The Interview

 

My daughter Maria is in her third year of nursing school at the University of Portland and a while back I called her on the phone while I was walking my dog Bella at Wyakin Park, a nature park down the street from our house. I called her mainly because I was creeped out by a guy walking a ways behind me on the same path. I told her this and she immediately said “MOM! Why don’t you call dad? I’m pretty far away to be able to help you.”

“Your dad is always warning me to not walk in Wyakin Park alone so I don’t want to get a lecture. Just know that if I go silent call dad and tell him to call 911 and then drive here super fast because I’m most likely either killed or abducted and he needs to get Bella. I don’t want anything to happen to her.”

We kept on with our chatting while I walked the park, the creeper long disappeared, so it was probably nothing, though it’s good to be more safe than sound I always say.  The subject of her needing to conduct a two part interview with someone about suffering came up. 

“Well, you can interview my uterus, it’s suffering right now. Why is it that every time you come home for the summer my path to finally completing my year long adventure toward menopause is disrupted? Now my plans for a party are screwed up. I was TWO MONTHS away from official menopause day. I feel kind of mad at you and your alpha she-wolf hormones for messing me up. I’m too old for this crap.”

She laughed and we chatted about how crazy hormones were and other female topics that I think we both crave as the only two girls in a family of eight. Then we talked about possible people she could interview that we know have suffered a lot and whether or not it would be weird for her to reach out to them and finally decided she would interview me (not my uterus). I had gone through a rather rough patch of time when I lost three loved ones: my grandma, my mom and my friend Libby all within a seven year span, and all the experiences leading up to and after those difficult days created all kinds of suffering. I felt enough time had passed that I would be able to give a good interview on the subject of suffering. We scheduled the first interview and I put it on my calendar when Bella and I arrived home unscathed from our walk. 

Now, I have never been a fan of FaceTime which was the required method for Maria’s interview, unless she could do it live and Portland is an awfully long drive from Spokane. So I was a little worried about that part. I am always distracted by the little box at the top with MY face in it. Do I have boogers? How does my hair look? Do I have the phone positioned so I don’t have a double chin and my big boobs don’t steal the show? Also, the image of me I’m looking at is a reflection of the reflection I see in the mirror every day so it’s a mind bend seeing how other people might see me everyday. The thought makes me want to part my hair the opposite direction and turn my head to the right when I am face to face with people, which is my bad side but actually shows THEM my good side. It’s so confusing. And extremely self absorbed. 

So with that in mind, enter interview number one. I made sure my hair was done nice and I put makeup on so I would not be distracted by wishing I HAD done that. And then there was Maria, on my phone, who had clearly done the same. Her hair had grown longer since I last saw her, making her look older, more grown up and OH my FILLED UP HEART so beautiful. I felt this deep sense of awe that this delightful woman came partly from me and I was distracted from my own face in the corner which was good. We made some giggly small talk about how good we both looked and then got into the interview.  

I was fully prepared to just coast through the questions and as is my way, try and make it lighthearted and fun. I feel like I am pretty together and practical about suffering: it’s a human condition that is hard to avoid but I myself have lived through it thus far and relatively unscathed. What I was NOT prepared for was how meaningful the interview was for me and how my daughter shined with empathy and poise that had things spilling out of me that I did not at all expect, including tears and some amazing ‘a-ha!’ moments including the realization that I have pushed down a little bit of anger about the death of my mother, because I didn’t really want to talk about that part of my suffering. She should still be here. 

Now granted, I’m a talker. I have never had trouble talking or writing about almost any subject, including what my heart feels at the moment. It’s how I’m wired. But I have learned to keep some of my deepest things closely guarded, namely because people just don’t want to hear about suffering, at least not all the time. But also, it has been important to me as a mother that my kids don’t worry about me, at least not on a grand scale like I did my own mother for so much of my life. So it was a little bit unnerving actually being given permission to talk about my personal suffering, especially by my daughter in what felt like a professional counseling session. 

We ended the first interview and I found myself excited for the next one but worried that I had worried her.  

We were both less concerned with how we looked on the second interview and got into it pretty quickly. She had some follow up questions for me that were hard to answer because they were very thought provoking. These are the ones that stood out to me: 

  • What support was missing for you during that time? 
  • What have you learned about yourself through suffering? 
  • How did suffering affect your faith? 
  • What gives you a sense of hope when you are in pain? What IS hope in your mind, what does it look like?

