Embracing my Dark Side .. Black Panther

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The last time i posted one of my Medicine Card readings, my friend Jascia asked me which card in the deck is the one I want to draw. I didn’t really know because I haven’t read them all, but my mind immediately went to the last one in the deck, the Black Panther. For some reason, I felt the last card in the deck would be similar to the end of the book, the finish of the project, the icing on the cake or the key to my new house. Imagine my surprise this morning when the Black Panther made its way into my cards.

The reading talks about an endangered Black Panther who lives in the land of the Caddo tribe, which, ironically, is the name of my street here in Baton Rouge. The Caddo Indians are a tribe of Native Americans who lived in Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma. So I felt a connection with the Black Panther immediately. The animal is nocturnal and black in color. It is very comfortable being alone. The Medicine Cards say that black is a revered color to the red-skinned people because they consider the darkness to be the place where we all connect spiritually and explore our dark sides. In fact, the Black Panther card encourages me today to embrace the unknown. “Darkness is the place for seeking and finding answers, for accepting healings and for accessing the hidden light of truth,” the reading explains. It appears that I pulled a very powerful card today.

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I looked up the Black Panther in Louisiana just to see if they still roam this area, and it seems that there are sightings every now and then. However, the follow-up articles on most seem to concur that these are large house cats that people mistake for a panther. The news report below features a sighting that later turned out to be a large cat just like my Buster kitty.

http://www.klfy.com/category/168153/eyewitness-news-video?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=9062790

The Chinese herbs I’ve been taking are simply amazing me. I am sleeping like a dead person almost EVERY night, and I have absolutely no anxiety even though I have a lot going on. That is so unusual for me. My acupuncturist tells me that I will take these for about 3 months and then we’ll start to reduce the dosage. In Chinese medicine, the treatment should heal the problem. It is not intended that the treatment be taken for the long term. We’ll see how it goes. But, I haven’t been anxious, and I haven’t been depressed in a few weeks. That is a welcome miracle for this girl.

I’m a bit mesmerized by this Black Panther’s face on my medicine card. Her eyes are drawing me in with a promise that there is a path to healing in the darkness. Perhaps there is something to this Native American Medicine where animal archetypes are available to God to guide us along our path. I have used these cards for fun and food for thought for about 14 years. When I’m going through any kind of challenge, I’ve noticed that certain cards keep coming up over and over again. When that phase of my life is done, I may never see that card again in my daily draw. I feel sad that so many animals that once existed don’t even walk the planet anymore, or, if they do, their species is endangered. Us two-leggeds have often let our fear and arrogance kill off so much that was placed here by God from the very beginning. What kind of trade off is it to have a Taco Bell on every corner when we could have Black Panthers roaming wild to remind us that our dark side illuminates the path to God? We’ve ripped our own selves off. I would love to spend one day back in the times when spirituality was believed to be carried in the essence of the very creatures that God made.

Happy Friday, y’all. Have a great weekend. By the way, I’ve had a couple of readers ask where to buy the cards. I bought them at a gift shop in St. Joseph MI, but you can buy them on Amazon here.

My Favorite Playground … Smoky Mountain National Park

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My friend Ann is on vacation in the Smoky Mountain National Park this week. She posted a video of a bull elk and some cows on Facebook. What? I never saw elk in the Smokies when I lived in Knoxville. All I ever saw was deer.. lots of ‘em … but only deer. Ann informed me that they have re-introduced elk into the National Park in 2001 in an effort to re-establish the species in the Appalachian Mountains.

After a hike to Mt. Leconte with a group of friends.

After a hike to Mt. Leconte with a group of friends.

I lived in Knoxville for 10 years, and I spent my weekends and any free time I had in the trails, streams and meadows of that beautiful natural resource we call the Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the most visited National Park in the country with July 4 of every year being the peak time for visitors. I learned while I was there to avoid the heavy traffic summer months and focus my visits there during  non-peak times or to head around to the back of the park to the harder-to-reach and less visited trails. On Saturday mornings, they closed Cades Cove to traffic until 10 AM for bicyclists to pleasantly ride around the old homestead area without danger of being hit by cars or being suffocated by automobile exhaust. Those play times in that park are some of my best memories. In fact, when I meditate about the forest, it’s the Smokey Mountain trails that manifest in my mind.

Playing in the park with friends…

One summer I took two classes from the Smoky Mountain Field School. One was a birding course and one was on mammals. Both were taught over the weekend, and we explored the birds of the Smokies in all kinds of habitats in the birding course. Saturday night, we went on an evening owl prowl where the group identified the calls of numerous owl species and learned to call Great Horned Owls. It was fun, and I’ll never forget the great conversation we had with a couple of Great Horned Owls underneath a full moon in the middle of a deep, secluded forest.

