), coffee was only a loss to me in terms of my inability to have something warm and served in a cute vessel as I walked my son to school. Lots of moms and dads walk along the path to school with their kiddos holding an open mug or a travel mug or a thing as they saunter through the dappled sunlight or amidst the drizzle of these gorgeous and cool autumn mornings. I wanted to be one of those people; they looked so together, as though they’d just stepped out of a JCrew catalog or in their fitness wear, enroute to or just from the gym, but with their coffee in hand. (Hell, I could be completely wrong: maybe it’s vodka.)

So I morphed myself into being one of those people. Even though it was occasionally inconvenient: you can’t always hold a dog leash and a kiddo’s hand and a cup of something. So I found myself on days when the boys wanted to bring a dog vacillating between my cute mug of weak-ish coffee or Irish Breakfast tea and a leash, or holding a hand. When I wanted to be a be-hooded cute coffee mom and we were running late (which is often), the coffee would stay home and so began the understanding that it was more about being SEEN with the coffee, and somehow fitting in with the other moms, than actually enjoying the coffee.

Another thought that comes to mind is the obvious: if I choose to walk with the coffee, then I’m rejecting something else. Never has one of my sons asked me to leave the coffee at home to hold his hand. Not once. So what am I rejecting? Possibly my sense of just being ok with being plain old young me.

So when the detox started, I shifted gears: I put my detox tea (some horrid unique combination of lemon poison, dandelion venom, toxic licorice, and thistle milk in the vessel and the hell with it: I added some organic raw honey to sweeten the deal) in my cute vessel and guess what? I didn’t feel at all as though I was fitting in. Even though no one knew what was in my mug, and no one dared ask (because we all assume we’re coffee lemmings) I didn’t feel “cool” anymore. I’d’ve rather had no mug than carry a mug loaded with a potion which was displeasing to me. So instead, now I make my detox tea and slam it down when it reaches room temperature to just get it over with. Some attitude, I know. Then I look for a bathroom.

I don’t know what any of that means — the lack of the coolness, hipster, fitter-inner. I know that it came with some small relief upon later examination though, because I haven’t really fully enjoyed a cup of high-test coffee knowing what the caffeine does to my system. It was always a guilty pleasure. I make jokes about “coffee first” a lot; but mostly it’s for affect, and so I see that I’m being inauthentic when I say things like that because I simply can’t drink as much as others seem to be able to. It’s like the “she can’t hold her liquor” thing too … I can’t. Two drinks and I’m very comfortable — but not always: if I’m on edge in prep for an anxious moment (say expecting a weirdo to show any moment at a social event), the alcohol simply doesn’t take effect and so then, what’s the point of any of it other than a crutch? So this begs the question: what’s the point of any crutch?

A lot of this is deep, I get that. If you read my most recent post, it was my birthday and I was suffering with major headaches from the diet detox. All my friends and family who called and texted and emailed me throughout the day said to “take the Advil. It’s your birthday. You’re going to a rock concert and you’re gonna have the time of your life tonight. What’s up with the headache — ease your pain!” So, yes, against the advice / suggestion of the detox manager, I heard my older brilliant brother (as opposed to my equally brilliant younger brother): “if the technology exists, why not avail yourself of it?” So I did reach eagerly and mightily for the Advil and it was such sweet relief, so subtle and kind, that I pondered: What the what am I doing to myself? Why must I suffer to improve? Is it really improvement if this vise-like, compressing, deeply painful headache that has lasted almost 7 days and only meagerly subsides upon my laying down, makes me I wish I weren’t here?

….I know….

I’m a yoga teacher and practitioner of almost 16 years. I know deep breathing. I know staying in the moment. I can get you to relax on a mat in less than five minutes and have you hovering in the twilight, almost-all-the-way-asleep but still conscious and have you listen to the sound of my voice. But only if you’re willing… I simply couldn’t breathe / legs-up-the-wall / lavender oil / uttanasana these headaches away. Because the headaches were Other Than. The headaches were about my relationship with the detox when I’m already a mindful person, in very good health and already extended as a mom and wife and person.

