Friday, September 30, 2005

This is not a Gay Story

I was one of those kids in school who got made fun of just for existing. I was always a punching bag, and I learned to tune a certain amount of it out, but by the time I got to be an adult - as in out of college and supposedly moving through the "real" world - I felt there was no longer any excuse whatsoever. Once we were no longer students - no longer trying to prove ourselves worthy of grades, degrees, the approval of others in general - we were now supposed to be good people. Right?

Some people just never grow up at all. They never stop feeling the need to impress others. 10 years out of acting class, and they are still trying to get noticed, get respect, get laughs. And they will attack anyone who comes near them who engenders a feeling of jealousy. For any reason. It could be better clothes. It could be a height thing. It could be that unnamable quality that some people possess - the self-confidence and happiness that shows when they walk in a room. This is often the most unforgivable offense. How dare you look so fucking happy? So fucking calm? Who do you think you are?

I was raised to believe that homosexuality is perfectly normal. My mother is an actress with a degree in science education. My father is a doctor - a neuropsychologist - who plays mean piano and guitar. They were very down-to-earth when I was a kid. Some people are short, some people are redheads, some have brown skin, some are gay, some are better at sports than others. These are all normal things that earned humanity my parent's favorite adjective: fascinating. Both of my parents are agnostics as well, so I was also taught that no one holy book contains any absolute truths, and that no one religion is more valid than the rest. So all that abomination against God stuff just never applied in my house. Also, thanks to my Mom, I'd been in the theatre community since I was 4 years old. I'd been bounced on the knee of all my mother's friends, straight and gay. I never really got what the big deal was until I was in junior high school.

The big deal was society. The big deal was that some kids' parents and ministers and teachers taught them that gay was bad, so it must be. Eleven-year-olds in a private school with a gifted program aren't really concerned about such things. There wasn't much debate.

High school was a whole different story. I never took any direct flak for hanging out with gays, but hearing the abusive talk in the hallways - and classrooms, and extra-curricular activities - seeped through my skin. Worst of all, I heard some people who I had thought were pretty cool say horrifically homophobic things. In retrospect, I wonder if these kids didn't say these things knowing I was listening. All I knew at the time was that kids who seemed so cool were saying horrible things about people who had always been kind to me. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I greatly admired and wanted to be like some people who happened to be gay – my Mom’s friends, some directors and choreographers, dancers I had worked with and become friendly with. And these little shits were wishing them harm, without even knowing who they were, because they were gay. I was sickened.

On a shallower level, it seemed to me that not everyone talking that way seemed to be genuine gay-haters – they were simply using homophobia as a weapon. It was a powerful social assassination, being called gay. Anyone could be gay - girls, boys, black, white. Therefore, anyone could be accused of it. Being accused of it meant that your life would be social hell. And seeing these kids use that as a way to wield social power... how do you fight against that? I couldn’t see how. It was the cruelest, most effective way of brandishing hatred I had ever seen. And they were so casual about it. In some cases, they were gleeful. I remember very clearly how a table full of popular kids howled with laughter at some boys calling another boy a fag, and the long, awful walk across the courtyard while they jeered at the top of their lungs. I knew that kid. He was nice. I ran to the bathroom and threw up.

The worst part was that when these kids said such awful things, the teachers never corrected them. That behavior was acceptable. Racial slurs were unacceptable. Anti-semitic comments were severely punished. But calling someone a faggot in the hallway got nothing but a stern look and an admonishment to keep your voice down. The power-mad assholes were running the place, and there was nothing I could do.

This pushed me farther into social withdrawal. I realized that being nerdy and having a runny nose were minor offenses. I learned that I wasn’t abused because I was a deficient person, I was abused because everyone was abused. It put my experiences into perspective for me, but in a terrible way. It became clear to me that the world is a mean, spiteful, evil place, run by mean, spiteful, evil people. If someone was nice to me, it was probably because they assumed I was Christian, straight, whatever they approved of. Evil masked itself inside otherwise nice young kids. I trusted no one.

The theatre community wasn't the haven you'd think, but it was better. At least there, the bigots were in the minority. I wonder if my pursuit of theatre wasn't partly motivated by rebellion. I do know that, at the time, it was the only place where people seemed to like me for who I was, where I was praised for being interesting rather than made fun of for being different. In the theatre, white straight folks are the minority. For the most part, I got competitive bitchiness from the straight girls in the shows, indifference and silence from the straight guys... and never-ending dance partners from the gay men. Some of them found me charming in a little-sister sort of way. Some became true friends and confidants. Some were practically family members.

I did a production of La Cage Aux Folles when I was a senior in high school, and there was public outcry. There were hateful letters to the editor published in the local newspaper. There was talk all over town. All of a sudden the board of health threatened to shut down the theatre because we didn't have a sprinkler system installed. I don't think anyone at the board of health had set foot within 100 yards of the theatre in ten years.

When I performed with this group, I felt righteous. Better yet, I felt right. I felt like I was doing something important, something I was meant to do. I had refused to take part in my high school’s musical in favor of doing this community theatre show, and for a senior, that was quite a statement. I had chosen a side… and we won.

We had sell-out crowds. All my friends came to the show, and told me they were proud of me. I was proud of the work I had done, but I was prouder of my friends, on stage and off. I felt like the evil in the world couldn’t reach us, not in that space, not during those weeks.

That year, when I graduated high school, my mother tried to throw a big graduation party for me. She hired a DJ, ordered tons of food and drinks… nobody my age came. My mother must have invited 50 families to this shin-dig, and there we were in a nearly empty room, with loud music, tons of food and a black cloud hanging over my head. My own best friend chose to see the Springfield Symphony with her parents rather than have a soda with me. One girl from my high school - who was even dorkier than me, really - did come, and I loved her for that, but otherwise, I was completely rejected (again) from my entire peer group. But guess who did come? Our gay friends from theatre. Some of them had known me since I was practically toddling. They had watched me grow up. They made my night. I was jitterbugged around the room to Wham and twirled across the floor to ABBA, and I remember using the words "Dah-ling" and "fabulous" a lot. Those guys made my night. I turned my back on high school forever.

Of course, college was totally different. I was, of course, a theatre major. At a party one night, a straight man I was sort of messing around with danced with one of our gay friends, laughing his ass off, saying "I'll dance with you Seth, but that's all!" I remember the quiet calm that spread through the inside of me when I saw this. They were both drunk, and dancing, and laughing. A certain layer of fear was extinguished, like pouring water on smoldering embers of a fire that had burned itself out. Pepto-Bismol for the soul. A very tiny, ever-so-thin layer of belief in humanity grew in its place. That night, I slept alone, and didn't feel alone. There were very, very few times during college when I didn't feel alone, and this was one of them.

During my junior and senior years, I found myself hanging out less and less with the cliquish theatre crowd and more with the students in Southwest Hall. Half of Southwest was the International dorm, where virtually all the foreign students roomed, paired with American students who had specifically volunteered to live with someone from another country. It was a haven of new ideas and cultural exchange. The other half of Southwest was the honor's student housing - you had to be in the honors program to get those rooms. (I was in the honors program, and could have lived there, but I was comfortable in my single room in the co-ed dorm across the hall.) So added to the cultural diversity was a community of true intellectuals and overly smart people. Southwest Hall was heaven.

And over half gay. The honors students at ISU had a large gay percentage. I thought this highly amusing. I met lesbians for the first time, and they were the smartest, funniest, roughest women I'd ever met - and they didn't snub me. I still can't get over that.

Underneath it all, we all just wanted to have friends. I adored and respected that crowd. I dated a guy in that dorm. I always wondered how different my college experience might have been had I lived there.

By the time I moved to New York, I'd gotten back a lot of the faith in humanity that high school had taken away. I'd learned some self-respect, and learned that there are just as many good, open-hearted, accepting, fair-minded people in the world as there are bigoted racist homophobic assholes.

Just not in Springfield, not when I lived there. New York, here I come.

When I started classes at SCAMDA, every single guy in my class was gay. Every one! One was very Christian, eighteen, and closeted, but I was convinced he was gay too. He dropped out after the first semester. I was partly relieved to be surrounded by gay men. I was freshly broken up with that boyfriend I wrote those poems about. It was easier, being surrounded by gay men. That first semester was like a dream. We were all new to New York. We were all young, we were all talented, and we were all excited to start our lives. We had all lived through our own bits and pieces of hell. We all shared our stories with each other and became very close. Well, most of us. But it was enough. My faith in humanity, for the most part, was restored.

Something else really interesting happened to me that year as well. At SCAMDA, I knew that when somebody said or did something cruel to me, it wasn't because I was a freak whose destiny it was to be the popular kids' punching bag. It was because they were nasty bitches who didn't know how to behave. I was suddenly SO above all that shit. I'm not saying it didn't hurt, and I'm not saying I didn't descend to their level on one or more occasions, but this time, I just knew better. I had figured something out. And you know who the nicest kids in the school were? The gay boys. You know who the nastiest, biggest bitches were? The youngest, magazine-pretty straight females whose primary motivation was to rule their immediate surroundings. My closest friends were a very few women who were beautiful in quiet, artistic, unusual ways, and gay men.

I guess, to this day, nothing has really changed.

Does this make me innately distrust beautiful straight women? Hell no. I've discovered over the last ten years of adulthood that there's no trackable data which can predict who will be bitchy and who will be cool. I’ve known bitchy men and women, and I’ve known nice ones too, gay, straight, all races, all backgrounds. I try to approach everyone with openness, and let them reveal themselves. Thankfully, most people are pretty cool. Most people are just… people.

I'm passionate about what some people call "gay rights" for the same reason I'm passionate about civil rights, women's rights, and the more subtle issues of this kind like elitism and classism. I'm passionate about breaking down meaningless, pointless boundaries of fear and hatred. I'm passionate about wanting my country to be a fair place for me and all my friends - ALL of them - to live, love, work, raise families, and build communities. Because I'm just one of them. I'm one of the girls and one of the boys. I’m cool, and I'm a geek. I was an outsider, and sometimes still choose to stand outside, but I've been invited inside some wonderful groups, and wonderful places.

