Saturday, August 24, 2013

I hear dead people

Again.  In my life.  I have succumbed to the voices.

It started with the plants this time.  Listen to the plants, said the herbalist.  The lady on the plant walk said that gems spoke to her and told her their properties.  Then I found out about Laura Stinchfield, The Pet Psychic on YouTube.  And I started remembering my own weird, strange experiences with animals when I was younger.  And weird, strange experiences with people.

And how I slowly dialed down my ability to tune in to the voices of animals.  In favor of... sanity?  It was much safer to walk around the world not believing that I could understand what animals were saying.  Much safer not to believe that I could influence things with my mind.  That way led to depression.

Therapy.  Getting in touch with my inner child.  Then letting it go.  Travel.  Travel.  Listening to people speak in other languages and experiencing other cultures cleared me for a while.

Love.  Marriage.  Birth birth birth.  Cleared me to a new level.  Brought me to the threshold of believing again, but I resisted.

I don't know what opened me up.  I think it was a video on YouTube of Rupert Sheldrake's study on a psychic parrot.  That made me think, hmmmm....  I recognized how the parrot and the woman talked to each other.  It reminded me of other videos of parrots talking.  And also videos of well-trained dogs.  The way the parrot gives the word before the trainer is even finished giving the cue.  The way dogs perform the action as the trainer is giving the cue.  There is not time for the animal to have thought about what the person is going to say.  The animal is picking up on the intentions of the human.

Watching these videos reminded me of a time in my own life when I spoke with animals.  When I lived with Leyton Cougar, the current director of Wild Spirit Wold Sanctuary, he taught by example how to talk with animals.  He did it naturally with his pets and with the wolves at the sanctuary.  He had a natural rapport with the wolves that is evident to anyone who watches him with them.  He spoke with his animals like they were people and they responded to him with a calm clear energy.  I adopted his way with my own dog, Kenai, who came to the Sanctuary from people who thought he was a wolf, even though he was actually a dog.  Kenai and I had an amazing relationship for fourteen years, that I contribute much of that to his early life out at the wolf ranch and my own learning how to listen to animals.

After that experience at the wolf ranch I returned to college and slowly let go of the idea that I could actually hear the animals.  I studied at the College of Biological Sciences and felt like letting go of that idea was akin to growing up.

There have been a series of recent events that have rekindled my interest in psychic abilities.  I have finally accepted that any and all psychic abilities are not special in any way.  Everyone has these abilities and usually knows at least one person in their family who has some kind of special ability, talent, or gift.

I watched many videos on YouTube about animal communicators and I now realize that this is almost an accepted field.  Almost every veterinarian has or would like to have an animal communicator to send patients to with animals who have problems that are difficult to diagnose or hidden pain.  And *every* animal communicator says the same thing about how they send and receive information... through words and pictures in their mind.

And I've started receiving words and pictures from my animals.  I received a story from my lizard about how she was caught.  She has a regrown tail and I always assumed it was from the person who caught her.  She said that she likes my children and likes children in general, she feels safer around children because she understands their energy and intentions much more clearly than adults.  She said that a child was the one that caught her.  She said that she knew the child.  It was a child who lived in the houses near her home in the desert.  She said that the child was known to other animals as well, that the animals know which children are the ones who are curious about animals.  She said that the child captured her gently and sold her along with a bunch of other lizards to a man who was like a traveling buyer, who traveled around to different towns and offered money for animals like lizards and tortoises and snakes.  Children knew about this man and could earn money for their family by collecting animals.  She said that it was a rough man who handled her in the transportation process who broke her tail.  She said that she understood the child's need and that she was also grateful for life after having gone through such a horrible process.  She thinks that she helped the child get money for its family.  That her life became a scary adventure to help another person but that in the end she is happy to live with us.  We are happy she is with us too and we tell her that every time she comes out.

Then recently another strange thing happened.  We checked out a book at the library called Casey Jones' Fireman: The Story of Sim Webb.  It was strange because it was in the section with the fairy tales, not the biographies, despite the fact that Sim Webb is a real person and the story is mostly factual, with mild reference to the supernatural.  Anyway, the book is a little dense for my 2yo, or so I thought.  She loved it and requested it several times.  Whenever I read this book it made me think of the song from the movie Dumbo about the little cartoon train they called Casey Junior.  I can hear the song from an old record we had as a kid of Disney movie songs.

"Casey Junior's comin' down the tracks!"

That song rattling through my head all the last week.

Then I find out on facebook that a dear sweet friend, who lives down the street, had a nephew, named Casey Junior, commit suicide!  I was so upset for her, as were many many of her friends and there was an outpouring of support on her page.

Then I got this message... from the boy.  I did see a picture of him, but I really don't remember where, it must have been on her facebook page.  I can see his image clearly in front of me.  He's wearing a black hoodie.  He has longish dark brown hair.  I mean the hair is not long, but it's kind of long around his face, kinda spikey longish pieces hanging toward one side of his face.  That's not how it always was, just how it looked because the hoody was pushing the hair around his face.  I think he was squatting or kinda sitting.  He is kinda smiling, but not very big.  His eyes have a relaxed squint to them that his family would recognize as one of their common traits, if they smile you can't see their eyes very well in the picture.

I got a message from him.  The message was that he is okay.  That he wants his family to know that he is okay.  That he didn't mean to.  He did feel sad a lot.  He did feel like he was a burden.  He felt like he was dumb.  He felt like some people were telling him he was dumb and he didn't know how to change that but that it made him feel bad.  He says he's sorry and he really didn't mean to go all the way.  He just wanted to try it, he didn't mean for it to work.  He really loves his family and he feels bad that everyone is so sad.  The reason he was so sad in life was that he didn't think he was smart enough to do what he thought people wanted him to do.  He keeps saying that some of his family are worried about him because he committed suicide and they think that he went to hell but that he's not in hell and that he's okay and that there are lots of other kids where he is at.  He is meeting other kids who did the same thing he did and they are all okay.

And I really want to tell my friend this information, but I think maybe that would be stepping over a boundary.

I have a cousin who also committed suicide.  And for the first time today I really talked to him.  He said that most people who commit suicide feel like a burden and that is why they do it.  He felt like his parents already had their hands full and he didn't know who to turn to and felt out of control.  He didn't like the way he treated his wife and his children.  He didn't know how to control himself.  He was absolutely distraught and felt like a huge burden.

I asked about Hell.  Does it exist?  And he said that there is definitely dark energy and negative fields and that there are people who choose to exist in those realms, but that much of our human understanding of hell is based on human existence and the lessons on earth.

Since I have been communicating with animals I tuned in to what the animals had to say about suicide and I was reminded that animals commit suicide all the time.  Mass suicides of fish and whales happen every year and they do it because they cannot tolerate the conditions on Earth anymore.  In some ways, this is similar to people committing suicide, people cannot tolerate the conditions of their life anymore.

Anyway, the point is that I have officially transformed back in a woo-woo person.  Woot!  It kinda feels good too.  I really enjoy talking to my pets.  But I definitely feel an even greater need to meditate now, to have a daily "grounding" so that I can be able to filter all the many voices that now pull at my skirt.  (Have I started yet?  No!  Only *thinking* about doing it!  lol) Like now I feel major pressure to stop eating meat.  I hear the screams of the animals in a second by tuning into it.  But I also feel the love of all the animals around me.  I also feel more connected to my children because I see how the animals actually speak through the children because the children are so receptive to intuition.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Is Robin Thicke a big dick?

 Who knew our culture would be having such growing pains?  Is the video rapey?  Maybe.

 As soon as my husband saw it he had to do me.  And I him once I saw it.  It's funny, yes.  All the props.  The lamby.  Did he just say "the hottest bitch in here?"  Bitch has almost reached a term of endearment among girlfriends.  And if a husband says that to his wife of eight years it is seriously hot!  And the bodies are beautiful.

But, seriously, why are we not seeing the men's bodies too?! Pharrell in a g-string will be the next hot video.

 You know what part was hot to me? When the woman slapped his face with her foot and he took it. Men take it. I am like a man, in that I take it with my children. I have no choice, I have learned over the years to just take their hits and slaps without hitting back, while still communicating clearly that I do not like it! But it is hot to see a man get slapped in the face and he takes it! Why? I don't know!

