Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Join Hands

 In Kenya, we stayed in the Ngong hills, outside Nairobi. Our job while we were there was to teach at the local public school. We were staying on a small farm, surrounded by other small farms. So we saw lots of goats, cows, sheep and shepherds. The shepherds often had the tribal ear plug earrings (note to hipsters: when you don't have the huge ear bolts in, you can wrap your ear lobes around your upper cartilage. Clever), walking sticks and cell phones. 

It was a 45-minute hike to school each day. The only thing is, all the cattle paths looked the same. Even if you knew the general vicinity you were heading, one wrong cow path and you'd add 20 minutes to your trip. 

Luckily, the local kids were happy to escort us. Apparently, two white ladies huffing across the hills was unusual enough that the kids from school tracked down where we were staying. Kids would hide in the bushes and giggle and watch us. If they were brave, they would answer back 'How are YOU?'

Because clocks were in short supply this was handy in the morning.

A steady stream of kids meant we were probably late to take a 'shower' (aka sponge bath al fresco). 

We did a homestay with a local family. One night the six-year-old grandson Alex spontaneously busted out a Maasai song and dance for us while we waited for dinner. We were so floored, we tried to think of a song to sing for him. We couldn't think of anything to capture the essence of America, of our spirit. So we sang 'If you're happy and you know it...' Which was even a little bit disappointing to the kids.  

* * *

The hikes to school became such a beautiful part of the day - being outside and saying hello to cows and goats and birds and shepherds and flowers and trees. And the kid crowds began to swell, fighting over who got to hold our hands. 

The first time it happened, I hoped that no one would look at me because I'd started to cry. 

The kids would usually carry walking sticks to school, just like the men. 
One morning, we noticed one little dude carrying a little plug of a stump. 'Oahhh' we said, 'he got stuck with a bad walking stick,'
No no, one of our hosts explained.  It's polite to bring firewood to someone's house if they are going to feed you. Since the kids got fed at lunch, they were bringing wood for the fire. So little dude was sharper than we were.

There was one little guy, Paul, couldn't have been more than a first grader. 

The kids would use the English words they knew with us. So we'd go through 'eyes', 'nose', 'mouth'. After saying 'mouth' I'd make a 'mwah!' noise for exaggeration.
I felt like the most gifted comedienne ever to walk the planet, the way that Paul would laugh. And we'd do it over and over, his grubby, lunchy hand in mine as we sweated our way home. 

A few days after the 'Happy and You Know It' misfire, I thought of the right song to sing on the walk to school. And this video (while grainy) sums up the feeling beautifully.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A travel update. Truly.

I've been planning a trip to Kenya for the last few months. Much to my chagrin, I've been dwelling on it and getting organized about it. I told everyone that I was doing a 'practice pack' this weekend (Nerd. I know).

Next week, after a few sweet days in Amsterdam, my friend Molly and I will be headed to Nairobi.

We'll be volunteering for two weeks in a remote village. No electricity or running water.
I've got my vaccinations (yellow fever, typhoid, hepatitis A&B, meningitis, tetanus, dip-tet, polio booster) and my anti-malaria medication.

When people ask why I'm going, I've haven't been able to put my finger on it. But one morning I drew this picture, which articulated it for me.
I'm hungry to look into a different world that seems wild to me. Even if it's only a threat to my email addiction.
I'm grateful for the opportunity of adventure - going somewhere unpredictable and unknown and seeing what I can learn.
(Right now) I look forward to finding comfort outside my zone.
I'll be back in a few weeks. Hopefully with a few tales to tell.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

I am selfish

I went to the gym to go swimming. 
The need to exercise had been building for days.

So much so, that when I saw a friend I wanted to talk to, I kept one eye on the clock; I had a finite window before my next commitment.

When I got to the locker room, I overheard that someone had passed out, so paramedics were coming. 

The locker room is atwitter about the woman who's passed out. She'd apparently been in the hot tub for about an hour. 

Suit on. No paramedic sightings. I shower and stride towards the pool. Two lifeguards are beside an older woman on a stretcher with an oxygen mask.

