Sunday, December 8, 2013

Inventory for December

Wrapping Up
And then there are those google sprees. One feels a sprinter. At your fingers are the keys rising and falling under the weight of the power that is internet access. 

People in their mid-20s are said to behave as if they were in their early teens. That this is developmentally appropriate. That it's actually a good thing. 

To purposefully escape and inadvertently further this stereotype, we collectively turn to the internet. 

The pattern goes email/facebook stalking (mild to moderate)--->wikipedia (insert topic here)--->beyonce. Thoreau has postured the notion that all news stories are the same in essence, ditto recreational electronic research. 

Because it's not interesting if it's not about me, I wonder who Beyonce's inspirations are (to learn about them and steal Bey's mojo). There has to be some external magic. But every time this search has gone through one thing is found: Beyonce inspires herself. 
So that's what Self-Care November is and was all about. Being both the fount and the font of your own inspiration. 

Hope your 'día del pavo' was fantastic, happy December. you have something to talk about when someone tells you they've been in recovery
Except when that person makes the your-words-are-strangling-me face and you know you've said too much. 

How to take an inventory:
In a nutshell---
-Who are you mad at?
-What happened?
-Which parts of the 'self' did it affect?
-What was your (mi)stake in the situation?
-What should have been done instead (and what, if anything, can be done now?)

There is also a central tenet of striving for self-reliance to a fault, and when this 'fails' inventory-worthy situations take place. 

Pretty cool mind exercise, even just to gain a fuller understanding of what it means to 'work' a 12-step program. 

Let me just throw out there that even though talking about being in 'program' isn't as popular as it once was---remember that Seinfeld episode when George expected that guy to apologize for stretching out his cashmere sweater?---it is still something with a lot of followers. It could be a combination of my line of work and the media I enjoy, but it feels like so much of my life has necessitated a cursory knowledge of AA. For a long time it seemed like hype, but the literature seems at least insightful even if you have never had substance use issues. 

Always in support of knowledge, people. always in support of knowledge. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Halfway there!

Happy halfway point! It is hard to believe that Self Care November is halfway through. Hopefully you are all feeling a bit more centered. 

This is just a celebratory post. Continue doing whatcha doing and we will touch base tomorrow. 
Congrats, everyone!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Almost halfway there...

Hello beautiful people,

How are ye? It is a fabulous morning in Phoenix, AZ. The weather is sunny and in the 70s...not bad for November.

Since we are almost halfway through Self Care November, now is the time to evaluate your list. At this point it is important to make sure you will be able to feel successful when this month is over.

Are there some goals that you have been avoiding? Avoidance can be a symptom of inner conflict, so try to be introspective and see if that may be the case. Avoidance can also just be what you do if you procrastinate. Not everything has to be serious.
Anyway. If there are goals you haven't been doing just see if it is because you haven't gotten around to it, or if they aren't ringing true anymore.

At the same time, celebrate the success you've been having with the goals that have been completed. here are some that I have made progress on:

-Every day, say "I deserve success". Boom.

-Self-mother...really, self-parent...regularly. Basically, you just take a situation from the past or present and imagine what you as a parent would say to you at whatever age you are/were at that time. This can also be a way to see what your subconscious expects for you in the future. During one time a while back I saw myself in a small whitewashed room that had a glass coffee table and a large lilac couch. I brought in a tray of teas and listened to a frustrated lil' Kenz as she explained her problem and looked at the origami mobile in the corner. A lovely, serene image.

-Regular meditation practice. Just make time for it, you have no excuse. Doing even 1 minute is SO MUCH BETTER than none at all. (but try for at least 5)

-Follow my creative desires and trust they will lead me back. I am in this oil painting class. I am not particularly gifted with painting, but my desire has outweighed my need to only do things when I will be 'the best'. And as an artistic/creative individual it has been a pleasure to see that at least I'm improving. An oft-cited indicator of enjoyable activities includes finding those during which you experience "flow". Painting is definitely a "flow" activity.

-Challenge excuses I make to myself, aka follow through.

-Develop mindfulness. there is this little amethyst I bought recently. Just rolling it around in my hand is good enough to bring me back to the present moment. Have you ever seen Inception? That is what I would use to see if we were in the dream or real world.

