The Bliss of Connection

 

 

It’s been about 10 months since I moved here. I’ve moved around a lot, and I know the drill. About 6 months after relocating, it gets really hard. I start questioning why I did it. It’s a struggle to find a community and make friends. It takes time to build connections with people that are more than:

Here’s my number. I’d love to hear from you.

It seems like we have some things in common. I’d like to get to know you better.

Let’s do coffee sometime.

Would you mind if I get your number and call you sometime?

Occasionally I meet somebody that is interested in getting to know me. Sometimes they become friends… other times one of us doesn’t really feel a connection and moves on. Like my friend Jo Ann says, “Making new friends is sort of like dating.” It really is a lot like dating. Maybe that’s why the rejection of dating doesn’t get me down as much as it could. Rejection is a part of life when you’re new in town. And, let’s face it… I’m almost always new in town. So, the past 10 months has been filled with mostly rejection but also a dash of reciprocity and more than a few coffee dates with potential girlfriends. It’s fun. It’s exasperating. It’s interesting. It’s dull as hell. It’s all those things, but I know from experience that if I don’t do it quickly and with some serious intention, the adjustment process will drag on forever. My adjustment to Knoxville TN took about 3 years, and it was very lonely. I was newly married at the time and spent too little time laying the groundwork for community.

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Memphis was one of the easiest places I’ve ever connected. They have strong healing communities in Memphis. The people were friendly… unbelievably warm and welcoming. I divorced in the first year I was there which was a huge transition for the first year in a new place. Some of the top stressors in life are death of a loved one, divorce, relocation, new job and marriage. I had two of them in one year with a seedling support network. But, I found a women’s circle that was really strong and a great recovery community. Eventually, I found my running group, and I was off and running … pun intended.

Except in the case of Knoxville and Seattle – where I traveled 90% of the time – I start to find my communities and engage around 10- 12 months of being there. I stop banging on doors that are non-productive, and doors start opening more frequently. There is a yoga studio in my neighborhood – Agame Yoga and Meditation Center – that has proved to be an oasis for me. I went there craving yoga classes, but, right there in the front door is a placard that says, “I am home.” The first time I saw it, I felt my body give a huge sigh of relief. It was only a possibility at that point, but I felt like it could be possible that I was home. Sometimes the possibility is all that matters.

I enjoyed the yoga classes, and I started to try new ones. I started to meet some people and buy some trinkets while I was there. I bought a great pair of earrings that I wear almost every day. I’ve had some laughs with the women in the front office. I’m taking an Ayurveda class with the owner, Phi. One of the yoga teachers there is now teaching at my office and has become my Reiki practitioner. This studio also has a focus on the Yoga Nidra which I’ve come to love in the last 10 years or so. It’s a 45 minute meditation that brings your body to a very deep level of relaxation. They say it is like having 3 hours of sleep on a neurological level. Over the years, I’ve used a Yoga Nidra tape to shift my anxiety and depression, relax and cure insomnia. It’s very powerful.

Last night, I went to my second Yoga Nidra practice at the studio. The teacher Katherine spent some time talking with us about the practice before we literally laid down to sleep. Thick, comfy blankets are laid on the floor, and I made myself a pillow and rolled one up under my knees. I covered up and let myself slip away on her quiet voice leading my mind on a journey inside myself. In Yoga Nidra, you set an intention for your practice, and it’s supposed to really connect with your spirit on a deep level. Katherine suggested the intention I seek the Truth. That really resonated with me as I’m on a search to shift some things in my life not only by moving here but by trying out a new career and moving forward in a new place with a clean slate. I love the feeling I had after it was done. I was energized but very peaceful and calm. What a way to begin the week!

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I decided to buy a CD with a morning and evening Yoga Nidra practice to use at home. I need energy in the mornings since I’m no longer doing coffee, and Katherine said this practice would give me energy if that’s my intention. I chatted with a fellow practitioner outside for a few minutes. She’s working on her Masters in Sweden but has a home in Baton Rouge. We had a lot in common. She’s single by choice and happy with it. As the conversation went on, we discovered that we both grew up in Watson, live on the same short street now and are both runners. I gave her my card and said, “Here is my number. If you ever want to get together when you are in town, I’d love to.” I felt really connected as I walked away to go home for the evening.

This weekend I prayed to help me feel the love around me as I was feeling lonely toward the end of the week. I had a weekend full of connection with my nieces and nephews, brothers, parents and sister-in-laws. I had a great day with my friend Jean Ann yesterday in New Orleans with our dogs. I ran on the beach in Bay St. Louis with my nephew Sasha, and I shared some chocolate milk with Bryce and Aili at the Farmer’s Market in Baton Rouge. I took an unbelievably beautiful boat ride with my niece Mariya, my brother Terry and his wife, Laura, Saturday evening at sunset on Rotten Bayou. Some weekends have a magical quality to them, and this one had that. But, it wasn’t magic at all. It was the pure act of being present in the midst of connection… with others .. with myself … with nature .. with God … and with the pure essence of love.

Have a great Monday, y’all! We are all connected…

 

Riding the Caffeine-Free Energy Wave

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Well, I have made it 9 days without my beloved caffeine. I have to say I am feeling great. Sunday was such a bad day energy-wise that I was beginning to think I couldn’t go through with it. Fruit juice got me through it with a boost of natural sugars, but I was worried that this would be my life going forward. I have had headaches of decreasing intensity for the past 8 days. Today was the first day that my head did not pinch me for taking away it’s blood vessel dilating stimulant. I took ibuprofen on the days that it was really bad but other days a bit of peppermint oil rubbed into my temples stopped it cold. I was grateful today to not feel the achy reminder of my quest.

