Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ciao Bella!

This is my last post in this e-space.  I've been a blogger and have used the platform Blogger for a long time.  But things change.  It's time for more observation and reflection and less politics.  My original sub-title for Frank was "tellin' it like it is."  I'm glad I spoke up when I did, but I see now how divisive my words were at times.  I used to think I belonged to the "good" group, the "aware" group.  I see now that I had some awareness, but separated myself from many...all in the name of peace and making things "better."  Better is subjective and life is simply a journey.

I am very grateful to regular readers here.  Having a platform to have my thoughts read on the screen by friends and supporters of this blog means more than I can say.  Frank has been a wonderful e-space to grow and write.

If anyone wishes to stay connected, please find me at my new blog This is the Moment.  Also I'm on Twitter but I really am only on there when there's bad weather or major happenings in my town.  I deleted my Facebook account so I apologize to anyone who may have thought I "unfriended" them.

The last thing I'll say is that here on Frank I allowed myself at times to be vulnerable, even in this "wild west" of a world called the internet.  Frank has allowed me a chance to find courage in words if not always deeds. I think the most brave and even political act is to be imperfect and allow others that same beauty.  Until later y'all!


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Music, Memories, and Moving On. Buh Bye 2013

First off I'd like to take a moment from a philosophical perspective to say I'm not a fan of year-end reviews.  Each day whether it's New Years, Christmas, Candlemas, or Groundhog's Day is just a day in the life and in my mind meant to be sacred regardless of its supposed occasion.  So here we are anyway because really, today is a good day to reflect and despite all my high minded musings, I can still be a sucker for holiday interpretations.

Do you feel like music influences your memories of a given time?  I do!  It's kind of like that scene from the film Almost Famous where everyone on the bus is singing along to the song Tiny Dancer written by Bernie Taupin & sung by Elton John.  After seeing that film it's nearly impossible to hear Tiny Dancer without thinking of that film scene.  Some memories wind up connected to songs and for me each year, as a music lover, my memories have an audio component.  Here's some of my music memories for 2013.

Weapon by CAZZETTE

This year I pretty much felt like Alice going down rabbit holes that lead to more rabbit holes.  Like the sexy woman in this video, at the beginning of the year it seemed I had to fight a lot of things.  While part of a local campaign, I discovered that much of what I had thought to be true regarding various entities, was so wrong.

 You let me know that every chance you get
You will protect me
But you're lying

You're using my love as a weapon towards me

Many organizations and media sources I once thought were helpful to the under-served showed themselves, after research, to use my and others love of others as weapons to make money, disseminate corporate sponsored propaganda, and squash individual freedoms.  It was a heartbreaking time and because I refused to ignore deeper truths I lost friends and other connections changed in said and unsaid ways.  After losing my faith I gained a host of things including more serenity than I have even known.  

After winning the campaign I decided to stop fighting so much.  Yet I remain protective of my love. 

Go With It by TOKiMONSTA featuring MNDR

After all the drama and busyness of the the campaign I experienced a period of quiet connecting.  Not only to myself and spouse, but to the community I live in.  By this time I had begun to literally put my hands in the dirt thanks to being accepted into a farm apprenticeship.  Life seemed to slow down and my body & heart began to refocus my self by learning to let go.

 Ay oh, let it go 
See the big picture
Explode like a light bulb
Let it unfold 
Just go, go with it. 

Long ago I thought being constantly busy and on the go meant I was someone, going somewhere, and therefore had a meaningful life.  Around the time this song came out, my need to appear important took a bow and I welcomed a quieter life.  Like a baby I nurture this new life daily and in doing so see the power in the unknown and unfolding of each day and moment.  It can be uncomfortable, but it's a beautiful and meaningful practice.

Down With the Trumpets by Rizzle Kicks

When I get down, 
I get respect now,
and when our tunes drops, 
you know it makes your head bounce,
yeah I move with the flow,
and when I enter the room it shows

Let's get down with the trumpets.

Chronic illness changed my ability to go out dancing.  To date I still haven't since the advent of my conditions.  But I do shake my groove thing at home when I have the stamina and this song came out right when I was starting to finally go into remission with my main autoimmune disease.  Interestingly I now dance all over the city when I'm out and about listening to tunes on my headphones.  I don't give a fuck who thinks it's weird (and since I live in Portland no one cares anyway).  Some days I get frustrated that I can't dance more but then I let my head bounce, and listen with all my heart.