Webcam from Purchase Knob

In the mammal workshop, we studied the black bear, and I realized that I was always looking for bear in the wrong places. While I was looking on the ground, the black bear’s habitat is in the trees among it’s preferred food source, vegetation. I wonder how many trails I’d walked completely oblivious to bear that were looking down on me from above. That Saturday night, we loaded into the back of pickup trucks and drove around Cades Cove with spotlights looking for mammals whose green eyes shone through the dense vegetation. Cades Cove has its own indigenous species of white-tailed deer, and I think we counted over 100 in the few hours of our pickup journey. We also flashed upon a family of raccoons hanging out in a tree on the side of the road. They looked down on us as if to ask what the heck we were doing disturbing them in the only quiet hours of their day. They were so cute. In that particular course, I came home with the worst case of chiggers I’ve ever had. But, I had so much fun, and I learned so much about what was going on in the mountains beyond my limited scope of awareness.

My love of the mountains always stabbed me in the heart when I drove up into the higher elevations. Although the views were beautiful, it’s in the upper elevations where the poor air quality is taking it’s toll most visibly. Automobile exhaust clings to trees and pours down into the waters of the park in every rainstorm. Some of the ‘smoke’ you see in the Smokies is natural, but increasingly the content of the ‘smoke’ is smog and pollutants. Invasive species such as the hemlock wooly adelgid pose a serious threat to the future of the park’s health. The hemlock trees in the Smokies are the trees that help keep the temperature cool, and they are the most common tree in the eco-system. The wooly adelgid found it’s way there in the 1950s, and there is no natural predator for the insect. I haven’t been to the park in many, many years, but I’m sure I could see the difference  from my last visit in 1996.

Webcam from the Look Rock

Apparently the elk disappeared from the area due to human encroachment and overhunting in the late 1700s or early 1800s. It is exciting to think they are putting them back where they belong. I hope that they can thrive. You can read more about the re-introduction here. There are problems we will never be able to solve. There have been discussions of banning cars in the Smokies for years, forcing visitors to travel on foot or on trolley. Some parks already do this, so it is not far-fetched. I personally never understood why people drive through such a beautiful environment and don’t get out of their cars except to shop or eat on a picnic table. There is so much to see beyond the pavement and parking areas. I played there for 10 years. I miss the mountains. I’d miss them incredibly if I knew I’d never see them again. Some of my best memories are of climbing rocks and boulders underneath a roaring, cascading waterfall. I was most surprised on a guided hike when I discovered that beautiful red salamanders lived under a majority of the rocks in the streams. Right under my eyes was a world of beauty and miracles that, unless I explored it intentionally, I never would have known it existed. It would have been a immeasurable loss.

 

Sunday Evening Check-In

Me and my friend Missy at the Tulane-SLU Game yesterday.

Me and my friend Missy at the Tulane-SLU Game yesterday.

What a great weekend! Well, the Lions lost last night which was a huge bummer, but the game was fun, and I loved walking around Tulane University in New Orleans. I’d never been there, and it was much more beautiful than I’d anticipated. Yulman Stadium is beautiful and modern, but the concession stands need to find a better way to manage crowds. My friend Ray and I decided to get junk food for the group, and we waited in line almost the entire 2nd quarter for some mediocre wings and chicken tenders. The fries were good, and I’d love to say the hot dog was good, but Ray ate all of it before I could even get a bite.

The Game … Click on photos for captions!!

It was an absolutely lovely evening sitting in the stands. A cool front had passed through, and, for the first time, I actually needed a light covering because I got chilly. I guess I’ve acclimated to this sweltering climate because 73 with a breeze felt chilly. When I walked Ashok after getting home at midnight, she walked out the door and started sniffing the air since the usually stifling humidity was not filtering through her nostrils. She started jumping and sniffing. It was hilarious. “I feel the same way,” I said. It felt nice this morning, too, and I worked on my computer outside at Starbucks until it started heating up again at around 11 AM. Ashok and I met a fabulous inspiring woman from Houston who had just gone through a divorce from her husband of 34 years. She looked amazing and seemed to be coping like a rock star. I shared my blog card, and I hope she’ll pay a visit soon.

My Starbucks friend, Nancy

My Starbucks friend, Nancy

The heat was back by this afternoon. I leashed up Ashok to take a walk down by the levee thinking it was going to feel much more comfortable. I quickly realized that whatever respite we had last night wasn’t around at 5:30 PM this afternoon. It was sweltering, but I got a walk in anyway. I felt like I’d been ripped off of the cooler weather that everyone had been raving about. I wouldn’t call that cool. I would call it less intense.  One of our party almost passed out yesterday afternoon because of the heat. We had to get her to lay down on the ground and apply cold compresses. I don’t know why they have outdoor tailgates for football – or even why they have football – down here until it gets cooler. I’ve spent more time sweating the last few weeks than I have been feeling comfortable, and it’s been rainy. If we’re going to have football anyway, maybe we should just be realistic and wear swimsuits. Let’s make it a beach party with a football theme. We could have little kiddy pools where people could cool off and beach umbrellas for the sun sensitive.

I napped this afternoon because I was beat after some lost sleep last week and my late night last night. I’ll be traveling this week for work, so I made a dinner of nothing but veggies and tofu to give me extra nutrition in anticipation of the crappy food I’ll get in restaurants. I roasted onions and a chunked baking potato in olive oil and topped it with sauteed tofu, onions and poblano pepper. It was very tasty, and Ashok waited anxiously to lick the bowl. That girl loves tofu. She’s also taken to eating raw baking potatoes with the same enthusiasm as she has with sweet potatoes. She walks over to the basket in the kitchen, takes one out, carries it into the living room and munches on it like it’s a bone. She’s quite the little canine vegetarian.

