I went for a run this morning. I say it was a run, but it was more of a quest for soul food. I ran intermittently. I knew when I first got started that I’d need to be flexible this morning. So, I changed my focus from “going for a run” to exploring Baton Rouge, my long lost hometown. I parked Pursy in Beauregard Town. Downtown Baton Rouge is made up of a few distinct neighborhoods. Beauregard Town is made up of stately old homes and was founded in 1806.
Note: Hover over images or click on them for captions. Click on images to zoom.
I headed toward the Levee and the Old State Capitol Building. This is the area where festivals and concerts are scheduled on a regular basis. The levee river walk is one of my favorite runs but I have to limit it a little in the summer due to the fact that there’s not enough water en route for Ashok. She can access the Mississippi River for a dip in the downtown area, so this morning we just stuck around there.
The Old State Capitol and Third Street Fountains
The Levee and the Mississippi River
The Road to the Capitol
I made my way to the Louisiana State Capitol Building and the Pentagon Barracks. I am told that the Barracks are currently used by the Senators and Legislators when the Legislature is in session. The Barracks are one of my favorite places in that area. For some reason, the courtyard, the red brick and the darkened, aged corridors draw me in. There must be ghosts with interesting personalities there. I’d like to hear their stories.
The Pentagon Barracks
The Pentagon Barracks Courtyard
There are some beautiful parks surrounding the State Capitol. The Live Oaks hung with Spanish Moss, Cypress Trees and Magnolias hang shadows over the path making it cool and inviting. I’m always amazed when I see park benches there. These parks are almost always empty, and they are so beautiful and well-kept. I’d think that this area would be a popular spot for runners, families and visitors. But, I rarely see more than a handful of people at one time.
The State Capitol
The State Capitol Steps
The Parks Surrounding the Capitol Building
Ashok Goes Swimming
I closed my loop of downtown by finishing up with Spanish Town. Spanish Town is another old neighborhood. It’s more hip than Beauregard Town. Flamingos and Mardi Gras beads accompany flower beds and font porches, remnants of the Spanish Town Mardi Gras Parade held the weekend before Mardi Gras. I saw plenty of neighborhood cats here. One particular one named Tea (sp.?) walked up to me and Ashok without any fear. Her current owner walked by and asked if Tea would be famous. I told her I would post the pics in my blog, so maybe he would be famous. She told me that Tea is a neighborhood cat who has adopted several subsequent owners, and she happens to be the current one. She said Tea was an old boy but everybody loved him.
Baton Rouge has a number of homes and buildings downtown on the National Register of Historic Places. I suppose that’s not unusual for a downtown area. But, a memory came back to me when I was in Spanish Town looking at one of the placards. I was about 16. I carpooled to work in Baton Rouge from my home in Watson with my cousin Bonni, my Aunt Shirley and Momma. I was a student worker at some small building on Nicholson Drive. I’d sometimes go to Pancho’s for lunch and sopapillas and honey for dessert. My job was to type the lists of homes on the National Register of Historic Places. I typed all day … a task probably deemed too boring and mundane for regular state workers. I suppose I typed the names of some of these places I passed this morning. At that age, I would not have thought that historical buildings had much significance. My eyes would have been looking forward for new adventures ….. out with the old … in with the new.
I did more walking and sightseeing than anything else. But, I certainly felt better after I finished. It was 83 degrees when I got into the car but it felt like 93. Ashok is asleep under the chair in my living room now, and I think I’m going to lay down for an early afternoon nap shortly. I feel more grounded than I did when I got up. It was a beautiful morning to go for a run.
When I worked for Accredo, we held a Manager’s training that was designed by some women in New Jersey for our parent company, Medco. We scheduled it 2-3 times a year, and I was responsible for working with the consultants to prepare and make sure they had everything they needed when they were in Memphis. I became really good friends with Deb, but I never really got to know the other consultant, Marcia. They were both really likeable, and I enjoyed being around them. I just never had an opportunity to hang out with Marcia. Last year I received an email on a distribution list about Marcia’s new book The Goodbye Cookie. Being a writer, I was very interested to see what she wrote about.
It’s funny how you can know people – bump up against them time and again – and never really know who they are. Unbeknownst to me, Marcia and I had a LOT in common. And, now she’s written about her life in a book and has some pretty stellar press. She has battled a food addiction for most of her life and is now in recovery. She weighed 300 pounds at one time, and her book is about her struggle and her victory. We’ve exchanged a few emails since she wrote her book. She’s read my blog, and I’ve read some of her articles. Today, she tweeted one that I’ll share with you here. If you have issues with food, this article is very insightful. If you read me on a regular basis, you’ll see a lot of similarities in our path. How I wish we’d chatted just a little back there in Memphis. I’m sure we could have become great friends.
Marcia’s Video on her Website with Her Story
I had lunch with a friend last weekend, and we discussed food. Over the years, she’s seen my struggle with binging and emotional eating, and she has had her own struggles with it. We were always going on some kind of eating plan to try to rein it in. I told her that in the last year and a half, it seems that my food stuff has just fallen away. I still have times that I emotionally eat, but it’s not like it used to be. There were times that I ate all day long. Often, I would buy single-serving 2-lb bags of chocolates and eat the entire bag in one sitting…. and still be ravenous. I hated doing it, but I couldn’t stop. I’d vow not to do it the next day, and I’d do it all over again. There was a nagging hunger in my gut that really had nothing to do with food. But, food was my comfort. Growing up food equalled love. In order to be close or give affection, we’d share food. It may have worked back in the day when food was not so plentiful, but today that desire for love coupled with the quick availability of food is a wrecking ball on my health and my emotional state.
So, I told my friend that I thought those issues had fallen away. I still have a treat to celebrate, and I still have fun with food. But, I no longer have the desire to “use” food. Sugar is my drug. I’ve never really been into salty foods or fatty meats. But, I love sweets. I have an awareness now of what it feels like to enjoy dessert and what it feels like to “use” sugar to fill up spots that can’t be filled by the granular white stuff. I remember telling myself when I was drinking that I could drink when I was happy but I couldn’t drink if I was sad or angry. It always turned into a bad drunk. The problem was that I was using alcohol to numb out, and, eventually it didn’t matter what emotional state I was in. I always had some undercurrent of sadness and anger flowing through me. I had to be numb as often as possible, and, since I was a binge drinker, I used food when I wasn’t using alcohol. The using made me sadder and angrier and lonelier because it dragged me further into the abyss of an empty life. People ask me if I miss alcohol. No, I don’t miss it. I never enjoyed it. It wasn’t fun. It was medicine… and I’m no longer sick like I once was.