-Craft, watch movies, read, chill. Triple boom.

-Ride my bike everywhere. Now Monday is my dedicated car day. So, not everywhere. But pretty close.

-"Love is what you make it. You choose now." See steps above.

Nine down, ten to go.
Now it is time to hone in on the more complex self-care goals. Most of them (redefining expert, film about intuition, positive female role models, etc etc) are in progress, but the deals are still awaiting sealing.

Have a great day. Here is a quote to round it all out:

“If it’s still in your mind, it’s worth taking the risk.”

-Paulo Coehlo

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Reminder and some inspiration

Hi everyone, 
What are you planning to do for yourself today?

-Make sure to carry your list around with you. Try to look at it a few times today. We can forget even the simplest self-care techniques if they aren't part of how we normally move through the day.

-Remember to refrain from self-judgment. If you don't reach your goals today, don't worry. Even thinking about them is a start. If you really want it you will get it!

-Are you having fun yet? Changing habits won't work if it isn't enjoyable (of course, right?). There is a certain element of nose-to-grindstone, but expended effort can feel great.

-Regarding holiday stress, today would be the day to employ visualization techniques to imagine a series of lovely holidays ::Om shanti shanti::

Update on the list
I have been reading about intuition. There are scientists and psychologists who value the idea of intuition, and even validate it's existence. This is a link with detailed information and some ways to increase your intuitive chops. I'll let you know what works.

“Love what you do and do what you love. Don't listen to anyone else who tells you not to do it. You do what you want, what you love. Imagination should be the center of your life.” 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Day Five

Happy Tuesday everyone. We are on day five of  Self Care November! I hope you are all getting comfortable exploring what self care means to you.

Why now?
Some people have been asking, “Why November?” The main reason is that the establishment of a routine now will support you when the stressors of the holidays set in. If you begin turning a little bit more attention inward now, when you are contending with the uncertainty of daily life, it will be that much easier to continue on through added seasonal pressures. (And even though a great number of people all over the world do not celebrate any of the upcoming holidays…duly noted. Everyone can benefit from a supportive routine.)

Holiday transformation
Close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Inhale through your nose and exhale in a slow stream out through your mouth. Imagine you are in your safe place, the one we discussed in the previous post. Picture yourself walking out of that space, and forward in time towards the events of the coming days. Continue to hold a steady breath as you feel emotions wash over you. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, imagine what that will look like this year. Just let the images come. Allow them to float to the surface, revealing your expectations. Notice sensations in your body. Which emotions challenge you? Which ones feel uplifting? If you practice any holidays in December imagine what that will look like this year. Again, allow the images to float to the surface without imposed structure or judgment. Continue breathing, focusing on balanced inhalation and exhalation. Now imagine New Years in the same manner as the other holidays. Breathe into the sensations that arise, and know that the emotions are coming from inside yourself. They cannot harm you. Picture yourself entering your safe place once again. You are completely calm and content. You are pacified. When it feels right, open your eyes.

Write down each holiday you pictured, then the emotions that went along with each one. If you record any emotions that you do not want to be a part of your holiday season, write down the opposite feeling next to it.

Do this exercise again tomorrow, but instead of letting any emotion rise up, visualize each holiday with the emotions of your choosing. The more consistently you visualize what you want from the holidays, the better your chances of getting it.

Update on the list
I recently explored what it means to be an expert. This has been amazing. Definitions of words? So great. We have these conceptual notions of what words are, yes. But to really understand what a word is, to see the other words that explain precisely what that one word is…come on! Literacy is magic.

Here are the findings so far:
When you type it into ye olde Google, we see…

a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.

having or involving authoritative knowledge.

To get even more clarity, I looked up the word authoritative.
For this one the first definition was the best fit.

able to be trusted as being accurate or true; reliable.

Further research (cough Wikipedia cough) dug up the notion that ‘comprehensive knowledge’ included training as well as real-world experience.

Are you an expert in anything? Is there something in which you would like to develop your expertise? How does this connect to self care, if at all?

It’s been great to hear from a few of you so far, keep the feedback coming.
Here’s a quote to round it all out!

“Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”
-William Benjamin Basil King

Friday, November 1, 2013

Self Care November!