Why do I prefer to hang out with gay men? I don't. I prefer to hang out with people I respect, who I like and admire, who treat their loved ones with love, who make me laugh, who are kind and good and considerate and generous. That’s all I care about. That’s all that matters.

Not too long ago, I went into a nice Chelsea gay bar to wait for some friends. They hadn’t yet arrived, so I sat at the bar and ordered a drink. As I went for my wallet, a skinny guy sitting a foot or so away from me glared at me. He was wearing a skin-tight sleeveless black T-shirt and a heavy chain around his neck. He waved his cigarette my direction, and snarled loudly to the bartender: “Since when do we serve breeders in here?”

I froze for a moment. A few seconds of quiet passed while nobody responded to him. Ice cubes clinked into a glass. Someone sitting farther down the bar engaged that rude man in conversation on a different topic, and the focus shifted off of me. The conversations were quiet.

The bartender served me my drink with a smile, and a look in his eye that I have seen before. “Thanks,” I said, feeling tired. “You’re very welcome,” he replied.

I slapped an extra dollar on the bar. When my friends arrived, I bought a round. And when the music cranked up, we danced.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Battle Goes On

Today, at an hour that was not supposed to be the height of rush hour, I drove into White Plains, NY.

I was not enthused to be there. I had an "interview" with a temp agency. I use the term interview loosely. I had found this agency on Monster.com. They are not very discriminating. You can go to their website, fill out an application online, and schedule yourself an interview at any one of their five tri-state area offices. I could be a homeless crack addict - or a terrorist - for all they know. But I need a goddamned paycheck, and hey, why not hone those interview skills? Might as well go.

On the highway approaching exit 5, the car in front of me stopped short, and I had to slam on the breaks. My car squealed against the highway. I felt the brake pedal shaking under my foot. I actually felt, through my shoes, the road crunching as my tire ground into the top layer of asphalt. My heart pounded, but on the outside, I simply looked annoyed. None of the other drivers around me seemed to notice. I almost totalled the green tin can in front of me, and might have totalled my decrepit '94 Buick as well. After 11 years and well over 100,000 miles, I'm not sure how much the old girl has left in her.

I moved through it with the cold irritation of a biker speeding through a swarm of bugs. By the time I veered into exit 5, I was pretty much over it.

Exit 5 spits you out onto Tarrytown road, although there are no signs to indicate this. I just had to trust my Google Map that this was so. Left onto Main Street, my map directed, then Right onto Bank Street. I watched the signs.

"Main Street Right - Bank Street Left," shouted a large green highway sign. Shit, the place I'm GOING is on Bank Street! I made a left.

All I remember after that is driving through a maze of traffic, lots of honking and attempts at lane changes which take three blocks to complete because those assholes in White Plains wil be DAMNED if they're going to let you in front of them. I whizzed in circles through downtown until I saw I sign that said "287" with a big arrow turning left. I glanced at the clock: 9:50am. I was five minutes late for my appointment. At that moment, I decided nothing mattered more to me than getting OUT OF THIS INSANITY and I surged forward into the turn lane, out of the melee of downtown White Plains, following a Boar's Head delivery truck, gunning it back onto 287 West, streaking towards the Tappan Zee Bridge and the relative quiet of Rockland County. FUCK this. Home, Jeeves.

I did not turn on the radio. I sat there and seethed as I flew over the bridge. I despise driving. I absolutely hate it.

When I got home, I immediately changed into Yoga clothes, shedding my city-slick tweed mini-blazer and chocolate cuffed trousers for soft stretchy pants and shirt, because nothing in the world feels better than comfy clothes. I flipped on the TV, muted it, booted up the computer, microwaved a cup of coffee from the pot I made two hours ago, and looked online for today's schedule of classes at my Yoga studio. "5:45 pm, Restorative Class," I muttered, reading out loud to nobody. My cat yawned on the couch, utterly unaware of the turmoil inside me. I got my mat out and took a breath.

I have a Weaver call tonight - a conference call with the women of my spirituality group. I don't feel very close to them. The last time I participated in this year-long program, all of us lived in New York City, and the group met in person. There were six of us, of varying ages, from 21 to 50. We became very close, and it was a transformative year for me. I missed the program dreadfully the following year, but at over $100 a month, I just couldn't afford it. I signed up for the telecircle version this year because there was no live group scheduled, and the telecircle is only $60. It's been diverting, and a nice way to get some quiet time once a month, but I don't have anywhere near the connection to the women over the phone that I did in person. We scheduled a reatreat in the city a couple of months ago, and I enjoyed some of the things we did together, but at the end of the day, I felt that I had nothing in common with most of them, and one of them had seriously hurt me, in a very private, personal way. I chose not to discuss this with them, because I don't think they'd be receptive, and frankly, it's not like I need to see them every day. I chose to simply release it all, release the anger, release the disappointment, and try and find other ways I can grow from this program.

Like, for example, deeper training in the practice and craft of my faith. Moon Circling has been my preferred worship practice for a few years. I was hoping this year to learn to faciliate (lead) circles myself, so that I could hold circles in places I travel, where there might be people of my faith who don't have regular opportunities to circle.

I was thinking specifically of my hometown. The last time I visited there, it was the time of the Harvest Full Moon. My Mom and I attended the Springfield Unitarian Universalist Church, and I noticed there was an active UU Pagan group in town. They must be holding a circle! But the minister announced at service that the moon circle for that weekend had been cancelled. Apparently those who would have held it were occupied with a community building project. That's great - but I felt strongly drawn to offer to hold a circle myself. I would have done so, but at that time, I didn't feel qualified. I flew back to New York that season with a somewhat heavy heart. A burden, of sorts, had been laid on me. I felt called.

It has been one year since then, and I have devoted a great deal of time and energy to creating sacred space, learning the tools and traditional practices and ceremonies to honor the Goddess, and to raise energy and focus it inward and outward to promote positive outcomes such as peace, prosperity, good health, good luck, and love. I have quite the collection of stones, incenses, oils, candles, and tiny treasures on my altar, some given to me by others, some I have found on my travels. I have an assortment of small items I have made as offerings to the Goddess. At the center stands a small blue statue of the Virgin Mary I took from my Grandmother's apartment after her death. The Holy Mother is depicted in her Maiden form, standing on the Earth in flowing robes, her head uncovered and her hair flowing about her shoulders. Her arms stretch out and down, palms outward, receiving and transmitting love. It is my favorite representation of the Divine Feminine. I make my prayers almost daily, and when the spirit moves me, I create full-scale rituals, invoking the Goddess in her various forms, letting Her nudge me in one direction or the other. She rarely speaks to me in language I do not understand. She often surprises me, and almost always makes me laugh.

Last month, after the unsatisfying Weaver retreat, I was scheduled to co-faciliate a moon circle with our group leader. We had prepared this entire ritual together. It was the Virgo New Moon. My leader and I had spent a hearty planning evening together, and I was so excited to see it all come together. I felt that this would be a bridge for me. I had planned to ask my leader's blessing to go out into the world and facilitate circles of my own, wherever I felt a need. I blogged that whole evening here. To sum it up, because of driving issues in Westchester county, I missed out on this evening. My disappointment was profound, and I'm not over it yet. There has been a gaping hole inside me ever since.

I spoke with my Mother about the incident last month. She feels that there is a negative force which is actively working to prevent me from leading circles, growing to my full potential, and in general blocking my efforts to fully realize my gifts and powers. "Something is afraid of you," she said.

I don't generally believe in demons in the classic sense. I do however acknowledge that the very non-qualitative nature of energy can, unfortunately, lead to negative results. The only real difference between evil magic and good magic is how the power is used. Both good and evil witches raise power - it's what they do with that power, how they direct it and to whom, and with what intent, that determines the nature of the spell.

I mentioned in my blog post last month that, possibly, by cursing the other drivers on the road in Connecticut, I had opened a pathway to bad luck. If someone, anyone out there in the world, had wanted to stop someone from leading moon circles, especially someone powerful, who wanted to bring the faith into new areas, and they raised a spell to block that person... I would have shined a black beacon on myself by surrendering to that brief, evil thought - even though I didn't really mean it. For just those few seconds, I crossed a line, and dipped my toe into that negative energy. Anyone inside that energy who was looking for me would have found me in that moment.

Mom may be right. There may be people out there afraid of me, who actively pray that I will be prevented from leading Goddess-worship services on the plains of Illinois, under a full moon. I'd bet money it.

I have been trash-talking this morning's interview with this lame-sounding temp agency for two days, ever since I made the online appointment. As I drove out to my car, I actually said out loud to myself "I don't want to work for these people." I told myself I was doing this just to have a "practice" interview, and to be able to say to others later that I maximized every possible opportunity for employment, that I explored every possibly avenue open to me. For the most part, I went to this because I didn't want to tell anyone I could have gone to another job interview and didn't.

I might as well have gotten down on my knees and said "Lady, please prevent me from making this appointment."

So, what have we learned today?

When, when, WHEN am I going to stop doing things out of fear of judgement? WHEN am I going to learn that the only person whose approval I need is my own? WHEN WHEN WHEN am I going to listen to my own intuition? IT IS ALWAYS CORRECT.

Ok. I'm fine. I didn't hit the green car on the highway. Or the yellow SUV on Main Street. Or anybody else. The car's ok, I'm ok, you're ok, we're all ok here.

A little cry, a little leftover spaghetti, a little West Wing on Bravo. I feel better.

I think Zenchick would say that it's human to doubt ourselves, to want others approval, to make these kinds of mistakes, and it's human to beat ourselves up for it... and that it's ok. She once told me that we'll always make mistakes, that the idea is to be more aware of the situations, to learn from them, to forgive ourselves, and maybe make a few less in the future. It's been a long time since we talked, but those are the kinds of things she used to say to me.

