Sunday, February 1, 2015

Pounding the Pavement and Getting the Message

Yesterday was our monthly framily dinner.  I hadn't slept because I worked the night before, then came home to help make our contribution to the food.  So, at about the 22 hour mark of no sleep, I headed toward the car and BAM! I fell on the ice.  It was like   s  l  o  w    m  o  t  i  o  n.  My feet slipped forward, and my attempt to rebalance just made it worse because I was on a slight decline and had hit a particularly slicker than snot spot.  I floated in the air in a high horizontal Charlie Brownesqu way before landing flat on my back.  For a fraction of a fraction of a second, I thought I was in the clear because like that time in college, I didn't whack my head.  Then my head came slamming down on the ice so hard it bounced up and back down, jerking my neck with it.  I paused, swore, took a breath and made a  quick self  assessment:  no brains or blood oozing from the back of my head, all limbs moveable, neck sore but movable despite muscles bulging on left, tailbone unharmed, right side of scull sore but in working order.  So I rolled to my left and stood up.  I needed to get the car moved closer to the house so Deb, who has a hip replacement, wouldn't try to be a hero and venture out on the icy area to save me.  As I stood, I felt dizzy and lopsided and a migraine rushed in starting from the right rear and spreading through my whole head.  I got the car moved and got out to get her and our two friends that we carpooled with.  But they came out of the house before I got in.  I told Deb I needed her to check me for a concussion because I just wasn't right.  The nurse in her came out and she checked for a lump (none, I told her that because I had already checked, but she told me to let her check anyway).  She checked my pupils and they did dialate, but one more than the other.  She said it didn't look bad enough to be of concern though.  Took excedrin in the car and a muscle relaxer once home.  Then when I laid down in bed, I discovered a large pain that I had overlooked before.  I had a big pain in my ass when I laid down.  (Yes, I said it).  Apparantly, I landed slightly to the left side because it feels like there is a bruise covering my whole cheek!  Can't see it though, but I think it will turn pretty colors in a day or two.

This morning, I still have a headache, a sore butt, a sore neck, but I am so grateful that I seem to be mostly fine.  I really bashed my head hard and my neck snapped in a scary way.  It could have been permanently worse if it had happened a little differently. Life is so precious, being able to walk and talk and sing and laugh are precious gifts, even through pain and difficulties.  Sometimes I forget that, then the universe gives me a little slap-down to say, "remember what you have and quite whining."

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

An Open Letter to Haters Who Choose Violence

 I know who you are.  I have been dealing with people like you for many years, and I feel sorry for you.  I feel sorry for you because your cowardice prevents you from knowing who you truly are.

You are children of a loving god and of a universe vast and rich with diversity.  How dare you act in a way that is so contrary to who you were born to be?

You were born with the gift of reason, yet you smash reason in the face every time you lash out with hatred and anger, simply because you are too cowardly to face someone different as an equal.

You were born with an innate awe and appreciation of the beauty in diversity, yet you find awe to be too much for you to handle.  Instead, you turn your back on awe and wonder and beauty and you embrace fear and emptiness within your soul.  I pity you because where beauty used to thrive within you, you have eagerly gathered a sticky tarred darkness, refusing to see the world around you with a sacred sense of wonder and divine beauty.  

I pity you because you have so embraced corruption that you refuse to see the divine spark within yourself.  You have turned your back on yourself and on the world around you because you can't handle being the awesome creature you were born to be.  You fear that awesome being that you were born to be.

You were born with an unlimited capacity for compassion and unconditional love, yet you traded away those divine treasures, finding the human burden of them too frightening, too difficult to bear.  You ran away from your birthright into the arms of cowardice, cobbled willingly to the much heavier burdens of fear and hate.

Hate like yours is really just fear taken to an extreme. It isn't the healthy fear that keeps us alert to real danger. No, hate like yours is the fear untempered by reason. You have transformed your fear into a nightmarish terror of everything within you and everything around you.  Hate like yours is the kind of fear that is also called cowardice because you always allow the fear to win over everything else.  You give in to your terror without allowing your higher self help you face it with courage.  Hate is just cowardice disguised as hate.

And yet you, like everyone else that you so fear, are a child of the divine.  You are still in there somewhere deep beneath the tar and muck of your unreasonable fear and ugliness.  Until you can recognize your true strength and begin to free yourself from your self-imposed trappings, I will pity you, but I will not fear you. 

I know who I am.  I am a child of a divine loving universe and I will not choose to hate you back, or fear you, for I know who you are.  You, too are a divine child of god.  I know that you are afraid of me and others who don't think like you, who don't walk, talk or look like you.  You are afraid of those who seem different from you because you are afraid of the light and sacredness within your own soul.  I pity you for your chosen path of isolation, destruction and self-hate, but I will NOT adopt your cowardice as my own.

Your fists and guns may harm or kill this body I inhabit, but the divine light of the universe will continue, and my memory and compassion with it.

I am not the person you beat or killed yesterday or last week or last year, but I feel each blow, each kick, stab or shot as if it were me.  It could be me, at any moment that you choose cowardice over your true divine self.

By Salomé HawkSong
April 2, 2014

Dedicated to those who have suffered at the hands of cowards who choose to commit hate crimes

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Lesson in Balance

When I came out in 1990, I had traded my right to get married for my need to be true to myself.  To me, compared to languishing in the closet, having one less piece of paper seemed like a fair trade off.  At 22 years old, it didn’t occur to me that a marriage license was much more than a piece of paper.  It is a legal document that entitles two people to all of the benefits and protections of a legal marriage.  It is also a legal document that compels one into added responsibilities to another human being, building a family (with or without kids) and a life together. At 22, I didn’t think about the financial, moral, medical or mortal affects that having or not having that piece of paper entailed.  Now I have a better idea, and that piece of paper has become more important to my life partner and I than I had ever imagined.  As the possibility of getting legally married looms closer, I find myself placing more emotional value into that piece of paper.

Needless to say, I’ve been closely watching the trial about the anti marriage amendment challenge in my home state of Michigan.  I have been following Equality Michigan on Facebook, reading online articles from the Detroit Free Press, the Huffington Post, MLive, just soaking up all the information I can find.  Before the trial began, even before the hearing for requests for summary judgement, I thoroughly read the briefs on both sides, and read the judgements from several of the cases cited there, most especially Loving vs Virginia.  

My partner, a couple friends and I have also been Driving to Detroit for rallies and to sit in the courtroom for this amazing History making trial, deftly handled by Judge Friedman and his staff, and the lawyers involved.  We attended the hearing for summary judgement, opening arguments, a couple days of testimony and the closing arguments.  Now, we wait for his ruling, which he expects to post online within a couple of weeks.

I have been journaling a lot about this trial.  I took notes at each session that I attended, and I am drawing upon them for my journaling.  I will try to get around to eventually posting all or most of them (some aren’t written yet). Here, I am starting with the last one first, since it is the one freshest on my mind, and probably of most immediate interest to most…

(from my journal Friday night, March 7, 2014)

Today, they had closing arguments.  Deb and I did end up going, and just in case we had to jet off to the Genesee County Courthouse from the Federal Courthouse in Detroit  to get immediately married, When she picked me up from work in the morning, Deb brought our marriage license application, fees, birth certificates, and our rings.

The male attorney for the DeBoer-Rowse teamKenneth Mogill, did the first closing argument.  He reserved 5 minutes at the end to make a rebuff statement (all he did for that was to go up to the podium and say he had none, but he was the first and the last one at the podium.)

