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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Magster the Terrifying

   Photo by Dakota:

     Each morning I am awakened 25 seconds before the alarm clock blares with a greeting by our Yorkie terrier Maggie.  She has the ability to mind read me or the clock, I'm not sure which.  Some mornings I set my wake up call for 6am and on others it's 8 or 9 but she's rarely off her game.  Maggie is driven by one motivating factor, consuming as much food as a ten pound dog can hold.  Actually a ten pound dog can handle quite bit more kibble than you would imagine.  I have pictured her stomach rupturing like an over ripe melon if she were accidentally dropped on the floor, but the protrusion would probably buffer her injuries and she would merely roll over with a deeply contented sigh.
      On the days I choose to live dangerously without setting the alarm, I'll begin dreaming of carrots popping up like Easter eggs all over the back yard.  I'm not kidding.  Drifting lazily in and out of a Sunday morning snooze and a picture will pop into my head with stunning clarity; little baby carrots, all cleaned and pretty, peeking their dewy orange heads out of my lawn.  I never dreamed about vegetables until Maggie, who happens to adore carrots, entered into our lives.  The little dog, with a possibly 5 ounce brain is able to project her wants and needs into my thoughts with very little effort.  I've also had nocturnal images about peeing and pooping in my bed, but I see no need to make this point graphically. 
     My husband and I have lived with two dogs prior to Maggie and Pi, but they both weighed 40 pounds plus.  When we entered the midget dog world we had no idea how the perceived balance of power would change.  I say perceived because all dog owners know that their pet is the actual ruler of the household; we humans are merely allowed the idea that we are smarter and further up the food chain because we have hands and have the ability to open a can of albacore tuna.  But itty-bitty dogs see no benefit in deluding us about who is boss.  When Maggie flies through the air in a venomous rage aimed at Pi, with spit droplets swirling in slow motion artfully about her head and an enormous snarl erupting from her throat, my spouse and I take several steps out of the fray.  Bill says that if Maggie weighed 80 pounds she would scare the crap out of him; the rest of us know that she already does.
     Those few ounces of brain matter are put to more complete use than the 5-8 pounds resting on my shoulders.  I figure I'm using less than a pound of usable material in comparison to the brilliant machinations of our Maggie.  Aside from food she has an insatiable need to make Pi pay for breathing the same air that she intakes.  I don't think she actually wants him gone, because that would mean life would be boring, but I also don't believe she's thought the whole thing through beyond torturing her furry cohabitant. 
     A few mornings after Maggie planted herself in our lives I watched her enact a scene that was to become a recurring feature in our home.  Maggie had been given a new bone and instead of lying in her bed gorging on her treasure, she walked over to a particular spot on the floor and set her bone carefully down.  This seemed odd so I settled into watch the action.  She then stood behind a nearby chair out of sight from the entrance to the room.  Enter Pi stage left.  Pi is not a dumb dog, so he stood for several seconds at the doorway; taking in the lay of the land, his eyes catching for a brief moment on the bone but moving on for any sign of the little auburn terrorist.  After determining that the coast was clear he dashed over to the bone and was intercepted by Maggie who snatched the prize out from under him, just like Lucy with the football and Charlie Brown.  The speedy little dog gleefully ran off, having secured her bone with a superb throw down move.  Pi sighed and looked at me with utter despair and confusion.  When my brilliant plans have been carried away with a tidal wave of God's decisiveness, I must have that exact same look.  I reached over and gave his shaggy head a tousle and we both moved on to other things.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Holy Shit, It's the Hokey Pokey


     Going to weddings is an exhausting experience. From deciding what to wear, which usually entails questioning the contents of the closet based on what fits, what’s in style and what would be appropriate, to making the nail biter decision of giving cash or buying from a wish list. This is why the big party is such a hellacious drama from beginning to end; with only one shining bright spot, dancing the Hokey Pokey.
     When I was a child the Hokey Pokey was the highlight of all catered events that involved dancing and P.E. class. After learning the steps in school it was mind blowing to show up at a grown up function and perform in a big circle. I can still remember the jiggles of excitement running through me when the DJ would announce the famous song. As those memories fade into my teens and twenties I found it atrocious that anyone would consider making such an ass of themselves in front of a crowd. Have you ever seen a 42 year old mother of 6, in stretchy pants “shaking it all about”? The agony rippled across my perfect size 6 form as I watched the poor woman create a video that I would replay in my head when years later came the time that I was far past svelte and considering jumping onto the Hokey Pokey train. 
     There is a brash, in your face quality to that dance and it signifies to me my current reality. The decision to move through life aware-fully was done when my head was mostly up my ass, because you would have go to sleep one night, get a smack upside the head by the enlightenment fairy and wake up for the decision to be made with all the lights on. Thus, it is impossible to know what you are actually intending to do and how dramatically your life will change. It’s rather hilarious when you stop a moment and think about the process; though that’s pretty much how most momentous turns in our life come.  Remember the night before you had your first kid or the night after you got home from your honeymoon? The phrase, “holy shit” comes to mind.
     As I look back on the steps of opening one window a teeny tiny crack, inching it up ever so slowly, until my house was completely without walls, roof or foundation I am amazed I thought there was a point of no return beyond the first moment of consideration. Once the journey began the road back fell off behind me, there was no possibility except forward. As with the famous dance, you put your whole self in and you shake it all about, you do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around; that’s what it’s all about. I hope the mother of 6 from that long ago wedding is watching and laughing at my own ridiculous jiggly version of the dance.