I have been dreaming like crazy and sleeping like a log. I woke up one night this week with anxiety. It’s the first time that’s happened in a long time, but it had a very different outcome than it usually does. I was a lot less anxious than I usually am. I got up and did headstand and a little deep breathing, and I fell right back to sleep and slept til 6 AM. Now … for most people sleeping til 6 AM is not that big of a deal, but this girl gets up at 4:45 most mornings. I made up for my lost sleep. Saturday morning I slept until 7 AM!!! I could not believe it. My friend Michael texted me to inform me of my place in the Vibrant Voice Contest, and I told him I just woke up. He’s another one that gets up early every day. He got the gravity of the fact that my overwrought mental state let me sleep until after dawn. My dream life has been phenomenal. Last night I went to an amusement park and rode all kinds of wild rides. Earlier in the week I made mad passionate love to my female running coach. And last week I purchased oceanfront property for $1300 from my deceased grandparents. That dream was so vivid that I remember thinking that I wasn’t going to tell them that it was too cheap even though I knew it was. I was worried somebody would tell them before I closed the deal. I CANNOT wait to see  what happens tonight.

For a change, I’m the one with the get-up and go….

As I suspected, my natural energy is returning. Without the ups and downs of the caffeine highs and lows, my overstimulated anxiety and my adrenal glands’ fatigue, I’m starting to feel great all day long. The first day without caffeine I could tell that the ups and downs were gone, but my muscles and my focus were so bad, I felt horrible all day. Last night, I texted the B*tch and told her I could not wait to go run. I was chomping at the bit. She told me I could do an easy 3 miler or some intervals, and I would usually have chosen the easy 3 miler. But, once I started running, I felt so good that I did drills and hills like there was no tomorrow. I wore Ashok out. I felt phenomenal afterwards. I came home and cooked and blogged and went to bed around 10. I slept like a baby and was back at it at 4:45 doing yoga. I felt good all day except for a lag after lunch, and I came home tonight feeling like a million bucks. I thought I’d clean my house before the weekend so I could head out to Bay St. Louis for Stella’s Blues and BBQ Festival. I started cleaning, and I ended up vacuuming the furniture, under and behind the furniture, washing clothes, changing the bed and even reorganizing my magazine rack and the bookcase in the living room. I’ve been putting that stuff off forever. I felt great!

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I have been looking for energizing superfoods to help me energy-wise so some of this energy may be coming from those foods. The gal in Whole Foods told me about Maca Root which is a Peruvian radish that is supposed to provide energy and hormonal balance to both men and women. It’s also supposed to boost libido for up to 2000 years according to one claim…. yes, 2000 years… not sure what happens when you’re dead and you still have a healthy libido.  And, NO, I didn’t take it before I dreamed about the B*tch in the romantic sense. I’m mainly interested in its energy-boosting properties, and, of course, I wouldn’t mind some help with menopausal symptoms should they arise. The other thing I started taking is bee pollen. It’s supposed to be energizing as well. All I know is that I feel really good, and I hope it keeps getting better. My legs and muscles still hunger a little for their caffeine boost, but I hope they’ll catch up with the rest of me energy-wise.

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All in all, I’m glad I did it. At some point, I’m going to reintroduce caffeine back into my diet on an as-needed basis. I don’t want to get back into the daily addiction cycle. It’s too hard to break the cycle, and it drains me. One of my blog readers and a fellow blogger (read his blog here)is an avid cyclist, and he said he’s been off caffeine since last fall. He said he feels great, and he encouraged me to stay the course. He said the best part is that when he does decide to have some before a cycling race, he can ride forever. That’s what I’m wanting from it. I want it to be a drug that I use when it can help me not hurt me.

Night, y’all… I can’t wait to see the movie in my brain tonight! Maybe you’ll be there. For most of you, I hope you keep your clothes on. 🙂

 

Eating Healthy on the Cheap

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This has nothing to do with this post. It’s just funny.

I used to say that it was expensive to eat healthy. And, it can be. But, the truth be told it doesn’t have to be. First off, the quality food may be more expensive, but, if you are eating according to dietary recommendations, you’re eating less of the expensive stuff (meats) and more of the cheaper stuff (fruits and veggies). I have learned as food prices go up and my tastes get more refined that I can cook great, healthy meals that are extremely tasty and attractive for much less than $75 a week. Now, I’m one person. And, honestly, I waste some of it, so if I was real thrifty I could probably eat even cheaper. When I say $75 a week, I mean most meals are eaten at home or brought to work. I eat out 2-3 meals a week. I prefer to eat at home because the quality is so much better. Today I went to one of my favorite places for lunch to get veggies, and I don’t know what happened, but it just wasn’t very good. The potato-eggplant parmesan had way too much grease, and I couldn’t finish it. In fact, I barely got started. I have much more control over how my food is prepared if I eat at home.