"Harry, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it. Don't wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men's store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee." -Special Agent Dale Cooper, Twin Peaks

Happy November! Today is the kick-off of the first annual "Self Care November" extravaganza. If you are not living your dream life, self care is for you.

Why self care is valuable
Many people work jobs they dislike and do things they don't want to do. That is no way to live a fulfilling existence! In my opinion, stifling your dreams is pretty traumatic. If this is how you are living, the link above definitely applies to you. Self care is about taking baby steps into a life that takes the obligatory aspect out of daily routines. It is also a way to learn more about yourself, which increases your overall chance for success---however you define that. 

Safe Place
To figure out your goal points regarding self care, it can help to choose a 'safe place'. (Can you tell I've been in therapy on and off for over a decade?) Close your eyes and imagine a location where you feel completely comfortable. Breathe into this for at least a minute. Now open your eyes and record how you felt. The emotions you felt there are the emotions your self care exercises are supposed to evoke. 

The list
Even if you feel like you're not a list maker, this is a good time to experiment. 

Here is my list, to give you a taste of what a Self Care November routine might look like. 
Warning: some of this is suuuuuper corny. I am privy to indirect trauma for 40+ hours per week, so there is a lot of psychic deep cleaning that is necessary in my routine that you may find too intense to be authentic in your own. 

Here they are in no particular order....

-Every day, say "I deserve success". 
-Redefine "expert". Find quotes and put them up. 
-Self-parent regularly. 
-Read about how to best follow your intuition. 
-Write 2 stories about people who follow their intuition. 
-Regular meditation practice. 
-Follow your creative desires. Trust they will lead you back. 
-Challenge excuses you make to yourself. 
-Develop mindfulness. 
-Find positive, independent female role models and include them in your life via their art, words, photos. 
-Craft, watch movies, read, chill. 
-Meditate on your goals. 
-Explore, challenge fears and self-judgment with yoga. 
-Positive self-talk, record it if you must. 
-"Love is what you make it. You choose now."
-Make a film, start to finish, about intuition. 
-Ride your bike everywhere. 
-Make a master list of your strengths. 
-Rewrite/update personal mission statement. 

Some basics I didn't include, because they are already a part of my weekly thang, like soaking my feet in hot water or drinking water with lime. Start small. 
The point is not to force care. Listen to the quote above and let it be organic. 
Good luck, people. I'll be posting updates. It would be great to hear from all of you, too. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Donut Culture

There is a donut shop near my house. This place is amazing. 

They have a glazed donut with real whipped cream on the inside. It is cut in half like a sandwich. I am addicted. And after eating it I feel a swath of shame envelop me. For someone raised, inadvertently, with a serious Catholic-guilt complex this is almost better/worse than the co-occuring sugar high. It is also worth noting that us New Englanders are extremely self-flagellating, something that doesn’t really happen here in the wild wild west.

Arizonans seem to feel no guilt. Which is weird because in defiance of nature they live in large desert cities, don’t recycle, and drive everywhere. Assholes! It’s like New Englanders feel guilty for them. It’s kind of refreshing to feel guilty. I’m just learning slowly that it isn’t necessary (in most cases).

So, I pass this donut shop about 9 times a week. In the non-summer mornings I ride my bike past and muscle through the aroma of hot sticky dough. Oh. My. Gatos. What a challenge. Whenever I feel sick, this may be a weird confession, actually---okay, whenever I feel sick I try to pass the shop. The hope is that someday the feeling of nausea will become associated with donuts. That would cure me for sure.

Once I got food poisoning from eating tacos that have a high probability of being made from dog. After that the smell of tortillas de maíz was absolutely sickening. But I have loved donuts since a young age, and haven’t yet been able to break the curse.

Once upon a time there was this fabulous donut, a powered, chocolate créme filled one that my parents used to buy on choice Saturday mornings. It isn’t sold at the Dunkin Donuts (a.k.a. DD’s) near my parent’s house any more. While watching Twin Peaks one summer all I wanted was coffee and donuts. I would drive my brother to the Dunkin’s, praying for the magical sweet of yore. No such luck. But good things come to us when we least expect them.