I’ve been down this week. It started Sunday after leaving my friends’ house in Houston. It’s hard for me to unplug when I feel connected and go home to an empty house. All of a sudden, extreme perfectionism started rearing its ugly head. I rehashed everything I said and did over the weekend. In the re-hashing, I came to the conclusion that I was flawed … and selfish … and not worthy of having the love of anybody. The perfectionism … and my inevitable failure to live up to its expectations … turned into self-loathing pretty quickly. Down I tumbled into the abyss. I tried not to panic as I’ve been here before, and I let myself go through it, talking to a couple of close friends to keep me calibrated on what was real and what were my insecurities. I kept doing my yoga and meditation and prayer. I kept going to work. I was in a pretty good funk, so I had no energy to exercise. But, I walked out the door anyway. For two days I mostly strolled with my dog, but I kept moving. And, I didn’t ‘use’ food… well …. much. I did have a milkshake yesterday on a road trip, but I was already coming back to myself. If I’m honest, I was ‘using’ a little, so I’ll own that. I actually ran this morning, and I felt good. I rode this wave, and I didn’t give in to numbing as a daily habit.
Like Marcia, I know that my drinking and my food issues … and my perfectionism … and my insecurities … are all spiritual issues. When I did the intensive work of the last few years and uncovered the root hurts and deep wounds I harbored inside me, I healed myself once and for all. The scars are still there, but I no longer have to feed the gaping holes inside of me. They closed up, and food became fuel. Alcohol became something that didn’t work for me and had too many consequences to make it worthwhile. Emotions became navigable. People became sources of comfort. God became the true source of light. Everything got right-sized …. even me.
I was scheduled for a 10K yesterday in Galveston. I have several really good friends in Houston, so I planned to stay with my gay boyfriend Michael and meet up with the rest of the gals I know over the weekend. I got this really weird email last weekend informing me that the Coast to Coast Series run in Galveston was being canceled due to the fact that they couldn’t get permission from some landowner on the race route. WTF? Really? But, I wasn’t about to cancel my trip. My friends Alayne, Michael and Marlene are among my best friends, and it had been too long since I’d seen them. So, I was Houston-bound as soon as I left the office on Thursday.
Riley and Dixie – The Cutest Dogs in the World!
All I ever hear about is the traffic in Houston. I’ve heard about it since I was a little girl in neighboring Louisiana. What I discovered is it’s not just Houston that has extreme traffic – it’s that whole Texas corridor between Lake Charles and Houston. It was a fairly stressful drive. Michael kept texting me and telling me to hurry up. “The speed limit is 75 in Texas… you can do 80.” I’m like, really? There are cars in front of me, Dude. I could do 80 in spurts but, I was constantly having to weave in and out of traffic, and the speed limit is not 75 in Texas. In some places it is, but, in a lot of places it was 60. After paying for a root canal on Thursday, I didn’t have the money for a speeding ticket. I decided to play it conservatively and safely and drive no more than 5-10 over the speed limit when the traffic allowed. Michael had a bowl of home-made grits and a fried egg waiting for me, one of my favorite comfort foods. And that’s the way Michael is … if it’s in the realm of possibility, and I want it, it’s mine.
Friday Night Dinner with Craig and Sy at Emma’s in Pearland (Click on pics for captions)
I had to run to Target the next morning to pick up some things I forgot, and I tried to follow some confusing directions on the GPS. I realized pretty quickly that I’d gone the wrong direction on the highway and got off on the next exit. I took the first road I could to double-back, and I was a little shocked in this monstrous city that I was on a little country road in the middle of what looked like …. nowhere. All of a sudden, the road turned into …… a gravel road! I wasn’t 10 minutes away from my friends fancy Pearland neighborhood. I texted him and told him to quit complaining about the Houston traffic … the road was clear at 9 AM on a Friday morning. Just about that time a crop duster flew right over my head. I felt like I was in the twilight zone.
I spent most of the the weekend lounging by their pool or watching gay television. I’ve never seen so much HGTV in my life. We watched re-runs of Fashion Police and several episodes of Say Yes to the Dress, a show built around normal gals in Atlanta and New York shopping for wedding gowns. I never laughed so hard at television in my life. I had great decaf coffee all weekend. The first night I resorted to having heavy whipping cream in my caffeine-free mix because there was no half and half, and I fell in love with it. By the next day, I was drinking my coffee with sweetened condensed milk – thanks to last weekend’s indulgence – and the party was on. Occasionally, I even topped off the sweetened condensed milk concoction with heavy whipping cream just for the hell of it. It was absolutely divine. I’m waiting on my morning cup now … Micheal?? I’m waiting. 🙂 Uh …. oh …. I hope we’re not out of sweetened condensed milk – we all tied one on last night.
The big event of the weekend was a ‘Michael and Darren Dinner Party’. My friend Marlene and her partner, Cheryl, and a new friend Kristi and her husband Mark were coming. I had never met Kristi but she grew up in Watson about 10 years behind me. She says she remembered me because I was a senior in her yearbook, and, as seniors are, my picture was plastered all over the pages. So, we met for the first time last night. Marlene is my acupuncturist from Memphis, so they arrived early, and I got a treatment while I was listening to the party revving up in the other room. The red wine was flowing, and, by the time my chi was balanced, Kristi and her husband had arrived, too. You never know how a group that has never met each other is going to mesh, but they all got along great and found many mutual interests and ways in which their lives had crossed paths in Houston. It was fun to see them all begin to become friends.
The Dancing House
The cocktail party featured mushrooms stuffed with crawfish stuffing, cream cheese topped with a wonderful pepper jelly and lots and lots of red wine for all. Michael had what I called a wine bong that was a source of entertainment. And, apparently, he and Darren had some great wines. I heard lots of ooohing and aaaahhhing as each bottle was served. Dinner was perfectly-spiced Shrimp Tchefuncte with some amazingly huge gulf shrimp on Saffron Rice. All of us Louisiana French Bread purists were disappointed in the Whole Foods “french bread” in Texas. It wasn’t actually French Bread but more of a – as Michael called it – white bread. Kristi – who has lived in Houston for many years – gave Micheal some tips on where to get REAL New Orleans’ French Bread and Po-Boys. I’m sure he’ll be making a trip there soon.