You put your right foot in,
You put your right foot out,
You put your right foot in
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.
You put your left foot in,
You put your left foot out,
You put your left foot in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.
You put your right hand in,
You put your right hand out,
You put your right hand in
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.
You put your left hand in,
You put your left hand out,
You put your left hand in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.
You put your right shoulder in,
You put your right shoulder out,
You put your right shoulder in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.
You put your left shoulder in,
You put your left shoulder out,
You put your left shoulder in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.
You put your right hip in,
You put your right hip out,
You put your right hip in
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.
You put your left hip in,
You put your left hip out,
You put your left hip in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.
You put your whole self in,
You put your whole self out,
You put your whole self in
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sun Kissed Spots

    When I was 14 I knew everything and in many ways I did.  My voice clean and pure, full of riotious indignation over human failures, with secrets I kept from everyone, except me.  Hiding from myself wasn't something I learned how to do until older and smarter.  For 8th grade graduation the students were given an opportunity to make a speech in front of classmates and parents.  In English class the top soliloquies were chosen and pooled together to be voted on by teachers.  My talk-a-thon became one of the chosen on the topic of "individuality".  Friends knew this speech had been a way for me to flip the bird to everyone in school.  Random hierarchies didn't make sense all those years ago and they still don't.  As a collective we have a bubbling up process of popularity structure which begins in grade school.  The kid who blows the biggest nose bubble with milk is famous for obvious reasons being that gross out is worth more than wisdom.  What?!  And yet, we continue to reward the rudest and crudest far more than those that move with beauty and softness.
     What matters as we breathe in and out, walking this existence?  Do fart jokes mean more than the origination of thought?  Does Lindsey Lohan's real life implosion leave a bigger imprint than a 150 year old oak swaying gently in the breeze?  Where will most of our daily thought linger?  When I spoke of individuality at the beastly age of 14, the statement was made that I would live as I wanted, not as the junior high celebrity required.  As with most bitch slap comments, the jumble of words were taken literally by The Universe.
     The night before the big speech I wanted to look amazing for the performance and bought a package of hair streaking dye.  The concept at the time was for hair to look "sun kissed", which seemed to be an inevitability living in Southern California, but in my eyes I had plain old brown hair.  The color instructions required the goo be placed delicately in long strands from the root to the tips.  Between us, my mother and I made one very inept hair stylist and we didn't qualify for being labeled color savvy, which is why when done I looked like a brown leopard with orange spots.  In twenty four hours scheduled to give a speech on individuality.  Which being uncompromising in my beliefs meant I wore a giant hat so my beauty wouldn't detract from the eloquence.
     Every so often during the course of high school I'd run into a classmate who remembered my hair, not the speech. 

     "Did you mean to do those orange spots or did someone do that to you?" 

In other words, was I trying to make a statement.  The speech that day got lost.  For me  because I had yet to know what the words really implied and for the audience, I was just another kid rambling on about the importance of 8th grade and my big floppy hat madly distracting.
     At 14 my voice was clean and pure; my secrets however, unshared.  The individuality I hid with the big hat soon covered by little lies I whispered in my ear, a few dozen garbage bags of hurt and anger and gobs of weight gained after kids were born.  There is wisdom in knowing my truth.  Standing on the stage one hot June afternoon, I began hiding more than secrets, I began hiding who I was.  In the yard a giant oak stands as no tree other than itself, gracing the landscape and my heart with a pure example of individual spirit.  Today, old enough to know better, ready to show my leopard spots to the audience. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Here, What or Why After


     It's been three years since Bonni Blue officially left the existence we shared.  Writing "officially" is somewhat of a misnomer since she still trots in and out of my daily life, letting those she has known, the power of her love.  If you are not a believer of the here, what or why after, most of this will sound like a bunch of hooey. If you do believe that we all go somewhere after we die, you may still think it's a hoax.  Belief is a big stupid lie to one person and to an other a spiritual truth.
     It took over six months after Bonni died for me to sense her presence when she would show herself.  I have yet to decide if that's because she was giving me time to let go of her form or if I was too emotional to feel or see anything other than grief.  Most pet owners understand the type of loss Bonni's death incurred, for those who don't I'll try to explain.  Before we hit the fertility jackpot of twins we found Bonni at the Baltimore animal shelter and she filled all our empty spaces.  I understand when people say that animals aren't the same as humans, because they have some things we don't.  There are trainers who think the sole motivating factor for a dog showing affection for an owner is the possibility of food and shelter.  But looking at dogs as parasites is missing an important point.  Volunteering at an animal shelter, I have found dogs to have a capacity for love we humans find magnificently difficult.  A dog will love you even if you stop feeding him, make him sleep out in the rain and even if you smack him with a 2 by 4.  In truth, a dog will lick your hand while you give her the injection that will put her to death.  This last part I know from personal experience.  Bonni showed me true love and I have committed the rest of my life to loving as she loved.  I hope my best can match hers.
     It crops up unexpectedly, the smell of dog poop.  My love teacher shows her ghost self with the smell of shit.  The fumes of a big pile representing a beautiful spirit is irony at its best.  I'll be out bike riding down a long empty path or through an asphalt parking lot and the perfume of excrement will envelop me, traveling with my two wheeler a half mile or so, reaching into my smell memory until I find Bonni.  Incredibly the vapor of dog poop will transpire in a vacuum sealed auto barreling down the highway accompanied by "Soul Sister" on the radio.  This song by Train appears to be my dog sister's way of communicating with me if the pungent smell doesn't grab my attention. 
     Were these experiences only to happen to me, I would guess that the time was approaching for checking myself into crazy town.  But my formerly alive pet reaches out via poop odor with a wide range of my acquaintances including my husband, a book club friend and a couple of my clients who have shared surprising stories of the smell during a session or on their way home from my office.  Usually Bonni visits me during periods of of emotional chaos; when it seems like I'm grasping at tenuously thin fibers to hang onto my balance or when I question all that IS.
     Bonni Blue appears from time to time to remind me of the love she offered for free.  She is a talisman of the spiritual root at the core of my life.  This magnificent dog showed me the path to God.  Some would believe that touting a dog as a method to find heaven is sacrilege.  I think whatever opens the window to the other side is a blessing.  Was she just a dog?  Am I just a human?  We are many things she and I, some as simple as what we look like and others are beneath the surface shimmering in the light.
    On this, another anniversary of Bonni's death, I celebrate her humor, her stead fasted friendship, her endless supply of love.  I celebrate her spirit. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Found and Lost Again

