The Unbeatable Beat

I had a really great night tonight. You could say it started getting good when I went to see The Mechanic with a friend: a predictable yes, but still rockin’ action film starring the current king of kick-ass, Jason Statham. These movies always manage to put me in a good mood, and as always, I left the theater feeling invincible, like I could take on anything!
But I guess in retrospect, I’d say the night is really more memorable because of what happened later, and what it taught me about myself.
So first, I’d like to start by telling you about anger. All my life I’ve suffered from intense frustration and a very violent temper. I inherited this from my father, which believe me doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. And just like my father, something unsettling happens to me and I just snap. This monster rises up in me with the smallest incident, the tiniest encouragement, one little pinprick. And suddenly, I am overtaken by an uncontrollable urge to hit something, hurt something, destroy something. I just want to rip and punch and yell and curse.
Now as I’ve grown up, I have learned to control this considerably. At the very least, I’ve learned to tear and scream and smash in private, and so not subject anyone else to this temper. But I pay a price to hold it in. And while it’s been better for those around me, it still hasn’t helped me heal at all. It still often gets the better of me. And through it all, I’ve always been ashamed of it. My whole life I’ve been ashamed of my temper, ashamed of the power anger has over me.
You must understand, I am a very passionate person. I know this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It’s pretty obvious to anyone who’s ever known me, met me, or probably even just observed me passing by. I do have a fire to me – at the core of me, driving me – which in a nutshell describes my personality, and explains why I have the word tattooed on my back. And this temper of mine, this thing that takes such a hold of me… this is what happens when the fire is at it’s worst. And when it’s burning that hot, it’s hard for anyone to see me because they either don’t understand it or they’re intimidated by it, or both.
But what’s worse, it’s been even harder for me to understand it, and see through the haze of it. In that moment, it’s all I can do not to punch a wall, or dent my car’s roof, or scream loud enough to shatter glass and pierce the world. And in that moment, I want to pierce the world. I want to hurt what has dared hurt me, regardless of what it is, and whether it will make any difference, or matter at all.
Because that’s the thing isn’t it? It usually doesn’t matter. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. Lives will go on living, and weeks or days or even minutes from then, it won’t matter that this one thing happened, that some guy cut me off, or that woman insulted me, or my grandmother made me feel small and insignificant again. But why does it matter so much in the moment? Why is it so hard for me to let go, even when knowing in the long run it won’t make a difference?
Well of course, even throughout this most recent and tumultuous journey of my life, that message never did sink in. I have been trying so hard to work at this anguish within, and gain some footing against the beast. But I never felt like I was getting anywhere. Sure I’ll go through periods where I feel a little more at peace, or it’s a little easier to hold it back, but the monster would still be lying dormant underneath, just waiting for the right time to pounce.
And as if to prove so, this last weekend in Tahoe, it found opportunity to rear its ugly head again. It rose up in all its fury, and nearly destroyed me. I got out on that mountain first thing Saturday morning, and immediately I got stuck in a tree ditch. It was so icy that I couldn’t dig my edge in enough to stop the inevitable painfully-slow slide down into that ridiculous ditch. And as I sunk further and further down, my pride went down with it. So by the time I managed to awkwardly crab crawl my way out and catch up to everyone (who of course were all sitting there waiting for me), I felt about as big as an ant, and totally unworthy of anyone’s respect.
And I swear I’m better than this. Normally, I am a fairly decent snowboarder. This was so not the kind of first impression I wanted to give these guys. But the fact that I got stuck in a ditch for so long, and made everybody wait on my clumsy ass, before we even got to go down one measly run… well it didn’t exactly paint the most impressive picture of me. And more importantly, it didn’t exactly start me off in the greatest mood that day. As we took the first lift up, I proceeded to curse and swear like a sailor for being so foolish, which I’m sure only made me seem that much more awesome. I couldn’t decide which made me angrier: the fact that I failed so spectacularly as a snowboarder, or that my ego had been so bruised in the process.
I remained relatively pissed off for the remainder of the day, but it did slowly improve with each successful carve and that glorious feeling that only a truly solid smooth run can give you. So that by the end of the day, I’d managed to regain some of my pride, and was feeling pretty confident when the guys suggested we head back down the front side to the lodge. We knew this would take some traversing over to the Kirkwood’s longest run, which would take us all the way to the bottom. What we didn’t realize was that the path to get to this nice long run included navigating a very steep and very icy section. Well that’s also largely because we all foolishly decided to follow Jon. And as I later learned, the first rule of Jon is that you never follow Jon. But of course, we all followed Jon. And what with my newly repaired pride, and my eagerness to be done with the day, I guess I wasn’t being terribly cautious as we started down the icy slope. So yes, I ate it… really bad.
The whole sequence went something like a bad joke. What’s black and white and black and white and black and white and black and white and really bruised all over? Answer: a Rebecca somersaulting and slamming and sliding 50 feet down a sheer sheet of ice. I yard sale-d every loose piece of clothing on me (though thankfully not my board), and finally ended up lying face up and stunned dumb, barely able to speak but for whimpering in pain.
And of course, once I shakily righted myself and collected my things, and made it slowly down the rest of the ice, there was everyone sitting and waiting for me all over again. And once again, I felt unequivocally embarrassed. And then I felt angry. I mean, I was pissed, both at the mountain and at myself. I was pissed at the mountain for kicking my ass, and at myself for having let it. So that the only thing more agonizing than the pain searing through my entire body was the feeling of my pride being crushed all over again.
I don’t know how I managed to get the rest of the way down the mountain that day. Or how I was able to hold my head high and assure everyone that I would be just fine on my own. Or for that matter, how I was able to get back out on the slopes again the next day for even more abuse. Thank you sir, may I have another? I didn’t last long that next day either, and I literally had nothing left by the end of it, but I did get back out there. I tried until I could go no further. And then, finally beaten into submission, I hung up my board, settled in front of a beer and bowl of chili, and just let the aches and shame wash over me.
And that shame and anger stuck with me well beyond the weekend. It hung persistently above me like one of those cartoon rain clouds. So that even today I could feel its simultaneously comforting and depressing presence as I met Kim Elisha at the 5Rhythms dance event.
Now I know you’ve been waiting for this story to start looking up. So here it is. It was here that something beautiful and beautifully ironic happened. See the 5Rhythms class has been experimenting lately with the idea of tying an emotion to the evening’s exercise. And tonight, the chosen emotion to explore through dance was – you guessed it – anger. Boy, someone up there must really love me. Though regardless of how timely last weekend’s events were, this still would have been an incredibly appropriate emotion for me to focus on, given my volatile history with it. So I found myself equally intrigued and terrified at what the night’s dance might reveal.
We were asked to select one recent experience with anger to focus on in this exercise, which of course immediately triggered that very perfect recent event just described. Then with that in mind, we all got started as the instructor indicated, moving around in a circular motion, letting the anger start brewing and working its way up into our consciousness. And as I danced, I started allowing myself to explore this emotion that has gotten the better of me all my life.
I felt it ignite and invigorate me, but for all the power it has over me, it didn’t really feel any better in this supposedly controlled setting. I just got angrier and angrier, soaking in the anger until I got good and pruney. But I understood this was supposed to be healthy for me, and I was hopeful that something productive would come out of it, so I just kept exploring and indulging the anger.
And then almost as if completely randomly, mid-brew and at the peak of my pruney-ness, it finally hit me – that realization that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that I’m angry, or that the mountain beat me up, or that I appeared a less competent snowboarder. And I finally understand why it doesn’t matter! Because you know what? I’m dancing! I’m actually dancing, and moving my body – this body that just two days ago was given the beating of a lifetime; this body that really ought to be immensely more crippled and weak.
I mean, how do I even have this much energy now? The fact that I am even here doing this proves that I won! The mountain tried to take me down, but I’m still here. I’m still going strong; my body has not been broken; I have not been beaten. The mountain pushed my limits, but it didn’t break me. And that means I won. I realized that’s what matters in the end. It doesn’t matter if something pisses me off, or someone cuts me off, or something tries to take me down. Because in the end, I’m still going to be here, still dancing, still kicking ass like Jason Statham.
You see, I think this is why they call me ‘Beat.’ This is the true meaning of my name ‘Beat’. It’s not just because I’m a dancer, and always dancing to the beat of the music – that’s part of it sure, but it’s not the core of it. The true essence of the name is more about the beat within me. It says that no matter how much of a beating I may take, and how angry I may get about it, my heart is still going to keep beating, and I’m going to keep beating strong. There will still be a beat in me.
And in the end, that’s all that matters. In the end, nothing else matters but the Beat in me, the Beat that will never be beaten.
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The Battle Ahead