Eventually, I announced that it was time to eat cake because I knew that Michael had made my favorite cake in the world, Fresh Strawberry. They got out the coffee, and everybody – even my health nut acupuncturist friend – had coffee with sweetened condensed milk. It was followed by dancing in the living room to disco music. I was so happy at the end of the evening when everybody asked for me to share their contact information among each other and tentative plans were made for everybody to attend the Houghton Hall art opening at the end of June where Kristi works. I love it when people mesh! After everyone left, we de-briefed the evening while watching more gay television, and it felt like family.
The Dinner Party
So, yes … I am having the fabulous cup I wanted, and I’m dreading the trek home. Kristi said it best last night when she commented on the energy in this house. This house is located in a suburban, pretentious area, and I have no idea who built it or what kind of ghosts mingled among the rooms before Michael and Darren got here. Whatever the history is, with Darren and Michael this place has become the Dancing House. It’s open spaces flow with an energy full of joy and love. I’ve been in many houses that Darren and Michael own, and every one is transformed with their desire to make wishes come true and create an ‘experience’ for every guest they entertain. This place is no exception, and I imagine there are ghosts here now that love to dance and dream of coffee laced with sweetened condensed milk and fabulous red wine. They all danced among us last night. We were not alone. It was a lovely, perfect evening and a very special weekend.
I subscribe to Jessica’s Blog by email. I like that better because I make sure I see every time she posts. If I don’t, I miss it frequently because FaceBook sucks as a communication tool, and I rarely ever see the post. As a side note, you can do the same thing with my blog if you want! There’s a space on the front page of the blog that looks like this:
Click on the ‘Keep up with me…’ button and add your email address. (Or, you can send me your email, and I can add you.) Anyway, I digress with a little marketing spiel. So, today I got her post on National Running Day. I missed it last year because I didn’t realize it was coming, and I didn’t schedule a run that day. This morning I lifted weights so an additional workout was out of the question. So… I missed it again. I already marked the first Wednesday in June 2015 on my iPhone calendar with a week’s notice. I won’t miss it next year.
Apparently National Running Day is a big damn deal in some places. There is a website – http://www.runningday.org/ – with more information. They have runs all over the country to celebrate, and Jessica made sure she ran today. See her blog for her personal celebration. Maybe next year I’ll pull something together for Baton Rouge. This year I’ll just pay my homage by writing about what running has given me.
I’ve been grumpy about my workouts for the last couple of months. After the injury that I sustained back in November that lasted until March, I was thrilled to be running again. But, to me, it’s a balancing act to run, do yoga, make time for meditation and do strength training. Plus I work 40 hours a week and blog almost every day. Since I’ve added yoga to the mix, I’ve loved what it does for me. The more I get of yoga, the more I want it. So, adding running back to the routine has pushed me to squeeze more into my week than I was previously doing. Previously, I had 2-3 weight workouts with some circuit training. Then I added 3 runs into that … then I added yoga 2-3 times a week. It was getting to be too much time and too much energy. Jessica takes the heat when she texts me to see how it went, and I complain about it all being too much. Of course, I asked for it. I apologized the other day for being so grumpy about my workouts. She said it was part of her job to get me through it. Then she said something that made me think. “Hopefully I’m helping you work through it and find compromises to stay with it instead of throwing in the towel completely.”
It made me think of my struggles with working out and running over the years. It’s been on again, off again at best. There was no focus. The only focus was the scale. I hated that damn scale. For about 25 years, I quit running. It hurt too much. For about 10 years of that time, I did yoga exclusively. I also walked almost every day. Still the scale went up and down. When I finally got back into running, I enjoyed it for a little while and then quit. Then, I met my first running coach at Memphis in Motion. He taught me the walk break intervals I use, and it really worked for me. But, I was just running. I wasn’t losing weight. I felt great, and I was eventually running marathons. I was enjoying myself, but I wasn’t getting the results I wanted fitness-wise. Still the numbers on that scale haunted me. When I first met Jessica I had stopped running again. I was floundering, and I had put on about 10 MORE pounds. We started working on weights at the gym in Memphis. That was the beginning of my running life as we know it.
Under her tutelage, I started to experiment with speed and different types of workouts. No longer was my running just picking a distance and going there. It became more fun and interesting because of the variety of workouts. We added strength-training because it was important to me to continue to build strength due to my age. I learned from Jessica and running how to view my fitness holistically. Running is no longer just burning calories for me. It’s an anchor to my well-being. It strengthens my heart muscle, fires my appetite and keeps me on track with food. If I eat like crap, I can’t run like I want to. It helps me sleep better. It gives me things to do when I travel, and it’s often why I travel. Now, I’m realizing that the tightness in my muscles from running is also encouraging me to do more yoga to balance it out. And, like I said before, yoga is awesome for me. Anything I can do that encourages me to do it more is a good thing.
Some people love running so much that it’s their only athletic endeavor. For me, running is an essential part of my total fitness plan which changes all the time. I keep wanting to find something set and stick to it, but maybe that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. I imagine that someday I may not have the time to dedicate to fitness that I do now. I saved an hour a day commuting to and from work by moving 2 minutes away from my job here. That may not always be the case. I really missed the running component when I was injured. I still kept my fitness doing other things, but I missed being outdoors, exercising with my dog and having fun at races. Running is so much more than exercise. It’s an essential ingredient of my lifestyle.
I told Jessica that her help the last two years was essential. I have been more consistent in my exercise and diet than I have ever been. There have been NO breaks…. .even when I moved cross-country. I may have missed a day or two, but I really didn’t miss a beat. I can also thank the blogging. The writing has helped me define what I want and own my shortcomings. The coaching has been phenomenal for me. It keeps me stay focused on a larger plan, and it helps me have accountability for doing what I need to do TODAY. Jessica has also helped me plan lapses so that if I need to just focus on food for awhile, I take it easy on exercise. She’s helped me see that it’s not a sprint that has to be done perfectly. It’s a marathon that has room for walking, rest and even quitting if necessary. As long as it’s part of the plan, it’s all good. The running has given me freedom from gyms and let me see the sky. It’s allowed me to get a dog and spend time with her. It’s given me reasons to drive places and see new areas. It’s made me faster and shown me that with work, I can improve at any age. Running is the measuring stick that I use for progress. And, I’ve seen a lot in the past two years. I just ran my fastest 5K ever last month. I’ve improved dramatically.