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I also don’t spend a lot of time cooking. I’m pretty busy, so I try to buy lots of fruits and veggies, some frozen fish, tofu, beans and rice and high quality oils and seasonings. One of my favorite weekday meals is a veggie omelet. It’s quick, it’s cheap, and eggs and veggies are very healthy. Occasionally, I’ll top it with half an avocado or some high quality cheddar that I purchased at Whole Foods. It’s killer! Tonight, I used some fresh asparagus that I bought at Whole Foods, 1/2 plantain, some white cheddar cheese and sauteed it all in avocado oil that I got at Red Stick Spice Company. I used two yard eggs that I bought from my sister-in-law. The whole meal probably cost me $3-4 at the most. I’ve gotten 3 meals out of the pound of asparagus, and 2 eggs per omelet makes 6 meals out of a dozen eggs. I paid $3 for them. The cheese was $4.50, and I’ll get 6 meals out of that. It’s delicious comfort food, and I wanted it after I ran tonight.

The plantains and asparagus simmering in avocado oil.
The plantains and asparagus simmering in avocado oil.

I’ve eaten omelets the last couple of nights because I didn’t have time to cook anything else, but tonight I also made 3-4 meals in advance by combining coarsely chopped carrots, beets, red onions and cubed tofu and throwing it into the oven at 400 degrees. I chopped off the top of two heads of garlic so I have some roasted garlic to throw in whatever else I cook during the week, or I can use it on crackers for a snack. I tossed it all in some really nice extra virgin olive oil and fig balsamic vinegar from Red Stick Spice. I topped it off with fresh ground sea salt, cracked black pepper and Red Stick Spice’s Greek Island Blend. I’ll roast it all for about an hour. The tofu will pick up the flavors of everything else, and I’ll have a one pot meal that will be good for lunch, dinner and even breakfast if I throw a fried egg over it.  Cost of each of those meals….. maybe $3-5 each. Tofu is the cheapest quality source of protein that I can find (about $1.69 for 3 servings), and I love it when it is chewy.

I know that none of these meals include meat, and a lot of people couldn’t do without their meat. But, I remember growing up in my family’s household. We had chicken on Sundays. Occasionally, we might share a chicken-fried steak or something like that, but we mostly had vegetables. We often didn’t have meat, and, when we did, it wasn’t the large servings of meat that we are accustomed to eating today. We couldn’t afford it. My Dad had a sportswriter’s salary, and he had 4 mouths to feed. Momma often cooked a chicken-fried steak and accompanied it with homemade milk gravy and toast. Luckily my PawPaw had a huge garden, and we had loads and loads of fresh veggies to accompany every meal. I don’t think there was ever a summer meal that didn’t have a plate of sliced onions, cucumbers and tomatoes sitting in the middle of the table. I have always eaten more vegetables than I have meat. I don’t miss it at all. In fact, if I do buy a steak, I buy a very good cut of beef, and I can usually make 2-3 meals out of one cut. 3-4 ounces of meat is all I really need for a meal, and sometimes that’s too much for me. Any extra that I eat is just padding for my ass.

This is just food for thought on some ways to cut back on the high price of eating healthy. I do get sticker shock every time I go into Whole Foods, but I just limit myself to those items that I have to buy there. I buy most of my fruits and veggies at Southside Produce, and I can get a whole week’s worth – and grocery cart full – for $25-$30. Plus they sell some local brands of dairy, frozen fruit for smoothies, beans and kettle corn which I eat instead of chips. It’s almost a one-stop shop for me. I go to specialty stores for my oil and seasonings, and, of course, they last a really long time. I’m already looking forward to tomorrow morning’s smoothie with greek yogurt, blackberries, mango and coconut milk.

Night y’all.

 

 

The Latest Flame Starter: Tinder

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My friend Jessica told me that she’d started online dating on the app Tinder. I’d never heard of it. I promptly forgot about it because it sounded a bit like a hook-up app or something. So, when I got ready to start perusing the available specimens of the opposite sex, I went back to Match.com. I don’t know why I keep going back there except that it’s like the mainstream grocery store. There’s nothing decent there, but there’s a lot of it, and it’s cheap. Two weeks into it, I’m ready to stop again. I met one guy who was infatuated with me the moment he saw my profile and didn’t even take the chance to get to know me. In less than a week’s time, his flame seemed to have burned out. I imagine when you don’t have any knowledge of the person you are enamored with, there’s not much staying power. The rest have been incompatible to say the least.

Ugh …. I get so sick of it. I have a friend in Michigan who is trying online dating again, and we email each other about the sheer boredom of it all. I read the profiles, and you’d think from the way they talk about themselves they all have their lives together. Some even say they have no baggage. Really? At 50 something? How about denial, pal … that’s baggage. Or, there’s some that are so angry and bitter that their profile is a laundry list of things they don’t want. “If you have an ex that you can’t seem to quit sleeping with, please pass me by….. I’m not interested in raising your kids …. If you have a lot of drama in your life, I’m not interested.”  I get so tired of reading them. Then there are the ones that write a novel about what they are looking for … sort of an epic love story that is lacking one essential piece – the woman. But, they are ready! They know how it’s all going to unfold. I scroll and scroll….. good heavens... give me some substance, dude.

