Monday, August 31, 2009

Go Away Barbie, some of us have thighs.

I recently found an essay in my archives and shared it on Hub Pages:
A friend and I were in the midst of a ten mile run and the topic of body image came up. Here we were, two healthy fit women, and we were picking apart our bodies. I lamented the fact that I was not at my target weight, whatever that is, and my friend who is gorgeous, was not satisfied with hers. Many women I talk to are not completely satisfied with their appearance. There is an entire medical practice that feeds off this dissatisfaction, plastic surgery. If I had been born at a different time I might have been considered too thin, as women were considered desirable if they had ample heft to bear children. Today I fall out of the cultural ideal, as waif -like models prance down the runaway and anorexia is an actual illness. I filled out a job application over the summer that asked my height and weight. I was honest, and never heard from them. Moving through a particularly scary time in my life, filled with transition and uncertainty, I find myself reaching for something on the outside to fill up an internal hole that is present whenever I live in fear. Today it is the obtainment of a body that may not be attainable. Tomorrow it may be sugar, diet soft drinks, or cigarettes. Addiction rears its ugly head in many different forms. One thing these all have in common is that it is an external solution to an internal problem. Wayne Dyer in one of his talks mentions that human made problems are not solved by human made solutions. The best answers are spiritual answers. The answer to all my problems today is to strengthen my relationship with my God, as I understand that God. I can take care of myself, live in a healthy manner, eat right, exercise and abstain from drugs and alcohol, but the aforementioned practices are only one part of the answer. I need to be content with who I am right now, my weight, my height, my skin color, and my life situation. Running 26.2 may help me to become healthier, and release much stress, but it is not the end all. I need to be content with who I am as a person without the external stuff, and that only comes when I stay connected with Source. Because I sure ain't Barbie.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Conversations with Agnostics

God just happens. That is what I believe. But there are days when I get sucked into fear, and it becomes a drug. The terror of not knowing I will be ok, when I am not connected to God, shoots adrenaline through my veins. I believe that it can become addictive, this living in constant fear, ready to flee at a moments notice. Over the last 24 hours the fear has spiked, being down to my last 50$ until late September, I get pulled in by the fear, forgetting that at every other time in my life when this has happened, a lucrative job comes by my way or unexpected money is found lurking. It is easier to stay in that fear, feel the difference it makes in my physilogical body, than to turn it over to a God that cannot be seen or heard, or proven to exist. It is more challenging knowing that everything is as it should be, and that as long as I keep taking small actions today I will be ok. That sounds like madness when credit card companies start to call. But today, after 24 hours of fear I wrote a poem on the magnetic poetry message board that I share with my teenage son. I wrote:

When grace happens
Then slips away
Silent into
The waking night.

And fear creeps in
With claws of sand
And eyes that withdraw
All delight.

Does one run and hide?
Or show one's face
To return to light
And return to grace.

He replied with a poem from an agnostic's point of view. How could I know God exists if I cannot see or touch her? How could there be a God with so much pain and suffering in the world? The place in me that lives in fear asks that. How do I know that it will all turn out the way it should, that I will land on my feet yet again. I don't, that is where I need to be, practicing faith. For five minutes I can sit with God, and know that I am connected, then for four I can sit with fear and wish to run. Then maybe I will try six with God. Over and over until I make progress. The answer to his agnostic point of view?

I breathe in God
with scent of roses
I feel God in sparkling grass
with dew on summer mornings.

God walks beside me
and brings me pleasure
It is I who choose
to be a conveyor of torture.

For my six minutes right now I choose to be a conveyor of peace. At this very moment I know that everything is as it should be. I am whole, happy, healthy and free.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rainbow Toes

I can feel the cool bite in the morning air now as we near September. When summer arrives, shoes come off and our feet touch the grass and something mystical happens. We connect with earth, toes grip the ground, heels dig into soil. I painted my toes rainbow colors the other day. This small act made me very happy, much more so than 5$ worth of nail polish should have. But there is something about the summer and being part of the surrounding world. We swim in the ocean, walk barefoot in grass, lie on beach sand and stretch out on rocks by raging waterfalls. Autumn comes, socks go on, jackets get zipped up, the days become shorter and we start to spend more time inside. No wonder winter sometimes bring with it depression. Our connections with solid and liquid earth are broken, we are floating free in the breeze, or flying through the air after hitting ice. I kayaked today with my dad, the water cradling both boat and driver. I was in the pond, surrounded by dragonflies and lily pads and Great blue heron. I am beginning to mourn the loss of summer, with its many pleasures and ways to experience the divine. This winter I will continue to paint my toes rainbow colors, so that I may conjure up the feeling of bare feet in smooth grass. Maybe I can even find the mystical in the warmth of spices and apples and warm meals by the fireplace. Or I could go bare foot anyway, my toes are done.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Treading Water

