Gifts of the Privileged

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La Chica: I LOVE MY EYESIGHT!!!!!
La Momma: Uh, what?
La Chica: Well, you know. I close my eyes. Then I open them. And WOW! I see bursts of orange! I close them again. Then I open them, and BOOM! I see more colors! Things! Leaves! Houses! Clouds! The sky! I LOVE MY EYESIGHT!

She shares her excitement as we walk through the fallen leaves on windy paths and wooden foot bridges through wooded space to school. I just chuckle. She’s right. We close our eyes, and we open them. And Bam! Hello, world. Rinse and repeat.

I found the unexpected glee and odd timing a bit weird at first. Silly girl, I thought. But then I realized she’s expressing small gratitudes. She’s grateful for the wonder of sight. She’s awed by the world around her. In such ordinary routines and mundane objects she finds the beauty and splendor of the world.

How did I lose that innocence? I am grateful for many things throughout every day. Yet oftentimes I forget how fortunate I am until there is a loss. Until I am faced with an injury or a tragedy. Then it’s a retrospective gratitude. Here she is being proactive about all the little things, that really are the big things.

I remember the first year of The Boy’s life. There was a lot about that first year that I absolutely hated. I hated the fact that the kid refused to sleep. Ever. I hated that I ended up with tendonitis in both wrists because this rather large human demanded I hold him. All the time. I hated that breastfeeding never became easy, comfortable, nor natural. I hated that I couldn’t laugh, sneeze or run without peeing. But what I loved that first year was his wonder.

Witnessing him navigate this world where everything was new and foreign to him was the most amazing process. There was something holy about it. It took me to a place where the world was good. Blue. Bird. Car. Mirror. And that’s you in the reflection. Spoon. Airplane. Firetruck. Fuzzy. Cold. The wonder with each new discovery. The wonder of learning about processes. Buttoning. Zipping. Trash can lids opening. Doors closing. Eating. There’s no judgment. Things just are in an infant’s world.

Everything made him happy. Except sleep. The world was good. He’ll be 11 soon. He’s since learned life isn’t fair and can be hard and sad. He’s learned we don’t always get what we want. He’s learned there’s a lot of judging out there. La Chica is 8. She too has learned these lessons about life. Yet the children still revel in the simple things in life. They are still full of wonder and awe. They have not yet chosen to carry the burdens of the world.

I just love the idea that we all started out as innocent, curious vessels blown away by the wonder of this world. Somewhere through my life’s journey, I too learned life isn’t fair, and that it can be hard and sad. I learned that the world is not all good. Bad things happen. Sad things happen. I feared being judged, so I judged right back with my cutting sarcasm and quest for perfectionism and overachieving. For a long time, I couldn’t just Be in this world.

Through the years, I’ve learned that gratitudes in life are big and small and are all around us. Yet I have lost the ability to recognize the very routine gratitudes like my eyesight. Bird. Airplane. Blue. Buttons buttoning. Zippers zipping. Eyes seeing. Hearts loving. I’ve taken much for granted. La Chica’s reminded me that we are privileged, we are blessed. To have the gift of sight, for the gift of nature, for the gift of feeling love and pain, for the gift of a robust life. For the gift that the world is good.

Posted in Empowerment, Mindfulness, spirituality | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Chin Up

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I believe we get the same messages in life until we’re ready to hear them. A few years ago, a friend suggested I try positive manifestations, and understanding you’re deserving and worthy of your goals and desires. Then this week, another friend also talked about positive manifestations, and being concrete about visualizing the details of your end goal. If it’s a beach house you desire, being so concrete and detailed-oriented that you picture the 2x4s.

So my friend suggested I try this for more positive dating experiences since I was having quite the rut with a string of underwhelming men. I thought about it, and I said I don’t know how to picture what “he” would look like physically. So my wise friend tells me to picture who I want to be in the relationship, and how he interacts in my life, like being at my son’s duathlon cheering him on.

Ah….that’s the crux of it. I am stuck right there. Because truth be told, I’ve never pictured anyone interacting with my kids. It’s riskier if my kids are involved in my relationship, because they can get hurt too. And I’m terrified of that. I don’t know if I’m ready for that.

Yes, I do know. I am. Because I can be scared and brave. I didn’t date for 5 years. On purpose. I spent a lot of time figuring out who I want to be. I spent those years forging how my life would look, to feed the needs of my children and myself separately and together as a family. It was a really rewarding and exhilarating time of my life. Then I started dating cautiously. I said I was looking for someone who is kind and respectful and funny and smart; someone I could share my life with. I’ve met some people who were kind and respectful and funny and smart. But see, I never really imagined sharing my kids with them. I guess I never imagined truly sharing my life. I guarded those little beings.