Well folks, I’ve been on this leave for about two months now, and it has definitely been one hell of an eye-opening ride. I’ve certainly discovered a lot about myself along the way, and I hope you’ve in turn perhaps learned something new about yourself as well. My time is nearly up now, and so I must now prepare the more practical plan for my next step on the horizon. As I’m doing this, I want to be able to incorporate all the great things I’ve learned throughout this experience. So naturally, this means taking a quick dip into the pools of reflection and summarization.

In retrospect, there are a lot of things I might have done differently along the way of my self-reflective journey… but there are always different choices, different paths, that you could have taken. The important thing is to understand and remember why you took the one you did. And for me, the important thing to remember is that I even started this journey in the first place. Because taking that first brave step towards self-confrontation was a choice in itself that others might not have made. But I made it. And I did so because I have a drive in me, a desire to find my own path, beat my own drum, and avoid conforming to the world’s idea of normalcy.

One of my favorite bloggers, Ramit Sethi of iwillteachyoutoberich.com, wrote that we all once had that urge to be unique. But that over time, ‘we settle into a world of normalcy where being ambitious is “weird” — and even if we are ambitious, we’re not sure what exactly to do to turn that ambition into results.’ Well I did find myself in that world, having unknowingly succumbed to a life of normalcy, and then waking up one day to realize I’m nowhere near being who and what I thought I wanted. And now that I know what’s missing, and I have tapped back into my old familiar ambition, I’ve struggled with that very big question of what to do with it.

Well first things first. Before even tackling the question of what to do next, I found I needed to reassess what I even define as success. You see, the world of normalcy implants a lot of ideas in our heads. And one of those is the idea that in order to be successful, you need to find a steady stable 9-5 job that pays well, has a impressive sounding title, and lots of room for growth to an even higher title with even higher pay. Or as Robert Frost, one of my all-time favorite poets put it, ‘By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day.’ This is exactly what my family taught me to aim for, what my childhood community taught me to aim for, what I told myself to aim for.

And guess what? I discovered that’s not actually what I really do value as success. Go figure! In digging into what actually makes me tick, what rewards I seek, and how I measure success, I’ve discovered that my definition of a fulfilling lifestyle is a much different picture than that previously drawn for me. My picture is much more flexible, creative and diverse. My picture involves various sources of income, from a variety of enterprises, none of which fit into the simple 9-5 model, but all with these things in common: more flexibility of schedule, more opportunity to try new things, more creativity, and above all, more ownership and control over all these.

From this, I began to sketch out what my next steps will look like, what enterprises I will seek, what sources of income I will generate, what my daily schedule will look like, and so on. I’ve been discussing this with a number of you already, so I won’t get too into the details. Suffice it to say I’m very excited for the endeavors I’m aiming for next, and will be looking forward especially to the opportunities they will provide me for spending more quality time with all of you (both in doing them with you, or in having more free time to spend with you). Though I know it will not be easy, I am hopeful for what this will bring.

That said, the one piece of this plan I would particularly like to share with you all is how I’ve been redefining my idea of home. Throughout this journey, I’ve been talking a lot about the discovery that my current residence is not much of a home to me. Nor have I felt that sense of belonging anywhere since I last lived in Davis for college – which explains a lot about the extreme feelings of nostalgia I still harbor there. So in taking this next big step in my life’s journey, I’ve realized one piece of the puzzle will be to relocate to a place I can develop and identify as home.

However, as with every other part of this exploration, I’m finding this to be much easier said than done. Oh it was easy enough to figure out where I’d want this home to be, and who I’d want to share it with, and what elements I’d need present in order to create such a home. But the hard part comes in making this dream a reality. As I hit roadblocks, and face differences of availability, I find myself forced to consider alternatives. And as I have been teaching myself to remember, such struggles are opportunities in disguise. So with my perfect image of a perfect new home fading, I have begun constructing a more practical solution that might even better serve my next endeavors.