I am an instant gratification gal. I like to learn how to do something and be perfect at it the first time out. If certain things are not going fast enough, I get antsy and wonder if they were flawed to begin with. I despise treading water, staying in one place merely to keep one's head above water. This morning I explored that concept in my writing. What is it about staying in one place that actually scares me? I am still moving, although I am not moving forward. Certain relationships and career moves have been like this. I am frequently looking for the next goal to achieve and miss the fact that when one is treading water, one is able to stay floating in deep water. It doesn't always have to be onward ho, life can present opportunities to slow down and experience things more intimately. Staying in one place allows one to go deeper into relationship and experience, learning the details, and ultimately connecting on a spiritual basis. If I glance at a leaf for a few seconds I miss the details, the veins that run and create beautiful patterns, the bumps and imperfections, the color variations and texture. If I can slow down today I might have a chance to actually see life as it is unfolding, in its simplicity and splendor. But not right now because I have to run, Ciao.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Running Meditation

I am coming up on an anniversary of sorts, and every year at the end of summer I make a spiritual goal for the upcoming year. This past year's goal was to add a regular meditation practice to my day. Finally, over the last month I have set my alarm clock 15 minutes earlier, compensating by setting the actual time ahead a bit so I don't psychologically feel it, and have been starting the day with a ten minute silent meditation. I also found that there are other types of mediation that I can incorporate into my day. I use my time running as meditation, and find that when I return I am a little bit calmer than I was in the beginning. In this running meditation there is cadence (feet hitting pavement), breathing (especially on uphills), and a mantra (I hope I don't die, I hope I don't die). One of my favorite routes takes me from road to trail, running through pine forest, over rocks, and traversing a stream filled with cattails. As soon as I hit the trail my pace picks up, and I seem to receive energy from the woods. It is almost as if I am connecting with ancestors who ran trails through pines, running from saber tooth tiger or traveling to another village. My speed picks up and I experience the total joy of running. At these moments I am fully present and aware. I think that that is a goal of meditation, awareness of the body, the present moment, and the breath. I believe this culture leans toward frantic doing. Meditation brings me to frantic being. I guess that is a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

God is Everything, Everything is God

Last night I wandered out into my backyard, for the briefest of moments. As I live in the country I could see millions of stars in the black night. If each of those stars represent a solar system, and I saw only a very small piece of the sky, there must be trillions of stars and planets out there. If so, I was a tiny, minuscule piece of a vast whole. If God or Goddess, or Great Spirit can create the Universe, my tiny prayers are like asking for a penny from Donald Trump. If the Universe is made by God, and I am part of that, I am God's creation and as so, I am a tiny piece of a miracle. Miracles do not sit by while others talk down to them. Miracles do not abuse their bodies. Miracles are filled with abundance and splendor. I have forgotten to look at my life as a miracle filled with unimaginable pleasures, dragonflies and hummingbirds, rose petals and cumulus clouds, pine forests and soft husky noses. The past few days I have been filled with fear, financial fears and fear of survival. I have not considered myself a miracle and part of God. I have forgotten that if I tap into the abundance that surrounds me I become part of that abundance. I can imagine my life as serene and thus look for the serenity in it. Feeling pass, I know that, and they pass quicker when I stay connected. The morning light has changed as the days get shorter, as my attitude changes with each passing experience. Today I pray to stay in serenity, abundance and God's love. Today I pray to be able to give away that serenity.