                                          Photo by Dakota

In the weeks following September 11th, we found a gift amongst us.  The special treasure was empathy.  On the days I headed down the aisle at the grocery store people would smile and nod, occasionally adding a "hi there" or "have good day".  In the parking lot there was a surprising dose of grace and courtesy; road rage was barely discernible on the highways.  We were collectively grieving our loss of the people most of us had not known personally, as well as a bit of our naivete.  At most wakes and funerals there is a level of politeness not afforded most other gatherings.  I've heard of the occasional angry mosh at the death of a loved one, but for the most part we humans try to maintain our dignity in the company of great loss.  Death cobbles us together in a pudding of sadness  pain and love.

I remember commenting to anyone who would listen, that this gift of kindness would bring one positive out of the overwhelming hell the visual of the planes had created.  How amazing it would have been if the tragedy could have taught us something lasting and beautiful.  Those moments of humanity, the outpouring of support and love from across the world, the stunning acts of bravery during the rescue of the survivors, were all examples of how the terrorists may knock buildings and people down, but they would never dim the light of our collective spirit.

Unfortunately as the shock began to subside anger overtook the empathetic viewpoint and revenge became a new kind of love.  It was honorable to  imprison teenagers without charges and desecrate another person's holy place of worship in the name of the souls who unwillingly gave their lives to another person's fanaticism.

Fear, rage and hatred leave no room for love, empathy and compassion.  In the few religions I have spent a bit of time studying, none of them have pushed the "hang 'em high" mantra.  Jesus didn't ask that his followers seek out and kill his murderers.  His refrain, "They know not what they do" follows me now when I remember the day this all began, as well as all the ugliness that has followed.  We found a pearl amongst the ashes, may  we clean the grime from it's beautiful luster and teach ourselves how to forgive in the face of great adversity.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Morning the Planes Crashed


The morning the planes crashed into The World Trade Center I was driving my car traveling to see my $150 friend.  My kids were safely in school, I had the radio and cell phone off trying to place myself in a quiet serene space, preparing for whatever emotional upheaval may show itself in the presence of a trained professional.  When I arrived at Dr. D's the staff was watching their computers for updates and filled me in on what little was known at the time.  A plane had crashed into one of the towers and at that moment it appeared to be an accident.  A few hours later it would become apparent that much more was going on than wind sheers and pilot error.  

By the time my children arrived home from school, the world in which we lived had turned upside down from what it had been when they were eating toast for breakfast.  Fear had overtaken our home like the giant goober from the 1960's movie "The Blob".  A few days later a massive sonic boom rattled our home to it's foundation after jets were flown out quickly on a rapid response mission due to a pilot from a private plane neglecting to answer a radio call.  My high octane anxiety knew that this was the follow up nuclear detonation of nearby Chicago.  I frantically ushered the kids into the basement, unable to follow because of a leg cast, while the kids screamed in hysteria in reaction to my unstable emotions. 

The bubbling morass of my fear lingered until I was asked to buy duck tape and plastic wrap.  My breathing slowed and I laughed.  There came a point where the anxiety no longer ruled and I began to think and feel as a person rather than a reaction.  My personal safety had never been in question, the anxiety had been a product of the incomprehensible devastation to the lives of the victims and their families.  There is no quick fix for pain wrought by so many deaths of so many innocents.  Which is why in some ways it is understandable that so little can be agreed upon for the site of those horrifying events.

And yet.  And yet it isn't so understandable.  When an individual or group decides in the name of their God to kill people, there must be some response.  But must the response be one of the same message?  Should the moment after be filled with more anger and  hatred?  What if the site of one of the most brutal killings in our lifetime, was given over to all belief systems?  The empty hole, filled with love, diversity and tolerance, open to all religions, much as our forefathers had dreamed when they came to this country many years ago.  I can envision a place where one may worship and not be censored in that belief or non-belief.  Where better than the place where one group's interpretation of God tried to destroy an other's that the message be of love and acceptance of all faiths.  Religious freedom drove us to populate a wild and untamed land and that same freedom must drive us now.  Our ancestors fought with strength and an unwavering spirit to claim the right to worship as they chose, fear was not their determining factor, nor should it be ours.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Costume Box

As I slept, I dreamed of a play.  There was a large beautiful stage made of polished wood and surrounded by plush red drapes.  I was designing the production, telling my two actors about the story and that they would have large parts in the drama.  The performers were my daughter and her best friend and they were thrilled to be included in the theatrical event.

"We each have a costume box backstage with our name on the outside.  Go through your box and pick out your favorite."  I told the excited young women.  I approached the medium sized vessel with my name written in a lovely script.  Before opening it I pictured amazing gowns with sparkles and dramatic colors housed inside.  Reaching for the first garment I found a dress made with fabric from an outfit my mom had stitched for me when I was 7 or 8.  Just underneath was a short set worn around the age of 4 and the rest were made of cloth from a toy elephant my mom had made and other outfits she had created in place of items we would have gotten from a thrift store, since our finances were pretty constrained during my youth.

Disappointment crowded my thoughts as I heard the two girls giggling with joy over their own costumes found within their boxes.  Growing frustrated I pulled all the clothes out of the container and looked to the bottom for something amazing.  It was empty of anything that would have represented my initial fantasies of bright colors and sparkles.  My costumes had been constructed in my youth, not by me but by my mom.