I told that to Erik, that I adore imagining him in his past hooligan life getting punched in the face. Images of him drunkenly talking to someone taller than him, with his chin jutting out and then WHAM, down he goes. I don't know why that gets me all aflutter. I think it's his bravado that I admire, that chin up as he careens into life's chaotic events. We joke that he has a whirlwind approach to life. Like he's a kid wheeling both his arms around like windmills, chopping or punching at anything that comes his way, and only looking back after he has sawed through it.

 I saw our dog, Izzy, get punched in the face by a lunatic man whose aggressive hound bitch started a fight that the man finished by punching my dog in the skull with all his might and then launching into a diatribe against pit bulls. But my dog told me she was okay, and she really is super strong, so she has a protective quality to her. She told me that she can take a punch for me. And that is something that is a powerful thing to have in life, a strong ally.

 Are the men in this video protective of the women or are the women like cats who can climb out of any corner? Are the women lambs? Are they both?

 I am thinking of the club scene in Los Angeles. It is a hotbed of gametes. Looking for possible matches. How can you get a potential union as quickly and accurately as possible? Bumping and gyrating and talking, right?

 How important is sex in the daily thoughts and activities of not just the Los Angeles club scene, but all of us? If we are having it often with our beloved does that make us feel more empowered, more sexy? I cannot understand the wisdom of the person wanting to have sex with many different people. That is not my wave. My beloved is my whole self that I grow more connected to as each day takes us further and further down the golden path.

 Which is, apparently, also how Robin Thicke feels about his wife, Paula Patton. They've been married for eight years, I've been married for nine. They have one three-year-old son, we have three children. Robin says that this is a kind of love song to his wife and also (sound of record scratching), please don't forget that my job is an entertainer, and I figured out a way to entertain people really well, so don't be jells.

 He reminds me so much of Ricky Martin! That soft twinkle in the eye.

Anyway, is he a big dick? Is he promoting getting women drunk at clubs and then taking them home and fucking them? Kinda. Maybe not "getting women drunk", but drinking with someone is pretty common before hooking up. (Switch to high school sex ed teacher voice)  And some women really do enjoy going to clubs, meeting men, and having sex with them! They actually have fun doing it too, as long as they feel safe. And it can happen and people can have a lot of fun doing it and it can be a great release if you are a single person who doesn't have a steady sexual partner. There are ways to be safe and still hook up. Lots of women like to hook up with other women because they can have the sexual release and not worry about getting pregnant or certain diseases. If watching Thicke's video or dancing to it at a club makes people want to hook up, then that's great!

 I'm not shouting, but what I'm going to say seems like it should be important so I'm bolding it.  It doesn't matter what song is on or what video is playing, it's just never okay to be pushy in a sexual situation, unless those boundaries have been clearly laid down. So songs and videos are just play and pretend, they are not suggesting that you take advantage of other people, that's just never ok!

 I think Robin Thicke's message about his song is that he is just pretending to do all that stuff because he's an entertainer. What his listeners do on their own time is their own business. Personally, he has a gorgeous wife that he adores, not that it was any of our business to begin with anyway.

 But the part in the video where it says, "Robin Thicke has a big dick"... Isn't that kinda... Oh, it's just entertainment? Got it.

 But how is it culturally relevant? How do people identify with this video? They realize that they themselves are a kind of entertainer in their own lives. What if you wrote that on your bathroom mirror. Your name has a big dick. If you don't have a dick, you can say clit. How would it feel to say that about yourself? To talk about yourself as having the sweetest ass or the most luscious mams. It feels good to say that when you have a partner that sees all of that in you too. It feels even better when you feel that way about yourself too!

 I reluctantly conclude that Robin Thicke is not a dick, not in the sense that he did something stupid. A lot of people are mad at him and are saying that he is promoting men to disregard women's feelings and treat them as sexual objects. But that's not the case here. People can get aroused by that video and not act rude or disrespectful to women. If someone is following songs for relational advice then that person needs help from people around them! I think that's just an excuse that disrespectful people can use, to say that a song influenced them.

 Why "reluctantly conclude"? Because a part of me understands the feminist point-of-view. A point-of-view that says, "Yeah, maybe it is just entertainment. But I still don't like it! I just don't find it entertaining at all! It is morally wrong to be so callous to the effects that these videos do have on young people, whether you care to admit it or not! You say that if someone is looking to a song for relational advice that they need help from people. Some people don't have that help from people, and they end up doing horrible things to people because of irresponsible mass-marketing of culturally damaging messages. People need to be aware that this is happening so that they can work to promote change for our daughters and sons!"

 Yes, that is true, but Robin Thicke is not personally responsible for the popularity of his song that has a message that is similar to probably half of all R&B and rap songs. He is just further evidence of the insatiable sexual appetite of humans! It is our own personal choices and decisions that matter. Those are the only ways we can change culture. We start at the center and work our way out.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What a Kid Wants

At the end of the plant walk today the herbalist invited me to bring my children along on another walk.  "Oh no, they're into guns and digging mines into the earth and general tom-foolery.  Add to that that anything I'm interested in is immediately perceived as uninteresting by the 8yo."  Oh no, my kids would rather run all over the trail, throw rocks, dig in the ground with sticks, pretend to shoot each other, whoop and holler, and destroy any zen balance that may have been present prior to their arrival.  How can this be?  How can I crave peace so much and have children who love to play war?

If I tell my children to listen to the plants and animals and walk softly, will they listen some day?

I figured out what my 8yo wants in a friendship, what he is looking for, by listening to him banter with his friend... his very tolerant friend.  They tease each other back and forth, taking turns and changing subjects randomly and rapidly at times to diffuse the tension if someone went too far in their teasing.  Noah wants a friend that he can tease mercilessly and say bad words to and nonsense phrases and inappropriate raunchy things to, and the friend will tolerate it all.  He is like Donkey, looking for Shrek.  He wants to be annoying to someone who will love him through it.  I recognize myself in that appraisal.  I always thought I was annoying, the annoying little sister was a label I identified with for a long time and during desperate and confusing times in past relationships I felt like I must be an irritating or annoying person.

I remember visiting my cousin, my sister-cousin, we are the same age and our moms are sisters and we have similar features, when I was in my early twenties and she was already in a stable (at the time) relationship.  I remember being mesmerized by how comfortable they were with each other.  It seemed that she could say or do anything and he would stay mellow (I later learned that this was not the case, but from my single-girl perspective, it seemed enchanting.)  I specifically remember a moment where she was sitting behind him as he was chatting and at one point she said, "I just have this overwhelming urge to bite you or slap you, right here on your shoulder.  Can I do it?"  Cool as a cucumber he responds, "Yeah, sure.  Go ahead.  Do it."  So she did, with a little spasm of glee, she slapped him and then maybe bit him, my memory is failing me.  But the point is that he just stayed so calm and cool.  He seemed strong, like he had used his shoulder muscles a lot in his job.  I don't know all the personal details of why they split, but they did, and it really doesn't matter now because she is with the real person who was waiting for her and they have a child together, but that's beside the point.  When I saw my cousin act that way with her fiance, I understood that it was possible for me to meet someone who would be a kind of a sounding board for me, and I did, and I'm married to him.

I see now how even the friendships that are formed when we are a child are all a pre-quel to the Great Love that comes our way in life.  Attachment, trust, bonding, love, are all explored in the friendships of childhood.  Before the hormones kick in, children can love freely all of their companions without any labels attached to them.  The land of teenage-hood feels very foreign and distant to me, so I can't comment much on how to deal with/accept children's sexuality, but the feelings of love and attachment are so clearly explored in childhood friendships, and I see it now.

On the one hand I think, "Should I be that person for Noah, the person that he can say the worst stuff to and will still love him?"  Of course I do, but I don't like it at all when he talks that way and I tell him so!  I don't like cuss words or teasing.  It's not fun for me.  So I can't really fill that role for him.  It's a cleaving, in a way.