Because I have the measuring stick of my running, I no longer have to gauge my fitness by the scale. I’m grateful for that. It was a poor measuring stick at best. I have made phenomenal progress in my fitness. In the past two years, my weight has been very stable. I’ve gotten off an anti-depressant that I was on almost 20 years. I’ve cut way back on sugar. I’ve cut out caffeine completely. My anxiety doesn’t rule my moods anymore. I no longer have clothes in my closet that yell at me that I’m fat because they don’t fit. I wear whatever I want because it all fits. That FEELS so good! Now, I judge my fitness by my speed, how I feel on a run and whether or not I’m enjoying doing it. Thank you, running. I hated that damn scale. Now, it’s sitting under my chest of drawers, and I might bring it out when I’m curious. But, it never moves very much anymore. It might go up or down one or two pounds, but that’s it. However, the needle on my running just keeps on going up … and …. up … and … up …. in one way or another.
I have a friend who is newly single. I watched as she navigated her break-up with her significant other. I supported her as she went through the initial stages of grief .. anger .. bargaining .. denial … depression … acceptance. I let her talk … and cry .. and vent … and held her in my heart as the fear … that fathomless fear …. of being alone crashed into her world. She is through the worst of the initial stuff and is settling into her single life. I, as a single woman and a writer, seem to her like a guide that can help her to step into being single and have a full life regardless of whether or not that space in her bed is ever filled again. My friend, I may seem like a guide that does it with grace, but know that everything you feel, I feel. Being single … like being married … is not an easy path. But I’ve come to know that it’s not the path of singleness that is so hard, it’s the path of life. And, navigating it single is just one way to do it. I woke up this morning wanting for you, my dear fledgling single, some things that I also want for myself. The want woke me from sleep and begged me to write to you now … this minute. So, I am up. This one’s for you, Baby Bird.
I wish for you, my single woman friend, COURAGE. Courage only comes from walking through fear. It is not a quality that is born in you. It is a quality that is developed over time. It is an act of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. You had the courage to end what wasn’t working for you, and in countless conversations with divorced friends, I have discovered that ‘leaving’ even a bad relationship is one of the hardest things we humans ever do. You already have the courage to walk through that and come out on the other side. The muscle-building has begun. Keep developing that muscle by trying something new today… and everyday. Walk a new way to work. Call someone who interests you and ask them for coffee. Go on a trip by yourself and discover the beautiful joy of seeing a new place with only the filter of your own eyes. Tackle a personal issue with the help of an advisor and feel the joy of overcoming your own problems on your own without the distractions of another person’s reaction. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is feeling the fear and walking through it anyway.
I wish for you FINANCIAL SECURITY. It is so easy for me to feel that because there is one income, I can be shortchanged in that department. It is also easy to fall into the trap of thinking that couples have the softer way with money. But, over the years, I’ve learned that another person can wreak havoc with money and drain you of any hope of ever having financial security. I know people who, after their spouse dies, are left with mountains of debt instead of the comfort of being supported in their grief. Being married is no guarantee of financial security. In fact, with two people who may have serious medical conditions as we age, the risk may be even more that some catastrophe may strike that will wipe you out financially. So, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that money would be more plentiful if there were more of it coming in. That’s not necessarily the case. I wish that you will feel the joy and the freedom of being the breadwinner of your home. You may not have as much money coming in as you’d like, but you are the sole decision-maker on how to spend it. You can budget without fighting about it, and you can spend lavishly on yourself without complaint. I wish you the blessing of feeling financially secure in the fact that God provides for us, and, if something happens that is financially devastating, know that you have friends who will support you in the struggle.
I wish you STRENGTH. The one thing I miss is strength. I miss the heft of a partner who can open jars, help me load my kayak and carry kitty litter. As women, we are not as strong physically as the opposite sex. I hope that you find alternatives. I hope you find a male friend who giggles with you when you bring your jars to him to open. I hope that you find a great gay boyfriend who will help you move. I hope you learn much more by the act of asking for help than you do from struggling on your own. Go to the gym and do strength-training. Practice Power Yoga. As you look into the future and fear the weakness of aging, I hope you realize that muscle atrophy is a choice. It’s not inevitable. And you already know how strong you are inside. In the area of inner strength, I will argue to my death that men are the weaker sex. It is the surfing of emotions that builds the inner strength to navigate the trials in life. And, you, my dear, have endured childbirth. The strength required for that task should be envied by muscleman everywhere.
I wish you PASSION. Yes, the only lover you have may be yourself at times. I wish that you will discover that passion is not reserved for those with partners. Count your blessings that you don’t have to endure the torture of making love to someone who no longer desires you. Many walk that path day after day. The meaningless embrace of ‘going through the motions’ is way too prevalent, and you no longer have to feel the sting of rejection during the very act that should be connecting you to your lover’s soul. You can create the atmosphere you want .. feminine and sexy. You know what feels good. Your mind can take you places you’ve never been with no regrets. The heat of another person may be missing, but I hope that you can even find that in a way that works for you. Remember that passion doesn’t only happen in the bedroom. Passion is that feeling that overcomes you when you take in a breath-taking sunset after a beautiful dinner that you provided for yourself and took the time to prepare to your own delight. Passion is discovering something new about yourself. Passion is embracing the life you have and accepting no limitations. Fall into your sensuality, find ways to increase your energy and let yourself feel ….. EVERYTHING. Become the best lover you ever had.
Most of all, I wish you LOVE. So often we think of love as romantic love. I’ve written about love before, and many people think I’m always talking about romantic love. I forget to qualify it because I finally see romantic love as only one kind of love, and I also see it as the most difficult one to have. It’s so easy to lose when the day to day act of living gets in the way. There are so many types of love out there, and there is so much of it. We live in a sea of love, but we don’t tap into it because we are so desperately focused on romance and partnership. There is love in family – even family of choice. Build one if you don’t have it already. It is more important for single people to build a family of choice because we have to rely on them more. There is no ‘default’ help. We have to ask for it. We have to walk out the door, get on the phone and, heaven forbid, ask for help. Invest in building that community. Spend a large portion of time creating new friendships, hanging out in the places you feel supported and deepening your current relationships. It is an investment that pays off exponentially. Even married women need these communities. The absence of one can be the biggest barrier to leaving an unhealthy relationship. Give that gift to yourself. Tap into the unending love of God. Do what works for you spiritually. You have the gift of finding your own spiritual path without having to negotiate that with a partner. You choose the direction. Follow it. The love is right there waiting for you. If you want romantic love, I hope you get it one day. But, I hope that you focus on love. I hope that you learn that all of the love you need is provided by you and God and your community. Knowing that, you won’t settle for counterfeit that turns into endless pain.
