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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanks and I'm old.

It has been almost a year since I tip toed into my 40s.
I took it easy and was able to plan the perfect stroll into full fledged adulthood. 
Ever since, I have been patiently taking the time to pause and breathe so that I can see the path of my destiny clearly and without obstruction as I finally embrace the responsibility of my age and let go of childish yearnings and whims.

Ha. That is a lie.
I am so not that organized or thoughtful.
Not me.
My truth is that I ran into my 40s with lights flashing, bells ringing and an "Everybody...look at me, look me! I'm 40. Did you know?"
And then the day after, I woke up with a hangover and crawled from one room to the other like a Golem suffering from vertigo in search of the most precious glass of water and an aspirin to end my suffering.

Yes, this year of 2015 has been quite something.
I've become more Mama Bear and less Party Girl but the question is...
Have I grown up?
A little bit.
I have more wrinkles. 
Anything below a joint has become more lined and saggy but I've decided to believe the boyfriend who says he likes me just as I am and honestly, who freaking cares?
The world is being maimed by overconsumption and we are killing each other over ideas.
It's insane.
Literally...folks get more riled up and passionate about an Olympic athlete being labeled a hero for coming out as transgender then they do over the possibility of a racist spoiled brat hotelier being considered the next President of the United States?
I'm trying to grow up and take responsibility for my actions and my words.
I'm learning to bite my tongue anytime I see one of my privileged friends post an "All Lives Matter" rant or "The Universe has a plan for me" meme but I don't know if that's a sign of maturity so much as a reaction of apathy and laziness in a world that seems so draining depending upon the feed of the day.
Oh, 40!
What have I learned from you?
I've realized that I can't be all things to everyone and putting all my energy into worrying about how I can fulfill the role I think others want from me is exhausting. 

To my mother, my son, my boyfriend, my friends, my co-workers, my family and fellow beings...
Tell me your needs but be direct because my creative mind is still easily confused and prone to insecurity. Shoulder shrugs, emotionally ambiguous emojis and "that's interesting" comments still leave me in a state of "what does it all mean?" and it's just too damn much!

To myself,
Oh, Alysa. Be kinder to everyone but also sit your ass down more.
Be still.
Oh. My. God...and put down the shiny electronic rectangle with all its little alerts, apps and reminders. It doesn't love you, like you or even care to know you.
Siri isn't your girlfriend and she doesn't actually like your jokes so stop it.
Lastly, say "yes" to hanging out and listening to the people you know and ask the people you don't know more questions or at least say "hi" and "how are you?" and wait for a response.

That's all the wisdom I've come up with.

So far...I'm grateful that I'm drinking less and less often.
I quit and then I binged. 
I quit again and for the past month, it's been a beer here and there but it's not a requirement to be social.
I don't find myself liking the taste of beer anymore which is strange because I thought beer was my tongue's fine I could get paid to be a beer taster because I loved it so much but I guess that's a dream I can let go of.

Now, it's all about me finding gratitude in raising a kind son and dedicating myself to being a really good parent to an awesome but aggravating as all get out child.
He is a brilliant but annoying pain in the ass.
A bit like me.
This year, I have learned that being a good person for myself and others is what success means to me. Waking up and liking myself is much more important then wondering how I can ever advance in a career that isn't about money.

I'm learning not to turn every criticism that my boyfriend may have into an opportunity to slip in the term 'mansplain' and then walk away.
Quite often, he has a point and I can always learn to be better,

My life. 
I'm a grateful for life but I'm also heartbroken by it.

I want to lead the change I want to see in the world.
I want to have a heart to heart with the very people who think I should be silenced and I want to believe that it's possible for us to have peace between us even if our stories don't make sense to one another.
But, I also know that it's so hard even moment to moment to always have peace within myself.

It's Thanksgiving Eve.
I'm alone.
My head hurts, my eyes are tired but I'm grateful for my love, the love of my family and my friends.
I'm happy that I get to wake up tomorrow, put on some hiking gear and go outside and listen to the sounds all around me.
Until next year...I will patiently watch 41 unfold.
I'm totally lying about being patient. I'm probably going to tap at least one finger the whole time and sigh often.

Amen, Hallelujah and bring on the mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I want some sugar.

I woke up with crusty eyes and a slight kink in my shoulder. 
The left one. 
She's always been more battered than the right.
I sat up and I said "Awakening, I smile. A brand new day is before me. I vow to live each moment mindfully and to look upon all beings with eyes of compassion."
I sighed and questioned my sincerity and began my way into my morning routine.
Tired? Check.
Thirsty? Check.
Brush teeth? Done.
Coffee or tea? Tea.

I walked into my Alysa Room.
I lit a candle.
I moved through my exercises and then I meditated.
It was a noisy sit. The same drama that's been outside my head for weeks...came inside to yell "you aren't a good parent. You are an undesirable girlfriend. You're a terrible teacher and you made boxed crappy cake full of shitty ingredients all the while knowing that you added suffering to the world but masked it with chocolate."