So I am spinning this on its lactose, gluten, glucose and starch -laden head: we don’t need to suffer. We really don’t. These things, these GOOD things in our lives needn’t always be painful. Because the pain creates anxiety. Because I find that I already eat pretty well, that I have an occasional cheeseburger blanketed in a gorgeous square of sharp New York cheddar (sorry) I can tell you RIGHT NOW that my anxiety is reduced tenfold because I decided to listen to my Spirit last week. I heard her Loud and Clear: you needn’t suffer; this is an elective experience and suffering is always elective. True dat, but also pretty harsh. But back to true dat: it is. Suffering is a choice. We have a choice. The choice to breathe deeply, quiet our minds, close our eyes, feel the slow, soft and steady inhalation fill our chests and the calm, gentle and loose exhalation lower our ribs and chest quietly, gorgeously and so so so lovingly or become enchained slaves to the thoughts and fears and anxieties which rip through our psyches and tear holes in our spirits and send us on a panic spree about things that may or may not happen (well, something’s always gonna happen…) with and without our tender, evanescent influence … the choice is ours.

So yes. The choice is ours. Sorry. It’s like listening to music: you can crank up the Iron Maiden (which has its moments, I’m sure) and flood your head with all the synchronicity of what’s coming out of the speakers or you can switch to Jimi Hendrix, who has high energy, but more control and technique and simply get lost in his jam and not feel quite so disoriented upon the end. Or you can just listen to the clock tick and the birds sing and the refrigerator switch on and off as it cycles robotically through its existence.

The key for me is this: don’t let the shit that gets in your head own you.

For starters: I subscribe to the Daily Om — I highly recommend it. Read it.

The other day, one of the Oms was about awareness and fully experiencing that which we see. If I hadn’t started my day reading it, I wouldn’t have taken a moment to fully and truly see the man in the weighted-down minivan with the rooftop storage box pull into the public free parking lot. I would’ve missed his van barely squeak beneath the clearance bar and see the tailpipe scrape along the lip of the driveway. Then I wouldn’t have seen his furtive preparations to reverse his van into a parking space; his reverse lights didn’t work and so I had to wait, which was fine because I got a glimpse of his face which was so worry worn, so heavy and twisted with ennui, emotion and anxiety; each crease its own decades-long story. His hair, it was short but chunky and blonde, like a beachcomber’s, and his skin was leathery as though he’d lived outdoors all his life. The interior of his van was covered with all manner of life: wrappers, newspapers, coffee cups, magazines, a flip flop, stuffed animals… The windows of the van were tinted, but I could make the outlines of mounds of objects round and small and square and large. A battery-powered radio was wedged between the cracked windshield and a haphazard stack of periodicals. Here I witnessed: either a genius with serious hoarding issues, a lost soul with nowhere to go but the library on a sunny day, a criminal perhaps?, or just another guy whose emotional state is literally on the fringe. I would say he looked as though he were about 48 years old.

God has exposed me to two people in the last week who I am convinced were placed before me to keep my eyes open and my mind more open-er. That man in the van and a woman at Target who reminded me so much of my mother in her younger years that I find myself a bit dazzled by the timing of it all.

The woman was so peculiar to me. Twenty years ago I might’ve felt harshly toward her. She was wearing saggy cotton, faded black and lived-in pants, and a loose zippered off-white hoody. Her sneakers were simple Keds (Mom wouldn’t dare wear Keds). The cuffs of the sleeves were stained, as though they’d dipped into a dirty sink to wash coffee or tea or broth out of a pan or mug and I noticed that her hands were shaking a little; it was very subtle — almost like they were vibrating. Her hair was loose, shoulder length, black-brown with scant silver strands peeking out and it was oily near the scalp. I thought maybe she was out and about after feeling unwell for a few days. From her shopping basket she placed on the belt: nine cans of Campbell’s Hungry Man soups in all varieties, all with clearance price stickers on them. A ceramic table lamp, as though for a child’s room. It was white with lavender stripes and polka dots on it. The shade was inverted for storage and it was white with matching lavender velvet piping along the top and the bottom of the shade. She also gingerly took out of the top part of the cart, where little kids like to sit, a clearance-marked / on-sale pleather rust-toned backpack purse (which made me want to find out where it was because it was sort of cute but seemingly too large for my taste) which she examined closely one last time before she released it to the cashier. Then it came time to pay. Coupons. Lots of coupons (Mom couldn’t be bothered with coupons) but it was the way she paid. Her hands were more animated but deliberate in their stops and starts. The shaking was easier to see. She passed the coupons to the cashier and reached for her credit card which she then ran through the console. Her head was lurching forward, protectively in an almost vulture-like posture and she stared at the monitor as her tally ran up and then down with the aid of the coupons. Her only words, “I wish I had that Target card for the 5% off…” and then a gentle resigning laugh. She could be wealthy beyond all compare and still wanting the sale price. Or she could be a tangle of anxiety, OCD, doubt and fear. Judging by her pale, soft skin and the few gray hairs she had, I’d say she was likely 35.