Part of the reason I didn’t date for so long was because I was terrified of hurting my kids or just fucking them up if my next relationship(s) failed. I know how devastating it is for me. I am aware how devastating it can be for the kids.

I’m still learning to accept I do not have control of much in life. I can try my hardest to do the next right thing. But there’s no guarantee any relationship will work out in the end. I have realized also that in the past couple months, I’ve somehow started to hold on again to the societal expectation that I must find a partner. I think this is partly due to my friends frequently asking for details about my dates or comments like “But you’re a catch. You should find someone!” So I’ve taken society’s pressures on as my own. And of course ultimately, I do want a relationship as well.

But somewhere I lost my way and started panicking instead of accepting things for what they are and just Being. So the second I meet anyone I remotely connect with, I have panicked and started acting in ways where I’m trying to force something. Instead of just having fun and seeing what happens, I would be dejected or disappointed that I didn’t click with a date, or I would get very anxious if I did click with someone. I was hyperfocused on the end goal instead of just being in the process of it all. Findsomeone findsomeone findsomeone…. Your friends keep asking for God’s sake, just pick the prize behind Door #2 and go home already.

So I’m going to go at it now with a better attitude. I am going to be proactive and smile and have fun and enjoy learning about people. I don’t want to be a sad or bitter person. I’m going to talk less about the dating fails and the unkind men and the underwhelming men even when friends ask. Because I don’t want to give that energy. I have a fabulous life because I was proactive at it. I need to do that here too. I am going to send positive energy into the world of who I am, who I want to be, and who I want in my life. We are going to continue this fabulous life together.

As for who I end up clicking with, I can’t change what I’m drawn to, but I can control how kind I am, and how kind or mean I allow people to be to me. So I’m looking forward to this practice of being kind, of maintaining boundaries, of meeting new people, and learning more about myself. This Buttercup’s chin is up and looking forward to the next phase of life–I can see it now!

Posted in Dating, Empowerment, Meditation, Mindfulness, Relationships | Tagged , | 5 Comments

She’s With The Band

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Who are you? How do you identify yourself? What’s your elevator pitch? What’s your brief Twitter profile description?

There are so many ways to view yourself. By the roles we play, by our hobbies, by our age, gender, race/ethnicity, profession.

But see, we write our own stories, so we can change our roles, our hobbies, even our gender. You can move between the single and married and divorced roles through life. You can move between stay-at-home-parent to working-outside-the-home-parent. You can pick up tennis or swimming. You can decide to stop biking.

So what happens when you’re faced with an identity crisis of sorts? When you turn the page of your own story and there’s a plot turn that you had not anticipated? What happens when you face an illness or injury or death or other change that thrusts you from minding your own business to being forced to change?

Well, isn’t that where all change occurs–when a crisis forces you to decide to change? Isn’t that where all the joy and pain in life arises from? From the struggles rise the gratitude? Because change is hard and painful. And really, who wants to do hard and painful things?

I tell you, I am so thankful my children are alive and well–still pesky at times, but healthy and alive. I am quite aware, and grateful, I am very fortunate in all ways. So I feel a bit selfish and whiney when I say I’ve been thrust into an identity crisis of sorts. I am also aware I need to process losses before moving on and crafting a new identity. And it got me thinking–how do we identify ourselves? How do we pick and choose what aspects of ourselves we lead with? What is behind the decision points in how we choose to express ourselves to the outside world?

What my friends know of me is consistent with the brief descriptors of me on my blog and Twitter profile. I used to lead with saying I’m a runner. I love red wines, especially from Chile, Argentina, Spain, Australia; rarely from California. I love to cook and bake and eat, all ethnic cuisines. I love the flying trapeze. I love good coffee. All of those things I felt I could not live without.

And yet. One moment in time has taken all of those things from me. Isn’t that how it always goes? It just takes one moment in life to change everything. And so it goes.

I thought I was finally making good progress with the post-traumatic migraines I’d been suffering from since the trapeze fall 20 months ago. Yet I just had a debilitating week of mostly laying in the dark in the fetal position on dirty floors. But see, I hate being told what I can or cannot do. And I hated how limiting, and painful, my life was that week. So I got all sorts of pissed off.

Which brings me to why I’m trying an elimination diet to get rid of migraine triggers. I needed control over my life. And so good-bye, goes the red wine and coffee and chocolate and all soy and whey products and vinegars and yeast-risen products and cheese and smoked/cured/canned proteins and nuts and avocados and citrus and bananas and onions and lentils and and and….