I never really had to search for the Goddess, or her counterpart, God. I never had to look very hard to find my faith. What I search for, continually, is a community in which to practice. I found one for awhile at my church on Central Park West, but ever since the New Minister took over a few years ago, I have felt less and less welcome. I would go into the city for Moon Circles more often, but the circles are nearly always held on weeknights, and I cannot handle any more experiences like the one I had last month. I've tried to locate a community in Rockland... I'm still working on that. I'm also still working on not having a borderline anxiety attack every time I pull out of my parking lot. I am still trying so hard to be able to drive. I never imagined it would be this hard.

My mother is very likely correct in that there are forces that seek to block people like me from fully becoming, from doing what we are meant to do. Sometimes those forces come from inside ourselves - fear, self-doubt, and chains from the past. But I have to believe that the forces for good inside me, if I can fully unleash them, are far stronger, and will prevail. I have to believe that.

Hope. Not Fear.

Last Year

Trees

I watched the trees out the window of the M72 bus. They have shed their golden leaves, letting them go at the peak of their beauty, choosing instead strong, bare trunks and branches instead of brightly colored soft ornamentation.

I understand that. I feel very proud of my strength these days, when I can walk down crowded city streets alone without fear, tame the public transportation that eats tourists for lunch every day. I can go out without makeup and feel radiantly beautiful. I have learned my own worth, and no longer need shiny gold and jeweled rings on my fingers to feel it.

Still, though, I know my world is soft. I watch the tree limbs waving slightly in the breeze, while people on the sidewalks can barely walk against the gale. I pull my muffler around me and feel grateful for heated buses. I’m only human, after all, and my skin may have thickened, but it’s not bark. People, I think, envy trees. They live longer, they weep less.

I’m not as tough as a tree.

And, still, not as tough as you.

Winter gales never phased you either. All that tinkering with your dashboard, the search for blankets, the times we sat indoors instead of strolling through the woods - it was all for me. Would you be frustrated to know you were the last guy who ever needed to do such things? I chuckly softly to myself as the bus chugs through the whistling wind. I keep myself warm now, thank you. I have learned how to dress.

Such warm memories of us, of you, stirring homemade hot cocoa, snuggling under afghans on your sofa, making love by the light of a Christmas tree under grey fake fur blankets... I feel cozy just remembering. It hurt to leave. I’ve had many long, cold winters since those days. But not this year.

I think you would be proud of me.

I miss you less these days. Sometime during this last year, I lost the ring you gave me. Forgive me… I never wore it anyway. I kept it as a remembrance, like my photo album, like the crystal I gave you. Like love.

I am full of love, and always will be. I have finally learned the value of that. The trees will have their leaves again. I have a new love. Life goes on.

In the meantime, we are strong, and the world is amazed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Five Years Ago

The Asian Food Store

I dreamed I was home, in our hometown Asian Food Store, and there you were, in the condiment aisle. Your long, ratty blonde ponytail hung halfway down your back as you frowned at the row of bottles. I stared. Little strands of hair clung to your face. Your small hands, rough and calloused, picked up a jar of yellow miso. Your face was red and shiny from the heat and your lips parted slightly, breathing through your mouth. You licked your lower lip as you read the miso jar label. Suddenly I felt your hands on me, sliding up the sides of my torso, rough and warm and strong. I stared at the miso jar, feeling what it felt, your hands on my skin, and I gasped for breath. My bag of rice noodles rattled in my hand.

You looked up and saw me. You said nothing.

I said “Hi.”

You said “Hi.”

I stared dumbly, wishing my toes weren’t showing through my sandals, that I’d washed my hair that morning, that I was anywhere but here.

You said, “How are you?”

I said, “How are you?”

You said, “Good, I’m good.”

More silence. I tried to smile.

“What are you doing in town?” you said.

“Visiting,” I said.

Then we just looked at each other. I could see your eyes swirling, maybe ten or twelve different shades of blue, brightening and fading like tiny ocean pools. You seemed to be processing seeing me, how I looked, how I seemed to be, turning over in your mind what might be best to say next, whether to get the hell out before we embarrassed each other somehow. I could see all those questions churning behind your eyes, just as they were all churning behind the deep plowed-earth brown of my own eyes. The whole universe faded away, except you and I, and the things our eyes said to each other. Gradually, gently, my eyes followed yours, flowing over me like a warm shower, until they came to rest on my left hand, and they took in my wedding rings, blazing in the sunlight.

Smiling brightly, you raised your eyebrows in appreciation, looked into my eyes, and said “Congratulations.”

I froze. My breathing stopped. I think the whole world stopped. Something exploded outside, a tire or engine or maybe my left ventricle. I dropped my rice noodles. I didn’t hear them crunch to the ground.

“It’s great seeing you,” I finally said.

The July air around me thickened hot and foul as I slowly turned and walked out of the store. I don’t know what you did then. I just walked down the street, toward my car, the world whizzing past me on either side. I didn’t hear traffic. My ears throbbed with pulsing blood, drowning out the world. I thought I might combust. All I heard was your voice echoing, “Congratulations.”

I woke up.

Did you call after me? Did I stop halfway there and come back to talk more? Did we have coffee and conversation for a while? Or did we just have a conversation in the parking lot? What would have happened had I not awakened just then?

What does it matter anyway? I’m awake, you’re gone, and I’m married.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Ten Years Ago

The End of the World

It was always there, that feeling, not doubt
or pain, just that feeling, that sooner or
later, lights will turn red, a stop sign will
appear, the world will end. I denied it,

fought it, seduced it, tried to kill it,
searched for its weakness, some way to
destroy it, via emotion, logic, force,
passive aggression... Nothing worked.

We can’t stop entropy, but we can slow it
down. So we stave it off as best we can,
with kisses and smiles beneath red giant
sunsets, massaging tired muscles each night,

sleeping tightly wrapped in each other’s
arms. We’ll sing love songs, feast on wine
and chocolates, enjoying the time we have,
reinforcing our foundations as needed.

Like working in a hospice, a friend once
said. Giving everything we’ve got to save
something already dying. “Dying’s not dead,”
I said. Still: what are we trying to save?

Is love some conscious, living entity? Does
quality of life - or love - matter more than
love itself? We hook up dying people to
machines, force oxygen in their lungs, flash

lights into glassy eyes, desperately keeping
them alive, begging them not to leave us yet,
even after 80 or 90 years of goodness on this
earth. Aren’t some tired, unafraid, ready to

die? It seems the same with love. This love
of ours, tired, old, broken and repaired many
times... we can’t let it go. A body dies,
but love lives forever. So it is with love;

when love dies, the body lives on. I wonder
which is sadder, living people, devoid of
love, or loving people, bereft of their
beloved? Which pain lasts longer, which

survivors live better, and when they die,
will it make a difference... Over time,
survivors heal, and perhaps, in some
afterlife, they see those they loved again.

But when no one dies, and we stop loving,
what have we to look forward to? So it is
better to die in love, than to live
loveless... My head is swimming, my heart

aches... Somehow we knew our love would die
someday, just as we knew my cat would die,
and your plant would die, and there was
nothing we could do to stop it. Even now I

weep for it, our love, for all of them, my
Tomcat, your little seeds, my grandfather,
all those I desperately wanted to stay, but
had to let go. But you, my love - you are

not dying. I will not give up yet. If our
love must die, I want us to die with it, as
we sleep, in each other’s arms, my head on
your chest. Until that time I will work, with

tape and superglue and flowers and paint,
breathing life into us, singing songs,
watching you sleep, making the most of each
fleeting moment. If we tire, we will rest.

We will solve every puzzle, and hand in hand
we will go on, as far as we can, for it is
all I can do to ease my pain.

Friday, September 23, 2005

DOES THIS BLOG MAKE ME LOOK FAT?

These blogger templates are like the clothes in my closet. Nothing fits, nothing feels right.

Bear with me.

And this "ochre" shit is Uh-GLEE.

Meanwhile, I have compiled one of those lists of 100 things about me that everybody else has, just 'cause I wanna be down.

The... Other Good Day

Today’s essay was supposed to be “The Bad Day.” However, I had such a lovely time typing “The Good Day” that I didn’t want to short those vibes, so I waited until today to write “The Bad Day.”

Then, at about 11:30 today, right after I’d finished flat-ironing my hair, G came home for lunch and a nooner.

How the hell am I supposed to write about having a bad day when I’m having a great one?

Not that I’m complaining.

Please, by all that’s holy, let’s put off my ability to write “The Bad Day” as long as possible.

Blessed Be.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Good Day

I slept until I felt like getting up. I woke with a blank mind. The cat purred on the bed next to my feet. I yawned and stretched, and she meowed. The blinds were open, and the early morning sun shone in. It was about 8AM.

I stepped into my slippers, shuffled into the kitchen, and made coffee. G was just leaving for work. We smooched goodbye, and I locked the door behind him.

I washed my face and put on workout clothes. I had coffee and multi-grain toast with peanut butter for breakfast. I did a 40-minute workout – a half-hour TV show and 10 minutes of yoga poses and some weight exercises for my pathetically weak girly arms. I drank a 16-ounce glass of watered-down grapefruit juice, sip by sip, during the commercial breaks. When I was finished, I ate a chewable Centrum vitamin, rolled up and put away my yoga mat, and thought for the 800th time how much more fun this would be if I had a personal trainer. I imagined a spiky-haired blonde guy named Sven. PLEASE please please let me get a job soon, I prayed.

I took a long, wonderful shower. I practically have the entire product line of Bath and Body Works’ Coconut Lime Verbena – shower gel, salt scrub, various lotions, body spray. I even have Suave Coconut shampoo and conditioner. Coconut just makes me feel fresh and free – kind of like I imagined I might feel if I ever got to spend any time on one of those secluded tropical resorts, where you’re miles away from everything. I scrubbed my head and dreamed of piƱa coladas and hors d'oeuvres at a tiki bar, listening to the surf, feeling the fringe of a pareo blowing around my ankles, wondering what I’d have for dinner. Pork in a pineapple sauce? Fish? Coconut chicken and shrimp? Maybe just a salad with yogurt dressing and bread?