I saw them. Like “Avatar” I see you -saw them. I saw them with my heart and my soul. They both those people exhibited a sense of loss, anxiety and woe to me that I could feel reverberate off them. I found myself breathing slower, more mindfully in their presence, simply to do what I could — consciously or not — to lower the vibration in the space I shared with them probably because they evoked such memories in me that I had to do what I could to calm myself down. I silently offered them both peace with each breath and have thought of them each since although the weight of their images fade with each day.

So after all these years of yoga, it’s impossible for me to not See people or feel them. I could revert back to my old ways: being hard, not caring and not getting involved, even on a witness level, but that’s false. I realize I have to be careful to not feel and see so much, and so that’s where the awareness of the awareness comes in.  So it’s that moment for me: taking myself out of my sense of expectations and attachments which enables me to fully live and fully release. Today in yoga, the quote from a book I read was this: “The hardest asana is letting go.” And so I realize, that even with all that compassion, I have to let it go or I’ll go down too.

What can you let go of today to help you be more present and to know that everything is happening –with and without you– as it should?

Thank you.

30 Days of Brené Brown — Day 4: #imperfection #worth #value #relationship #community #struggle

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Welcome to Day 4 of “30 Days of Brené Brown” wherein I will take the top 30 quotes as determined by Goodreads. Who is Brené Brown you ask? She is a research professor at the University of Houston, author of several books on emotional health and authenticity and all-around bad-ass when it comes to shame and vulnerability research. But more importantly, she is my “if you could have dinner / evening out with anyone you don’t know who would it be…” -person. Go here to learn more about her. In each post I will try to limit myself to 1,200 words.

Today’s quote:

You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.
― Brené Brown

Yes!

This reminds me of the Declaration of Independence. Y’know, the real one. That awesome document that ushered a war and released us from the bondage of British Imperialism and freed us to become the Americans we are today!! Who’s with me?!

‘Cept when I look at America now, I’m not so sure we know what we’re doing.

mine. please don't steal it. make your own.

mine. please don’t steal it. if you use, then cite me.

So let’s narrow our view back in and look at our basic selves and our core group of people and how we interact and interrelate with them all. I’d like to break down this quote, as short as it is, even further:

“You are imperfect,” — this to me is like a license for experimentation. I like to think of children, how we can’t (or shouldn’t really, for a whole host of neurological and developmental reasons) walk before we can crawl. Before we walk well, we fall down a lot. We are meant to fall down a lot, hence the next part of Brené’s quote:

“You are wired for struggle,” — which basically means: count on having a shitty time every once in a while at this stupid game of life. I see this as a good thing: if we weren’t wired for struggle and adversity then we’d also not be prepared for greatness and success. We would never know when we are successful. When we are successful we can enjoy ourselves, we can trust ourselves, we can love and be part of a tribe of …

But … oh.

That’s the essence of the next part of the quote isn’t it?: “But you are worthy of love and belonging.”

We need to give ourselves that permission to belong — did you read my Declaration of Imperfection above? You’re already a member of the human race! You’re already in! You already belong! We all just need to remember to be kinder to ourselves and firm in our love so that we accomplish what we are here to do!

So, yay! Right?

The good news is that you’re worthy of love. The bad news is that it’s likely gonna mean hell must happen first before you realize it. Are you in hell now? Are you struggling? Well, get in line.

Every day millions of people — very likely all people, even the brand-new ones, no! especially the brand-new ones — experience a crappy moment: loneliness, confusion, isolation, heartbreak, loss, desolation, fear, anxiety, regret,  frustration … but on the same coin, there are all the same people (just not the babies because they don’t get it) who, thanks to perspective and reason possess the ability to turn that negative energy inside out and try all over again or … if they are willing and able: to reach out, maybe share their story and meet compassion. Even if it’s from a complete stranger and it lasts five seconds!

Case in point:

Friday after Thanksgiving, as I walked to my car from the CVS after getting alcohol wipes for my niece’s blood sugar reader, I saw an elderly disheveled man leaning against his old pick-up. He was in bad shape emotionally from what I could see. When I approached my car’s door to open it, he looked over, seemingly ashamed of his condition. His eyes averted mine, but I stood for a moment and waited for him to sense my hesitation. He looked up at me, with his own hesitation and I smiled and said, “Hello, I hope you have a good day.”

I wasn’t Mother Theresa, but I wanted to be human with him. I wanted to have an exchange, no matter how fleeting, to let him know that someone, anyone, saw him and saw his struggle.