And then, I returned to my breath.
For another 20 minutes, the internal dialogue of yelling disappointments versus a calm 'can I catch your attention, I am quiet?' whispering continued until a chime on my phone brought me back to the 'let's get Atticus ready for school' checklist and I stood up and bid my drama adieu.

So far, I have burnt 3 fingers, ran out of creamer, I can't find my glasses and the dogs are farting.
I could leave it at that.
I could go back to bed but instead, I made breakfast for a hungry little boy.
I won tickets to The Rialto so I get an unexpected date night with my sweetie.
I get to see the eye doctor and order new glasses today so I can manage with some cheap readers for a week or so.

And I realized that my mind stirs a lot of stuff up.
Every moment I have a choice of whether or not I want to stir the pot.
Should I turn the heat up?
Or let it cool?

Should I use the same seasonings of insecurity and jealousy because that what I used last time?
That's what's easy to find?
It's what I'm used to.

I guess, I could.
Or I could try something new or at least different.

So, like I did as I bit into a persimmon for breakfast, I am going to give something else a try.
Something a bit bold but also sweet.
I am going to pretend I ran out of that salty bitterness of fear and doubt and scourge the pantry for some spicy hot chocolate to go with my meal.

I'm going to choose some sweetness today.
I'm gonna let it melt in my mouth and take a breath between sips and bites because I'm in charge of what nourishes me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Lay...Baby, lay.

I'm going to be a child for a minute.
Or forever.
I am a child.
Emotionally...I'm a big fucking baby.
If someone says something sweet to me...I cling to it like cobwebs on a feather duster and if it's mean?
It sinks into my heart as if it's job had been meant to be to stop the beating and my resistance is offensive.
I'm a fully realized baby and I know it.
Recently, I was told that "everything in my life is a big deal and I need to get over it".
The truth is?
Everything is a big freakin deal. 
It is.
I have had the privilege or curse (depending on my moody perspective) to know almost 30 people to have died.
Some of them have been close friends or family members  and some have been acquaintances but wide eyed and mushy, gushy bleeding heart has held each and everyone was as important as the other.
If our friendship had gapped for a few me?
Time is irreverent.
If we had only shared does not matter.
My heart and brain says "I love you and now... I will never know why you paused to smile at me, over and over."
I love like a fierce fire and I mourn like the gravest of the living.
I'm over the top, I guess. often happens...I am tired and writing because my brain knows that waking up the man who loves me to express how pissed I am...would be rude despite the fact that he said some super shitastic stuff tonight.
I feel broken.
I am tired and angry and confused and know that I could and should stop before I react with a lease contract that seals the deal of breaking up.
Agh...but what will I do instead?
I will write and post my 'Dear Diary' to all of the 3 folks that might read this.
Life isn't hard. 
Not for me...I have things that interrupt my day but rarely are they terrible and when they are...if I am paying attention? 
I learn something.
I don't want to learn.
I am going to vent.
I am going to go to sleep and fight a really good habit of running away.
I really want to run away from everything. 
I want to say " Fuck you" but I'm old and a mother and people frown upon that AND I care about stupid shit like that.
Good night.

Friday, September 25, 2015

This wagon has squeaky wheels. That's all. No big deal.

It's been almost 3 months since I cracked open an overpriced Dale's Ale on my plane trip home from Portland, Oregon.
I haven't gone this long without alcohol since 2007.
I thought it would be the hardest thing I've done since giving birth but it turns out giving up alcohol hasn't been the real struggle.
The struggle has been having to realize that the same overwhelming waves of frustration, sadness, anger and exhaustion are still there.
Sobriety hasn't made me happier.
My life is the same dynamic mess of laughter, tears and waiting for the sky to fall as it always has been.
Every time, I reinvent myself I tell myself that it's not motivated by a need to 'fix' myself.
I tell myself that I don't believe my own bullshit but when I wake up with the same amount of mopey self pity that I had months ago, I'm surprised and somewhat pissed about it.
Being sober was supposed to break that habit, too.
Once I got sober, I'd finally be the uncomplicated/ low maintenance woman my boyfriend wanted.
When I quit drinking, I would sleep better and have more patience for my son.
When I quit drinking, I wouldn't waste my money on beer everyday and finally build up my savings.
When I quit drinking, I would learn to deal with my shit without taking a drink first.

I've woken up but it turns out that I'm still a complicated, impatient and restless woman just like always.

I still hold back tears everyday as I scan the daily news, I still wince and want to scream at intolerance (I believe there's some irony in that, no? ) and can't believe that in the midst of getting sober...I would have to watch Donald Trump become a possible contender for President of The United States, see 'Christians' shame The Pope for wanting to help the poor and watch millions risk their lives fleeing horrible living conditions and be told there is no room for them!
What the fuck? 
Doesn't The Universe know I need all my ducks in a row while I learn to not chug a beer every time something in my life starts to lose its sheen?
Damn it..the answer is?
The Universe doesn't give a rat's ass about my little white girl problems.

If ever there was a time to become knee deep drunk in whiskey, it feels like it's now.
I'd like to be.
Oh man...I'd like to get drunk, go dancing and get sloppy with a stranger but I'm not going to.