There are two places I have successfully located the chocolate-créme lovely: (sorry if this is really boring, just gotta get this out there). The gas station DD’s near Orange, MA on the way to-from Amherst and the one on Bethany Home and 21st Ave here in Phoenix. FYI. There are other bakeries in Phoenix, some that have jumped on a certain bandwagon. There is this thing going on in the culinary community, it has been happening for a while. Artisan donuts.

Voodoo Donuts in Portland, OR comes to mind. There’s also a donut food truck in Chicago (I know! They doin’ too much). There are vegan donuts popping up in Phoenix. I guess in essence there is nothing wrong with eating donuts. There’s just something so…forbidden about them. Just like one of my favorite literary themes, forbidden love, after a while the craving is impossible to refuse. Going into the donut shop, you enter and your eyes grow wide with anticipation. Instantly the imagination is filled with fantasy.

Staring at the glass case and your eyes rove from one sugared sheen to another. You imagine running through a field with powder all over your face and hands. You flop down, Dorothy-style,  in the field of poppies and fall into a delicate, glazed slumber. With a forbidden love the fantasies are slightly different. The courtship dance is drinking from their beer, brushing knuckles, making prolonged eye contact that would be creepy in any other situation.

The identifying placards in the pasty case only create more mystery. “Strawberry jam” says one. “Blueberry old-fashioned” proclaims another. In the case of a would-be lover it is iguál. Their carefully selected words only drop you both deeper into the imagination rabbit hole. So many women my age have a strange relationship with both themes—forbidden love and donuts alike.

A business that booms during a recession is contraception. And when you finally consummate the romance (obsession?) with your big ol’ crush it’s a good idea to keep it safe---especially if you don’t have health insurance. Those brave ladies who remain sex-positive in this sex-negative world are a growing population, and yet from the outside it wouldn’t appear so. Those times when I was watching Twin Peaks and fiending for donuts they were, like young women openly embracing their sexuality, a shameful treat. In lots of places, like my work, donuts still are drenched in shame.

Way back one November morning I brought a dozen donuts to work. When a co-worker saw the pink box she turned and told me, “I hate you”. Another moaned, “Oh no.” The donuts were just being themselves, but they were anxiety producing. But at the end of the day they were gone. Busting diets and taking names. Calorie counting doesn’t seem to have much of a place in the foodie-baking universe.

In those circles donuts are going the way of the cupcake: once relegated to certain occasions (donuts to police stations, cupcakes to children’s birthday parties) they are breaking through. A theory is that during recessions cheap, sweet treats and general vice both remain on the must-buy list of the populous, just like wrapping it up. This makes sense, as a box of 12 donuts usually costs less than $10---even cheaper in Phoenix. And slow-burning trysts are almost free. Eating donuts and doing the naughty with a no no go along with the mission statement of now.

The aesthetic of the moment is the ‘I don’t care 80s take over’. Oversized glasses and power-clashing add to the general feel. And if you eat donuts you seriously don’t care. Ditto if you ruin relationships/grades/your professional credibility to get your rocks off. The uncool thing to do is moderate your intake of anything. A plain shirt? Ew, the fashionable say. Waiting for a nice partner? Lame, they mutter. If we bow to current aesthetic, the ideology of the present, we are sacrificing our identity for what is acceptable.

Succumbing to hegemony, no matter how subversive it initially appears, does us no favors. If you honestly eat donuts by the box and weave tangled webs then carry on. But if you’ve always been uncomfortable pairing that Hawaiian shirt with those golf shorts…liberate yourself.

Shame has no place in 2013. Let’s self-regulate, let’s trust our instincts. You like her? Go for it. You think that looks yummy? Eat it. Moderation, though. Moderation is difficult. But it’s possible. I believe in you. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

She can't stay away

Almost a year later, the thoughts are bursting forth too much to keep them inside. 

In the coming weeks we will explore exciting topics, such as 
-Writer's Groups!
-The next generation of oldies!
-Anxiety, depression, and general malaise!
-Domestic violence!
-Cultural appropriation!
-The crisis in anthropology!
-Beautiful doors!
-The problem with art scenes!
-Identity politics!
-How to scare away a man!
-The new athleticism!

Writer’s Groups.

