Thursday, March 29, 2012

Raise Your Hand If You Like Pot Bellies - Raise IT!

You know what, kids? I'm letting go of something.

I know everyone has that part of their body that they hate, it's too fat, or too flabby, or too big or small, or too pasty, wrinkly, disproportionate... No matter how many hours on the treadmill, or personal trainers, or in some cases, plastic surgeries, you can't let it go. Well, I'm done. I'm done with the kind of self-loathing that makes every touch of my waistband a reminder that my pot belly hangs over my trousers and I'll never escape the dreaded muffin-top.

I'm just done. We all prescribe to an ideal that a certain figure is right, thin, svelte, even curvy is acceptable, but there isn't even a faction of the public that finds a beer gut sexy. I want to change that. I declare from now on, pot bellies are IN. In one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books, the sneetches fight and ultimately destroy themselves by wishing their bellies were different. Adorned or not, they wanted something else, well I'm done. I'll never have sculpted abs, because genetics and my lifestyle make that out of reach. I'll never have a flat tummy, and instead of resenting it each time I eat too many german pretzels, swallowed down with beer, I'm going to love it. And encourage others to love it too. Have you seen it? It actually is quite lovely when I'm not looking down upon it... Not only does it look nothing like it does in my mind, it's a beautiful reminder of the things that feed me in life. I'm well-fed by love and tasty food, good wine, great literature, excellent music, and I've soaked all of those things up into a little pillow of happiness behind my belly button. The times in my life when I haven't had a belly have been empty of those things. I don't need to go back.

We should all step away from the things we hate about ourselves. Self-loathing is for anorexics. I want to replace my own loathe with love, and here's how I started. I photographed myself in full potbellied regalia. This is what real women look like, lumpy and pale, and usually hidden from view. You should try it, take a piece of you that you hate, stand in the mirror, and snap a pic with your phone or camera. See it through a lens and see if you can find something beautiful about it. Mine makes me want to paint a star on it like the sneetches, and wear it out for everyone to see. I'm starting a beautiful belly club. I dare you to start a beautiful nose/thighs/love handles/back fat club. I'm not feeding that kind of self-loathing anymore, but I'll cook anyone dinner who is willing to love the extra flab I'm feeding.

I understand - from Maria DeMedeiros' character in Pulp Fiction, at least - that some societies find pot bellies sexy. Let's make ours one of them.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Adrienne Rich Dives One Last Time

We lost a poet today. Adrienne Rich slipped into the deep from complications of rheumatoid arthritis, another one of these badass autoimmune disorders. She takes with her an era of pure thought cloaked in controversy. I really admire a lady with the kind of balls she had, unafraid to talk about women's rights, motherhood, love between women and even war. She contributed to the 20th century repertoire, some of the most hauntingly metaphoric poems I've ever loved. Read them. My favorite:

Diving Into the Wreck

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers

the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
abroad the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.
There is a ladder
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
it's a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or week

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
and I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he
whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
Obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to the scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

Adrienne Rich

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I Belong Among The Wildflowers

I'm somewhat infamous for my penchant for the dramatic...

I know it. I'm an introspective gal. I have this curious habit of marking places in my life that feel different, like a rough cuticle over smooth silk... snagging and catching along the otherwise even and unchanging landscape of my life. I passed another one today, and thankfully, for a few hours was stuck there.

I may have told you on our desert trip that at some point I switched my camera on full manual and never looked back, and the few times I have gone back to 'auto' I've been disappointed by the results. That was a big deal for me. I don't use a fancy camera, mine is 6 years old, I bought it well-used, and I'm using a kit lens that came with it. There have never been any smoke and mirrors involved in my photos, since I'm a 'tard at editing and can't afford a better rig. So the day I became happy with the photos I produce, without help, is a big deal. I am not a photographer. My husband is, and a very talented one, at that. I've been involved in the business as his event planner and organizer - sometimes backing him up at events. But today, I shot some things I'm proud of. And because I'm a 'tard at editing, you'll get to see them raw and untouched. I'm even too lazy to crop. Feel free to take a stab at cleaning them up for me. I said they were my best, not the best.

This weekend I had the opportunity to wear the right kind of eyes and experience the Texas Hill Country for its rugged magnificence. Most of the day on Saturday, I drove winding roads up and down hills through land adorned with wildflowers so beautiful they would make you cry. I cried a lot. Mostly at the fact that I had left my camera at home and couldn't look at them later. So today, I packed up my camera, waited for the end of the work day and fought Austin traffic out...

I only posted a few here, find the rest in the gallery.

P.S. Picasa is an asshole, so I can't organize the gallery... enjoy chronological order in the gallery. Grr.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I Don't Like It, But I'm a Robot and an Animal.