Lots of big questions and I found myself meandering a bit with my words in search of what the answers were which was cathartic in and of itself. But here are a few answers I discovered:  

I know that I have never lacked support because I have learned how to ask for it from the people who I know are willing and able to give of themselves when it is most important. What I do know is that it’s not always the same person I turn to and that each person in my core has a different way of supporting and loving. Three words from the men in my life can sometimes be as powerful and soothing as hours of wailing with a soul sister. Different love languages for different types of suffering.

I have learned to understand that suffering is a gift when I look at what it would mean NOT to suffer which is one of two things: I’m dead or I do not love.

My faith has been altered but not shaken from suffering. I have had a few fights with God along with a more expansive and less defined by ritual understanding of who my maker is. I’m still pondering this one a bit but my spirituality as a whole hasn’t wavered much. I figure if I’m yelling at God, it means I’m a believer. Or crazy. Maybe both. 

But looking into my daughter’s eyes as we dove into our deep and powerful conversation,  I realized with a most profound and solid certainty that she and her brothers are the very definition of what hope is for me. My children, each with their unique gifts and personalities,  will absolutely make the world better, long after I am gone. What could be more hopeful (and soul soothing) than this? 

I got to witness first hand Maria’s healing gifts and know with certainty she has chosen the right path for her life “You should be a geriatric psychiatric nurse. Is that a thing? Old people need to talk this shit out before they die! You are amazing!” I said, wiping happy sad tears from my eyes. “I wish I could have had this kind of talk with my mom. That would have been amazing. This is priceless stuff. You’re welcome by the way.” 

“Ahhhh…” said my daughter “there she is!”  

Are My Dogs Having More Sex Than I Am?

No amount of natural family planning education could have prepared me for the conversations about sex that I have had with and about our dogs Cooper, a big, beautiful un-neutered 2 year-old yellow lab and Bella our 1 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, who started her first period five days ago. Even if we HAD been paying attention and not giggling during most of the six week long NFP course we enrolled ourselves in over 20 years ago when I decided to throw away the pill after the two oldest boys were born and be free spirited and open to whatever and whoever came our way. Grant willingly went along for the ride which resulted in four more kids. 

The instructor was LOVELY and very knowledgeable but everyone in the class was so dang serious, taking notes and nodding their heads. Meanwhile in the back of the class Grant and I were giggling and drawing pictures of penises and making gagging noises every time the instructor talked about the consistency of the deposits left on the woman’s undies when she was ripe for the picking. Who KNEW that was a thing? And though I will admit that by number five pregnancy I did say to myself a few times that perhaps we should have paid attention a bit more, David was my most mellow and happy baby, so I was rewarded more than I was harmed by my inattention. And we DID learn enough to only get six instead of twelve kids. So I’m happy we took the classes but also glad we were not super rigid on the “rules” or we’d not have had near as much fun during the chaos. Nor would we have these six amazing people in our lives.  The truth is I never felt like my people where all here until our youngest arrived fourteen years ago. And then I just knew that was that. And it was. Even though we continued with our free spirited approach. 

BUT I am really struggling with the dogs and the subject of sex and teenage dog pregnancy. 

Now mind you, I have had many conversations with my kids about sex. I think we’ve been relatively open about the subject without being over the top. It’s my and Grant’s job to try and steer them to live their best lives by making good choices for themselves and for others. My standard line is “Sex always complicates things, so you’d best be certain your relationship is strong before you go down that path.” That is really the only true advice I can offer my kids about sex, to be sure you are in a good relationship before complicating things. And I feel like my kids are going to do their best to be mindful about a very personal subject. 

But the dogs? I’m not completely certain they are listening to any advice I’m giving them.  

Now. Before you judge you need to know that we have ALWAYS spayed and neutered our pets in the past which I GUESS it’s the right thing to do. Though sometimes I wonder what the animals think about us controlling their lives so much. If someone forced ME to get spayed, how would I feel? I’d rebel of course. It would be Planet of the Apes all over again. Only super different. 

But with Cooper and Bella things kind of just snuck up on us. Cooper is technically our oldest son’s dog (which is a whole different story). But we all agreed that we would wait until he was full size before we discussed taking his balls from him because of the research we did about neutering dogs too soon. But now, here he is two years old, with GIANT balls that seem wrong to take. And the boy/men in the household, who love Cooper almost as much as I do, adamantly believe with deep, full body shudders, that he should keep his balls. 