Writers are naturally reticent when it comes to sharing their work. “I’ll show it when it’s published,” is an oft-thought, if not cited, phrase among fiction writers. They know they’re supposed to share their work, but it is difficult to part with one’s baby. Especially after toiling through birth. We don’t squat in fields, but very nearly.  The birth of fiction is slouching over computers and notebooks, picking the dry skin off our lips and choosing each precious word. 

As an adolescent I considered myself a poet. I hated writing fiction. And a part of me still does hate it. Fiction is SO MUCH HARDER than it seems! Grr. Just this morning I considered abandoning my ‘novel’ that has been written stop-start for the better part of a decade (oh god, how awful) and for that blessed 20 minutes I felt free, weightless. The thoughts began to flow:

         “Maybe I will be a potter and move to Jay, New YorkMaybe I’ll buy a house in the Garfield and get a Rhodesian Ridgeback. Maybe I will move to France with my cat and work on an ethnography.”

And before that token reader says, “You can still do all of those things,” my reply is no, no I cannot! This is a life’s work. Yes, it is theoretically possible, but who can plan that much? I need down time. I’m no James Franco. 

After the euphoria of releasing my project into the ether subsided, I returned back to the point. I’ve worked on this novel for too long to give up. To quote a former co-worker, “I’m not a quitter” (though in the past I have definitely been a quitter. Ask my photo teacher in high school, ask my former co-managers at Campus Design and Copy, ask my former friends in Mexico City, ask the brave people at Long Way home, ask my former advisor in the Commonwealth Honors College… I quit my quitting streak upon moving to Arizona, but that’s a tale for another time.)
Comedian Patton Oswalt has a bit that talks about a movie from the 70s which had just been released to DVD. It is called, “Death Bed: The Bed That Eats People”. He riffs on how this is the dumbest idea ever, and poses the question, “Did the writer of the screenplay ever have a moment’s doubt?” Patton ties this into his own work writing screenplays, and how it is difficult to overcome that itch of doubt he sometimes feels. Either the writer of “Death Bed” never doubted his idea, or, and here Patton identifies this possibility as ‘even worse’, “He had that moment of doubt and he worked through it!” Basically, if “Death Bed” is a movie then my novel will be a novel. And to really produce something worthy, ya gotta join a writer’s group.

I have gone to one in South Phoenix…not the scary/sexy South Phoenix, the Ahwatukee SoPho. It was good for the first two weeks, but then one night I woke up out of my sleep and said, “This isn’t working”. Later, yes, their feedback will be vital. But for right now I have so much more work to do. I am a Cancer, so a scavenger by nature. Take what you need and keep it moving. Writer’s groups, man.

Initially I was so relieved that everyone was nice and they were good writers. But seriously…I can’t even use that nitpicky sentence-structure stuff yet. It is valuable, but you cannot teach a 5 year old algebra. Here goes the fretting: I need a manuscript that is all together. I need so many more pieces to fit. I need to comb every page and insert emotion, clear up my protagonist’s motivations. Already this is exhausting. The hesitancy to share work is not just because writers are afraid of criticism---I would argue the opposite. 

Most good writers I know are extremely open to hearing feedback. It’s that writer’s groups have a bad rep. We’ve heard there is a lot of posturing. We’ve heard so many nasty rumors. But this was such a positive experience, a group of middle-aged strangers and me. So what was the problem that interrupted my sleep?
I write for message, not to make each sentence grammatically correct and hit every paragraph break. Yes, attention to and respect for details are essential qualities of a good writer. You need to prove you know the rules to break them. And I get that. But my developing novel is rooted in a belief that emotion is ultimate motivation. This novel is a testament to unfulfilled obsession or some sort of twisted love. And I only went two times to the group, so one can’t be sure…but I have been trying to trust my intuition more. This has been encouraged by my day job. I work at a domestic violence shelter, and it is amazing. One of the many mantras I repeat to the residents is, “You are your own expert”. A tenet of our empowering-dynamic philosophy is our ultimate trust in a woman’s ability to make good decisions for herself.

In the spirit of this, my next endeavor is to form a writers group within walking distance to my home. Our focus will be on theme, on the function of the fictional world within our modern literary context.  Writers, much like comedians, need to struggle through ‘the scene’ until they find their voice. To do this, authenticity is required. However embarrassing, us fiction writers must write boldly until the words align with the heart of the message. Hopefully grammar will follow.