I might have commitment issues.

I've been doing this mindfulness challenge now for almost a quarter of the year, and trying to faithfully uphold the challenges as they come along. Some have been easier than others, but I haven't found one yet that proves impossible for me. That is, until this week.

You'll notice I'm late posting this week's recap and challenge. That's because I'm committed to fully attending to it until I tell you all about it. Well, I suck, that's all there is to it. Not at everything, but certainly this one thing... and it turns out, it's pretty important.

This week, I've been tasked to do something very simple, and taken it to a level that I felt it resonate. The challenge in the book reads:
Each time you hear a telephone ring, chime or buzz, stop what you are doing and take three mindful breaths to settle the mind before answering.
I don't know about you, but these noises are incessant during my day. I have two mobile phones. One of them chimes each time I get an email (I do work in IT) and the other has plenty of text messages, Facebook alerts and CNN updates throughout the day BEFORE it ever rings for a call. It's really hard, extremely hard, like - not eating another Lay's potato chip, hard - or not saying 'bless you' to someone who sneezes, hard - or (if you're compulsive like me) not counting every occurrence of "buy-in" on each conference call, hard...

not to look THE SECOND they alert.

At one point, I thought of disabling the alerts for things that didn't need my attention completely, but I decided that would defeat some of the purpose, so I kept all of the (now horrifyingly annoying) sounds: chimes, beeps, clicks, rings, tones, music, and buzzes turned on.

I do enjoy my commitment to the project, and the fact that when I find I can't comply, I don't just skip to the next chapter because I've sat for the prescribed week with this one. Commitment isn't always bad. It's nice to know I'm consistent with my compulsion, the same thing that makes it impossible for me think before looking at my iPhone also makes it impossible for me to half-ass this challenge - but, uh... geez.

Okay, so I'm stuck. Until I can feel like at least half of my phones' noises don't compel me to pick the device up, I can't move on. So let's examine that for a second: compulsion. We're compelled to do a lot of things.
  • Clean up your table in a busy lunchroom so someone can have your spot
  • Appear at jury duty
  • Ask someone how their day is going when they make eye contact in the elevator
  • Hush a crying baby
  • Swat gnats flying in your eyeballs
  • Reciprocate
  • Pick up the phone and call for takeout
  • Bite your fingernails
If you look at the motivations behind all of these compulsions - and they are compulsions, no one genuinely cares how your day is going - they're all things that probably compel us more than we'd like. Politeness, the law, social norms, someone else's comfort, your own comfort, the weird laws of balance in the universe, your hungry tummy, your subconscious distress with your upbringing - all of these things make us mindless.

At one point, during a conversation today, I stuttered long enough to take a breath, and found what I was about to say entirely compulsory. I didn't mean it, I didn't want to say it, and it didn't have to come out of my mouth. This is the kind of control it takes to breathe before you answer the phone. Seems easy, but we're robots when it comes to these things. Until I have a decent handle on compulsion, I can't move on... I can't stop picking my cuticles long enough to write this blog, much less answer a Pavlovian tone on my phone with pause. Once a day is not enough. I feel like a bell goes off and I salivate - for the email or call or badge or whatever. I'm in control, not the bell.

Here's hoping this doesn't take all year!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Hear You.

Mindfulness, week 9.

Wrapping up this week's challenge, allowing yourself to be aware of all the sounds around you, enveloping you, existing outside your person... I sit on the couch listening to what I'm pretty sure is a rodent. I'll have to investigate further.

I have a lot of observations this week. I have been in relative silence, and spent a considerable amount of time saturated in sounds this past week. Here's what I noticed:
  • I'm deeply affected by sound quality. If I'm listening to something that is distorted or off-key, or out of place, that distracts me to a fault... I can't hear anything but imperfection. On Saturday, my friend got married in a church and the pianist played an out-of-tune baby grand. I couldn't concentrate for the overwhelming urge to stop the ugly noise coming from this beautiful instrument.
  • I'm sensitive to volume. I have a friend who is losing his hearing and listens to everything REALLY loud. I couldn't concentrate then either, but mostly because my fillings were vibrating. When he wasn't around, I found myself very aware of how loud my speakers/headphones/stereo were, and turning it down until I was happy with the volume, but also able to listen without body tension. It literally tenses me up to be around music that is too loud and somehow imperfect (see distortion).
  • Sound can alert us to our surroundings. I found a moth in the kitchen, and also this rodent in the walls because I was listening where I wouldn't have before. It's remarkable when we scan our environment and recognize things that are calling out to us.
  • It's painful. I literally have the sensation of pain with some noises, this afternoon... each time I would scrub the bathtub, I'd flinch a little because the racket of the scotch brite against the porcelain was making me recoil. I must take care not to harm myself with these noises if I can help it.
  • I use sound to disconnect. Both in a good and bad way. I like to check out, and use my headphones to do it. Last night, when I wanted to write in a busy place, I plugged into music to distract me. Sometimes this is bad... like when I'm walking in the grocery store and can't hear someone call my name because I'm isolating the world, while walking around in it.
  • Sounds have a comfort associated with their rhythm. It's the repeat that makes us calmed by sound. I like the noise of a wet street outside, it plugs me into my environment. Some people find this with traffic, or trains, or something that repeats outside their door in an environment they enjoy. The voice of your mother was the first thing you listened to on repeat, and it likely still has an effect on you. I experienced this firsthand talking to Mom this week.
  • I have a pair of shoes that have a terribly annoying squeak. I hate squeaks, long before mindfulness, I hated them. Basketball on TV, no way. Mushrooms squeaking against my teeth when I bite, get out. I can't have it on my favorite flip-flops too.
I hope you've been able to tune in a little to your environment this week. Listen carefully.