As I exited the shower, I mentally started my grocery list. I’m not in Hawaii, I reminded myself with a laugh. Spaghetti and salad will suffice. I squoze the excess water out of my hair, slathered and spritzed myself in coconut-lime goodness, and threw a sundress over myself. I stepped into my slippers and made the bed. I wear a pair of cheap thong sandals around the house as slippers. G bought them for me in Cancun last February, and while they are great for the beach, they aren’t tough enough for the street. G loves my coconut-lime, I thought with a smile. Somewhat absent mindedly, I changed out of the sundress and put on a pair of jeans and a sleeveless t-shirt. I hung the dress back up, opened and raised the blinds, and shut off the lamp.

In the living room, I booted up the computer and turned on the TV almost simultaneously. While I checked my emails, I watched reruns of ER on TNT and ate a carton of Dannon Fat-Free White Chocolate Raspberry yogurt. I checked in on some of my favorite blogs, and followed some cool links. My head started to ache slightly (I’d forgotten to put my glasses on), so I shut off the modem and grabbed pen and paper.

In the kitchen, I checked the cabinets. I had a few recipes and meals in mind for the coming week, so I wrote down what I needed to buy. I had leftovers for lunch – tuna noodle casserole I’d made the previous evening, with a diet coke.

I watched my soap. During the commercial breaks, I put my dishes into the dishwasher, wiped down the counter, threw out the few bits of cat food in Marge’s dish, washed and dried the fish-motifed ceramic bowl, and refilled it with cat food. I refreshed her water and threw a few ice cubes in just to spoil her. I dustbustered the bits of kitty litter she had tracked in the kitchen, and made a mental note to clean the floors later. When my soap was over, I used the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and clipped my hair off my face. I grabbed my Burt's Bees Pore Cleansing Mask and headed for the kitchen.

As I passed through the living room, I flipped the channel over to TNT and listened to Law & Order reruns. The Pore Cleansing mask carton says if you have oily/troubled skin, you should add tomato juice instead of water to the green minty powder. All I had was low-sodium V-8 juice, which I bought by mistake. It tastes like shit. Good enough for a face mask. I mixed up a dark green paste, carried it to the bathroom, and listened to Jerry Orbach interrogate a disgruntled black youth while I spread the goop on my face.

30 minutes later the disgruntled black youth was testifying in court, and I was washing the mask off my tingly face. I followed the mask with a light sweep of astringent, then two drops of Origins White Tea Skin Guardian. I switched off the bathroom light, petted the cat, tried to think of any reason why I couldn't make it to the grocery store, failed to do so, turned off the TV, and headed out to the car.

As I walked down the stairs of my apartment building, I did an about-face and went back to the apartment to retrieve the grocery list. I really am my father’s daughter, I thought to myself.

I drove to the grocery store, listening to Bob Seeger in my car, singing along to “We’ve Got Tonight,” wishing I had the Sheena Easton/Kenny Rogers version. There was virtually no traffic. I parked at Stop-n-Shop right next to the cart return. I bought everything on my list, plus some Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby. I thought of MAK and Zenchick. I thought of Adam, and how happy he was when Ben and Jerry brought back his favorite flavor, Rum Raisin. I think that was Adam who wrote that. I think it was Rum Raisin. I thought wistfully of my favorite which was discontinued, From Russia With Buzz.

I drove home, singing along to Bob Seeger again, this time “Her Strut.” I wondered whatever happened to Sheena Easton. She had that awful song about strutting, strut, pout, put it out, that’s what you want from women, and then disappeared. She had an awesome voice, but what was that song about? Some kind of feminism thing? Salt-n-Pepa did a better job at that with “Let’s Talk About Sex.”

I parked crookedly in my spot in front of the building, shifted the steering wheel back up, turned off the ignition, turned off the tape player, undid my seat belt, got out, and slammed the door shut. I locked the doors and opened the trunk via remote control, and briefly missed my Mom. I carried four bags of groceries up the stairs and into the apartment in one trip.

The cat yowled repeatedly while I put the groceries away. I put the plastic grocery bags in the Big Bag G keeps in the bottom of the closet. I poured myself a diet coke, sliced a lime in half, and squoze the juice into my soda. I rinsed off my hand, dried it with a paper towel, threw the paper towel away, put the remaining half-lime into the fridge, carried my drink over to the couch, set it down on the floor, picked up the still-yowling Marge in my right hand, picked up the TV remote with my left hand, and settled onto the couch, my now-quiet cat snuggling into my lap. I channel-surfed. Spike TV was showing reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Spike TV rocks.

G came home to find me there a couple of hours later. I’d never gotten around to cleaning the floor. We chatted about his day, and he asked if I’d like to go out for dinner. I changed back into the sundress, and we rode in his convertible, top down, to our favorite pizza joint, listening to a CD of 80’s music on the way. We made fun of Billy Ocean (beep beep, yeah) and laughed our asses off.

When we arrived at the pizza joint, it was jam-packed with families – mostly elementary-school aged kids. We turned around, got back in the car and drove home. We closed up the car and walked two blocks to an Italian place in our neighborhood.

He had a chicken Caesar salad. I had linguine frutta di mare. We both had a glass of the house red, and lots of focaccia dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We walked home with our arms around each others’ waists.

When we got home, we ate ice cream and snuggled on the couch watching TV. I fell asleep, tipsy from the wine. The cat snoozed on top of us, nestled into the crack in between our two bodies. At some point, G picked me up and carried me into the bedroom. I woke up enough to change into my pajamas, brush my teeth and climb into the sheets. I fell asleep with my ankle hooked around his.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Flamer



You scored as Match.

You are a MATCH.
Some people are afraid of you.
Others are attached to you.
Once you've had one, you want another, but the time can just seem too short...
You can go from happy to sad in .06 seconds, but it works well both ways.


Which Random Object Do You Represent?
created with QuizFarm.com

Fit as a Fiddle, No Time to Play

Since I was unemployed last week, I decided to try some Fit TV workouts.

For those of you without cable, Fit TV is a fitness channel. In the mornings they have ½ hour workout shows, and later on they have cooking shows. In the afternoons they have some reality-style shows that feature “fitness makeovers.” They also have a lot of commercials for workout machines, low-fat foods, vitamins, Clialis, Anti-Depressants, and Weight watchers.

If you’ve ever watched a cheesy aerobics video, the workouts in the morning are a lot like that, but not quite as annoying. (Let’s face it, nobody wants to be compared to Richard Simmons.) The instructors are impossibly well-built, but they look like athletes, not like bodybuilders. The people doing the workouts are all modelesque, but the fact that I can tell they are forcing those smiles makes it hard to hate them. So I play along.

Back when I was doing the Weight Watchers program, I did a workout video two to three times a week for about four months. I never got sick of it because I was so excited about the progress I was making. However, once I made my goal weight, I tapered off. In the dead of winter I realized I had stopped doing them altogether. I made some efforts to do them again shortly after I moved to Nyack, but it had become a burden to me, and my mind wandered during the workouts. When my mind wanders, it's a bad, bad thing. I realized that any physical benefit the DVD's might give me was being outweighed by the depressive cognition, and that was that.

It was about this time that I started going regularly to yoga. I knew this wasn’t a serious weight-loss solution, but I needed to be around people, and I like yoga just for what it is. “At least it’s some sort of exercise,” G said. I agreed.

I once heard a yoga instructor say that he liked yoga “not so much for the physical aspect as for the place it takes me.” I agreed with that. Yoga is not very physically challenging for me. As a former dancer, I’m still pretty flexible, my legs are very strong. I can do more than most of my fellow students in the beginner class. However I quickly became addicted to the sense of emotional support and release that I felt while doing yoga with others. I have a couple of yoga videos, and although the stretch feels good, I don’t feel anywhere near as good about myself after a video than I do after a live class. I need people around me. I need to feel my humanity overlapping others. I can’t, I discovered, work out in a vacuum.

I began doing Hatha Yoga twice a week for $17 a class, which means I often have to ask G for the money. We both feel it’s more than worth it. The beginners’ classes on Monday and Wednesday nights have fantastic instructors. The classes are an hour and a half long, so you really get a total holistic workout, complete with breathing practice, floor work, standing poses, and a relaxation-style cool down called Shivasana, where they turn out the lights, turn on some calming music, and you just lie on your mat for a while. If you fall asleep, it’s ok; you’ll wake up when you’re supposed to. The room is candlelit, and when the moon is full and shining in the window, the effect is magical. I’ve whispered many prayers of thanks, lying on that mat.

Occasionally on weekends if the weather is nice, G and I will do something active – play tennis or something. It's a fun way for us to spend time together, showing off for each other, making each other laugh. It's also a kick-ass workout every time. Sadly, we don't get to do this with any real frequency.

This is no problem for G, since he lifts weights three times a week at the gym - that's his thing. He's been doing that for 16 years. We've discussed the idea of me coming with him and trying that, but frankly, I can't think of anything more intimidating. His gym is primarily for weight lifting. It's one of those serious places without all the frouf you see at Equinox or Crunch or any of the places that try to entice non-exercisers to change their ways. There's no point to dragging myself someplace I wouldn't feel comfortable. I'd have to build up to that. No pun intended.

When I’m not working, I spend a lot of time alone in the apartment, so on some weekdays, while G is at work, I often get to experiment with other types of exercise. Last week I had no work at all, so I tried several different things.

I like TV workouts because they change every day, and commercials force me to take breaks, which I usually use to drink water or do some stretching. They're not really "live," but they feel live, compared to videos. I swear, at this point, I can recite every motivational shout on my WATP videos, and I know the names of all the participants. No wonder my mind wanders - I'm bored. At least with the TV, I never know exactly how it's going to be, which keeps my mind where it should be - on the workout.

A lifetime ago, when my ex-husband and I were first engaged, I found a small pair of blue 5-pound weights in his apartment. It was the day after we had moved me into his place. I knew they weren’t his, so I thought his former roommate had left them behind. The former roommate denied this - apparently they had been in the apartment prior to even that! They were clean, and usable, so I tucked them away, thinking I might get into that sometime.

