While I was in grad school, I quit exercising. I tried, but I just couldn't make myself. I was so exhausted, so verklempt, that I just couldn't do it. I can look back and think something like "I would have felt a lot better if I could have made myself exercise", but when I look back, all that happened when I exercised was some body part of another went wonky and painful and I'd quit. And it never ever made me feel better. The sh*tstorm I was in wasn't about exercise. It was about burning the muthaf*cker down. I'm glad I didn't force myself to exercise.
When I got to Wilmington, I did a soul retrieval with a woman in California. Afterward, I was able to start exercising again. I rode my bike, did some light weightlifting. It was that same old way I'd always exercised, full of high mythic push, supercharging mixes of adrenalin and serotonin, always a feeling of aggression, of Just Do It shoving me on, a feeling of arrogant accomplishment, a kind of smug satisfaction with myself afterward. But there was also something different in the mix. Anger. For some reason, as I exercised, rage would roar through me, thoughts of hate and pissiness, belligerence at everyone from the mothers who blocked the paths with their enormous strollers to the cars who passed on my left mere inches from elbow. I'd arrive back at my apartment wanting to punch things, but instead I'd lift weights.
Then The Hoon got sick. And after he died, I found that I couldn't exercise anymore. At all. Even the thought of it caused nausea to roll. It felt like an obscenity - to pursue joy and UP when The Hoon was dead. I walked around my apartment asking over and over "where is he? where has he gone? where is he?" My bike rusted into immobility on the porch.
It took a year before I tried to exercise again. I don't remember what it was. I think it was a walk, or some light weights. But my body hurt too much. I backed off. Art and his machine helped break up a lot of the scar tissue, and that brought less pain. Then I did the journey, got the directive back this past March to get out and walk/run, so I knew the practical aspect of what I needed to do. But it wasn't until I had the endoscopy and got on the IBS and ulcer meds that the physical pain diminished enough for me to start moving and keep moving.
It's been a couple/few weeks now. I walk four or five times a week. I started out with a mile. And was aching and sore afterward. But not so much that there was injury. I kept it up, a mile and a half, two miles, two and a half miles, three miles. And that's where I'm at. I do a brisk three miles, come home, do a few sets of upper body and arm, back and shoulders. Takes a little over and hour, spit spot.
And the payoff is marvelous. All that remains of the excruciating pain I was in just three weeks ago is down to a some very mild aching in my back, and a swollen stomach that looks kinda weird - is my sigmoid so relaxed it's expanded several sizes? - but isn't painful at all. But the best part? The sense of super chill. You know the one - it's as if someone dialed the radio station in and all the static is gone, like a resounding gentle hum of Ahhhhhhhh vibrates through the body, like tequila without the hangover, like, why yes, the dance of the happy serotonin that we all know and love.
And surprise, surprise, the Waking Up stuff is ramping up again. There's something about the walking that is causing this huge release of stored past. As I walk the anger kicks in, but instead of turning it into a Kick Ass/Take Names exercise routine, I just walk, and watch. No running, no pushing, just walking. Sometimes brisk walking, sometimes my arms are pumping, but there's no manic drive, just motion.
I don't try to stop the thoughts, or change the thoughts. I just watch, follow them to their conclusion, and a new one arrives and roars down the canyons of consciousness. The meds make me tired in the mornings, so I lay in bed for a while before I get up, and the past does another big dump. Things, people, situations I haven't thought of in years arise. Even in the middle of the night, suddenly awake at 3 am, thinking about the series of sexual abusers that started in my early teens, that I just stopped letting into my body a few years ago, or the people I loved and trusted, who walked away and couldn't have cared less.
There is no Poor Me in any of this, just remembering. It's simple to say: stop being aggressive, negative, fighting. It's quite another to realize that rage is an effective tool to chase ass*holes away. It's one thing to say: lose weight. It's another to understand that fat makes great armor against possible romantic advances. And these huge releases of past show how it all fits together, the connect-the-dots. And then it's gone, and another begins opening up.
It doesn't matter to me that I'm not a Nice Person anymore. I could care less about soul mating. And while the fat is bothersome on a health level, I'm fine with it otherwise.
But I get that the walking and pieces of past that are rising up out of me are changing me. I'm ready to let her go, this person I've been for so long, who isn't me, but someone I wore for a while. But I'm okay if it takes another direction. I trust the process. If I fully Wake Up, fine. If I don't, if the rest of my life is spent with stuff like this, this peeling of Katherine one layer at a time until the day I die, I'm okay with that too.