My friend, being single is not an easy walk, but I also know that being married can even be more difficult. It’s definitely more complex. BE SINGLE. Don’t BE Divorced. Don’t BE ‘in between relationships’. Learn what it is like to BE single in an authentic way. Be comforted in the fact that you are much more in control of your happiness than if you were coupled. When you wake up in the middle of the night with that hammer of loneliness beating on your chest, please realize that it is only a feeling. You are not alone. Your bed may be empty, but your heart is full. That is so much better than having a man lying in your bed on the other side of a cavern so big that your heart aches at the sheer size of it. Embrace your life. The spaces beside you will be filled. They may be filled for moments instead of years, but it’s not the duration of the connection that matters – it’s the depth. Invest in yourself, and, if, by some chance you want to step into a partnership again, you will be the kind of woman that manifests endless love not endless want. I want that for you, my friend. You are so deeply loved … and you are not alone. Know that behind those eyes of many married women who you think pity you is a different feeling altogether. Many are thinking … OMG, I wish I had your freedom… your COURAGE … your PASSION … your STRENGTH … your FINANCIAL SECURITY … and, yes … your LOVE.
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I planned to have a long, relaxing weekend this weekend after last weekend’s festivities at the country music festival. I was relaxing on my front porch yesterday eating some lemon icebox pie and reading Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird. The air was cool after the rains of this week, and the breeze was nice. My phone rang, and it was my friend Rhonda from work. “Do you want to go fishing with us tomorrow?” she asked in her Cajun accent that I love. She is from Thibodaux, and she’s actually a cousin of one of my college friends. We’ve become fast friends at work and last weekend she texted me some amazing pics of she and her husband’s “catch” down at their camp. I was supposed to do a long run this morning, but this was so much better.
Well, I had to quickly figure out how I was going to manage a trip like this with my dog. She said we were leaving early. Early is no problem for me as I get up at 4:30 or 4:45 every morning anyway, but when she said we were leaving at 3 AM, I had to pause and do the math of how I would take care of my dog for that long day. I had no time to waste, so I called my friend JoAnn who was happy to take her, and I packed for the trip in about 2 minutes flat. It’s not often I get an opportunity like this, and I wasn’t going to say no.
There’s really no good part about getting up at 2:30 AM for a 3 AM departure, but it took a good turn when I realized this was one of those days when it’s acceptable for me to have caffeine. They made coffee, and Steve offered it to me with sweetened condensed milk. It was so good, I didn’t regret a minute of lost sleep until I finished the last drop. It was dark the entire drive, and we arrived at their camp around just before daybreak. We made a quick stop in the boat at Campo’s Marina to get shrimp for bait, to chat with the owner and to take a few pictures for my expected blog. I was introduced to Frank – owner of Campo’s – as Steve’s girlfriend. Rhonda jokingly told him it was more efficient to bring us both along.
Scenes from The Trip Out
As we were pulling away from the dock, sunlight started splashing along the horizon in an horizontal stripe across the black water. It seemed like just a few minutes before daylight broke, and I could see the canal and the foliage flying past. Steve told me this was the Mississippi River – Gulf Outlet Canal, and he explained that it’s existence was part of the problem that exacerbated the flooding when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. It acted like a funnel and increased the water flow going into the city’s waterways. We crossed over into a smaller natural waterway and headed out to the Gulf. I asked what we were fishing for, and I was told ‘whatever we catch.’
It was cloudy, it looked like it could rain anytime, and it was really windy all morning. I found it meditative watching the neon corks bob up and down on the waves with small whitecaps with birds calling above. We even had a porpoise or two swim behind our boat and surface several times throughout the morning. Steve and Rhonda were disappointed that we weren’t having as much luck as they did last weekend, but I thought it was fun. I caught several that were too small to keep, but I did catch one speckled trout that was a keeper. Then, I hooked a really big one. I could barely feel the trout when I was reeling them in, but this one kept running with my line. I’d get him back towards the boat, and he’d go again. Steve kept running around to see if he could see what it was. I finally got it close enough that I was lifting it into the boat, and the line broke. I was so disappointed!!! He said it looked like a big redfish, but I told him I thought it had to be a Marlin or something. I mean, it dragged the boat 100 yards down the waterway, and, when it broke free, it’s wake nearly capsized the boat. Just my luck I’d never get to know what it really was. 🙂
We ended up catching 16 trout, a croaker, a sheephead, a stingray, and a couple of baby white trout. I drowned about 20 shrimp who’d seen better days, and, of course I missed my Marlin by a second. About lunchtime, Steve declared that we better make haste or we were going to get wet. You could see a storm moving across the water. It was ominous and beautiful. My Dad had a habit of keeping us out too long on the water, so I knew what it felt like to be riding in a boat in a thunderstorm. It didn’t really scare me because it’s a little but adventurous, but I’d rather have passed on the opportunity. They swung by an old civil war fort on the way back, and as soon as we docked, the storm let loose. We had perfect timing.
I had an awesome time and went home with all of the fish since they go fishing all the time. This little bunch will last me awhile since it’s just me. Maybe the cats will even get a treat. When we got back to their house, I asked Steve to show me where we were on the map, and he pulled it up on Google Earth. He showed me where we had fished, and then he explained that Louisiana has such great sport fishing because it’s very close to the Continental Shelf with it’s deep, deep waters. That’s were the big fish live like tuna, sailfish, sharks and, of course, my Marlin. When you look at the map of the Continental shelf, you can see that no other state in the United States comes as close as the toe of the boot on Louisiana. Number 11 my Bucket List Louisianne is deep-sea fishing. I’m supposed to catch my own fish and cook it. I guess I’m going to have to get out there and get on that one. Tonight, I cooked my speckled trout for dinner. It was delicious, and I was very grateful to the little fish that I had in my hands this morning as well as my new friends Steve and Rhonda.