He did a really beautiful job of sticking with the issue at hand:  the constitutionality of the anti-marriage amendment (also known as the ban against same sex marriage).  His first, or one of his first statements was, “The promise of America is the promise of equality.”  He pointed out that there are 2300 LGBT couples raising over 5300 kids in the state of Michigan.  He also said “Equality before the law does not yet exist.”  He pointed out that “marriage is a Fundamental Right.”  (He didn’t even resort to referencing the Loving v Virginia case, which had that phrase front and center in the decision, but he did mention due process and the 14th amendment.)  He went on to say that no other group has to establish their fitness as parents in order to get married.  He pointed out that when ministers marry people, they are performing a religious ceremony, with the added weight of a civil recognition of that marriage.  He said that churches and ministers already have the right to decline to marry people that don’t meet certain benchmarks of their faith, but that the sate cannot deny a CIVIL ceremony.  He talked about “traditional marriage” as having evolved from a male being in charge of a subservient woman, to being an egalitarian agreement between two people.  He said “the tradition that is most important in American Marriage is the capacity to change”.  In closing, he read a quote from Mrs Loving on her 40th anniversary, "Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the ‘wrong kind of person’ for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry."  He sounded like he was trying not to cry when he read it, and many in the courtroom were wiping their eyes, including the plaintiffs.

The next lawyer to present closing arguments was Lisa Brown’s lawyer, Michael Pitt.  Brown is the Oakland County Clerk and is named as a defendant in the case, but wants the plaintiffs to win.  Her lawyer said a bunch of things, repeating stuff from the trial that had already been covered.  One of the things he mentioned is that Lisa Brown doesn’t report to, nor is she obligated to follow orders from Bill Schuette, the Michigan Attorney General.  I think he mentioned that the application update is being railroaded by the state (or, I may have just added that in my own head).  There were a couple of things that were particularly eloquent as well.  He said that the state has proceeded in “breathtaking hypocrisy” by denying equal marriage rights to LGBTQ people.  He also said “this state sanctioned humiliation must end, and it must end now”.  He asked Judge Friedman for an injunction to halt the discriminatory practice of denying the right of marriage to LGBT couples.  He asked that it go into effect immediately.  He asked that, in light of Attorney General Schuette’s letter to all of the county clerks of Michigan, that Judge Friedman make it very clear that a refusal to issue same sex marriage licenses would be a violation of his court order and therefore a violation of the law, regardless of the personal beliefs of the individual county clerks.  He also requested that Judge Friedman not issue an immediate or automatic stay on his own decision.

As I write this, I have to pause here just to first, absorb the support and words that these two lawyers are showing to the entire LGBT community.  They know that this case is specific to the DeBoer-Rowse family, but they also appear to be very cognizant of it being not about one family of five, they appear very aware of it being about ending codified discrimination against an entire class of people, that they are fighting for millions of LGBTQ people and their allies all across the state, the country, perhaps even all around the world.  They also both seem to feel very passionately, personally, about fighting injustice and bout equal rights.  They are both white men in their 50s or 60s, and I didn’t get a gay vibe from either of them.  

I am also pausing here a moment to brace myself before writing about the state’s closing argument.  It is hard, because I was just plain offended and pissed off as she spoke.  It was very hard to sit silently by.  Deb, our friends and I all whispered rejoinders while she talked.  All of us were offended and angry by what she was saying.  So, again, I pause to think how to phrase my narrative without too much derision.  Even looking over my notes tied my guts in a knot.  While she was talking, I had scribbled across the middle how mad I was (not using the word “mad”).

The state’s lawyer,Kristin Heyse began by saying she was only going to briefly touch upon the adoption issue, because the marriage ban is really what is at the heart of this case.  She said, “there is no Fundamental Right to adopt”.  She said that the rules are the rules, and just because they don’t like them, they cannot just change them.

Then, she moved on to the marriage ban.  She kept insisting that the “rational basis” criteria be used in this case.  She asked this question, “could reasonable people have their own reasons for voting for the marriage ban?”  (My answer is NO!)  She said that this trial is about science, not about the religious beliefs of the scientists (see sidebar for articles discussing this).  She went on to say that it is rational to believe that society should promote the “ideal family,” that of a married mother and father, raising their biological children together.  (It was really hard for me to write that last sentence, just so you know.  My goddaughters are adopted, one of my nephews is adopted, they are loved as much as any biological child could be.  Adopted kids are wanted kids.  It’s not like you are likely to “accidentally” adopt a kid, or have an “unplanned” adoption.)  This lawyer continued on to say that 1.7 million voters each had their own reasons for voting the way they did.  She asked, based upon this case, (I’m not sure of the exact phrasing, so even though I’m adding quotation marks, think of them as accent marks)  “Did the plaintiffs prove that they had rational basis to overturn the amendment?”  (This was just another reminder that the plaintiffs carry the burden of proof, not the defendants.)  This is how she answered her own question, “The question isn’t even ‘is it rational to exclude them.’  The question is, ‘is it rational to INCLUDE them?’ ”.  The judge’s eyebrows went up at that statement.  (I must admit that my mind kind of blanked to white hot anger for a moment when she said that.  Even now, hours later, I still got angry all over again when I read that sentence.)  That, right there, is their whole case summed up in a tidy bow.  

She did acknowledge that marriage bans are being struck down all over the country, but in doing so, she outlined some of the differences between this case and those others.  She said that those cases didn’t take into consideration that the social science is too new to determine if allowing same sex marriage would be harmful to the institution of marriage and to family outcomes.  She said that the other cases didn’t take into consideration that the best home for children is one in which the parents are one male and one female, married to one another, raising their own biological children.  The reasons for this ideal is because moms and dads each bring a different parenting style, Moms are more “verbal” and “nurturing” and men are more playful and “physical”, more likely to roll around wrestling with them, etc.  She also said that adoptive and step parents don’t have the same biological motivation to love, nurture and protect a child that biological ties strengthen.  She claimed that the judges in the other cases misapplied the burden of proof.  She didn’t offer an explanation of that, or at least I didn’t write it in my notes, but from her hammering of the “rational basis” standards, and her repeated insistence that the burden of proof is on the plaintiffs to prove there was not a rational reason for people to vote in favor of the marriage ban, that those are the parts she feels were misapplied.  And, according to her, the plaintiffs can’t PROVE that NONE of the voters had rational reasons for voting in favor of the amendment, they could have voted in favor of the ban to protect families, not to discriminate.  She also pointed out that not since the Proposition 8 trial, has there actually been any trials about marriage bans.  Every decision striking down a marriage ban has been handed down from the bench as a summary judgement.  (She didn’t come out and say it, but I think she was implying that activist judges have been taking the law into their own hands.)  She insisted that if he does rule against the ban, that he grant an immediate stay of his ruling, pending a supreme court decision to settle it.  She said something like, “a stay is needed to maintain the status quo through appeal.”  She ACTUALLY used the term, “status quo”, as the desired result of a stay.  (Unfortunately, I do understand the concern that a bunch of us queers will get married, then, if the appeals court judge grants a stay, there will be a question of whether or not our marriages are legal.  I don’t agree with it, but I understand it.)  She went on to finish by saying that this court cannot intervene unless there is a clear constitutional issue.  I’m not sure if I’m quoting her correctly, but she said something like “If reasonable people can disagree, the court cannot override the vote.”