Seven years later, I still have the damn things.

Last week, at 9:30am, I turned on this show, and played along. This is really a basic aerobics class where the instructor takes a lot of liberties. And when I say “basic,” I don’t mean for beginners. I mean they do really basic, simple moves – but they are in incredible shape, and they do way too many reps, and they do a fast pace. WTF, I’m young and healthy, I’ll give it a shot. I rolled out my yoga mat (our floors are slippery) and set my little weights on the couch. I’d seen snippets of this show before, and they do all sorts of things, so I wanted to be ready. I felt silly as hell, but hey, I’m alone here. And I have to admit, I really groove on the scenery.

I lucked out: the workout for the day was Pilates. This is basically yoga without the woo-woo, stripped down to the basic physical fitness level. It was fun, it was stretchy, and since this is a TV show and that instructor can do what ever the hell she wants, it involved a few crunchers. Just a very few. I did everything. I didn’t work up a sweat, but I was pleased with myself, and relieved that I didn’t have to touch my weights.

After only a half-hour of this, however, I didn’t feel like I’d done a workout. I’m used to an hour and a half of yoga - a half hour of Pilates is nothing. So, after a bit of deliberation, I decided to try the next workout show. This one. Oy Gevalt.

Gilad is a freakin’ nut. He’s enormous, and he’s pushy. He's one of these sickos who doesn't get that not everyone enjoys pain. I would never take a live class with this asshole. I told myself I’d just do a few things, stop when I felt the burn, and switch him off when I he became too irritating.

I lucked out again – he didn’t immediately start in with the weights. I’ve seen this guy and his followers swinging ten pound weights over their heads while pumping on one leg and all manner of ridiculousness that should not be attempted by anyone who doesn’t have an Olympic medal in something. Well, this day, he was easy. He started with these stretchy aerobic-like moves, that involved using your body weight to create resistance in certain areas. He did them fast. I realized that half-hour of Pilates was the perfect warm-up for this, so I dove right in. Within a few minutes I was breathing pretty hard and fast, but my heart was chugging healthily and my system was humming nicely.

When he picked up the weights, it was slow, isolated work. Biceps, triceps, and some other upper body thing that I couldn’t figure out. I did all of it. It was no big deal.

Then that bastard had everyone doing crunchers. Unapologetic crunchers. I, like many people, loathe and despise crunchers so much that I will do almost anything else to avoid them. I could write paragraphs about the cruncher mentality, but the point of this statement is… that day, I did crunchers.

I did about 40 of them. OUCH. Oddly though, the pain wasn’t as bad as I remember it being in the past. Gilad did this weird-looking series that had you twisting and moving your legs while you were crunching, and I think the competing sensations made the whole process move more quickly and smoothly. It also forced me to breathe correctly, which I know I had a lot of problems doing in the past. (Yoga has helped with that too.)

When the crunchers were over, the class was over. A little stretch, and “See you next time!” I did an entire half hour of Gilad’s insanity, and I wasn’t gasping for breath or wincing in pain.

I felt SO good about myself at that moment.

I told G about it, and he was unimpressed, but he was pleased that I hadn’t spent the entire day on the internet or watching TV. S'ok. I was pleased enough with myself.

This week, I start a new temp assignment, so my 9:30 workout isn’t going to be a regular thing. I don’t start until Wednesday, so today I tried the Caribbean workout again, but today pretty much sucked. They were using mini trampolines, and since I let my Wild Sex Kitten membership expire, I don’t have a trampoline, so for me, the workout was just a lot of rhythmic walking. I skipped it. After that, Gilad was back to his ridiculous, over-blown self with the 10-pound weights and the 40 reps and the jumping all over – waaayyy too advanced for me. I have yoga tonight. Back to basics.

But what’s going on here is that I’m becoming a fitness person. This is new. I always loved certain activities that could be viewed as exercise, particularly dance. When I was a dancer, I was in top physical condition, but I was only marginally aware of that. I was focused on the emotionality of dance, the poetry, the things I was saying with my moves. Dance, for me, is art, not fitness. As far as other activities go, well… I like swatting tennis balls around, but if I never played tennis again, I wouldn’t wistfully pine for the court. I love yoga, and I love feeling the full extent of what my body can do, but again, yoga is so much mind-body that, for me, it’s more mind than anything else. I’ve never been one of those people who loves working out for its own sake, and I’ve never EVER said “Oh, I haven’t worked out in two weeks, I feel so gross.”

Well, let me tell you, the week my yoga studio was closed… I felt stiff, sore, and disconcerted. I was restless and fought a lot of anxiety. It was gross.

I’ve gotten to the point now where I want a combination of workouts. I want to do Yoga twice a week and some sort of cardio/strength training at least once a week. But… I start classes in one month. From October 17th on, I’ll be at work from 8am to 5pm five days a week (at least I’d better be), and in class from 6pm to 11pm four nights a week. This is going to eliminate my beloved evening yoga classes altogether. In addition to this, I’ll have to do 120 “Clinic Hours” – giving massages in the student clinic – on Saturdays, Sundays, and, most likely, some Friday nights.

It’s true that the very nature of Massage Therapy practice is physical, and my upper body will naturally strengthen as my training progresses. I’ll be in better overall shape as a result of the program. That’s comforting, since right now I’m wondering how I’m going to eat or take a shit, never mind work out. Hopefully I’ll worm something in on the weekends or Friday nights when I don’t have clinic. Of course there will be social events to which I’ll give precedence, so that first trimester, I can see myself getting one or two workouts or yoga classes in per month. The second trimester is a little bit easier time-wise – some classes end at 10:30. The third trimester sees yet a bit more slack in the schedule, but not to the point of having a night off here and there. If I’m not using the extra half-hours to sleep, I’m going to really appreciate the bits of free time here and there. And I might finish my clinic hours before I graduate, and reclaim my weekends. Yoga is going to feel soooooo good then. And giving myself the gift of “me time” will feel fantastic as well.

Hey, I might even blog.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

More than Flesh and Bone

Two Sundays ago, G and I visited the Orangetown Batting Cages. G is very athletic and finds the batting cages to be a great stress reliever. He is also on his company’s softball team, and the playoffs were approaching, so he wanted some practice swings. He knows I don’t get enough exercise, and that I’m usually willing to try anything. Every other sporty thing I’ve done with him I’ve enjoyed, why not this? Granted, I haven’t swung a bat in well over 20 years, and I never swung one regularly at all, but it sounded like fun.

So here I am, at the batting cages in this little corner of New York’s Rockland County, in my Red Sox shirt and my blue denim Daisy Dukes, accessorized by my sense of humour. As we stretched our muscles, I confessed that I had no idea how to swing a bat. I knew there were machines that pitched baseballs and softballs to you, and that if you were wearing glasses and got hit with a ball you could go blind, but other than that, I had no idea what I was in for. (I had left my glasses at home.)

The first round, I missed every single ball. G showed me how to hold the bat - point it straight up in the air, don’t let it sit above your shoulder, both hands together, right elbow way out, etc. With this coaching, I did better the next time – I hit a ball. CLANGGGGG. My right wrist and arm felt as though they had shattered! “OW,” I said. “Good, you did good!” G sang. I missed the next few, then hit another one. CLANGANGANGGGG. “SHIT THAT HURTS,” I said again, laughing. “This is GREAT!”

The next series of auto-pitches, I hit almost every single one. And man, did it feel good, whacking something as hard as I could and watching it fly. And hearing people cheer. BAM. BAM. BAM.

By my third go-around, my wrists and hands were hurting, and I knew it was time to stop. G was proud of me.

The next morning, I could barely get out of bed. My shoulders were in agony, and I couldn't move the left side of my neck at all. My hands and wrists, which had ached the previous day, were fine – it was my left shoulder that was suddenly made of stone. Make that coarse gravel mixed with habanera sauce. Movement sent searing pain shooting into my neck and under my scapula. The left side, I wondered? I’m right handed, and had been swinging from right to left. Shouldn’t my right side be killing me? Granted, my right side hurt as well, but the pain in my left shoulder was overbearing.

A hot shower and a handful of Advil later, I was functional, but the ache persisted. I mentioned it to G, who commented through raised eyebrows that my upper body must be quite weak indeed. I agreed that this was so; a physical therapist had told me as much a number of years ago when I was getting medical massage treatments.

G frowned. “Usually when people hurt themselves, they know it right away. You seem to hurt yourself without even knowing it.”

“I’ve always been like that,” I sighed. I told him about a groin muscle injury I’d sustained while rehearsing the can-can dance number in La Cage Aux Folles at seventeen. Any other dancer would have stopped mid-rehearsal; not me. I then related the time in college when I’d burnt out my quadriceps doing 40 or 50 deep knee bends in a row, as part of a movement exercise in an acting workshop. I could barely walk for two days afterward.

“I just don’t understand why you don’t feel yourself doing damage until it’s too late,” G said.

G gave me focused shoulder rubs on two evenings last week, trying to work out the knot that refused to release, deep under my left scapula. Or was it slightly under the edge, nearer the spine? Or was it farther up, closer to the neck? I could feel a knot in there, stubborn and hard. He could feel it too… or he felt something, and it seemed to move. No matter where he pressed, I’d direct him two inches in another direction. It was frustrating. I took hot showers every morning and he massaged my neck and shoulders every evening. The pain lessened, but never went away.

Sunday morning, when I awoke, the pain was intense. We had friends visiting, so I took my hot shower and stuck it out. When our friends went home, I asked him for the money to go and get this professionally worked on. Something this bad that lasts over a week? I need help.

I called yesterday and made an appointment for 3:00 today.

The place where I take yoga classes also offers massage therapy treatments in a number of modalities. I specifically asked for medical massage, and mentioned I had a shoulder that needed focused attention. I was assigned a massage therapist named Claire.