Tinder’s Intro Video

So, I’m at the point again that I’m sick of Match. Today I thought I’d just check out this Tinder thing. Except I couldn’t remember the name of it. I searched for Timber. I don’t know why “dead wood” would be a good name for a dating app, but that’s what stuck in my mind. I couldn’t find Timber. I finally searched for ‘dating apps’, and Tinder came right up. I downloaded it, and, in minutes, I was scrolling through pictures of men my age. It’s simpler than Match. You can do a little short profile if you want, but you only have a couple of sentences. It’s tied to Facebook, so you have to have a Facebook account to play. It’s really very shallow. A picture comes up, and you swipe left if you don’t like them and right if you do. It’s like shopping for melons …. except it’s men. It’s all based on looks. And if you swipe right on him, and he swipes right on you, you get to chat. If you …. or he … swipes left, you’ll never see each other again. You can tell if you have any mutual Facebook friends and if you “like” some of the same pages, but that’s it. The rest is whether you like their looks or not.

This is what I like about it. It’s actually more like real life. When you go out somewhere, you don’t just walk over to anybody and start finding out what they want in life. You figure out if you like their looks, and then you go over to meet them. You actually have no idea who they are or what they are looking for or even if they are really single. Of course, I could argue that the other dating sites are the same way because almost everybody lies whether they intend to or not. But, with Tinder, you know it’s a crap shoot. It’s like being in a bar without having to get dressed.

Right now, I’m texting with a restaurant manager from New Orleans about the music scene in Memphis. I met another guy who is a landscaper today. We’re just texting. I suppose if we get to know each other a little and want to meet up, we can. But, it’s kind of fun. And, for some reason, with this I don’t have this expectation that they are looking for something nor do I have any expectations. For all I know, he’s looking for something totally different than I am, and I don’t care right now. I like the lack of information. With Match, there always seems to be this expectation that we’re going to start dating. With the last guy, it was like he wanted to jump right from hello into a relationship. I can’t do that. I have a life, and I want to get to know somebody slowly over time. I’ve figured out that the 3 month mark is a big marker for when people show who they really are. After about 3 months, the facade starts to fall away. This time around, I’m going to hold my heart back until I’ve known somebody for a period of time. Then, if they are somebody worth being with, I’ll quit guarding my heart. Until then, they are FRIENDS. I know … the best laid plans… but that’s my intention.

So, I’m going to finish my conversation with Mr. Metairie, and I’m heading to bed to read. I texted Jessica and told her I like Tinder so far. She said she’s had good experiences with it, and it’s kind of addicting to “shop” on an app. She’s met a few guys on there. She asked about my guy who was in love with me last week, and I told her I got a Dear John letter on Monday. “A what?” she asked. The generation gap may not impact the way we date, but it does impact communication at times. I told her I was so sick of people who won’t even take the time to get to know who I am that I’m going to start hooking up with complete strangers on Tinder.  “Yep,” she texted. “There’s an app for everything.”

 

Making Milk out of Coconuts

 

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This afternoon I was over at Southside Produce stocking up on fruit. I’m now on Day 5 without caffeine. I had a tiny headache today, but the worst symptom I have right now is feeling sluggish. Yesterday on my run, my legs were crying for caffeine. They felt like dead weights as I dragged them .2 miles. Jessica, my coach, told me it would take a couple of weeks for my body’s natural energy to kick in. I was about to go nuts feeling like I couldn’t move this morning, and I decided to get some juice at Whole Foods. The natural sugars in the juice did the trick. I could feel life coming back into my muscles, and I started to feel like myself again. So, I thought I’d focus this week on having fruit smoothies for breakfast and fruit for snacks. This can at least get me through the transition. Plus, it’s all very tasty and sweet.

 

Extracting the coconut water
Extracting the coconut water

When I passed the bin of coconuts, my body all of a sudden started talking to me. I want some of those….. I was drawn to picking them up and shaking them to hear the water inside. I am already sold on the health benefits of coconut oil. I use it on my skin and for cooking. It’s even great in smoothies. Coconut water is all the rage in the fitness world because of its magnesium and potassium content. My friend Elena is from the Phillipines. She said one night that when they got hungry in her home country, they just went to a tree and shook down some coconuts. There was no need to have money to go the store. They had all they needed free on the trees. I was fascinated by that, and I continue to be fascinated at the versatility of this tropical fruit. I had been texting my friend Michael all day as he was on a bean sprout hunt, so I texted him a pic of the two winning coconuts I was going to adopt. He texted me back this link to this song:

I got home with my fruit, and I googled coconut dismembering instructions. The ones I found told me to crack it with a hammer. Good heavens… I had no idea I would need tools to clean this fruit. So, I texted Michael who said he uses fresh coconut in his BBQ Dry Rub. “Use a hammer,” he confirmed. So, I went out to the shed and got a hammer. I used a pair of pointy scissors to puncture the eye of the coconut to release the water. Then, I slammed the hammer into the coconut until it cracked open. It was kind of fun actually. I could finally break something on purpose. It didn’t crack halfway. It was more of a coconut bowl with a lid on it. But, I cracked it into a few more pieces and was able to dig the meat out. Since I had never done this before, I butchered the thing. But, I got the meat out. During the process however, I broke the end off my good paring knife. Damn….

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The coconut meat
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My busted paring knife

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once I had a beautiful supply of this white tropical meat, I had to decide what I wanted to do with it. I knew I wanted to use some of it for my smoothies, but I was also curious at how to make coconut milk. So, I googled “how to make coconut milk”, and I found numerous recipes. They all seemed about the same so I set about the process. I took my coconut and threw it in the blender with 4 cups of boiling water. I did half at a time, and then I poured the whole mixture through a sieve. I pressed the coconut to extract the water, and it was done. It was so simple. I tasted the milk, and it’s so much better than that coconut milk I’ve bought at the store. It’s rich and thick with a slight hint of coconut taste. They say I can use the strained coconut for baking or in smoothies.