Same thing with Micah and his guns.  I just can't relate and I don't like it.  I don't even like the sound of his playing sometimes.  Even though he tells me, "Mom!  I don't mean it!  I'm just playing!"  It's hard to accept it.  It's hard to accept that his way of understanding evil forces in the world is to personify them, to know them inside and out.  But if he can't do it through play, then how else can he do it?  How else can he explore what being alive in this world means?  So I try hard to be tolerant and allow him to play, especially if the only person hearing it is me.  But at the same time I can't help but think, whatever he acts out is what he is practicing to be, so acting out violent or destructive acts would be what he is preparing to do, versus encouraging him to act out positive role models.  Have I done him an injustice by turning a blind eye to his desire to always play the bad guy?  Or does play in children not necessarily indicate their desire to do evil, but maybe a way for them to understand it in order to better deal with its presence in life?

Maybe some day I will be able to comment on some of these questions, but for now these are some of the issues I am exploring.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Facing it, really really facing it

"The feeling I get is more like, every single little sound in the house (furnace, air conditioning, a clock) seems like its yelling at me (I know this sounds odd..). The sound of my breathing even making me crazy, and it just seems like everything in my head is screaming."  from My thoughts are loud and panicky

i have this.  do you?  it happened tonight for the first time in a long time and for the first time ever in my life i found out other people have it.  i think it is related to anxiety.  i am feeling like it's time now more than ever before in my life to really face that "mental illness/disorder" thing.  i suspect that it is related to that whole not getting the right nutrition during critical growth phases idea, and that continuous, really continuous, deep nourishment could ease the frayed nerve endings.  i've been treating the symptoms of my anxiety, which has been helpful, but i'm thinking about trying to go after the root of it again.  but this time from a mostly biological/nourishment perspective with a little bit of emotional/reflective exploration.  in the past i tried going all out with therapy and it opened up some stuff but mostly left me feeling waaay more vulnerable than i would like to be, walking around all open and exposed with anxiety can lead to some scary situations.  at the same time, trying to stick to a strict nutritional regimen can lead to all kinds of problems for me, so i won't be writing out any dietary charts or plans.  just in how i *think* about the situation.  believing that i *can* heal my anxiety is the first step.  i used to not believe that teeth could heal.  i used to think that only medicine and doctors could help illnesses.  i used to think herbs were a nice idea but that they didn't really make a difference for a modern girl like me who was already saturated in processed food and packaged pharmaceuticals.  so believing that anxiety is a heal-able condition is my first step.  and not the old typical, make sure you exercise, write in your journal, and see a therapist.  for me that's like healing my teeth by using colgate total and going to the dentist.  not gonna work.  i need to feel like i am healing from the inside out, not from the outside in.  outside in is helpful too, but that's not gonna be the main route.

i've been treating my anxiety with cannabis.  there, i said it.  can't say that on facebook so i probably won't be adding a link to this post, but if you got here from there, oh well.  my six followers now know that i use cannabis for anxiety.  or used.  i mean i still have some but i am going to try to move in a different direction for treating my mental condition.

marijuana has been extremely helpful.  i would never ever experience loud and panicky thoughts with cannabis.  i am much less likely to feel the compulsion to pick at my skin when it is in there soothing my brain, untying the knots, ironing out the wrinkles.  that's what scares me the most about thinking about not having cannabis around.  if i get in a state where i feel all tight in my brain, and my jaw is clenched, and i'm needing to do a bunch of work but all i can do is stare at my face in the mirror for the tiniest blemish or look over my skin for something to pick at, then one breath of cannabis *kills* that feeling and allows me to just wash dishes or fold laundry or water plants.  And yet at the same time, i sense that the marijuana is kind of like Dumbo's feather.  it gives me the sense that i am doing something to help myself climb out of a spiral or a hole, and it really does bring relief, temporarily.  but that's it.  the anxiety always returns.  daily.  or within a few hours, depending on the day.  tolerance builds up.  i have to take breaks from the cannabis for it to remain effective.  during the time that i'm taking breaks the anxiety can get worse or build up.

are you curious how the anxiety manifests itself?  or is that just too much information?  well it's my blog and i only have six followers so i won't be that embarrassed.  plus, somehow, every five or ten years or so, when i decide to face this thing, talking about it takes away some of its power.  so here goes.  as i've already alluded to, the main and most obvious symptom is the picking.  it's not like picking at a scab.  it's like finding the tiniest pimple that ever existed and squeezing it.  gross.  so tiny that it's not really a pimple at all.  well, first all the things that look like pimples, then moving on to pores that *might* be pimples.  then it's really just pores with a little bit of extra sebum or something.  OCD.  kind of similar to trichotillimania.  it used to be really really bad when i was in high school and college.  really really bad means spending one hour in the bathroom poring over all parts of my skin.  today it's about five or ten minutes a day on average and the place is usually on my shoulders and chest.  a little on my face.  i don't do it on my arms and legs anymore, or it is kept to a bare minimum.  in college i had tiny scabs on my arms and legs from picking at night when i would be staying up late for homework.  all it is is a displacement of anxiety.  it comes from a feeling of being trapped or captive in a situation (in high school it was when i was sent to my room or just was in my room doing homework, in college it was usually when i had work to do or if i was going through relationship problems.)  i did it so much and so often that it developed into a habit or coping behavior for when i felt anxiety.  my first relationship ever was with a girl who had bulimia.  i didn't understand how vomiting could become a habit, could become a way of coping with anxiety.  or at least i *thought* i didn't understand.  of course i totally understood.  it just manifested differently with me.

along with the ocd came depression, of course.  possibly bipolar, but that was never diagnosed, and i had a boyfriend with *real* bipolar, and i didn't have those kinds of manic episodes, mine would have been much more subdued than what would require meds, no hallucinations or delusions on my part.  a year before i met my husband i went through a series of bad relationships and bad breakups and saw a therapist for help.  she said i might have something (at the time) like "schizo-affective personality disorder" or something like that.  that was really at my begging for a diagnosis because i really felt like i was losing my mind and that i would end up homeless or something, i felt so desperate and unwell mentally and unable to converse with normal people.  she sort of laughed and poo-poo'd my desperate longing for mental insanity.  i say longing because there was a part of my mind that thought that if i really lost it then i would be forced to be under the care of others which would remove the burden of trying to recover my self and my identity after the series of bad relationships.  fortunately around that time i had the opportunity to go travelling in europe for about a month or so which kind of swung my mind back around, just by the simple fact that i was in places where i didn't have to listen to the mundane conversations of people around me.  the sound of foreign language constantly around me was actually soothing to my mind.  around this same time was the first time that i became aware of the idea that i might be a "highly-sensitive person", which was the suggestion of my therapist.  looking back i realize that would explain why it was soothing for me not to hear the mundane conversations of people around my.  i now see myself as a very intuitive and empathetic person, the "highly sensitive" my therapist referred to, and it can be difficult for me to separate myself from other people's emotional states and their worries and concerns.  i thought that other people were exceptionally cruel to me by not considering my thoughts and feelings.  slights and rude behavior would be interpreted by me (and i still fight this) as evidence of my own shortcomings, proving that i was not a "good person" or "worthy" of respect and kindness, or so i thought.  i think this way of thinking is part of why when i tried to sign up for a study, after i had been married for a few years, on people who "used to be depressed", i was rejected for qualifying as BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER!  That was a shocker.  I remember when the perky young grad student's face became very serious as she told me that "diagnosis" after a long series of questions, my facial and verbal response made her concerned enough that she offered to walk me to my car.  I refused her offer and made up my mind not to go back to a therapist again!  But my point is that that way of thinking, of thinking that other people were trying to hurt me when they really were just being normal people who aren't trying to hurt others, they are just careless, is what led me to a lot of pain and panic in my teens and twenties.  But it wasn't because I was borderline, i think it was because i assumed that everyone was as intuitive as i was, but i didn't even think of myself as intuitive at the time, i didn't even have that concept of myself.  i didn't know why i felt that way, but i think i do now.