What I get now is This Is It. This is the deal. This really is all there is. Publishing a book, or losing thirty pounds, or having the holistic stuff I'm creating gain traction and substance - all of it might change the sheen, the reflection coming off my living. But it won't change what occurs inside of me. It is the freefall to the inside that's important, and the only function, the only worth of what occurs outside is how it cuts me free to fall.
I think it's hilariously funny that this part of the Waking Up journey is comprised of western meds and 3-mile walks in leafy suburbia, a job in a cubicle and hours and hours of silence with kitties in the sun. Life's sense of humor with all this stuff is just so awesome . . . Who needs enlightenment on mountaintops when there are so many split level ranch houses and their azalea and roses and pine tree filled yards to breathe in and feel the Yes over?
Sure, it's a reality tv show, and therefor stoked for conflict and drama and WooHooHoo.
Yeah, he's a millionaire chef/entertainer looking to create successful product.
But dude is also genuinely a driving force behind publicizing and educating the utter f*ckstorm that is our food supply. He's all up in people's faces, his crazy warped faux-hawk morphing in all directions, calling all the women "sweetheart" and all the men "brother", and challenging them again and again and again to see that the food they consider normal and healthy is actually poisoned and making friends, neighbors, family sick and die early, painful, undignified deaths.
Some of my favorite bits:
He goes head to head with the school district's director of nutrition, refusing to back down when they keep allowing their elementary school kids (such tiny, trusting little five and six year olds) to have access to strawberry and chocolate milk by saying that it's the kids' choice if they prefer it over white milk. He keeps saying over and over "these flavored milks have more sugar in them than soda pop", and it's all you can do not to scream victory when the milk company comes and removes every single last falvored milk from the school.
He squares off with a sadistic lunch lady over dozens of things - but my favorite is when she gets up in his grill and snarls: I have a problem with you touching the food with your bare hands. And he retorts: well, I have a problem with you touching the food with those plastic gloves.
When Katrina hit, I didn't send money to the Red Cross or any of those organizations. I gave money to the Humane Society for their rescue efforts of the pets left behind. And with the devastation in Haiti, same thing. Because when the people are struggling, our furry guys, already many levels down on humankind's consciousness scale of worth and importance, seriously need some help.
All of you know at least a dozen folks who've lost their jobs, their homes, their cars, and most of their identity. And shacking up with the mother in law or in a week-to-week hotel usually means no pets allowed. And so you can just imagine how animal shelters all over are desperately trying to keep these guys fed and sheltered until homes can be found. And the furry guys in Haiti? They are in desperate, desperate need . . .
If you want to do a good deed this week, please let it be this one. Even $10 will help.
Adopt an Angel (where Baby Malcolm and dainty flower Emmaline were liberated from) email@example.com
Spread the love, spread the love . . . we have so much, we are so fortunate . . . share the love . . .
Sometimes, we curl all up in a pod of snooze
Sometimes we get all pretzelly
Sometimes a haunch makes a happy pillow for my head
Ditto back at ya
As I begin to unwind what's got my bowels in such an uproar, I ask myself: what makes you so anxious? Why are you so often in a state of cringe, spine all hunched, small shoulders, breath all panting and clipped. A hundred times a day I take a deep breath, will my shoulders to soften, my spine to lift and get a little loft. But it goes back to panting, small, scrinched as if it were the default, the normal. Or maybe it's that as long as the fear is alive and on the move inside of me, my body has no other choice but to express it. Which I have to admit is better than the hiding and masking and faking I lived most of my life underneath.
But the fear. What is it? What am I so afraid of?
For the past few months I've been realizing that a hefty portion of the fear that webs inside of me is related to how there is Just Too Frakkin Much Stuff. And I just can't deal with it.
I can't simply go and buy food anymore. I have to vet it for gluten and soy, and refined sugar and flour. I have to make sure it won't set off the IBS. It needs to be free of pesticides and GMOs and not sold via land raping corporations. and local. Is it local? In season? And not a gazillion bucks?
And music. So many bands, so many outlets. Car radio, iTunes. Pandora, Youtube, and Lime*wire. It's bad bands that look like good bands. It's good bands that put out lots of bad songs but have a couple of good songs. It's good bands that turn out to be filled with band members that are appalling and mean spirited and so it's all you can think about when you hear their music. It's a band recommended by someone you like that turns out to grate on your ears like a screaming child throwing a tantrum beside an indifferent mother. It's so overwhelming that I usually just don't listen to music anymore.
And the millions of blogs and their awesomeness and blandness and complaints and lack of Yes. And the untold thousands of writers attempting to publish their work, so many of them actually very talented. And the infinite number of holistic healers with their claims of miracles. It's the thousands of books published each year. And the thousands of films. And television shows, the so very many television shows on cable and network via hulu and side*reel and official network websites.