Nope, I'm just going to sit with the crappy whiny voice in my head that incessantly lists everything that annoys me.
I hear it.
I hear it but it's not the boss of me.
I'm finding that whether I'm sober or not, I'm probably always going to feel lonely.
I might never have a good close girlfriend that I can just call up to hang out and eat chocolate with.
I might always wonder if I am lovable and I may still roll my eyes every time I hear someone tell me that if I was just more positive the universe would provide me with wealth, joy and ease.
Actually, I will ALWAYS roll my eyes at that privileged belief but I just won't slam a shot of tequila  quickly so I can feign a smile and nod in agreement.

My life is rich, though...its rich with stinky stupid drama, it's rich with kid tv shows, board games and burritos.
It's rich with overwhelming thoughts, inconvenient desires and unattained dreams.
It's rich with randomn 'I love yous' from my son.
It's rich with hands that touch my shoulders to acknowledge that I am living with a man who loves me even though we seem barely able to make time to open the door for one another as we race off to work, appointments and events.
It's rich with an awareness that I can keep trying to fix things but I'd be better served by noticing what's working.

I don't know if I'm going to do this sobriety thing forever.
I keep thinking that come Winter...I may have to get a fancy Spanish Coffee to warm me up as I step deeper into my 40s.
I don't know.
I never do.
I do know that I won't ever pay $8 for a can of beer on an airplane, again.

Well, ...if Trump wins the election, maybe?
But, it's a maybe.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Sometimes, people are great.

I have a wonderful job.
I get to teach Yoga and Mindfulness for a living.
It's a privilege and I am fortunate to have been patiently trained by very accepting people over the years.

At Miraval,
I am allowed to be myself (amazingly) and given a lot of room to decide how I will teach and respond to students.
Of course, there is some structure to it, as well.
Each day, I'm likely to teach a combination of classes that include asana, pranayama, meditation and lectures on mindfulness.
It still blows my mind at times, that this is my life.
Considering what a hot mess of a teacher I was at the beginning, I am pretty sure that there are a few who knew me then that are equally shocked that I'm still at it.
When it comes to major newbie mistakes to be made...I made them all!
I didn't injury anyone but I said a lot of stupid stuff and wasn't always professional.
After almost a decade of teaching yoga full time, it is nice to know that with maturity and humility, I have been able to improve as I continue along this path.
I've gained a fair amount of wisdom and become more compassionate towards myself and others.
Hooray, for that!

But today?
Well, today was special.
Today was one of those days where I got to witness just how much I've learned as a teacher and how important it is to value the trust that must happen between a student and their instructor.

In the middle of my day (between a 2 hour lecture on stress management & 2 asana classes) I got the pleasure to work with an amazing woman and her seeing eye dog, Buster.
She's in her early 60's, almost completely blind and recently started practicing yoga because "I need to take an interest in myself, for once".
She was nervous (I was, too) but also aware that she needed to move her body more,
She has only 10% of her sight left.
It started when she was only 10 years old but it did not prevent her from becoming a gymnast, having a career and raising 2 sons with the help of her husband.
Soon she will be in complete darkness. 
She knows that now is the time to learn how to be in her world fully because sooner than later she won't be able to see it.
So, we took the time to practice.
Buster sat next to her. 
Relaxed and half awake.

We did a little Yin, a little Joint Freeing Series and then she said she needed to work on her balance and get stronger.
I took a moment to think about it and asked her if she had used a wall before.
She rolled her eyes as if to say "I'm blind, what do you think?" So, I asked her to walk over to the wall and demonstrated Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon).
She very quickly said "Oh no, I can't do that".
I said "Let's just try...if nothing else you can pretend you are holding the wall up".
She was reluctant but gave it a go.

She did it.
Before her eyes could tear up...mine did, instead.
It was one of those experiences when the sweetness of triumph is freely celebrated.
I cried.
It was simple, you know?
A person puts there backside against a wall and drops their hand to the floor and lifts a leg up.
Nothing Earth shattering except it was something.
It was special.

We ended our private session shortly after.
We didn't 'do' much. 
No handstands. 
Nothing that required a hot room or a commitment to practice every single day.
What we did do was to be open to the possibilities that would allow her to feel strong, balanced and courageous.
We were willing to experience a moment of vulnerability, to be honest about it and be aware that this might reduce future hesitation.
It was just a moment but I still feel shaken by it and really can't do it justice.

Lately, I've been questioning what I am doing. Yoga is such a 'thing' these days but it is a practice and it can rip you wide open sometimes and that's fucking beautiful. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tight pants won't fix you because you're not broke, damn it.

A few weeks ago, I was at a family gathering to say goodbye and celebrate my niece's accomplishments before she moves away to begin college and ultimately save the world.