When Bella came into our lives at about 12 weeks old, I was in this place where I felt like I could take on anything, including Chesador puppies. We had agreed to wait until after her first cycle to get her spayed (that full growth thing again) but I had that deep down longing to just let nature take over. My life has gone quite well with that approach (save for the whole bank account thing). Besides, why should it be the girl dog who has to be the one to go through the pain of getting spayed? Girl dogs are people too!  

I felt great about this idea until Bella got her period. And then holy hell. She is currently a moody messy pile of stinky insecurity. It didn’t help her self esteem a whole lot when we put her in these flowery Velcro dog panties with a hole for her tail. “CuteBone Dog Diapers”.  She doesn’t know this, but she is soon going to be the spokes-dog for these diapers. I submitted a 5 star review complete with pictures of her to Amazon Prime, so I’m sure we’ll be getting the six figure contract any day now. Or at least some free dog food.

Cooper and I have talked a lot about how sex complicates things and that Bella is much too young to be a mother and he just looks at me with those beautiful, serious brown eyes and wags his tail in agreement, so I mostly feel like everything will be fine. He’s a good dog, with morals and convictions. And he has professed his deep love for Bella so I feel certain he will wait until they are both sure it’s the right time. It’s clear how much he loves her. 

He also told me that he LOVES puppies and would be a stay at home dad if Bella wanted to be a working dog mom. Do you see how great he is? Just look at that innocent face (he is sitting on our dining room table in this picture): 

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But Bella? I’m pretty sure she’s a total slut. The boy dogs ALWAYS seem to get blamed, but seeing the way she is starting to act as she gets closer and closer to prime puppy making time I feel like the boy dogs might be getting an unfair tail shake. Consequently, when we leave the house, she is the one who gets locked in the bathroom for safe keeping. I know it’s terrible to talk about her this way. She’s normally so cute and funny and smart. But right now, she’s completely lost her mind. Here she is looking like a circus monkey, sulking about her diaper on the couch:

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Yesterday, when I was doing yoga in my daughter’s old room (now dubbed the yoga room) I forgot that no one else was home when I shut the door. The dogs always want to be on my matt and interfere with my awkward chubby girl stretching so it was habit to close them out. Five minutes later, a loud banging started up against the yoga room door and I pulled out of my downward facing dog pose super fast, hobbling to the door with a now tweaked back and yanked the door open only to find both dogs right outside the door looking very guilty. Bella’s diaper was pretty much in tact and  it turns out that they were fighting over a tennis ball but I still yelled at them, my chillaxed attitude about sex and mother nature and making good choices pretty much out the window: “YOU MAY NOT HAVE MORE SEX THAN I DO! THIS IS MY HOUSE TO HAVE SEX IN NOT YOURS.” I swear Cooper nodded his head in serious agreement, but Bella? She just smiled her stinker face dog smile and said “Why don’t you just close that door again woman and get back to your chubby yoga and we’ll just see about your silly human rules.” 

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Do You Know Where You’re Going To?

In March I signed up for a free 21-day online meditation experience with Oprah and Deepak Chopra entitled “Shedding the Weight, Mind, Body and Spirit.”  

Don’t laugh at me.

I signed up because:

  1. Duh. It was free.
  2. The last year and a half of my career has been very stressful but I can’t afford nor do I have time for therapy. This deal was only 20 minutes a day and I could do it in my nightie before sunrise.
  3. As a result of the stress, I have eaten the entire city of Spokane trying to sooth my bottomless pit of anxiety and do not want to move to a new city just to feed my stress baby. My PEOPLE live here.  And while I am pretty comfortable with my body, this shit has gotta end at some point.   
  4. Because I really don’t want to buy bigger pants. Clothing shopping stresses me out.

So. Since I have been doing some regular chubby yoga and learning a little about how to heal my messed up Chakras and have yet to be struck down by lightning by whomever punishes people for breaking the Catholic rules, I figured I’d be safe to listen to what Deepak had to say about why my ass has gotten so big. He IS, after all a doctor, in addition to being a new age, alternative medicine, metaphysics, spiritual healing gazillionaire.

Besides. I’m a Catholic CONVERT. We have different rules. But that is waaaay off topic and for a different blog post.

