Expanding my Mind

Since my trip to Hawaii, I’ve noticed that I’m far more outgoing than I was previously. I will shamelessly flag down people who appear interesting to me. Well, maybe I haven’t shed my inhibitions to quite that extent but I have gained confidence.

I’m sitting in Ashland, at Noble Coffee. I met with my friend Sam, whom I’ve known for about two years. She is insightful, warm and thoughtful. We don’t see each other enough.

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After we chatted for a while, she left, and I decided to hang out and write. I noticed a very smartly dressed, slim woman, with a tan New Yorker bag. She had dark hair and a snazzy short cut. She also sported a rather large octopus tattoo on her right calf, which wrapped itself towards her shin.

I could not contain myself. I felt she must be a kindred spirit to have such an image imprinted upon her body. She was at the coffee counter, and I was brash enough to clear my throat and speak out to her, a couple of times, as she was lost in her thoughts.

We spoke for a moment, and I discovered that she had gotten the tattoo in Hawaii, as when she was snorkeling, she met a lovely octopus! Apparently all of her friends that went snorkeling along with her, did not get in on the octopus experience. It seems it was especially for her.

I complimented her on her tattoo, and asked where she got the image. She told me that she is interested in pre-Minoan ceramics, and that they used the octopus motif repeatedly in their art work. She chose the image from a piece that she found online.

 

img_3699Not much is known about the people or their culture, but they predate the Greeks. They also have a lot of strong-looking women in their art.

I had never heard of these Peoples before. It was so fascinating for me that I decided to look them up. Lots of ceramic vases with striking images of octopuses emblazoned on them.

I love it when I find the courage to speak to someone new, and I am enlightened by the experience. We didn’t even exchange names in this case, but the interaction that we had taught something of value to me.

Though I am now in Ashland, where it’s too hot, smoke is filling the air from forest fires, and there is no ocean nearby, I hope that I can maintain the changes that I made in Hawaii.

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The Woman With the Sign

This morning I woke up in a bad mood. I dragged myself out of bed, then crawled back in again. I did this several times, then forced myself to get up and out of the house.

I needed coffee, as I can’t seem to function or think without it. I also needed a few other food items. I headed over to our local grocery store, the Ashland Co-op, and was shocked silly to find a vacant parking spot.

As I got out of my car, I noticed a blond woman, about my age, and my build, with a sign stating that she had cancer and needed any kind of help people were willing to give. I squinted my eyes skeptically and frowned, as I walked past her.

It’s sad to me that it’s in my nature to doubt the authenticity of people asking for money. As I perused the grocery store aisles, I could not stop thinking of her. What would I do if I had no money from my family in addition to my chronic health issues?

After collecting everything I needed at the Co-op, I waited grouchily in the 10 items or less line. I’d run into the guy at the register before, who seems to have a perpetually annoyed look on his face. Something about him rubs me the wrong way.

I gave him cash, which I normally don’t seem to carry with me. He gave me my $3.66 in change, and I decided to give the 66 cents to the woman with the sign, in front of the store. I knew it wasn’t much, but figured if she was misrepresenting herself as someone with cancer, I wouldn’t be hoodwinked, that way.

I walked up to her, and handed her the change. She appeared to be genuinely grateful for it, and thanked me. That softened me a bit. I started walking away, and she spoke to me.

“I wanted to tell you my name,” she said. “It’s Wendy.”Well, that was very weird. I told her that my name is Wendy, too, and she said that something compelled her to tell me this.

I walked up to her again, and she told me the name of the kind of cancer that she has. I noticed that she had very kind eyes, and that she looked very tired.

I got back into my car, and decided that I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I pulled out a bag of snacks that I’d bought, and gave them to her. I held her hands in my hands, and really looked at her closely.

The funny thing is that I felt like giving that change to Wendy, and interacting with her for the few moments I did, made my day. I felt like she had given me a great gift, and had opened my heart in the process.

My brother Matthew, who died 29 years ago, at the age of 16, said it well, and said it often, “Don’t judge people based on how they look.”