Well then. And have I mentioned I can’t run or do the trapeze right now either? Can I still legitimately call myself a runner if I haven’t run in months and may never be cleared to do so again? Can I rightfully still say I love red wines if I can’t drink them any longer? What does this leave me with? It leaves me curious how we show the world who we are. I am still secure in knowing who I am. I know I am still a mother and sister and daughter and friend and writer and volunteer and all of those things.

I know I will eventually find other hobbies and activities to fill my life. But now I’m a bit awkward in social settings. It’s hard to have coffee with someone when she’s drinking water. It’s not so fun to be at a craft beer festival when you can’t contribute to discussing how each beer tastes. It’s not so fun either tasting and talking about wines when you can’t taste them; there’s just a whole lotta nodding going on. Cooking and baking is limited and requires serious modifications and thought.

And so it’s not so much an identity crisis I’m faced with, but limitations in how I connect with people that require modifications. These things I listed as not being able to live without–they’re all vehicles for social connections. Coffee, wine, beer, food, running. So in fact it’s the social connections I’ve built over shared interests and activities that I fear I will miss, or I fear will be altered.

When I think of it this way, I can breathe and accept these modifications for now, because I know I won’t live without connecting with people. That’s my thing (is that even a thing?). I just have to figure out how else to connect. But when I focus only on being told I can’t have certain things, and that chocolate, red wine and pizza are some of those things, I get all sorts of grumpy. Which is not conducive to connecting with others successfully.

So I’ve learned when one door closes, you go up and open another one. That’s what doors do. They open. So I opened one and saw an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. I just joined a band. Applications for roadies being accepted now. Line forms to the left. Ponder how you identify yourself as you wait in line. And think of a good band name please!

 

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves”–Thomas  Edison

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Let’s Talk About Sex

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Sexuality is a funny thing. Sex is a funny thing. We’re sharing the earth with billions of our best friends, so clearly we’re doing something right. Or if not right, we’re certainly doing it at the very least. Because it feels good. Because we as humans are sexual beings. I hosted a speaker for a continuing education course for mental health professionals. The speaker reminded us that our kids are having sex. He threw out all these statistics from surveys of middle school and high school kids. And I have no idea how these kids are getting into college, because they are really busy engaging in sexual activities. My immediate solution for my own kids was to start home schooling them. So at least they won’t be data points having sex.

We need to talk to our kids about sex so that they’re safe and prepared and not shamed or scared. What do we say and when? It seems so scary and confusing–for us as parents to even consider these discussions. So if it incites panic and fear in us, imagine what it does for young kids who are exposed to sexuality and sexual images from birth with advertising, and TV show plots, and dolls with large breasts and short skirts. They know something’s up, but they don’t know quite what that is. Until we tell them.

Or until they hear misinformation from their friends. Your choice. The discussions need to go beyond the plumbing and the procedures and technical terms. It starts with that. But then it must go to talking to both girls and boys about how to say no if they’re uncomfortable or uncertain about something. We need to teach our girls and boys how to advocate for themselves–if premarital sex is an option in your family’s belief system, teach them how to insist on safe sex practices and how to make good sexual choices. What words do you use? If your family does not believe in premarital sex, teach your kids what words to use to insist on that. I personally don’t care what your beliefs on sex are–just teach your kids what words to use. And practice saying them. Out loud.

Teach your children no matter what your beliefs are of when to have sex, that sex is intimate and important, and tell them in what ways. Sex is fun and feels good. Sex carries a lot of responsibility. Sex is a great source of pleasure and babies and itchy, oozing sores and funny noises and reputations and power and connections and intimacy and vulnerability. There are so many gray areas to discuss.

There’s also a lot of gray areas regarding orientation. Back in the day, when we whispered “cancer,” we thought of sexuality in primarily binary terms. Gay or Straight. Then some time probably close to the oil crises and the long gas lines of the ’70s, we recognized Bisexuality. Today, there’s LGBTQA. Let me interpret: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual.

A lot of research has been conducted on sexuality through the years. And it clearly notes that sexuality is a spectrum. Different people fall on different places of this spectrum, and for many people, that place on the spectrum is fluid throughout one’s lifetime. Sound confusing?

Think about how confusing it can be to a hormone-riddled child dealing with societal pressures and peer pressures. So here’s where words matter. If we talk to our kids about how confusing or weird this all is, they’ll grow up learning this is confusing and weird. And they will have difficulty understanding this, understanding other people, understanding themselves. When sex and sexuality are really about intimacy and connections and being vulnerable and sharing oneself. That’s the most important part they need to know.