Once the lawyers had each said their piece, Judge Friedman made his own closing statement.  He began by again praising all sides for their professional and collegial conduct.  He had a grin on his face when he said that when judges sit around and talk about what the “perfect trial” would look like, this is it.  He thanked his staff- each by job title and name, introducing them to the spectators with high praise for each.  Then he thanked the spectators.  He said they don’t get them often, but our constitution talks about having the courts be public and it’s always good to see participation by the public in the court proceedings.  He said the faces in this courtroom have been friendly, and it’s always good to see friendly faces.  He also thanked the media, saying that they are a part of the first amendment, which is all so important.  He pointed out that the constitution, and our whole system in the U.S. Is based upon checks and balances.  He said that the checks and balances included not just three, but five elements:  the legislature, the executive branch of the government, the judicial branch, the press and the public.  They all work together to balance each other out.  (He put it much more beautiful and eloquently than I just did.  I wish I had it on tape, or had written fast enough to write it as a direct quote.)

He went on to say that he has two things to weigh into this decision:  findings of fact, and statutes of law.  Keeping those in mind, he said “I have a lot of reading to do, a lot of decisions to make.”  He said among those decisions are things like how to weight each witness.  He also will listen to all of the court tapes, read all of the briefs, along with each case cited within the briefs and the cases cited in those cases, and on back, eventually leading to the constitution, and he will go directly to the constitution as well, study it to see how it pertains to this case.  He said that to do all of this, it will take a minimum of a week, but more likely two weeks.  He said that he will write it in such a way that anyone can understand it, not just lawyers.  Usually they are written for lawyers, but he wants it accessible to everyone.  

I had so many questions, it was all I could do to not raise my hand and ask, as if I were in a classroom.  When the bailiff said “all rise”, a few people quietly clapped as they stood.  I’m not sure, but I may have been one of them.  I certainly felt like clapping.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Dogs May Have Killed the Easter Bunny Before Indirectly Pooping in my Shoe

Yesterday morning, I got home from working midnight shift and all I wanted to do was to crawl in my bed. My eyes were blurry from exhaustion and I let two of our four dogs out to potty while I headed to the bathroom to do the same. When I let them back in, I saw a huge dead white rabbit, with the terrier/wolfhound about to take a chunk out of its belly. Luckily I didn't have to fight her for it. She came in when I cussed at her.
I had a dreaded suspicion that I have sort of met this rabbit before. A few months back, before the winter mud set in, we had seen a very large, fat rabbit sitting in our neighbor's back yard. It was calmly nibbling on their organic back yard grass as our four barkers were going crazy. It nibbled and watched and nibbled and watched the non-hopping four leggeds lose their voices with excitement.
We speculated on whether it was the Easter Bunny, or the neighbors’ grandkids’ pet.  It was really fat and really calm in the face of four barking dogs. No one was watching it but us as we were ensconced in our fully fenced backyard while it was free to roam wherever it wanted to (except into our  territory).
Then this morning what do my blurred sleep deprived eyes see, but (I suspect)this very same bunny dead near my garden in my evidently not so secure backyard.
I cussed some more at the dogs, put in a load of laundry to give it time to finish dying before I had to go pick it up.
The Newest Grand Canyon
When I approached the very cold dead rabbit (they actually the deed when my partner let them out in the middle of the night while I was at work).  Its blue eyes were open and I knew this was no wild rabbit. She was pure white and her shape and ears were different than the wild rabbits I had had to deal with similarly in the past.  Although she still weighed about 10-15 pounds, she was much skinner than the rabbit we had seen over the summer.  (I did not take a picture of her, so I can't share, out of respect for her.)
I apologized to her, bagged her and dodged dog poop all across the yard and crossed over the new Grand Canyon that the dogs had dug in the side yard as I headed out the front gate to set her by the garage where the dogs couldn’t maul her. Luckily her outsides were all still in tact.
Picking up dog poop and filling in the holes had been on the agenda for a while anyway.  I decided to postpone sleep and take my blurred vision to at least get it started. So I got out the scooper and poop rake and began to fill holes. I had some mulch left from the beginnings of building my backyard edible forest garden this summer, so I was layering that on top in some areas that were slick with mud where the dogs had either dug away the grass, or had worn it away with their running. Theoretically, the killer pooping machines won't dig where their own poop is buried. It worked around the blueberry bushes after I replanted them this fall guessed it.  They had dug them up. (That is when they moved to the base of the steps for their digging pleasure, making a wet muddy unavoidable mess to step in every time the compost needs to go out.)
The Blueberries are safe-for now
So I scooped and I hauled and dumped doo in an effort to make at least some progress in the great winter swamp of poo. On my feet, I wore my crocs, which are great for this because there is no tread to collect stuff in if I step in it. I had socks on because it was a bit chill this wet December morning.  I scooped more and carried more and buried more poop than any four dogs should be allowed to emit (I'm a bit behind on this chore).
This is the trench at the base of the deck.
It is in the process of getting filled
by dog bombs and covered with mulch
to make it less slick and sloppy.
Oops. I tapped the back of my pant leg with the poopy poop rake once or twice. Good thing those pants were next to go into the washer. Several minutes later, with a five gallon bucket of hardwood mulch in each hand, I felt a squish under my left heel. It felt suspiciously like what I had been picking up for the past forty five minutes. And it was ground into my sock and squished to the inside of my left croc and then, the smell of wet dung wafted up to my nose. I pulled off the blue croc, scraped it with a stick. Wiped my now wet brown socked foot on the even wetter colder grass (at least a foot from any piles that my blurry eyes could see) and put the shoe back on. I was determined to get at least some of those holes taken care of.
So I scooped and hauled and dumped and filled and covered for another fifteen minutes or so when all of a sudden the entire pot of coffee and fifty two ounces of lemon water I had been drinking all night decided it was time to go. Now. I had poop on my shoes. Poop on my sock (thus on my foot) and dirt all over my hands. I made a mad dash for the house, dragging my treadless crocs on the cleaner parts of the grass, stairs and deck to get as much of the brown stuff off as possible. I be-lined through the kitchen to the basement bathroom. (I used the shower in the utility room down there and I went ahead and changed the laundry, throwing in my poopy dog pants in while I was at it.
The stuff I pulled out of my poopy pants pockets
before throwing them in the washer.
The bad news is I haven’t yet asked my neighbor if they have a pet rabbit for their grandkids. Nor do I know if I just paid respects to the Easter Bunny.
Snuggle and Nap Time!
The good news is that my pants, socks, shoes and feet are all washable.  And that I couldn’t possibly have stayed mad at the dogs. They are so cute and snuggly that as soon as I had showered and fed them, they didn’t give me any choice but to snuggle in with them for a short winter’s nap.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Careful Path of Hope and Wariness