My friend JoAnn texted me last night to let me know about a garage sale for the local Boy Scout troop. I asked her if they had any good stuff:JoAnn: What kind of stuff are you looking for? Me: Nothing really… Just maybe good kitchen stuff … a cast iron skillet … a decent man.. JoAnn: LOL Me: I know the decent ones go fast, but a used one is usually best. JoAnn: They are broke in. Depends on whether or not it is seasoned properly. Me: True … or already rusted out. That’s way too much work. Are we talking about men or a skillet? JoAnn: Both
Momma had the same one all of her life. If she traded it out, I don’t know about it. One thing about a Southern Louisiana Mom is they teach you to how to season one. If you get one new, it’s shiny and heavy, but you have to ‘season’ it well. I actually remember this conversation on how to season cast iron. It sounded like a lot of trouble to my young self, and, of course, me being new-fangled and modern, I wanted to try something new. Why would I go with an old stand-by when I could have some of those fancy vessels that don’t stick at all? Momma’s cast iron was always on the stove. After every use, we were told to oil it a little and put it on the gas heat to dry it. It never got put away. It was always there, ready for cooking.
They are versatile. They can take the heat of an open flame and even be used in the oven or on the ground. I can’t imagine there’s anywhere you can’t cook with one. Their rough, rugged strength is used to cook all of the best food in the world down here in Southern Louisiana. You can see them, bubbling away with seafood, spices and laughter at almost every event. It’s made me start thinking about them again … made me start thinking that I’ve been missing something in my kitchen. Their strong exterior surface seems impenetrable, but it actually takes in moisture from oil and keeps things from burning and sticking if seasoned right. They also give off nutrients like iron to whatever touches their surface. Those new non-stick ones are laced with chemicals that leech into your food and can harm you with long term diseases like heart disease and cancer. But, not these old-fashioned babies. They provide comfort and dependability in their smooth, simple lines and rough smoky edges.
I’ve known women that have found old ones at a cheap price that they took the time and considerable effort needed to clean them of corrosion and re-season the newly revealed surface. It’s a lot of work, but I’ve seen it done. I imagine you also have to have a discerning eye to see which ones are still salvageable underneath and which ones need to be left to die in a corroded grave. I don’t seem to have that eye. I’m much better off finding one new or having a reputable friend help me with the selection. After all, the hope is that it will be there for a long time providing comfort, heat and stability. It’s not a choice I take lightly.
I’ve had a couple through my life. I either didn’t season them properly, or I lost interest because it just wasn’t working in the way I needed it to at the time. I felt like a failure for a long time because I couldn’t find the right one … or I couldn’t keep the right one properly. But, I finally had to realize that I can always learn. I can always look at the way other people handle their heavy cast iron, ask questions and try some new ways. One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t be obsessed with clean. They don’t like soap. They get clean because you can scrub them with a stiff, wire brush, but soap just makes them dry. Trying to keep one too clean removes the bad stuff as well as the good. You have to leave the soft oily surface that has developed over years and years of tender, loving use and that intense burning heat.
It’s the initial seasoning that makes the biggest difference. If you can season them right in the beginning, they respond to continued maintenance. A new one loves hot, smoky oil and intense heat to bring out its best qualities. A little salt helps in the process, too. It may take more than a few times to get it seasoned properly. Once it’s done, though, continued care with regular application of heat and oil will keep it performing the way you want it too. Momma always kept bacon grease on the stove for that purpose. Of course, now that she’s healthier, she uses different oils, but it all works the same. If you ignore it too long like I have in the past, they tend to get rusty. Then, it takes a lot more effort to get them back in shape. It can be done, but why waste that time and energy on one that’s cracked or broken so badly that it can’t contain the ingredients needed in a healthy kitchen.
I asked my friends to send me pictures of theirs. My friend Denise sent me several. She said she loves them. My favorite of hers was a cast-iron tea kettle sitting on a cast iron stove. The stove belonged to her grandparents. They were both very rusty. But I can tell that even though she may not use them for cooking, they have great meaning for her in the memories of days gone by. Sometimes their memory can bring back old times and good times that are as comforting as any warmth they ever provided. My friend Keri sent a picture of hers filled with yummy cornbread, and, even through my friend Nancy doesn’t have hers in South Korea, she couldn’t resist responding to a homework assignment. She sent a picture she found filled some kind of yummy cake or bread. I’m sure it was stirring memories of better times for her, too. They come in specialty types and all sizes. There’s one for everybody, and there may just be one for every occasion.
So, I decided it’s time I got another. A good friend told me where to find them down here. So, I put on my cutest yoga outfit and headed down to the Goodwood Hardware Store in search of one. Surely I could find what I needed. I told the salesperson what I was looking for, and he said they had billions. “Billions,” I laughed. “Oh, boy.” He took me to the room where they kept them, and he asked me what size I wanted. “I think a 10 inch would be perfect for me,” I answered. Sure enough, I found exactly what I needed. On the way out, I noticed they even had outfits to wear while you’re cooking. Maybe I’ll invest in some of that, too. But, I have to get it properly seasoned first. I know this is the first critical step, and I’m going to take it very seriously.
Wait a minute … are we talking about men? …….. Or skillets? 🙂
I’m not sure what makes for bad days, but sometimes they happen. Yesterday was one for me. It started out great, and I felt great. I had no idea what an awful turn the day would take. I did my usual breakfast, blogging and meditation and went to work feeling pretty good. I was a little sore from the workout the night before but, other than that, I was hopeful to get some things done. I’ve just started a cool project, and we had a very productive and fun meeting on Wednesday. Thursday the plan was to de-brief and put together a proposal of what we should do to increase the knowledge and productivity of this group of workers. That’s what I do for a living. I help workers streamline work, improve their skills and make managers aware of organizational barriers that impede performance. It’s my expertise.
After that morning meeting, things suddenly went downhill and somehow I ended the day cramming a brownie down my throat and wishing that I could walk out and never come back. All of those beautiful things that I’m supposed to do actually never do fully manifest as they should in a perfect world because it’s not a perfect world, but I never even got to “do” anything yesterday. I was ensnared in a mountain of meaningless approvals for minute amounts of money and caught on a merry-go-round of inane questions about some workshops I’m doing in June. I was snarling to my friends on the phone. I couldn’t do my run because all I could think of was yoga … yoga … yoga. I went to my yoga class, and I brought my snarly attitude to it. The regular teacher wasn’t there, and I couldn’t connect with the first part of the practice. I kept snarling in my head about the way she was teaching. About halfway through, my attitude shifted and, by the time I lay in Corpse pose, I actually fell asleep for a few seconds.