You see, my friends, I plan to be homeless. That word does sound quite ugly though, doesn’t it? So let’s say, I plan to roam. I plan to be a citizen of the world, a resident of this community, a tenant only of my own ambition. I plan to inhabit an environment befitting of the more flexible, creative, and diverse lifestyle I am planning to build for myself. And this will in turn help enable that lifestyle even further, as such a lifestyle will no doubt be less lucrative at first, and this living arrangement will save me considerable monthly expenses.

And so, as I close out this blog entry, I appeal to you my dearest friends who have been such invaluable companions on this latest and hardest of life’s journeys. In a few months, I will be moving all my things to storage, stocking up my car with the essentials, and crashing from couch to couch in my own version of the starving artist lifestyle. In this next stage of my life, I entreat each of you to continue opening your hearts and sharing your thoughts, just as so many of you have already so generously opened your doors and shared your homes.

A few months from now, and after parting ways with my current employer once and for all, I will be living a very different lifestyle from anything I’ve previously known. This will be a very big shift for me, and though I am almost literally bouncing with excitement, it will also take a great deal of adjusting. With this in mind, I beg you all not to distance yourselves or let me unknowingly distance myself. I am prepared to fight for the life I want, I’m prepared to fight the world’s concept of normalcy – as a fight I know it will be – and I am going to need my army of friends and family around me to keep forging ahe. I can’t thank you all enough for being my dear companions on the journey thus far. Now please say you’ll stay with me as I embark on this next journey, and the battle ahead.

Dude Looks Like a Lady

Man I feel good… really good. It’s pretty hard to believe, but maybe all I really needed was one amazing weekend throwing my body down a mountain of snow to finally wake up and see it. Life doesn’t have to be this complicated. I’m sure some of you will think I’m talking crazy, or maybe just saying that to justify being lazy. But in my head, I feel like I’ve finally discovered the secret to having it all.

There I was, strapping into my bindings at the top of Squaw’s Emigrant lift, and looking out over a sight so beautiful it took my breath away. How can I be amidst such simple beauty, and not appreciate the beautiful simplicity of life? But I’m making it sound more poetic than it actually happened.

To be honest, the moment hit me while taking a lunch break at the Gold Coast café, midway up the mountain, with the 7 guys I’d been hauling ass down the mountain with all morning. Because the best part about that day wasn’t the beautiful snow-covered scenery, or the feel of my snowboard’s carving motion, or even the sweet sweet powder I ate it hardcore in later. The best part was that I got to spend the day talking about the delicious qualities of beer, and the arguments for skiing vs. snowboarding, and how cool it would be to write ‘bro poetry.’ I spend the day hanging out with 7 dudes, and for the first time in a very long time, I got to feel like one too.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love being a woman. I still like getting dressed up and going out for a night on the town. And I swoon and gush over a hot guy as much as the next girl. But ever since I was little, I’ve just sort of had an affinity for being one of the guys. I had mostly guy friends as a kid, and played a lot of sports, and (some might say) even acted quite like a guy myself.

The appeal was the simplicity. Guys just keep it simpler, and it’s really such a remarkable and admirable thing. They don’t over think their words before they speak, and they don’t obsess over what yours might have meant. They usually just say what they mean, and mean it. That doesn’t mean they’re always right, or true, or good. But they are straight forward, and sincere, and simple.

Ok so it’s not necessarily a ‘guys’ vs. ‘girls’ thing either. I guess it’s better described as a ‘masculine’ vs. ‘feminine’ energy sort of thing, both of which can appear to varying degrees in both sexes. So you could say I had a greater tendency toward masculine energy in my childhood. And it’s something I’ve been missing for far too long. I’d forgotten how much I love hanging out with just a group of dudes, who don’t talk about their feelings, but rather how awesome it feels to race down a mountainside.

I’m a closeted dude. Or rather, I was an openly expressed dude in earlier years, and have since closeted that side of me. And now my inner dude, the voice of my disowned dude, has found a way back out. And boy is she happy! She’s showing me what I’ve always known, but have failed lately to see: that life is easier to handle, and the bad times easier to deal with, and stress less present, when you keep things simple.

It’s like Timothy Ferriss says in ‘The 4-Hour Workweek,’ the secret to having more time is doing less. In his book, Ferriss centers his philosophy around 4 main principles for your lifestyle. And with them, he’s really telling us to take 4 rather simple, but extremely difficult steps in our lives. However, if taken, they promise to have exponentially beneficial impact. These are: Define, Eliminate, Automate, and Liberate.

It’s a classic case of easier said than done. But as I read on, and relive the amazing sensation I felt this past weekend in Tahoe, I am further convinced that these 4 steps are a calling card for me, and will indeed prove fruitful in the quest I currently find myself on. I first want to define what is most important to me, what my true values, goals and passions are. And as luck would have it, I’d already begun to do that very step before I’d even picked up Ferriss’ book.

From there, I’ll be able to eliminate what doesn’t align with those, especially anything eating up unnecessary time. This I’ve not yet started. but I am already bubbling over with ideas. I can then automate to simplify the time-consuming things I do wish to keep around. And finally, liberate myself from my fears of failure, which threaten to rip all this progress to shreds – essentially saving the hardest for last.

Now I’m not saying that I want to be a dude all the time. And I’m not about to sign myself up for a sex change operation. But I do think that if I can let my inner dude out more often, life can really be so much easier and happier. I can still be a woman, strong and ladylike at the same time. And I can still enjoy getting gussied up, or crushing on a cute guy, or have girls’ nights out, or talk about my feelings.

But at the core of it all, at the heart of my life’s journey, my success will depend greatly on how simple and sublime a rhythm I can maintain. I realize now why I’ve lately been so nostalgic for those fun carefree days of my childhood, why I’ve longed so desperately for who I used to be. And I also now have a real solid idea of what it will take to keep me focused, driven and panic-free. It’s such an incredible feeling, and if I can really hold on to this, and not forget it again, I know I will have an incredibly rich, happy and (relatively) sane life ahead of me.

I’m going to keep it simple. I’m going to Define, Eliminate, Automate and Liberate. And I’m going to honor the dude in me. That, my friends, is the path this lady has chosen. Rock on, man!