Today marks my 5 year anniversary of being cancer free. When people ask me how I feel, I tell them I feel good. I do. But I also feel tired. I'm tired because of the Epstein Barr and the vitamin deficiency that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. The doTERRA essential oils and supplements help with that.
I guess what I have been feeling lately is not as simple as a physical tiredness, it is more of a weariness rooted in wariness that has nothing to do with my physical health.  In order to explain my, I have to rewind the clock.
I came out as a lesbian to my family and friends 23 years ago this coming January. It was scary and hard, but I had the fire and conviction of youth to spur me on to activism and being in-your-face out.  I went to every pride event I could find.  I used to go to gay bars often, and lesbian dances & concerts, and, of course, the Michigan Womyn's Festival fed my soul like no other place.  I felt safe in that world where women’s voices and women’s lives mattered, no matter their sexual orientation.  I felt surrounded by people who were like me.  Not just queer, but living in our convictions that we were justified in our anger against the establishment, the misogynistic patriarchy.
I met my beloved partner while singing in a mostly lesbian chorus, we sang together for a couple of years, getting to know one another as friends before going on our first date (she brought me a plant).  Deb and I celebrated our 18 year anniversary last June.  Our relationship has lasted longer than most legal marriages in the United States these days. We are in love more now than we were then.  I have a good job with benefits.  Deb and I have a house with a beautiful yard with an underwater mortgage.  Most of my friends are settled and raising amazing kids. I go to a great, welcoming church and I even step into the pulpit or sing there now and then. Really, other than the fact that we cannot get legally married in our state, or have our state recognize it if we get married somewhere else, we live a “normal” life like millions of other Americans.
On a grander scale, since the day I mailed my coming out letters to my family… Gay marriage has been legalized in a some places. There are new treatments for HIV so it is no longer a death sentence for so many of our beautiful young men (and women).  Our country elected our first black president. He repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell. He ordered the justice department to stop defending the unconstitutional Defense Against Marriage Act. He signed a bill making it easier for women to file complaints against employers who pay them less than men for the same work.  And, he came out publicly in favor of gay marriage -which he at first was against, but said he was evolving on the issue-evolve he did!   Equal rights for everyone is on this year’s Democratic National platform.  Now being a dyke doesn't feel so dangerous anymore.  I no longer go to pride festivals as a political protest.  On the rare occasion that I do go to pride, I now think of them as a huge coming out, coming home party.  We have gone to festival twice since being together, and I am confident that the next generation will legalize gay marriage, sometime in my lifetime.  I trust in their ability to transform the world.  I guess you could say I have become complacent. 
Because of that complacency, I have been caught very off guard this election season, which brings me back around to that feeling of weariness.  I am weary of having to be wary of anything that resembles advancements in LGBTQ rights.  
Twenty two years ago, I could point to more concrete obstacles to justify my anger and unease.  No states recognized gay marriage.  Heck, until the religious right began to preach about the dangers of gay marriage, it had never occurred to most of us that that would ever be an option!  It seemed that only the gay community cared that HIV was killing off what seemed like was a whole generation of beautiful, talented young men.  One of my family members announced that I was not allowed to be near his daughters, and another told me not to talk about being lesbian, and to not bring a lover home for the holidays. I had a friend who was kicked out of their rental house when the landlord found out she was a lesbian.  I had at least two more who had been fired for being gay.  I was even trapped in a corner of my mom’s kitchen while one of my siblings told me that she loves me and is very sad that she will never get to see me in heaven.  Lesbians and gay men were routinely losing custody of their children simply because of their sexual orientation. And teenagers were being banned from bringing their same sex partners (or perceived partners) to their proms.  So we had our own gay prom!  Soldiers and marines who were gay risked losing their pensions, their commissions, and their reputations if anyone found out.  The same went for teachers.  I regularly sat on panels to educate college students and teachers as to what it meant to be a lesbian.  I risked my life, literally, if I held my partner’s hand while walking down the street.  When I reported death threats against me for being lesbian, the cop advised me not to file the complaint because I might be labeled and “you wouldn’t want anyone thinking you were that way”.
And now, so many things seem to have changed.  Yet, this election has really brought back my old sense of urgency to stand up and be heard.  I find myself posting more LGBTQ links and pictures than I was before this election season (although I’m probably posting less than I would have if Facebook had been alive 20 years ago).  One presidential candidate has endorsed the rights of LGBTQ people to marry the love of their lives, the love of my life.  One candidate has signed a pledge to support a constitutional amendment banning my partner and I from ever getting married anywhere in the land of the free and the home of the brave, the country where I pay taxes and the country where I was born and will likely die.  He has vowed to tax me and not to represent me, yet he has the backing of the tea partiers, who claim to be all about fighting taxation without representation. 

So, I am weary of having to stay on guard and continue to fight.  I was getting lazy and complacent and trusting that the next generation would fix it.  I didn’t count on my generation jumping in and interfering again and pushing for fear and injustice.  I am wary of trusting any of the few bits of progress that have been made in LGBT rights.  We used to say “we are everywhere”.  Now, not only are we everywhere, but we are no longer invisible.  I mistook visibility for inevitability of gaining rights.  Ellen Degeneres and Will and Grace may have begun to transform popular culture, but evidently not popular politics.  Recent polls say that 62% of Americans are in favor of gay marriage.  So, how can a candidate that has vowed to outlaw gay marriage be claiming 47% of the vote?  (Is that the same 47% he said he didn’t give a rip about?)

So, I am weary and wary, and my political hackles are up in a way that they haven’t been since the 1992 election, when we elected a president that we thought would open the armed forces to lesbian and Gay patriots.  Oops. That was a mistake. The policy went from recruiters asking if recruits have ever been involved in a homosexual experience, to “don’t ask don’t tell”.  At the time, we celebrated, thinking it was an improvement.  Instead, it became a weapon against our own soldiers, marines and sailors.  A weapon wielded with hatred and fear, and bashing many who were trying to protect those who had turned against them.  Wary?  Yes. Weary? Yes. Ever hopeful and convinced that eventually justice will prevail? Yes.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Thanksgiving Blessing of Gratitude

Today, I am grateful for all of my friends in Flesh and ether. I am grateful to the ancesters who came before and paved the way for all of us to be here today. I am grateful to my family of origin and my family of choice for loving me even though I am flawed. I am grateful to all of the beings, flora, fauna and fungus who have given their lives for today's feast. I am grateful for the Mother Earth who sustains us and for Father Sky who fills our lungs with his breath. Blessed Be. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Finding a Lump in the Road

I have been using essential oils the past few months to stay healthy, and to control pain.

I was pain free for over two months until a bit over a week ago, when i felt like i had pulled a muscle doing, well, i had no idea what.  Then, monday afternoon, after essential oils and NSAIDs all failed to ease the pain at all, I reached around to massage the sore area and found a lump.

In the past, the pre-essential oil near miracle past, I would have ignored the pain.  Pain has been a part of my daily life for so long, that I learned long ago to just live with it.  What is one more point of pain?  Well, since i have been pain free fo a few months, I didn't ignore it, but nothing worked to alleviate it.  So, when i massaged my side/back and found a lump, I was a bit worried.

In the past, my pre cancer past, I would have ignored the lump for a few months until somthing else brought me in to the doctor's office.  But I am no longer living in that past and my partner, the nurse, made an appointment for me for Wednesday.

The nurse practitioner thinks it is just a benign fatty tumor, but I am getting an ultrasound this afternoon just to be sure.  And I will have the results sent to my oncologist, just in case.

I have been cancer free for four years and a couple of weeks now.  But, I must admit I have a small niggling fear about this.  I am not letting my fear take over though.  I am doing what I need to do and not freezing with fear, denying anything, or doomsaying.  I am just taking it as it is.  Maybe a pulled muscle. Maybe a pocket of fat I hadn't noticed when I was 43 pounds heavier (yes, 43 pounds lost since this spring).  Maybe something else.  I am just taking it one moment at a time, bound and determined to keep myself from going crazy once again from anxiety and fear.

