Category Archives: sustainable

Message from the Universe/Broadway: Believe Stronger

We are living in uncertain, and unnerving, times.

frodo light of galadriel lotr

I combat the pervasive feelings of anxiety and fear by striking back against the dark, including seeing, supporting, and singing Broadway musicals.

Here in Portland, I was lucky enough to see Newsies last year, a favorite from childhood. This year, I saw Finding Neverland, which I’d never heard of, and which I didn’t feel particularly excited about. I sat through the first act, breaking into a few smiles but not essentially moved, as I usually am, by the music and song and emotion.

Then there was the finale of the first half, Stronger. Amazing. The playwright, J. M. Barrie, has to find a scary alter-ego within himself to cultivate enough backbone to go ahead with his new material, in the face of threats and criticism. What a zinger!

I went online afterwards, the background pirate vocals and foot-stomps singing in my ears, and found Kelsey Grammer performing the role of Captain Hook! I also saw a video of the Broadway cast performing Believe, an earlier number which I’d enjoyed but passed over. The play didn’t have me yet.

But when I watched the cast perform the song for a network show, it came to life. The resistant cynic being plied with positivity until he caves in and joins the others to imagine a better and more interesting world. (Not that the world isn’t interesting, but when one’s father has died and one has to conform to Edwardian behavioral mores…I could see how it would seem depressing for a kid.)

So, there I had it: my two favorite numbers from Neverland, which I haven’t been able to stop singing, are:

Believe

Stronger

As Tosha Silver might say, Not. Even. Subtle.

 

Images via Council of Elrond

Self-Aware Bodies

systems of the body

How well do you know how your body works?

  • better than you know your car?
  • better than you know your career field?
  • better than you know your way through your house in the dark?

Have you ever wondered why this playground that you were born with came to be shrouded in secrecy, only to be revealed to doctors with pedigrees and trusted lovers?

Let’s try some questions:

  1. Can you point to your sacrum?
  2. Do you know a stretch for your hamstring?
  3. How do you avoid a muscle popping around your knee?

If you can answer these, I bet it’s despite your schooling, not because of it. At least that is the case with me. I had a terrible biology class in my Catholic high school, and never took Anatomy/Physiology. Elsewhere, at non-Catholic institutions, I’ve heard tales about Health class also being a joke, a ‘bird course.’ Our equivalent was, I suppose, Family Life.

Exactly.

So, along with many others, I was launched into public society (university) to fend for myself ignorant about:

  • how birth control worked
  • how sex affected the body/i.e. how the genitals actually worked, other than excretory functions
  • how the digestive system could be upset
  • how blood pressure, pulse, breath, and weight relate

Such lack of information led to some awkward/tearful/confused/expensive forays into the health care system. And almost always, there was shame.

Why isn’t my body working normally, like everyone else’s seems to be?

Why don’t I know how to fix this?

IS there something wrong with my body?

From here at age 34, I look back and know this was wrong.

Why were we left in such ignorance, powerlessness, and shame as teenagers?

The first glimmer I had that something was wrong, that it wasn’t just me, was in reading a book called Margaret and I, by Kate Wilhelm. In it, a loveless marriage fails in the face of the protagonist discovering someone who actually accepts her wholly, communing with her through a different dimension… (it’s pretty awesome psychological sci-fi!)

There is a specific scene where, in this loveless marriage, the man comes home to find the wife conked out, but proceeds to satisfy his urges (e.g. date rape her). The wife’s subconscious, the main character/POV in the novel, witnesses this. Margaret’s subconscious already had a resentment of the husband’s ordinary mechanical lovemaking, which then blossoms into a fierce protective shield after this incident. There are other types of betrayals to follow, but this physical one is what made me stop and take notice.

That was NOT OKAY. So what IS OKAY? And how do I share my body with another person in an OKAY way?

The second barrier I crossed in changing my thinking on this issue was a few years later, when I decided to start running for fitness and–haha–fun. I’d NEVER been a runner; in fact I’d nourished nightmares from running since 2nd-grade soccer practice: SO not my forte.

But at that point in my life, I was feeling stuck, unattractive, sedentary. I needed something that would give me confidence, change the routine, and reconnect my ever-churning mind with my body. I eventually ran a couple 5ks and a 10-mile race. After a couple years, the need to run became less than the need to do other things, but while I was in it, I wrote an article titled, The Point of Running My Race.

In writing that essay, I made the discovery that I was running to control one small portion of my life, a segment of my day, because I was not yet feeling up to changing the big things wrong with my life. What was making me feel stuck was a relationship gone awry, a lack of purpose and learning in my job, and a mismatch between my lifestyle and my personality.