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I was astounded at all I got out of that one coconut that cost me $1.29. I got a cup of coconut water that’s full of electrolytes, about 2 cups of shredded coconut and 4 cups of coconut milk. It was a lot of effort cracking that coconut, but now that I know what to expect, I’ll do it more quickly the next time. In fact, I watched a few more videos, and I think next time I’ll use the following instructions instead.

 

Ashok’s Pierre Part Adventure

 

Click on the pics to view the captions.

I woke up this morning like every other day – not knowing what would be in store for me and my Momma. Would today be a regular day where she goes to that place called work and I have to sit in my cave and wait until she gets home? Or is it one of those days when we go do something together? I saw her put on those shoes that lace up which meant we were going running! Then she said, “Do you want to go for a run?” OMG … Do I? I leaped into the air with joy and ran around in circles while she got her stuff ready to go. Where would we go? Would we go to the lakes where I could swim? Or would we go run by that big building with the stairs? Or maybe we’d go down by the big river where people eat those little spicy red-shelled creatures? I couldn’t wait to see where we’d end up.

Momma's Breakfast
Momma’s Breakfast

We actually ran by the big tall building with stairs and then ran by the river and ran around a place that looked a little like our old neighborhood in Memphis. It was hot, but I swam in several lakes and a couple of times in the big river to cool off. We ran FOREVER… and then we went home. Much to my surprise, she started packing another bag, and asked me if I “wanted to go for a ride?” OMG …. that’s my favorite thing in the world next to going for a run … or maybe going for a walk. I could tell we were heading to Pierre Part, and I couldn’t even sleep along the way. Momma had to stop and get her drink and something to eat – she made sure it was decaf (whatever that is) – and then we headed down the highway. I watched the cypress trees and marshy land pass by until we started to see more water and more swamp. Momma said something to me about watching out for the gators this time, and then she said they might eat me. EAT ME??? Why would a gator eat me? I’m a pet. I don’t even know what a gator would look like. How would I know one if I saw one? By the time we got to Granny’s house, I was so excited that I literally knocked Momma in the head. She yelped, but I couldn’t contain myself. I love going to Pierre Part.

She told me about the gators.
She told me about the gators.

It was boring when we first arrived. I went inside, and they had hidden the dog food and cat food. Then there was a lot of talk. Talk … talk … talk… and they talked some more. Are we going outside??? I wanted to yell at them. I kept looking at them, but they didn’t understand at all. They just kept talking, and they’d laugh at me every now and then. What was I doing? They were the ones that were being funny. There’s all this stuff to do, and they just want to talk. Finally, they asked me if I wanted to go for a ride, and I jumped for joy. FINALLY!!! Poppee has a little motorized cart that we ride in. I sit in the front beside him, and I get to look out at the water and houses as we pass by. It doesn’t go too fast, so it’s easy for me to ride along without getting too scared.

We rode down the road that we always do. Usually, we are the only people there, but this time, there were lots of people there. We’d stop and talk…. stop and talk .. stop and talk. There was so much talking, I thought I’d go crazy. One time we stopped at Aunt Bonni’s place, and we sat and talked … and talked … and talked. I left to find something to do, but Momma kept making me come back to where they were. They kept talking about the gators. It’s like they were obsessed with those things … whatever they are. I swam in the lake once, and they all yelled at me to get out or I’d get eaten by a gator. I didn’t see anything but birds. We finally got back in the cart and rode some more. We went back to house and all of us laid down to sleep. I get to sleep with Momma at Granny’s because there are no cats that sleep with her. I don’t know why we have cats. Except for the tasty poo they have, they seem worthless. They aren’t fun like dogs. When we got up, we sat on the little platform over the water and they talked some more. I was sniffing something under the little platform, and Poppee yelled at me to get my nose out from under there. Again, he said something about a gator.

I was getting pretty sick of this gator talk ruining my good time. They’ve never talked about gators before. I think gators must be something people make up to keep dogs from having fun. I never saw one, and I went swimming several times. I saw cats and birds and other people but nothing unusual. I did see a slimy little animal that smelled funny that flopped around on one of the platforms, but it hardly seemed interested in eating me. It was too tiny anyway.

We rode the island in the little cart again, and Poppee stopped and talked to people again. One time he warned this guy about the law against drinking beer on the island on the weekends, but the deadbeat didn’t seem to care. He laughed like he thought it was funny and offered one to us. Maybe he was a gator since he didn’t seem to have any respect for the laws of the land. At any rate, nobody seemed scared of him, and he kept on drinking his beer anyway. When we got back from our ride, we sat on the platform again. We do the same things all day long in Pierre Part. We eat, sleep, sit on the platform over the pond, ride the cart and talk. We just repeat those things over and over again. I like the repetition. It makes me feel safe. I never did see a gator, and, obviously a gator never ate me. I’m still here. I’m so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open. There’s just too much to smell and eat and do in Pierre Part. It’s one of my favorite places … except for the talk. Why do they talk so much? I don’t get it.

 

Hungering For the Luxurious, Elusive State of Sleep

I wonder if cats ever have insomnia?
I wonder if cats ever have insomnia?