Afraid Not

I am still trying to figure out fear. Why? Not sure. I have moments during the day when I feel in tune with the Universe, that all is going to be OK, and other times when I lose that connection and feel like a frayed knot dangling in a wind storm. The fear tells me that I suck, that I am alone and will be unhappy. The fear wants me to be unhappy. Why do I keep allowing it into my life? If someone were to come to my door, bearing a pile of dung, saying, "I don't like you, I hope you have a horrible day," would I let them into my home? No. So why do I entertain fear on a daily basis. Everything is as it should be right now. I am taken care of by my higher power every moment of every day. There are just extended moments during the day that I choose to wallow in the unease that comes from being scared out of my mind about some future possibility that I have absolutely no control over yet may not even happen. That is insane. Where I am at today, what bills are paid or not paid, may or may not be where I am tomorrow. And where I am tomorrow, if I wake up in the morning, is just where I need to be for my spiritual growth. So am I afraid because I like the feeling of despair, or am I afraid for absolutely no reason other than that it is a habit? I watched a hummingbird feed at the window the other day. He stuck his long beak at the feeder, then tried to find other openings, flying underneath and poking at the plastic. I watched him, eat, rest, check things out, and eat again for ten minutes. In those ten minutes I was not afraid of anything. I was completely in the moment given to me. Deep breath, feel the fear, and tell it to hit the road. I don't want the gifts it has to give.

Monday, August 17, 2009

To Sleep with Mosquitos

There is a saying, "If you think you are too small to make a difference, try going to sleep with a mosquito." I am paraphrasing, but you get the idea. This has been one of the rainiest summers in the Berkshires and with the humidity and heat, our mosquito population is flourishing. They will not make it to the endangered species list anytime soon. In fact, they are probably excited about global warming. They are pretty powerful insects when you think about it. For something so small, they take up an aweful lot of our thinking and conversations. Walking in the woods with a friend last week, doused in bug spray, I managed to escape with only 100 or so welts on my legs. They are not deterred by the chemicals we place on our body. They don't succumb to whispers of sweet nothings, flattery or begging. I tried all three on my hike. I finally resorted to running. You can outrun them, but stop and they catch up. There are articles written about them, whole conversations take place with this little creature as the topic. We have become mosquito obsessed. For a good reason, they are eating us alive. But I return to the quote. I could learn a lot from a mosquito, not a lesson in nutrition, but one in persistence. They will try to bite no matter who you are. They are not afraid to fail and go the extra mile, or three, to get their dinner. They are unaware of their size, and have no fear. They take chances, landing on an eyeball or wrist. This morning I was journaling about fear, mainly my fear of failure, but what goes with that is a fear of success. What if I succeeded at my goals? Would everyone like me or would they talk behind my back? Am I freezing up, skipping some work because it just might help me to succeed? Can I break the fear into pieces to examine them closer? What is behind the flight or fight? Am I feeling too small to make a difference? For me the process of writing keeps me sane. I sit and type and immediately feel a sense of serenity. But when I am upset I don't turn to my journal or computer, I turn to ice cream or anger or pity. Today I am holed up in my apartment, spending the day writing. I would like to think I could sit outside, but there is danger lurking. That is power and that is why I should pay attention to the lesson the tiny insects teach. Off to find my Caladryl.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Grace is Sunbathing

Coming home from vacation can be hard. Going from laying on the beach, bobbing in the ocean, eating homemade ice cream and sleeping in, to a quiet house filled with many to-do lists can be very disconcerting. What if every day could be vacation? I know I need to be grateful for the time that I did have, but that time gives me a taste of what I want, a relaxing life without stress. Good luck is what most people might say, you have to win the lottery, get rich in order to have a stress free life. Now I am not about to spout a Pollyanna view off, I know that in three weeks school will start and I will be busy 24 hours a day. But how can I bring in the ease that I felt at the beach to my daily life? Picking apart the time to see what is underneath the surface may be a place to start. While at the shore I allowed myself to sleep in and to nap on the beach. Is there a time during a busy week in which I could allow myself the luxury of a nap? I know that when I slept in those few days I felt a sense of peace, I didn't need to inject caffeine into my veins 24/7. This week, before the onslaught of homework, mine and my teenage son's, I might just see if I can limit myself to a cup of coffee in the morning and switch to green tea. Just because our physical trips do not last, the effects can, if I only allow them to. I don't have to suffer everyday, trudging through my life. I can bring a little relaxation into everyday with just a small shift. That shift could just be grace.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Presto Salto