so the marijuana definitely tempered my empathy, in a way.  it allowed me to go with the flow more and also to start to make connections in my thought patterns that i couldn't see before.  it allowed me to have a kind of meta-cognition.  whenever i would pick at my skin, i would often go into a kind of "zone" or trance.  and it was very easy to see that when i was picking my mind was combing over details of the day.  an encounter with a friend or acquaintance.  i could have gone to a party and had a great time, but my mind would want to re-examine the conversations, replay the way i said certain things or the nuances of a friend's facial expressions.  marijuana for me became a way to replace the picking.  with cannabis i could replay the events without the picking.  just take a shower and enjoy replaying the events of the day in my mind without the analysis, without the judgment attached to it.  i could see the events as part of a bigger picture and see the flow of time better, see the development of a friendship and feel good about it.  or realize that i was putting too much effort into a fruitless endeavor and be able to decide to let it go.

so if marijuana has helped me so much why give it up?  i have been using it consistently for about the last five years.  consistently means nearly every day.  not a lot, just a little bit at a time.  but one thing marijuana does is, while it allows me to just let life flow, sometimes i need to have a little more vigor in me, i need to have a little more drive, a little more hope.  so i need to find my balance again.  i am so grateful for the mother herb to hold me in her bosom and tell me that everything is going to be okay.  but eventually i need to put my feet on solid ground and take a step, feel my own weight.

this was not all precipitated by my own sheer will and desire to strengthen and heal.  it was brought on by outside forces as things often are.  my friend who is a patient caregiver for medical marijuana has gotten sick themself.  and when my friend got sick, i got so so sad.  i love my friend so much and want them to be healthy, but i couldn't help wondering why i would be so sad over a friend that i mostly see when i need medicine.  did i really love them that much or was there an underlying reason behind my sadness?  i *was* afraid of losing my medicine.  I was afraid of what would happen to me if i didn't have access to cannabis.  would i revert back to that college girl spending an hour in the bathroom after everyone else has gone to bed?  never wearing tank tops or bathing suits without a t-shirt because my shoulders and arms had what looked like strange little scratch marks all over them?  would i become pent up with anxiety, trying to calm the rising spiral, the beating heart and racing thoughts with something, anything, drinking three beers in quick succession at 3pm on a weekday to quiet the rising tide of anxiety?  would i spend the rest of my life captive to a coping mechanism that seemed to cause the very anxiety it originally sought to quell?  would i die having never figured out how to solve this riddle of anxiety?

i came back to that old realization that each of us has been given this gift of broken-ness, through no fault or effort of our own, that contains the key to unlocking our peace and strength and wisdom.  it's one thing to realize that, but i can't stop there.  I CAN'T STOP THERE!  that old mountain analogy.  you can know the mountain is there, you can read all about it, you can become an expert on it, but you haven't climbed it until you actually climb it.  others can tell you all about it but it's not your feat until you really do it yourself.  no, i think i'll toss that one.  maybe it's more like seeing the scales tipped too far in one direction and trying to put little stones or plants or thoughts on the other scale to bring them back into balance.  the cannabis has been like big momma the owl in Fox and the Hound, holding me to her big soft bosom that is so sweet and powdery and feathery and saying, "don't you fret child, big momma's here!"  but now it's my time.  i feel it.  i really feel it.  i feel just a little bit strong right now and that's good enough for me.  that's better than i've felt in a long long time.  i kept saying, hold on, i'll deal with it later, for god's sake i've got a baby, i've got children, not now!  but now i feel it.  i'll feed that child in me.  i'll recapitulate those tender times myself, those vulnerable growth phases, and nourish that mind, dare i say soul?  it's here.  i'm saying it on this blog to all six of you.  the time has come.  the time is now.  lisa k. rakestraw will you please go now?  the time had come so lisa went.

breath.  breath.  breath.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Financial Mess

Reading Proust has taught me to notice my mind, notice my memory.  See time as a two-directional flow, like a youtube video that you can replay over and go back and examine some small moment in detail.  But Proust's crux was the difference between voluntary memory and involuntary memory.  Voluntary memory is the accessible memory, the stories you've made of your life and categorized neatly in volumes to be pulled down at will.  Each time you pull out a story from this collection of events you polish it, clean it, view it again from a different angle, like those Italian glass paperweights with the colored glass fractals within, where if you really take a moment to look at it, you see a new quality to the sculpture within, the untouchable swirls of glass within, forever encased in a clear tomb.  To attempt to extract the glass flower within the paperweight would be impossible without destroying it.  So too our memories are forever encased within a bubble.  Our memories are discreet, we recall a certain time.

Involuntary memory is the memory that springs forth, or vomits forth, from an outside stimulus.  Springs forth might be the scent of sweetgrass that instantly transports you to place in your childhood where you felt the warm sun on your brown tender skin and you smelled the end-of-summer grassy smell, at a specific place on the globe.  Vomits forth would be a situation perhaps somewhat similar to mine right now.

When I suddenly realized that foreclosure on our house should have been done four years ago, but I had neither the knowledge nor personal resources to know that back then, a feeling of nausea and constant unease settled upon me.  When I realized that we should have foreclosed four years ago, I suddenly reversed the tapes in my head, and ran over all the clues that were there all along.  And repeatedly I saw myself in the kitchen with my husband, the fluorescent lights unapologetic with their flat light blanketing everything in the same hue and their hum that habit has allowed us to ignore, the window over the sink shows nothing of the outside, just black for we had these conversations at night, it seems.  Sometimes it was on a weekend afternoon, after we had coalesced after having worked at trimming trees, and the children had reached a point of quietness or playing outside.  The reason we were in the kitchen is because that is where these conversations tended to come up.  As I was reaching into the fridge to get a bottle of beer.  "I think we should foreclose on the house," he would say.  "No!  I don't even want to talk about it!"  I would say.  Or I would say, "That's a bad idea.  The lender says we should hold onto it."  "But we're not making any money on it!"  "The loan doesn't adjust until 2017!  We'll be able to refinance it then!  Everyone says to hold onto it!"  "But that doesn't make sense!  We don't need that house!"  "If we don't get our down payment back how will we pay into *this* house?"  (The house we share with my parents.  We are going to buy it from them some day.)  "We'll never get our down payment back!  I want you to talk to someone about foreclosing."  "No, it's a bad idea.  We just hold onto it as long as we can.  That's the right thing to do."

I had even talked to my accountant, who is also my uncle, and he said, "No, you can't foreclose on it because you'll have huge tax ramifications, since it's a rental."  Erik asked him about it again and he said the same thing.  "See?"  I thought.  "The right thing to do is hold onto it."

Now it all came crashing down.  I realized that we've been renting it out over the last four years with nothing to show for it, only a slow drain on our bank account and lots of uncomfortable moments dealing with strangers' lives.  Also, all that time we were renting it out I thought we were getting a big tax return because of the house depreciating!  Nope!  It was because of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.  Why didn't my uncle tell me that??  I thought we had to hold onto the house for the tax refund, but that was just my own stupidity!  The house never gave us a tax refund!  Why did I believe that?!

I found out that if we had foreclosed on the house when we first moved out of it, we would have qualified for the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and wouldn't have had to pay taxes on the amount of debt relieved.  We could have foreclosed up to three years after we moved out and not had to pay taxes on that relieved debt.  That was during the time that my uncle the accountant was telling us that it would not be possible to foreclose without suffering the tax liability.  He said that because we were renting it out we would not qualify for the MFDRA, but he was wrong because it was still considered our primary residence until last year!  This is so painful to discover.  Partially I'm mad that my uncle didn't tell me we could have avoided the tax liability and partially I'm mad at myself for ever thinking it would be sound to hold onto that house!  Again the perfect storm.  My husband's haste to buy a house got us into the mess.  Then my bullish stubbornness and Scottish prudence held onto the mess for too long!  Here's another financial reaming, just take it!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

We Are All Of Us Human Angels

Warning: triggers about infant loss, murder, suicide

There is a facebook page called We Are Human Angels.  And that phrase has rung around in my mind, like a little musical phrase, and it has helped me to find some understanding about Satori's death and Jamie's death.

i realized that "we are all indeed human angels" felt the only way to understand death.

and i didn't know how to incorporate my cousin's suicide.  suicide is so difficult to wrap around.  if satori taught anything, she taught that we all have a story, a light, and a teaching.  what does suicide teach us?  how can we kneel at the light of an angel who committed suicide?  then i got the answer.

when you put all the deaths you have experienced in your life into a constellation, you see that each point of light contributes to a greater constellation that cannot be appreciated without taking all points of light in relation to each other.

people who commit suicide teach about the power and tragedy of human existence, human experience.  anyone who is an empath knows that the state of humans on earth is in a tenuously top-heavy time.  we know that a peaceful future is possible, and we know that many many souls are shedding and shredding their futures.  it is easy to understand why people *would* commit suicide.  it is no different from monks who commit suicide.  it is no different from caged wild animals that commit suicide.