What is it about bad days? I remember when I worked in the call center at Whirlpool, and I’d have days when I had snarly customers one after another. One day I realized that when I had one I tended to take that attitude into the next call, and I think I helped create that next irritated interaction. I played with that theory for awhile, and I really believe the bad day snowballed at least in large part because of my own attitude. Even with that knowledge, it’s sometimes really hard to turn it around. I have to be aware of my own attitude and do something to change it. I wasn’t capable of doing it yesterday. I ended the day depressed, wanting to chuck this job and this place and move on to greener pastures. The problem is that I realize that nothing is really as green as it appears. So nothing looked like a viable solution except checking out and going to sleep.
I woke up at 4 AM full of energy. I had planned to skip my run again today because of how I felt when I went to bed, but when I woke up I wanted to run, and I wanted to run hard. So, I got up and did my 30/20/10 workout that Jessica had prescribed in her blog this week. It felt so good. Part of it was sprinting, and I felt like I was tearing away from all of the red tape and barriers that were holding me back. For awhile, I felt free and productive. It was so hot and humid, and I was sweating heavily, but it felt so good to be moving and pushing myself to be more than I am now. That’s all I want to do at work, and sometimes it seems so hard to do it. Workplaces just seem to be full of barriers to productivity, creativity and passion. I’ve often resolved just to compartmentalize those things and have them in my personal life, but I’d love to be one of those people who could do what they love to do and make money at it.
Jessica asked me what I would do if I didn’t have to worry about the money. I actually love doing what I do, but I seldom get to do it. I love to problem-solve with people. I love helping them pinpoint barriers to the things they want to happen in their lives. I love the analysis in discovering who they are, their current situation, their needs and desires and understanding the things that are holding them back. I love formulating a long-term plan with short-term deliverables. I love pinpointing some quick fixes that help them feel like they actually see progress. I love finding creative solutions that are efficient in delivering the results they need and that solve multiple problems at once. I love it when I show them the plan, and their eyes light up because they see there is a light at the end of the tunnel even if it’s going to take some work to get there. I love solving people problems. I also love writing. All of that energizes me. When I spend a day like yesterday where I’m buried in paperwork in a cubicle, and I can’t get to the gold, it’s so disheartening.
So, today, I ran. I did my morning meditation. I’m writing. I’ve hopefully checked my attitude. I think I’m going to put aside any paperwork today that can wait until Monday, and I’m going to do the things I wrote about above. It’s jeans day. I’m going to put on my Levi’s and a cute top that makes me feel good about my body, and I’m going to focus on what’s right about my job. After all, I work somewhere where I can actually make a difference in people’s lives. It’s frustrating when I can’t get there, but in two weeks I’ll be standing in the middle of my target audience physically making a difference. It’s a date set in stone on the calendar, and it will happen. Right now there are 5o teachers having their skills enhanced because of my ability to push through barriers and get them the training they need. It’s Friday, y’all. Focus on what’s important… even if it’s just getting to the weekend where you can do the things that energize you. Have a great weekend!
I attended an Ayurvedic workshop last month at my community yoga studio. Ayurveda is an ancient healing system that promotes well-being holistically including diet, lifestyle and healing practices. It is yoga’s sister lifestyle practice. I’ve been aware of it for many years but really didn’t know much about it. It’s very complex, so I never dove in. I already had enough eating plans, and I didn’t want to confuse myself farther.
I didn’t go into the workshop thinking I was going to do it, I just wanted more information. We began by taking a test to determine our primary doshas. In the tests I’d taken before, I knew I was primarily Pitta. There are three doshas – Pitta, Vata and Kapha. The theory is that we are born with unique combinations of each of these three doshas, and the combination is determined at conception depending on the constitutions of our parents at that time. If your doshas are in balance as they should be for YOUR constitution, then you will feel your best and be at your healthiest. Ayrvedic practices give you tools to balance your dosha when the world and your lifestyle wreak havoc on your balance. It is not expected that we can keep them perfectly balanced. It’s not a perfectionist system.
If you want to determine your dosha and know more about Ayurveda, click here. My primary dosha, Pitta, is said to contain the elements of fire and water. One thing I learned in this class is that my gut instincts and natural inclinations are pretty accurate. I’ve always hated the heat, and it’s one reason I struggled with ever moving back south. It’s really hard on me. Well, my dosha is ‘fire’. That means I’m already fiery inside. I need cooling elements to balance me. The heat of summer aggravates me. The heat of menopause (hot flashes) aggravates me. The heat of spicy food aggravates me. Ahhhhhhh …. “I see,” said the blind woman. And, I am predominately Pitta. I have a little bit of Kapha and a tiny bit of Vata in me, so my natural constitution is almost all fire and water.
There are food choices and lifestyle choices that will balance me. We took another test to see where we were right now. The world is very Vata – qualities of high stress and go.. go .. go. So, right now, my Vata is very high. The balance is constantly changing, and the work is to stay as close to balance as you can. So, to counteract the world’s Vata, I have to do more calming practices such as yoga, meditation and maintaining a calm environment. I was naturally doing that in the last few months, and it really helped me feel better. I always need to follow a Pitta-balancing diet which is full of cooling foods like watermelon, very little meat, honey, coconut oil and avocados. Oh, yeah … and caffeine aggravates the hell out of Pittas. Hello … I’ve been eliminating that, too. Our bodies are so wise if we just listen.
My comfort food is ice cream. I’ve been trying to do without it because of its high fat content and sugar. But, I was told in the workshop that my dosha tolerates ice cream very well. I still can’t have a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, but I can have a couple of scoops. I never liked potato chips and salty food that much, and – guess what? – Pittas doesn’t tolerate salty stuff. I’ve always pushed myself in my yoga practice to do more vigorous practices thinking that I need to move more energy, but – guess what? – my dosha needs soothing backbends, twists and forward bends. I need to be calmed not invigorated.