The dream drifted away and I lay with my eyes closed pondering the message.  The boxes had represented the vision of how we three women perceived ourselves.  Mine had carried a collection of items that were no longer wearable nor reflective of who I am today.  I have become a woman who craves bright colors and sequins.  No, I am not heading towards a career as a drag queen, though a short stint would be a hoot I'm sure.  My spirit, my essence has been erupting out of the facade that had been carefully constructed for decades. 

This person or that had may have said, "I know who YOU are", and been partially accurate in the moment.  But the layers of "truisms" had hidden the actual fact of who I am.  I became a false representation of myself to survive and in most instances I survived well.  So why change my costume?  Because it no longer fits.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Good in the Bad

There are no "good guys", there are no "bad guys", and that's with a special shout out to Dave Mason's song, "We Just Disagree".  For many reasons, as a society we have a penchant for labeling people and situations as good or bad.  How many times in the last 24 hours have you found a way to demonize or Anglicize another person or event?  I have a particular fondness for giving the bitch eye to parents who allow their children to run amok in the grocery store and thinking unkind thoughts about people who leave their pets at animal control.  When one of my friends laments the status of her relationship with her in-laws, I picture the adopted relatives wreaking havoc without any concern at all for my gal pal's peace of mind.
But truly, one person, one thought, one idea, one position, is neither all good or all bad.  The split pea soup of life is a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  The reason lawyers have job security is because we can't see another person's position or perspective.  This last word is important.  Perspective is in the eye of the beholder.  We each of us comes from a collection of people, places and things.  Some of us grew up rich and others poor; there are those of us who faced discrimination and numbers who have experienced great pain and abuse.  I must also mention the select few of our masses who have lived a life of relative ease and comfort, which seems not to exist in the current media darkness, but I have met them and mostly they try not to brag when others are going through tough times.  One person's hodge-podge existence cannot match another and those events and their differences are what create our uniqueness and our disagreements.
Everyone fights, it's not the fight that counts, it is what you do after the fight that is important.  This is true in families, between best friends and after a nasty election.  Letting go of the need to be right takes herculean effort, I know this because I have been viewed by some, to hang onto a position until blood is drawn on both sides.  Why have I decided to give up my sword for a more "neutral" position?  Because I am so damn tired of the ugliness of prolonged war.
Honestly, it has taken spiritual and emotional exhaustion to get to this place of seeing beyond the right and wrong of it all.  Life just isn't simply black and white; there are colors and nuance, enormous wit, pain and beauty.  The astonishing odyssey is endless and vast.  To merely state that something is either good or bad is to diminish all that IS.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Change Your Life, Change Your Pants

Photo by Dakota

I’m not sure who told me the biggest lie first; perhaps it was my parents or other relative, it may have even been a teacher. The enormous lie, the grand-daddy of all untruths is that a good life is a “happy” life. The translation is that if all is well i.e., you are free of emotional jack hammers whacking at your psyche, have zero confrontations or struggles, you will be happy. This smooth sailing idea permeates and controls how one feels about change.

Shockingly I will state that change is good. Change is exhausting, frightening, ugly and grossly painful, but change means movement triumphs over stagnation. Ever smell a week old bag of garbage? That is stagnation. Emotional and spiritual stagnation stinks just as bad, but the fumes are deep inside a movement-less soul gumming up the works.

I am a pot stirrer. That means that when everything gets sloggy I show up with a big spoon and start scraping at the bottom of a pot of crap, looking for clues as to what has slowed down the process. As a child I would have been described by others as Chicken Little, screaming at the top of my lungs, “The sky IS falling”! In my case, unlike the poor fowl from the story, the sky was rolling around in the dirt and I was the only one willing to point at the disturbance. Being the only one to notice did not make me popular, in fact, it caused me to be ostracized. I shouted and shouted, pointing and hoping, until one day I couldn’t stand being on the outside looking in where everyone else seemed “content”. I stopped shouting, I stopped pointing, I stopped hoping that someone would look and I started burying the facts.

On the surface this meant that Christmas dinner went off without a hitch and I moved onto sharing a life with a husband and children, but inside it meant that a putrid stew was bubbling away on the stove, occasionally letting a bit of steam off to ooze to the surface in the form of bursts of anger and depression. This could very easily have been the story until I died without ever finding a voice to speak the truth. EEEK! Just writing that last bit scares the heck out of me. What if I had never heard “The Voice” all those years ago? What if I had never brazenly said, “Bring it on Universe. Break open my heart chakra? What if???

I see the faces of the unspoken in the pharmacy and slogging down the street with the weight of the words wrapped around their throats; that’s “what if” looks like. A human being trapped in a part of a stream that has been log jammed by debris is stagnant. The fear of what someone may say or do in response to a confrontation with the truth can be paralyzing. They may not love me or speak to me again. I may be alone.

For me, the debris in my stream was choking me to death. The artist in me, the new born baby excited to be born, the inner beauty of my soul was dying and I had no other choice but to find a new way to survive. I spoke the truth to live.

Speaking the truth is one big huge punch in the gut. Truth in the midst of a well orchestrated fallacy is rather like a nuclear bomb in a confined space. The initial explosion obliterates the immediate area and then the energy ripples out in tsunami waves pounding at anyone in the vicinity. Yep, it can get pretty horrifying. Blood and snot flying everywhere, with no real idea of up or down, just face smashed into a wall of water.

And then. And then the last ginormous wave passes through and the swells become a bit smaller and smaller until the undulations are gently caressing, mildly comforting, eventually ending with a shocking moment of stillness. That stillness is how I view God. He is here throughout the turmoil, but I can feel Him when the vast ocean of water is placid, the storm has passed and the change has occurred. So, so, SO worth it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Leave Taking

In essence, we are all in the process of leaving. From the moment we are born we are looking for the next opportunity to leave. The first breathe and then the moment that comes next.

Death is the ultimate leave taking, but we practice many times before that supposed last moment of letting go. Lots of mini separations, practices that enable us to develop the thicker skin required for ultimate cessation from this life.