After a 5am start to my day, I arrived late after work, found the buffet of food and begin to devour a heaping pile of wilted garlic salad.
Half way into it, two women I adore sat down next to me to catch up.
Within moments they surveyed my work outfit: yoga pants and top and said "We need you to come over and teach us yoga".
"Of course, I'd be happy to" and then their real reason was said without hesitation:
"We've got jiggle. Dimples.Yuck".
They grabbed their thighs and shook them to accentuate their point.
My shoulders slumped and I felt sad.
They reminded me that most of us whether it's yoga, cross fit or whatever...are wanting to do these practices because we are hoping to fix what's wrong with us...on the outside.
Our dimples, stretch marks, grey hairs and laugh lines...those parts of us that reveal a life history are not celebrated but instead hidden or condemned.
I mean, let's be honest...if a woman doesn't talk about what's wrong with her we label her as arrogant and full of herself and if you spend any time in a grocery store line you can't escape the messages on magazines that reinforce that being gorgeous is the key to happiness.
In addition, pretty much any current women's magazine is going to have a caption that praises yoga as a fun and interesting way to get it all:
If you do just a few simple moves, you too will get sexy-yoga arms like Tara Stiles and can look svelte in super cute yoga pants like Kate Hudson.
It's what the beautiful people do and who doesn't want to be beautiful like them?
I mean...uh...I do!
I want to be beautiful, lean, strong, calm, thoughtful and liked and quite often believe that I am anything but so I am just as neurotic as my friends who are wanting to do yoga for the sole purpose of getting rid of cellulite which it doesn't, by the way.
That conversation we had several weeks ago ended after I told them that even though I practice yoga every day...I've had cellulite since I was in my 20's and it hasn't disappeared but instead recruited more friends.
They were NOT happy to hear this and quickly dismissed the notion of even trying yoga if it wasn't going to give them the elusive yoga body that seem to be overwhelmingly promoted.
"I mean what's the point, then"?

Well? It a very common question and one that I've been asking myself a lot but not because yoga hasn't given me Tina Turner legs but because yoga has become a mask for covering up the continuation of women devaluing themselves as mere physical objects.

I am a yoga teacher, therefore, I am obligated to acknowledge that I have been an active participant in abusing yoga as a tool to be prettier on the outside, as well.
I am one of thousands of American women making a living off of an appropriated practice that many of us chase after with an expectation of eternal youth.
When I began to practice yoga 20 years ago, I was recovering from a serious eating disorder.
It began as a means to appreciate my body after years of bulimia and anorexia but once I got into it I too began to abuse it as another opportunity to overdo, under consume and hide behind its exoticness so that no one could see that I was still obsessed with being perfect.

These days, I still find myself falling into that trap from time to time (specifically, right around my period) but I own it, I know it's futile and I know I can choose to spend my time objectifying myself or tell that voice to speak up about issues that actually matter.
I've grown up and my practice has been along for the ride and given me a foundation of support.
I have a responsibility to be clear with myself and my students as to why after all these years, after the obnoxious amounts of yoga scandals, commercialization and tacky reinventions (Happy Hour Yoga or worse yet, Ghetto Fabulous Yoga, anyone?) as to why I am still participating in a 10 Billion dollar industry that lately seems more focused on selling insecurity, better sex, vacant new-ageism and expensive pants than encouraging health, wellness, awareness and social responsibility. I do it because it feels good, It calms me down and I'm nicer to myself and others when I practice so that is why I practice yoga.

Yoga is old.
It is a living practice that continues to evolve and the fact that women practice yoga more then men is a sign of progress. 
50 years ago, that fact would have been taboo to the men teaching yoga so I say "Yes, more yoga" but stop using it as another means to oppress ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually just like I did.
Please, Stop. Doing. That.

Yoga is not lost. 
It's just covered in a lot of party make up and like myself...I hope it will start to realize that it can be fun to glam it up now and then but you can't pull that shit off all the time otherwise you just wind up looking in the mirror and seeing something resembling Bette Davis in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" and thinking 'Damn yoga, you lied to me. I'm getting older. These Sun Salutations and Handstands were for nothing'.
Some of us are going to get cellulite, some of us are going to get those sexy yoga arms, some of us are going to bind in a twist or not but regardless we are all going to die. 
Don't let those stories of Gurus living forever trick you...that's just good marketing of the ultimate lie.

We are all going to die.
What's important is what are we going to do before that?

If it's yoga then practice yoga.
Show up, feel your breath, your bones, your jiggly thighs and if your mind wanders off (it will) than maybe consider how you're going to make the world better today.
In the interim, support yourself and all the other women who have yet to discover the depths of their yoga practice: it's to prevent future suffering so that they may live a life worth their time.

I'm still jiggliy after all these yoga years. I'm still weird, awkward and obnoxious after all these years but those things don't need to be fixed. All I want is to be awake for my life AND yours so that I can keep on eating garlic salad and keep on laughing and loving.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Road Trip Wisdom 2015

It's been almost 14 years since I took a vacation longer than 3 days.

