Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Obligatory New Year's Post

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more
In my life I love you more

~ In My Life, The Beatles

I am not one for quoting Beatles' lyrics even though I love so many of their songs, sung by other people, but this one has been in my head for a bit. This post is about loss. 2010 was a difficult year. So many things up and went. And not that I didn't see them coming or even invite some of them in, but endings are hard no matter who you are.

I've always fancied myself as being good with change - but I am not. I fear it. I try to pretend it is great, fine, necessary, helping me evolve. But secretly I curl up into a ball and die a little every time. Often feeling overwhelmed but not able to heal myself at that moment so I "DO" whatever needs to get done and I put on a happy face. And I can only do that for so long, usually as long as I need to to get through the transition period, and then I fall. I retreat to bed, to writing, to sadness, to somewhere so I can heal a bit and then I attack the feelings and work through them. This process can be unproductive in real life and so I have back-burnered feelings of "change fear" and loss for decades! Because there is of course, laundry. And a lot of that is self-preservation because dealing with the pain at the moment would have been overwhelming and also utterly useless because I don't know what I am feeling immediately. What Kubler-Ross stage of grief I am in.

Right at this moment, with pretty much every loss I had this year, I am in a place of acceptance. Knowing full well that at any moment I can instantly be plunged back into anger. That is the risk of being alive and human. And I considered going through and enumerating my losses but I don't think there is any need for that. I have written and cried myself out on them. Suffice it to say that they did not kill me - so obviously they made me stronger.

I have been feeling optimistic about the coming year. Even though my personal new year and sequence of change, starts back in August, I think 2011 will be a good time. Initial fears of moving away and on are gone. I have settled into my new surroundings and am developing an action plan for the next step. And I am being honest with others and most importantly myself and the kids when things are not going well. And that is ultimately all we can do - the best we can in each moment.

Bits of melancholy still exist. And anger and frustration. But through all of that I remember that there is sun, there is warmth, there are chocolate chip cookies! So I am giving myself patience and affection this coming year. Gifts to me. And there is always the next second, the next breath to make another choice. Like right now - I am going to say good bye to you all and go and wash my dishes.

As always I wish you love, tribe.

Happy New Year!

in peace,

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Draw Close and Know That I am G-d

Last June I wrote a post about intimacy and my quest to have it in my life in a way that is meaningful and fulfilling. And Jessica responded to that post with an incredibly thoughtful comment, here is part of it: there is some spiritual practice in learning how to become very close to the other.

There is also always some skein of self wrapped up in the other, a self that appears only when the other is present, even in our imagination.

Oh, my mind and heart have been walking circles around this one for months now. Finally seeing a glimpse of clarity today. That is the way enlightenment works, I am told. It comes in glimpses and snatches of clarity. Never all at once. And certainly never staying permanently because of course there is laundry.

But building intimacy IS a spiritual practice. It does require you to go and meet yourself and trust in something greater than your eyes can glimpse all at once. And even those of us who claim to not hold true to a G-d or any spiritual practice - we do this. We open our hearts to another, to an idea, to a path of life. We let G-d in we just call it something else. And that is fine. Not trying to convince the atheists that there is a G-d in their ontology because they love their children or their work (I am looking at you Karen Carr).

This is the moment where I whip out a definition from Wikipedia. We in academia do that - we look for other people's thoughts to back up our own. Perhaps if enough people have had the same thought then ours is legitimate. Not going to do it. I am going to stand firm on my own definition of spirituality - a connecting, communing, fellowship with something outside of or within ourselves that requires us to trust or believe without proof in it and in possibility. Now, that also sounds like faith and I posit that those two things cannot exist without each other. Intrinsic parts of the other's definition.

Where did all the "deepness" suddenly come from you may ask? Well my obligatory New Year's Post will be about good-byes. I can't help it. But on the road to good-bye I started thinking about all the ways and moments I have said hello. When you are at the end of things it is hard to remember the good times, the giddy times, the lack of sleep staying up all night talking times, and love times. When you go through darkness it is hard to remember if the light exists. You have to work at it. Be conscious of saying to yourself every moment - there is light - I know I have seen it. You start to believe that you have never seen the sun and not only that but that there is no sun. You believe that you will never be happy again. That you will never feel love again - and that maybe, just maybe, you never felt it in the first place. Your mind plays tricks on you. That is when you must go past your mind into some place deeper. Some place quieter and some place that won't lie to you. That is when you have to trust. To believe in something that you CANNOT see in this one moment. I will be happy again - because I was happy before. I will see the sun again - because I know it exists, I have seen it before, I have felt its warmth. That is when you have to draw close and know that you are G-d - that you are creating your personal reality right at that moment - and it can be "heaven" or it can be "hell."