Roar by Katy Perry

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
'Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
'Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar

This is one of those songs that makes me remember how powerful pop music can be.  I had resisted Katy Perry's music for years under the guise of being too discerning for her type of songs.  But this song is a jam!  Every time I heard it this Fall my body tingled with empowerment.  This song reminded me how strong I've become because I've had to overcome my sometimes self inflicted victim hood.  No longer do other people, regardless of what they say to me or think of me, have to have power over me because I let them.  Knowing this and practicing healthier boundaries and loving detachment has brought such empowerment to my life.  To me that is what is song is about and I love it.      

Higher by Just Blaze & Baauer featuring JAY Z

This is the year I became an unabashed supporter of the 2nd Amendment.  That may seem strange since the media seemed to portray one mass gun shooting after another in the last couple years but as with all things, relying on the media, even Democracy Now or PBS (or FOX News) for truth is like expecting an alcoholic to not be drunk on Christmas.  This song has few words but conveys a feeling of meaningful defiance that the accompanying video synthesizes perfectly.  Though I am not for violence, I do believe when we take away peoples right to protect themselves from certain situations, something sinister is at hand.  Just ask descendants of disarmed Native Americans and African American slaves how disarmament worked out for them.

Higher as a video and song energy reflects a truth inside us all: that victim hood is overrated and protecting ourselves and loved ones is necessary, regardless of our commitment to peace.  After all if someone attacked your spouse or child as you walked down the street would you just stand there and pray for peace?  Personally I don't have any interest in owning guns.  But I see now that having means us protecting ourselves in certain situations has its place and this song reminds me of that.    

Chamakay by Blood Orange  

My wife and I have been together for 7 years.  Without going into specifics I'll just say that there may be something to that whole seven-year-itch thing.  We had to take a long hard look at ourselves and our relationship.  Because of this we are stronger than ever and we know not everyone comes out of such an experience still together.  By the time this song came out we had well reestablished our commitment to each other but there was a longing and a hope in this song that reminded me of our rough moment.

Are you the one who breaks my 
Heart out of my chest

Intimacy is some scary stuff and it can be hard even within the closeness of a marriage to let someone break into your chest and know your heart.  I am still learning to do this.  I've waited all my life for someone to really see me and love me and I them.  It's nice to realize after years of partnership that indeed I've found the one I waited for.

Take You Down by Bassnectar

This was one heck of a year.  I think it's time to take 2013 down, turn it out and say buh bye!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Suspending Well-Meaning Judgement (or Why it Feels Good to Feel Bad for Others)

 For as long as I've been dating women (which is over 22 years) I have dated or had relationships with "butches."  All of them struggled in their own way with reconciling our North American culture's dichotomy of what women and men are supposed to be like.  Some of them at some point even had moments of confusion over their gender identity.  I chose to be with women who were born women, who wanted to be women, and were masculine to their very cores.

My wife very much fits into this category.  Identity politics aside (they're overrated anyway) she is the very definition of Two Spirit and she is comfortable with it on all levels.  Yes she's had her struggles with gender & out of respect for her, I will not expand on her journey in that regard.  What I will say is that she really and truly is both female and male and is very comfortable with the body she is in.  It's part of what attracted me to her, and remains a treasured piece of our relationship.

With the increased numbers of people who are out as transgender, and as their struggles for equality have become more recognized in our society, so has the increase in people, sometimes those identified as trans but more so their very well meaning allies, who assume my wife is transgendered.  I have lost count of the times I've been asked by trans allies if she is transgender.  She encounters this assumption often.  For instance just few days ago someone randomly told her about their adult offspring who specializes in trans issues at a naturopathic clinic.  She is not transgender, has no interest in being transgender, and is beautiful just as she is.  Assuming she is trans obscures the power of her Two Spiritedness and doesn't help her to be seen or advocated for.  These allies mean well, but they don't care in a way that honors her as she is.

Acceptance is a powerful and helpful tool when we seek equality and justice for minorities.  Embracing awareness is even better.  Yet like all things, it is possible to get out of balance when it comes to working towards equity.  Respecting others means not assuming, regardless of how well meaning we may be.  Just because we know about an issue, whether first hand or as an ally, we still need to work on suspending our judgement regarding what another person is or  may need.