Did you know that the total mass of all living things stays at a relatively stable proportion to the total mass of all non-living things?  As the population of humans continues to increase, the population of wild animals continues to decrease, but the total amount of living creatures, breathing oxygen and shedding nitrogen, stays the same.  This major transition is reaching its tipping point.  There is much death, but there always was, and in some respects, there used to be more!

Whether or not someone is comfortable with death, suicide, it seems, remains somewhat taboo.  But not anymore, at least for me.  What human *hasn't* felt despair, hasn't felt the weight of human error, human folly pressing on their chest?  Some days, life is heavy and I can completely understand how someone would want to step off.

With Jamie's teaching, there is another story.  Jamie brought other people into her story.  Story of forgiveness starts with yourself.  But for now it seems like story of forgiveness is wrapped around people who murdered her.  Murderers are like trolls, they just try to see what they can get away with.  Yes, they are human trolls which means they have the chance to learn from their mistakes and let their hearts grow.  But many choose to remain cold, like the ice comets and cold grey asteroids hurtling through space.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Growing aware is painful

Growing aware is painful.  Aware of your mistreatment of others and of yourself.  I realized that you can never really "hate" another person.  What you hate is a representation of that person that you have created in your mind, which may or may not accurately represent that person.  And usually that representation is something about your self that you don't like.  Similar to how in your dreams, all these "other" people, recognizable or not, friend or foe, are not others at all!  The most frightening nightmarish alien enemy in your dream, may feel so very "other", but you *know* that all of it comes from your own mind.  The same thing with waking life, so much of our mental thought processes seem driven by external circumstances, but we, ourselves, create every mental representation in our head.

If you hate someone, especially someone that you are not in contact with, like a celebrity or a politician or an offensive stranger, that person will continue on with their life regardless of your emotion.  Their life may not even be accurately represented by your own mental picture.  What you have created is an external characteristic of yourself that you don't like.  Maybe it is someone's perceived weakness, their own uncertainty with life that you've picked up on, or their aggression, or myriad other so-called flaws that we all have as humans.  But since you refuse to tolerate said flaw in yourself, you have no tolerance for it in anyone else, and the more that person reminds you of your own flaws, the more you despise them.  That person may not even be aggressive or suffer from self-doubt, but you've created it in your mind that they do.

However, if you change your point-of-view to compassion, for yourself first, then you will naturally develop compassion for others as well.  Then, as you develop compassion, you may become embarrassed or even ashamed that in the past you used words like hate, but don't fall into the trap of feeling sorry for yourself.  Just more patience and compassion for yourself, just as you wouldn't think to chastise a child for formerly being unable to walk or write, don't hold it over yourself if you  made mistakes in the past.

I'll tell you what brought this to the forefront of my mind.  It was two individuals, two people that I didn't know very well, but who brought out a wrathful response in me, that upon later reflection, I felt first ashamed but then consequently enlightened by letting go of my wrath.  The first person was a woman at the dog park.  She had a timid rescued dog who brought out the alpha bruiser in my dog, and i was unable to control it in her.  My dog wanted to play with this rescued dog in a very rough way, and that made the owner nervous and gruff toward my dog.  I felt offended by both my dog, who was not backing down, and this owner who i presumed viewed me as an incompetent dog owner.  Meanwhile, I myself was viewing her as an incompetent dog owner for not being more kind and gentle with her dog and I judged her when I heard that she was a former dog breeder and horse breeder.  Subsequently, it seemed like she and her dog were always there when we wanted to go to the dog park, and fearing further altercations, I would just drive away rather than face her again.  One day I was at the park and my dog was playing with another big puppy dog and the other owner was telling me how her dog only ever got unruly at the park one time, and it turned out it was with that same dog!  What I am most ashamed of is that I wrote a status update on facebook as a letter to this woman who I felt was a bad dog owner.

Meanwhile, this woman kept on bringing her dog, and doing her thing, and that dog started to come around!  She really knew what she was doing, and I am reminded that even though people may seem to be "doing it all wrong" that there are many many ways to go about doing the same thing, and patience will often serve me better than jumping to snap judgments.  Yesterday I was in the dog park and that lady came in with her dog and Izzy didn't even try to jump all over him like she had previously.  Not so surprisingly, another young dog, who had not yet met this rescued dog, acted in a similar way that Izzy had when she first met him.  The owner of the young pup had to repeatedly reprimand her dog for acting aggressively, and she asked me if she was doing the right thing or should she just let them work it out?  I told her she was indeed doing the right thing and that that particular dog had a way of bringing that behavior out in other dogs, but that you should tell your dog that it's not okay to be a bully.  I was happy to see that the owner of the rescued dog was not acting so gruff toward the other dogs who were bullying her dog and her dog was handling it much better than he had when we first met him.  It's almost like the kind of behavior that was being brought out by the dog, was also brought out in *me* toward the owner!

The other person who brought this revelation to light was a little more complicated in my mind.  It was the surgeon who took out my appendix.  I had a deep dislike and distrust of hospitals and doctors prior to the surgery, and going through that event did not help, but it *did* bring some of the emotions to the surface so that I could deal with them better.

One thing I was so mad at the doctors about was that they considered the appendix a "mystery" organ and that there was only one way to cure appendicitis, through removal.  What is so ridiculous is that I would expect anything else from them!  That's like walking into a McDonald's and getting mad that they don't have organic local food for sale!  I am replacing my anger with compassion.  If the doctors had a more holistic understanding of the body and health, no doubt their own health issues would be better taken care of, I can only hope that everyone is able to gain a healthy, whole point of view of their body and their health.

Mostly I disliked my surgeon because I was jealous jealous jealous of her.  What was I jealous of? I was jealous of her "success".  I perceived that she had something that I felt I didn't have and should have in my own life.  What was that?  I thought she had more money, more freedom, more mental health.  All that was a mental construct of my own.  I had created an image that I was lacking in my life.  What I had failed to have was any sort of compassion.  I thought she was smug, but *I* was smug.

I didn't account for all the pain in her life that she has encountered and dealt with.  I didn't account for all her insecurities that she has, just like almost any woman of success carries with her, and women without success too.  Women in this country are given every reason to hate themselves, hate their body, hate their skin, hate their hair, hate each other, and I had fallen right into that trap.

I was talking to a friend about this doctor.  I was telling this friend *why* I had bought a jean jacket for myself.  I was explaining that I had gone to my follow-up appointment and the doctor came to the room wearing a jean jacket over her scrubs.  "Did you have a little bit of a crush?" asked my friend.  "No!" I answered with a small look of repulsion, followed by, "I hated her!"  Laughing, "It's this weird thing where you take on the qualities of the thing you are repulsed by in order to own it."

Those words, "i hated her" kept rattling through my head weeks after that conversation took place. Had *I* really said those words about someone that I didn't even know?  Hate?  It reminded me of my kids, who throw that word around so easily.  I guess their mom throws it around pretty easily as well.  I didn't like the way I felt I portrayed myself by saying that.  I felt like by saying that about  the surgeon, I was acting very immature, like a child.  But I don't even like saying that because not all children act that way.  Some children act that way, like me, I had acted that way, and my children act that way sometimes.  But I certainly didn't like that I had said that.  I didn't even *know* that woman, how could I hate her?