There has to be something magical about salt air. I go to the beach, filled with stress and I go back home relaxed and renewed. Maybe the salt draws out the negativity that gets stuck in our muscle fibers. Or maybe it is the fact that when we go to the beach we sit out in the sun, watching the waves, reading books, or napping. It seems like Americans need to go someplace meant for relaxing in order to relax. I know when I take a week off and try to relax at home, the dog hair and the dishes and the bills get in the way. I don't usually give myself permission to just lie there, on a blanket, book in hand, rolling over every 20 minutes or so. I see what needs to be done,  feel guilty when it is not done and end up just as stressed as when I was working. You can't do that at the beach. Nothing really needs to be done. The ocean cleans the sand, the post person cannot find you to deliver your credit card statement and sometimes even, there is no cell service or high speed internet to get you working. Today I head to the beach. I  have much to do, magazines to read, a journal to write in, book club book to finish. Here I go again. Maybe I could bring the dirty dishes with me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Noisy Little Things

They are just words.
Allow them to linger on your lips.
The scratching of pen to paper, the clicking of fingertip to keyboard, the strike of each typewriter key imprinting the letter onto crisp white paper. Words have melody, whether written down or said outloud. Each sound unique; defiant or delighted, savage or serene, irritate or inspire. When I say, "I love you," the L rolls off my lips languidly. When I say, "I hate you," the T bites the air, cuts it sharp. I love the sound of words, love their shapes and curves. When I was a little girl I would enjoy writing in my notebook, looping the L's when I learned cursive. Today I still love the freedom of the pen on notebook paper, my handwriting changing with each mood. But there is definitely something about the soothing sound of words to paper or screen that calms me down after an intense day, or brings me serenity at the beginning of one. Words are not silent, they are just a noisy bunch, looking to spice life up a bit. 

Monday, August 10, 2009

To Live or Not to Live

About five years ago I took a course titled Death and Dying at my Community College. The professor had us write one paper that changed my life. The assignment was to write out an alternate life. We could make up anything we wanted, be an alien living on Pluto, poor Pluto, or a rock star. The purpose of the assignment I believe was to open our minds up to possibility, no matter how absurd. It was a course more on living, because so many people are afraid to die because they are actually afraid to live. In my paper I wrote about my day in my new life, how I woke up, went for a run along the shore with deer and wildlife running beside me. I would get home to find my paramour waiting for me in my studio, which was part of a spiritual retreat center I owned. I was an interior decorator with many clients waiting in line for my work. My paramour, a tall blond man with blue eyes, would run with me in the mornings. Today I see that the assignment pointed me in a direction. I was no longer a gal without a clue of what she wanted to do with her life. I had a goal. A gentle man, a retreat, self employment and animals surrounding me. Taking that down to basics, those are achievable dreams. I have the man described in the paper, the details, the personality are so similar it is almost creepy, and I am working toward writing as a paid career choice. I am surrounded by animals, of whom I am so grateful, and would be even more grateful if I could get the hair out of my esophagus. My apartment sits on acres of land, near a pond and stream, and the deer stand there while you talk with them. They don't understand, "get off the road please," but that is besides the point. What do I want from my time here? A relaxing, joyful, passionate, spiritual, abundant, and sober life. What steps can I take to achieve that life? The first and only step may be, just do it. Nike would love me. Get up, take a run and find joy in each moment. Because when that happens, the fear of dying is replaced with the joy of living. I will say hello to the bears for you.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Spiritual Chaos Theory

My house is a mess. My cats have been redecorating as usual and my Siberian huskies have been shedding non- stop since March. I also have a teenager, enough said. This evening I decided to clean. My goal, the entire house, my finished product, half the kitchen and part of my desk. I am going to put everything into storage containers, papers, shoes, books, everything. The chaos has taken over my life. Every time I put a book on the desk, orange cat #2 comes by and moves it, to the floor. I think it looks better there, something about the pattern in the tile. When my house is chaotic, my mind is chaotic. I focus on all that has to be done, all that the teen has not done, all that the animals keep doing and what has been messed up within 45 minutes. I obsess and I kvetch, if that is the correct Yiddish term. And it is THE perfect excuse for my mind to chatter on, to build up resentments and to ultimately slack in my part of my relationship with God. What does the mess signify, that I am a slob, or that my mind is racing and my life is unmanageable. Probably both. It is also a representation of a mom trying to juggle responsibilities, raise a son, get to meetings and live a healthy active lifestyle, while partaking in a relationship and going to school. Maybe if I simplify a little bit, cut down on the chaos that surrounds me I will be able to slip into serenity. That is why this is a theory, because it is yet unproved. By the time I get the kitchen and bathroom clean and start on the living room, the kitchen will be a mess again. Time for some more experimenting.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Daily Definition of Courage