I have always loved Oprah, despite the fact that we have opposite views on a lot of things. I really think she has been good for the world and has helped so many people with her gifts of giving, sharing and opening our eyes to new ideas. She certainly changed my life when she did a show years ago on how a good bra really DOES make a difference in how you look. I had never before paid attention to the fact that one of my bras gave me “double boob syndrome” which is just “AAAAGH!!!!!!” once you are no longer blind and SEE. Now, yes, that’s maybe one of her more shallow topics. But that particular episode of “Oprah”  caused me to begin paying attention to myself.

Which is powerful.

I’m not saying being all obsessed about my physical appearance is powerful. Nor is it my jam.

For instance, I came across this funny post on Facebook called “How High Maintenance are You?” where you gave yourself points for things like:

  • Wears High Heels
  • Wears Makeup Daily
  • Nails are painted
  • Brows are waxed
  • Wears a lot of jewelry
  • Shaves Everyday
  • Gets Massages Regularly
  • ETC ETC

If you got 20 or more you were high maintenance;  50 and you’re SUPER high maintenance; 100 you’re pretty much a supermodel/queen of a small country.

I scored a “2” out of a possible 119 points. Which is quite frankly a little embarrassing. I would have gotten a ZERO if my two point opportunity had said “Colors hair more than three times a year”.  I suppose I should put out a little better effort for the people in my life who have to look at me.

But I probably won’t.

Whatever.

What I think IS powerful is when you  pay attention enough to KNOW yourself and can still be comfortable hanging out, whether you wear high heels and jewelry or are someone who doesn’t really MIND five-day old stubble on your legs.

Because everywhere you GO, there you ARE. So why not make the relationship as enjoyable as possible? 

It was with this thought in mind, plus the fact that I was starting to develop TMJ from all the chewing, that I started my 21 day morning adventure in my nightie with Oprah and Deepak. I tuned in religiously. Every single day for 21 days,  I lit my candle, put on my headphones (so as not to wake up the home front at 5 am) and sat on the comfy meditation pillow that my bestie gave me a couple of months ago.

In each session, Oprah goes on first for a couple of minutes. I have to admit that in the beginning, it was hard not think about my double boob conversion experience when I heard her voice. Or how I should change my sheets at least weekly and throw away my pillows after a year on account of the terrible yuckiness that happens to pillows from our dreadful heads. (Another life changing episode of “Oprah” and one I wish I was still blind to). But I knew she was the perfect person to have empathy for my steadily growing girth and help me to either heal it or accept it. She had her own background music, kind of upbeat and perky, while she spoke about her own experiences about meditating and shedding the weight that we let harm our spirit. She would usually end with a bible verse or line from a favorite poem leaving me almost every time thinking “Yes, that.” Then she would introduce Deepak and the background music would get more serious and mystical.

Enter Deepak with his mesmerizing Indian accent, which gave me the giggles for the first few days. (Being serious is a struggle of mine.) He would start with a centering thought. One example:  “I let negativity and darkness dissolve in my light” and we would repeat it a few times together. Then he would speak of the burdens that we let weigh us down and how we can release these burdens, which are of the ego, when we go to our true self, which is pure love and light. He didn’t focus much on my (or anyone’s) excessive back fat. Which was comforting.

THEN he would say the mantra which, according to Wikipedia is “a sacred utterance, a numinous sound, a syllable, a word or phonemes, or a group of words”  which in this case were in Sanskrit, that help to “induce an altered state of consciousness”.

‘Aham Prema’ was one mantra, which means “I am love.” He would repeat it several times. speak a little more, then say the mantra a few more  times to help launch the meditation portion, which started at the sound of a soft chime and continued for about twelve minutes, the mystical music playing softly.

One morning during the meditation portion, despite me trying to focus on repeating the mantra and breathing, I couldnt stop thinking that the background music sounded like a song from my younger years “Do You Know Where You’re Going To”.  

So things went a little cattywampus inside my head for a bit.  Only a few of you reading will understand most of this:

  • Do I like the things that life is showing me?
  • Oh I really do!
  • Who sang that song?
  • Dionne Warwick
  • No. She sang “Do You Know the Way to San Jose.”
  • Wo wo wowo wowowowo
  • I haven’t been to San Jose in years. Since I was a kid with my dad.
  • It was Diana Ross.
  • She was so pretty.
  • Did Deepak plagiarize her song? Would he DO that?
  • Interesting: all three are D names and I think they are all in their 70’s now. I wonder if this is significant.
  • I’m so sad Donna Summer died. How long ago was that? She’d be 70ish too…
  • I miss Diamond Lake and Donna Summer playing on the 8-track in the ski boat…
  • “I Feel Love.” That was one of her songs.
  • I am love.
  • Aham Prema.
  • Breathe H

Now. What I have learned from my past experiences meditating is that I have a monkey mind. And what I KNOW is that this is perfectly okay. Thoughts and emotions flow in and out of our minds at whatever pace our current state of being is in. They are not good or bad, they are simply THERE.  And then they are not there. And then they are there again. I like to pretend that my thoughts and emotions during meditation are feathers floating around me. When they get in the way of what I need to see, I just gently blow on them (Breathe H) until they float softly out of my current line of vision.