I had wedged the image I created of this woman into my subconscious and was pivoting around it.  I had found her facebook after the surgery.  I had discovered she had two young kids, and that she liked horses, dressage horses, and her kids showed horses---in San Diego?!  I was jealous of her ability to travel to horse shows.  I created an image in my mind of a wealthy doctor who did whatever she wanted.  I saw a video of her kid practicing a piano piece last Christmas.  Horses and piano, how stuffy can you get?

Meanwhile, my in-laws were moving to Tucson, and in the process of the move, we inherited their beautiful piano!  Also, they bought a gorgeous house in the foothills of the Tortolitas and told us they would feed a horse for us, if we wanted to buy one we could keep it at their house.  Yesterday Noah was incessantly practicing "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas" on the piano and it hit me.  That was the same song that the doctor's kid was playing on the piano, when she had filmed it and cheered at the end of the performance.  All the things that I was so jealous of, were things I was getting in my own life, but I felt so guilty now.  I realized that all that jealousy and those words "i hated her" would never affect this woman, thankfully, but they had worked to color my own interpretation of life from something benign to something full of negativity, and I didn't like that.  Also, something else started to dawn on me.  I remembered how the doctor had told me words like, "skinny people like you" and "you're so skinny".  Then I noticed how there were no pictures of this doctor on her facebook, and one of her friends had made a comment about that and she had responded by saying, "I look the same, just older and fatter."  This woman was beautiful and I wouldn't even describe her as curvy at all, she just seemed normal trim.  It dawned on me that this poor woman could possibly have a crippling sense of body image.  She could have suffered from eating disorders in her past, she could have had a parent or family member who told her she was fat when she wasn't.  Who knows?  But that hit me and I felt horrible.  I suddenly realized how many "successful" celebrities and business people might have horrible images of their body and how sad that was and how I don't want to contribute to that anymore.  Which means I have to love myself and my faults.  And they aren't even really faults, they're just part of being human.  And how I must rid myself of language such as "hate"!  How ridiculous and self-defeating it is to think or talk that way!  Saying I hate someone is really self-abuse.

Growing aware is painful, it's like walking through a wilderness.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dying friend

What do you say to a friend who is as young as you are, who is going home from the hospital to hospice care?  Hospice.  Everyone knows what that word means.  It means you are dying.  But she is still alive.  Do you talk to them as if they will be here for sixty more years?  Do you accept the medical proclamation, "You are dying?"  Yes, because she is accepting it.  So I meet her where she is.  Doctors told her, "If we keep giving you chemo your lungs are probably going to collapse and we don't know why.  We can put you on a respirator, but you'll be unconscious."  "Thanks, but no thanks, I'm done, Doc!" she says.  Can't hold up this house of cards called my body in the wind storm of leukemia any more.  I'm signing off!  Love you Mom, love you Pops, sorry I can't hold you up or make you happy any more, but we've had a good run of it, haven't we?  Considering all of it!

Life is so tragic.  And Rachel's life seems to be a perfect example of the tragedy of life.  But that's where the beauty lies.  There's a reason why the Greeks loved tragic plays, because all deaths are tragic, whether they come one minute after birth or after 90 years of suffering.  The tragedy is being born at all.  Rachel, before she was Rachel, was conceived by a young, curvy, blonde nursing student who already had a daughter with severe cerebral palsy and a Paiute Native American, or maybe he preferred Indian, as it was in the fall of 1977, and AIM was pretty big in the 70's as I recall.  The blonde woman lived in Berkeley.  How did she meet this Paiute man?  Was he visiting friends and went out drinking one night and met this shy, lonely girl, lucky to have a night out away from her severely disabled daughter that she was raising on her own?  Did they dance in the bar that they met in?  Was it country music?  I imagine that a rural Native American might feel more comfortable listening to country, or was he at a disco bar, outside of his comfort zone, but more likely to find a young shiny girl to take back to a motel or his friend's apartment that he was staying with when he visited Berkeley.

When she found out that she was pregnant, did she tell him?  Had they struck up a casual relationship?  Or had they been secretly seeing each other for a while, secretly because her family was racist the way many families were, more so back then.  Her family of Baptist background, who had moved out to California in the 40s to find a better life than the farming life in Oklahoma.  Was his family also suspicious of him dating white girls?  And if they knew that she already had a daughter with a severe disability would they chide him for that too?  Not only a white girl but also one with bad genes, broken insides.  Would his mother have cared at all to bring into the fold of the Paiute family a little baby, who was carrying the genes of all their strong ancestors, all swirled up with the heavy blonde girl from Oklahoma's genes?  Or did he keep the pregnancy a secret from his family, not wanting to burden them with any more illegitimate children, especially when so many of his relatives were so far below poverty already and dealing with substance abuse problems and other kinds of health and emotional issues as well.  Did he get angry at the blonde woman?  Did he close off his heart and tell her to deal with *her* baby herself?

Did she ever consider keeping the baby?  She told the adoption agency that she couldn't raise another baby since she was already raising one with cerebral palsy and going to school at the same time, all as a single mother.  Did she resent the child with cerebral palsy, since she was already committed to raising her instead of the "normal" baby coming first?  Oh, wait, she also told the adoption agency that she feared her family might treat the baby differently since it was half Native American, half Indian she probably said, since Native American didn't come around as a term until well into the 80s.

The beginnings of this tragic death were so tragic themselves.  Of course the day that the adoptive parents got the call that a baby was available was not tragic, a real baby to call their own, and it was a girl!  They just had to drive eight hours up to Berkeley from San Diego, to claim her.  Of course, they had the right to refuse once they saw her, but how could they?  After the heart break of learning that they couldn't have children and the months and months and months of waiting for a baby, how could they refuse that tiny tiny baby, with the dark dark eyes and the dark dark hair, all scrunched up in the hospital blankets, so peaceful, not like the other babies, squirming and crying in their clear baby bins.  This little one, *their* little one, was so peaceful, she just blinked at them, and opened and closed her mouth with the tiny pink tongue pushing out, blinking like a little lamb, a little ewe, Rachel, Rachel who was Jacob's favorite wife, beautiful in form and countenance, mother of Joseph, matron of all the Hebrew nation, this was their Rachel.

And they didn't know what they were doing or how to do it and the nurses had to show them everything, even how to change her diapers, which she did cry about, and how to feed her properly, and how important it was to burp her afterward, and after three days, the hospital and the people from the adoption agency and the social workers, all gathered and said, "Go forth, Donna and Larry Dawson, this is your daughter!  Feed her and comfort her and clothe her and play with her and teach her all the good things in life, and she will grow up into your own daughter, your own in the world."

And they did.  And sometimes they did it fantastically and sometimes they failed miserably.  But she grew up like all children do.  And she went to the doctor sometimes like all children do.  And she made friends at school and got picked on at school like all children do.  And she became beautiful and strong and responsible and sometimes she was messy and whiny and lazy and forgetful and all of it was very human and some of it was memorable and much of it was forgotten.

And then she met me and I met her and we were teenagers and we had friends that were in our "group" and we did ridiculous things and we were jealous of each other and we supported each other and told each other secrets about secret things we had done with boys or when we were little and life hummed along the way it does in high school.  And, as you do with your friends in high school, we ate lunch together.  In a group, we sat on the grassy sculpted knolls that made up the central part of the school campus in sunny southern California.  We ate our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and drank our boxes of Hi-C and ate our bags of rippled potato chips.  And one day she was eating prunes.  Who eats prunes in high school?  "You're like an old lady!" I told her.  "My grandma eats prunes so that she can poop!"  Still svelte and energetic and so young, but a tiredness like a shadow in the background, creeping up on her life, she responded, "Yeah, I think I am getting an ulcer or something.  My doctor says that prunes might help."  An ulcer?  At 16?  Geez!

And then high school has its grand finale with all the excitement coming to a swell, class trip to Disneyland, and getting ready to go to college and everyone so ambitious.  Rachel, with her art talent applies for and gets accepted to Rhode Island School of Design.  I and another close friend go to UC Davis.  I am clueless to the fact that RISD is a top school for artists, but I hear some little snippets of jealousy from friends to tell me enough that it is a much sought after school.

I stay in touch with Rachel over the summers and after my second year in college I hear that Rachel is leaving RISD to come home to San Diego.  Something about a really bad boyfriend and a trip to Italy where she got really sick, really really sick.