Dinner

Today was my favorite day of the month. I looked in the mailbox, and the new Runner’s World was staring back at me. While my potatoes were roasting I read about half of the newly designed magazine. This issue has recipes for homemade energy bars designed by chefs who have lost tons of weight by eating healthier and running. Marc Parent wrote about discovering headlamps for running and how much safer they make winter running. I think I may have to go shopping. The other evening I went for a run, and it was dark before I got back. It won’t be long now until there is no light before or after work. It will blessedly be cooler. I got all of my runs in this week, and completed a 7-miler Saturday. This week I increase to 8 miles on Sunday. I’m back in training! Y’all have a great week and try to eat something healthy tomorrow. You are worth it!

Relaxing with the fur babies at last! (That’s Bella sleeping above the pillow.)

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The Moment of Discovering Who You Are

Photo Courtesy of Carlos Palacios Photography

Photo Courtesy of Carlos Palacios Photography

I ran a 7-miler this morning. It’s the longest distance I’ve run since last November when I got injured. I left Ashok at home. It’s just too hot down here for her. It’s so hot that she won’t even get in the lake anymore to cool off. The warm water doesn’t do a thing for her comfort. So, I left her at home and went on my own. It was dark when I arrived at the levee downtown. Runners and bikers with headlamps populated the paved flat path that runs on top of the levee. It started to get daylight about the time I passed Tiger Stadium with tailgaters already populating the parking lots outside. A group of ROTC students with backpacks crossed the levee path and headed toward the bank of the Mississippi. The humidity hung heavy and dense and a slight breeze chilled my skin heavy with sweat. I fought my negative attitude about the heat and caught myself drifting off into a dream.

I was sitting in the ocean on my surfboard. The whitecaps were lapping at my knees straddled over the edge of the brightly patterned but well worn board. The sun sprinkled glitter and sparkles amid the deepest blue I’d ever seen. A seagull called overhead as if it was just a normal day. I was part of the ocean. A porpoise surfaced playfully in arcs and spirals just beyond the farthest wave. He seemed so at ease and at home in the water. I was nervous. I’d made the decision to come out and try these big waves to see if I could do it. I had gotten bored of the smaller waves toward the shore, and, even though I hadn’t fully mastered surfing, I got the urge to up the anty. Now, I was questioning my sanity. Herein lies the problem. The only way back to the shore is to surf.

Jessica in her youthful exuberance swam out and caught the first wave back to shore. She had already gotten out of the washing machine and was pulling her hair back. Lisa had surfed in awhile back and was sitting on the beach waving at me. Come on, her hand signals beckoned. I just grinned and shook my head. Me, Nancy, Jascia and Alayne were sitting in a group in the sea. So, this is what surfers do, I thought. Somehow I thought that they spent most of their time surfing, but I realized that when you get out in the big surf, the waves come less frequently. They are bigger and crazier, but you spend a lot of time waiting. We chatted about nothing in particular trying to avoid that fact that we had to catch a wave and surf it back in. It wasn’t really an option to stay out here forever. The only way back was through.

Nancy looked on the horizon, and I could see her eyeing a wave. “I want to get this over with,” she said. I watched her get up the courage. Her focus shifted to the task before her. We had practiced popping up on the beach and in the small surf, but this time was different. The washing machine was much stronger out here, and there was no bottom to stand on. The odds were higher, and the ride was less predictable. She turned toward the shore and started paddling as if something else was driving her. I saw the surge of energy push her up, and she rode the wave shakily for about 100 yards and then she was in the washing machine. She stood in her power and faced her fear. I knew she was being tossed around and trying to figure out which way was up. Ultimately, at this point, nobody could help her. She was on her own.

I looked at Alayne. I’m guessing she saw the reluctance in my eyes that asked WTF am I doing? She grinned. I said, “I don’t know if I can do this.” She said, “Yes, you CAN.” She glanced back and smiled and started paddling, ponytail sticking to her tanned back. She found the wave with her name on it. The surfing part is not hard. The momentum takes you once you get started, and, if you fall, you fall. The hardest part is the ‘pop-up’.

The physical part of ‘popping up’ is not hard. The difficulty lies in that polarizing moment when fear wells up and something bigger and stronger than you grabs hold of your body and does it anyway. Thinking and fear and practice and research precedes these moments. But there’s only one ‘moment’ to ‘pop up’. It’s the moment that you hand over the check to go back to college at 53. Or the moment that you accept a job across the country. It could be the moment that you step out of the door of airplane. Or the moment you take the first step of your marathon. It’s not the moment when you DECIDE to start or the moment you finish that is most amazing. The moment containing the leap of faith is solidly the most important moment in your life. It has taught me more about the real me than any other moment. In those moments, I most clearly connect with my spirit and understand that I am capable of so much more than I ever dreamed. Unfortunately, I can count those moments on one hand.  Those rare moments change everything … They make the difference between a life full of adventure or one spent contemplating waves.