He was only a kid, but he knew his stuff, and I am constantly reminded of him.

Hidden Wounds

Yesterday I was sitting in the waiting room at the Vitreous Eye Center. I was diagnosed with a case of Macular Degeneration about a year ago. Every 6 months I need to get a series of medical tests, to look at the progression of the disease. The MD who sees me, Dr. Gonzales, spends about 5 minutes with me, at the end of my nearly two hours of testing.

As I waited, I was gazing in a half-stupor at the centers large aquarium of brightly colored fish. It was strange. Though Hawaii is not my home, I was missing it terribly.

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I’ve discovered that I hate doctors. Every time I see one it reminds me of all of the pain I endured through childhood with needle sticks, horrid medical tests, and hospitalizations.

I’d avoid them completely if I were able to. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been possible given my health issues.

How I wish I were snorkeling with turtles on Maui, or on the Big Island! Much preferable to being stuck repeatedly by a stupid technician attempting to find a good vein. I nearly burst out into tears yesterday, when she accidentally jabbed me so hard that I jumped a foot from my chair.

It seems that a big part of my life’s path is to be ill, and to cope with this as well as I can. Maybe I’m learning something important?

So much anger came up for me yesterday because of the pain I’ve endured. I wasn’t only dealing with physical pain, but psychological pain. So many difficult feelings came up for me around spending 2 hours being poked, and having ridiculously bright lights shined into my dilated eyes.

Especially feelings of rage, and an intense sense of the injustice I’ve had to deal with throughout most of my lifetime. Doctors knowledge is limited. They don’t care to admit that, but it is. Most often, they have not themselves experienced the nightmare of living with any kind of life threatening illness. And it shows, in the manner in which they communicate with their patients.

I struggled with tears and with anger for the entire afternoon following my appointment. I wanted to crawl in bed, rock back and forth, and soothe myself. I decided instead to go to the local park which is gorgeous, and soak my feet in the cold creek water. It was like the flow of the waters got my emotions moving, and I could not hold in my feelings any longer.

I cried by the edge of the creek for quite a while. I felt slightly embarrassed by my tears, but I knew they had to be shed.

Most people, including MD’s who should know better, have no idea of how terrifying it is for a child who is seriously ill.  Not only is the disease itself uncomfortable and a struggle to cope with, but the medical tests and the lack of empathy from technicians make it unbearable.

This recent appointment reminded me of how terribly wounded I’ve been by my past dealings with the medical field. It brought up a sense of devastation and loss, that struck me at my core.

It made me remember the powerlessness of being a child who is subjected to misery with little comprehension of why.

It also reminded me of how many of us carry hidden scars within us which are never exposed to the light.

 

 

 

 

The Insecurity of Being Single

It used to be that I’d date just about anyone to have someone to go out with on a Friday night. I had boyfriends that treated me badly. Boyfriends that I couldn’t communicate with. Boyfriends who most likely cheated on me.

Somehow, it always seemed better than being alone.

I believe that many people, women especially, feel this kind of insecurity about being single. It makes sense. If we listen to the society that surrounds us, we are meant to be part of a couple, part of a family. It can be quite lonely having to walk your own path without a partner beside you.

At the same time, it’s easy to devalue oneself, and to live a life without examination, when you never have the opportunity to be on your own.

I’ve put up with a lot of poor treatment from men, because I was afraid of being without one. What’s funny is that in the past 6 months since my relationship ended, I’ve noticed that mostly I’ve been happier and more confident, than I was beforehand.

There are nights where I feel lonely. Where I don’t quite know what to do with myself. Nights where there is yearning for companionship.

In the past I’ve fallen apart when relationships of mine ended. I’ve felt so overwhelmed with pain and fear, that I’ve been unable to cope.

As I’ve grown, and learned to see my own value, it’s become easier to not be fixated on finding a boyfriend. I don’t know if I want to be single for the rest of my life, but I am enjoying my freedom. I am feeling enriched by my ability now, to focus on myself, to focus on what moves me.