 When your child leaves for his first day of school and doesn’t look back, he is telling you that he is ready and so should you be. When he races home and flings his tiny arms around you and says, “Mommy I missed you sooooooooooo much!” He is merely stating that the separation was pleasurable and he hopes to do it again soon. Leaving is an art best learned from children. They understand, as we older, less wise people cannot. They are closer to the truth; that we are all getting ready to leave and practicing how to do it properly is what life is all about.

As a person reaches their teen years they yearn for an exit. Sometimes they inappropriately wish for a dramatic exit and take their lives by accident or with purpose. The doorway they pine for is the road away from siblings, parents and rules, but unfortunately at that point any road will do. This will bring paths of drugs, sex, alcohol and lately computer, tv and I-Pods. At this point it’s best to hope that they find the car keys and travel.

 In my case I learned how to leave by driving long distances. I traveled from Illinois to California many times and found that the miles brought peace of mind. My parents were 100 miles away, then 1000 and then just away. What a relief to realize, at the time, that I was unreachable. In the 1980’s no one was calling me by cell phone and if I chose not to check in at the next rest stop, what was going to happen? Certainly they would wait a day or two before calling the state troopers and in the mean time they ceased to exist in any real terms.

 On the road my go to people were the truckers. They taught me how much room to leave between cars and how to pass another vehicle without pissing them off. A trucker would spy me in the car alone and then signal the other truckers by CB radio so that from state to state I would have a friendly escort. When I would stop for food or gas they would call ahead to let each other know and occasionally we would gather at the counter for chili and a chat.

My mother would have had a stroke if she had known that I was dining with old strange men and that I followed them up the long dark highway. What she didn’t know is that I learned at a very young age exactly who the good guys were. As I write this I can almost taste the freedom of the tail lights ahead of me and the dark road behind. Those trips were my first lessons on how to leave. Leave with excitement and anticipation; leave with very little or no belongings, leave without looking back, leave with no regrets.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

6 Degrees Separated

Am I the only one who thinks Facebook is destructive?  I have Facebook and occasionally comment on the status of a friend or relative and I wonder about the ramifications of being able to stealth bomb a thought.  This blog is the same really, in that I am writing an idea or a belief and then hiding behind my computer.  If I really believed what I wrote I would say it out loud, (which I do), or get it published, (which I haven't).

There are people I am 6 degrees separated from who comment on a thought on Facebook and I find it appalling that they can out themselves as racist or just plain selfish with such ease.  When someone isn't looking at you eye to eye it is so easy to say stupid and ugly things.

 The shocking part is that even after the dust has settled most of the thoughts get shuffled away into the "they're an idiot" category and then forgotten, unless there is the unfortunate occasion of having to see the person at a reunion.  For me, those random, nasty diatribes are not pushed into a waste bin or hidden behind delete; they are floating in cyber space sullying our planet with more rubbish then we tote to the curb each week.

 The people who are younger than I are jostling around with this newish playground, not really grasping the enormity of the ramblings they utter through their keyboard.  The back and forth anonymity is like a game of truth or dare.  The biggest, baddest, nastiest comments are the most interesting, funniest and outlandish, rather than the oddest, rudest and most horrifying.

 When someone is standing in front of you and you happen to make an ass of yourself, the look on their face is sometimes enough to give you pause before continuing to behave as an imbecile.  When that someone is reading your sloppiness, they can neuter themselves or laugh from far, far away; the shock at your behavior is tempered because they have a moment to separate themselves from what you have done.

 Facebook would only be something to commend if we used it as a way to communicate truthfully.  That would mean saying intelligent things in response to stupidity or standing up for the bullied and defamed.

 I am a mom and I wonder what the hell we are doing today.  I grew up around sex, drugs and rock 'n roll and old folks were talking about society going to hell and a hand basket.  Is that what I'm doing?  In answer to my question I see one big difference.  FEAR.  When everyone was doing, having and dancing, they were fearLESS.  Now, with the social networking I see nothing but big globfulls of sheer terror.

 Saying something out loud would mean that I might have to face confrontation or rejection.  When someone writes something through my computer, I can hide my pain, horror, sadness; but if someone hurts me a foot away from my heart I cannot deny what I feel.

 From experience I can say that feelings hurt a heck of a lot of the time.  Most times confrontation is ugly and without resolve.  Being present in front of another human being who is abusive and angry is scary.  Standing still in a moment of someone else's freak show can make me wish for a tin shack in the middle of the New Mexico desert, with a long dirt road that telegraphs a visitor hours before their arrival.   In those moments I wish for a loneliness that echos into the next century.  When I shared that thought with a client she said,
"But they would come find you Deb.  That's just not what you're supposed to do this time around."

That's just not what we're supposed to do this time around. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Gaggle of Turtles Crossed The Road

On each leg of this odyssey I have encountered souls on varying levels of the same journey. Gabrielle was miles ahead of me and yet on the same page. She had already read the book but was rereading a chapter at the same time I was entering that realm of existence.

We had had several sessions when she started to ask questions about what type of massage I was doing, since it didn’t really resemble what she had experienced in the past. “Well, it’s kind of a combo. I mix in a little of this and a little of that, depending upon what your body tells me.” She looked at me silently for a moment. “I see turtles whenever we work together. Not like flying from the ceiling, but whenever I close my eyes I see turtles. What’s with you and turtles?” My thoughts flashed to the series of turtles I had seen in the last few weeks.

It seemed like every time I was driving in my car I was in the position of saving the life of a turtle. I’d come upon an intersection and a turtle would be trying to cross the street while cars were dodging the little guy as he slowly dashed in and out of traffic. I’d find myself pulling off to the side of the road and trying to time my own path between the speeding cars to grab the turtle from an imminent and gruesome death.

