Friday, October 31, 2008

Task #98

Something Out of Character

Most people would describe me as analytical, focused, a rule-follower that is very goal oriented. My achievement orientation often causes a lot of mistakes or humorous experiences. For instance, I often miss details. I once wore a pair of shoes for two months with the new shoe tissue in the toes until a friend who borrowed them pulled them out and laughed “what is WRONG with you?” I am a do-er a mover, a shaker, I’ve got places to go, I can’t slow down for tissues! So you get the point. I am far from creative.

But in doing this list, I am forced to try things perhaps I wouldn’t do on my own. I use the list as an excuse to experience new things and try out different versions of myself.

Embarking on task #98 has brought a lot of laughs out of my circle of loved ones…”you’re doing what?”

“I am making an audition tape to be on a reality TV show.”

“But you don’t watch reality TV…do you?”

“Only ones with food…:

And thus, I began to prepare an audition tape for the Next Food Network Star. I basically spent all weekend thinking of my unique perspective, of designing a fun recipe, of organizing a spontaneous script. I wasn’t going to write anything down. I was just going to practice the words and phrases and follow my gut…and that’s what I did this weekend…I creatively shaped and plucked and paid attention to details. The words. The ingredients. The instruction, the inflexion. It was a masterful exercise in creativity, not taking myself too seriously, but trusting myself as well.

My friend Yvonne came on over and filmed it for me, and then kindly stuck around to make sure my fabulous Break-up brownies were mildly edible (they were! I ate almost half the pan that afternoon!). It was embarrassing at first to be speaking this to an audience, but I quickly became comfortable…I was having fun!

Watching yourself brings about a whole new self-consciousness that defies even middle school angst. Have you ever made a tape of yourself? There is a degree of foreignness there: that’s my voice? My demeanor? Could that really be me? Yep it is…that’s me.

Watching the video releases a small cringe in me. I hope to be creative and enjoy myself, but the task reveals an undertow that says “I have something to say. I want to be heard.” It’s an audition after all: I am attempting to convince the judge of my value as a contestant.

This is one task that is not about the end result. It is HIGHLY unlikely that I will be taken seriously, but that was not the point. The purpose was to engage in something I’ve never done before that others would say “wasn’t typical” of me….but perhaps, as I check off task after task, I become a person that defies typicality in whatever I endeavor.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A New Relationship!

Last night I had an excellent date. Conversation flowed easily from politics (we disagree) to our family members to experiences in our lives that bring us joy. He ordered me wine and complained to the waitstaff when my fish was over charred. He shared his bread, and insisted on paying the bill. He complimented my appearance and made me feel feminine but strong and capable.

It is a joy to announce that I have befriended Jack who is 86 years old. He had a somewhat “bad” week, although he would never describe it in those terms. Men of his generation don’t complain. They bear it, but not grinning. So it was an easy choice for me to change plans at the last minute to be in his company.

Jack is one of my most favorite companions, and we visit weekly. The 2006 consensus estimated that 1.7 % of almost 300 million Americans are over the age of 85 (5.1 million people!). That’s a pretty big number…for an invisible group of people. They are even called the invisible generation.

There are numerous stigmatizations against this population, true, but even more detrimental is the fact that we isolate them from our day to day experiences. Think about it…when is the last time you spent quality time with someone in this category?

Contrary to popular conviction that learning ends with one’s formal education, adults are constantly in the posture of learning and formation. Learning as an adult is a form of empowerment, where formation leads to positive growth and change. It instills me with a newfound sense of responsibility to seriously consider my own role in my formation. I sometimes hinder my own learning by just following my routine, doing what is comfortable rather than exposing myself to new experiences (Thus my list!). I know I can open myself up more to listening to the perspective of my friend, for instance.

Adults are always engaged in a cyclical mode of development, and have the potential of changing themselves and making an impact on the learning of others. My friendship with Jack is the best class I’ve ever taken in my life. With three masters and a PhD, and a butt load of loans, that statement packs a big punch.

What relationship stretches your perspective?

#3 Befriend Someone over 80

I just wrote about my friendship with Jack and those relationships that teach us...but let me tell you a little more about why this was on my list...

Jack tells me frequently that the number one problem people his age face is lonliness. He has a supportive family and attends church, and has the blessing of a caretaker who spends hours with him most days of the week. But interacting with people not in his age range is difficult. Many people in nursing homes, most he tell me, only have visitors a few times each YEAR! Can you imagine not having any conversation, about the weather, the price of gas, Dancing with the Stars, how salty those French fries were, for the entire month?