My friends Robbie and Jo Ann and I were discussing sleep the other night over a pile of crawfish. I don’t remember who said it, but we talked about how weird it is that we sleep. Sleep is so important that our lives literally revolve around the necessity to lay down and snooze for awhile each night. Our homes would look totally different if we didn’t sleep. Without the necessity of laying down for the night, a bedroom would not be necessary. Sleep is vital to our well-being.

Just yesterday, I overheard a co-worker in cubicle land ask another co-worker how she was doing. “I’m great,” she said. “I have been sleeping so good.” Just as often, I hear people claim that they are not sleeping so well, and it impacts how they feel. When I was younger, it seemed that sleep was often an inconvenience, and I never really gave it much thought. But, the older I get the more I focus on that 8 hours in the darkness where I get my vitality. It is now my PRIME time! The hour before I sleep, I turn off the phone because I’ve learned that conversations with friends increases my energy level so much that it impacts my ability to fall asleep. I take a supplement to help lower my anxiety level so that my body will start to relax. I don’t watch TV at all anymore, and one main reason is that the lighted screen impacts my sleep. If I have a high level of anxiety for some reason, I have a meditation I do to help me fall to sleep. I also keep lavender by the bed for those nights when I need a little extra help. When I cut out coffee awhile back it was primarily to reduce anxiety so I could sleep. It helped so much, I’m now embarking on eliminating caffeine. The last 3 nights have been the most delicious sleep I’ve had in ages.

A friend of mine’s husband suffered from sleep apnea. It was undiagnosed, but night after night, he would be awakened often through the night. It might appear that he was sleeping, but he was being deprived of that deep REM sleep because it takes time to get there. The more often you are awakened during the night, the less likely you will get to that very beneficial, most important stretch of deep sleep. She kept telling him that he may have sleep apnea, and, as most men are, he was too stubborn to get it checked out. He was finally diagnosed, and he got the little apparatus that helps him sleep. I saw him a little while after he had started his treatment, and I had no idea any of this was going on. The last time I’d seen him, I thought he was starting to look old. Deep lines were forming on his face, and he looked much more haggard than I’d remembered. This time when I saw him, the difference was so profound that I noticed right away. He looked literally 10 years younger. I thought maybe I had just imagined the other, so I didn’t ask. Later, my girlfriend told me the story. “OMG,” I told her. “I could tell! He looks so much younger and well-rested.”

I found this article this morning on the impacts of a lack of sleep. Sleep affects so many things. It affects focus, ability to think and process, heart health, weight, mental health and even your sex drive. The article goes on to say that most people think they’ve adapted to less sleep – a 6 hour night – but they really haven’t. Sleep impairs their judgment about how much lack of sleep is impacting them. I know that I need 7-8 hours of sleep. There was a period of time when I was under high stress when I hardly slept at all. It was the most miserable time of my life. One of my friends that knew me during that time remembers that all I would say is that I wanted to sleep. “I just want to sleep,” she quotes me saying over and over. It was awful. And I was very worried about my health.

The good thing about sleep is that it motivates me to make healthy changes. The biggest impact on my sleep is my anxiety level. So, I work really hard to reduce stress, exercise, and eat foods that help calm my anxiety. Sugar and caffeine are known triggers for anxiety, and I’ve been stubborn about eliminating them. It’s so hard! But, I’ve cut back on sugar, and I’m now sold on the fact that my sleep will improve if I cut out caffeine. I’ve experienced it. Not everybody has anxiety, but, for those of us who do, sleep can be so elusive. I already look less tired. My skin seems more relaxed. The past two mornings I woke up before the alarm feeling very rested. I’ve been dreaming. I’ve had great, vivid dreams that make me chuckle when I recall them. The dreaming tells me I’m getting to that golden land of REM sleep. I haven’t dreamed like that in ages. This morning when I woke up, my first thought was Wow! That felt awesome! My second thought was TGIF! Tomorrow morning, I can luxuriate in this wonderful bed and sleep to my heart’s content. I can’t usually sleep late because of my body clock, but I’m hoping that now that I’ve cut out the caffeine, my sleep habits will change a little. So, don’t call me early tomorrow, folks! I’m sleeping in. And I may even take a nap or two just to indulge in my newfound luxuriousness. Have a great weekend, y’all! And get some sleep!

 

Co-Habitating with My Inner Addict

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I’m not surprised that I’m being pulled to give up my caffeine addiction this week. I’ve been practicing yoga daily for almost 2 months. Every time I get into a regular yoga practice, I get much more sensitive to what is not right in my life. I spend 20 or so minutes each morning focusing on my internal life. The deep rhythmic breathing brings me home to myself, and I have to deal with whatever is going on inside. Any little ripple of discomfort or obsession distracts me and becomes like a foghorn in a quiet night. Allowing my soul to settle and be quiet just for a little bit becomes so peacefully comfortable. Anything that distracts me starts to irritate me. What was taking me away from it for a good deal of time was my obsession with having my caffeine. Sometimes I found myself wanting to skip my practice to get to it quicker. But, I wouldn’t do it. I had committed to doing this. But there was that voice inside that said Just this once it won’t matter. And, I’d think, Who the hell are you – wanting what I don’t want … encouraging me to sidestep what I know to be loving and kind to myself?