It's the constant stream of twitter follower requests, rivers of chat, nuggets of Yes here and there laboriously panned from a stream of blah. It's my blog reader, filled with blogs that no longer have new posts, or bloggers whose posts are full of kvetching and viewpoints that fill a heart with dread at their negativity, arrogant ice-cold judgment, cluelessness.
The brand spanking new apps for twitter. Facebook. Tmblr. And sites linking them all.
New cells phones and video cameras and point and click versus the better ones. Hi def and flatscreen and LCD.
Charities asking for money. Rape victims. Flood victims. Earthquakes and tsunamis and very bad governing bodies. Fur coats made from cats and dogs in China. Struggling entrepreneurs in third world countries.
It's the onslaught of ads everywhere I turn. The maniacally multiplying windows when I plug into side*reel.com. The ads clogging up sidebars of blogs. And the ads that follow me wherever I go on salon.com or any other big site.
There is good. Of course there is good. So very much good.
But the deluge of Stuff . . . overwhelming . . .
I feel badly for the docs that get me as a patient. They're used to folks who understand their system, who are numb to its waiting and meds and lack of personal attention, who are throughly indoctrinated to place the doc above the patient, to take what the doc says as gospel, and to shut the frak up and get with the muthafrakkin program.
Me? My undertstanding of this whole deal is that the doc is my partner in this thing I call My Health, and that he/she doesn't have an understanding of anything outside of western med and so I both have to hide some of the things I do, while also guarding myself from most docs' knee jerk script pad scribbling.
"You came to see ME, so how about you at least listen to what I say as if I might know what I'm talking about?" the GI doc said to me a couple of weeks ago, his eyes slightly bugged from the stress of dealing with all the data I've collected from the internet, PubMed, and charting my own symptoms, trying things and logging what does and doesn't work.
I agreed to listen to him for a week, to take the meds he prescribed, to allow him to do an endoscopy, and to give his diagnosis at least enough credibility that I'd give it all a whirl.
The diagnosis: ulcers (which he showed me pictures of post-endoscopy, and hot holy dang those swollen red patches/holes were startling to see) Irritable Bowel Syndrome (which is kinda like the fibromyalgia of the digestive system). And he put me on two kinds of meds. And guess what? I feel so much freakin better it's miraculous. Back pain is down to mere slight discomfort some of the time, and the horrific digestive pain I've been? A mere whisper of what it was.
And I also get that what is happening isn't Curing the illnessess so much as buying me time to do the things I have to do to bring my body back into balance: exercise, no processed foods, release the fear that's got my bowels in such an uproar, literally. I've got some Deep Sh*t in head, heart, and body to navigate, but at least now I'm not so consumed with pain that I can actually focus on what I need to do.
So when I see my GI doc in a month I want to thank him, and apologize for giving him a hard time, but also to give him the heads up: with health care reform, there are going to be a lot of folks like me coming down the pike, folks who've never really had health care insurance and therefor don't know this western med world, and therefor don't really trust it. But who need it. Who really really need it.
A couple of things struck me and struck me hard when I watch this video. The first is a dream I had back in early 2005. The dream has stayed with me in the years since. I remember the dog, the shamans, the journey to the "center of the earth". I remember the amethyst and pearl necklace, and I remember the pain, the sacrifice. I remember acknowledging that huge shifts were coming, and that my job was to collect some of the things we needed to bring forward with us.
I know without a doubt that the dream was real. And I also wonder if this makes me delusional and arrogant, one of those garden variety loonies who believe themselves to be All That and the next jesus. I know I'm just a person, a fringe dwelling loner with two decades of holistic practice and a master's degree in public health, spending weekdays 8-5 as a social worker, and weekends showing folks how to navigate shamanic reality, a 44-year old woman currently navigating anxiety related health problems (diagnosis on Wednesday was ulcers and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, both of which fabulously translate as "crazy in the colon").
But I also know that I am something much much larger than this, not as in Faboo, but as in behind all this life-describing stuff lies a Great Vast Nothing, shimmering with dark and silence and Yes, that causes the kitties to all climb on top of me and purr, and the leaves on the trees outside the window to seemingly reach out and vibrate Yes, and my life to fall away, and I neither miss it nor long for it's return, just watch and engage as the remainders begin to smoke from impending flames.