In 2011 all I could think about was putting one foot in front of the other, quite literally. I didn’t get crazy, but I ran regularly, with increasing distances, and increasing knowledge of my REAL limits, not the stories I’d always told myself about my limits.

Those stories, including the ones about powerlessness and shame, are still being overwritten today.

This practice of running and its meditative element eventually allowed me to cut ties and move on–away from the toxic relationship that had me ignoring my own body’s responses, to a more flexible part-time work arrangement and writing career, and across the country to a place that aligned better with my own personality.

Fast-forward another few years and I’m here in Portland, juggling a burgeoning writing life and a social day job as a barista. I’m dancing, walking, and yogi-ing my way through some awesome studios and trails, and while there is still no one partner to share life with, I feel much stronger, braver, and truer to myself in my relationships.

So, back to the body:

As I outgrow my teenage and twenty-something ideas about the body, trusting what my body tells me and overwriting those toxic messages, I’ve actually become more fit. My running phase has been succeeded by a yoga phase which shows no signs of losing its appeal.

Meditative and gentle, yet challenging in both mental and physical ways, YOGA has been the third nudge in the direction of listening to and getting to know my body better. I’m even branching out into the amazing barre and strength offerings at Muv Training. Commitment to exercise that fits my goals has helped me figure out those questions from the top: learning to stretch the right way, for me, learning to eat the right way, for me. I’m discovering what works for my body:

NOT because I feel like it’s betraying me (‘why can’t I be more normal?’)

NOT because I want it to conform to others’ ideas of beauty (‘why can’t i look more like that?‘)

but BECAUSE I realize that being grounded in my body is the one and only thing that will keep me alive in this crazy world for as long as I am.

Writing this post has helped me forgive past attitudes, accept present consequences, and commit to radical self-care. It is a hard-won victory, and a long time coming.

I know there are others that have struggled, are struggling. Won’t you share your stories?

Image via Shutterstock and LiveScience

A Letter a Day Keeps the Lonely Away

What is it about a letter?

letters

A letter is, prima fascie, a way to communicate information across distance. An old-fashioned way that we have, for the most part, tossed aside for the faster methods like emailing, phoning, and texting.

And yet, letters remain. When we receive one, we get a jolt of energy, a little hug of happiness that lets us know someone was thinking of us and took the time to tell us so. We don’t usually get that from email. Why is that?

Letters require effort.

  • You have to either keep an inventory of stationery, envelopes, and stamps and keep up with the rampant postage changes, or you make a special trip to purchase them.
  • You need to write your message in your best handwriting.
  • You need to know where to find the nearest blue USPS mailbox, or make a trip to the post office.

And all for something that could be relayed instantly, free of charge, through your own computer. Why do we do it?

A Little Story

When I was traveling westward across the U.S., I made a list of people with their addresses that I wanted to send a letter or postcard to, and I got to most of them. I did the same thing while in Asia, even though it seemed like the postcard-sellers there had all decided to hide from me.

Then when I finally landed in Portland, I wanted to keep writing these letters, but I made myself stop. It felt like a distraction, a way of procrastinating by wanting to send encouragement, positivity, and care to far-flung friends and family, when what I most needed was to give it to myself.

So I stopped writing letters for two weeks.

What did I gain from this?

What did I lose?

Lessons on Self-Denial

It did allow me to focus on tasks that needed attention: apartment-hunting, soul-searching, life-recalibrating. It did this by holding onto that energy that wanted to go out, and redirecting it in, forcing myself to absorb the now, the here, instead of imagining or regretting the there, the then.

This was a good exercise, but I think it’s served its purpose. I learned that frittering away so much energy in those short bursts was taking away from my ability to focus on and enjoy where I am in this moment.

Writing letters is part of “who I am,” but I was letting it become an excuse for dodging that big bullet, the one with my name on it that says Destiny.

You Control Your Own Destiny

When I put things back in perspective, ‘Who I Am’ does need to write letters, especially in my current situation, where I don’t know many people close by, and many dear friends live worlds apart. A letter dispatched connects me to them and makes me feel less lonely. Denying myself the pleasure of this activity was useful for a term but then ended up making me feel isolated.

Like a dieter denying herself any sweets at all, it was unsustainable! So I am back  writing letters, but now aware of my penchant for using this good activity as a shield for not making progress on something bigger and scarier.

 

Have you noticed any habits that are good to start but end up becoming harmful? Are you using something as a shield for not doing something else? Something to ponder… and share with others in the comments!

 

Images via Just Ramblin’ and DeanandAngella