I know who it is. It’s my inner addict. Not everybody has one because not everyone is plumbed for addiction. But I do, and I’ve known her for a really, really long time. It’s been a rocky relationship at best. Power struggles define the history of our interactions. I knew her since I was a girl, but I never really met her until I went to a codependency workshop right after I separated from my second husband. At that workshop, they encouraged us to draw a picture of our inner addict. At first, I was a little unsure of what to draw, but my fingers began to move, and she finally showed her face. Wild, curly hair framed a face tense with fear. Bloodshot eyes peered from underneath the blanket of curls. She drew herself hanging on a cross because, you see, she is a martyr …. a victim of her circumstances. It’s not her fault… whatever it is. It felt so good to finally come face-to-face with her. It somehow took her power away to know that she was a frightened girl who had a very skewed perception of reality.

My caffeine addiction may not be as strong or as detrimental as my codependency – my addiction to the possibility – or alcohol, but it is an addiction nonetheless. And, my inner addict is pissed right now. Once more, I’m saying, “No, I’m not doing this any more.” Yesterday, I had a great day with my withdrawal. I still had a headache, and my muscles were spongy and achy, but the roller coaster was gone. I felt more energetic as a whole. But, there was a voice inside me telling me that a cup of tea would take that headache away. Just this once it won’t matter. When she’s desperate and using, her voice is more insistent. When she knows she’s losing her power, she becomes more gentle and understanding. She is kind, catering to my immediate needs for comfort.

A friend of mine described his inner addict to me recently. He said he is insistent that it will be okay to do it this time. It’ll be fun. It’s not hurting anybody. We have a right to have fun. But, after his addict has his “hit”, he goes to sleep for a nap. The remorse, guilt, backlash and hangovers are left for him personally to handle. Then a few days later, here comes his addict again. Where’s my hit? Come on, let’s do it again. In recovery, we personify our disease in the same way that I did by drawing the picture of my inner addict. If I can put a face to it or realize that it’s not REALLY me, it’s easier to put up defenses against it. My inner addict actually IS me because I’m doing this stuff, but who cares if I pretend that she’s an intruder if it makes it easier for me to be congruent with who I want to be. Sometimes the ends justifies the means.

Knowing that I have an inner addict simplifies things for me. It is the way I am plumbed. It doesn’t matter what the substance is, I can get addicted to it. When I gave up alcohol, I took on food. Codependency took control at another point. All along the way, I’ve been addicted to caffeine. I can be addicted to just about anything that makes me feel good and takes me away from myself. It doesn’t matter how long I’m in recovery, I will always be an addict. It is my internal plumbing… it is my story … it is my song.

This morning, I rinsed out my blender from my smoothie, and water started rushing out from underneath the door under the sink. I looked to see what was happening, and the entire plumbing under the sink had come loose. It wasn’t a leak. It was a total fallout. I had to laugh because it seemed very synchronistic that this plumbing issue happened while I was thinking about my inner addict and the way I’m plumbed. I’ll have to get my landlord to come over and fix this. It’s a mess. He’ll get it fixed, but the framework – the plumbing – will remain the same. He’ll have to shore it up so that it can withstand the pressure better. Any weak links will need to be repaired. I’ll have to clean up the mess under my sink. My inner addict will never change. I will always have to be strong enough – or supported enough from the outside – to withstand the pressure. She still hangs … on her cross … with her wild eyes ... waiting for an opportunity to get her mojo back. She’s a little b*tch for sure … but she’s taught me so much. How could I ever, ever let her go?

 

Trying a New Experience: No Caffeine

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My favorite yoga teacher, Marifer, has a saying she repeats during yoga class. “In yoga, it’s all experiences. No judgment if you can’t do it. It’s just an experience,” she says in her lilting gentle voice. It reframes my perspective on whether or not I do the pose right. She adds that we really could do yoga with our eyes closed because we shouldn’t be looking at other people. Yoga is an INTERNAL experience.

I have been over a month without coffee, and I feel so much better that I’m attempting to give up caffeine. I don’t plan on giving it up altogether – although I might have to if I can’t do it in moderation – but I want to get off the daily caffeine roller coaster that is my life. Even without the coffee, I’ve increased my tea intake enough to meet the same caffeine level, and on some days, exceed it. Tea doesn’t provide the hammer, and there are times when my energy feels really low. Yesterday I was reading about caffeine because I honestly didn’t feel so good this weekend. I ate too much junk, and I had too much caffeine. The junk is easy for me to stop because I normally eat pretty healthy, but I think it’s time I look at what drugs I’m addicted to, and caffeine is my current drug of choice.

Monday, I had cut back from the weekend indulgence, and I had a bad headache. I was also irritable and on an emotional roller coaster. I found it unacceptable to feel that way. So, yesterday, I allowed myself one tea bag in the morning and one in the afternoon. My muscles felt really fatigued. I used Peppermint essential oil to perk up my flagging energy, but, honestly, it didn’t help a lot. It might have made sense to just have some caffeine, but if I feel that bad without out it, I’m obviously addicted. Without it, I start out with a significant energy deficit. What if I got off it and had a normal energy level? Caffeine has a great high followed up by a low. It’s up and down every few hours. If I could get off the roller coaster, I might feel better. Then, if I needed caffeine on an occasional basis, I wouldn’t have to have so much to keep me going.