If we teach them about sex and sexuality and sexual orientation as simply a natural part of life, that it’s not odd or dirty or shameful or aberrant, then they won’t think it’s anything but what it is. And they have a better chance of making good decisions about sex that are healthy for them. We are responsible for setting the tone, setting the baseline, setting the expectations.

So when my children were much younger, I looked into the options for Chinese school on the weekends for them. I discovered the two schools in my area either taught simplified Chinese or traditional Chinese characters. The simplified Chinese uses fewer strokes in each character, and thus is thought to be easier to learn. I chose the traditional, because it is what my parents learned, and what was taught to them. I liked tradition.

My father asked me why I did that. He thought I was making things harder for my kids by teaching them a harder version of the language. No, I said. It’s harder for people who grew up learning simplified Chinese to learn more strokes. But when my kids are learning a new language with no baseline or expectation, it’s hard no matter what. To them, it will be what it will be. Not harder, not easier. It just is. It’s just a new language for them to learn. They don’t know the difference.

So we must use our words and teach our children the new language of navigating a sexual world as sexual beings. They don’t know the difference now. They have only the baseline expectations you provide them. Consider your words carefully. And use them.

And I bet you never considered how learning Chinese was a lot like sex. You’re welcome.

Posted in Health Issues, Mindfulness, Parenting, Relationships | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Lessons from the Trapeze

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I believe Life is prone to throw a lesson at you until you learn that lesson. And even then, there are refresher courses to keep your skill-set up-to-date. The circumstances and details of the lesson differ to keep things interesting, but the take-away message is always the same until you finally learn that lesson.

For most of my life, I was an indisputable expert at Forcing Things. I was a force to behold. I had a ferocity and will that could plow people down and obtain advanced degrees and build up resumes and room-parent four classrooms when I only have two children (true story). After failed relationships and periods of malcontent and high anxiety and general displeasure, I finally learned to let go and be still. I finally learned not to force things. I finally learned to accept things for what they are, and Just Be. I finally learned how to let things unfold at a pace and trajectory out of my control.

Or so I thought. I had no idea I needed continuing education credits to maintain my licensure of Life. But apparently  I did. The flying trapeze changed my life in so many ways. It was a wonderful opportunity to practice trusting others, of listening to my gut and stop living in my head, of doing hard things, of being scared and brave, of pushing myself, of believing in myself. It was so glorious.

Then it changed my life again when I overcompensated on a dismount, and landed on my head. It has been over 20 months, and I have not been the same. I have spent more hours than I can count seeking medical care and have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars trying to get my old life and brain back. I have not been able to run or strength train. I have not been able to swim or bike. I have not been able to think or sleep or write or remember like I used to.

I am realizing there are more lessons to learn from this drawn-out process borne out of one moment in time, one impact. I am reminded I cannot force things. I need to ebb and flow and wax and wane and just accept. Two neurologists and an internist have recently decided that this hindsight has allowed them to see what I am suffering with now is a chronic condition. I have post-traumatic migraines. They’ve essentially realized I have chronic migraines due to the fall. They now agree I never fully recovered.

This diagnosis creates a new perspective for me. Before, the doctors and I saw each episode of mysterious and debilitating symptoms as stand-alone and separate entities. My goal was to recover from that one episode. Each time. And each time, I would eventually have some good days, and I thought I had “recovered.” And when the slow descent into symptoms would inevitably come rolling in like the heavy fog rolls in slowly and gracefully into the San Francisco Bay, I would be in denial. I did not want yet another episode. Maybe I was so fatigued because I was burning the candle from both ends? Maybe I just need to be more careful with details. Maybe tomorrow this will all just go away.

I would let the symptoms worsen until I literally could not function anymore. I would eventually end up in the ER or in another doctor’s office. I refused to accept that these symptoms were returning. When the truth was inevitable, I tried to force a recovery from each episode. I wanted to get better and put it behind me. I had a life to live, after all!

Now I see this process as floating on the ocean. Waves will come and go. Fighting them only exhausts me and I risk drowning. But I can ride the waves, allow what will happen to happen. And by recognizing this, I can intervene with medications at the first sign of symptoms so that it is not so debilitating. I know now that the consistent red flag is when I cannot write. It all goes downhill from there.