The main reason I wanted to befriend a person over 80 was the fact that I was lonely, too. I had recently moved to the area and establishing friendship takes patience, tempo, timing. I needed to feel connected to something. It was pretty quick getting set up as a volunteer at the closest assisted living/nursing home to my house. Within two weeks, I was connected with Jack. For the last four months, I’ve seen him weekly. I sent him postcards from Costa Rica. I pick up snacks for him at the market, and clip out funny comics or bring him pictures kids make for me. He tells me stories of his youth, gives me advice about the economy and willingly philosophizes with me on a variety of topics. He is bright, friendly, and he likes me. Jack makes me feel like I belong. Like I matter.

“Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is madeby the friends we choose.”

Tennessee Williams

Hands down, Jack is one of the biggest blessings of my life right now. I am less lonely because of him, and I hope, he is less lonely because of me.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

stages of grief

Saturday morning stretched out before me with endless possibilities, and I breathed in its potential: I could do anything I wanted today. I didn’t want a plan. I curled my toes in my bed and quickly calculated how long it had been since changing the sheets, advancing to the assessment of the dustiness of the hardwood floors, which meant laundry and some sweeping. My heart craved heading up to Seattle and just sitting in a cafĂ© and writing. I climbed out of bed, realizing that I could adhere to those responsibilities in lickety split time and then head up to seattle. Hopes shattered turned into a mental note of how ingenious I was…this plan was perfect.

First, I needed to make a call…and that’s when it happened. The cell phone was dead…sitting in a minute quarter size of water on the kitchen counter. I tried everything for about an hour, solutions that involved googling, unistalling, blowdrying, walking away and returning…then proceeded researching new, used phones and my plan. THIS was ruining the plans of my unplanned day.

I became obsessed. The failed cell phone signifying my carelessness as well as my isolation. Suddenly, phone calls seemed paramount. Measuring how much I should spend on a new one possessed my fleeting thoughts. Considering taking into a company store while perusing Craiglist searching for a good deal. An hour passed, then two. I visited cell phone websites and calculated prices and the cost of being off the wire for a few days while it shipped. I emailed a dozen merchants or sellers and researched buying a used cell phone and methods of sacrifice to the cellular battery Gods to get the thing back online. I went through stages of grief: denial (the battery is just dead) anger (Verizon Sucks! Why can’t they make phones waterproof?) bargaining (if the phone comes back online I’ll name my first child Motorola) depression (why is the world so cruel and I am so incompetent)…I am still waiting on that acceptance part.

I guess the point of this story is how easily I get sidetracked and impatient with unexpected bumps along the road. I did manage to get the laundry done, and after three hours of this dilemma, I walked out of my front door and drove an hour north to a funky coffee, resisting the strong urge to pull over at the cell phone store and buy a new phone or a new battery. The compulsion is to FIX the problem RIGHT now, because I don’t make it right, rectify my idiotic lack of detail.

So, against all my brain efforts, I promise myself NOT TO FIX this problem for the weekend. I’ll return to it on Monday if possible. In the meantime, I’ll live off the grid and learn to live with it that uncomfortable compulsion…not acceptance, but a compromise at the very least.

(Confession: had to go by the store 3.5 hours later just to find out for sure… after a few glasses of chianti and a few hours surfing craigs list, acceptance feels good!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

#11 and #36 in ONE!

Visiting a Washington Winery
Picking an Apple from a Washington Farm

East of here, through the mountains, the Washington land produces sweetness. Sugars for which it is known. The almost three hour drive from my house offers an array of landscapes to stimulate the journey…moving from freeway emerald city urban, the deciduous ski country, giving way to fertile low lands, and then desert shrubs, and then, pow! Areas of orchards, vineyards, speckled with huge barns that read FRUIT ANTIQUES!

I guess the tradition here is so old that you can purchase fruit antiques.

Eastern Washington speckles color right now, the fingers of the fauna shooting off color and teasing the eye…maybe you’ll find something sweet here.

I needed to get away this weekend. I required, as the saying goes, “a change in perspective” What was so wrong with the perspective I was taking before my trip? Two words jump to mind: anxiety and complacency. The anxiety I believe boiling up and down due to all the negativitiy and uncertainty surrounding me these past few weeks. You see, it is in my job description and most likely personality structure to find things that are deficient, impaired, weak and “fix them.” I pay attention to the uncomfortable aspects of experiences, both on a case by case basis and on a cultural level. It is ingrained into my demeanor to notice such energies and analyze them, and most often, to respond to them in order to give way to relief, or improvement of some sort.

And my experience has lead to efficiency at it.

Yet, one cannot provide sufficient relief for many problems. Suffering often sums up greater than the hope I am engendering. It is in these seasons, usually a period of 5 weeks, that I find I need to “reset” “revision” and allow myself to accept grace and start my perspective fresh.

Thus, the escape. For me, traveling (which is self defined as staying at least one night away) most often enables this catalyzing change in perspective.