A little background: another friend who belongs to the same gym told me she'd been horrified when she'd gotten faint when trying to sweat out a cold, because when someone saw that she was feeling unwell, they called 911. 

So yeah, maybe I was a bit brazen about the woman who'd passed out. 

Since I wasn't able to wait with a runner's block for the pool to open, I stomped into the sauna. I could tell that my impatience was putting people off. 
And then the tears came. 

The other woman left and then tears turned into sobs. 

There's something freeing about throwing a temper tantrum - you've already gone to the worst place, may as well crack it open. 
What I found were deep cries from my belly. I'd been pushing through everything without even talking to myself. 

Once I was able to purge all the piled up frustrations, I could be a person again. 

When I got out of the pool, I saw the woman who'd passed out. Her daughter was helping her bathe. This moving gesture and my hot shame for not seeing her in a human situation made my tears brim again. 

I was about to inquire after the woman when I heard the daughter say...

 It's an ongoing lesson. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Goodnight Danny

On Wednesday, I had to say goodbye to my dog Danny.
You may have seen him in a few posts...

we walked the neighborhood twice a day so he was usually my companion during my observations...

Working at home, we were together almost all the time.

So I could always pop in for a pet or a dog mindmeld. 

I'm getting used to his absence. No one bays when an ambulance goes by. There's no jingle of metal tags when I open the back door.

While I have lots of memories, I believe he'd most like me to keep intact the circle of love between our hearts, so that I can share with others. 

Good boy.

Danny aka Bubbas, Pally Panda, Danny Boy
2005 - 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Birthday Measures

Every year before my birthday, like clockwork, I get sad.

It's not because I'm getting older.

It's more looking at what I've accomplished, and then reevaluating what's really important to me. And if I'm closer to bringing that to fruition.  Existential stuff.

I hadn't noticed the effect of this pattern until my friend was talking about his birthday parties (which precede my birthday by a week)

I'd been voluntarily grounding myself before my birthday, feeling sad.

It's funny that I tend to be so measureful about time and accomplishment. 
I've never said 'You only go around once.' 
If I did, I would feel guilty watching Bravo docudramas. 

I do believe down time is underrated

My next birthday is near. 
But this year I was hip to the pattern. Since I saw it coming I could anticipate and avoid the voluntary grounding.
I was among the living. And I went to my friend's birthday party. 
Instead of holing up, I was showing up.
Instead of feeling paralyzed about the past and the future, I hung out in the present.
The measureful sad was still there but it wasn't the only focus.  I simply folded it up and packed it into my purse before I went out - one piece but not the whole picture.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

String of Lights

March 11 was a strange day. I knew there was supposed to be some big astrological shift taking place that day. But I didn't think it would be so violent.
I couldn't comprehend the magnitude of an 8.9 earthquake and that buildings were still standing. Gratefully Japan has their shit together for earthquakes.
As I got ready to drive to my morning meeting, I heard tsunami warnings for San Francisco. I double-checked my route to the client site. Yes, I should be fine.

I have a serious fear of earthquakes.
As I got ready to go, my mind was pulsating between  the mundane (I should get an apple for the drive, I should make sure to dust the cat hair off my power cord) and the worst case scenario (what if Japan is just the kickoff earthquake and tsunami and the Hayward Fault is going to really rip it up next?)

* * *
But you know what? Nothing happened here.
I drove to my meeting, I met the client. It went well.
It was a sunny day. I ate my apple.
I listened to good music on the way back.
The threat of tsunami passed.
Mundane won.
Not to say there was no damage anywhere. Japan had been ravaged. Some coastal areas were a bit battered.
But since I was okay, it was my responsibility to LIVE and be GRATEFUL.

I went to dinner with great friends.
We went to a fancy southern joint.
The orange velvet chairs made me happy.
The food oozed love.
The big fancy doors were so graceful.
We could afford this spendy dinner.
It was an embarrassment of riches and I wanted to absorb it all.

The next few days as the nuclear reactor situation became grim, my anxiety returned.
Because of my rabid earthquake fear, I deliberately chose not to view any images from the quake or tsunami, as I didn't want to stock that image larder.
But I paid attention to the nuclear reactor news and the radiation.
I just felt so sad, like we really screwed the earth this time.