I see this "support on overdrive" mentality particularly with those who identify as politically progressive (I suppose this is why some get frustrated with political correctness).  While some may consider political conservatives to be judgmental towards races, classes, and sexual minorities, I would venture to say that progressive can be just as judgmental.  The difference is this type of judgement feeds the ego by letting the ally say "I'm a nice person because I see this person's difference and I actively embrace it."  The difference is the ally judges the person by believing they've encountered someone who needs to be helped and needs their help or commentary in particular.  It puts people into roles of heroes and victims and negates the individuals actual being-ness.  This sort of judgment puts the emphasis on the one judging because they tell themselves how great they are for not judging.  We all do it, so of course as I write this I remind myself not to judge too harshly other people's judging!

Here's an example: A while back while I was still on Facebook an old friend posted how badly they felt about Black people having to work at a particular establishment he visited on Martin Luther King Jr. day.  This person participated in the establishment's offerings, thanks of course to these Black folks working that day but felt bad for them all the same.  When I challenged this person to not focus on how bad he felt, but actually do something about it such as not be at the establishment that day or write a letter, I was e-confronted with people who felt a need to defend this friend.  Apparently I had attacked someone who -don't you know- helps the downtrodden, and I should therefore know my place.  It was interesting that I as a Black women, challenged a white ally, and was basically told my input didn't count.  The emphasis was on the do-gooder or the hero & how they felt, not on the actual people, their being-ness, and what they may have thought of their given situation.

Another example is when people can be shocked by a minority group disliking another minority group.  "How can these people dislike these people when they should understand since they can relate?"  is what I have heard so many times.  I no longer pull my hair out over such statements but I remember the frustration I felt at the negation of a group or person's thoughts and feelings.  Saying a racial minority should be an ally to say a sexual minority or vice versa, just because they're both minorities, again puts emphasis on being someone who "doesn't think that way" and nullifies the person(s) who may have their ideas for a variety of reasons.

We cannot know others until we become willing to embrace the fact that we will never be able to fully know others.  This can be uncomfortable but it's far more honest and demonstrates more willingness to be educated by others in terms of their identities, circumstances, history, and ancestral legacies.  What this also means is that we have to be willing to offend people, not because we assume things about them (good intentions or not) but because we don't.  We cannot please all people so if we don't know what to say or think about someone or their situation and they get upset, we can practice loving detachment and do our best to just be with them, rather than self-centeredly being for them.  Paternalism is not just about deciding how others should be, it is also about deciding who others are.  Liberals and conservatives are both guilty of this, though my liberal brethren's mask of support sometimes makes it harder to see in self reflections.

When we feel bad for others it can make us feel like we're good people.  But therein lies the first wound to heal.  The wound is that we are afraid we may not be good, so we must try to be good by doing good things and thinking good thoughts and saying good things to people who may not have it so good.  If  feminist Carol Hanisch is correct that the personal is political, then we might consider delving deeper into our relationships, especially with ourselves.  When we make an effort to ask ourselves where we feel victimized and direct healing measures towards ourselves, we feel less of a need to be selfishly good for others.  We don't need our ego's to be on display to other "good" people.  We make mistakes and learn how beautiful our seemingly uncomfortable truths are.  When we do this others are able to be with us and we with them.

"But in fact, isn't that man's very purpose on earth--to do things, change things, run things, make a better world?"
"What is his purpose, then?"
"I don't know. Things don't have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What's the function of a galaxy? I don't know if our life has purpose and I don't see that it matters. What does matter is that we're a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass."
 From The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Le Guin
 Photo courtesy of unprofound

Friday, December 6, 2013

What is Real Work and Success?

For the last couple months my wife and I have made a lifestyle change that has been effective for both of us but has been the subject of a bit of judgement.  I am now a full time stay at home wife.  It's actually the best job I've ever had and I really like the hours!  Taking care of my spouse, our pet-kids, and the house has been fulfilling but very hard work.  I always feel like I'm behind.  A retired friend of mine recently said "just because you don't work outside the home doesn't mean your not working."  Boy is she right.

Initially we made the decision for this career change as a temporary one.  That I'd take a year off from working outside the home full time so I can build my health after enduring a 2 year assault on my body from chronic illnesses.  When sick I was either in college (online) full time or part time and even worked full time at home for an online retailer for a while.  The truth is being sick is a full time job.  The pain, exhaustion, and weakness takes up all your time and energy.  So while I was still quite acute I was in essence working 2 jobs.  One was taking care of myself, the other was trying to keep money flowing into the house.