Another thing that hit me was how the healer in the video was adamant about no publicity, taking no personal credit for what he did, and how when he crossed this, he had dreams of intense admonishment. In the past couple of years, I've gotten so incredibly clear that I'm merely facilitating something, that I'm a sort of extension cord for folks who don't quite have the reach yet. Just like the western meds are buying me some time and energy to right what is imbalanced, I offer folks a big dose of Yes to help them kickstart their own. Faux humility is one of the most arrogant masks of ego, and I use to live in that faux humility. The past few years adroitly beat that out of me. And if I step even a single toe into either pride or faux humility, Life helpfully punches me, hard, and I yet again discover that being kicked to the ground is wonderful grounding.
And as I watched this video, I also got that there are thousands of us, thousands and thousands of us, that are connected in, off on these deep solo paths, who have cut away from the pack, still running alongside, but soon, soon, if we're very lucky, will get to head off over the cliff, ghost wolves flying in the midnight sky.
But enough gum flapping. Here's the video. It's a doozy . . .
Tomorrow morn, come 9 a.m. a man with about a decade of grad and post grad thinky thought knowledge, and another decade of colon spelunking, will send a small snakelike camera down the receiving end of my digestive tract, and see what he can see. Will he see ulcers? Will he see colonized alien invaders? Will he see Nothing? Who knows? I sure as shinola don't.
What I do know is that I'm on yet another path of healing. I've been doing my walking the past few days, a few light weight sets, and already I'm feeling the quiet low notes of endorphins cruising my neural superhighway. I went to see my Pain Guy and he whirled his little machine and poof, my back and stomach pain went away. And my eating, while still maybe not clean, then at least it's no longer drrrty.
And the signs of healing, of Yes, are everywhere. Why just last night, I dreamt that Jason Mraz was my BFF. He hotwired a 1972 fiery orange Dodge Challenger and we took off for a joyride. What more auspicious sign for a successful med procedure could a gal ask for?
So wish me Godspeed as I yet again enter into the land of Western Med, the theater of biopsy, and take the really special drugs, the kind they open a vein to best pour the juice right in, and let another doc all up in my stuffs.
Hot Jesus-n-grits, do I know how to party or what?
(I wonder if he'll let me twitpic?)
I didn't get as much done as I wanted. But I got some rest, and that's huge. I spent Monday through Thursday sleeping in late, then 8-12 getting things done with blog and novel, starting to reach out to folks again, looking at blogs, twittering, answering emails. Then all day Friday, on fire, serious action mode, then Saturday, sick as a dog, digestive and back pain so bad that I barely got out of bed, and then only to get to the couch.
And so Saturday night I decided to pull out the big guns, do a serious consciousness raising, set up the Vibrant Living room like I would if I were having folks over for a shamans' circle, do a shamanic journey for myself under the influence of greenery. Because I do a lot of shamanic journeys for other people, for client sessions, soul retrievals, the Sunday night classes. But rarely for myself. I'd forgotten how outrageously intense they could be, how they dive right into the heart of an issue, pull out and look from several different perspectives, and then give what action needs to be taken and why.
All the cats joined me, I went in for a half hour, came out, took notes in my dream/journey journal. The journey itself was spectacular. Like watching a movie called Katherine's Life. It showed me all sorts of stuff: how fat is a kind of body armor, a kind of kevlar that successfully keeps men from getting through; how food is a way that I deal with anxiety, and until the anxiety is dealt with, the comfort eating will continue; how every single one of my physical systems is offline in one major way or another and that if I don't deal with it soon, a very big crash is coming, one that will break my body in a way it won't be able to fully recover from.
And then I got the directive: exercise. Yeah, big whoop, right? But it showed that while the dancing I've been doing has helped get some fluidity back, I need to be doing more hardcore exercise - specifically running and weightlifting. I saw that I need to just walk and do light sets for a week or two, then slowly bring in more intensity. And to download podcasts to my ipod shuffle.
I saw that the only true stream of energy went like this: exercise --> release toxins --> create endorphins --> decreased anxiety --> less anxiety eating --> systems will begin to clear themselves.
And so even though I felt horrible yesterday, sick and in pain, I went for a walk, about 2 miles listening to podcasts from Garrison Keillor and Freaknomics, and then I did a few sets for shoulders, chest, biceps, triceps and I actually felt a little better.
Still, at 5pm, I went down to Carolina Beach, to sample the magic that is Britt's Doughnuts, because I won't be eating anything like that for a while. And I ate four, and they made me feel really sick, but instead of giving myself sh*t, I just ate a lot of green juice and supplements, took an extra "colon-spasm" med that my GI doc prescribed last week. And then I watched Serenity for the dozenth time, then went to bed.
The answer is almost always simple, but it's rarely easy . . .right?
Although I am feline, and I like tuna as much as the next hairball, cake makes me happy. Especially gluten-free. I'll take the corner piece please.