The Universe will see that I am safe on my journey, wherever it takes me.  Blessed Be.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Sacred Kick in the Butt

written August 22, 2011

Reverend Deane did her first sermon yesterday as the new minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Flint.  She talked about Sacred spaces-physical, mental, emotional and spiritual sacred spaces and sacred moments.  She did a bit of show and tell of what she keeps on her personal altar: a rosary, other prayer beads, a small quilted altar cloth, a buddha statue, and another statue of a guy emulating buddha in his contented contemplative pose (she got him for ten cents at a garage sale or flea market).  She talked about the difference between habit and moments set apart as sacred.  Deane said that the idea of sacredness may or may not involve belief in deity. Much of what she said, I have put into practice myself in the past or present.   Much of what she said was stuff I've taught others in the past.   And, some of what she said reminded me of my own neglect of keeping the sacred in my life.
My house, for one.  I have been sorely neglecting my house.  Among the material clutter and my mental clutter, I have been neglecting to clean as I should, expecting Deb to pick up the messes I leave behind.  That is not fair to either of us, especially when my lapses of timely tidying cause our shared sacred space to fall into energetic stagnation or a physical obstacle course.
Another habit of neglect that I have practiced pretty much all of my life, is the one of leaving things unfinished.  Simple and seemingly innocuous examples of this cam be found in my closet and in my sewing room.  I have a bad habit of sewing something but leading the cuffs unhemmed, or the blanket binding not sewn on.  In one of the bedrooms, I have two windows and only one set of curtains sewn and hanging.  Over the other window hands an old, holey off white flannel sheet that room has remained unfinished that way for at lest five years.  Throughout those years, Deb has gently asked me several times if I'm ever going to make the second set of curtains.  Each time, I say yes, at some point, when I have time or energy or space in the sewing room among all the clutter in there (I did take care of much of that a few months ago, at least), or whatever other excuse I could come up with at the spur of the moment.
All of these unfinished projects came to mind when reverend Deane mentioned that"unfinished business" is one of the big no-nos in the art of feng shuei.
The really big unfinished business that came to mind as she spoke, is that I still have not re-learned French so I can take the test and be done with my undergraduate degree, for feng shuei's sake!  Some fear or other keeps me from it, most likely.  Fear of completion?  (Probably, considering my track record.)  Fear of failure?  (I can't fail if I don't try.)  Or, is it as Marianne Williamson said, a fear of my own success?  (Ummmmm.....)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Eating a Rainbow

I heard or read somewhere, that in order to get proper nutrition, we are supposed to eat as many different colors of food as we can.  Artificial food colorings don’t count.  Lately, I have been trying to eat the rainbow (not Skittles or playing a field of women- a rainbow of food).  Red cherries, strawberries and tomatoes.  Orange carrots, mangos and sweet potatoes.  Yellow corn, bananas and squash.  Green romaine, broccoli and melon.  Blueberries (which is kind of cheating, since everyone knows they are purple).  Purple onions, peppers and grapes.  White eggs, garlic and cheese.  Black rice, olives and beans.  Pink salmon, apples and grapefruit.  Brown wheat, mushrooms and raisins…
I have been especially paying attention to this equation since I’ve started reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  He doesn’t talk about eating the rainbow, but he does point out that since you are what you eat, we Americans are pretty much “corn walking”.  Not that I am against corn, by any means.  I love it on the cob, in my freezer, in my chili and salsa, flattened into tortillas and corn chips, baked into johnny cake, or the more southern style of savory corn bread.  However, it seems that corn is being parsed into so many seemingly different substances, that it is in, well, pretty much everything.  Even most of our meat, when looked at through a mass spectrometer, is corn molecules walking.  (He eloquently explains that corn holds an extra oxygen ion or something that distinguishes its molecules from others.)  This means that most of the nutrients that we eat, which as our hunter-gatherer ancestors knew, should be coming from a variety of plants and animals, instead are coming from one source:  corn.
To take it a step further, much of what goes in to our corn is….petroleum.  Black gold. Fossil fuel.   The large monoculture that has developed around growing corn for food for our cattle, chickens, cars and ourselves, maintains a very strong dependence on petroleum.  It takes gas to ship the seed and the products to and from various parts of the country.  It takes gas to run the combines, tractors and other vehicles necessary to maintain huge swaths of land dedicated to corn (and soybeans in some years).  And, the pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizers dumped on our once fertile farmlands are all made out of…..petroleum.
What happens when the petroleum dries up?  If reducing our dependence on foreign oil is such a national security concern, why are small farmers losing more and more of their security while large agribusiness processors are feeling more and more secure in their mansions of xanthan gum, ascerbic acid, high fructose corn syrup and corn fed, disease ridden animals?  
Perhaps it is because we have come to value the illusion of variety in our foods instead of the real thing.  Perhaps it is because we have come to value the convenience of a quick meal on the run between paychecks over a dinner made together as a family in the kitchen.  Perhaps it is because we subsidize the corn industry with our tax dollars in order to create a glut in the market, just waiting for some savvy business person disguised as a bringer of the next new miracle food which is really the same old thing, some component of corn in disguise.  Perhaps it is because we would rather not recognize the origin of our food.  Perhaps it is all or none of these reasons.
Michael Pollan doesn’t ask these questions, but as I read, these questions arise almost of their own volition out of the most rebellious part of my mind.  For, what can be more rebellious than to question the very substance from which I am made?  Sugar and spice and everything...skeptical.
I have not finished reading the book yet, so my questions will continue as I read about Pollan’s journey to follow four meals from field to table.  (I have a feeling my questions will continue beyond that, since I question everything.)  I recommend this book for anyone interested in issues of ethical eating, nutrition, farming, business, shopping, cooking, eating, fast food, organic lettuce, American politics, hippie lifestyles, grass, corn, cows, chickens, or dirt.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hello Hips

Hello hips, it's been a while.  I haven't been able to find you for the longest time.  You’ve been hiding under baggy pants and layers of extra me.  I haven't even felt the breeze of your sway in a while, until recently.
Now and then, I’ve noticed you coming out of hiding, strutting around as if you had never been ashamed. And the other night, when I rolled over onto my stomach and adjusted the blob of scarred fat covering my belly, I felt the bone of you.  I was sooo happy to feel a hint of your bony presence again!
I remember when my body was first thinking about emerging from girlhood to womanhood.  I thought there was something wrong with my vision, my depth perception because I kept hitting you against desks, chairs, the corners of walls as I made left or right turns.  I'm sorry for all the bruises and bumps you endured during that time.
I also remember, as a young woman celebrating her sensuality, you, Hips, were my favorite body part (although my shoulders, I must admit were also very favored).  I used to lie on my side just so I could appreciate your curvy horizon.
I appreciate the Goddess-inherent, life~holding potential of your wide, sturdy shape. Hips like you are sometimes called "child-bearing hips".
I am sorry, hips, that when I lost the ability to bear children, I tossed you aside, ignored as if I had never reveled in your sensuality, had never known you as my center of gravity, had never called upon the powers between your crests to inspire me toward creativity, had never marveled at your diligent protection of my womb witch, I believed, was my seat and seed of power.
I am sorry, Hips, that I allowed my grief at the loss of my womb to coax me to turn my back on you, to cast away my appreciation of and gratitude to you.
I'm glad that you have started to gently nudge me, to remind me that also, as a crone, I still have power and value as a woman.  I'm glad that you don't necessarily demand the spotlight anymore, yet you make your presence subtly known beneath the fatty layers of my neglect, reminding me that although my womb has been stolen, my true power was deeper than my physical form, it is soul-deep.  
I'm glad that you are not jealous of the other parts that protect and uplift me. 
You, Hips, have always been there for me, even though I turned myself blind to your steadfast presence in the face of my grief.  Now, after the worst of it, you remain, peeking out occasionally to see if I am ready yet to reclaim my body, my center of gravity, my embodiment of the divine.
Hello Hips, so glad to meet you again.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fighting the Establishment to Fight My Fat