Comfy

If I had to describe my fashion style in one word, and only one word, I would call it ‘comfy.’ Not colorful, or sophisticated, or classic, or funky, or even tomboyishly cute. I mean I do love to embody all of those in my dress, but the one core element I must have in all my clothing is comfort. That’s the absolute most important thing to me, mainly because I refuse to sacrifice comfort for any of the other attributes, above or otherwise. Even if it happens to look amazing on me, or shows off my awesome tattoo, or even does wonders for my boobage, I simply will not wear it if it’s going to bring me any pain or discomfort. The minute it starts to pinch, pull, prick, ride up, fall down, or dig in, it’s gone (or doesn’t get bought in the first place).
This has been an especially helpful realization for me considering the kick I’ve been on lately. Yep that’s right, I’m in purge mode. I’ve been getting these odd urges lately to just whip out a big ass garbage bag and dump everything I own. And though I may not have the courage to do exactly that, I have been able to channel these moments into super productive purge periods, wherein I pick one area of my room to divide and de-clutter. And if that area happens to be clothing related, knowing my most essential clothing requirement has provided me with a very effective method of examination.
As I go through my cramped closet and each drawer of clothes, digging out those shirts I forgot I had, or the pants I haven’t worn in ages, I’ve made a practice of simply asking myself 4 main questions to determine if it stays or goes:
1.     Have I worn this item in a year? – Pretty standard question, and a staple in any good interior organizer’s repertoire
2.    If I didn’t keep it, could someone else use it? – Could you donate this item to someone else less fortunate, or have someone specific in mind who would love it?
3.     Am I holding on to this item for reasons other than the desire to wear it? – For example, does it have sentimental value, or is it similar to an item you would love to have, but isn’t close enough that you’ll actually wear it?
4.     Is it comfortable? – The final clincher, which represents my highest personal value in an item of clothing
Keeping this list to 4 questions allows me to sort through each item I pull out with considerable speed. Of course, many items won’t even need to be questioned beyond number 1, since I will know for sure that I’ve worn it recently and still really want to keep it. Those go immediately into the ‘Keep’ pile, and there remain. Likewise, you may have items that you very quickly identify as tossers, such as that ripped up t-shirt you wore once for a Halloween costume but now wonder what the hell you must have been smoking to think it looked any good. For those equally easy decisions, you’ve got your pick of the ‘Donate’ or ‘Toss’ piles, depending on whether or not they are in good enough condition to be re-sold.
But for those questionable items, the ones you find yourself torn about, the above questions will hopefully prove invaluable in helping you make that difficult decision. They have for me, and I can proudly say that 4 full bags of clothes and shoes have taken over my car’s backseat, ready and waiting to be donated – not to mention the additional bag that went straight to the dumpster.
So go ahead. Get inspired! Tackle that mess of a closet you’ve been meaning to sort through. Maybe give my method a try, and remember it will help if you can identify that one most important element you refuse to compromise for your own style, be it comfort or something else. And if you do find this challenge motivating and choose to take it on, please comment here or let me know somehow, because I would love to hear how it goes!
Feedback is always welcome. In fact, it’s encouraged. It’s an open loop of communication that makes for a truly positive living experience. Well, that and a really organized closet. 🙂 Happy purging!