Claire is older than me, and about five-foot-nothin’. She immediately asked me if I had Irish in my background, given my name. “I do,” I replied, and told her my mother was Irish/Italian. “There’s a lot of them,” she said. She herself was from Dublin. Her black eyes chirped in her head like little birds, and she seemed to be looking deep inside of me.

I shook, talking to her. Walking around Nyack on a sunny summer day always has me arriving at my destinations shaking, as there are more bees and wasps here than in the rose gardens at Central Park, but today I couldn’t blame my shaking on just that. There was something about this little older woman that made me nervous. I told her about the batting cages, and that I was under a lot of stress. I hadn’t planned to talk about my stress, but somehow I spat it out.

I had a cough drop in my mouth. I heard myself mentioning that I think I have an oral fixation, and that I sometimes can't fall asleep without a cough drop in my mouth. "My Mom says I'm going to choke myself to death one of these days." I have no idea what posessed me to say this. I don't think I've ever told anyone that before.

“Is your stomach bothering you?” she asked. I was confused, so she repeated the question, kindly. I realized I had been clutching the fabric of my dress in front of my abdomen. “That’s a nervous habit,” I said, laughing. I just wanted to get on the table and not see her or talk to her anymore.

“So shall we spend the whole hour on your shoulders? Or would you like me to do your legs a bit too?” More of the probing look.

I sighed. “I don’t know what to suggest. I’m inclined to say spend most of your time on my shoulders…” I trailed off. I looked at this nice lady. “I guess maybe you should tell me.”

She left me alone then, and I assumed the position under the towel.

We didn’t talk much at first. I told her I was tough and could take a firm touch, but she hadn’t asked, and I’m not sure she would have asked.

I can’t describe what she did. There was a lot of energy work. She started on the right shoulder, which I thought was the less-injured one. Everything she did on the right, I felt on the left. The right side was just as knotted up, as the left, and very, very stubborn. My breathing became labored.

At one point, I vocalized. “You can feel free to shout,” she said. “Sometimes that’s what our body feels like doing.”

I shouted… but not loudly. She breathed as I breathed, and encouraged me to take deeper and deeper breaths.

Eventually she shifted over to the left shoulder, and I thought I would die from the pain, even though I knew she was barely touching me. Finally, she hit the center of the pathology… and I cried. I burst into heaving sobs, right there on the table. She didn’t stop; she just gently rocked my sacrum and lower neck vertebrae back and forth, like a baby carriage, a natural vessel holding a very helpless-feeling me inside. “That’s great,” she said. “Let that all go.” I just let myself expel.

My mother, I thought as I cried. My grandmothers. Oh, my grandmothers! My friends have changed too much. I am so alone! How will I live? How will I settle my debts? Everything I thought I could rely on is gone. I’m afraid, I’m afraid, I’m afraid…

“Is anything specific coming up for you?” Claire asked quietly.

I couldn’t speak. I nodded my head, the sobs subsiding, the breaths coming slower, deeper.

“That’s good. Let all of that go. They say the body holds all our stress. Let all of that out of you.”

Claire continued her work. Miraculously, the tightness in my shoulder had diminished to a fraction of its previous power. “Do you know you’ve loosened this?” She asked.

“Yes, I can feel it,” I said, almost laughing. “Wow…”

Eventually she moved up to my head, and I asked for Kleenex. I blew my nose, and an impressive quantity of toxins was expelled. “I’m impressed!” Claire said.

“That usually happens,” I said. “A physical manifestation of the work we’re doing.”

Claire lowered the headrest, and the back of my neck lengthened as my forehead pointed down, my chin just a tiny bit closer to my chest. Usually, lying on my stomach like this with my head pointing down, I’d feel my sinuses draining upwards, until the pressure behind the bridge of my nose forced me to sit up, and I’d expel more toxins. It’s a trick I use when I have a bad cold. But today, I felt nothing of the sort. It felt as though a hinge at the back of my neck had separated, and energy was whooshing out into the room, like floodwaters through an open basement window.

As she pushed various points on my neck, into the joint between neck and shoulder, I began to feel light-headed. No… I began to feel light. Like I was floating up through the ceiling, like I was flying high over Nyack. I felt that if I opened my eyes I’d see the Hudson River reaching into New York, and the Tappan Zee holding up the traffic, and all the trees and mansions along the shore in Piermont and South Nyack… I began to laugh.

Claire giggled slightly. I laughed and laughed. I felt my arms, the small of my back, and my head tingling. Oh, my head! My head buzzed and hummed and sang, and I breathed deeply and vocalized on the breath out, and laughed some more. “I’ll bet you have a great singing voice,” Claire said.

“As a matter of fact, I do!” I stated, smiling with every fiber of me. I was higher than a kite.

At some point, Claire moved around and did some basic work on my legs. “That was wonderful,” I said, feeling dizzy and euphoric. “That was like whisky!”

“That was what?” Claire laughed.

“That was like good whiskey!” I practically shouted.

“Well, you know what they call that?” she asked.

“The water of Life!” we both chimed in, giggling, feeling pleased, enjoying the work we were doing, knowing it was real, and it was good.

“I’m just gonna float here for a while if that’s ok?” I asked.

“You go right where you need to,” Claire said, and continued her work.

When I flipped over on my back, she moved back to my neck, and found that spot in my shoulder again. I gasped.

“This feels like it’s from the Paleolithic Era,” she said.

“It is,” I affirmed, ruefully.

At some point, my system started buzzing again, and I floated again. I snapped my eyes open to see my therapist. “How do you do that!” I asked.

She looked straight down at me, her black eyes directly above my brown. “Do what?”

The dizziness began to overtake me, and my gaze floated up to the ceiling fan. Everything swirled. I felt energy flooding my system, flowing through the marrow of my bones, reaching everything. I was acutely aware of the world outside the room, the countries of the Earth, the millions of people everywhere, working, sleeping, loving, dying, giving birth, all at that moment.

“It’s not you, is it?” I breathed. Claire said nothing. She got up and moved toward my feet. “It’s not you…”

I breathed deeply, and rather quickly. My system was overloaded, and not all the blockages had been removed. “Send your energy down to me,” Claire commanded, gently holding my feet. I closed my eyes, took some deep breaths, and visualized.

“It’s blocked at my knees….” I breathed. “There’s a blockage at my knees…”

Claire sighed. “I’m sorry, but we have to stop. Are you ok?”

“I’m fine. I’m good!” I assured her.

“I’m pouring some water for you, make sure you drink it,” Claire said. I heard the droplets flowing into a cup. “Stay here awhile, take it slow. Have a Shivasana,” she suggested.

When I came out, I called her Bride, and asked what her given name was. “It’s Claire,” she reminded me, laughing, “but I know someone named Bride. I like that.”

Before I left I made another appointment. We have more work to do.

As I was paying my bill, I smelled garlic. The other ladies in the studio had been eating pizza. Suddenly my mouth watered. “I want eggplant parmesan in the worst way now!”

The ladies laughed. “I’ll bet you’re hungry, you did a lot in there!” I told them I planned to have a big pitcher of water, a small nap, and a nice eggplant tonight.

Just before I left, Claire suggested that I “might want to write a bit too.”

Of course.

The pain isn’t completely gone now, but it’s lessened. Some of it has referred down into my sciatic area, on the left side. That’s ok, we’ll take care of it. And I learned a lot about myself during this transformational treatment.

For starters, I need to speak up more. I sensed this already, but it was crystal clear to me today. I’ve already begun working on this. I spoke up about some pretty important things to G on Saturday morning, while we were waiting for our friends to arrive. It was a hard conversation, but it was important, and good, and I have felt better since, if for no other reason, than because it’s off my chest.

Part of “speaking up” means not telling those little lies when friends ask how things are going. No more “Fine, what’s up with you?” No more “Everything’s wonderful, I couldn’t be happier.” No more “I’m not worried about that.” No more telling people how I wish I felt, how I wish things were.

"You seem to hurt yourself without even knowing it.” Usually, G, it's because there's something I've closed my eyes to. Something I don't want anyone to see. Something I'm trying to hide. Like the fact that I'm not athletic. Like the fact that I'm not super-woman. Like the fact that I'm human, and can be hurt. Like my vulnerability. I'll shoot myself just to make everyone think I'm bulletproof. Who cares if I nearly bleed to death, as long as nobody knows? This is how I've tried to sheild myself from hurtful people. Funny though... it really didn't work. It never worked.

After all these years, I think I can tell the difference between someone who’s asking how I am because they’re just making chit-chat, and someone who’s asking because they really care. Part of letting someone care about me means letting them in.

Along the same vein, I need to keep hold of the idea that if I open myself up to someone, and they hurt me somehow, then I can simply let them go. There’s no need to maintain toxic or unfulfilling relationships. This is something I thought I had licked… but I guess only to a point.

At some point, I need to work on accepting my extroverted nature. Yes, you heard it right here folks, I’m an Extrovert. Out and Proud. The problem is that while I was growing up, I spent a great deal of time around people who don’t like extroverts. My parents included.

You see, extroverts are insecure losers who are trying to be something they’re not. Extroverts always have to – crime of crimes! - be the center of attention. They “try too hard.” Extroverts are afraid of everything and overcompensate by cultivating this overly-social image. Extroverts follow fashion, the crowd, and celebrity lifestyles, so they can talk about it at clubs and sound smart. They do this because they are actually incredibly vacuous and shallow. They look at pictures in fashion magazines and could never read The New Yorker – there are too many big words. Extroverts are bimbos, jocks, and wanna-bes.

Introverts, on the other hand, were respected. Their quiet ways were interpreted as “thoughtful,” and they were always assumed to be vastly more intelligent than any extrovert. Introverts never seem to be needy. Introverts don’t care about how they look, because they are confident in who they are. Introverts don’t mind if the popular crowd shuns them. Introverts are just so above it all. Introverts, simply put, were cool.

Fuck. That.

Maybe this will be the subject of my next essay.

For the time being, I’m just thrilled that I have found a great body-worker. (It feels limiting to call Claire simply a Massage Therapist.) And I’m more focused than ever on removing obstacles from my path – in my career, in my relationships, in my body, my mind, and my spirit.