A friend and I went to visit the redwoods in the hills.
Huge sequoias. This park always makes me feel better, like I'm hanging around wiser (calmer) beings than myself. I had to be REALLY QUIET to hear any wisdom, but it was there. And there was even more deep below the roots.
After a couple of hours with the sequoias, I felt like things would be okay.

* * *
For the next several days, this pattern kept repeating.

Devastating sadness about all the broken hearts in Japan.

And THEN the unfurling list that I, the safe and living person could be grateful for:

  • I knew that another rain storm was coming so I was able to cut down the danger branches. 
  • I am healthy enough to do that! 
  • I am inside my house while it's raining and I'm dry! 
  • It's a scary storm but everything is fine!
  • I have a house!  

Whenever I felt sad, I could always go to my dog for the classic cheer-up, the dog mind-meld.
This seriously works.

* * *

I don't have any words of wisdom. I don't want to lose the sense of compassion over time. 

All I can say is how it's felt: like a lot of darkness with some fabulously brilliant bright spots. Like a string of lights.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Traffic Jam Between the Heart and Head

What were my patterns that I wanted to change? I had to be crafty here, because when I asked myself this question, my brain had some go-to answers. 

However, the instantaneous, gut 'knowing' I've experienced during yoga has expanded my catalog of data points.

Twists are especially good for squeezing out epiphanies.
So when a friend suggested I get some special bodywork done with the  intent of removing blocks, it made sense to me.  It wasn't as woo-woo as I'd hoped - just talking and then some massage. I mostly felt softer but didn't feel like I 'heard' anything new.

It just made me aware of my throat. 

My throat felt aggro. 

After that, my relaxation remained though occasionally my throat would start to sizzle on the sides. 
So I started to observe what started the sizzling.

Some examples:

Bikram instructors who wanted me to do poses that my body knew weren't right to do. 

As well as meeting demands set by others. 

Not that either one of these should make me homicidal. They were just symptoms that I didn't feel like I had enough authority in my life. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

All the Single Ladies - No Coats or Pillows

On a sunny winter day a new friend came over and we worked in the yard. As we excavated three months' worth of weeds, we talked about relationship stuff and she asked questions that unearthed some hibernating assumptions inside me. 

Honestly, I had sorta given up on meeting a romantic someone. She and I discussed the unnaturalness of online dating but that really, that was the best way to meet men who were also looking to connect.

My friend was so kind and complimentary that after awhile, I started to wonder why I hadn't again attempted online dating sooner. Besides the timing was good. I'd recently gone to an event where they'd taken pictures. And I now had the...

Full of confidence and optimism, I created an online profile....
...added my best picture ever
...and in the first week pretty much no responses.

I find that in situations where I feel rejected, dejected and like a complete loser the best thing to do is to compare myself unfavorably.

So I thought of my friend who had recently tried online dating and found success in a week.

After a week in the sahara, I gave up.

{Ed. note: The pictures reenacting this week - sitting on the couch eating Chicken in a Biskit crackers, then lying on the couch recovering from said crackers were too depressing to include.}

I know there's a formula to find your person. Online dating? Friends of friends? Leaving your house? All of the above? I just don't know how to crack it.

Within a few days, I began to recover. I realized it's not a black-and-white proposition: just because I'm single doesn't mean my existence has less meaning. 

The best way to describe it is this: being by myself is like sleeping without a pillow. I still have a cozy bed, but having a pillow would add a bit more cushion, comfort. 

One of my close friends is single and says all the time that she's okay being single; she loves her life. She is also my only friend that won't live anywhere that she needs to own a coat. However, she happens to love Chicago but the no-coat rule eliminates the possibility of her living there.

This reminded me, for a long time, whenever I'd stay as a guest at someone else's house, I'd always refuse a pillow: "Oh no, I don't like them. I'm really okay without one."
* * *
If I was Carrie Bradshaw (which I am gladly not and I'm sorry I have to invoke her name but I am apparently channeling her), I would say 'Are we single ladies because we have learned to live without coats and pillows?'

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