This last year has been difficult for a lot of people that I know and love. Me included! I realized it most clearly when I re-read my Facebook status updates from the last year. Separately - not too bad. Collectively - overwhelmingly sad. And I was quite sure that I would never see the sun again on many days. This day included. But I know joy.

My wedding day when I arrived beside Ilya with tears in my eyes and he reached in his pocket and said, "Here, I got you some tissues because I thought you might cry." And proceeded to dry my tears.
The moment I found out about each of my pregnancies
The birth of each child
My first professional directing review
The first time I taught a class
The first student who said, "Thank you."
When someone I deeply respected said to me: "Keisha you are a good director, but you are a gifted teacher."
Every time my kid's make a joke or someone tells me what extraordinary souls they are
Sharing a joke with my sister
Looking at the strength and beauty of my mother
Listening to music
Being warm

So many moments - we all have them. And some are huge and some are so tiny. Our beginnings. Our joy. And for someone like me who searches for highs and liminality and ecstasy in her living - it is important to remember these moments. I must keep them up front and close so that when the bad stuff shows up I am reminded that yes, "This too shall pass."

So, thank you Jessica. There is some spiritual practice in learning to be close to the other. To take the risk of looking foolish. To say what you feel and how you feel it. In my previous post on intimacy I said I wanted to know how to have that kind of intimacy. And I recognized that I would have to take the steps toward the other and not just stand there waiting for them to recognize me. We all play the game of what is appropriate and how should we act. Well, my resolution that I have been working on since my birthday (my New Year) is to live my life with reckless love. To let people know, in real time, with realness, that I love them. That I care for them and that I want to hear their heartbeat. They may get it. They may run away screaming. But I will have said it and meant it. To have more love in my life and more moments where I see that if I am G-d, I am going to have to be G-dlike (and I am thinking mostly Gospel of John, New Testament G-d with some Psalms thrown in there!)

Seeking out the best moments and the best interactions for when I am my best self. And yes, all of this is incredibly selfish and self-interested. In an effort to save what is left of myself I am going to try something new - loving. There will be regret and pain and the inevitable - well, that sucked. But I see the coming evolution as my time to go after what it is I say I want. To really embrace my spiritual practice and to live my life without fear.

The next post will be my obligatory New Year's Post and because I have to I will reflect on all that I lost this past year. And there was so much that I lost. But in an effort to pick myself up like Humpty Dumpty could not be, I am going to smooth my heart down and get on with it. Join me on the other side, or just be an interested observer.

in peace tribe,

title from a poem by Jessica Fenlon.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oh, the Indigo Girls!

I think perhaps my most profound Facebook status update EVER was this:
Anything worth saying has already been said by the Indigo Girls.
I stand by that statement.

A few years ago I had cancer. I don't have cancer anymore but I kept taking some of the medications that I began during that illness. And I realized a couple of weeks ago that it was time to move on. The one medication left with me from those days is Paxil, an anti-anxiety medication. I took a lot of meds during the hardest parts of the time, mostly pain and anti-nausea meds as well as some anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds and mood stabilizers - also known in my CA circle as: No-more-crazy-housewife-medication. But about a year after getting through cancer, and still physically recovering from the chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, my lovely husband and I decide to get a divorce. Now one might think, that is probably not the right time to go off of those anti-medications. And you would be right. My psychiatrist at the time was adamant that I stay on the meds to help ease the transition from being married to being separated. She was probably right. But one night in the middle of all of this I forgot to take the Paxil. And then I forgot again and then I forgot again and then all hell broke loose. I was nauseous, dizzy, in pain and crying uncontrollably. I hadn't been that crazy before I took the medicines. Ilya lovingly went to the internet and told me that I had "Paxil withdrawal", WTF? For real? Withdrawal symptoms from the medication that was supposed to make me feel less anxious. I was so sick that I vowed NEVER to forget to take Paxil again.