On July 2nd Zack, Atticus and myself hit the road to Encinitas, California.
I had asked a friend if we could crash at his place with only an expectation that we would have a floor to sleep on.
We rolled in around rush hour and found ourselves pulling up to a 2 bedroom house all to ourselves and only a couple blocks from the beach...
Atticus had no memory of being in the ocean so my heart was full of happiness to be sharing this amazing world with him.
We ran into the waves and I remembered how much I love the immense hug that the ocean gives you as the sand sways beneath your feet.
It felt good to be in water, to feel small and to feel nothing but delight.
The rest of our adventure took us up the California Coast starting at The San Diego Zoo then L.A. and The Santa Monica Pier and then up to Sausalito, San Francisco, The Redwoods, Sonoma, Gold Beach, Eugene, The Oregon Country Fair, Portland and Mt. St. Helen's.
I spent a lot of time in the car, looking out the window, looking at the ocean, looking at trees and just observing different people and the way towns and communities change depending on the environment and economy.
I had a lot of time to rest, to observe the world and observe myself...and I came to a few conclusions:

I love being quiet. I like not having to talk or being concrete with my words all the time.
If it has a tiger on it, I'm likely to wear it for days so a 2nd suitcase is unnecessary. 
Always pack cold sore medication. Always. 
Drink more water. 
Drink less alcohol.
Remember to breathe when we hit heavy traffic and leave Zack alone to be in his world when he is driving.
Listen to my external voice when I speak to people. Sometimes it sounds a lot like my Mom.
Continue to observe my internal voice and question it if it sounds too familiar. It may be only a habitual story that I'm clinging to because I'm in a different place.
Don't worry if I think someone is judging me or my kid. I love kids and I love being a parent. I'm not always great at it, pretty messy actually but I found myself feeling insecure around my parent less friends and felt like I needed to make excuses for my choice to become a mother and how I disciplined Atticus but after 2 weeks on the road with a feisty 6 year old. I can say that I love that freak show and I'm a good mother. 
I want to live in a cabin in the woods near the ocean.
I do not like crowds and no matter how much the air is filled marijuana I don't relax in them.
I am in love with Zack.
I ate enough meat at one BBQ to feel guilty for the rest of my life and am going back to being meatless. It was a fun 2 year experiment but I think I'm done.
I can maintain my yoga and meditation practice on the road. I live it. It's cohesive.
I miss trail running.
I will always feel a draw to Mt. St. Helen's and couldn't hide my tears from my son as we stood in front of it. 
Spending more time in one place is the one change I will make next time. I missed connecting with several people I adore due to time constraints.
My Ex-husband and I can finally be social together and that's a great thing.
I am getting older but also wiser. I think I will be a beautiful woman as I age.
I may be addicted to coffee but I still can't drink fully caffeinated cups so...slow down.
No matter how long it's friends are loyal and generous.

I need to relax more.
Visit more.
I also need to do all of the above at home more but the next 2 week vacation will come much sooner. 
It's needed.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A very strong whisper.

It started with some loud and inconsistent snoring, then grumpy mornings that evolved into cranky and impulsive school days so after several discussions with his pediatrician and a specialist, Atticus had his tonsils and adenoids removed this Tuesday.
Like most things that are big deals...I felt like I could handle it with ease.
I do that:
I worry over little things like the bath mat not matching the shower curtain and under prepare when things are serious like my child having the back of his throat cauterized. 
I bought the things you're told to buy for this sort of ordeal...Popsicles, pudding, juice, applesauce, mashed potatoes.
We bought him a Kindle and loaded it up with all the games that he isn't usually allowed to play for days on end and told him to zone out whenever he wants.
I bought him a book about having your tonsils removed and read it beforehand.
I took most of the week off of work and prepared food for myself so that I wouldn't forget to eat.
I sent his father details on what to expect, gave him a shopping list and a schedule for when to give Atticus his medicine.

I thought I had it figured out.
I asked Facebook for encouragement and support but nothing can prepare you for a big-eyed 6 year old who can't swallow and is desperately trying to tell you that he hates you for doing this to him and then immediately apologizing for using the word 'hate'.

I'm on day 5 of feeling like an asshole and trying to remind myself that this will pass.
I've been a caregiver before.
I've been sick before.
It's awful.
Sick people don't like you.
They don't like anything or anyone and for good reason...physical pain can be overwhelming and my boy is able to pause and breath but he's also a little kid who didn't ask for this and he is pissed.

I feel ridiculously clueless.
I feel sad and incredibly arrogant for thinking that we would get through this quickly.
It's like everything...pretending it doesn't hurt, thinking that it's not really going to be this way doesn't fix it or make the unpleasant suddenly say "oh...this isn't a good time? I will come back later or maybe not at all" doesn't have an agenda, it just is.

The next few days will continue to challenge us.
It continues to challenge me from taking it so personally.
I'm the mom.
I have to fix this:
If I can just find the right pudding flavor then he will eat it, if I can use a different tone of voice then the next time I ask him to take a sip of'll be easier for him to swallow.
Last night, I found myself holding my breath, crossing my fingers and hoping that the next sip of water wouldn't be as painful as the last and I realized again how much the little things matter.
One sip of water.
A spoonful of honey.
A breath. 
A deep breath.
Everything is important.
His tears tell me he's hydrated.
His desire to scream tells me he's still a feisty spirit despite feeling such sadness at the same time.
Anything I can get him to swallow is a gigantic victory and one I usually take for granted.