And here’s the thing: if we have the power to do this, then the things we believe to be burdens can become blessings. It really and truly is up to us to let our light dissolve whatever is blocking our ability to sit with ourselves in total loving acceptance, which in my case usually comes with giggles, monkey thoughts and at least for now, some jiggly fat.

It’s amazing how light a person can become in such a short period of time just by breathing on a few feathers. And while I might not know where I am going to, I know it will be amazing getting there. If I let it.

Twenty one days sitting mostly quiet with myself (and the Oprah/Deepak team)  helped me to know this more clearly. I’d recommend it to anyone. Even to people who scored 119 on the high maintenance test and are clearly getting regular massages. I’m not jealous of you at all.

Namaste brats.  Ha!

 

 

 

 

Ugly People

“Perfect love casts out fear. Where there is love there are no demands, no expectations, no dependency.” -Anthony De Mello in “Awareness”

Oh Tony. I wish we could talk. We would converse about the simplicity of believing these words and the complexity of living them. But, the unlikely event that you, a Jesuit Priest from Bombay would cross paths with someone like me and actually have a conversation is pretty much made even more improbable by the fact that you died in 1987. Plus I’m pretty sure you’d tell me, if we did speak, that I’m overthinking things. Again.

Another person from beyond the grave in my head. I suppose that’s weird.

Whatever.

I wonder if Tony, Thomas Szasz and Calamity Jane from my past peaceof8 posts have had any chats (besides the ones in my brain) since they moved out of most of the human race’s vision? 

My mind has been all over the place lately when it comes to the impact of perfect love (or its lack thereof) upon people. If we all gave out and exemplified this perfect love that Tony and other enlightened people throughout the history of time speak and write about, would there be ugly people in the world?

Now don’t get all pissed off at that last sentence. I don’t mean it how you might think I do. But it IS where I have been stuck for weeks in my thinking. I could actually use a little chat with Tony, a Jesuit, Buddhisty, Mystic, Psychotherapist, Writer, Teacher Philosopher guy, whose teachings I might add, have been frowned upon though not completely banned (yet) by the Vatican since his death. I don’t think this would have bothered Tony in the slightest. Which I THINK is going to be my point to this blog post.

When I dig deep into my heart I know with absolute certainty that there is no such thing as an ugly person. The word “ugly” is just one more dividing and highly subjective adjective we humans use to categorize ourselves and deny the deep fear that who we ARE is not good enough. Or perhaps adamantly defend that we ARE good enough, which doesn’t need any kind of defending if we truly believe this.

We think to ourselves, because it is our nature as human beings, “this or that person has such: ugly behavior, ugly clothes, ugly beliefs, ugly hair, ugly smell, ugly skin, ugly size, ugly voice, ugly shoes. I’m glad I’m not like that. I’m in THIS category over here, which is so much better than that.”  

We place ourselves in compartments that make us believe we are right and true and beautiful: religion, politics, gender, sexual persuasion, age, race, financial status, clothing, skin, body size, body shape, career choice, family size and the means of controlling the size (to name a few big divisions) and we encourage and in some cases DEMAND that others join us in our self righteous little compartments where we can feel even BETTER about ourselves because we have all these other people on our SIDE who think or act or look or live the same as us!

Power in numbers.

Powerful fear.

Which breeds the very thing most of us are in earnest trying to avoid: ugliness.

So if we only see ‘ugly’ because of fear, which is the opposite of love, then if we love as we are called to do, without expectations, demands or dependency, then ugly disappears. Right? Just like every other dividing label.

Poof.

Perfect beautiful world.

Not seeing it? Think I’m crazy and off in H World again? Well if this blog post was really about “Ugly People” I’d tell you to fuck off, quit reading and keep looking through your ugly making lens and I will mine, forever till we are dead. See if I care.

But I DO care. I really do. I don’t want ugly to be a thing. Do you?