Well, that didn't last and I again forgot to take the Paxil since it was the only medication I was taking along with my "vitamins" it was easy to forget. And then the withdrawal. I felt chained, literally, to this medication. Like it was it or me. And it was winning by a long shot! Well, last month I went to refill the-ole Paxil prescription and the pharmacist told me it was $90. Ummm, excuse me? Yes, your husband's insurance has changed and the medication price has gone up as a result. Hmmm, let me see, feed my kids or take the Paxil? I got the Paxil because I was so terrified of the results of not taking it. Afraid of the medication that was supposed to make me feel better. I stopped taking the Paxil two weeks ago after reading up (on the internet, of course) about how long the side effects would last and even how long it would take me to gradually come off of it (3 months, by the way, which translates to $270). So, I just stopped taking it. Told my doctors and didn't let them talk me out of it. Yup, I am dizzy, nauseous, and constantly crying. And then this morning I woke up a little less dizzy, a little less sad and I remembered the Indigo Girls:

up on the watershed
standing at the fork in the road
you can stand there and agonize
till your agony's your heaviest load
you'll never fly as the crow flies
get used to a country mile
when you're learning to face
the path at your pace
every choice is worth your while

stepping on a crack
breaking up and looking back
til every tree limb overhead just seems to sit and wait
til every step you take becomes a twist of fate
~ Watershed

This has always been one of my favorite songs - and anyone who knew me at Lawrence freshman year knew every word to this song whether they liked it or not! But my (and I cannot pick one, it would be like picking a favorite child, which I can only do on certain days!) favorite lyric is this:

Every five years or so I look back on my life and have a good laugh

Remembering one of the next lines:
But ending up where I started again makes me wanna stand still.

Not this time.

And I realized another thing, so much has changed. So much of my life is not the same as I tried to sing this song the way I did when I was 20 and my voice cracked and gave out on me, reminding me that yea, I don't have that vocal chord anymore. But would I change the Keisha standing here in all of her bruised, saggy, cut, hurt, joyful, triumphant-glory for the Keisha of 20 years ago? No. Simply. This one is so incredibly beautiful.

When you're learning to face the path at your pace, every choice is worth your while.

Thanks Amy and Emily.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

For Kare O' the Mountains

i love you
i love you
i love you

This is about the darkness that surrounds us and finding light in the midst of it. I can often find less than concrete things to hold onto when I am sad. Ideas. Concepts. The stuff of four years of liberal arts college. But in the midst of that four years of college-ing I met someone who altered my perception. Who altered my world view. If only she knew.

When I first met Karen I did not like her. Stop, I have already told her this truth. I was young, she was young and we were both hard-headed and convinced that our world view was the "truth." Learning later the true relativity of truth brought us together. Karen and I bumped heads in a Religious Studies class. A moment that escaped her but stuck in my craw for over 20 years, seriously. But Grace is brilliant in Its existence. That moment stuck with me. Why, there were a whole bunch of people I didn't get a long with in college whose names and faces I have long since forgotten. Not Karen. Somewhere in the future we were to meet again and Grace would soften my heart and open my eyes enough to embrace my love of this extraordinary woman.

Facebook - yes, of course. Karen and I somehow got reconnected and found verisimilitude. And along with her she brought a reconnection with other loves from my past and people I had managed to walk past for four years and never really "see." Thank you Grace.

This post is about the darkness. The winter is hard on all of us who live in the northern hemisphere, perhaps even those who live in the southern hemisphere but I don't know any of them personally! We get dark and somber and miss the sun and are not quite sure what to do to keep our spirits up and our outlook positive. Even our food gets heavier. Our bodies somehow crumple up underneath darkness' weight and we hide ourselves beneath coats, hoodies, blankets, bad moods and depression. It helps to keep a light in the window to welcome our true selves back home. Karen is my light this winter. I think of the 20+ years that I was without her wisdom, her smile, her warmth, her lessons, her courage, her. And I am hopeful that I can make it through the next three months. Look at the gift given to me after all that time.
Life brings us all that we need when we need it. And I hold onto this trope with Kare's face on the outside of it this winter.

She has amazed me with her courage. Going home again and finding herself and her love and then going forward and accomplishing the thing she thought at one point she could not. We are stronger than we know. So, here is an exercise for us this winter, loves. Find something you adore or someone who brings you joy, someone who's journey shows you strength and movement through the dark and put their face on your winter. Allow them to lift you up when you can't do it for yourself.

If I may be so bold and selfish I am going to allow Karen to hold me up this winter.
And as I started this post, i love you.

be well tribe.

in peace