I went to a restaurant for lunch today and ended up ordering just black coffee because there was no nutrition information on the menu, in the restaurant or online for this particular large chain restaurant.  I ate when I got home instead.  I decided that unless the food service industry is forced by either consumers or the government, they will continue to poison the public with high fat, high sodium, high calorie, low nutrition foods with neglectful abandon.  So, I wrote this letter to my senators:

Dear Senator ____________,

I am an obese woman who has made a committment to myself to eat properly and excercise more.  I am telling you this because I have found that when I go out to eat, it is very hard to find nutritional information.  My partner is also diabetic and has high blood pressure, so she also has to track her nutrition.  Sometimes, if we are out and about, if her blood sugar drops, running home is not an option and we have to stop to eat right then in order to keep her from serious problems.  I thought that there were laws about restaurants needing to provide nutrition information, but evidently not.  For instance, today we went to Cracker Barrel for lunch (it was one of those emergency moments for her), and they had no nutrition information on the menu.  I asked the waitress for something with that information.  She went to check and found out that there was no nutrition information available in the restaurant for their customers.  I then used my smartphone to find information, and they did not provide anything on their website either.

In this country, we have an epidemic of health issues related to obesity and poor nutrition.  It is vital that all Americans have free access to information on the food that we eat.  Please consider making this a part of your mission as a senator.  We need laws that either provide nutrition information directly on restaurant menus or, at minimum, provide nutrition information at customer request.  (Small, single site restaurants may not need to be subject to this, but multiple site companies- either franchises or chains, should be subject to these requirements.)

I have no idea if there is any pending legislation on this order, or if anything has ever been introduced, passed or rejected in the past.  I just feel that this is an urgent issue in today's climate.

I am just one person dealing with this issue.  There are millions of others as well.  I, for one, would be less likely to order something off of a menu if it said that the calorie count was over 500, and more likely to order something with fewer calories, lower sodium, less fat, fewer carbs and, say higher calcium.  (Did you know that many restaurant salads touted as "healthier" options can run 700-1100 calories per serving?)  If that information is readily available, I believe that Americans would make better informed and healthier choices.  "Out of sight is out of mind" as the old saying goes.  The same goes for nutrition.

Please consider taking this up as an issue in the legislature.

Thank You,


I encourage those of you reading this to contact your legislators, state and federal, to encourage them to require nutrition information to be available to the public.

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Evolution of a Spiritual Tantrum

(written December 26-30, 2010)
I have always maintained faith in a higher power.  In my very early days, my higher powers were my parents and siblings.  It only took a few years before my higher power was found in the church hymns sung in my mother's strong, slightly vibrato voice.  The messages in the music and the sermons and catechismic indoctrination all directed me toward embracing the biblical god as He was painted and sung for me.(although the painting of jesus that hung in our living room had my dad's beard and I always suspected the artist of using him as a model.  This painting still draws my attention when i'm in my sister's living room.)  Here is where things get a bit tricky.  Not only did I believe in the white guy on a cloud, I also believed that god was in every noun (person, place or thing, animal, vegetable or mineral).
When I came out as a radical feminist separatist, my belief in the patriarchal biblical god transformed into a profound feeling of connectedness to the earth and the feminine faces of god-Isis, Gaia, Kuan Yin, Kali and, my favorite-Inanna, the ancient Sumerian goddess who is said to have braved the seven gates of hell, died at the hand of her sister, and came back through the seven gates after three days transformed into a wiser goddess.
Even though I still believe in a higher power, lately I have been having difficulty feeling that deep connectedness that brings the sacred alive to all six of my senses.  I have experienced so much loss this year-Ellen, Walt, Bessie, Kenny (he is important to me because of his fatherly love of my love), and now my beloved furry friend, Cindy.  I don't believe any of them would want me to be closed off from myself, the world, or my higher power due to my heartache over loosing them.  They each looked at the physical and spiritual world with very different lenses (a liberal christian, a pagan, a humanist, a conservative christian, and she who demanded worshipful adoration, mice and canned food) and none of them would want my faith bricked away by my inability to deal with my loss of them.  Most of me understands the changing nature of BEING, a a cycle of birth death and transformation.  I've even written about it here several times.  However, the super-private inner childish part of me with an iron clad no compromise sense of justice is having tantrums in protest of so much grief, loss and injustice perpetuated by this universe/higher power that I love so dearly.  If it has a conscious will, it's just mean and unfair.
I first experienced this awareness of the creator’s hypocritical injustice when I was very young.  It wasn't the story of the prodigal son or of jesus' dad sending him to earth as a human sacrifice that first fueled my indignation.  The mean injustice of god and universe occurred to me in the beautiful harmonies and whimsical brogue of the Irish Rovers singing "The Unicorn Song".  The first time that I remember hearing that song was when my faith in a loving omniscient god first wavered.  (That song was released in the same year I was born-1968, so I probably was hearing it before I understood it, but I was very young either way.)  How, I questioned in my childish brain, could a loving god wipe out the unicorn, when he could have just waited a few more minutes for them to get to the ark?  Even today, I can only listen to that song when I'm alone because it always brings tears to my eyes.  Forget me even singing it, my throat gets tight with the grief and injustice of it all.
Maybe this disquieting separation I've been going through is a replay of my inner childish anger at the injustice of it all-losing the unicorns, the pets, the friends that I love.  Like when I get mad at Deb and I childishly won't talk, or keep silent for fear something really mean or unfair will fly out of my mouth toward her.  Maybe I'm giving my god/goddess/universe the silent treatment and not the other way around.  Maybe I am not listening or communicating with Her, like a child, angry and insecure.  Not insecure of losing my higher power, but of losing myself, and in not trusting myself enough to keep from falling apart in my grief. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Language Void Bubble