No Choice

It’s really no secret that I like being in control. Yes, I am a control freak. I’m a control freak, and that’s why I’m so negative. I think so negatively because I have this need to control the outcome of any situation. See, if I expect the worst to happen, then I’ll never be caught off guard. If something does go terribly wrong, I’m expecting it, so I’m ready for it, and I know I can handle it.
I mean, let’s be honest. It’s never hard to handle something when it goes wonderfully. In the best-case scenario, no one’s really caught off guard in a bad way. I mean, yeah you may still be caught off guard, but you’re happy about it. Nobody ever likes being caught off guard in the worst possible way though. It’s that feeling that makes you feel like you’re out of control, and I can’t bear that. So I have to be always expecting that things are going to fall apart, because then I know I’ll be there, ready and in control, to put the pieces back together.
‘But Rebecca’, you may interject. ‘Why then are you always talking about how much you love chaos and change?’ Well yes, I do like change too. It’s true. Change can be such a great way of keeping things fresh and exciting. And I do like chaos and spontaneity. I like being wild and unpredictable. But the distinction is, I like choosing to do that, to be that. I need to be in control of the change. Every time I’ve changed in the past, it was because I chose to make that change. Each time, I’d have decided that was exactly what I wanted to do first. I wanted to rearrange all my bedroom furniture, again. I wanted to move apartments, again. I wanted to dye my hair, again. And however sudden or random that decision may have seemed, I was still perfectly in control of it. It was exciting, AND it was my choice!
But this time, this change, was not my choice. That’s what makes this so hard to accept. I didn’t choose to completely re-haul my life, and question everything I’d become, and reinvent my entire self. Well, it’s not really a reinvention of the self so much as a reconnection to the self. The self that I’d lost along the way somewhere. I can’t even really pinpoint where it was I got lost, but I did, and now I have to find my way back, and it’s hard. It’s hard to find your way back from lost.
But that’s how I feel all the time now. All day long, I feel lost. That’s why I panic, why I’m scared and stressed. That’s why I’m hesitant to do anything real, say anything real, feel anything real. That’s why I think everyone’s ashamed of me, and everything is going to go wrong. That’s why I’m so unsure of myself through this whole mucky thing.
I’m lost, and I don’t know how to be found again. I guess you could say that’s what my Spirit Journey was for, right? I mean, it was supposed to help guide me. My inner spirit, subconscious voice, connection to the divine, whatever it is that knows the Source of me and wants to help guide me back to it. That’s what my Spirit Journey was trying to access, what it tried to show me. My Spirit Journey tried to show me how to walk balanced among uneven tree limbs all interwoven together – the way everything in this world is woven together – that may range in size, shape, and even strength. So that I have to trust with each of them that they will still hold me, or at least that my body will take care of me and stay balanced despite the uncertain and rocky terrain. I need to learn to walk like the animals of this forest, for whom this balance comes so naturally. Or maybe like those other people around me who seem to handle the balancing act of life with so much more grace than I. Perhaps I once had it too, but I’ve forgotten how now. I’ve lost it, just as I’ve lost myself.
Now indulge me for a moment. I’m feeling the urge to reminisce about my past and how amazingly capable I used to be. You know, I used to be this incredible leader and stage manager and producer. I knew exactly how to manage every piece of the show and everyone in it, and make sure things stayed right on budget and on time. And now, look at me. I can’t handle the day-to-day juggling required of any admin. I failed completely as the piñata project manager. I can barely even hold my head together long enough to write a coherent blog post. I’ve lost that once incredibly competent person I used to be. Where did I go? Where did I go?
I didn’t choose this change! My body made me. It just stopped and said:
‘I can’t keep wandering around blindly bumping into things, and hoping that we get somewhere. It hurts every time I run into something, and I’m going in circles. I don’t know where I’m going anymore. I don’t know what I’m getting out of bed for anymore. You don’t feed me well, I don’t sleep well, I’m unhealthy and weak, and I’m tired! So I’m not going to function for you anymore until you change this. Until you do, I’m going to give you sleepless nights with restless limbs and cold sweats and bad dreams. I’m going to make you hyperventilate and shake all over and throw up. I’m going to give you cough after cold after flu. I’m going to mess with your head, so that you question the devotion of your friends and family, and fall into a deep depression. I have that power, and I’m going to exercise it to make a point.’
That’s what my body is saying to me. And I had no choice but to listen. So I was forced into this change. Now I’m not saying that this change isn’t in fact a good idea. To be honest, it’s probably the best thing my body ever did for me. It’s just devastating to think it had to force me, that I didn’t see it and think to change it on my own sooner. Oh no, instead I had to keep pushing forward, hoping that I was getting anywhere productive. Praying that I was doing the right thing; that I even knew what I was doing; trying to believe my own words when I told people how much I love my job. I just wanted to believe that I was getting somewhere, that I could be something people could be proud of – something I could be proud of – some version of successful that I thought mattered to me.
I wanted to believe it so badly, that I didn’t see how I was slowly losing bits of myself at the same time. Lost a dream here, some of my signature energy there, my passion for life there. Bit by bit, I lost it all. And here I am, this empty, vulnerable, scared, lost thing. And I don’t know how to get it back.
Ok yeah sure, I could tell you I know how. I mean, if you asked me, I could give you the steps I’ve laid out: find a better job, start a regular sleep pattern, learn to cook and eat healthier, get back into shape, surround myself with a truly compassionate and understanding community, go to therapy, and so on. I’m going to do all that, yes. Those are the steps I’m going to take, and that’s exactly what I would tell you. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m still terrified, and I can still say I have no idea how I’m going to do this; how the hell I’m going to get back to myself.
I had to catch myself there – I almost said ‘how the hell I’m going to get myself back’. Because that implies that I want to go backwards, or get back to something I used to be. And as much as I miss that once amazingly strong, energetic, passionate and competent girl, I’m not that girl anymore. And I never again will be. There is a reason we grow up, grow older, and grow more into ourselves every year.
I don’t want to be anything that I once was. I just want that spirit of me back; that true spirit that’s still always in me, but whom I’ve stopped listening to and lost the connection with. I want to reconnect with that me. That’s why I say I want to get me back, not get back to me. I just want to get back who I am; get that me back; find that me again. And I really have no idea how I’m going to do it. I mean, how do you really do that? How do you define the process to do something like that? It’s bigger than a new job, and regular sleep schedule, and healthy diet, and a new home, and new haircut. It’s all those things at once, and yet it’s bigger than all those things.
That’s what N didn’t get on the phone today. That’s what I couldn’t explain to her, what I couldn’t make her understand. I guess that’s ok though, because she’s not me and she doesn’t think like me. And it’s actually quite refreshing to see such a big example of how we are different. But it’s frustrating because I want her, more than anyone, to understand what I’m going through and approve of my methods. I guess I just have to accept that she’s not going to get this. As long as she knows I still see the value in all those steps, and recognize that is the way to do this, then I won’t bother her with the bigger concept – that despite those steps, I still have no idea how I’m going to do this. That’s going to have to be something I keep to myself, or only share with those who understand what I mean when I say that.
I have to be strong for myself, because ultimately, it’s just me who is in this. My body forced me into this, and now I have to confront it. There is no other way out. This is the long hard road, and I have to go down it. I have no other choice. And while I really hate that I have no control over that fact, it is a growing opportunity for me. And at the same time, I do have control over how I do it, and how I come out of it at the other end. And that’s what I’m going to focus on. That’s what I need me to focus on. As much as I am lost and terrified, I know that I’m going to need a hell of a lot of courage to get through this. And I’m going to have to dig deep into that inner self, my old forgotten self, to find that courage. It is seriously going to hurt. But I’m going to do everything I can to get it back. That’s my choice.

A Hell of a Day

Just when I think I’m making good progress, just when I think things are improving and I’m finding my way through this mess… I have to have a nightmare from hell that brings it all crashing down. Last night I was once again visited by the demons of restless sleep. And this time they brought with them a series of nightmares that perfectly aggregated all manner of fears one can experience in their dreams. And I mean every possible one. It began with a performance I was helping put together, which I find out last minute I am supposed to sing for. With no time to rehearse, of course the performance goes awry, as I forget the words and they play the wrong song anyway. Throw in a failed bathroom search and naked-on-stage moment, and you’ve got the ultimate stage fright case.

In a cold sweat I woke up again and again as the nightmare wore on. And each time I managed to calm myself back to sleep, I was somehow magically transported back into the same world of terror, so that the whole night became this one extremely long, extremely choppy, extremely terrifying dream. And I did say it included all imaginable elements of a nightmare, so shall I name a few more? Let’s see, there was the point when what seemed to be all of my childhood friends (who had come to see the performance) told me they all thought I was unbearably annoying, and had all always thought so, though no one had ever told me. I’m then joined by ex-boyfriends just as they include that they think I’m a huge slut, who will sleep (and has slept) with anyone and everyone.

The night wore on in similar fashion until the relief of morning finally came. And at 7am, exhausted but unable to bear anymore, I willed my body up to get the day going. Now you know the saying, ‘woke up on the wrong side of the bed’? Well this morning, you could have illustrated that phrase with a picture of me. It was all I could do to hold myself together, and not scream in anger and frustration at everything around me. Thankfully, the ever-cheerful Becky was there to keep me on track. So instead I channeled that emotion into being productive. I had quite a few errands needed running down in the south bay, so I moved quickly to prepare what I needed and was just packing up my car with it all, when the icing fell splat on top the cake.