I don’t know how this will turn out in the end–it’s too soon to tell (oooh, the cruel irony that it has taken me 20 months to say it’s too soon). I do know I was trying to force things, and it was exhausting. I do know I am glad I never had the urge to run away and join the circus because I’d be out on disability quickly. I do know that not fighting things is a very peaceful place to be. I do know that the trapeze has become quite the headache for me.

Posted in Health Issues, Mindfulness | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Delete, I’d Hit That

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Well, that didn’t last long. In my decision to actively date again, I created a profile on another online dating site. It’s been less than a week and I deleted it already. I just could not take it anymore. At first I thought I was frustrated with being contacted by so many men who were not my type. But then I realized that’s not it. Frustrating, yes. But the thing that really made me feel icky inside and made me delete that profile is the leering.

The leering. The unwanted sexual advances. The thing I hate the most is the objectification and sexualization of my being. That is what I object to. You may say well, you put yourself out there where naturally, physical appearances play a large factor in online dating. Yes, it does. But that does not give anyone the right to objectify me. Were I standing in a coffee shop or bar or bookstore, leering is not an acceptable form of communication or reaching out to me. Just as cat calls as I walk down the sidewalk is not acceptable, sending messages that objectify me is not acceptable.

Thanks for thinking I’m attractive. So nice of you. I actually agree that I’m attractive. But when you approach me initially with “Every inch of you is so sexy, beautiful,” or “I bet you give great massages,” that will only get you deleted. When the majority of messages to me contain these kinds of sexual objectification, methinks this is not a space in life I want to occupy.

Again, I understand and agree that physical attraction is a large component to dating and relationship building. But I don’t want to be someone’s pretty girlfriend, or gorgeous date, or sexy wife. I want to be seen. Not my smile. Not my legs. Not my hair.

I want to be seen as funny and kind and smart and adventurous and brave. I want to be seen as interesting and complex and witty. I want to be seen as opinionated and fierce. This is where online dating fails. It is difficult to portray those qualities on a website. And the internet offers a detachment and anonymity whereupon cowards feel more empowered and brave. They feel emboldened to be disrespectful and lewd.

Dating should be fun. I shouldn’t feel like I need to take a shower to wash the filth off when I log off. I’m on a dating site for God’s sake, I’m not advertising for an escort service on Craig’s List. I love being bombarded with lewd comments, said no one ever.

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Hawaii

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Love is like Hawaii. Without the pineapples and shaved ice with red beans and Spam sushi. Without the luaus and sunsets and jet lag. Otherwise, they’re very similar, and coconut bras may or may not play a part in both love and Hawaii.

I used to fall in love often when I was younger. When I say “in love,” I really mean “in lust.” When I say “often,” I really mean “about once a month.” When I say “younger,” I really mean “when I didn’t know who I was.” Now that I’m older and know who I am and what I want, I’m finding that falling in love is much harder to do, and occurs less frequently–as in hardly ever. I miss being in love. Like I miss being in Hawaii.

What I miss most about being in love is feeling safe. And knowing that someone had my back no matter what. The times when I had been wrong, My Love would graciously be gentle and allow me to be wrong, while supporting me. The safety and loyalty is what I miss the most. I’ve felt that twice in my life, and I miss those two things the most when I think about being really in love.

As the years go by, I wonder if I’ll ever feel that experience again. Of being loved. Of feeling safe. Of feeling supported unconditionally. I don’t know. So many perfectly fine men I meet these days underwhelm me. I just don’t know.

And see, I know I love Hawaii. Hawaii is not underwhelming. There’s an experience about Hawaii that I cannot describe, but it’s unlike any other beach or island I’ve been to. I’ve been to Hawaii twice, and would like to go back. But I don’t know if realistically that will ever happen, what with my kids and limited funds.

So being in love is like going to Hawaii. It sounds so nice, but is so far away. I miss feeling not underwhlemed. I miss being in love and being in Hawaii–so wonderful and warm and happy. It makes me smile to think about both. And maybe I’ll never feel that way again. Yet if I think of Hawaii, I don’t think “Oh how sad I may never go back.”

But when I think of being in love, I find that I do sometimes think, “Oh how sad, I may never feel that connection ever again.”

Maybe I need to reframe all this. And just be grateful for any experience that has made me smile. Some people never go to Hawaii. Some people never experience unconditional love and safety. But I’ve been to both places twice now. I’d like to go back.

And really, there’s nothing stopping me from trying to find a way back to a fulfilling relationship or a wonderful vacation, except my attitude and fortitude. So yes, that means I’m back in the saddle, actively back in the dating pool. Hawaii=cocktails. Dating=cocktails. Game on.

Posted in Dating, Relationships | 7 Comments