Now that one illness has had a mostly successful surgical solution, and the other is in remission, I am doing comparatively well when we consider my physical state even a year ago.  Yet my two latest chronic illnesses effect me weekly if not daily and if I'm not careful, they can lead me straight into an autoimmune flare that keeps me down for weeks.  So when the wife & I took a hard look at our situation; financially, spiritually, and emotionally, we decided that my taking a year "off" would be for the best.  But now we seek to make this change permanent.

What I've been surprised to learn is that there is no such thing as off time now that I'm mostly home and less sick.  There is a common misconception that Toni Bernhard discusses in her article Six Common Misconceptions about the Chronically Ill.  The idea that being home all day is luxurious and relaxing is hogwash, especially for those who care for the home and family and/or those who are chronically ill.  Working at home is a real job and as far as I can now see, one of the most important and valuable jobs there is.  The work is creative, tiring, and unrelenting.  There is never a time when a housewife (or husband) gets to say "yep, every task is complete!"  There is always something else to do.  Always!  There is always something to learn, to attempt of perfect, or to think about.  It's the one job where you don't really get the night off because you are the one taking care of those who have the night off.

It has been an interesting experiment in my own willingness to not judge those who may judge me & my wife when others ask what I do.  Perhaps I misinterpret some of the reactions but thus far I have seen a hint of what I could only describe as sexism disguised as feminism.  We as a culture undervalue what has often been considered "women's work" and celebrate women who emulate the patriarchal, elitist, and capitalistic idea of income as a measure of success.  When my wife & I tell people in essence, we are willing to maintain a working class income so that we may be happier, we are sometimes met, mostly by other women, with an air of disapproval.

There is a common misnomer that has been used to undervalue the importance of women working in the home: the idea that women were not able to work outside the home when they really wanted to.  This is a historical inaccuracy perpetuated mostly by the elite and middle class white feminists.   Ultimately women working outside the home was not a problem of all women but certain women.  And while I agree that restriction of freedom for anyone regardless of circumstance is wrong, we must look at the history not written by the those with capitalistic agendas.  For example, Black women who were former slaves who wished to work in the home, like their white counter parts, were forced after abolition to work in the fields because their husbands were purposely paid wages so low, they were forced to work.  In fact white men at the time were infuriated when a Black woman dared to stay at home like their white wives.  It was seen as uppity.  So folks, for my ancestors sake, I dare to be uppity.

Success in terms of my work is no longer about how much I follow corporate agendas, kowtow to ethics that don't match my own, or pretend to care because I'm paid to do so.  I fully admit I'm very lucky to have a spouse who is supportive of this career choice and honors my work enough to find ways to maintain our lifestyle of nurturance.  I married someone who I can count on to always have a job and who greatly enjoys my work and sees it as equal to hers.  For us success means that we do work that is meaningful and serves others.  We don't have to literally buy into the idea that more money, more stuff, more hours away from home equals a real life.  We've learned that tending a garden is real work, making dinner from scratch is real work, that resting is real work, and that a loving & calm home for our family is the greatest success we could ever achieve.    

 Image courtesy of unprofound

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What It's Like to Soften

Tonight I received a card from a fellow sober traveler in honor of my eight years of soberiety.  She wrote:
"I love hearing your honesty and watching you soften."
It's funny because I often have found in the past (and even now) that it was my honesty that hardened others to me.  Yet somehow this witness was able to see beauty in both my truth & my vulnerability.

What rang in my head from this acknowledgement is that I no longer have to be afraid of my beauty.

Though it may be cliché to compare oneself to a flower, especially an orchid, this is exactly the image I have when I think about this phase of my development.  An orchid displays both soft colors and contours upon it's lips and petals.  Yet there is a bold roughness to the bright color contrasted on the edges of the lips.  Not to mention a wild streak of yellow that crashes through the flowers lip and pouts in front of the stigmatic surface.  The orchid is both completely suasive in getting you to think boldly about the nature of our nature and yet delicate enough to be taken out by brute forces within nature.  Orchids challenge our sense of discomfort while at the same time they completely open to our love.