And at some point, I’d like to try hitting those softballs again. That was fun.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Levity from Afar

My friend Maura worked with me at the Siberian Work Camp for a year. She has an uber-hunk of a boyfriend named Fergus who she was foolish enough to let me near a few times. (Although I was on my best behavior, because that five-foot eleven size 2 lassie could kick my ass without breaking a nail.)

Maura and Ferg are (shock of shocks), Irish through and through. Not only do they have delicious accents, they have the unique phrasing style for which Irish English is so beloved. They have been traveling through Asia recently, and I received this delightful post from Fergus recently. Hopefully you can understand the Britishisms. (Getting pissed, for example, means getting drunk.)

Howdy folks,

Greetings from Thailand! Well I arrived in Bangkok safely last Friday morning. We found a cheap but nice hotel for about E12 a night, where myself and Mo reacquainted ourselves and spent two days doing the usual sightseeing stuff and getting ripped off in the market stalls on Ko San road. Bangkok stinks but there's loads too see and do, and of course you can't go to Bangkok without getting kitted out in a hand tailored fake Armani suit. Kurt how's that skirt and blouse you got looking?

We took a 14 hour overnight train to Chiang Mai on Sunday night and after a brief respite in the guest house we headed for hills to start our 3 day jungle trek. We travelled for the first part of the journey on elephant back which was pretty cool, apart from the fact that we got landed with the hungriest elephant in the world who cost us a fortune in bananas, but thankfully revenge was sweet, well sweet and sour, because he got a dose of the shits after it!

After this we headed up the mountain, with our two guides Mr. P and Buffalo Bill, for about an hour until we reached a waterfall where we had lunch and a swim. The next part of the trek was a fairly gruelling hike up a sheer mountain path, great for working off the beer belly but if knees could scream then mine would have been hoarse after it. Thankfully it was mostly downhill from there, and we crossed some paddi fields and tried not to cross some mean looking buffalo. Around 4.30, after another uphill hike, we arrived at a Karen hill tribe village where we Mr. P cooked us a lovely red curry and a tofu dish while Buffalo Bill got pissed on rice whisky.

Only a few weeks ago these hill tribes were without power, until the Thai government intervened and introduced solar electricity to each village at no cost. It was really cool because the day we arrived coincided with the chief's purchase of a television, the only one for miles! As we sat around the fire that night, we were treated to a song and dance performance by the children of the village. It was a really moving experience, and so far removed from life back home. And as I sat there looking up at the most beautiful starlit sky I have ever seen, putting everything in the perspective I thought to myself......I'd love some garlic chips and cheese right now.

We set off the next morning passing though the rest of the village including the school, where the children are taught only until they are 12. Again it was all uphill for about 3 hours until we stopped in another village for lunch and a much needed nap. The humidity knocks the shite out of ya! We set off again at 2.30 for an hour and half until we reached our next resting place which was nestled in a ravine next to a beautiful waterfall. It was a bamboo hut owned a by a really nice tribesman called "Cannibal Man". I told him my name was Fergus but he insisted on calling me "Din Er". We had a tasty green curry while Cannibal Man tucked into his crickets and rhino beetles that he had fried in some oil, salt and sugar..........they mustn’t have been very filling because about an hour later he caught a frog and chucked him straight into the fire for a few seconds and then promptly ate him. What a legend!

This morning we bid an emotional farewell to Cannibal Man and walked for about 2 hours until we reached a farmhouse where the owner let us do some target practice with his rifle. We then taken by truck to a nearby river for the final part of our journey where we travelled by bamboo raft back to our initial starting point. I'm shattered now but it was a fantastic eye opening experience.

We're back in the relative civilisation of Chang Mai now where we'll stay tonight and then we fly to Phuket tomorrow..........from there we then head to Phi Phi, Krabbi, Ko Tao (4 day diving course), Ko Phangan (Full Moon Party) and Ko Samui before heading back to Bangkok........so watch this space!

I hope everyone is well?

Take care,
Ferg


Come back to the United States soon, old pals!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Secrets

I know a person who, no matter what has happened to others around them, they will tell you something they’ve lived through that’s just as bad, or worse.

I know a person who only listens as payment – it’s their way of making sure they get listened to. And their ratio of listening to talking about themselves is about 1:100.

I know a person who slept with their best friend’s partner many years ago and lied about it. To this day it’s a secret. I’m sympathetic to a point.

I know a person whose public persona is a complete 180 from their private.

I know a person whose idea of friendship is being part of her entourage.

I know a person who needs to believe that others think and feel the same way she does. The idea that they don’t sends her into an abyss of self-criticism.

I know a person that has to be the absolute authority on everything.

I know a person who likes to brag about the things they’ve stolen.

I know someone who is always the victim.

I know someone who is afraid to admit they are happy.

I know someone who says their partner just isn’t ready to let them go yet, so they wait for the inevitable heartbreak, all the while busting their ass trying to show that person how great they are, hoping the relationship will endure.

I know someone who has no idea how great their partner is, and doesn’t appreciate them, but feels entitled to their devotion. I want to hit them in the head with a 12-inch frying pan.

I know a person who laughs their ass off at the misfortunes of others who are not bad people – he just dislikes something about them, and that makes them fair game.

I know a person who despises weakness to the point that they respect no one who exhibits emotionality, forgiveness, or temperance.

I know someone who is in a long-term relationship with someone who knows how to give, but not how to love.

I know someone who will help strangers but not those close to them.

I know someone who thinks they have a lot of friends, but can’t get anyone to go to the movies or a museum or for a walk in the park with them, so they spend a great deal of time alone.

I know a person who cheated on the love of their life so many times they lost count.

I know a person who retained a bad relationship, because they knew their partner was obsessed with them, and they exploited their partner for the adoration and the sex for five years.

I know a lot of people who claim to love and have no idea what love is.

I know someone who barters loving gestures with the cold calculation of weighing stacks of coins.

I know someone who cares more about being in control than making their partner happy.

I know someone who survived Hurricane Katrina, and although I haven’t spoken to them in years, I could still feel their life force and knew they were ok.

I know someone who doesn’t care about me nearly as much as they insist they do. I know a few people like that.

I know a lot of people who simply aren’t capable of deep, committed love.

I know a lot of people who don’t want to be responsible for anything other than how their paycheck is spent.

I know a lot of people who claim to care about me but find it too much trouble to keep in touch with me.

I know a lot of people who live inside self-imposed walls.

I know someone who thinks I don’t care about them, and they are wrong.

I know someone who thinks I hate them, and they are wrong.

I know someone who thinks I will never be happy.

They are wrong.

I know someone who spends a great deal of time with no one except the person they live with, because their “friends” call all the shots.

I know someone who calls a lot of people “friend” when they are really acquaintances, and once they stop working together, or move to a different neighborhood, they will never see each other again, and the phone calls and emails will eventually cease.

I know the people in my life who read this blog, who are not bloggers, wonder if they are reading about themselves.

I know that if a person reads my blog and doesn’t find stories with a lot of humour, or about sex or people they know (or themselves), they’ll click somewhere else.

I know that the people I write about do not read my blog unless I email them a link to the specific post that mentions them and say “I posted something about you on the internet today.” Then they read just that post.

I know someone who thinks nobody really knows who she is.

I know someone who is amazed at the beauty she has discovered inside herself.

I know someone who wishes that would make people want to be with her.

I know someone who is lonely, but hides it behind a dazzling smile.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Being Visited

Pantheon.org tells this famous story of The Morrigan:

She appeared to the hero Cu Chulainn (son of the god Lugh) and offered her love to him. When he failed to recognize her and rejected her, she told him that she would hinder him when he was in battle. When Cu Chulainn was eventually killed, she settled on his shoulder in the form of a crow. Cu's misfortune was that he never recognized the feminine power of sovereignty that she offered to him.

SacredSource.com states:

Morrigan is the Celtic Goddess of Destruction/Creation.

One must precede the other.

An essay on Druidry.org, which looks to have been written by a junior high school student, spells out this important distinction:

Notice this however. Crows do not make people dead, they eat and transform bodies. Morrigan is not death itself, she is the keeper of death, and she is frightening.

Change. Is. Hard. But inevitable, and necessary. I have spent the last year of my life working very hard to embrace change. “Focus Fearlessly Forward” has become a mantra of mine. It felt like a death, moving out of my apartment. It definitely felt like death when the company I loved working for was sold. And my family… we have spent plenty of time with death this past year and a half.

RealMagick.com describes her vividly:

"The Dark aspect of the Celtic Triple Goddess” – Dark is not evil, it is merely hidden from view. My dream occurred during the dark (or new) moon.

"Crone aspect of the Goddess” – I have been courting the Crone’s wisdom for a long time. Small things that I do in my daily life, and in my ritual practice, have been intended to invite the Crone into my sacred space. Wearing a lot of black, for example, to represent the mystery. Working with red stones for passion and protection, rather than pink or pale blue ones. Wearing my pentacle more places, and my Waning Moon Ring (more on that below).

The Crone, or Hag, represents the third face of the goddess. Just as Christianity has a father, son, and holy spirit, The Old Religion recognizes the Maiden, Mother, and Crone aspects of the Goddess. The Crone is like the holy spirit in that she is the most powerful, and is the keeper of secrets. A woman doesn’t become the crone until she has passed through many experiences and learned from them, and accepted the passing changes in her life. In other words, you may be 80 years old, and you may not yet be the crone. It takes great acceptance and awareness – and fearlessness- of your own power to truly embody the crone. I have known very, very few women in my life who have ever attained this.

I have been so frustrated for so long, and I have been heartbroken so many times, that I have begun to pray to the Crone, asking her to share a secret with me, something that I may hold in my heart, to help me to understand what I have lived through, and what I must learn from it. Possibly, to help me more easily feel at peace.

"Patroness of priestesses, Queen of the Witches and Goddess of Magick” – Yeah, well, no point denying this is me.