(written November 9, 2010)
Yesterday I had my three year post cancer exam.  My CA 125 blood work was only 10.5, which is great.  My pelvic went well.  If I don’t hear anything about my pap in a week or two, it was normal.  Yipeeeeeee!
I have to admit that I feel a great sense of relief.  In three years, this is really the first time that I have had a niggling doubt that something might be wrong.  It is difficult to stay positive when I have been so tired lately.  I have been about as tired as I was when I was diagnosed with cancer.  (I vacuumed the house yesterday, and tried to get the mopping done, and I had to stop twice to take breaks.  A few days ago, in Costco, I leaned up against a stack of boxes and almost fell asleep standing up.  I haven’t done that since I was going through chemo and radiation.)  Although energy wise, I am getting a little better than I was a month ago.  Once I’ve been awake about three and a half hours, no matter how awake and energetic I was upon waking, my eyelids start to lower, my eyes start to blur and I have to fight to stay awake.  Each morning, I think, wow, I feel so much better today, maybe I’m normal again!  Then, a few hours later, I start pooping out. 
The tiredness isn’t even what is scaring me the most.  I am forgetting things.  Some days I’m mostly fine and only forget a word once or twice and I can come up with an alternative word within about 5-20 seconds.  But, there have been a couple of times when I’ve been in the middle of saying something and it is as if there is a bubble of silence in my brain.  It feels as if I have no ability to access language of any sort at those times.  I picture myself as a cartoon character chattering away, with a string of words coming out of my mouth when a big, impermeable air bubble blocks out all access to any more words.  A moment of panic sets in, my mouth stops running because it has no way of knowing what sounds to make.  My brain wouldn’t understand how to interpret those sounds at that moment anyway.  In my panic, I can feel myself close my eyes and take a deep breath, as if I am trying to breath the words back into my brain from the ether around me.  I feel like I am suffocating in a way.  Not suffocating for air, but for language, for ideas.  I can’t even form a coherent thought during those times.  All I can do is gasp and grasp for something that I had a moment ago but is gone.  I am totally aware at the time of what is happening, and that terrifies me.  I feel like I go somewhere else for a moment.  I don’t think that eternity of languageless panic lasts more than a few seconds at a time, but it’s hard to tell.  It’s almost as if time is suspended, set aside in that same place where my language has gone.  I guess I need to remember to ask whoever I’m talking to how long I go without talking.  It usually happens in the middle of a sentence, so it’s probably pretty noticeable.  It is definitely noticeable to me.
Friday evening, I found out that my disability insurance only approved a week and a half of payments.  I had no idea.  I called them to tell them that the nurse practitioner wants to extend my leave, and oh, by the way, I’ve got a gap in the checks coming in, do you know when the next one is due?  They said that chronic fatigue is too vague of a diagnosis and that they had sent me a letter requesting all doctor’s notes, test results, etc.  I never received the letter.  They said that they also called me, but I had privacy manager so they couldn’t get through.  I explained that all you have to do is say who is calling and the call will go through.  I told them that I am having trouble staying awake for more than about 4 hours at a time, and that is why they are keeping me off work.  She said that they need scientific verifiable proof.  Of course, now I’m freaking out because I don’t know how they determine what numbers of this or that verify that I am losing my mind and my energy.  What if the numbers aren’t bad enough?  Do I go back to work, knowing that I am impaired, since, after all, I’m not communicable or dying, I’m not unable to walk and talk and drive, I can see (even though stuff is blurry much of the time due to the exhaustion, and it makes it hard to read some times), I can hear, I am coherent most of the time.  My Epstein-Barr Virus numbers have slightly improved, I’m not anemic, I don’t have Celiac’s disease, my diabetes is not out of control (A1C is 6.2), and my basic blood work is within normal range.  But for some reason, my B vitamins have dropped even further even though I have been taking the supplements and getting jabbed with a needle to get vitamin infusions (my last scheduled one was today, as I began writing this).  I want to know why my vitamin B levels are dropping when they are mainlining the stuff into my veins.  I start B12 injections this week at home.
(the rest of this was written November 11, 2010)
Tomorrow I go for memory testing.  I am hoping that they will be able to figure out what’s going on.  It does seem worse when I’m stressed (like finding out I don’t have any more money coming in for a while) or when I’m tired (been awake more than 4 hours).  I have a real fear of this because my grandma and two aunts died of Altzheimer’s.  My Aunt Ronnie and my Grandma forgot how to do everything, including eat and eventually swallow.  My Aunt Annie forgot that she was allergic to bees.  Also, my mom had a couple of strokes in her lifetime, with the big one messing with her language center, confusing her thoughts and blocking certain words from her mind for months.  So, with language being such an important part of my identity, I am really scared that this stuff may be permanent.  Hopefully, it’s just related to the vitamin deficiency.  My fear is probably totally unwarranted.  Hopefully I will find out more tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stumbling Along the Path to Exhaustion and Trying to Find My Way Back

I love those rare, fleeting moments when my eyes can look directly into the face of the sun without being seared with light.  This morning, for about 10 seconds, the thick fog lingered between me and the sun and acted as a liaison, almost as if the sun and I were having a secret tryst, as my partner and I drove toward yet another Doctor’s appointment.
This is her third doctor’s appointment in two days.  I had my appointment with a nurse practitioner yesterday.  I’ve had a sore throat for over a month.  Never one to go to a doctor unnecessarily, this was my third time for this.  It turns out that I have Epstein-Barr Virus, which is the virus that causes mono and chronic fatigue.
I can’t remember if I blogged about my absolute bone-weary exhaustion right before I was diagnosed with cancer or not.  After my diagnosis, I just attributed that exhaustion to my body fighting off the cancer.  Now, I’m thinking it may have been EBV.  The blood work shows I’ve had it for quite a while and that it was even more active in the past than it is now.
I went on the CDC website and found out that 95% of American adults have EBV, but most of the time it lies dormant and does no harm.  But, sometimes it flares up and causes mono, or lingers in the system enough to cause chronic fatigue syndrome.  My viral load shows that I have a chronic problem with it.  And here, I’ve been telling people-including myself and my doctors- that Of course I’m tired all the time- I work midnights!  I have, a few times, told the doctors that I was more tired than usual.  This was the first time anyone checked me for mono or EBV (or vitamin B, I'll talk about that in a minute).  It has never occurred to me to go to the doctor for being tired.  I’ve just always dealt with it, I push myself until I get an hour or a day to collapse and sleep the sleep of the dead.  During those extra-tired times, on the nights that I work, I keep switching up what I do to keep me awake and reasonably alert:  read, crosswords, exercise, sudoku puzzles, draw, color, Kakuru puzzles, write in my journal, drink coffee, take vitamin B12, shake my head back and forth, etc.  The cues I look for that show me that it is time to switch activities include:  needing to read the same paragraph over and over in order to try to understand it, blurred vision, slowed breathing, illegible handwriting, forgetfulness, eyes crossing, stomach clenching, brain fogging, slurred speech...When one or more of these things happen, I switch what I do.  Lately, I have been physically tired to the point where exercise seemed impossible, reading has been impossibly frustrating, and my journal entries have started out fine, but ended in an unreadable, incomprehensible babble of scribbles.  Kakuro and coloring seem to be working best for me.  Kakuro uses some math skills and logical thinking, parts of my brain that I don’t use in everyday situations.  (Not to mention that they are really hard, and when I get my mind on finishing one, I get so stubborn that I won’t stop until it’s finished, and that stubbornness keeps me alert and wide awake.)  So, I’ve been doing those and they have worked really well.  Then, on the way home from work in the morning,  I stop at the rest area to sleep.  I tell myself that I’m only going to sleep for 15-20 minutes.  I make sure my car is locked, recline my seat, set the alarm on my cell phone and...hit the snooze and...hit the snooze and...sleep through the alarm.  Then I finally wake, stumble inside to use the bathroom- sometimes brushing my teeth and washing my face helps to get the cobwebs out of my brain enough to drive again, and sometimes, the guy that works there and I talk for a bit.  Then, I get back into the car and sometimes I make it all the way home, and sometimes I pull into the Meijer parking lot, or one of the malls, check to make sure my car is locked, recline my seat, set the alarm on my cell phone and…
So, I’m tired lately.  I’ve been missing church, not writing my blog, not remembering things, not getting housework done (except enough laundry to keep me in clean underwear), not working on training the dogs everyday as I’d committed to do.  Instead, I’ve been sleeping in rest areas, staring like a zombie at the TV because I'm too tired and have been fighting sleep too well, uncomprehending of what is being said, eating whatever Deb feeds me, forgetting words and conversations, and sleeping.  I’ve called in to work twice with this sore throat and exhaustion so bad that I was not safe to drive, let alone work.  I’ve been sanitizing any phones and other surfaces I use at work, thinking I might be contagious, not wanting my co-workers to all come down with sore throats and exhaustion.  But, since I’ve never french-kissed (or even dry kissed) a co-worker (okay, not since I was 18 or 19 working in the campus kitchen), I don’t need to worry about them getting EBV from me.
Not only is my EBV not catchy with casual contact, neither is my extreme vitamin B deficiency.  I seem to be the lowest in B that the nurse practitioner has ever seen, even though I’ve been taking a B complex at least 3 times a week to try to get some energy, and even taking extra B12 most nights that I work (it is supposed to give you extra energy, and on normal nights it does help).  None of it has helped lately with energy.  I even tried one of those disgusting tasting 5 hour energy drink things, which is a combination of caffeine and B vitamins, and it didn’t touch my exhaustion.  Well, my body is either sucking it all down like an old piece of dried wood does with water, or somehow I’m not metabolizing vitamins B for some reason.  That is part of my tiredness as well.  So, for the next 6 weeks or so- I’m supposed to sleep as much as my body wants, take B complex every day, B12 every day, sleep some more, take extra vitamin C, eat properly, sleep some more, get 2 vitamin infusions at the doctor’s office every week, and rest- not work.  (As I am writing this, Deb just gave me a quiz she found in a Diabetic magazine about B12 deficiency.  Turns out that it causes tiredness, forgetfulness, etc.  I have told all of my doctors that I am having memory problems, I have been telling them for the past 3 years, and none of them checked me for b vitamin deficiencies until now.  Turns out that the neurological problems-forgetfulness, confusion, and irritability can all be caused by B12 deficiency, not only that, but without early intervention, these can be permanent!!  I’m a bit mad about this, that no one thought to check this.)
Part of me is relieved to have permission and time to sleep.  Part of me, the bigger part, feels stupid and selfish for taking time off because I am tired.  I feel like I am cheating, and not being fair to my co-workers who will have to cover my shifts.  After all, doesn’t everyone get tired sometimes?  I feel guilty.  And tired.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In the Beginning: The Story of Zen Wintergreen