It was just me and Jascia now.

My adventurous friend said, “You’ve done this before.”

“You go first,” I chided.

“Let’s go together,” she countered.

We looked back at the sea. A couple of swells started rolling toward us. I couldn’t catch my breath. It was caught in my chest. I realized that the humidity in the air was choking me. I looked at my GPS, and I only had about a mile to go. The new bridge rose up overhead, and the trail was much busier. The clouds were starting to roll in, and I knew that cooler weather would be just on the other side. Ahhhh…. I thought. I hope it feels better this afternoon for the game.

Let the Mirror Speak Loudly

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I am constantly amazed how my friends hold up a mirror for me to see myself. My self-image is blurred by my shortcomings and my personal failures. I first experienced the magic of seeing myself from another’s point of view when I was involved in an Empowerment Circle in Memphis. It was a women’s circle affiliated with a training organization called Woman Within which is designed to help women discover who they are. At first I thought it was a little hokey, but when I look back on my life, it was the beginning of discovering who I was and of dealing with the biggest problem I had in my life – my inability to say no to people who didn’t have my best interests at heart. It was – and continues to be transformational.

Throughout the weeks and months and years that I met with these women, we got to know each other well. There were always somewhere between 4-6 of us, and we had to commit to the group. This wasn’t a group where you could come when you could get away. It was a commitment. We were establishing family, and we were creating a place where we could show up in front of others in all of our brokenness. Trust was essential. We could ask for what we needed each week to get through whatever storm we were facing, and one of the techniques that provided support was a mirroring exercise. We would tell each other how we saw each other. I was stunned at the view that others held of me. It was so different than the view I had of myself. Their image was so much more beautiful and strong than I felt. Through the years that we met, my insides began to believe some of what was being reflected to me from the outside. I re-invented myself.

This week several friends have held up a mirror to me again. It was all unsolicited and part of everyday conversation, but it happened just the same. My friend Alayne and I were reminiscing about our journey together and how we’ve changed since we met 8 years ago. We both ended marriages and re-invented our lives. I was a few steps ahead of her in time, but she has far surpassed me in scope. We talked at length about how inspiring it has been to watch each other as we stepped out and took courageous leaps of faith to be the strong single women that we are. Neither one of us wanted it when we met. We were pulled into this unlikely transformation kicking and screaming and with very little choice but to do it. But, do it we did. I saw myself mirrored in my inspiring view of her and her awesome view of me.

Another friend told me how inspired she was by me. She wants to move, and as soon as she gets started applying for jobs and thinking through the hurdles of doing it, her breathing stops quite literally. She added, “Yet, you have done it several times.” I never have thought of moving like that. I did it the first time when I was 23 and just out of college. I looked for a newspaper job and found one in South Texas. I packed up my Mercury Lynx – not knowing what the hell I was doing – and drove off. It almost seems like moving and changing is in my blood. Maybe  re-inventing my life is part of my creative process. My insides often see it as an inability to find a place that works, but, I guess really it is more about my lack of fear in moving around in space and my desire for adventure. I love exploring and living in a new place.

My acupuncturist reminded me this week that I have re-invented myself several times. She assured me I’d have no problem doing it again. The gift in this feedback from her and my other friends is that they truly know me. They are not people who have only seen the good side of my life and my moods. They have supported me through struggle and listened to my tears and watched me painfully push down personal barriers. I believe that all of the barriers are inside me. Making change is actually fairly simple. It’s not easy. Don’t get me wrong. Moving sucks. Working the financial part of life sucks. Dealing with a transition sucks. But, it’s all very simple. I just have to commit to myself the way I did to my women’s circle and show up no matter what else is going on. I’m going to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Today, I’m choosing to look in the mirror and see what others see. I can focus on my bulges and bumps if I want to, but I think I want to look at that mirror that is more forgiving and loving than the voice inside my head. I somehow thought I was ready to quit re-inventing myself. That was pretty silly. That’s who I am. It’s like saying I’d like to learn how to live without breathing. I’ve been struggling lately to re-invent my day. I made the decision to move to Seattle in the late 90s after a naysayer told me, “You won’t do it. You’re always talking about taking another job and moving, but you never do.” In that instant, I realized that I didn’t want to be the woman in her mirror, and I said yes. I am a woman capable and supported enough to re-invent my life again. And when I get there, I’ll probably re-invent myself yet again. I hope that when I’m 90, I’ll look across the ocean and say “I think I’d like to live on the other side of that – just to see what it’s like” …. and sail away.

 

It’s Always, Always About Connection: Unsolicited Advice-Giving

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A friend called me for advice last night on some verbiage to use in an emotionally tricky conversation with her spouse. I was glad it came yesterday because I got an earful of unsolicited advice yesterday from an anonymous commenter on my blog. It really ticked me off, so I was very aware of my intentions last night when my friend called me. I made sure that I listened to her entire request and then I asked her very specifically how I could help. It was only after I got that specific answer that I told her what I thought in that very specific area. She didn’t ask if she should talk about that with her husband. She didn’t ask what I thought would happen. She didn’t ask what books she should read or if she should leave her husband. There was a specific request, and I answered it. I did reassure her that she was a smart woman, she should listen to her gut and always be clear, kind and respectful of his boundaries if he wasn’t available for this discussion.