I'm humbled and exhausted and find myself wondering if this was the wrong thing to do but I know it wasn't despite feeling so shitty right now.

Everything is ephemeral, I know that but it's not easy to explain that to a 6 year old so...
this is where that lesson will start.
It will start with a moment that will happen soon in which the pain is gone, the sips turn into gulps and the screams come out loud and clear and have nothing to do with a sore throat but wanting me to shut the door so he can have privacy in the bathroom, again.
Then we will remember what was and that life is constantly changing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The missing never stops but it can become sweeter.

This is my time to celebrate the beauty of loss.

Whenever you lose someone close to you, the dates of their birth and death become days of remembrance. 
I am currently in that phase again, however, for me there are 3 dates that mark what I call 'The Season of my Dad'. 
There is his birthday, March 22nd.
There is the day he died, April 23rd and the date that I arrived back in Tucson, January 21st knowing that I was returning to care for and eventually bury him.

On January 20th, my Sister-in-law called to tell me that my father's 5 years of chemotherapy to battle liver cancer were over.
My ticket was bought, I packed a duffle bag with some clothes and caught the red eye from Portland to Tucson completely unaware that my stay would be wind up being months not days long.

My Sister-in-law was 9 months pregnant and believing my father would die at any moment chose to be induced the very next day so that my father could meet his grandson.

That day.
January 21st was the day that life and death became equally balanced to me.

I made a commitment to be just as aware of being with my father until he let go of his life's last sigh into death as I was watching my nephew come into his life and this world screaming. 
I kept that promise to myself and because of that my recollection of that time is full of sweetness.

Every year, as my nephew gets a year older I remember his birth as one of the most profound moments of my life. My Sister-in-law had all of us in her delivery room. It was at least 10 people thick and my father sat with his back turned to her and he held his hands to his heart and prayed.
I imagine he prayed for the health and happiness of this brand new little boy but also gave gratitude for the chance to meet him.

As the days continue on in memory and I move forward towards March, I find myself thinking about the things we did together during that time:
going to every Cowboy themed steakhouse in Southern Arizona, seeing The Sons of the Pioneers, walking the trails of Sabino Canyon, eating our body weight in Banana Cream Pie and sitting on his patio to watch the magic of an Arizona sky.
He was happy.
Cousins, aunts, uncles, exes and friends made their way to his refuge near the mountains to spend time and grieve with him but his ability to accept death was done with a grace that I couldn't have imagined.

After his 52nd Birthday...his health declined rapidly but he still wanted to be with people.
He would talk for hours with all visitors, even though it hurt to swallow and was difficult to breathe. 
He hugged and held the hands of those that came to bid him goodbye.
He cried openly. He was no longer a man fearful of tears. He knew that he would be missed and he would miss out on seeing his 4 children and 2 grandchildren grow up.
He wrote his own obituary (he didn't give up control entirely) and constantly reminded us that we were loved.

2 weeks before his death, it snowed.
It was Easter and as always we attempted to celebrate the balance between birth and death but that day seemed to weigh heavier as a foreshadowing of my father's life ending as the snow covered the new growth of desert wild flowers and the air was quiet and crisp.

The night he a night that even 16 years later is clear.
I had given my father a morphine shot earlier and for the first time in 2 months we had been able to get my grandmother to let my father sleep alone.
He wouldn't die in front of her but he needed to die, it was time.
I will never forget the feeling of calm as I sat with him, holding his hand and hearing his last breaths.
His last gasp.
Minutes after I left the room...the hospice nurse came out to say he had died. 
In the middle of the shock of recognizing that my father's last moment...had just came and went without the rest of the world noticing, I looked towards his bedroom door and I saw him.
He smiled, he winked and waved goodbye.
I will never forget that.

This is 'The Season of my Dad' and even though I sometimes wonder how this slow walk of remembrance serves me I know that it opens my heart a little bit more each time I feel the tears run down my face.
This is the time when a grown woman still misses her father.
I know that my life like his is just a moment not to be wasted.
And I sigh and breathe it all in.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I love you.

I have finally remembered that I am a loving being.

It's taken me almost 40 years to finally fall in love and I had to start with myself.
I was not keen on love or sweetness for most of my life which is odd to admit but it's true.
I had some screwed up ideas on love, strength and who I am or was for a very long time.
I used to think that being strong meant I needed to be the loudest girl in the room, the girl who could drink everyone else under the table, the girl who could shrug her shoulders and say
 "I'm a fucking mess, nobody loves me and I don't care"!
I used to think being strong meant I should chain smoke Marlboro Reds, wear baggy clothes and never brush my hair.
I thought being strong meant being aggressive and hot tempered.
I thought all these things without understanding how oppressive and confining this belief was.

I spat on love.

I thought romance was for the disillusioned and holding hands was for the needy.
Hugs and kisses?
Forget it...that was for weaklings.
That stuff was for people who had lived easy lives.
People who had lived lives void of violence, mental illness and loss which wasn't my story.
My story was peppered with sexual harassment and assault.
My story was full of death and anger and I wasn't going to let my guard down.