Written September 13, 2010
Sunday night, I left earlier than usual for work.  On my default radio station, NPR, was a show called “Radio Lab” and they were exploring language, the role that it plays in our communications with each other, our thought processes, and even our identity as human beings.  ( )  In a way, it reminded me of the chicken or the egg question.  They looked at language from a lot of different directions.  One direction they looked was toward researchers who studied concept words such as “blue” and “left” to see at what age people grasped intangible concepts (around age 6).  They went even further to see how adults would comprehend those words if their language skills were taken away.  I’m not going to tell you how they did this, or the result, but I will say I’m curious to try that experiment for myself.  Any volunteers?
I try to listen to that “small, still voice” inside-you know, the one that helps me know who I am in the world, the one that tells me right from wrong and now from then.  Well, one of the people they interviewed for Radio Lab, Jill Bolte Taylor, wrote a book called My Stroke of Insight.  In this book, she recalls her experience of having a stroke.  One day her small, still voice was silenced, along with her chatty voice, her voice that questions, her loud voice, the voice of her intellect, the voices of her whole world- were gone.  She couldn’t speak or understand language.  Words meant nothing, they were just sounds to experience in the ether.  She said during the interview that when there was no language for her, there was just joy.  She also said that she felt experientially connected to the world in a way that is blocked by the interference of language.  Wow.
Thinking about that concept reminds me of one moment that I had, about 9-10 years ago.  I may have told this story here before, but it bears telling in this context as well:
I was at the beach with Deb and my sister and her partner.  We were in the water at a very busy park.  There were kids laughing and splashing, parents throwing beach balls, geese flying over, college boys belching and grilling, dog tails wagging, babies squealing and teenagers trying to impress one another.  You get the picture, a lot was going on around me.  I laid back in the water, lifted my feet off the sand and just floated, with my ears below the surface and my eyes closed to the rays of the sun.  I could hear and feel the ripples of sound and movement in the water.  I could feel the sun on my face and the different water temperatures.  I could smell the smoke from the grills that the slight fish smell of the seaweed.  I could see shadows cross my eyelids as things shifted in space.  I also felt totally present in the moment and place where I was.  I felt connected to the people around me.  I felt present in my body, in the water, in the world, like I’d never felt before.  All of this happened in a moment suspended in a silence without words, without time.  It felt endless, but it was really probably no more than 2 or 3 seconds.  Then, the foreign invasion of language happened.  I found myself laughing out loud and thinking, “Zen!  This is Zen.  I am zen.”  Then I said it out loud to my sister and our partners, and “it” was gone.  The Zen was gone.
In my wold-up until the moment that the word “zen” popped into my brain, I believed that language had ALWAYS anchored me more securely in any experience, bringing life and reality to something otherwise not quite whole.  For instance:  there was the time that I saw an unfamiliar small green plant in the woods.  I pinched it and smelled it and immediately gave it the name “wintergreen”.  Suddenly my brain was inundated with all of the knowledge and experience that I associated with that word:  minty fresh strong smell, breath mints and gum, and now, surprisingly, not looking at all like anything in the mint family whose names I knew.  I catalogued those names, throwing them out of the wintergreen family one at a time for their dissimilar shape, color, texture (each named in an instant):  peppermint, spearmint, catnip, bee balm, lemon balm and maybe creeping charlie (which may or may not really be in the mint family, but it spreads like mint and has a slightly warm smell and pretty purple flowers).  “Wintergreen”, I believed that word anchored me to the experience of seeing it in the wild for the first time.  (After that exercise, I’m kind of surprised that I wanted to place it in the category with the word “mint” at all.  After all, mint and balm are not part of the verbal equation beginning with wintergreen.)
Up until my moment of zen without words, I had assumed that that word-anchoring, which widened my base of knowledge, meant also anchoring and expanding the experience itself.  But really, when the word ‘zen” was put onto the moment by me, I immediately left that place of connection and visceral experience.  I connected the experience with the word which connected me to all the other words I had read that describe the experience of zen, the theories, the koans, the philosophies that I had read in words about a concept of which I had previously had no concept.  I had, with that one thought word, erected a buffer, a wall of language around the experience.  I thought the word, the wall of language would hold that moment as one of pure unsullied existence, protected in the concreteness of solid words.  Instead, my wall of words cut off all of that connectedness which I had felt before the Word, then separated it into quantified and categorized information bits in my brain.  Just like that time of finding the wintergreen was not enhanced or expanded by all of the outside mental language that I attached to it.  That wintergreen moment was seared into my brain during that unadulterated cold/hot eye-watering sinus clearing brain fog burning experience of being in and of that smell, under a tree, by a small creek, the instant before the word “wintergreen” entered my mind.  That was the experience being seared into my being.  The thoughts of Altoids and mouthwash came in the form of words into my brain, fooling me into believing that now that I had named it, it was more real than the smell in my nostrils, when really it was all just words.  The smell, the feel, the taste of wintergreen were what was real.
Don’t get me wrong- as a writer, I love language, Words for me are a way of life, a way of defining life for myself and of defining the world around me.  I do my best to describe indescribable experiences and thoughts within the finite bounds of endless combinations of 26 letters and some spaces.  When really, it is in the silence of those spaces that authentic experiences and meanings lie.  The really important “things” in life are found in those spaces and silences, the smells and tastes, sounds and sensations in that moment before any word intrudes.
In the beginning, there was BEING.  And then came the Word and with the word came the illusion of the beginning.  And with the illusion of the beginning came the illusion of the certainty of the word.