I set myself up for getting unsolicited advice by writing my blog and by writing in a way that is emotionally vulnerable. I write about the struggle of being human and navigating emotions, and, on some days, there is no happy ending. Yesterday, I actually thought there was a resolution, but apparently some people didn’t hear it. This anonymous unsolicited advice-giver thought I was somehow wanting his/her take on what I should do and my writing voice. Since they were too chicken to post their name, I decided not to approve their comment. You know who you are .. and, yes, I’m talking to you. I can tell you are in recovery because your solution is peppered with recovery lingo, but I’ll just tell you right off, you need to get thee ass to a codependency group. Honestly, I often find that recovering addicts are the worst at advice-giving because they think they have a license to tell people what to do. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had to debrief after really cold advice was given to a friend struggling with recovery. The solution to recovery is in connection to a higher power and others on the same path. If you lose the essence of connection in pursuit of activity, you’ve lost the point. And I’ve gotten very bad advice from recovering people and even sponsors. I’ll go to my grave defending that.

It’s really hard not to give advice when I feel like I’ve been in the same place as someone else. The reality is I have NEVER been in the same situation as someone else, and I NEVER will be. To think I know the solution to their problem is arrogance. It is to assume I am God. That being said, it slips out sometimes. There are times when I want somebody to stop hurting. There are times when I’m not very compassionate with their situation because I think they made a dumb move that got them there, so my lack of compassion comes out as telling them what they need to do. When I struggle most is when someone keeps asking for my advice, I keep giving the same advice, and they never take it. I get more and more frustrated with the amount of time I’m spending on it, and they aren’t taking the advice. What I have to realize is they don’t want my advice. They think they want my advice, but what they really want is connection. If I’d just meet them where they are and quit giving advice, it wouldn’t take so much out of either of us.

In my codependency groups, I’m often asked to ‘sponsor’ the women with the extreme cases of ‘not being able to leave abusive guy and can’t follow through on counsel’. I’ve been there. I didn’t take advice either. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to. I wanted to badly. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t take the steps I needed to take because I had to build myself up first. Once I was able to build my self-esteem to a place where I felt like I was capable of taking care of myself and making good decisions, I was able to move forward. The advice-giving further confirmed that I was not very smart and couldn’t handle my own life. I got stronger when I found people who connected with me where I was by letting me talk about my situation and reflecting back what I said. It was my own words reflected back that finally gave me the confidence to do what I needed to do.

I’ve learned through the years that sending people motivational sayings, links to articles, searching the internet for solutions to their problems and asking other people to intervene for them are also ways of giving advice. If they don’t ask me specifically to help them find the solution to their problem, they need to do their own research. I spent hours upon hours researching my ex’s problems, and now I don’t blame him for getting aggravated with me. It was his life, and if he didn’t want help, he didn’t need to get any. I thought my heart was in the right place, but really I just wanted to stop living in chaos. It was ultimately about me and my needs. That wasn’t very connecting at all.

When I’m approached with a problem, and I’m aware that I’m feeling the tug to give advice, I do these things instead:

  • Ask questions like What do you want to see happen? What is the feeling bubbling up inside? Is this a familiar pattern? Where do you feel it in your body? What do you think you should do?
  • Remind them that they are very smart and intuitive, and they will figure it out.
  • Ask  How can I best support you?

It’s really simple. The weird thing is that even though I think that giving advice will make me feel better, it doesn’t feel nearly as good as connecting with somebody and helping them to step into their own power. Every time it happens, I see their body relax, and a burst of energy seems to rise up through their heart and into their face. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. It’s always … always about connection.

I found these articles on things to think about when giving advice. Read if you like.. but I’m not giving advice. :)

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201012/unsolicited-advice-i-hate-it-you-hate-it-so-do-your-kids

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-human-equation/201005/hey-dear-abbies-three-things-consider-you-give-advice

Accepting Fear and Walking with Gentleness

Photo courtesy of dingdang.com

Photo courtesy of dingdang.com

I’ve been working really hard on acceptance. I’m not in a good space with my life. I’ve been trying to be peaceful about it and not fight it, but, internally and with my closest friends, I’ve been railing about it all. Everytime I talk about the things that frustrate me, I get even more frustrated. I walk away from every one of those conversations thinking that I need to shut up and quit talking about it. The truth is I feel like I’m going to blow up if I don’t let off some pressure. But I know from experience that the answer is not to let off steam. The answer is to turn the heat down.

One of my friends suggested I try getting on Match again to distract myself, but I have decided that’s not working. It’s just making it more evident than ever that I’m a weirdo here in southern Louisiana. I shut down my profile this morning and decided to put all my energy and attention into the things that I need to do to make my life better. I’m not exactly sure what all of that is, but I have some ideas. One of them is that I have to practice acceptance.

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, there is an oft-repeated section on page 449 or page 417 – depending on the edition you have – that says:

And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation-some fact of my life -unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.