I foolishly put down my purse, with phone, keys and all, inside my car. And turning to get more stuff to load, the door swings shut and locks. It was brilliant really. How that all happened at once, I really can’t imagine. But nevertheless, it sent me into a tailspin. It was the last straw, the final nail in the coffin of what had been barely holding me together. And I lost it. Tears streaming down my face, I angrily kicked my car several times (I apologized later) and, leaving the remaining boxes by my car, fled back to my apartment.

Becky answered the door (since I’d locked my keys in as well), and quickly jumped into problem solving mode, helping me look up the number and call AAA for roadside assistance. We then waited together, her holding me through the fits of tears, until the truck pulled up. It was a matter of moments until all was better, and I was able to get in my car, thank Becky profusely, and set on my way down south. But despite the quick resolution, I was still excessively shaken up. So the whole way down to Mountain View became one long, blurry-eyed mess as I let out all the pain that had been building up in me since waking from that terrible dream.

I might have been embarrassed by such display, had I been able to see beyond my own anguish. But as it was, I managed to regain composure before arriving at my destination. And mustering all the courage I could, I launched into every single one of those errands. In the end, I’m proud to say I had quite a productive day, finally ending my hell of a day with awesome friends, great TV, and the softest robe I could ever dream of.

My Spirit Journey

Now I want you to get comfortable. Are you comfortable? Good. Let’s begin…

I’m walking in an open field, sparkling and swaying in the bright of midday. Then trees start bursting up all around me, sprouting straight from the ground to enormous heights all around me. And as they grow, their branches extend and weave around one another, like they’re trying to hold hands, forming this intricate maze of limbs and leaves all interlocked and inviting… a tree-climber’s paradise. There’s a cool breeze that rushes by and sends a light shiver through me. It’s chilly but invigorating, and it blows my hair every which way all over the place. I never could control my hair in the wind. A soft light peaks through the branches to create little spotlights on the ground, and I begin to dance among them, jumping from one to another like hopscotch.

Suddenly I’m welcomed by a swarm of bunnies bounding out towards me, eager to join in the fun. I laugh with joy, and take off running as they bounce after me, darting in and out of the winding trees. The trees seem to be telling me to come play with them too, so I start climbing. But the bunnies can’t climb themselves, so instead they all stop at the base of the tree, and look curiously up at me with their wide beady eyes. As they realize I’m not coming back down, they begin circling the ground beneath me, waiting excitedly for my next move. I start forward, climbing up and around the intertwined branches, as the bunnies bounce along below in the same direction.
Then behind me, I hear a low growl. I turn sharply to see a great wild cat walking carefully through the woods towards me. The bunnies immediately sense danger and quickly scatter, as the great cat watches them retreat. Then turning back to me with a satisfied expression, he continues to approach. I watch frozen in a combination of awe and fear as he climbs up the branches to me, wondering if he’s going to attack me. I’m about to muster the courage to run, when he turns his head and looks me dead in the eyes. I’m instantly struck by how gentle they are, and I am oddly no longer frightened.
Settling on a branch next to mine, the great cat says to me ‘Come with me.’ And off he sets, navigating forward among these crisscrossing branches floating high above the ground. I start to follow, but I’m so nervous that I soon slip and lose my footing, stumbling to regain myself. The great cat looks back at me and says ‘Don’t try so hard. Just walk like me.’ Grappling at his meaning, I lower myself down on all fours and begin trying to copy his movement. This is quite awkward though, because walking on my hands and feet means that my butt is sticking straight up in the air, and each step is a desperate lunge to reach the next branch before I lose my balance. I’m trying to imitate the great cat’s movement, as he instructed. But his steps so small and precise, that I have a hard time placing my own hands and feet in the same spots, and I find myself slipping and losing my footing again.
The great cat sees this, and pausing to let me catch up, he turns to me and says, ‘You don’t need to do that. See how unstable and unsure you are? Notice how I walk, not where I walk. Notice how I’m always balanced. Even when you are walking on the branches, try to stay balanced.’
I look down immediately to find my feet on the branches, and then glance ahead to the next branch, trying to calculate how I’m going to make it there in balance.
Prompted by this, he continues. ‘Being balanced doesn’t mean being exact with every single footstep. The point of balance is to observe everything around you and then decide where to move. Don’t focus so hard on the branches, or you’ll miss the trees.’
With that, he turns back around and resumes his forward movement along the maze of branches. This time, I stay back and watch him for a second, noticing now how his head stays erect and his eyes always scanning as he steps so evenly and carefully on each branch. I realize I won’t be able to do the same if I try to follow his exact footsteps. And so stepping a little to the left, I start moving carefully forward on my own new parallel path through the branches.
The great cat sees me do this and smiling, encourages me on with more nuggets of wisdom. ‘Make sure that when you land, you land even footed,’ he says to me. ‘Every step should be made with purpose and care.’
At this, I offer my first objection. ‘But how can I always be sure to land the same when the branches are all so different?’
He smiles and pauses once again, turning to address me with his full attention. ‘You see this branch I’m on? It’s very thick and sturdy. But the one there that I just came from looks much more thin and frail. Balance is not only about determining the best next step, it’s also about trust. Before stepping there, I trusted that each branch I chose would support me if I let it. I also trust that my body will take care of me in the event the branch does fail, and it will sometimes.’
‘That’s not very reassuring,’ I reply nervously. ‘How am I supposed to trust the branches if they might fail me?’
‘You need to believe in the strength of the trees,’ he answers, ‘but more importantly, you need to believe in your own strength. In the end, you have the ability to decide whether that branch is a good one to step on, and you can be just as able to catch yourself should you fall.’
I have a hard time accepting this answer, but I’m eager to get back to the exploring. So giving him a little nod to show I understand, and then turning back to my parallel path, I start to move on. The great cat sighs and shakes his head, but then resumes his own as well.
Side by side we continued forward, and up and down and sideways (since it’s near impossible to climb through branches in a straight line), and I begin to get more comfortable with this balancing act. In particular, I start to feel more graceful in my movement, which is a very unfamiliar feeling. We are so clumsy as humans. I’m always bumping into things. I stub my toe here, smash my finger there, always an accident of some kind. But this great cat, like the other animals of this forest, doesn’t ever bump into things or stub his toe. I’m beginning to understand and appreciate the grace of his movement, and the art of staying balanced amongst an uneven landscape.
The great cat can see this, so he starts to add a new challenge. He begins leaping a little as he moves between branches, letting his paws leave the branch for just a second before landing neatly on the next. I’m excited to see such playfulness from him, and I start trying to leap too. But it’s harder than it looks, and it requires so much greater focus that I start looking too closely at my feet and lose my balance again. And again, the great cat stops to advise. ‘Remember to leap in balance,’ he reminds me. ‘There’s balance in every step, in every leap, and in every landing.’
It’s almost as if his words open a new crack between the trees, and a new spotlight of sun warms over me, and I feel like I’m finally beginning to understand. I need to restore the trust in the branches, and in myself. I need to allow my eyes to focus on my nearby surroundings, and not so intently on either the branches themselves or on the far off horizon. Leaping is a much greater test of your balance. But much in the same way, it can also reward with even greater grace.
To start a leap is first to reach out my arms in front of me, as I push off from the branch behind me. But then, for a brief moment, I just let myself float and enjoy the moment in between. And if I can do that, if I can capture the thrill of it, and still maintain a balanced view, I know I will land down on the next branch with ease. It’s not about just trying to get to the next spot. If that’s all I want to do, I could just step there. Leaping is about letting go. It’s about being in the air and feeling grounded at the same time.
Not every leap is perfect either. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to fall. And as long as I can trust, I can stay gracefully balanced even when leaping around in a more insecure place. It’s easier said than done of course, but the key is to not worry about the things I can’t control. The great cat always knows exactly where he’s going. He may not know the ultimate destination, but he at least knows where his next step (or leap) will be. He shows me the value in focusing only on that which is in our line of sight, what we actually can impact.
Too often, we (and by we, I mean humans) are focused on this distant point on the horizon, a place we may never even get to. We obsess over so many things that we can’t change or do anything about. And it’s not necessary. All we need to do is focus on the next step, and the next step, and the next step. And the rest will sort of take care of itself. Nature has a way of taking care of itself.
And if I ever want to remember what all this has meant, if I ever need a reminder to stay balanced in the leap of life, I know I can go find a tree (or a forest if possible), and climb up into it, and just stay balanced there for awhile. And if I really need a friend, someone there to help remind me, I can come back to this forest, back to the place where I met the great cat, and he’ll still be there. But as he said in our parting, ‘You don’t need me to remind you. You just need the branches – the branches are the key.’ It’s not the great cat himself that is the message. Like the other animals native to that forest, it’s just in his nature to walk like that. It’s the surroundings of my own world, the observation of them, and my trust in them, which I will need to take with me.
And as I bid that forest goodbye, the trees whispered softly their parting words. ‘Play’ they said, just as they had when I first arrived. ‘Go play. Don’t forget to play.’ And I understand what they were there to teach me. I can be balanced, and trust in myself, and in the branches… and still play. I can play, and I can control how I play, but I can’t control how others play with me. I don’t need to worry about what I can’t control. Being able to let go and still be present is the only way to hold it all, the only way to play and stay balanced at the same time.
The great cat, and the branches, and even the trees themselves… they all told me and showed me all this. But the best part is realizing that I’ve had this knowledge inside me all along. The message here is to trust in myself, in my truest self that’s still got my back, even though I’ve ignored it for so long. When asked where I felt this exploration in my body, I immediately pointed to my stomach. And it makes sense. That’s my core, the center point of my strength and passion and energy. And it’s the nucleus of all that keeps me alive and well: what keeps my heart beating, and my body nourished, and my structure strong and sound. So it makes sense that I should feel this journey the most in that part of my body.
And listening to this part of my body, I also start to hear a very clear message coming from my core. Take care of me, it says to me. You need to take better care of me, so I can take care of you and help you stay balanced. And in the final moments of this magical journey, a poem (go figure) forms in my mind and repeats itself over and over, like a soothing meditative chant:
‘I’ll take better care of you
And you take care of me
And we will step upon this earth
Careful and carefree’