Today the scariest thing was to stay in the present. I don't like being there sometimes, unless it is a blissful moment. I wanted to hike up to Laura's Tower and fully experience the journey, hear the birds, smell the moss, and feel the air as it gets cooler the further you go. It is a shorter trail, 2/3 mile up, but my goal was terminated as soon as the mosquitoes swarmed. I felt truly loved, thousands of adoring fans surrounding me, just waiting to get a tiny piece. It was then that I realised I didn't have what it took in that moment to remain full present. I wanted out. So I tuned out, still ended up with welts from someone else's feast, but I had a great walk. Guess I'll try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It just ain't bragging if it's the truth

I have been working at a children's summer program this week, and it has triggered memories of myself at that age, 6 - 7th grade. One girl in particular I have found fascinating. I don't quite know what to make of her, but I do know that I have to develop skills that she possesses. She is highly intelligent and very skilled at many different things, crafts, gymnastics, and trivia. She was demonstrating one of her strengths the other day, when one of the boys called her a show-off. Now I can see myself at that age, I was a good student, artistic and creative. I did not show off, but it would have been better if I had. I instead yielded to peer pressure, and I started to hide. Smart kids were made fun of, called nerds. My chiropractor can show you where my spine curved as I started to round my shoulders and make myself appear smaller. In middle school showing skills in the classroom and arts is frowned upon by other students, yet showing off in sports, male dominated ones, is perfectly acceptable. I never noticed a baseball player not hit the ball because it would appear as if he were showing off. He gave it his all and got the accolades. Flash forward to today. I am in a highly competitive all female school, where intelligence is applauded and demonstration of skills appreciated. I took a summer course at my community college and instantly regressed, ashamed that I knew many of the answers to questions the teacher asked and forced myself to stay quiet. I feel shame now as I write about my intelligence. Why? The easy thing would be to blame the public school system that I attended, for building athletes up and reinforcing stereotypes by remaining silent. But I cannot, because I had the best education afforded by a public school. Some day I will be able to be like this child, and say, or maybe shout, "Here I am world, look what I can do." Until then maybe I'll just write about it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

But but but but

But what about me? I can be such a child sometimes. I have been watching a group of children this week, and noticing that they are such suckers for attention. They are seeking their very special place in the world, a place no one else can fill. I watch them crave attention, and to compete for an adult's focus. Their voices get louder and I actually start to see them as tiny adults making their way in this big big world. But as an adult myself, I need to realize that I don't have to be the center of attention. It is not all about me. I have carved out my 1000 square feet, and am out there, living life. I don't need the attention. I know that, but the little one inside is always screaming, "but what about me?"As an adult, I try to outdo other adults with tales of woe. I know I am not the only one out there. But my big toe hurts, but my leg hurts, but my whole body hurts, but my city is engulfed in pain, flaming pain. We try to outdo each other in these tales of how horrible life is to us. You don't see adults get attention and concern if they answer you, "I am having the most fabulous day of my life, I just want to sing love songs to all the world." No, that would be a crazy person. We are rewarded for our suffering. We are helped through the jungle when we are sick or suffering. Today I need to consciously make the choice to have a day where I do not need to be the center of attention, or even an object of attention. And that is hard, considering that mean lady just took my parking space and I am too tired and my pinky hurts. So there.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

To Dance Like a Grizzly

The day started out sunny and bright, then quickly changed to downpour. Welcome to the Northeast. The theme song for this year should be "Bright Side," by Monty Python, "Always look on the bright side of life / always look on the light side of life." Today, at the Bronx Zoo, I learned from a Grizzly bear a very valuable lesson. We were caught in a downpour making our way over to the Monkey House. As we passed the Bear exhibit we saw a Grizzly dancing in the rain. He did a full turn followed by a series of small hops, and finishing with a turn. He was splashing in puddles and having a grand ole time while we were covered in rain gear, making our way quickly to the next stop. I want to learn to dance like that bear, to take the rain as the bearer of puddles. I want to be able to always enjoy puddles. I guess I will have many chances to practice this summer!