Have you ever been with someone who made you feel wonderful, inside and out? Their eyes light up when they look at you and they listen and HEAR and absorb who you are without any kind of judgement, or expectations or demands? These people are yummy saints who help us see ourselves correctly without imposing themselves upon us. They don’t need to. They know that who they are is enough and that this will not be changed by helping someone else see that they are enough as well. And because of this, we are drawn to them. They make the world so beautiful! That’s why they are saints, with a little s. (That’s for the Vatican, in case ‘they’ are reading. Oh man I SO wish! How AWESOME would it be to be read so much that I was BANNED by an entity as large and awesome as the Vatican. Ha!)

However, as I exemplified in the above comment about wanting the whole VATICAN to read my words, most of us are extremely self absorbed and so it’s HARD for most of us to be a saint. Even one with a little s. It doesn’t come naturally.  At ALL.

But think on this with me for a minute:

What IF we just take off our ugly making, dividing lenses once in awhile and in the process remove ourselves from a few of the personal encounters that come to us each day? When someone whom we might label in our minds as being ‘ugly’ for whatever reason comes into our vision, what if we ignored for just a moment who WE are and simply experienced THEM? What if we experienced this person (or place or thing for that matter) as though it were the very first encounter of our lives? Would we not be filled with awe and wonder, especially if we didn’t have any way of comparing what they looked like or believed because WE and all our past experiences are out of the equation.

What if we left all the baggage and fear we carry around with us and had a discussion with someone else to know the other person instead of having the intention of ‘winning’ the conversation?

What if we a lived the way Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (another not living but still alive person) suggested we should:

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement…get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted.”

Could it be that simple?

Maybe. 

I’m going to try pulling myself out of the equation once in a while. I think that’s really where loving without demands or expectations or dependency at least starts, and fear subsides.

Besides, if a gun toting prostitute, a psychoanalyst, a Jesuit priest and a Rabbi are all in my head mostly getting along, surely there doesn’t always need to be room for me in there.

Poof.

Ha!

Inkless Pens and Chewed On Pen Caps

“Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.”

-Thomas Szasz

I have this quote on my motivation wall. It keeps me going when I think that some of the stuff I pursue in my life is a waste of time. Funny, I never knew who Thomas Szasz was until just now when I googled him:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Szasz

It’s so rude of me to have had his words on my wall for well over two years and not actually researched who he was. I’m so sorry Tom.

I feel like I can call him Tom. We’re practically besties now, thanks to the internet.

Doctor Tom was a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and a professor.

I had figured he was a poet or a philosopher or an artist of some sort. And this quote from the Wikipedia site confirms my assumptions just a little bit despite his career label:

“Szasz argued throughout his career that mental illness is a metaphor for human problems in living, and that mental illnesses are not “illnesses” in the sense that physical illnesses are.”

How I understood what I read on his ideas about this is that mental illness is not scientifically  measurable because it is based on behavior. And who gets to decide what behavior is normal and what isn’t? There of course is a lot more to this theory that I’m mostly not interested in. I just always kind of knew that crazy is a result of being human and a very subjective term, depending on who one is hanging out with and who happens to be judging one’s behavior. So I’m going to stop there and be mostly satisfied. All you over sensitive crazies or advocates for the crazies: please don’t  be assholes and yell at me. I’m not a damn doctor. OBVIOUSLY if you’re stabbing your eyes out (or someone else’s) you might want to take some fucking medicine.

BUT  if you look at Tommy’s face, he looks like he would have been wonderful to talk to. See? Doesn’t he just look lovely? 

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I’m sure he had a super cool Hungarian accent. I can see myself sitting on his couch:

Me: Tom. Why do you think I chew on my pen caps?

(When Tom speaks, imagine a Hungarian accent because I don’t know how to type that)

Tom: Why do YOU think you chew on your pen caps? Does it matter what anyone else thinks? Do you worry about THAT, or the pen caps?

Me: Well. It’s interesting to me how I only chew on cheap Bic™ pens with the blue caps. These are the pens I write with. Other pens don’t feel right in my hand, so I only use “other pens” when I’m at work. Doing work. That I often don’t feel right about. But have to keep doing. To pay the bills. I NEVER chew on work pens. I’m not attached to them like I am my cheap blue cap pens. And do you know what I LOVE?

Tom: What do you love Heather?