Mmmm, the last of the tuna, mixed with mayo. Not crazy about the cracker. And really, pickles? Again? Talk to the paw. Just as soon as I'm done leaving you with a bare naked cracker to chew on for your lunch.
Let me just start this post out with something that some of you have already noticed: comments are open. Feel free to put your two cents in, add a link, share your perspective. And why are comments back open here? Because it's time . . .
My obsession, inquiry, into stories continues. And part of that has been to open back up to folks around me. I've been reading blogs again, and twittering, putting a huge revamp of my blogs into motion, preparing to fold them all into one so that I can better communicate, and be open to communication from others, and increase transparency into the different aspects of my living, as well as increase unification. I'm even responding to emails, and answering the phone more often than not.
For a while, for a few years, I shut down to most stories. I didn't want input, didn't want to hear other folk's stories. I'd woken up to the fact that we're all screaming chimps, and for a while, I had to shut everything and everyone out til I could get a better sense of what the heck was going on.
What I came to understand was that I held some false beliefs around what I have to do, what is necessary. I believed that if someone spoke to me, I had to listen, and that it was rude not to answer the phone, or return emails. I had serious problems with the word No, as in saying no thanks to folks, and moving on, or saying no thanks by simply remaining silent.
I came to realize that there are lots of folks who like to scream, who are either oblivious to the fact that they're screaming or who revel in their noise level, think it's funny or pithy or unique. And I also realized that all I have to do if I don't like the screaming is walk away, or turn away, or simply hit the delete button.
Do you think this sounds simplistic? Really? How often each day do you do things you don't want to? Spend time and energy with people you don't want to be with? Do things out of obligation, fear, because that is what nice, decent, mature people do? I understand why you do it, even though you don't want to, because when I stopped, people got very, very, very piss*d off at me.
I discovered that needy people will cry that you are mean and withholding for not listening to them, doing things for them. Aggressive people will insist you've misunderstood them. Angry people will blame you for their rage, say that you've made them mad. I discovered that opting out was a lot harder than I ever imagined, and came to a deep understanding why this is so.
Human culture (and all cultures, sure) is built on interdependency. Things are built interwoven one into the other, and it's very difficult to separate yourself out. I tried. I tried to leave. But in order to eat, you have to work. In order to work, you have to work for or with other folks, and in order to do this, you have to fit into their acceptable worldview in some way. No one will give you cash for being crazy. Not really.
And again, this may sound simplistic, but I found that the secret to this was simply walking away from the angry, the needy, the aggressive. And as I left, they screamed that they'd make me pay, that they'd refuse to give me things, that they'd make survival, one way or another, difficult for me. But I discovered that I'd rather die alone and broke and hated than to continue to seek or accept assistance from a screaming chimp. And for a long time, it was just me and the kitties here listening to the crickets. And I got used to the quiet. And found a lot of solace and depth and Yes in the silence.
And then in the past few months, an awareness of something magical, amazing, quiet, practical began emerging: I'm making a living, both financially and emotionally, slowly slowly surrounded by more and more folks who take a stand to live the Yes, who laugh at how full of sh*t we all are, and who are less interested in DRAMA and more interested in stories. If you think they are the same things, look again. They are radically different, even as maybe they reflect similarly from within the spectrum of consciousness.
But of course, I could be wrong about all this. Maybe enlightenment for me was just one more step further, some sort of deep rejection of this interdependency. Maybe the solution was to go out to the front lawn, lay down, and not get up. But instead, with this realization of connectivity, I went out and got a job, a regular 8-5 cubicle job, which I'd never had before, and which I loathed, but which has turned out to be profoundly awakening in terms of what is and isn't needed for survival.
I discovered what I'm not done with in this living called Katherine. I still have story to live out, with writing and growing food and tending animals and letting go of the rest of the patterns and sharing what I know and making folks laugh and applauding when I find someone flying and soaring and making magic. I need other folks to survive, and found that I want to pour my energy and time and love and effort into these magical folks and what they're trying to do in their living. And little by little, some of these magical folks turn and see the Yes in this living called Katherine, and pour their energy in, which creates more energy in me, which I in turn pour into more folks of Yes. Magic!
And I'm okay with all of it, the Yes and No and chimps and magic and pain and cash and meds and kitties and the delete button and answering a million billion emails. What Life wants, I want. And I trust that what is in front of me is Yes. Always. Even as I acknowledge that I also have the choice to say no thank you. And opening up comments is part of that. If a screaming chimp shows up, all I have to do is delete. But I don't mind. Because the Tribe of Yes will also show up, and say howdy, and plant a flower, and sit for a spell and have a cup of joe.
Hello, Tribe of Yes. It's good to be alive, isn't it?