His face brightened for just a moment, almost in an obliging way and his posture perked up. He nodded and sniffled his nose. Then he gestured his hand and said something that I will admit was completely unintelligible and he turned to close his truck’s door and moseyed toward the ABC store. That completely bummed me out, it was an imperfect experience and I felt like Leslie Knope from NBC’s “Parks & Recreation.” Hopeful and idealistic, but ultimately crushed.

I wanted the story to be different. I wanted to say that he said, “Hey, thanks. Yes, I do too. And thanks to you, it will be because you were nice to me! Here’s a check for $500,000! Go buy those shoes you love!”

No. It didn’t happen that way. It barely happened at all, but I did what I felt urged to do — to see that man. I saw him because I’ve felt like how I think he felt: down, isolated and frustrated. If we don’t tap into our own shit then we can’t see anyone else’s. I won’t suggest that it’s my mission to find that guy and take him to an AA meeting because maybe that’s all I was supposed to do that day, but I suspect if I do see him again, I will be just as kind as I was last week.

I am imperfect. My house is not always clean, my moods are unpredictable, I don’t always like to cook, I have wrinkles now at 46 that I would really rather not have, my body is nothing like it used to be yet it hasn’t let me down yet, my hair is mostly gray I fear and I loathe being a slave to that nag of a colorist (me) and stuff is happening to my skin that you don’t wanna know about. But I’m here. I can choose to make my imperfection my anvil or my buoy.

As long as we have breath in our lungs, our struggles are not over; that’s OK. Who knows what will befall us? For me: as imperfect as I am and as allowing as I am about that imperfection, that if I don’t get the hell out of my own way, I will also be responsible for most of my struggles.

How did I get off track? (I blame the old man.)

Here’s the dealio: regardless of our imperfections and our struggles, there is community for us. Love is out there for us — all of us: wrinkled and old, or young and insecure, hesitant or confident and we do belong. We are here, on this planet — we belong on it. We belong here.

We have to be willing to put ourselves out there in order to feel the struggle and know our imperfections and succeed despite them — or maybe by virtue of them!

Count on being imperfect and bask in its flexibility! Allow yourself to be kinder to yourself! Thank your wrinkles because that means you’ve expressed emotions and have felt the sun’s warmth! Thank your gray hairs for they’ve stayed in your head! Know you are not alone — and even if when you look around after reading this, and you might still feel alone, know this: that at the end of a very long day, you really do belong to yourself and that’s the best declaration of independence I can think of.

Thank you.

Hail Marys

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Note: these are my really random thoughts about Monday. I have been reluctant to post anything about it because I am leery of standing on the shoulders of the injured to make my “voice” heard. But I can’t suppress the thoughts, woes and observations so read or not, but know that my heart is heavy and in the right place.

When I was in elementary school, our homeroom procedures went like this: we would put all our stuff in the cloakroom, sit at our desks, say the Our Father, then the Pledge of Allegiance and begin our lesson. My school, Holy Angels Catholic Elementary, was situated in Buffalo, NY’s “West Side.” When we moved in, in the 1800s 1970s, the West Side was beginning a cultural transition. The houses, parks, libraries and churches were wonderful. Fantastic residential architecture sat nearest Lake Erie, which is where I lived. As you moved away from the water, you would see more standard row-house-ish types of narrow-plotted, deep-into-the-rear yet ample homes. Our block, which was closest to the water, boasted some fantastic homes designed by some of their era’s premiere builders. Buffalo, for some time, was a crown jewel of the northeast.

I digress. As I often do when I talk about Buffalo.

The West Side was home to all manner of people: rich, poor, Italian, Irish, Polish, Latino, African American, German, but mostly Italian. That’s neither here nor there; I mention it to paint a picture of the fact that the ‘hood was rich in tradition, benign religious rituals, and family values. Often I’d see a kindergartner walk to school with his granny and her mom in a wheelchair. Family mattered there. Life mattered there.

I told you the architecture was insane. This is my old school.

I told you the architecture was insane. This is my old school.

Throughout the day at Holy Angels, an ambulance would go by the school as it was nestled between two arterial streets.

When the wails reached our ears, our teacher would stop her lesson and ask us to bow our heads for the people in trouble and to pray for drivers of the ambulance and the doctors who were needed. That everyone would be held in God’s hands and “His will be done.” (Tears are streaming for me at the moment, because thoughts of Boston are pouring into my head — I have hidden from the news, I have played ostrich to the newscasts and the websites; I simply can’t handle it all.)