Me: I LOVE when my cheap chewed on blue cap pens run out of ink BEFORE I chew all the way through the caps and make them kind of bothersome and have to throw them away before the ink is all gone. Which seems wasteful. And sad.

Tom: Why is that Heather?

(I just love when people use my name when they talk to me. Why is it so soothing? Though maybe it’s the couch in this case.)

Me: Well they’re bothersome to look at, all messy and jagged and slobbered on and also at some point harder to chew on because the plastic gets kind of  sharp and pokey and hurts my mouth a little. I also worry a bit about the plasticiser ingestion…

Tom: The ‘why’ was referring to loving when your cheap pens run out of ink. And why it might be sad to throw them away before the ink is gone.

Me: Oh. Well. I think it’s because I know that all that ink is somewhere on pages that I filled up with words that didn’t exist before.  And while it’s likely that no one else will read 99.9% of my ink words, because it’s mostly doodling, it wasn’t a waste of time. Blue ink words on paper are just…serene. The accomplishment makes me feel filled and empty at the same time. And when the ink runs out before the pen cap desecration happens it means I was focussed more on the words than the anxiety of making the words. Chewed pen caps are the bi product of angst. No one wants to see that shit.

Tom: Ahhhh. I see.  Does it make you feel sad that most of your ink words won’t be read?

Me: Oh HELL no. Blue ink  is so much different from black type. There aren’t any rules with blue ink. I fucking hate rules.

Tom: Why do you think you can break rules in blue ink but not in black type?

Me: I’m not saying I can’t break rules in black type. But when I type, I assume that some people will SEE the rule breaking. And judge. So I’m a little more careful with black type. It goes back to why I don’t generally chew on my work pens.  I don’t want people to think I’m gross. Or anxious, which can be perceived as being weak. I can be weak in blue ink but not so much in black type and for SURE not in sales. It’s a sure-fire route to failure. And I gotta pay for my blue cap addiction somehow. And some other stuff.

Tom: What if you tried blue ink at work?

Me: Tell me Tom, do you sometimes wish that you had just skipped med school and dove into philosophical poetry? You’d be so much more understanding about why using blue ink at work is just crossing a damn line.

Tom: Well Heather, I’m pretty much dead. Regrets are for the living. Ones who are afraid to use BLUE FUCKING ink on a regular basis. You freak. That will be $300 please.

Me: Clearly I have hit a nerve Tom. I’m sorry you’re so unhappy. You can just send me a bill. I forgot my checkbook. And my blue PEN. Jerk.

Tom: I’m sorry. I was lashing out. I mostly just wanted to paint in watercolor.

Me: I forgive you Tom. I have to go do some work now. And for what it’s worth, I’ll ponder the idea of bringing a little blue ink into the day job. Here’s a little Marianne Williamson philosophy about WORK from “Return to Love” for you to take with you when you head back to where ever you were before our couch session:

“What you want to do is not the important question. The question to ask is, “When I do anything, how should I do it?” And the answer is, “Kindly.” People don’t normally associate business with kindness, because business has come to be regarded as simply a tool for making money. Miracle-workers are not in business only to make money; they’re in business to inject love into the world.”

Tom: Ahhhh. This is good. Thank you Heather.

Me: Thank Marianne. But I knew you would appreciate this. You seem like a miracle-worker.

Tom: I’m glad we had this visit. And thank you for taking some time to get to know me a little bit. Dead guys sometimes need the kindness of recognition.

Me: Alive gals do too. Ha! And I’m glad I got to know you a little as well. This was for sure a wonderful use of my time and not at ALL boring. But this is getting weird so you should probably go now. This wasn’t at all what I intended to write in this post. Thank you Tom. Have a good… ummm… life?  

Tom: You too Heather.

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Getting to the Root of Things

Recently, I had a recurring dream. It went on for about a week.  I haven’t told anyone about it. Until now of course, because I think I finally understand it.

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The dream started out as a single beautiful tree. It took my breath and seemed to absorb it.  I am not sure if the tree was dead or just dormant but it did not have leaves and I could somehow see its roots all the way deep into the ground, which were almost a mirror image of its branches.

When I  think about the dream tree my heart starts racing and the space on my right hand at the bottom of the V where my thumb and pointer finger come together tingles like crazy. I call this spot my passion sensor. Whenever someone or something stirs my spirit it does this crazy zing. Sometimes I feel it all the way to my elbow.

I only just noticed the zingy spot about ten years ago. So it could just be the early signs of M.S. or something.