 My relationship with turtles was not only in the life saving realm, I was also the unfortunate co-owner of three box turtles. At the age of five my kids were pestering my husband and I for another dog since Bonni wasn’t like the dogs other kids had. Bonni was more like an older sister who didn’t allow her younger siblings to play in her room. She had the uniquely teen-ish behavior of completely ignoring someone to the point of making them cease to exist; therefore the kids felt the need to have a “real” dog. Bill and I understood that the new dog would be our dog with occasional assists from the twins. We opted to buy box turtles. For the record, do not ever follow our direction; turtles live a very long time. The fact that these hard shelled creatures could out live my future grandchildren was something I learned after our "easy" pet purchase.
 We bought our two turtles at a pet store for the kids’ birthday. They were named Hardshell and Daisy, with the belief that one was male and the other female. Hardshell promptly died three days after his arrival. Hardshell II was brought home and he “ran away” from a fenced enclosure we set up in our yard. This turtle scaled a fence and made a mad dash to a wet land area or he was airlifted by a passing hawk. My children prefer the story of how Hardshell escaped from Alcatraz. And thus Hardshell III was introduced to Daisy shortly thereafter. What must Daisy have thought of her revolving roommate situation?

 After a few years, three Hardshells and various life or death turtle experiences, we became known as turtle experts by teachers and school children alike. At the end of one school year, a teacher at my children’s school asked us to look after the classroom turtle over the break. “What was one more turtle?” I asked myself. To conserve space “Speedy” was put in with the other turtles for the 12 weeks and they all appeared to get along about as well as turtles appear to get along. The night before Speedy was to return to the classroom we placed him in his old cage. The poor little guy curled up into his shell and refused to come out. Our two turtles crawled over towards the glass wall facing Speedy’s cage and just looked…all night long. Who knew that turtles had feelings? With the prospect of broken hearted turtles looming on the horizon, we decided to allow Speedy to join our turtle cult.

 During the warm months we housed the turtles in a deep tree well in our yard. One morning during a walk with our dog Bella, (Bonni had been gone for about 8 months),  I noticed what looked like a palm sized rock on our brick pathway. It was Hardshell lying on his back struggling to right himself. The funny thing about seeing something that defies expectations, there is always a pause as one’s brain struggles to process what surely cannot be so. Hardshell was lying in front of me and his home was 5 feet below ground level. After the first runaway turtle episode I was wondering whether turtles had an unknown physical ability on the scale of flying. As I pondered with my 46 year old brain I began to move slowly to other possibilities. A hawk or an owl would not be able to fit their wing span in the deep cavern and I didn’t think a coyote would work that hard for a turtle. Finally the brain fibers connected and I arrived at the probability of a raccoon being the culprit. I picked up the either very scared or very pissed turtle and placed him back into the enclosure. He was quite damp from what was probably rabies infested spit and I told Hardshell III that his possum act had been a very wise strategy. Speedy was peeking out from under a rock formation we had made for the shelled family, but Daisy wasn’t anywhere to be seen.

After ten years of raising these turtles I had come to know a few things about their individual habits. Speedy could as his moniker illustrated, move pretty darn fast for a turtle. Daisy was nothing like her name. She as we had probably incorrectly assumed was more likely a he and had a very bad attitude. Daisy had bitten off Hardshell’s tail and terrorized the poor guy incessantly. The misnamed turtle also had a craving for freedom. Of all the turtles Daisy was continually on the lookout for an escape, possibly due to his close proximity to the freedom march of the turtle escapee. Hardshell was always the more mild mannered of the three but had become increasingly shy after Daisy’s attacks and was more prone to being “closed up” in his shell.

I dug around the entire enclosure looking for Daisy after the raccoon raid and finally came to the conclusion that Daisy was either hooked up with Hardshell II or gruesomely being attacked by the raccoon family living in the viaduct under our driveway. Knowing Daisy so well, I guessed he’s on the way to fathering a couple of baby box turtles and left at least one raccoon scarred for life.

 I gamely smiled at Gabrielle, “Boy do I know turtles”. She laughed at my stories and we assumed this was some odd moment of mind melding on the scope of Spock in Star Trek. A few years later we found that this first discussion of turtles was actually setting the stage and connecting the dots for another more difficult task.  We had finished a treatment and were getting ready to say our good byes, but I noticed that Gabrielle looked a little lost so I asked her what was going on.
 “I’m not sure, but The Universe was trying to tell me something. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.” Gabrielle is usually very forthcoming about the messages she receives during our sessions, so I figured it must have been pretty obscure for her not to elaborate further.

A few days later she called me during her vacation to Florida.
“Aren’t you on a beach and why are you calling me when you should be relaxing?” I asked after answering the call.
“The turtles won’t shut up and if I don’t tell you something I won’t be left alone to enjoy the rest of my trip.” She responded in a very agitated voice. Between regular people this would sound like a crazy conversation, but Gabrielle and I were getting used to our wacky shorthand.
“Turtles are talking?” I asked. She followed an exasperated snort with,
“First there were turtle visions and now my dad handed me a blow up turtle for the kids and then a turtle walked through their yard. I got a message the other day with you and I was uncomfortable telling you about it and ever since then there have been turtles everywhere. I figure that if I tell you what I’m supposed to tell you the turtles will give it up,” now breathless she stopped speaking. Cautiously I said,
“Okay, let me hear it.” A few, what seemed like thousand beats later she quietly said, “What about the drinking?”

Ouch, that was unexpected and yet not. Not, because I had been obsessing about my latest trend of drinking away my feelings and The Universe was very canny about hitting my newest sweet spot. Ouch because I wasn’t really keen on telling people I liked to drink for its anesthetizing qualities. There was silence on the line as we both waited for how this was going to play itself out.