More often than not, the prayer would be a “Hail Mary.” The final words, “Pray for us, now and in the hour of our death, Amen” pulsing through my ears. Still, now, they do. After a while, the ambulances became more frequent, especially as the weather warmed up, and there was a time when we were saying them every hour. My grandmother had a phrase, “think of the living” when someone would die; she had tremendous faith in the existence of heaven, and I find comfort in that thought, because the dead are at peace. It is their families, the survivors and the injured, who are at times, living in “hell” on earth.

image (c) humblepiety.blogspot.com

image (c) humblepiety.blogspot.com

In football, a “Hail Mary” is a last-ditch effort on an offensive drive to score a touch down as the clock is running out. I liken it to getting in to Costco before they start closing down sections while the front doors are still open. I suspect the label is used in other sports, but I don’t really watch too many sports because I find some of the competition and exploitation of the athletes to be disturbing.

(c) image: investingcaffiene.com

(c) image: investingcaffiene.com

I watched a soccer game last night on our DVR: Dallas Vs. LA Galaxy. It was a good game, and with about 4 minutes left, a Dallas player (George John) who’d made numerous uncessssful attempts at a goal, finally had his chance: it was a little murky, but he made it, and immediately after the ball went in, but probably at the same time it was propelled into the goal, a spectator threw a bottle at this player in idiocy assholicry frustration and injuring John. The projectile, a bottle, hit him in the head (where he’d suffered a major concussion about a year ago) and sent him to the turf grabbing his head in agony, his body curled up like a shrimp as his blood seeped between his fingers and through his dark hair. He got up a few moments later, cleaned up and returned to the game with something like two minutes to spare.

I said a Hail Mary when I saw that. The incident happened on Sunday, before the marathon, but it showed me that humans are awful at times. I said multiple Hail Marys during the day on Monday after I heard about the bombing. But they were in vain; what’s done is done, but it hurtled me back to those days at Holy Angels, when although there was this great truth that there was nothing I could do about whatever was going on, there was something, no matter how small I had to do: offer a moment of peace and love to all involved.

One of the best detached, metaphysical and philosophically elegant posts I’ve ever read about the Boston marathon tragedy and how life goes at times was written by my friend Lillian Connelly at her It’s a Dome Life blog. The post is called “Creativity Vs. Destruction” and if you’ve got about five minutes to spare, indulge yourself and read it.

I read a headline today and it reminded me of a bunch of words that I didn’t used to have in my consciousness or my lexicon:

  • suicide bomber
  • pressure-cooker bomb
  • weapon of mass destruction
  • meant to maim
  • crude bomb
  • amputation
  • mass murder
  • genocide
  • school shootings
  • pipe bomb
  • dead children
  • terrorist
  • hate crime
  • angry mob
  • collateral damage
  • friendly fire
  • ak-47
  • first responders
  • assault rifle
  • security lock down
  • baby rape
  • gang rape
  • armed teachers
  • drone strike
  • Newtown, Connecticut
  • Aurora, Colorado
  • Trade Center bombings

I have a neighbor, she’s 30 and still lives with her parents. She drives her dead grandmother’s car. She has a child from an unwed situation (not judging, just giving context) and has recently divorced from another man who was belligerent and abusive to her. Her parents ostensively raise her son: she goes out for take-out for one. He’s a good kid, a little shy but really smart and he has a vivid imagination and he’s luckier than hell that his grandparents are young, fit, healthy and gainfully employed. She has a bumper sticker on her dead grandmother’s car, with a red capital A beside the slogan, “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.” I try not to grit my teeth every time I pass that bumper sticker. I am all for people having their religious views and stating them; but I really have a hard time with the concept of blasting religious views at the expense and denigration of 3,000 innocent people who were murdered on 9/11. Hail Mary.

Monday was not all horrible in my personal universe: I know of two babies that were born that day, a boy and a girl; and I have a dear friend who celebrated her birthday that day as well. I refuse to live in the darkness about this matter; to court the sadness and to see all of this as horror, melancholy and fear.

But the point, right now, at 10:01 on April 17 2013, is that I can’t do this thing justice; I can’t eloquently express my rage and my confusion at a person or entity that has only hate on its mind.

My garden's bleeding hearts.

My garden’s bleeding hearts.

So, I can go back to my hole, my garden and over-prune my hydrangeas. I can whittle a gorgeous euonymus down to a nub in my fear and my frustration. My garden is my labor of love: it’s the place that reminds me every spring that no matter how downtrodden things might seem, there are forces at work, invisible forces, that remind those hosta spears, and fern fiddle heads, lily-of-the-valley pips, bleeding hearts and unwelcome yet justified maple, oak, or poplar saplings to push through the hard, cold, sometimes frozen, compacted and seemingly dead earth only to fight for their survival; to fight for their spot in the sun.

Thank you.