Image courtesy of unprofound
For the last few weeks as I have prepared emotionally for a trip to the city in which I was raised.  I have consulted with mentors and friends, received body work and floated in flotation tanks, come up with exit strategies and code words with my spouse, and have already set some boundaries and have in mind more boundaries to set with a few people I'll see.  In some ways I suppose I've prepared for a kind of battle.  Not with others but for my own sense of dignity and integrity.  In the past my trips to this city have ended with emotional explosions and resulting psychological hangovers.

Regardless of all this prep work I have also become aware that I cannot avoid the pain that may come as a result of taking this trip.  There are aspects I'd like to run away from like seeing a dear loved one whose cognitive functioning is diminished enough that she may not fully know who I am.  That I may be seeing someone for the last time.  That I'll be surrounded by everyone but my aunt who died last year.  These are all things that may cause me pain.

My old reactions to pain was fleeing or rebelling.   Yet now I see the beauty in softening to the pain.  The nice thing is that while I'm in this city with people who mean so much but can also trigger me so deeply, I have choices.  Not just because of all the emotional preparing I've been doing but because I can be both honest and penetrable now.  I can let someone have their truth, their reality, and disagree with them while not judging them, regardless of whether or not their judging me.  My heart can be as soft as orchid petals.  My spirit can be as bold as the brightest of colors and yet I don't have to attempt to change anyone or change myself to make anyone happy.  From this pain may come but I can be with that too and not judge it.

One of the lies I once believed about myself was that there was something inherently wrong with me and I could point to several real and imagined flaws of mine to justify such thoughts.  But thanks decades of cultivating self love (not the same as ego) and a loving spouse and various angels along the way it has become less necessary to fear failures or mistakes.  I know they will come.  Even with all the preparedness I can muster, I will likely at some point mess up in my hometown.  But if I can debar my self judgement and not use it as a means to deflect my real feelings, what might I learn?  If I am bold enough to endure pain and be honest about my experiences and responses, I may find myself open further to beauty.  And as I wrote earlier: I no longer have to be afraid of my beauty.

On this trip all I have to do is show up.  I just have to be there and willing to practice connecting to whatever music is present in a given moment.  I can be soft enough and honest enough to deal with what may be hard.

With me on this adventure to a place I once called home, I'll take the wise words of Sufi poet Hafiz...

“Admit something.

Everyone you see, you say to them
"Love me."

Of course you do not do this out loud:
Someone would call the cops.

Still, though, think about this,
This great pull in us to connect.

Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying,

With that sweet moon 

What every other eye in this world
Is dying to 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

You Can't Polish a Turd

I've been working the 3rd step again.  Lately a developing theme has been our inability smash a problem with step work or recovery principles.  In the last couple weeks I've shared about this with sponsee's & in meetings from a position of knowing that trying to do so is in a way like trying to get high or get a quick fix from feeling bad.  Yet when it came to practicing this stuff with my fibromyalgia with week I got utterly lost.

Recently I found myself trying to 3rd step away feeling shitty from a flare.  There was such a sense of confusion and being lost because I couldn't figure out how to get Creator to make the pain & frustration go away.  I thought "if I can just turn this over I'll feel better."  The third step by the way is:
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
It was almost as if I hoped some sort of internal click would happen by saying "hey God, this is yours."  Yet the click never came and I felt both physically crappy and emotionally overloaded.  Finally I called a program friend who also has chronic illness.  Of course the irony here is that by calling someone about this I was demonstrating the willingness the 3rd step requires to decide to believe that Creator can help.  More than anything I just needed to tell someone how powerless I felt.  My friend helped me realize I was looking for a quick way out of feeling frustrated about this flare.  Acceptance she noted was key here.  My attempts to beat down the illness and feelings around it with the 3rd step was making things worse.

So instead of trying to force some internal click by telling Creator over and over that I'm giving this flare to it, I can practice this step by accepting that just for today I feel crappy, and that I'll make it through.  And that just for today I feel frustrated about it, and will make it through that as well.  A successful practice of this step doesn't mean feeling good.  Instead it means we become able to live with whatever is there, aware but also willing to just feel crappy and see what happens.  Strong unpleasant feelings whether physical and/or emotional are like turds we can't polish away with step work or other devices.  Yet the steps in action do help us to have a deeper understanding of those feelings while experiencing life as our vulnerable human selves.  Just for today, fibro flare or not, I will be okay.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Spiritual Bitch