This was the beginning of Rachel's slide into complete infirmary.  A long, slow, tragic slide.  Somewhere around this time I went to visit her one summer and we were going to go out to a bar or a club.  I noticed that in her bathroom were all kinds of medical creams and bottles and pills.  What's going on?  And she was taking so long in the bathroom before we went out.  "Oh, I have something called Beshet's syndrome.  It makes me have ulcers wherever my capillaries are, so I have to put lubrication in my vagina and my anus before I go out, so that I can walk without pain." Followed by a kind of forced laugh.  Yes, she really did talk like that.  We always kind of tried to shock each other in our group, saying "inappropriate" things.  My other friend and I especially would try to gross out Rachel the most.  We would get Rachel to drive us places (she was the only one who drove) like the nude beach and then totally strip while Rachel stayed covered up.  Or take her to an exhibitionist art show.  Now *she* was the one shocking me.  I remember feeling uncomfortable, like how you would feel if you saw your grandma changing.  I think it was the fact that she was so young.  It flipped reality on its head for me.  It was okay to be naked and talk about vaginas and anuses as long as you were healthy and vibrant, but when you had to talk about them because your body was breaking down, it felt ill, it felt like uncertain ground.

Then next time I saw Rachel after that I had already graduated college or was close to graduating.  She was on full time disability.  It wasn't just the discomfort from her illness, but the depression that made it so hard for her to work.  If she wasn't depressed, she was having to go to the bathroom to deal with painful ulcers.  During this time Rachel didn't care about her health at all.  She desperately wanted to meet a guy, so she would go home with guys from clubs, only to have to push them away from her in pain when they would try to have sex with her.  She had to live with her parents, who were supportive, in the best way that they could be, but even they had no idea what they could do to help her out of this hole that was her Bechet's syndrome.  They got her a puppy, and that was helpful.  It gave her a reason to go out and get up.  He's ten years old now.  He sleeps a lot, still barks when people come up to the door for their piano lessons with Rachel's mom, and has a gray muzzle where it used to be black.  He has been a great support for Rachel's parents.  But he wasn't supposed to outlive their daughter.  He's not supposed to be there for her hospice care.  He's supposed to get old and die like all dogs do, but not outlive their daughter.  The dog that was bought to cheer up a sick 24-year-old!

After I graduated from college I traveled a bit and started looking for my own partner.  A little after I got married I went to visit Rachel again.  I brought my dog, who I had picked up at a wolf-rescue ranch I volunteered with while in college.  We walked our dogs to the dog park, which was about half a mile from her house.  She walked slowly.  She *talked* slowly.  She was very very depressed.  She had been depressed for so long that I started to believe that she had always been that way.  I couldn't remember the goofy high school friend who ditched class with me and made silly faces and was always game to do anything or go anywhere even if her somewhat overbearing Jewish mother would find out and disapprove.  Rachel picked up on the fact that I felt uncomfortable around her.  I had dealt with my own bouts of depression in the past and it was still so fresh and recent to me that I wanted to avoid it at all costs.  Rachel herself had, in a time of uncommon health the previous year, accompanied me on a car ride where I spilled out my own perception that I was losing touch with reality, bipolar, anxiety, split personality, whatever you want to call it.  She had just listened to me, when I told her that all I could listen to was Radio Disney because I was trying to get in touch with my inner child and that I felt so alone and scared for myself, she had tried to offer words of hope and consolation.  Now, walking with her to the dog park, she was so shaky, so reserved, she had nothing to say, and needed me to say anything, and I shrank away from her.  I had my fiance, and my as-yet-unknown pregnancy, and my life was full of new stuff, and she had nothing.  Her therapist was the mom of one of our high school lunch group, by coincidence only, a girl who was getting her master's degree at a women's college back east.  The tragedy was unfolding.

After that day I came home to my soon-to-be-husband and told him how uncomfortable I had felt with Rachel walking to the dog park.  He said what anyone would say to someone who was trying to get over depression, "Maybe you need to stay away for a while, for your own good."  That works sometimes, right?  You gain a fresh perspective?

I don't remember much about our relationship after that.  She did come to my wedding and my baby shower.  She gave me a bib with a whale on it that she had painted and on the back she painted the name Jonah.  "Jonah and the whale!  Isn't that cute?" she was so happy about it.  "Yes!  But his name is Noah!  I still love it though!"

Then came the call, was it a year ago, a year and a half, I think.  Donna, crying, "Rachel has leukemia!  She's in the hospital.  She would really love to hear from you."  And then more calls and more calls.  And Rachel telling me that she's fine and Donna telling me that she's really not fine and that she's dying.  So a trip to San Diego to visit her.  And then she's okay.  Then we're out for Christmas and I visit her again.  It's weeks before her bone marrow transplant, which is a miracle, because she's adopted AND mixed race, and a bone marrow transplant has to be exact race exact match exact everything, and it's also a miracle because the bone marrow transplant will "cure" her of her Beshets!  Lots of calls with Rachel.  Always just talking about news and entertainment.  Always me feeling like I'm hanging up too soon for her.  Me wanting to talk about death, but feeling a very strong intuition that that would be inappropriate.  Like I'm assuming.  Then the calls taper off.  On my part, mostly.  I think, "She's alive, she's alive!  Am I supposed to call her every week of her life?  She'll understand! I have three kids, I don't even call my grandma, who *is* slowly dying.  I should call my grandma..."

A couple of calls here and there.  "Oh, I'm back in the hospital.  It's just an infection.  They're not really sure.  It's not quite taking."

Then today, the hospice call.  "Rachel will call you later, if she feels up to it."  "Good," I say, "Let it be on her terms."

The last time I talked to Rachel, which was easily four months ago, she said she was tired of all the treatments.  She wanted to just go home, but she didn't want to make her mom sad, so she kept going along with all of it.  She was tired of being told what was "best for her."  Her mother was a dyed-in-the-wool East coast Jewish mother.  She *always* told Rachel what was best for her, it was a part of her culture.  Rachel's mom was my introduction to what a Jewish mother was all about.  Warm socks and wear your undies and every conversation with Rachel on the phone her mother would be in the background contributing from some unknown part of the house.  She didn't know any other way to be.  Nothing about Rachel's life was private to her.  Ever.  And now her mother can't go with her where she is going.  The pain of her mother poured over me like a deep milky river today, through the earpiece of the phone.  "How will she do it?" I ask myself.  How will she go on living?  I don't know!  Her only daughter, who has painted an image of that beloved Tuscan hillside that they went to visit as a family when Rachel got sick the first time on the wall of her kitchen, framed by a bouganvillea trellis.  Her only daughter, who has filled her house with watercolors and wire sculptures and puppets that she has crafted, all whimsical and delightful, each one received with such love and displayed with such pride.  Her only daughter, who through all this illness keeps talking about how she will go to school when this is all over, to be a textile designer, and really get her life back.  Only... only, now everything, all of it, from the first call that a baby was available, to the nights cursing the boys who keep her out late when they don't even know that she's sick, to the days when she layed in bed watching Oprah and America's Next Top Model, to the elation that she would be receiving a bone marrow transplant, all of it, coming to these next two weeks?  three weeks?  six weeks?  How do you do that?  What do you say?  What do you do?  Do you plan?  Do you weep?  Do you have any energy left *to* cry?  Do you read favorite childhood bedtime stories and eat favorite foods together, late at night while you laugh at David Letterman?  Do you drive out  to your favorite beach or that spot in the mountains, or just talk about those places because she's too tired, too sick, just needs a little nap.  What do you do?  What do I do?  What do I say?