The main qualities of Pitta are oily, sharp, hot, light, fleshy smelling, spreading and liquid. I have a sharp intelligence but when out of balance, I can have a sharp tongue. I have an oily complexion which can give me a rosy complexion or if out of balance, I can be manipulative like a “snake oil” salesman. So, those qualities can be good but, if I’m out of balance, they can take a turn for the worse. I’ve seen all of those sides of me as I read through the material.
I was confused though when I read through the Kapha stuff. There were long periods in my early life where I seemed to exhibit more aggravated Kapha qualities. I asked the instructor about it, and she said that Pitta is really about digestive fire. If I was having trouble with digestion – of emotions, food or situations – then I might take on the Kapha aggravated qualities. I told her that during that time I was very codependent and repressing a lot of emotion. She said that those undigested – unprocessed – feelings could lead me to take on more Kapha qualities … struggle with weight … lethargy … intense cravings for sweets. After doing my personal work, I’m getting back to my original dosha in a more balanced way.
I once jokingly told a man who was pursuing me, “You are playing with fire, boy.” He laughed and said he knew that, but he couldn’t help himself. I had no idea how dead on I was. I am fire. Pittas are often redheads, too. That fire manifests itself in our hair. It is recommended we use cooling coconut oil after a shower instead of lotion and to cook with it, too. Melons are great. I’ve started drinking watermelon juice in the mornings in place of my morning joe. It gives me the lift I need, and it tastes delicious to me. Some of you Kaphas out there are saying, “Yuk! Bring on the coffee”, and you need it. Drink up. I’m going to try my fresh juices for awhile and see if it keeps that fiery temper at bay.
Our teacher urged us not to be strict about this. I loved that. I hate rules. She said that life is going to get in the way. These nutrition and lifestyle tools are there to help us when we need it. She said to try one thing at a time just as an experiment. I tried oil-pulling in the mornings right when I get up. I love the way it makes my mouth feel. I take a tablespoon of coconut oil, chew it until it melts and swish it in my mouth for 5-20 minutes. It’s supposed to “pull” bacteria out of the mouth. I researched it because some of these practices have no basis in reality, but even dentists are now saying that oil-pulling works to clean the mouth. Our mouths are full of bacteria, and oral issues affect a lot of systems in the body. Gingivitis can cause heart disease. I know I had a bad toothache last week, and it healed itself. I did check it out at the dentist to be sure nothing was wrong, but he shook his head and said he didn’t see anything. Not sure what it was, but it’s gone. I’m a believer.
The most valuable things I learned from my Ayurveda class were things I already suspected:
Oh yeah, and at the end of the Pitta session, she told us to enjoy cinnamon toast in the mornings. The cinnamon, butter and bread will soothe our constitutions. OMG … that is one of my favorite foods that I have given up so long ago that I can’t even remember it. Every morning this week I’ve made cinnamon toast for breakfast. I am a happy fiery Pitta. Bring it on, world. I’m ready. Let’s play with fire!
My friend Lisa posted the below reading from Melody Beattie’s Language of Letting Go last night. I have been struggling with more than a few things in my life with work and with relationships lately where I’m trying to ‘make’ things happen. My best advice to people when they are trying to make something happen and it doesn’t is to let it go. “It shouldn’t be that hard. If it’s meant to be, it will magically happen,” I say. But, it’s so hard for me to follow that advice when it’s my own agenda that’s at stake.
When I was at the concert this weekend, Eric Church went long on his performance. The schedule was already late, and my body clock is used to heading for the pillows between 9 PM and 10 PM every night. This was the third night in a row that I would be out after midnight, and it looked like it was going to be even later Sunday. They had also run out of food in the arena, and I was hungry. All of a sudden, something hit me in the head really hard. It was a huge beachball that people were volleying back and forth in the crowd. I picked it up and bounced it back behind me. I sort of got mesmerized by the bouncing ball and the people who were passing it around. Then, Jill punched me and made me aware that ‘the wave’ had started going around. It took over the whole stadium in no time flat. We were having fun even though we were tired, hot, hungry and frustrated. If we couldn’t make a concert happen, we could have fun with what we had. And, we definitely had a crowd.
So, when I saw her post this, I thought about the stuff that I’m trying desperately to force at work and in my personal life. I immediately thought of that floating beachball twirling against the night sky. I thought of how good it felt to let go of my frustration and play with my newfound playmates. I heard the crowd enjoying ‘the wave’ – a senseless, meaningless cheer designed just for fun. I felt a huge sigh well up inside of me, and, with the next exhale, I let it go. The tension and the fear and the pressure just melted away. There’s probably something better in store for me than what I’m wanting anyway … or maybe now is just not the time. Thank you, Melody Beattie … you always know just what to say.
Go through the door that’s open
Sometimes, doors close in our lives. No matter how badly we want something, no matter how hard we’ve tried, no matter how much we want to pursue a particular course in our lives, the universe says no.
Many years ago, I wanted passionately and desperately to write a book on codependency. All twenty publishers I queried said the same thing: No. Some said it politely. Some said it by refusing to respond at all. That door just wouldn’t open up, no matter how hard I pushed.
One publisher came back with a counteroffer. “We don’t want the book on codependency,” the editor said. “But how about writing something for us on denial—why people do it, what part it plays in their lives, and how they can become more aware and accepting of reality.”
I accepted the offer. I needed the work. But I wasn’t thrilled. I diligently did my research and wrote the manuscript. About a year later, that same publisher came back to me and asked me to write the book on codependency. I pulled out all my notes and research, including a large notebook in which I had jotted down all my ideas and questions on the subject. As I went through this notebook, I noticed a question written in such large letters it took up the entire page: “What about denial—what part does this play in codependency?” I had written on the next page: “Why do people do it; how can they stop? Help me understand,” I had written, almost as a prayer.
I reused the denial concepts in my codependency book. I had long forgotten about my question to the universe. But God hadn’t.
Sometimes when doors shut, it’s because we’re not ready to walk through the one we want. Maybe the door that’s open in your life is the one you need to walk through. Go ahead, step in. Look around. It might not appear to be as exciting as the one you’d hoped would open, but maybe it’s exactly where you need to be.
Are you trying to push through a door that’s closed in your life? Make life easier on yourself. If you’ve diligently tried to open a door and it’s not budging, look around. Push on a few other doors. See which one opens. Then walk through that one.
God, help me trust your timing in my life. Help me understand that sometimes you know more about saying when than I do.