I have been caffeine-free before. I’ve done it for years. I remember that I felt good. I was sleepy sometimes, but it wasn’t often. It was usually a real sign of lack of sleep or over-exercise or some other “true” reason to be fatigued. I didn’t have the early morning issues getting out of bed, late morning energy lag or after lunch battle to stay awake. The caffeine dip makes everything worse, and I end up trying to perk up my flagging energy with sugar or more caffeine. Plus, it’s costly. I’m tired of spending the money on something EVERYDAY. A friend of mine and I were talking about smoking. He has quit now, but he remembers counting cigarettes before he went to bed to make sure he had enough for the morning. If he didn’t, he’d have to go out and get some. Addictions are really just one more thing you have to keep up. I’ve got enough to keep up. I’d like to spend my $5 a day or even $3 a day – depending on the caffeine fix – on something else. Maybe an Athleta tank top would be nice.

So, today will be my first day WITHOUT. I ran for 45 minutes this morning. I slept so well last night, and I had these amazing vivid dreams. I woke up energized. I’m missing the hit a little right now, but I don’t have a headache or fatigue yet. Maybe I won’t get it today. Anyway, I’m using this post as my commitment not to hit on caffeine today. Like Marifer says, it’s just an experience. If I take the one day at a time approach – and that’s all I can handle anyway – I can experience one day without caffeine just to see what I learn. Everything … everything is yoga.

P.S. I wouldn’t try to resolve any conflicts with me today, though. It might not go well. I’m just sayin’.

Finding Loveliness in the Simple Things

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This morning God had me reading The Dance of Life by Henry Nouwen. I always just open the book and let God tell me what I need to hear. It works like a charm. This morning’s salve was a journal entry where Father Nouwen reflects on his propensity for drama. He talks about a friend who always talks about the small things in life that are beautiful and joyful while he likes the “newspaper news.” He laments that he’s not more focused on the joys of life as a natural inclination.

Yesterday,  I was thinking about how everywhere I’ve lived, there have been wonderful things that I love. People ask me all the time which city I loved the most. I can never really say. I can say that I loved Seattle because it was so over-the-top beautiful with its snow-capped volcanoes and watery backdrop. I loved Knoxville because of its proximity to the Smoky Mountains and my girlfriends I knew there. I loved Memphis because of its music, its healing community and the downtown area. I loved St. Joseph because of Lake Michigan and the quaint Victorian neighborhoods. There is so much beauty in this world. No one place has an advantage over another. I had a fiancee when I moved to Michigan from Seattle. He couldn’t adapt because he thought Seattle was the only beautiful place in the world. He was looking for beauty that was in his face every minute of the day. I remember telling him that if Seattle was the best place in the world, Chicago wouldn’t haven any people in it. They’d all be in Seattle. He laughed, but I could tell he just couldn’t pick out loveliness in less obvious things.

I had a really rough day at work yesterday. All of the BS got to me, and I wanted to flee. I literally did flee for a couple of hours, but I had this really strong desire to get the hell out of Baton Rouge and the higher education system with its much slower pace and financial problems. I longed for the world of corporate America where the pressure was on, and people who aren’t performing are weeded out pretty quickly. I wanted to be working in a place where there was plenty of money to get the things done that needed to be done. It was just too much to overcome for the moment. I took some time, and I got my head back into the game, but I’m still working really hard this morning to find the good. I know I’ll get there, but I had reached the point of completely giving into the fantasy of escape, and it felt like a huge relief. I could see Arkansas in my windshield and Louisiana in my rear view mirror as plain as day… and I was in sheer bliss. But, escape isn’t really that easy, is it?

Individually, they are tiny and ordinary, but in a field, they are fabulous.
Individually, they are tiny and ordinary, but in a field, they are fabulous.

So, this morning I have this message about finding the joy and changing my focus. Sunday as I was driving home from my sister’s house in Cottonport, I was enjoying the ride. Cottonport is in Northern Louisiana (sort of), and it is country almost all the way to Baton Rouge. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the trees were dressed out in that beautiful new leaf limey green. Country music was playing on the radio, and my dog was snoring next to me in the passenger seat. I noticed field after field of these lovely little yellow flowers. The entire field would be covered with them giving the blanket of green this lovely yellow glow. When I first got into recovery, and I was in so much emotional pain I could hardly bear the day. I started running in the trails in the Indiana Dunes State Park. In the springtime, the forest was covered with yellow wildflowers much like the ones I saw Sunday. I saw them then .. and now .. as symbols of the sunlight of the spirit. They remind me of God … and goodness … and the promise that our world has a much deeper meaning than is evident at first glance. Sunday, I watched field after field of these flowers pass by.  I talked to a good friend who had been in a terrible car accident a few weeks ago. It was so bad that she had this really peaceful knowing that this was it…. this was how she was going to check out. But, she woke up – amazed to be alive. It made me realize how sad I would have been if she hadn’t made it and the fragility of our existence. I found myself pulling off the road for a minute to really take those flowers in.

Life is short. Even though my heart feels a bit heavy this morning with work issues, I’m going to try to find the joy in my work today. There has to be something that drew me here to this job that is more meaningful than the everyday BS. I might go pick up some yellow flowers to put on my desk. That might just be the ticket. I forget that escape can look like a complete escape, or it can just be a minor tweak in perception. I pulled up that pic of the yellow flowers that I took yesterday. Just seeing them gives me the connection to spirit that I need. Thanks, Father Nouwen for following up with your very obvious reminder to find the simple beauty in life. Loveliness is not only evident in snow-capped volcanoes and obvious over-the-top beauty, but it resides in simple little yellow wildflowers. Beauty truly is in the eyes of the beholder.

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