On a rather serendipitous note, and I hate to use that word on this occasion, Erik's parents are moving to Tucson and Erik and I were already planning on going out to San Diego in two weeks to help move some stuff.  We couldn't afford for me to fly out or drive there alone right now.  And after two weeks from now we wouldn't even have a place to stay in San Diego when we go out there.  That's not entirely true, we have friends and family that would probably let us stay there if we asked, but his parents' house was always our go-to place when we went to San Diego.  And it was already planned that we would go out in two weeks for the final move.  Rachel will be going home tomorrow or the next day for home hospice care.  I will likely (hopefully) talk to her on the phone before that, this is all new, I just got the call from Donna tonight.  I feel like I'm being called upon to execute some higher, more elegant, important part of my brain on this occasion, but that I don't have it.  It's not there yet.  That part of the brain is supposed to come after one's parent passes away and one begins to learn, little at a time, about the mysteries surrounding life and death.  It's kind of like suddenly being called to the stage and not having anything prepared, but being told that you'll do fine, just improvise.  Each time one of these big mysterious moments arises in life, we swing our way through it and then come out the other side and look back to see what the damage was.  Or we mincingly make our way through it, apologizing with each step, trying hard not to step on anyone's toes, even though we are wearing giant clown shoes, and not learning much of anything at all.  There's no right way or wrong way, just a way, your way, whatever way you go.  I'll see you on the other side and let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

just say no!

message to the 1%, to the international-industrial-political-medical-educational-economic-machine:

you said come off those farms, come down from those hills, from those forests, from those faraway places, where you grow your vegetables and milk that cow and spin that wool and visit that old woman with all the jars of dried roots and leaves.  you said come live in our cities, our suburban housing developments, our exciting city apartment life.  you said your jobs would shorten our work day from toiling all day on the land, more time for our families, you said.  you said you would educate our children.  you said you could grow food better, more efficiently than us.  you said you could preserve that food better than us, no sweating in the kitchen.  you said that you could make clothes for less than what it cost us to make them.  you said our old woman with the knowledge of the plants and the body was dangerous and that you could cure us better, and safer.  you said we could elect representatives, mr. smith goes to washington.  you said we had freedom of speech.

but at what cost?  we are sick now.  we have no money now.  our families are dying around us now.  we have no land.  we have no cow.  we have no fruits and vegetables.  we don't want clothes and products if they are made by people who have to suffer at our expense.  we don't want food with poison in it.  we don't want your cure for cancer if it means we have to give you all of our life savings and still our children be in debt to you.  we don't want the representative that you choose for us so that you can create laws that favor your small group of people---that's not a representative!  we don't want your education system that herds our children into large groups and eliminates creativity from the teacher and the classroom.  we know that when you eliminate creativity you eliminate critical thinking and the ability to speak out if something seems wrong.  something like, oh i don't know, everything you've been doing for the last fifty years or so.  we don't want your jobs if they dull our minds and separate us from our families.

take it all back, we don't want it anymore.  take your cures and your banks.  those loans you gave us to buy our houses were no good anyway.  take your schools and your poison food.  take your hospitals and your cures---we are dying in your hospitals from secondary infections, you are feeding us chemically-laced food in our recovery rooms and bathing us in antibiotics.  now we know that those microorganisms that you told us were the source of all our woes are the key to our survival.  take your representatives back, they never spoke for us anyway.  take your slave-made clothes and plastic trash that you call homegoods, you said that slavery was outlawed a hundred and fifty years ago, but you lied.  do you hate us?  we, the source of your wealth, are so faceless and nameless to you?  just a group health number, or an employee identification number, or a constituent?  as the population of this old sphere grows, you know that you can exploit us easier and easier.  as the crowd grows, the faces shrink until they aren't even people to you anymore.  we don't hate you, but we are done with you.  we are going back to each other.  you think we need you, but we don't.  we have been sucking on your polyvinyl nipples for generations now, it is true.  but we don't need it any more.  it will take us time to open our eyes and stand on our own shaky feet.  and we will continue to stumble and fall and lose our lives in the process.  but we will return to our hills, our forests, and our faraway lands.  or we will just return to ourselves.  we will work with our neighbors and our friends, who are not our enemies, our competitors, our antagonists, as decades of your anxiety-ridden psychologists have led us to believe.  we will find those who still believe in the power of the person and link up with them.  we will form food co-ops, work co-ops, and education co-ops.  we will slowly slowly cleave from you, using the technology that you provided for us, thank you so much for that.  you will catch wind that we are doing this and you will try repeatedly to cut off our communications with each other.  you will say that our ways are dangerous and our foods are dangerous and our medicines are ineffective or unproven.  you will say that we can't succeed unless we have awards and degrees from your institutions.  you will.  but we will hold on because it is the only way for us to survive intact, with our souls whole, with a clear conscience.  without plugging in to your machine.  we are finished.  we are dying.  we are done.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Finding an outlet when feeling ashamed

ARG!  I am just in a panic-y moment of having said too much and I am overanalyzing it!  There is a strange phenomenon where the more I like someone, the more tactless I become.  Here's what happened...

I invited Noah's friends over and told the mom that I was inviting them as a kind of consolation for the fact that someone else cancelled on them.  I FEEL SO SHALLOW!  But I totally LOVE this other mom so much so why would I say something that could potentially hurt her feelings?  You wouldn't do that to a friend!

Ugh, this depresses me.  Because all I can do is try to be better, but it's like this reveals myself to myself to be someone mean, that I don't like.  This is a battle inside my mind.  Because these friends are Noah's bestest, favoritest people and they are never second fiddle to anyone, so why would I say that?  It was a moment where she was saying how helpful it would be for her in the sense that she could get some time to do something she needed to do, so i had to chime in how it was helping me too because since this other friend cancelled I knew how bummed the boys would be and wanted to cheer them up.  WHY COULDN'T I KEEP MY THOUGHTS TO MYSELF?  I feel like I'm fourteen again.

so fricking human, i am.  all i have to do is forgive myself and say i'll never do that again.  but i just want to keep beating myself up over this silly ridiculous thing.  but that is not helpful to anyone, right?  just BE in the pain of the shame.  I want to put it away, hide from it, drink something, smoke something, but I won't.  I will just be in it fully so that I can appreciate the purpose of it, to treat people with care and love, not some kind of game.  It's silly to make so much of something so insignificant, unless the purpose of making something of it is to learn from the mistake.

yes, this is the way my anxiety depresses me.  i say something small but tactless and then make a huge deal of it to myself.  like when i would get in trouble as a kid and go to my room.  i would then stew over all that had been said or unsaid without any resolution.  the anxiety would just build up.  we never TALKED about stuff.  So now when I beat myself up over silly social mis-steps, I stew inside my mind.  My mind becomes like my room when i was a teenager, with the door shut, and the darkness outside the cold window.  And I don't know how to escape the feeling of shame.

That's how I started getting OCD.  I would be sitting in my room after some fight with my parents, with all these feelings of hurt and anger, or after a day at school where I said something that embarrassed myself, or felt bewildered socially, I would sit in that room with a kind of a trapped feeling.  The trapped feeling was not knowing how to deal with the mounting anxiety.  What to do with it, where to put it.  The ocd was a survival mechanism, a way to turn off the anxiety by switching over to an almost robotic, emotionless way of thinking.  I would pick at my skin.  Any little thing had to be excised.  It would have been rather pathetic to see from a distance.

The OCD and my tendency to smoke marijuana are totally linked.  The cannabis shuts off the OCD, for sure, but it also removes the "hope" part of my mind, temporarily.  It makes everything ok and mellow and soothes.  It helps me think about the big picture, and removes some of the knots and kinks in my mental flow.  But it removes a small kernel of hoping and wishing that accompanies my normal thought process.  Cannabis helps me say, "Yes you can do anything you want to do, but you are happy right here right now, so why bother?"  Which is helpful in times of anxiety, but I am starting to see how just a tiny bit of wishing and hoping helps me to connect with others in the sense of connecting over striving for a better world for our kids, or hoping for a good outcome for someone with an illness, or just trying to be better people, better parents.  It's a very small difference, and a fine line, but I noticed it the other day.  It's about reputation, and walking your talk.  If I say or do something that I realize was inappropriate or hurt someone else, and I just crumple at the feeling of my human incompetence, and then try to find something to distract myself until it becomes like water under the bridge, then I am refusing to give myself the dignity and self-respect of a person who strives for goodness and peace and kindness.  Then I continue to make the same mistakes, hoping for a different outcome.  But if I reflect and feel the shame and forgive myself and picture myself as that person who I imagine myself to be then maybe I *will* begin to become a person of strong character.