This weekend I found myself saying “everyone is so more friendly around here.” They would recommend that I spend my money at different business than their, they would throw their heads back in easy laughter, they would easily reminisce about a story and so easily shared their passions when encouraged. One man called me “trouble” which I am when I am my most authentic happy K. And this got me to acknowledge that perhaps it wasn’t just the people of the place that were more open, more congenial and approachable and more community-minded. It was me. It was my fundamental approach to the experience to embrace it fully and make the Positivity mine. Now, it’s true the equation doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes the people aren’t so friendly no matter how open you are (I think of Paris). Even then, however, I do believe it is a synergy, this traveling. Traveling can reveal insecurity (let’s say with French pronunciation) and a sense of inadequacy (in navigating Paris’ streets) and a feeling of inferiority (in anything artist or edible). These feelings may be carried like invisible luggage and that burden may prevent you from truly being free and thus you don’t find the place or the people or the experience liberating at all…

Most of the time, however, I like the version of myself when traveling. I am more capable, more grateful, less analytical, more trusting of my intuition, less goal oriented and more gracious all around. This weekend I found myself noticing light, watching the colors around me more easily. I shot pictures without action or identification in them at all. This is not like me. I’ve expressed to others that I disdain about traveling pictures…you can’t even tell YOU were there” I like to stamp my pictures with something connecting me to it. Functionality is key. I consider “will I print this? Would someone actually like to look at this picture? Place it on a fridge.

This weekend, however, I took multiple shots of the same object just for the exposure to multiple perspectives. A young bud of practice…

The change of perspective, whether gained from traveling (to wine country), the words of an expert (it’s cancer) or a relationship (Mom, I want some more water) powerfully marks our lives in a way that we too quickly habituate to. I want to be the “Traveling K” more in the “Normal Day K” or even the “Weekend K” or “Lunchbreak K”…

Who are you when traveling?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Letter to my body

Body letter

The task involved writing a short letter to our bodies. Well, not a community endeavor, because that would be a different audience, a collective purpose. No, this task was more specific, singular: MY BODY. Using MY VOICE. From MY HEAD. There was too much to say to jam into the parameters of X amount o words. I have a lot to say to my body. I have a lot of shaping to do, a lot of correcting, a lot of guiding and providing it insight. Most of the things I say are done out of positive intentions: It should be more proud, it should be less ashamed. Some of it was apologetic, requesting forgiveness. Across a month I attempted to produce some bit of communication, and yet a rebellion occurred. The voice emerging not mental in nature at all. It was my heart that spoke. My head wasn’t ruling over and wisely advising my body in the usual modus operand. No, the distant tone insisting the audience was my body. My body finally asserted that IT had something to declare to my mind, to the core of me.
Here is my body’s letter to my mind. Dear audience, do it justice and speak it aloud. This is not the space for shyness. Do not isolate it to the corners of your brain. It demands to be spoken, infused with the elixir of your lungs, your diaphragm, your breathy throat. Please, speak my heart.
Speak me
Speak me

You react to me as if I am unruly. You insist that I behave
You attempt to tame my appetites. You bind up my feet, cover up my lines and disguise my softness. You regulate my tempos, minimize my cycles, ignore my flow.
You attempt to mold me in some image for a crown you crave.
You minimize me in order to gain entry into a party room that does not have your name on the guestlist.
I scare you. I mesmerize you. I confuse you…you fail to notice how I swell, alter, shift. You’d rather forget me altogether.

You have got it all wrong.
I am not something you merely “have a relationship with”
I am not the foreign-tongued enemy that you bomb from distant lands, assuming your superiority. I am not the bestfriend to whom you whisper your secrets when the sun submerges.
I am not separate. Distinct. Something you possess, seize, rule.
I don’t belong to you.
I am not an image you have, a shape shifting mirage in the desert of your spiritual thirst.
I am not a part of you: the seeing part, the breathing part, the bleeding part, the fat or thin part.
I am all that you are:
An announcement of vigor, vulnerability.
The sacred, the secular

So… I will not beg for your mercy.
I will not crawl and request that you stop apologizing for me.
I will not defend my desires or barter for gratification.
There will be no passive-aggressive revolt against your discrimination.
There is no repentance required. No abdication to forgive.
Just the denouncement of illusionary exile.
And the proclamation of being.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hands and Home

Hands. Doing Something with your hands, shaping something into something else. Creating a whole from smaller parts. Seeing your contribution matter. I recently wrote about mattering and after volunteering just two times for Habitat, I know that this is the feeling it engenders. The connection, the clear fact that my behavior is leading to a positive outcome in this world full many negative ones. Contribution brings relief. The focus off of myself, temporary freedom from what-ifs, the if-onlys, if-this-then-that’s. When I feel connected and doing things that actually bring positive change, my self preoccupation is dampened. My dissertation involved looking at what youth articulate as being purposeful in their lives, and many of them noted areas of service. Perhaps they were just trying to impress the researchers, in a similar way that I attempt to curry the recognition o my supervisors. And yet deep down, I think people get this…we matter to others. In these days of anxiety about our futures, it is easy to become singular. To cease from giving in an attempt to reserve our resources. When we live in a culture of depravity, it is easy to become isolated. Perhaps a haven in the midst of the upheaval is to start seizing our non financial assets. To mobilize and capitalize on our ability to attend to the needs of others. To contribute. To stand up and cast our vision, our votes. To commit to one hour a week focused on a volunteer effort. Something that feels “like work” initially and slowing transforms into an investment with high dividends. Again, I say: You, you are part of me. We participate in the becoming of others. And this is what matters to me right now.