“Gabrielle, you can tell me anything, no matter how personal. And I needed to hear that.” Telling her I was okay with her revelations brought a sigh of relief from her.
“I was worried that you might feel uncomfortable with this and I kept telling myself that I would be crossing a line by saying something so personal.” I responded with,
“What’s up with turtles?” We both laughed and vowed to keep ourselves open to those moments that involved The Great Shelled Ones.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tao Teaches Pi

Photo by Dakota

Being a craniosacral therapist has opened a window into full circle moments.  In many sessions a person will experience a re-creation of an event that caused dysfunction or pain to be introduced into the body.  As wacky as it sounds, a person's body may need to visit a past event to release a trauma.  Witnessing this phenomena has caused me to be hyper-aware when the same situation is occurring in my daily life.

My husband was kissing me good bye through the open access door to the garage a mite too long and our terrier Pi took the momentary diversion and ran to the driveway.  Under normal circumstances I would call him or tempt him with the word "treat" and he would come back into the house under his own steam.  However on this particular morning our extra large four legged neighbor "Tao" decided to bark a greeting.

Tao is a few months new to the block and we were previously acquainted due to his stay at a local animal shelter that our family volunteers at once a week.  We recognized each other during one of my yard excursions and had a brief reunion a week or so ago.  His name at the shelter was Bear and I remembered him as a friendly energetic dog, though not fond of his kennel mates. 

The smaller pair of terriers we reside with, are obsessed with the newcomer's daily activities.  The older more aggressive of our two is Maggie and she doesn't like sharing or strangers and is all of 9 pounds, though my husband has said that if she was carrying the weight of a large dog she'd scare the crap out of him.  Pi is younger, more curious and to Maggie a huge pain in the ass.  Having to share her household with him has made her cranky most of the time, but interestingly she doesn't like sharing him with other dogs, which means that Pi rarely has the occasion to have any four legged visitors. 

The names of our dogs are also relevant to the story, Maggie and Pi, shortened and grouped together becoming "MagPi".  These two maniacs are loud, piercing and without an off button.  When they get excited anyone in range of hearing gets equally excited trying to shut them up, which only makes the noise louder and for an interminable duration.

Being that the neighbor dog was barking and that Pi has no friends outside of his bad ass older sibling, the cake batter was set.  Pi took off across the street and Bill and I had a bad case of flashback, transported to an altercation between our beloved Bonni and another large white dog who coincidentally had lived with the same people in the house across the street.

There are ten other houses on our street each containing humans and at this period of time a few dogs. Bonni never showed any interest in visiting neighbors of either species, unless it involved trotting by a fenced dog and showing off her freedom. If that could be construed as mean, that’s the only mean thing I ever saw her do to anyone. Rude and inconsiderate may be more accurate than mean, and her prancing as she paraded by was a show worth volumes. The smugness would radiate from her body and she’d grin at me as if to say, “I love this so much”. Bonni’s perfectly proportioned face had the finishing touch of bottom center teeth that overlapped. It seemed like nature was trying to show the perfection in the imperfection. My teeth had the same cross over and each time she smiled it proved to me that we were bonded genetically as well as spiritually.

One dog was particularly avoided. Her name was Grandee and she didn’t know how to stay in her own yard and appeared to dislike Bonni with a passion. She was also crazy. That’s just my opinion, but I’d wager money that she was psycho. The two dogs had never met, so I’m assuming that this was hate on sight and had nothing to do with anything. Kind of like when someone is stopped in a car at a red light alongside of you and he or she will give you a glare, just because. In the case of the stranger you both drive off confused at the venom, usually never to see or think of each other again. For Grandee, she bided her time, until the perfect opportunity arrived to take her hatred into a physical confrontation.

Some friends were sledding on our hill with the twins and Bonni was keeping me company, as I made sure no one ended up in traction or with an injury so severe we lost our home in a lawsuit. As the kids whizzed by I noticed a large white object moving stealthily through our yard. In unison Bonni began putting herself into a position of protection in front of the playing children. The two dogs were doing a dance of chess. Grandee moved towards the humans and Bonni cut off her route. Neither dog made a sound until Grandee declared checkmate and made a quick cut straight at Bonni.

The sounds of the growls coming from Bonni were ferocious and more dog-like than anything I’d ever heard her make in the past. The white dog was larger by half and her head was enormous. Not thinking just reacting, I put myself between the dogs and pulled Bonni’s neck out from between Grandee’s clamping jaws. I raised 40 pounds of dog by her collar, as I kicked and punched Grandee all the while screaming for help. Finally the neighbors arrived to take their lunatic pet home and my mom came from the house to help me get Bonni to safety.

Much later, after I found puncture wounds on Bonni’s throat, after we visited the vet and I stopped shaking, Bonni and I curled up together on our bed. Her instinctive protection of the children and my matching protection of her had brought us further into each other souls. We lie there spooned thanking the heavens, each in our own way, for the magic of our synchronicity. 

Both Grandee and Bonni have moved on from this lifetime, but I felt their spirits alongside us as Bill and I raced across the street after Pi. 
"Pi! Come! Treat!" With each shout, Pi never slowed his step, I don't even think the words made it past the ear drum to the brain. He was running on adrenalin and probably figured he may never get a chance like this again. The one shot wonder was going to make the most of this amazing moment. He leaped and pranced his piercing greetings circling the bigger dog with excitement and perhaps joy.  The small and very stupid Pi stood in front of the large and apparently gracious Tao yapping like mad.  Obviously Pi had not been taught the lesson about crossing onto a strangers turf and picking a fight.  Thankfully Tao looked rather amused at the rat terrier's incessant barking and pogo stick jumping in front of his more graceful form. 

Pi however is not a dog to take no for an answer and began making little pushes closer and closer until Tao began to make moves so the runt would move away.  Each time Tao would move towards Pi he would make a mad dash back towards me with his tail between his legs and his ears pinned back, coming within inches of being caught and then dashing back to confront the large white dog.  The comedy routine became a farce when Bill tried lunging at the sprightly Pi and lost his footing on rain soaked grass, splaying out behind the quickly retreating heels of our maniac dog.