Growing Up

I feel older today. Or, at least I want to feel older. I really never liked being young. I always wanted to be older. As a child, I always wanted to grow up, but that was mainly because I wanted to be like my sisters – like Natalie. I wanted to grow up so I could be like her. I always wanted to be her, older, wiser, taking care of myself.
But I also liked be wild. That’s what I did like about being young, was being wild. And it’s not that I don’t like being wild anymore… (laughs) I still like being wild. But it’s a different kind of wild now. I want to be more sophisticated, elegant, graceful… while being wild and creative and passionate. I want to carry myself like a woman, and proud to be. I want to take better care of my appearance, and express this through what I wear, how I walk, the words I use, the choices I make, the activities I engage in.
I don’t want to be a child anymore. I really don’t want to be stuck in my family’s image of me. I don’t want to be stuck as a selfish, obnoxious, annoying, emotional, scared little girl. I want to be strong, in a sense of the word I never knew before; a sense of the word that I’m just now learning. And I want it. I really want it!
I think I can get it. I just have to keep fighting for it. It’s a life long battle, and it’s one that everybody has to come to terms with eventually… well I guess not everybody does. Not everybody is able to. So I suppose I should count myself among the lucky for having recognized it, for having started this battle so early on.
But I can’t even tell you if this is really all that early or not either. I suppose there are other people in the world who have started earlier in their lives than me, or will start later than me. So it’s not that I should compare myself to anyone else, right? I am who I am, and I should just… well, take care of that.
For example, I finally have friends around me who set an example for what I want in my life. I have a real community. I have family, that redefines what that really means for me (because I’ve never really had a very good opinion of the idea). It’s redefining itself right before my eyes! And with that, I’m learning what it means to be a woman, to be soft and strong at the same time. I don’t want to feel like I have to hide behind the comfort of the tomboy image, being rough and tough, a fighter, physically aggravated by everything – I don’t want to be my father.
And I don’t want to be my mother, who freaks out in wild terror anytime emotion confronts her, because she doesn’t know how to deal with confrontation. In fact, my recently developed panic attacks could be a sign that I’m becoming my mother. Oh god, they are! They’re something I inherited from her. Oh and I never wanted to think I was anything like my mother! Well, I don’t really think I am. In so many ways, in more ways than I can count, I am nothing like her. But I suppose I’m so afraid of the possibility that I’m freaking out about it, panicking in the face of it, and letting myself become like her all the same. It’s kind of ironic… and fucked up. That because I’m afraid of becoming like my mother, I am becoming like my mother.
This is what’s happening to me. And that’s not OK. I’m turning into her. I’m freaking out, having panic attacks, freezing when faced with overwhelming emotion. And why? That’s not me! That’s her, coming through me.
And when I get angry, and just want to hit things; when I get frustrated and can’t find the words, and have to resort to fists… that’s my father coming through me!
I don’t want that! I don’t want this for myself. I’m not them! I’ve never been them, and I’m certainly not going to start being now. I’m going to be me.
I’m not even going to be my sisters. I wanted to grow up so I could be like them? I don’t want to be them. I want to feel more grown up, yes, but for me, for myself… to be myself. I’m still figuring out what that means, of course. That’s also a life long battle, a life long journey. But I’m figuring it out. I’m getting there. And I should be proud of that. I should be bloody proud of the progress I’ve made so far, of where I’m going, and the fact that I’m starting for possibly the first time in my life to be only that which I am, and want to be. Not because anybody else wants me to be something.
I can do this. I can do this! And God help me, I hope I remember that the next time I feel I’m getting stuck. Next time I panic, I hope I don’t forget. I’m redefining what all this means to me: family, strength, femininity, vulnerability, friendship, community, trust, dignity, respect… hell, even emotion. I’m redefining all of that, and I’m redefining it in terms that make sense for me, in my own definitions of them. And that is invaluable. And that is what I’m doing all this for. That’s the whole point of this entire damn journey!
That’s what I’ve started to do. And by gum, that’s what I’m going to continue doing. And please, please Rebecca – remember that as you do. It’s what it’s all for. It’s for yourself.
Got it?