Grrrrrr.… I hate that passage. But I know it brings immeasurable peace, and it is the answer to everything. Even if it isn’t the answer to everything, it’s the only answer that I can come up with all on my own. The rest of the answers need assistance from another person, place, thing or situation, and I can’t control any of them. So, I’m stuck with this.

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I pulled a card from my Medicine Card deck this morning, and I got Deer reversed. Deer energy tells us to approach all situations with loving-kindness and gentleness. The reading tells a great story about the fawn who is trying to approach the Great Spirit at Sacred Mountain, but a demon has blocked access in an attempt to make followers believe they are disconnected. Instead of reacting in fear or anger, fawn reacts with gentleness and love and wins over the demon. Reversed – as I pulled it – reminds me that I’m dealing with a lot of negative thinking and ideas. The answer is to love myself enough to feel my own fear and let it go. I love the gentleness of that message. At the root of all of my irritation and frustration is a belief that I don’t deserve a good work environment or true love or lots of friends, and so I won’t ever get it. The fear that my life will always be like this makes me so irritable and discontent. My life is manageable, and I’m okay today. It’s that whole looming future with no hope that makes me incredibly frightened. And, when I’m frightened, I want to fight because being afraid is way too vulnerable.

This morning, I’m working on accepting several truths. The first is that I need to make some changes in both my attitude and my life. The second is that I’m not in control of the outcome, but I am in control of doing the things I need to do to enable change. The third is that I need to be gentle with myself enough to feel my fear instead of fighting the imaginary demons that are standing in my way. Nothing is really standing in my way. I’m just projecting all of that negative stuff onto the people and situations around me. When I am not afraid, I can walk through fire and not get burned. I have to accept and respect fire for what it is and stop feeding it gasoline. A raging inferno makes me more and more uncomfortable because you know how much I hate the heat.

 

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There’s a cool front coming. Thank you, God. Keep those sweet gifts coming. I truly do see them and know you are right here with me. I don’t know why you put up with me, but I suppose you have your reasons. I’ll just have to accept that, too.

 

Girl Talk: An Unusual Kind of Sexy

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This morning I had my ‘now more normal than not’ crying jag before I left the house for work. I told my friend Michael that I feel like Jane in Broadcast News. Every morning before she had to ‘get to it’ professionally, she’d sit down, look at her watch, bawl her eyes out and then stop just as easily to go about her hard-driving, fast-paced day. She was – and is – one of my favorite movie characters. And, as I explained to Michael, men didn’t like her either. I was dying to find some clips from that movie. Unfortunately, there are not many on the internet. I loved Holly Hunter’s Jane so much back in 1987 when the movie came out. I don’t know if I loved her so much because I was like her, or if I became like her because that’s what I wanted to be. She somehow reminded me of a modern day Scarlett O’Hara with substantially less feminine charm and a lot more integrity.

Broadcast News Trailer

I love the scene where she tells her best friend Aaron – who is not unexpectedly in love with her –  “I’m beginning to repel people that I’m trying to seduce.” I feel exactly like that now and have for some time. She pulls no punches with a good-looking schmuck (William Hurt) who is as talented as an anchorman and showman as he is at evading the truth. Jane, even though she abhors all that he stands for, falls madly in love with him anyway. She’s a girl underneath it all. I remember thinking she was so absurdly adorable in the dress she wore on their date. She didn’t know how to inhabit a girly dress, and she clomped around like a horse in a pasture. I’ve often felt that way myself, and I choose more sophisticated styles because I feel like I look like an imposter in really feminine clothes.

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One of the funniest scenes in the movie is when Aaron – her co-worker and friend – finds out that she’s probably in love with Tom. He has a rather large stake in this because he’s in love with her. But, instead of telling her up front, he tells her that “Tom, while he’s a really nice guy, is really …. the devil.” He has a great argument which you can see on the Hulu clip below. I quite enjoyed re-watching it today. I often tell friends they are the devil when they tempt me with something, and I add Aaron’s logic that the devil is not really going to show up with horns and a red suit. I didn’t realize I’d gotten that from this movie until today. Jane’s sharp wit and cutting edge honesty is beautiful here, and Aaron does not flinch at it. He finds her amazingly sexy just the way she is.

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In the blog Feminema, Holly Hunter is described thusly:

One might be tempted to refer to her as “the thinking man’s [fill in blank with name of less talented starlet],” but it’s too easy.  I think Hunter is so distinctive because she has a perverse desire to be dissonant — she doesn’t play her beauty for the thinking man’s benefit (or anyone else’s); she’s wary but not fragile; she’s unexpected but not quirky.  Her characters can suddenly become sharp-edged and mean.  Holly Hunter is eminently watchable — one of the most watchable women of her generation.

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I love her wit and her intelligence, but her Achilles heel is her honesty and her unwillingness to budge on what she thought was right and wrong. A friend of mine just last night emailed me and told me my Achilles heel on those dating websites is my honesty but that I shouldn’t change it to please people I don’t even know. I remember Holly Hunter standing in the airport talking to Tom who had a bikini wrapped around his shoulders and tickets to a tropical paradise. There was no sorrow at all in her resolve that this – HE – was not right for her because he played showman with her beloved credible broadcast news. It was the line she couldn’t cross, and she didn’t waver or apologize even in the light of losing the one guy that she loved. I remember thinking … wow… how did she do that? I also thought it was one of the sexiest things I’ve ever seen a woman do.