The passion that I’ve felt in some of my relationships with men has been eclipsed by the passion that I’m experiencing now for living. Or perhaps it’s more a satisfaction, or appreciation for being in a place where I enjoy being alone.

I always wanted men to like me, and would go to extremes to be ‘attractive’. I would sometimes pretend to be someone else, become the actress for these men I dated. Anything to ‘make’ men want me. Even if it meant giving away a part of myself, and lying to myself about what I truly needed.

I don’t want to go to that place again. I know that I will have to be vigilant. It’s easy to get pulled in the wrong direction, to forget oneself. I’m enjoying getting to know myself better. It’s a gift to remember who you really are. I’m doing my best to befriend myself, and to be loyal to myself.

Whether I’m single or with a mate, I hope that I can remember that what is most important is that I like myself and I appreciate the person I’ve become.

Understanding Who We Really Are

 

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Me and my mom’s brother Woody several years ago…

I’m going to be 50 on September 21st, and I’m still working on this one. I am reminding myself today, of how far I’ve come in my lifetime. It’s so easy to look at what I haven’t done, haven’t been, haven’t accomplished. It’s easy to compare myself to my more financially successful peers, with families of their own.

The challenge is seeing myself as I truly am. Without the haze that surrounds my thinking. So much of what we think and do each day is based on habits that we’ve reinforced over our lifetimes. Undoing the damage inflicted upon us by school, health issues, physical and mental abuse is hard work.

In my case, it’s been nearly full time work. So often people have asked me what I want to do with my life. “When are you going to live?”, They imply.

The answer is that I am living. That I have deepened my awareness of myself and of human relationships to the point where I feel I’m finally making some progress. Halelluya to that!

Individuals who have not looked at themselves closely, and examined their own part in the unhappiness they experience are missing out on something essential. Therapy is not only something that helps people like myself, who have been given the label of mental illness.

You have to know and understand what you are doing, before you can begin to change it. You have to understand how you are undermining yourself. Seeing clearly what is within your power, and what isn’t, is an important part of the lesson.

Persevering and learning to be patient with yourself, is another. A tough one to learn, as you probably already know. It’s been especially challenging for myself and other self-critical friends of mine.

We are so often encouraged to push, push, push, until we are drained of everything, and can’t possibly go any farther. Are we doing anyone a favor when we deal with ourselves in this way? It’s been my experience that no is the answer.

I felt this lightness and sense of ease today, for several moments. This is new to me. How exciting and unexpected.

You can wait and wait for transformations to occur within yourself, but it is really the slow and constant movement forward that changes us. That sticks with us in a deep way.

It’s not like we get to the apex of life one day, and are ‘fixed’ completely. At least it hasn’t been that way for me. To expect it is putting a lot of pressure on ourselves, and on life to dish us up something that is largely unattainable.

Remember the age-old story of the tortoise and the hare? I’ve been thinking more and more about that tale, and about how much of a turtle I’ve been through my life. It was something I didn’t see much value in, but that is finally changing.

We need not be ashamed of who we are, or of who we aren’t. It is enough to wake up daily on this planet, and find some beauty in it, and the beauty in ourselves. Don’t look at everyone around you to figure out who you are by comparison. Look within yourself, and value the lovely person that you find.

Flower Power

There is something about sitting in my house for long periods in the air conditioning that drives me batty. Too hot to go on a walk. Too tiring to deal with the intense heat. Though the a/c is much needed and I appreciate having it, for some reason it saps my spirit. I start to feel like I’m an ant in an ant farm-totally disconnected, in an artificial reality.

I’ve mostly felt like sleeping today. The journey from Hawaii back to Medford, OR was exhausting. Being back, and in a totally different setting is tough for me. I obviously need to readjust to living here.

I made myself go outside to water my flowers, just now. It’s amazing what they can do for me. Stepping from my living room through the sliding glass door and onto my deck is sort of akin to opening a gateway to fairyland.