I thought my strength, my toughness was in my victimhood and a fiery badge of 'keep your distance' that I had etched into my flesh as a tattoo.
In my mind, I  was only strong if I came across as wild, stern and without regret.
But, I was wrong.
Being an asshole seems easy but it's actually very exhausting.
The constant need to compare myself to others, to find ways to be angry at everyone else...always putting up walls and being unapproachable is draining.
It's a lonely way to survive and it only intensifies when you've become comfortable with not asking for help or understanding.

But now I am older and perhaps like a criminal who graduates out of crime...
I finally got tired of putting on an act all the time because the tender part of my heart never just got quiet and shy until it couldn't contain itself anymore.

The arrival of my son, Atticus woke up that little girl in me who knew how to smile and love everyone.
His need to be loved appeared like waves that constantly crash into the walls of a cliff...the impermanent nature of even the hardest and most reinforced hearts began to weaken and my defenses started to crumble into the sea.

I know it's a cliche to say that motherhood changes you but it does.
I thought I had properly prepared for the storm of this persons arrival.
But...I was wrong.
I thought I could love him without loving myself but it was impossible so here I am learning to love.
40 years is a long time to learn but when you've become used to self hate it was difficult to see the train wreck of me as anything salvageable but somehow...
My heart has grown bigger.
It's made space for me but it's taken time.
It didn't just happen and I didn't do it alone.
It took seeing my child adopting my habits of self loathing and meeting a man who wanted so desperately to love me that he called me out on my shit to wake me up and understand that I was going through the motions of love but still putting my heart in a place that was unreachable.

Have you ever had someone angry with you for not loving yourself?
It walloped my brain in ways I could not expect so I've been working on it.

It's become my strength to be vulnerable and to be patient.
It's a challenge for me to not take the bait of being a raging jerk whenever I feel insecure.
My long held mental habits still jump up and down and say "don't forget me, be mad, be angry" but love is a practice.
My heart, it is a muscle and if I don't exercise it regularly, daily, every freaking minute then I know what happens:
I suffer emotional atrophy and the first person I stop loving is me.
So...learning to be open to happiness, love and joy means being able to pull myself up with a heart that quakes and say loudly, "let's be kind, let's smile until we mean it.
If there is pain it's just a reminder of a heart that's open to loving, to being hurt and having the courage to do it anyway".

I love being in love.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Turning on the light.

Last week a Tucson woman was raped as she jogged along a path that I walked many times with my son and our dog.
The morning it happened before I read about it on facebook I coincidentally found my mind wandering during my morning meditation practice to memories of my own assaults...I breathed it in and told myself that I wasn't alone in this and that neither were the many others who have experienced rape and sexual assault.
I allowed the tears to flow, I breathed and moved on.
After my sit, I read about her assault.
I felt sadness for her, anger towards her attacker and compassion for them both because this careless act would only add suffering to each of their lives.
Then...I shrugged my shoulders and self regulated my emotions to believing shit happens and I can't fix this cultural sickness.
I wanted to believe that if I could just 'throw away' the feelings and avoid thinking about what had happened to her I'd be able to maintain my sanity throughout the day.
Of course, it didn't actually work.
I knew it wouldn't.
I knew it would come back to slap me in the face and it did.

The next day, I saw that an event was being planned to go to the site of the rape and bring 'light' to that space that had been overrun by darkness.
I was surprised by my reaction: I felt my eyes roll and I scoffed at how seemingly naive and useless this gathering seemed to me.
How was a bunch of strangers getting together to practice yoga and drum circle going to help this woman? 
How would it make the sick understand the pain of their actions?
I felt confused by my emotions until it hit me that what I was feeling was sadness for myself because the spaces that I was hurt in have continued to be spaces that hold pain.

I grew up here.
Every time I drive south on I-19 towards Tubac, I pass the house that I was first molested in when I was 4 years old.
It's a beautiful 2-story house with huge cypress trees that can be seen from the roadway and as I drive closer to it I think to myself 'that's it, that's the place' and then I narrow my eyes to focus forward and speed by thinking 'I hate that house and I wish it would crumble to the ground'.

I feel similar about a place in front of Armory Park and the guest house of my Mother's house.
I was stalked for several weeks and then sexually assaulted in Armory Park at the age of 17.
The night after the attack I was raped by an ex boyfriend who lived in a guest house on my mother's property.
I had gone to talk to him about what had happened because I hadn't told many people and he raped me.
I was confused.
This wasn't the first time he had hurt me and not the last time either but I didn't tell anyone about it.
Not really.

Instead, I moved out of my mother's home, became terrified to walk alone and even more afraid to share the details of the traumas I had just experienced.
I was in High School.
I was good at avoiding things and stuffing them down.
I managed to avoid the sites of pain for quite awhile.
I made excuses not to be near the places that held such sad memories for me. 
Up until recently, I haven't really dealt with my shit in a healthy way.
20 years since the events at Armory Park and my mother's, I have tried to reclaim those spaces somewhat but my attempts were done alone and during situations that in hindsight were not the best choices:
For 2 years I organized Tucson's All Souls Procession's Altar Vigil at Armory Park.
When I knew that spot had been chosen by the organizers I felt anxious but told myself it would be a way to reinvent that space for myself.
I told no one what happened there and instead spent the time trying to hold back tears because now that space was not only the place where I was physically hurt but a place where I publicly grieved for all of the friends and family members I had lost over the years.
What I had hoped would help me conquer my fears only blindsided me with weeks of panic attacks and a big Potpourri of mind fucking stories meant to muster my strength but left me feeling like a failure.