There are all kinds of articles on the internet about what men find sexy. I suppose sexy is in the eyes of the beholder. It’s hard as a woman to remember that we each have our own sexiness and charm, and not everybody is going to appreciate it. I’m probably a little more like Jane – edgy, intelligent, funny and driven. I’m sure a lot of men don’t find that sexy at all. Maybe I have a limited audience. But, I’d rather limit my audience than limit myself. And I think that’s part of my charm. Thanks, Jane, for giving me a role model.

 

 

It’s a Cranky, Rainy Monday

It’s Monday. I’m cranky. A huge crash of thunder just threatened to rain on my table outside Starbucks. I would be thankful if it rained just a bit so I can get out and do my speedwork. Last week my training went pretty well. I missed two of the 6 workouts – one run and a lower body strength training workout – but I feel like it was a success because I extended my long run successfully and completed two upper body workouts in spite of the short week with the holiday. I had a six day week because I’m trying to get my long runs back to Saturday. I like getting them over early in the weekend so I can relax a little.

The weird thing about the thunder is it’s really loud and seems close but the sky looks really sunny and nice in front of me. The thunderstorm is over my shoulder. The breeze is phenomenal. I sort of feel like that today. It appears that things are looking pretty good, but I’ve got a lot of little crap going on inside of me that’s really cranking me up. All of it … every single piece of it.. is about rejection… from a lot of fronts. I don’t want to get into the details because it doesn’t matter  … and a huge crash of thunder and lightning just scared me to death, and this is what I see:

IMG_9511I’ve spent a fair amount of time the last few days in tears. Oddly enough I don’t feel depressed. I feel sad … like really sad on a situational basis. I feel like a misfit here. I’ve had a Match.com profile out there for months, and I get NO attention whatsoever. I feel the drizzle falling on me, and I’m still seeing sunshine. In the last week or so, I’ve decided to get more proactive and make some contacts. I contacted a guy in Texas and complimented him on how hot he looked. He responded back and said he thought my friend Lisa was cute. Are men stupid? So much for being proactive. I edited my profile, added some new pics and even changed my username. I’m consistently getting views but absolutely not one person is interested in saying hi. I can’t imagine I’m that ugly or unattractive. I even tried to put very little in my profile … sometimes less is more… AND I took out the ‘never’ on the question of how much I drink. I thought that might be an issue down here. Whatever? I’m sick of dating sites.

My new profile photos... and I’m removing the one of me and Lisa. I don’t need competition on my own profile.

Now, it’s pouring, and I’ve had to come into the air conditioning where it’s freezing. I got an iced beverage so I could sit outside. Figures … I got to speak with my friend Nancy today who is FINALLY in America in texting and phoning distance. I am so looking forward to having a new friend to commiserate with who is single and trying to re-invent her life. It was definitely a bright spot in my day to hear about the stuff she’s having to do and to tell her how I feel about the goofy men that surround me … or that don’t surround me as the case may be. I feel like a fish out of water right now. I’m pretty connected with some girlfriends who have my back and who totally get me, but work and the opposite sex are getting me down. I feel like I was lied to when people told me to get my life together and get healthy, and I would attract healthy men. Where are they? It feels like a cruel joke that I did all that work and am finally comfortable in my own skin, and there is no one even remotely interested in me. My bed has become the Sahara desert with no chance of climate change.

So now it’s pouring down rain, and my run outside looks like it’s in jeopardy. Still, all I see out the Starbucks glass door is pouring rain against a cloudless blue sky. It’s bizarre. Maybe there’s a message in there for me. Could it mean that the rain storm is just a passing thing even though it’s loud and nasty? Could it be a respite for me to take a break and relax before I go to run? I am feeling a little better already and not as cranky. Writing does help with that.

I had coffee with a friend last night who is in a troubled marriage. I’ve been sort of sponsoring her and offering suggestions in the codependency recovery sense. Things were much better yesterday. She seemed more grounded yesterday. At one point in the conversation, she asked when she should say something and set a boundary and when to let it go. “It’s hard to say,” I said. “But as with everything, it’s ALWAYS about connection.” She thought that was really profound and asked if I made that up. “Yeah,” I laughed. “I think I did.” She wanted to share it on her Twitter feed. I felt needed. I felt a little bit wise. I felt like I actually meant something to somebody. When we were leaving, I told her that I was glad that she was doing better, and that she and her husband were doing better. It’s been about 7 months that it was going downhill, and this was the first upturn in events. “You know,” she said, “All of the changes I’ve made that have helped me have been because of my conversations with you and suggestions you’ve made. I just want you to know that.” I just now remembered that she said that, and now I’m crying again … in Starbucks .. and I don’t even care. The rain has stopped, and I’m going for a run.

And if some lousy guy can’t find anything to like about me, then it’s his loss. I have a lot to offer somebody. If it’s only women that recognize it, then so be it. I’ll make a difference in some man’s life even if it’s only helping to make his wife happier. Surely that’s important.