Many of my plants dried out while I was away, which is sad. It got as high as 115 degrees one day. I had caring friends look after them, but I suppose the plants missed me, and just couldn’t take the heat.img_3665

The plants that are alive are doing pretty well. Something about attending to their needs picks me up out of the dumps, and makes me feel more alive. Just looking at the awesome pinks, oranges and yellows of the petals is enough to make me smile.

I’ve been an artist for many years, but I’ve never been able to capture the pure colors of nature. A watercolor painting of an orange flower just doesn’t have the same impact as the real thing. I’d like to think that it’s not just that my art skills aren’t developed enough, that I feel this way.

The color in nature is never garish, in the way a painting can be. Sometimes, when I gaze outside at the scenery, I feel like giving up on creating art completely. How can I possibly compete with the awesome beauty that surrounds me?

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Learning to Ground Myself

I don’t know about you, but I seem to spend a lot of time swimming around in my brain. Thinking the same thoughts over, and over, and over. Often I feel that my feet aren’t connected to the ground. That I’m practically floating in space, above my body.

No, I’m not having a near death experience. Perhaps I don’t eat properly, and my blood sugar takes a dive. Or I keep regurgitating and swallowing information in an effort to solve the problems in my life. Or I’m in my air-conditioned home for too long, and I turn inwards, forgetting about the natural beauty all around me.

One of the many things that I like so much about Hawaii, is that I feel much closer contact to the earth when I’m there. Swimming in the ocean, walking in the wet sand, listening to the tree frogs chirping at night all contribute to making me feel like I’m an integral part of life. I’m part of the whole of the universe and everything in it.img_3316

Having been subjected to a chronic illness for most of my life, I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with my body.

Something in me shys away from the practical needs of feeding it, keeping it clean, etc.. I do shower almost daily, but at times even that feels like an effort.

My body has suffered so much pain. I’ve dealt with this as best as I can, but often my methods are maladaptive. I do my best to ignore my body as much as possible, normally. Perhaps in part because I have put in such an effort to distance myself from the unpleasant sensations that come from being ill.

I’ve been reading a lot online, about turtle medicine, as I now have a sea turtle tattoo emblazoned on my shoulder. Turtle has a connection to both the heavens and the earth, but she is very grounded and grounding as a spirit animal. She is warm and nurturing and self-sufficient. In several ancient cultures there are images of her carrying the world on her back.

I seem to be easily drawn out of myself, and one of my challenges is to remain tethered to my physical body. Being an artist and a writer, I spend a good amount of time in my imagination. And too much time on my computer.

Remembering to go out on my deck, when it’s under 100 degrees, to gaze at the surrounding mountains, and rock in my rocking chair can be helpful. Walking barefoot in the grass, or anywhere out in nature brings me home to myself. Eating can do it too. img_3435-1

As I’m writing I’m realizing that I am more used to being disconnected from the physical, and from my physical body, than I am familiar with living rooted in it. Practical daily activities have always challenged me. I’d rather just read fiction, ponder spirituality, and draw with bright colors, than do meal planning, and cook.

I believe that I came into close contact with 4 sea turtles in Hawaii for a reason. That I chose to tattoo my body with my drawing of a sea turtle for a reason.

I think turtle wants me to call to the earth more often. To nurture my body. To care more about feeding myself plain and simple food that is sustaining. To remind me to come back to myself when I am dreaming, caught between waking and sleeping life.

Also to remind me that my home is wherever I am. Being present and grounded in physicality has not been easy for me. I am wondering if a good part of my healing will come when I realize just how key taking care of myself well truly is.

My mother has loved to cook, for a long time now. She is an excellent cook, and she draws a great deal of pleasure from feeding her family and friends. I’d like to bring some of my mother’s joy in feeding others, into feeding myself. I’d like to develop a relationship with my body that is healthier. Meal planning, grocery shopping, and eating good food is what I want to focus on now.

Maybe, with practice this will come more easily to me. Perhaps, one day,  I’ll learn to find a sense of joy from feeding myself, like my mother does. She always fed me and cared for me well. Now it’s time for me to do the same for myself.