"Associated with revenge, night, magick, prophecy, wisdom, war and peace” – I don’t like to admit that I want revenge on anyone… but I’d be lying if I said there is no one I’d like to see get a taste of their own medicine. Mostly though, I’m angry. I work on it a lot… but I’m a pretty angry gal. I suppress it a lot. Often I try to rationalize it out. I fear my own anger. I don’t trust myself. I have a lot to work through with my anger.

"Possibly a pre-Celtic Moon goddess” – The Crone is symbolized by the Waning Crescent Moon, also called the Balsamic Moon. Yes, balsamic, like the vinegar. As in fermented, transformed, become more potent than ever by a natural process. When the last slim crescent of moon shows before the moon goes dark… that is the crone’s grin.

I have a black Fimo ring that I bought a while back. It has Waning Crescent Moons all around it. I wear it a lot. Whenever I wear it, I can’t stop touching it. It feels good under my fingertips. I like to press it against my finger, squeezing it slightly, to watch it spring back into shape. It’s flexible, and it seems to adhere to my finger, making it difficult to remove. I always wear it on my right or left ring finger.

"In her Dark Aspect, she is the Goddess of War, Fate and Death” – Again, more rage, and more change. Also some inevitability.

My grandmothers were in their nineties, and they were ill. I still did not want to lose them. Illogically, I was utterly enraged that they were taken from me, one after the other. I knew it was inevitable. That knowledge brought me no comfort. I am simply too selfish. I miss them. I cannot help but want them back.

"As a War Goddess, she reigned over the battlefield, helping with her magick, but did not join in battles” – Isn’t that what prayer is? The witch who helps the victorious army is often called an angel. History is recorded by the winners, and any surviving losers. Who knows whose accounts are most accurate? We choose sides, and fervently hope one will win. We light candles, we pray, we send donations, we slap stickers on our car, we buy T-shirts and wear them around, we cast ballots and hope enough others make the same choice.

There are those who argue that magic is nothing more than focused intention. The power of intention, however, is very, very strong. Do not underestimate it.

"The "Washer at the Ford" (seen washing bloody laundry prior to battle by those destined to die)” – This is an old Irish Legend, like a ghost story. It has survived to this day. In this guise, the Morrigan is called Ban Shee, which in Gaelic simply means “Fairy Woman” (Ban = Woman + Shee = Fairy.)

The Ban Shee has also been said to scream whenever someone dies. This earned her a reputation as an evil ghost – but the legend actually comes from the keening, the wail of mourning that the Irish are known for when in deep sorrow. I myself have keened several times in my life. Just last Christmas, one of my Grandmother’s things fell to the ground and broke, and I collapsed on my knees, clutching the broken pieces to my chest, and screeched. I wasn’t even aware I was doing it until I stopped and the house was so eerily quiet. The Ban Shee doesn’t scream in delight – she screams because a person she feels close to has died.

The Ban Shee is not a ghost. She is one of the Tuatha de Dannan – a race of people who, rather than surrender Ireland to the invading Milesian Celts, simply left their bodies, and, as spirits, took up residence in the land itself. This is why the trees, the rivers, the stones, the animals, even the mountains are said to be “haunted.” The gaelic-speaking celts named them the Shee, or the Fairy Folk. Throughout the ages, while people were building cities and towns, the Shee remained. If you built your house near a mountain, or a forest, and a certain Shee resided there, especially that of a woman, that spirit would become attached to you and your family. Women nurture – they keep house, they cook and clean and raise children. A Ban Shee could very well look upon those living on her land as her family. So when someone died, she keened.

I have to imagine that if someone attacked her adopted family, she’d have something to say about that as well. Possibly, something to do about it.

"Her symbol was the raven or crow” – Birds represent the element of Air. I have never been comfortable with Air. If you look at my Astrological chart, I am all Earth, with some Fire, a little Water and even less Air. Airiness has to do with being free-spirited, being flighty, being open to ideas that blow into your head from out of the blue. Being spontaneous. Going with the flow. My feet are usually bolted to the ground, and being the daughter of a stubborn Taurus, I am not easily blown over.

Knowing this, I have actively invited the Air into my life over the last two years, in the same manner that I have been inviting the Crone. I dress in more blues and whites. I try to be more open to suggestions for vacation spots, temp jobs, and people in general. I believe it is this shift in energies that eventually led me to enroll in Massage Therapy School, and to make friends with that nice saxophone player at my aunt’s party.

In addition to this, I participated in a guided group meditation, where we encountered an Animal guide, similar to the Native American tradition of Spirit Animals. I expected a cat.

What I saw was a bird. Not a raven or crow, but a blue bird with impossibly long tailfeathers. It was a creature of my imagination. I doubt anything like it exists in nature… but there it was. I should do more work with this image.

"Like many Goddesses, She was a shapechanger... The carrion crow is her favorite disguise. Could also appear as a beautiful Maiden or an ugly Hag” – Ah yes. Playing dress-up is one of my favorite games too.

Tradition says she has nine loosed tresses on her head” – OH I AM SO TRYING THIS HAIRDO!

Goddess of rivers, lakes, and fresh water” – this confused me. It doesn’t seem to match with the previous descriptions. However, it is also true that, along with the Air, I have been inviting the Water. Trying to get comfortable with it. Water represents the emotions, and I spent a lot of years being scared to death of my own emotions. My emotions run so powerful and swing so wide that I’ve thought I must be crazy. I’m not, but growing up in the Midwest around a lot of stoic Germanic and Slavic types made me feel crazy. I repressed a lot.

When I moved to New York, all of a sudden everyone was emotionally volatile! I have been working on letting my emotions flow, and hopefully not smacking everyone near me with a wall of psychic energy. It’s hard. I look to the Water for guidance here. I need to let the oceans flow in a healthy way.

"She did not actually fight, but urged on her chosen armies, and intimidated the ones She wanted to lose with Her fearsome war cries.” – This is a passive way of being part of the battle. I know all about this. I think a lot of us do this all the time. Have you ever “warned” a bitchy co-worker that the boss was on a rampage, knowing that your co-worker would get so nervous that they’d make themselves look even worse than if you hadn’t said anything?

Oh. Uh… neither have I. I was just using an example.

I have read of the Morrigan a number of times, but my favorite description of her comes from Morgan Llewellyn’s Red Branch:

Two women approached him from the direction of the lake. One was a slender creature with the limped loveliness of a drop of pure water. She wore a mantle of deep green and moved like a flowing stream, and she had been crying recently.

Ok, this isn't the Morrigan. The woman described is the goddess Fand, wife of Manann mac Lir, God of the sea. “Him” refers to Cu Chulainn, one of the great heroes of Irish Mythology.

Her companion was russet-haired, tall and strongly built. An eyeful of woman, yet it was the other who drew Cuchulain’s gaze.

That's her. That's the Morrigan. And that's my friend, who wanted me to buy a futon cover in Army Green. I recognize you, Morrigan!

They came to a stop beside him as he lay on the ground. “Here is a man for you, Fand,” said the red-haired woman. “Take his birch rod and strike him hard; I promise it will make you feel better.”

Fand taps Cu Chulainn lightly with the stick, which is all she has the heart for. The hero and the weeping goddess are instantly attracted to each other. The Morrigan is pissed. In her own words:

Prompted by misguided impulse, I have occasionally attempted to perform a kindness. It never turns out well, and I should know better. Kindness is another of those human concepts that has no place in the natural order. Stones and hawks and comets are not kind.

A cold goddess, indeed. And I have many, many times said, through clenched teeth, after someone had let me down, that I was a fool to have ever been kind to someone.

But I had felt a rare spark of sympathy for Fand, wife of Mannan mac Lir, ruler of the waves. He had abandoned her, and she was as sad as if she had a human heart...
...I had decided the time had come for Cuchulain to see me in one of my other forms, something more attractive than the Battle Raven. A large black bird holds little sensual interest for the human male. And I thought it would be doubly clever to appear before him with a foil, a contrast. Beside pallid Fand, I would show to my best advantage. He would see a woman of spirit and power, and exciting creature as capable of inflicting pain as the Hound himself.
But the fool looked at her instead of me. He smiled at and desired the tepid wife of Mannan mac Lir.
So I beat him until he was paralyzed and half-dead.
You see what harm is done by surrendering to a kind impulse.

I am sorry, friend. I too have been spurned by men who have preferred silly girls over smart women. And I am much like Fand, prone to excessive weeping, and not the least bit comforted by hurting others. I am, however, merely human, and not bound by marriage to anyone, never mind a god. I am not an unchanging eternal being. I can learn, and grow.

Self defense is good. Assertiveness is good. Aggressiveness is good too. The more in touch I am with my own power, the less likely I am to be victimized.

I told my mother about this dream, and my feeling that the girl I was shopping with might have been the Morrigan in modern-day dress.

"She'll be good for you," Mom replied matter-of-factly. "You need a warrior in your life."

Throughout my adolescence, I had a recurring character in my dreams, a "best friend," who was always blonde, pale skinned, shorter than me, and faceless. A delicate girl who loved me and always had supportive things to say, but who was unable to stop me from whatever bad idea I was pursuing in the dream. I had nightmares that wrenched me from sleep in the middle of the night, sweating, hearing her sweet little voice ringing in my ears, screaming that I would be all right, just HOLD ON, as the visuals dissolved into blackness and I lay awake in the darkness shaking, unable to get back to sleep for hours.

I haven't had a nightmare that bad in close to a decade - but I had one a week or so ago. I dreamed of death, of someone very close to me, someone who, right now, I absolutely cannot handle the idea of living without. I woke up at about 4am, crying and shaking, and G held me until I lay quiet again.

And then a few nights later, I had this dream of the new apartment, and the singing salesman, and my uber-cool redheaded friend, whose face I could see clearly, in her Army jacket and her blood-black-red nail polish. The New Moon had just begun to seed.

I haven't dreamed since, but I am very aggressively pursuing a new job opportunity for which, a while back, I never would have dreamed I'd feel qualified. I had an interview today. I wore black. It went well.

Yo, M. Don't be a stranger.