 

The Midlife ‘Awakening’ – Does It Have to Be a Crisis?

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I doubt everyone has a midlife ‘crisis’, but I know a lot of people who are having one or have torn their lives apart as a result of one. I actually think of it more as a ‘waking up’ than a crisis. I was talking with a girlfriend this morning who said she thought she was having a midlife crisis, and I assured her she probably was. She is right on time, and she’s very busy working on figuring out who she is and how to solve the current issues in her life. She feels really energized by the whole pursuit right now but also very scared and a bit panicked about what may come next. When I mentioned my ‘waking up’ theory, she said she felt exactly the same way. “Where the hell have I been the last 10 years??!!” she said. I felt I had a 20-year-long sleeping period when I went through my midlife ‘awakening’.

All I have is personal conjecture on this, but I’ve talked with a lot of people about the ‘stuff’ in their lives, and big changes do seem to happen during midlife. Everyone seems to be rolling along in their 20s, 30s and maybe even 40s, and then something happens that causes people to wake up. Unfortunately, if people are married, it usually doesn’t happen to both of them in the same way and at the same time. The crisis seems to be caused by some combination of an empty nest, career stall, addictions or health issues that bubble up. In most cases, something causes them to re-evaluate where they are and where they want to be. If it’s done subconsciously, things seem to blow up because there’s a knee-jerk reaction to do something – ANYTHING – differently. If something exciting presents itself … a new tattoo … a person of the opposite sex …  a new job … a reason to quit a job …  a new casino is in town … or any one of a thousand things comes along that seems exciting and different, then that becomes the ticket to happiness.

One of the most catastrophic indicators of a midlife crisis is the midlife affair. This is different from the serial cheater who probably has an addiction and needs help. I have one friend whose husband began to have affairs as his career stalled out, and the industry he had been working in all of his life started to crumble. Another friend began an affair with a woman he was attracted to as soon as his kids left home, and he realized his wife wasn’t really all that interested in him anymore. Many of my friends have had emotional affairs while their workaholic or addicted spouses ignored them. These life situations are really painful, and, as we see those lines start to populate our faces, and our bodies start to fall apart, it’s easy to get panicked and think we have to ‘fix’ it NOW. We don’t have time to prepare ourselves for a new career or do the work to repair a 20-something year marriage that is in serious disrepair. And, heaven forbid, what do we do if we don’t know what is wrong? It seems so much easier to just chuck it all and start over. I wish that we could normalize things like affairs and the other chaos that comes from midlife struggles so that we would talk about it with some understanding instead of making people hide it under the rug – or the sheets – and solve the real issues instead of cause new ones.

Men – as well as women – have a real need to have deep discussions and talk about real feelings. Unfortunately, men often get that confused with the needs of their penis. That’s why my parent’s generation saw the midlife crisis as a man’s dilemna. We offered no help to navigate the powerful feelings at midlife because men were supposed to ‘buck up’ and take care of things. The ‘something different’ showed up as an urge to buy a new sports car and have an affair with the office secretary. Women have all kinds of feelings and fears at midlife, too. Women have more options today, and we’re seeing more women navigating big change during midlife. I cringe every time I hear someone disgusted at a man or woman who handled their ‘midlife crisis’ badly. Perhaps if we had more compassion and awareness that it’s not unusual to question where we’ve ended up in life, the decisions people make would be less costly to all involved. Not everyone has the ability to handle it gracefully. It’s not necessary to blow up your life to create change, but people do because they don’t know what else to do.

I’m not married, and I feel like I’m in a midlife crisis. I have for a couple of years. I wonder if I’m in the right job field. I’m worried about how I’m going to financially support myself into retirement although I’m quite sure I have enough. I worry if there’s a cancer or some ticking time bomb in my body that will rock my world in the next few years. I have sleepless nights where I lay awake and worry about whether or not I need to make a career change or go into business on my own. I worry about who will take care of me when I’m old. I feel lonely. I feel misunderstood on a regular basis. I see the lines on my face, and I feel an extreme sense of urgency to ‘solve’ all of this. Ironically enough, the thought has crossed my mind that maybe I should find somebody to marry to ‘solve’ these issues. It’s not too far of a stretch to see that a married person might think that having an affair or getting a divorce would solve their midlife fears. After all, the grass is always greener on the other side, right?

There are things about midlife that I love. I love the fact that I feel freer to make decisions to change my life than ever before. I have this great knowledge based on experience that things work out no matter what choices I make. That’s really comforting. I have a strong faith that provides me with a foundation that I am not ever truly alone. I have ways to process feelings, and I feel much more comfortable with myself than I ever have. I have less chaos in my life because I’ve finally eliminated a bunch of my own garbage. My hormones are no longer driving my every move. More than anything, I have a spiritual path that helps me address everything. It’s not perfect, and the fears and problems don’t go away, but I can look back and say it’s brought me through some pretty rough stuff. It will bring me through the rest, too. And I do feel finally awake to my life … both the good and the bad.

If you feel like you are having a midlife crisis, here are some resources:

http://www.webmd.com/men/features/mens-midlife-crisis?page=2

http://www.lessons4living.com/midlife.htm

http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mid-life-crisis