Photo courtesy of unprofound

Being in two 12 Step recovery programs has taught me something important: that I'll never be a "good girl."  It's not in my DNA nor do I want to be perceived that way anymore.  I used to want to be liked by everyone and would alter my persona in ways so that I'd appear to be someone likable and good.  But my attempts always failed in the face of my own personal integrity and a subconscious need to experience life on the deepest levels possible.  Finally after all these years I can take the label "bitch" and claim it not as a way of being or representing myself but as an energy I have a right to claim that is defined by my willingness to not be liked or perceived as good girl.  For me being a bitch is not about running roughshod over others or puffing myself up as a woman to boost my ego and win arguments or dominate energetically.  Instead, being a spiritual bitch means I connect with a force (that I don't fully understand) that allows me to be as big as I need to be in a given moment or situation, without apologies or permission.

Vengeance is a bit like yummy meal from a chain restaurant such as Big Boy.  It can be tasty but you know in the end it's not good for you other than to satisfy a basic desire.  To this day my favorite movies are revenge movies because they satisfy the craving I have for the quick-fix version of justice.  It's nice in a way to think that a little (or a lot) of violence will make everything better, and free my mind & heart of suffering.  Of course in the movies there is a taste of supposed justice, but whenever I exert my will to enact my own version of "justice" I'm never satisfied.  In my head the scenario repeats itself in slightly different versions depending on just how thoroughly I think I "got" someone with my words.  Even if I think "I got them" I still wind up holding that same grudge, but now with a new hue.  I'm not really satisfied and a real opportunity to explore justice has been missed for the time being.

Yesterday I read a post by therapist Connie North about manifesting peace.  She discussed a fictional but very thought worthy scene from the film The Interpreter.  Ultimately it's about vengeance and choices.  Do we take the short cut and enact violence as a means to deal with pain, anger, and grief, or do we walk into the pain, embrace the suffering, and perhaps even help the very ones who have hurt us (in a non-codependent way of course).  This brings me to another post I read by a spiritual acquaintance of mine, damali ayo.  This paragraph really struck me:

This is a hard fact for some activists to accept. When I finally got it, I was in the middle of a workshop and I ran out of the room crying. I had invested so much of my life in trying to dictate to others how they could and should think and behave. It took some time, and some serious recalibration of my world-view, but eventually I realized that the way I make the world better is by changing myself. I had to change the way I thought and behaved.

I must concede that my own attempts to control as an activist have often wound up causing myself pain.  It was like the old adage, taking poison in hopes the other person would get sick.  I tried use my words in ways that would get others to submit to them so that I could not only feel satisfied but safe.  These attempts only brought fleeting relief.  The realization that doing activist work as a means of forcing my will didn't really come to me until I suffered enough of my own consequences by means of alienating myself spiritually from others.  As an addict I can readily admit that it's usually pain that forces me to change.  So when I finally was in enough pain from getting into Facebook fights or email fights or actual yelling matches on the streets with supposed "enemies" or "unaware" people, I finally got this important spiritual tenant: that even racism, sexism, homophobia, able-ism, transphobia, and other isms are all part of the same spiritual dis-ease, and only when others suffer enough under the weight of that disease will they change.  No amount of my anger towards them, my attempts to control them, or my fear of vulnerability or jeopardy will change them.  As damail said "Only people who are willing to change from the inside can sustain the social change around them, because they will not be directing it, they will be being it."

Yes it is true that we have to be the change.  I have had to go within and see certain horrors for what they are, which is spiritual sickness.  Whether it's drone bombing in the name of correction, a drunk driver, a racist, or a mentally ill loved one, we cannot fight crazy with crazy.  It's like talking to someone in a mental health crisis who is wearing a straight jacket and putting on our own straight jacket to get them to behave.  Not only would it not work but then we're the ones restrained.  Our bodies tighten up when someone else's bad day becomes our own bad day.  They get cranky so we get cranky back.  Then our stress response is engaged and we cannot do Great Spirit's work until we have looked into our pain and have made choices on how we want to approach our living from that point.