Doesn't everyone do this?

I find myself doing this thing lately when I can't sleep - which is increasingly often. If I'm laying in bed and have been for a while, I'll imagine all of the things that might happen if I don't get out of bed. Some of them are reasonable, like if I never get out of bed, I might get really hungry since I have to get up to eat. Others are less reasonable... This morning, for example, I laid in bed for a good hour and a half or so, and the better portion of that time was spent imagining all of the ways I could be responsible for the house burning down if I don't get out of bed. Seems like a remote possibility, I know, that if I don't move an inch, the house could spontaneously burst into flames... but roll with me for a second: If I don't get up, it could cloud over by this afternoon. A spring thunderstorm might sweep through Austin, filling the creek behind the house, and snapping thunder overhead. If I'm still in bed (and starving at this point) it's possible that lightning could hit the tree outside, dropping a flaming dead limb on the house. It would quickly burn through the roof and the house would go up in smoke. Not that me getting out of bed could prevent that scenario, I'm not superwoman or anything, the most I could do to prevent catastrophe is weakly try to pull the limb down off the roof or dial 911, but at least if I was out of bed by then, the house wouldn't burn with me inside.

Another fiery possibility... while I'm laying here, listening to the veritable forest canopy outside this tree house, a hobo could scale the back patio... rummage through the contents of the washer and dryer, then let himself in the unlocked sliding glass door. Once inside, he could decide he wants some toast, and not finding a toaster, preheat the oven. While he's getting the bread ready for toasting, he might see the plethora of alcoholic drinks in the fridge, and, unable to stop himself, drink all of it while sitting on the couch watching TMZ. As he snoozes on the couch, the bread catches fire in the oven and sparks a kitchen fire that burns the whole house down. I die with celebrity gossip ringing in my ears. At least this scenario could be prevented by me getting my ass out of bed and locking the back door... or at least posting myself as sentry on the couch. I might deter a few toast-seeking hobos.
The third scenario I'll offer up involves these obese squirrels that seem intent on waking me up in the first place. It's like they can read my mind, and know that if they wake me up early, I'll sit in bed listening to them scamper for quite a while. I'm pretty sure every animal in Austin is in better shape than me, they all walk, ride, skate or something... except these squirrels. These are the fattest squirrels I've ever seen. They have chubby cheeks, and bellies that hang down below their hind paws, and if you catch them off-guard while eating... I swear they look guilty, like they know they should exhibit some self-control and have a carrot instead of the fatty nuts they're chowing down on. Anyway, these chubby squirrels chase each other across the roof all day. I have problems with squirrels, especially if they are doing something annoying like playing dead dramatically, or running across the roof at breakneck speed... but I just know that these fatsos in particular could eventually be responsible for my death by fire if they ran down the back patio, noticed the laundry room was open, and went in to take a look around. They'd be unable to resist the temptation of the insulation on the washer and dryer wire, I mean it's clear they have problems with impulse control, and they'd begin munching immediately. Insulation must be like cake to these fat kids, so they'd binge and expose the wires and the next time I do laundry, voila - electrical fire. This one is a little problematic in that I'd have to get out of bed to do the laundry, so I'm actually doing myself a favor by staying there. If I don't get up, I can't be the next apparatus in the Rube-Goldberg reaction that will surely cause me to die in a fire...
These are the things I ponder while staring at the ceiling fan, and I don't find them extraordinarily odd, just a brand of insomniac-odd.

Hope is out of tune and does not tire.