Tao took off towards the back of the property trying to outrun Pi and then suddenly turning on him, startling him back to where we stood.  It began to appear that the neighbor dog was in fact trying to get his guest to head our way so that he may be caught.
This was not Grandee and Bonni fighting to the death, this was Tao helping my stupid dog to the edge of his property, much like a drunk being assisted to a cab after staying over long at a party. 

The benevolent Tao reached his gracious max and made a more aggressive push at Pi, synchronized with my finally finding the right word,
"Stay!"  and he did.  Grumbling, giggling, squishing in soaked shoes across the street, the three of us went home, all the while being serenaded with bark good byes from our helpful neighbor.

Maggie was none too happy to have missed the action and made her feelings known upon our return, nipping at Pi, jump-pushing me and yapping back at the interloper who continued to say "Thanks for coming!"

As I was running out the door, being now overly late for an appointment, Bill was dropping out of muddy clothes and the dogs were making sure that everyone had all of their parts; the sense of Bonni and Grandee was all around me.  The misperception between the dogs of that long ago event had come full circle.  Bill and I had two uninjured dogs at home, Tao was a wise new neighbor and in some way Bonni and Grandee had come to bring us all a moment of peace and laughter, offering healing to an old wound.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stuck On Neutral

Photo by Dakota

Neutral sounds like such a boring thing.  A car in neutral doesn't go anywhere, when a dog is neutered there are no puppies and the color neutral has none, (color that is).  So when the instructor said the objective of a good Craniosacral therapist is to remain neutral I thought he was insane or boring.

     "What the hell is he saying?!"  

This was asked of my good friend and fellow snickerer Betty.

     "He's saying we care too much I think."  

At this point I believe we considered a full body tackle, but instead continued whispering and writing notes.

     "How can we do the work if we don't care about them getting better?"  

I shot back.

     "Look, the guy is a cold fish, who cares what he thinks Deb.  Maybe it works for him, we just work differently."  

We engaged in our version of judgemental tennis for the majority of class though did concede several times the guy had a great set of hands for therapeutical purposes.
     Four years later I continued to wrestle with neutral.  In my work it became a daily struggle to find a place not involving an end game.  When someone came to see me because of a long term physical issue I didn't see how it possible to be in a place of not caring how the session turned out.  What I soon learned is that it's not about caring, it's about leaving open any outcome.
     In my home life I would describe myself as someone who likes things a particular way, other members of my family would call me controlling and judgmental.  I prefer my version for obvious reasons.  On any given day I'd find myself needing someone to be something other than what they were at the moment.  Inevitably this meant I wasn't able to enjoy the person the exact second they were in front of me.  Then I read a book by Eckhart Tolle called, The New Earth. My expectations were minimal and was surprised when upon finishing the tome felt the need to repeat once again, 

     I am human. I don’t know everything. 


     When is the human fallible thing going to stick?

While relearning to live in the moment, I say relearning since we are definitely born with this skill, (ever see a kid fixated on a snail?), I also tried out Mr. Tolle’s other ideas as well, one being attachments to things, people and outcomes. Pondering the concept of attachments I looked through my emotional junk drawer. There were people, namely my husband and children I would describe myself as desperately attached, obsessed even about their existence. In my experience, once attachment to an individual occurs there comes the opportunity to create deep and penetrating tendrils of emotional history with the potential to become the sixty pound back pack of pain carried throughout life. 

     Is it possible for a person to have an emotional connection to another soul and not become attached?

The Dalai Lama voiced the same message in a documentary.  I could see the dangerous path of being overly attached to things or emotions.  In the cases of helicopter moms injecting themselves so completely into their children’s lives there is no division between them or when a partner consumes a spouse in what is mistakenly construed as love; but carrying a child for nine months does carry the attachment of an umbilical cord doesn't it?  If the Dalai Lama was answering my question he would undoubtedly say, “But the child must be born and the cord cut for both mother and child to live.”
Though connected through genetic structure and spiritually, we must each live our piece of the journey separately. On the day of my death I will investigate the next stage quite utterly alone. If to truly guide my children towards their own wisdom, then I must free them to discover their path without tendrils of emotional enslavement from me. It is a representation of acting as a juror of my own experience.  Sitting in the courtroom of life without a lean one way or other, witnessing the evidence.  

     How is this possible if bad things happen?

That is exactly when neutral is most profound.  Events are merely aspects of life, neither good nor bad, humans in motion interacting with human foibles.  

     Doesn't that mean people who do terrible things get a pass?

When someone steals from another, a life, a pen, a goat, they are stealing from all.  As such, in my part of the world, there is a flawed judicial system which can only work if jurors are seated with an open mind.  Once the evidence is heard, judgement must be rendered as the law states, innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Pretty tough objectives in that statement, with long reaching consequences if not followed.  
     As a spirit having a physical existence there is pain, laughter, snot, agony, beauty, terror, hell and rainbows.  The object is to find the calm spot in the middle, neutral.  It means holding life with an open thought.  In my work that would look like being a facilitator in a body's process towards healing; whatever way that body chooses.  If I choose in foolishness a person should "get over it" and be done with pain, the soul on the table may not be ready or in fact may have a better plan.  There is no way of knowing my own long term plan, let alone another human's.  When truly in the moment there is no plan, there just IS.  It is egocentric of me to decide for friends, clients, family what may be best for their journey in this lifetime.  This does not mean disengaging as a facilitator, but to remain open to the process and just BE. 
     But isn't that wanting bad things to happen?

Being neutral means being open to ALL forms of living.  During a long period of horrifying anguish, I have been able to have equal periods of joy.  Showing that "in the moment" living is a form of art.  There is an interesting thing about being present for hardship as well as cupcakes. By opening the doors of experience to all realms of a moment I am not missing a single beat and to me that means really living for the first time.