#13 Habitat for Humanity

There is something fundamentally inspiring in helping a person build a home. Our faith and ability to experience pleasure develops as our capacity to grow communally develops. And the more we exclude or confine ourselves to like-minded people, the more limited our gratitude remains. Too often we mark out “this is my space, this is yours.” Stay on this side of the line. That line can mark being female, having a certain educated, claiming to be a particular faith or voting party, living in a certain neighborhood or country, having a significant relationship or not.

For many moments in my life, these boxes have constrained my ability to experience life fully. And I am proud that the list is helping me shatter some of those boxes…and I find balance that it is in the act of building a box for someone to live in that my own are destroyed.

What is home to you? I heard numbers once that most Americans move every 4 years. I would guess that the number is higher for those of us 35 and under, perhaps shifting to move jobs, alter relationship status, finish parts of our education or training. And this mobility can exacerbate a loss of identity, a diminishment of affiliation, a forced letting go of ritual and an abandonment o ritual. All the things to me, that says home.

“Hello, Welcome” “You can trust this place” “You know what to expect” “You can go out and explore the world, but you will come back to this place of groundedness” “This is safe”

Homes define us. Which is why so many of us feel pressured to “own” them (see previous post here) But more than a place with things, I believe home is our sense of groundedness. A sense of being nourished, a sense of cultivating roots in our beings…

And those foundations MUST be connected to others.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Guilt Assault of the dirty microwave

How often do you resist the experiences that feel good to your body?
I was laying in bed this morning, sipping on Costa Rican coffee and wiggling my toes in the bed blanker while spooning up a chapter from my latest infatuating read. Heaven! Peace!
And then WHAM!
I got out of bed to warm up my coffee and noticed crap in my microwave. Deflation! Dirt! Bleach to the rescue! Must sanitize it! NOW! Deflation…REGRET. The thought was somehow that instead of sinking into the experience of pleasure, I should be doing something more productive. I had to sanitize my laziness and redeem it somehow.
For me, at times my body feels intolerable of my spirit, as if one were completely distinct from the other. The body and spirit feels as if they operate as rivilary teams---only one side can win at a time, and no matter what authority figures have told you, it is NOT about how you play the game. And yet, my moments of most aliveness are when the body and spirit raise white flags, call a truce, and decide to marry, even if for a brief, succulent twenty minutes. While I can sometimes articulate the triggers to this alignment, it cannot be manufactured or artificially designed.
What I do know is that at the moment when my body feels pleasurable, fear is present. It is hard to confess, but I feel as if I must point that out to myself, acknowlede and be mindful of that emotion of worry, anxiety, alarm. Dread accompanies the union as an inherited dowry of the union, because, as the pleasure swells, both appetites are momentarily appeased. First, initial release and exhiliration…quickly followed by guilt, the OH! Of expected dissapointment that the moment will soon pass. I often will then limit the experience of pleasure to be in control of its disminishment or to prevent getting overtaking by the allure of it and losing all sanity together. Silliness, I know…but the true fear is that the pleasure will transform me into a bed of impulses inducing unmanageable promiscuity, an unfaithfulness.
Yet true appeasement does not have to leave a mark of regret. Does it?
With a sparkling clean microwave you’d think that I’d be able to return to reading. But I couldn’t. The moment had passed…and so I turned to writing, the neutral zone of the warfaring fields. How often do you resist the experiences that feel good to your body?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Yep! I rode a motorcycle for the first time this last week! Let me tell you, there is something incredibly freeing about whizzing on a bike on the highway. The engagement with your surroundings makes the journey more alive, pulsing, more aware of the other travelers on the road, the details of the scenery, the state of the air and weather. Like any new experience involving the description "primal scream therapy" there was an inital fear and hestitancy...but after a few minutes of deep breathing, the fear of getting railed by another car lessened, and lo and behold, my body, my spirit relaxed. A balance ensued between adrenaline and new experience and peace, quite similar to experiences in Costa Rica. The next step is riding some more...

About Me

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PhD in clinical psychology. Single. Pushing 30. Suffering Whiplash from the Roaming 20s...Who am I? What do I want? Where do I belong? Welcome to my self-induced treatment, a testament that we can all be a little crazy in our search for significance.