I doubt it though.

But yes. It’s weird that a seemingly dead tree with deep, dark roots would set off the alarm, considering nothing else has for quite some time. It’s awful when passion leaves you for a bit. Makes you wonder if never having it might be better.

I found myself drawing the tree. I can’t draw but I thought, well maybe I’m supposed to try. It’s not like I am doing anything ELSE that feels interesting. Something about the roots. Drawing them felt so soothing. Cathartic.  So I said “okay” and drew the trees. For days.

Because the dream kept coming until one night instead of one tree there were many and the branches and roots were all intertwined in this fantastic web. So I drew this too.

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And when I was done I thought “I wonder if maybe the Ents from “The Hobbit” are coming awake. Or maybe there is some kind of alien FORCE trying to tell me something like in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” when people were sculpting and drawing the mountain location where the aliens were going to arrive”. Then rational me said  “Oh my GOD. Bonkers has finally embraced me in full form. It was bound to happen eventually.” So I stopped drawing the damn trees. Because my family was going to notice that crazy had come upon me more so than normal. And because I was pondering drawing the trees on our fence. Fucking weirdo. But you’re humming the Close Encounters tune now aren’t you?

“I’m pretty sure my spirit is broken”.

That’s what I threw out there a few days after the tree dreams and crazy drawings ended. My drama queen way of asking for a lifeline. Or maybe a branch. Or a root to hold on to.

Generally I am not a huge fan of telling people when I am sad. No one want’s to hear about it. It makes them uncomfortable and creates unnecessary pressure. Because I believe that just like happiness, the responsibility of sadness belongs solely to its owner.

Sadness can be a tricky thing. We often have no way of knowing what truly causes another person’s sorrow or how serious it is because we can not be in anyone else’s head except our own, which is complicated enough. If you leave sadness unattended, unexpressed, sometimes it will go away with time. Other times it will fester and grow and possibly turn into depression. Or in my case rage.

My family knows me well in rage. It comes in the form of manic house cleaning combined with wailing in tongues, bloody shins from the vacuum and red, weeping devil eyes, sometimes even a little foaming at the mouth.  It’s never pretty. And the house always gets dirty again, as though it knows I need it to: a cosmic groundhog’s day gift.

The dreams left me: ghost trees in the form of childish doodles. The sad came on even stronger. No one believed that my spirit was broken and I quit talking about it. My passion sensor quit tingling. Rage built and then emptied out leaving toxins upon my household and I sit here now in remorse. Clean house, empty heart, tired body.

My people continue to love me regardless but surely I am better than this. Eventually I always get to the root of the problem, the cause of the current sad. But does it always have to be so painful? So toxic?  

Did you know that there really is such a thing as ghost trees?

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Formally called albino redwoods, these rare trees (only 400 known) are unable to produce chlorophyll, something normal trees need to survive, which explains why their needles are white. It was thought for years that these trees were parasites. But recently it has been discovered that they store a very high level of heavy toxic metals, making them (in my mind) healing trees because they soak up most of the poison keeping it away from the other trees. In any other species of trees, these albinos would die. But redwoods have the ability to graft at the roots so the ghost trees are able to survive by obtaining sugar through the connections between its roots and those of the neighboring “normal” trees who know they need the healing ghosts for their own well being.

I made up this knowing/well being part. I’m not totally positive trees know things. But it seems like they do in this case.

Which tree is stronger, or more important?  Or is it an equal balance of give and take?

We humans sometimes act as though we are completely separate from one another. Alone in a crowd and on our own. We only see our tree trunks and our branches, reaching for something we can not define or truly understand. Standing side by side, separate. Responsible for our own happiness and sadness.

But think on this with me for a minute: are we are not also responsible for both asking for help and for assisting others in their individual journey? We may not ever truly know another’s heart or mind but we must try not to forget that our spirits are infinitely intertwined deep under the surface, at the roots.

We can choose to graft our roots like the redwoods do.

Only differently.

Expressing our worries, fears anxieties (ideally before it builds to rage) is not a sign of weakness nor is it harmful to others. It is a necessary means to not just surviving but thriving. It is a way to open up the channels so that when we are ready we can accept kind words, loving acts, gentle touches, smiles, murmurs that it will be okay even though it might not feel this way. And forgiveness. All the things that ease the pain of the toxins that are a bi-product of our humanness and recharge us so that we can give the same thing back. So that there is an infinite supply of passion sugar. 

Zing.