Frogs don't care.
They don't tune
or practice
or critique
or learn to better their song

They simply sing.
Tuned only to one source:

The same venue
Same old song
Night after night
While I try,
tune and fuss,
improve as endlessly
as they don't care.

Their voice
means more and less
especially while
I improve and regress.

Here we are,
at the top of our lungs
claiming "I am!".
real, perfectly,
out of tune
brave and imperfect
but singing nevertheless
not muted by taste or duty.

The difference of course
is that they come back
while some days I want to quit.
and be quiet.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Important... Radio Silence?

Ladies and gentlemen, let me bring you into a new fold...

These past 9 weeks, you've followed me on a journey toward mindfulness, and today, I ask you to follow me on a journey of self-awareness.

I'm taking a sabbatical. A real-life, pack your suitcases, say goodbye for a while - sabbatical. It might mean that the only blog posts you see relate to my mindfulness challenge. And for that I apologize, but I need to do some things for myself. So family, friends, strangers, on Sunday, I'm picking up and leaving DFW. I'm going to live alone in the hill country for a while and sort myself out.

Know that I'm okay, the people I love are okay, I just need a little time to myself. It doesn't mean I'm getting plastic surgery (again) or that I'm fighting with my loved ones, I'm just taking a little break. I don't know how long I'll be gone. Long enough to patch up myself and come home better. Bart is sticking around in Dallas, and he's also fine, but likely a little lonely with me gone for an extended period. Call him if you feel so inclined.

I appreciate everyone's respect during this time of change, and I also expect all of you to look here for updates. If you call, I might be busy, please understand. I'm perfectly capable of successfully disappearing for a while.

I love all of you. In the name of mindfulness, you'll be with me on this journey.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


While I lack the energy to tell you about my findings in this week of gratitude, I'm simultaneously grateful for the energy to report progress, at least. I can tell you that I really enjoyed this challenge, it was something I did pretty well at, and while I think I have a lot to learn about being grateful... for the most part, I was satisfied with my attention to gratitude this week. I've had some very intense experiences over the last seven days, and that has allowed me to be grateful in the most intense ways. This could be a reason for my exhaustion. Allow me to share the remaining three days of my weeklong 'gratitude at the end of the day'. I think I might continue this one because it makes me so happy to do...

  1. The fact that shame is directly correlated to the difference between the shamer and the shamed.
  2. Full gratitude for life, living, being on this earth.
  3. My sense of smell
  4. My own companionship
  5. Crunchy food
  1. Time
  2. A decent view and a walk
  3. Medicine
  4. Organization at work
  5. Starfish
  1. Clarity
  2. Music
  3. Showers
  4. Pinot Noir
  5. Waking up happy
I value the differences in my days over the past week. I've had incredible ones, and really shitty ones. But the common theme this week has been that I am grateful for living them, sometimes as they happen. I like the fact that a positive attitude and one of grace (where that 'gratitude' word comes from) is something you can cultivate. Feed it energy and it grows.

This week, I pay attention to sounds. Noises the refrigerator makes, the sound of the rain today, the buzz of my monitor, my cats wrestling in the back of the house, the train across town, my body digesting food. I think I'll do pretty well at this one too, since I'm so sensitive to my ears. Here's to becoming even more acutely aware of them.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Gratitude = Addictive

When I began this week's challenge, I was pretty stoked. I love the idea of attention to gratitude, and it fits with my yoga practice and philosophy on life so well, I thought it would be fun. It certainly has been.

The most interesting effect of keeping track of things I'm grateful for? I find myself enjoying them more as they happen because I'll be adding them to the gratitude list at the end of the day. Recognizing the joys and sometimes sadnesses with presence and thanking them for their lesson is extremely - well - gratifying! Since part of the exercise was to share the list with a close friend or loved one at the end of the day, I've done that... but also want to share with you. I think it's pretty neat to be able to look back on your day and see it with the right kind of eyes.

  1. Vodka
  2. Patience in the face of adversity
  3. Working with friends
  4. Freedom of expression
  5. Comfortable shoes
  1. The wisdom of the human body - and mine being perfect
  2. Friends that are tuned in to me
  3. Sunshine
  4. Teachers
  5. The color yellow
Saturday - I got a little carried away, but I figure gratitude isn't something you should do in moderation
  1. Albert Einstein
  2. Dark sky
  3. Freedom to be spontaneous
  4. Parallel universes
  5. Inspiration
  6. Moonlight
  7. Laughter
  8. Music
  9. Restroom buses
  10. Helical shapes
  11. The sensation of pain
  12. Still water and Bob Ross
  13. The right recipe of random
  14. Starfish
  15. My kidneys
  1. Sleep
  2. Unflappable courage
  3. A great haircut
  4. Patience
  5. Beets