And the truth is we all fall into these control traps.  And we always will struggle with them.   Haruki Murakami makes a beautiful point in the phrase: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.  Of course we will at times react rather than respond.  We will see that resentment train coming and get right on.  But the point isn't to berate ourselves when this happens, for we know that others do it too (which is why trying to enact suffering upon others doesn't work because they, like us, got on that train).  Instead we can recognize when we're on that train and when we remember to, or when it hurts enough, we will get off and try to connect with our own pain and our own capacity to love and thrive.  We may get hooked in when our government spies on us, when liberal or conservative paternalism attempts to control us, when we don't get a raise because of our gender, when our neighbor's dog poops in our yard, when our spouse won't wash the dishes, when our parents act crazy.  The work when this happens is to recognize what is happening and remember we have choices.  We can stand tall in knowing there is a Divine Mystery that will guide us to a more serene place for our own sake.  We can pause and breath into the pain.  We can cry, or talk to a friend, or write, or take a break, or dance, or we can attempt to manipulate and control others with our own spiritual discomfort.  No matter the choice there will be a lesson.  Some lessons bring joy, reverence, serenity.  Some bring suffering.  We have the right to experience our own consequences, and we begin to understand that others need to experience their own consequences, without our added vengeance.

It is okay to make mistakes.  And it is okay to move on from them.  Regular reflection has helped me grasp my own tendencies when I feel hurt by others.  This is how I came to embrace being a spiritual bitch.  Because my job isn't to be liked.  When my will is in the background and Great Spirit's will is in the foreground I know that my words and deeds may not make others feel pleased with me, but they will be of some use to those who can benefit from them.  I don't have to agree so that I'll be liked, but I don't have to be disliked because I am disagreeable.  Instead my activism and my personal life can be places where I observe my actions and interactions and practice the practice of spiritual non-perfection.  I can get hurt and remember others usually cause pain when they are in pain.  I can hurt others and do my best to catch it, attempt amends, explore my own pain, and forgive myself.  In this practice of being big without being ego driven, I can remember that just for this day I have the strength to love.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Non-Midwestern Potato Salad

This will be my last non-SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) recipe for at least 3 months.  Because of my Blind Loop Syndrome diagnosis I have to go on & maintain this diet for at least 3 months in order to heal my gut.  Anywho...

Once upon a time I found potato salad loathsome.  Family picnics and other summer get-togethers were not a good introduction to the dish.  Since I was a child that despised hard boiled eggs, mayonnaise, and/or meals without spice or flavor, potato salad in Minnesota during the 1980's left me cold.  When I was tasked with bringing potato salad for a dreaded "lesbian potluck" I was pissed.  It was a side dish that held no interest but I persevered.  I knew about German potato salad but wasn't a fan of vinegar at the time.  In addition the internet wasn't as prolific and accessible as it is now so I didn't know there were varieties as I wasn't cooking as much in my late teens.

Over the years my recipe has evolved.  From dill to Hungarian paprika to celery seed, I've used many spice combinations in order to create a potato salad that had flavor.  It was also important for my potato salad to be refreshing rather than an eggy blap fest.  So please enjoy this take on an American favorite.  I promise Minnesotans and those from either coast will be pleased.


Roughly 8 medium potatoes (I like to mix half purple potatoes and half gold potatoes)
6-7 eggs hard-boiled in water with 1-2 tsp vinegar 
1 1/2 cups European style whole milk yogurt
4 ribs celery finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped radishes
5-6 scallions
1-2 large dill pickles
1/4 cup dill pickle juice
4 tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove finely grated garlic
1 1/2 tsp dill
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 - 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3oz mild but salty sheep's cheese (like Ossau Iraty)  finely chopped
Handful celery leaves chopped

Boil & then simmer potatoes until cooked but fairly firm.  Hard-boil the eggs.  While they're cooking combine in medium steel bowl yogurt, Dijon, garlic, dill, salt, and pepper.  Once eggs are peeled and potatoes have cooled, chop them separately and combine in a large pot or dutch oven.  Add to pot scallions, radishes, pickle, celery, and cheese.  Then add yogurt mixture and stir ingredients until just blended.  Garnish with celery leaves.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours but I think it tastes best settled overnight.   

Friday, August 23, 2013

SIBO, SCD, and IBS walk into a Bar...


I had a stomach bug a few weeks ago that triggered an IBS flare that nearly sent me to the hospital for a 3rd time.  The wife & I managed to keep me home but we have had 2 weeks of my being in pain, bloated, unable to eat, and a few other things.  Three different doctors said three different things and if you've ever had one of those "garbage pail" syndromes, you know that at some point you literally have to trust your gut & just move forward with well honed instincts.