A New Year, A New Perspective

I’m feeling a little under the weather today, and though I am completely aware of the reason why (*wink*), I am still left to face the failings of this mortal body. Last night was quite an event, celebrating the oncoming new year with so many incredible people, it’s hard to imagine anyone could have had a bad time. And yet, for most of the night, I found myself in a less-than-happy place. Why you ask? Yes, why would someone, surrounded by true loved ones, in a house so much like home, and in an especially extroverted environment, find themselves having an unfortunate evening?
The truth is I honestly don’t know. I can’t say what triggered it, and I haven’t a sense of when it started, but something in me just snapped and I found myself plummeting furiously into a panic attack. I knew this would dampen the mood of the party, so I removed myself to the far living room, where I lay down on the couch and commenced with my three step recovery process: Breathe Deep. Seek Peace. Beat Free.
But as I got going, I found it became excessively hard to get passed step one, Breathe Deep. Despite a pretty lengthy pass at it, my breath remained stubbornly short and compressed. So I started improvising new phrases to chant to myself, hoping to shake myself out of it. ‘I can get myself out of this,’ I would repeat. ‘There is no reason to panic.’ But no matter how many times I said these, and how fervently I meant it, the crushing anxiety remained.
It’s almost worst to feel such panic without knowing the actual reason for it. Usually when a panic attack hits, I can identify what caused it. But this time, I really couldn’t understand what the source could be. Nothing around me would have created such a negative feeling, and I can’t imagine anyone at the party having triggered it. So I was left bewildered and panicked for no good reason.
The rest of the party passed in relative struggle, as I tried to rejoin the festivities, and my anxiety drifted in and out and up and down. I felt like a ship rocking on dangerously stormy seas, powerless to the swell of the waves that sent me headlong into loneliness one minute, and an incredibly deep conversation the next. And through it all, the only thing I could be certain of was the proof that my own default methods weren’t working. Just breathing deeply didn’t work. And chanting motivational phrases with it didn’t help. Distracting myself in good conversation did help a little, but only fleetingly, and before long I was sunk down again in my dark abyss.
The only thing I found that finally did seem to have any lasting effect was when I sat down in the presence of someone calming, someone I wouldn’t find annoying. Now I am a very social person yes, and I tend to get along with everyone easily, but that does not necessarily mean that I don’t find some people’s personalities more or less exhausting. And when I’m in a particularly touchy mood, as in a panic attack I definitely am, I really cannot stand being around someone who would try pepping me up or asking a lot of questions. In that moment, I needed to just be, but not alone. I needed someone next to me who could just ‘be’ with me, just sit there and be for a while.
And what do ya know? There were very such friends at this party that could be that! I sought the company of each individual at different times throughout the night, as soon as I’d found myself able to bear company at all. And then we’d just sit, and maybe exchanged a few light words, but mainly we just sat and were. And wouldn’t you know it, but I started to feel better. With the help of these, and some extremely supportive words and caresses, I began to feel myself resurface. It was slow, so slow that I also can’t really pinpoint the moment I felt fully restored. But it did happen. And believe me, though I have not sufficient words to express, that I had never known such relief till then.
I was submerged in darkness for so much of the party last night, sunk so deep down under cold and fear. And through trial and error I found it far too hard to get out by myself. But eventually I did find peace, and it came in the form of friends’ support and the ability to just be present. I had to get over the idea that I was burdening others, that I was the only one I could rely on, that I alone had to overcome this struggle. And as I did, I found hands reaching out to lift me from the depths, and a powerful pull from their presence. Once I did, I found that I didn’t have to compromise any of my dignity, or admit any defeat. I didn’t feel pressured to force conversation or find words that weren’t there. And most importantly, I didn’t have to feel bad about myself for accepting that I was not meant to suffer through this alone.
We none of us are meant to suffer through the toils of this life alone. Just as our worlds are all connected, and the truest of our love is universal, so too our chances for survival are interdependent. On the dawn of a new year, and a new stage of my life, I also found a new perspective. I was reminded through this experience, this overwhelming new years celebration, that my capacity is only greater strengthened by the support of my community. And with the challenges this coming year will no doubt present, I know the power to be present with this knowledge is going to be paramount. I may not have all the answers now, and I may not be free from these panic attacks yet, but I finally feel hope is on the horizon through the combined strength of the community I build around me.
As you are reading this, I hope this speaks to you too, as you search for new perspective in the onset of this new year. In particular, I pray you know that I would be honored to be a part of that same community of strength for you. And above all, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a part of mine.

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