The other major spot, my mother's guest house: I managed to avoid it for years as she filled it with renters but recently after leaving my Ex-husband, I did find myself contemplating moving in. 
I chose not to but not before being told by a dear friend that I needed to 'get over what happened there' and take advantage of the potentially cheap rent.
I don't know how to make these places right for me.
Maybe, I never will but I do think there is value in attempting to bring peace to these places.

The victim of last week's attack attended the gathering at the place she had been raped.
I wish I had been there.
For her.
Bringing light to places where trauma occurred may not erase the memories but it's better than just turning away when one knows they are coming near a place that holds terrible memories.
I am not sure if I can ever do that for myself but I'm glad someone did her her.
I'm really glad.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Not going to be perfect.

I'm trying to help my son become better at failing.
I want him to be ok with mistakes, with a bit of messiness...
I don't want him to think that if he messes up coloring an assignment correctly that he is a terrible person.
I don't ever again want to see him screaming at himself for being stupid because he picked the wrong crayon to color with.
I hope to never have him hand me another homemade birthday card with his eyes averted from my gaze because he says "I did it myself" with my mother beaming behind him and I can see so clearly by the way that it's perfectly crafted to look 'childish' that my mother did it.
I don't want him to say with shame "Well, Grandma had to fix it because the hearts I drew weren't right".
He's 6 years old and if he gets stuck thinking that things must be perfect in order to have value then he will always be suffering.
I want him to learn this early because I'm only really understanding it now.

I grew up in a family where failure wasn't an option.
As my father put it..."nobody remembers who came in second" so me and my brothers had to be the best at everything.
My mother had my IQ tested when I was 4 years old and I tested high enough that she enrolled me into Kindergarten. Not surprisingly, I proved to be too immature to sit still all day and follow directions (I'm still not good at either of those) so I was kicked out but there was never a mention of me not being ready, it had to do with the school and the teachers. 
My mother said I was perfect and if anyone said otherwise they were jealous of me.
I hated that story.
I remember a feeling of intense responsibility being thrust on my shoulders that I had no choice but to be the best at everything that came my way and if I wasn't it was going to be someone else's fault.

When it was Girl Scout Cookie Time, I knew I had to sell the most cookies so I did.
If there was an art project due and I wasn't doing it 'perfect' my mother would take it over and finish it.
The Blue Ribbon I won for Cake Decorating at the County Fair?
My mother proudly showed everyone and bragged about how amazing I was but I can tell you at best...the only thing I did was break the eggs that went into the cake batter. 
I knew I wasn't the best and what I came to learn was that my effort wasn't what was important. I learned that my skills with a frosting tip needed 'help' and at the end of the day what really counted was being perceived as better than the rest.
I couldn't possibly be seen as good at one thing and just 'ok' at something else.
No me. 
Not a Volpe.

So...for years I carried that around. I had to be perfect or at least seem it.
By the 6th Grade as the first signs of puberty appeared as uncomfortably large breasts and chunky thighs, I began hiding out in the bathroom and throwing up every little morsel of food so that I wouldn't feel so awkward. 
So, I could still look like a perfect Ballerina.
I got straight A's. I won awards for my writing. I studied and did well at the things that interested me and spent summers in my bedroom getting better at things I didn't like because the one thing I knew was that I couldn't fail.
But, I did.
Again and again.
I failed to connect with people, I failed to trust anyone and I failed to believe I was good enough.
This was only reaffirmed after my mother pressured me to get a nose job. Months later she commented that I'd be even prettier if I had my ears pinned back.
I remember that being one of those tiny breakthroughs for my brain that said "Holy Shit, this has nothing to do with me. My Mom is literally living through my accomplishments (I don't think being pretty is an accomplishment by the way but she did) just as my father was living through my brother Jon, a football star and Stanford graduate. My parents had decided to play a never ending game where winning was the only goal and we were the game pieces that moved at their whim.
This was something they were taught by their parents, I assume but I don't want to repeat that pattern as a parent.
It's proved to be a difficult habit to break for myself but I don't want that pressure to be put upon my son by me.
He will get it everywhere else but I want him to know that his crooked lines and backward 5s are interesting.
His scrambled eggs with a bit of shell are a first attempt. 
I want my son to know that he can be great at doing things.
He can.
He can be great at whatever he wants to devote his time to but being #1 is worthless if he hates himself in the process.
It is good to master a craft but when it keeps you from being able to smile when you mess up, if it keeps you from becoming a bit more empathetic when others mess up then I really don't know what the point is. he is finally learning to ride his bike I've let him fall. 
A lot.
And to me the sweetest thing he said was "ok, I'm ok. I'm just learning to fall, right now. I'm going to get back up and try again".