Currently we are in-between general practitioners and I had given up on getting any real heal from any gastroenterologist for a few years.  We went to ZoomCare because they now have specialists such as naturopaths and GI docs.  We were able to get in to see the doctors at ZoomCare way faster than the clinics we've gone to in the past and surprisingly thus far we've had better results.  I don't mean for this post to be a plug for ZoomCare but I have to say I'm really impressed by their service and help.  The gastroenterologist sat with us for an entire hour and discussed the mind/body connection in relation to disease.  The naturopath listened to and counseled to us for a whopping hour & a half!  And both docs were professional & friendly but very clear.  So yeah awesome!  Anyway...

I took what is called a SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) test earlier in the week.  It's a 3 hour long breath test which measures how much gas one produces.  Some specialists believe in it whilst some don't.  I figured since insurance was willing to pay for it I'd see what happened.  I had my follow up today & learned that my test was very solidly positive for bacterial overgrowth and this may be the cause of a great deal of my pain/illness.  I was also given a new diagnosis that has nothing to do with garbage pails called Blind Loop Syndrome.  The treatment is first an antibiotic that won't cause any candida symptoms (yay no yeast infections!) and then starting tomorrow I begin an SCD diet (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) for three months.  I'll have to be tested again for SIBO in a few weeks and hopefully we can rebuild my tummy and make it happy.

There's a mighty long list of foods I won't be eating this Fall and actually I'm okay with it.  Since I've been healing my other conditions with food I don't see why I can't be more specific for a while.  I've had friends bear witness to health improvements as a result of an SCD or Paleo diet so I figure I have to try.  After all I never thought I practically live off bone broths, be completely off coffee, and avoid GMO's with everything I have.  Quite frankly I eat better than most vegans I know so I'm willing to give up most dairy, all grains, and (sniff sniff) all sweeteners-except a bit of honey from time to time.

The other helpful thing from getting my bacteria in check and healing my tummy is that these actions may help my other inflammatory issues (for which I have more than some 80 year olds).  So we will see what happens.  I'll report my progress as things go along.  

Image: http://www.futurity.org/science-technology/solar-power-potty-wins-toilet-challenge/

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Birthing Potatoes

Shin bruises from unearthing potatoes
A Standing Ground by Wendell Berry
However just and anxious I have been
I will stop and step back
from the crowd of those who may agree
with what I say, and be apart.
There is no earthly promise of life or peace
but where the roots branch and weave 
their patient silent passages in the dark;
uprooted, I have been furious without an aim.
I am not bound for any public place,
but for ground of my own
where I have planted vines and orchard trees,
and in the heat of the day climbed up 
into the healing shadow of the woods.
Better than any argument is to rise at dawn
and pick dew-wet berries in a cup.  
As a long time activist, I never imagined that digging up potatoes would become a radical act.  Utilizing a garden fork to bring these starchy vegetables to light wasn't working due to puncturing 1/3 of the potatoes I attempted to harvest so I got on the ground and with arthritic hands in hard soil I dug up the gems.  Without thought I quietly said "thank you" to the potatoes as well as the ground that grew and offered them.  As I dug deeper and wider using my fingers to detect pockets that held firm to these vegetables, I felt like a midwife birthing potatoes.  The soil was flesh and blood and I was simply a wise woman helping to give life.  For hours I dug up by hand yellow potatoes, some grapefruit sized, some small as strawberries; sometimes alone and sometimes with others, and felt none of the pain that must have been present to cause my bruising.  I cared only about providing healthy sustenance for others and my relationship to the earths many offerings. No amount of yelling & marching down streets against forces of prurience can compare to the sense of justness that wholeful agriculture can provide. 

That is not to say I don't believe in actively giving voice to wrongness.  Speaking truth to power has been & remains necessary.  Will arguments instead of berry picking still be an option for me in the future?  Sure, as long as I've picked my battles and my berries first.  Getting off the Facebook commenting habit has provided me time to reflect & renew so that I may not only choose my words more carefully but be more careful about where I chose to put those words.  Angrily commenting on websites & blogs serves only to fan flames of argument and not sustain (myself or others).  Diving into a prickly mini jungle of crookneck squash with grateful appreciation provides ALL with a satisfying experience of grace-filled duty.  

Today I store in the cool dark of a ground level cabinet the potato harvest my farm compatriots dug up yesterday.  This fall we will eat the potatoes that I helped to birth.  Better than any argument is to nourish people and planet.  That is truly a most radical act!