Monday, November 29, 2010

in the name of dog

One of the things we know about Jasper is that you can call him pretty much anything you like as long as you say it sweetly.  He responds readily and immediately to baby-talk.  And as we are prone to making up words in this family, to creating our own language, not surprisingly, as a consequence, the names we have made and use regularly for our 4-legged companion are both many and varied.  For some, we have no remaining idea of their origin.  We just keep saying them, the sound, just as it is for Jas himself, completely divorced of meaning, an endless babble of love.

That endless babble confirms, as often as possible, that Jasper is not just cute, but made of it, adding -- as Sally would say -- more cute cells every day.  He puts the cute in subcutaneous, a uniform layer of gorgeousness covering his entire body, just under the skin.

As he ages, as he has gone gray under his chin and around his eyes, loving him through these changes has been such a powerful lesson.  May we celebrate with as much delight our own human signs of aging, pet the gray hair at each other's temples, love up the sag.

Herewith I give you a compilation of the Names of Dog.  Appreciate that it has taken weeks to remember all of the variants, all three of Jasper's people adding to this list their most common expressions of love for our 13-year-old brother, son, friend and companion, Jasper Bacon Trelaun.

Jassy-pone (combo of Jass + pony)

Darkwing Dog
Dardimps, Dardumps

Batty in the Ocean
Toast Hound
Pig Eye
Fur Pants

Mr Pokey Pegs
Mr Pillow Sticks
Mr Gray Beard
Mr Flat Worm

Frog Legs
Gandalf the Gray
Brown Guy
Mr Big Stuff
Old Man
Sweet Boy
Sweet Cakes
Baby Cakes
Baby Snakes
Mr Wagglesworth
Fur Face
Barrel Snout
Seal Breath

Love this creature just so much very much!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sad day for squirrel

I'm a little crazy for squirrels, something which may run in my family, considering that my father has a pet squirrel, Natasha, who's trained to take walnuts from his hand.  She taps insistently at the window of the French doors in their kitchen.  She is absolutely gorgeous.  I adore her and am a bit insanely jealous, since it's always been my Doolittle ambition to talk to the animals, walk around with a pet squirrel on my shoulder.  Dreamy!

photo credit: M. Trelaun

Before I go any longer with this story, I'm offering you a bail-out.  This story is about to go a little morbid, which if you know me and my skull collection, won't surprise you.  So you may want to leave right now.  Rest assured, nothing bad happened to Natasha.  As far as I know, she is fat and happy and tapping at the doors of my parents' kitchen in San Francisco right now.

We are extremely lucky to live in an area that is filled with animals.  We spend hours watching birds and squirrels in our yard.  We co-exist with coyote and deer and rabbits and raccoons and possums and wood rats and lots of other creatures.  It is one of my delights in living here in this funny part of the county.

That same abundance of life has its sad complement in an abundance of road-kill.  But ever since I put dead moles in my suitcase at summer camp when I was 10 -- ever since that first experience of being able to closely examine a still creature, marvel at its features, the miraculous softness of its fur -- I have been able to find a (selfish) silver lining in all the carnage.

And today was no different.

While doing some neighborhood-hero work (clearing blackberry bramble from the sidewalk down by the corner), Joe found me a poor dead squirrel, freshie, probably fatally injured last night.  Reverently I carried its heavy little body home, where I was able to look it over carefully, then offer it a simple burial in the yard.  Look at this delightful Sciurus griseus. How lucky are we to co-exist with such creatures!

Look at that face!  So damn cute!!

I'm crazy for these paws, those pads, the little ridges on the "fingers."  

Beautiful belly fur, such a gorgeous mix of gray and red.
Hind paw: the fur!  the claws!

Another view of the hind paw and the beautiful tail. 
Naturally I cried after I put it in the ground and that sad moment came to tip the first scoops of dirt back in.  But I know that that little squirrel's precious little body will nourish the soil, will feed the flowers I'll plant over it in the springtime, so much gorgeousness returning to earth.  Sleep deep, little beauty!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

mistress of my destiny: sure. machines: not so much.

Here's a true exchange with Joe, who really is an angel. I showed up at his work in a bit of a panic because a "low tire pressure" warning light was on in the dashboard *and* my phone is dead, so I couldn't call to ask for advice.

Joe: (having pushed the re-set button and made the light go away) So now you can just drive to work. It's fine.

Me: But what if it's not fine and I have a problem on my way to work or in the city?

Joe: Then call AAA and they'll come.

Me: But my phone is dead.

Joe: Then it'll be like the old days.

Me: I didn't like the old days. (waving my dead phone) I like Now.

only you make your dreams come true

I haven't been posting as much to this blog, but that ain't because I haven't been writing.  Or thinking.  Or plotting.  

Just this past weekend, par exemple, I wrote and sent a piece to our local rag, for their Tuesday "How It Is" column, in which I had something published earlier this year.  It's just a local paper, but there's something pleasing about telling stories in that forum.

And last Friday I spent three hours and four pages working out how to arrive at what I could reasonably say, to my current colleagues, about why I'm resigning that position and moving on.  Four pages of diatribe, to arrive at a list of 6 bulleted items.  

But mostly I've been catching up on sleep, since Friday, and thinking.  And, to be honest, feeling pretty pleased with myself. 

On my long list of goals for 2010, #1 in the Business category is "Gracefully leave [current job]."  I've been super-serious about these goals all year, made a copy and pasted them into the back of my new Moleskin when I ran out of pages in the old one, and refer to them periodically.  It seems like I refer to my two-page list most on those rare occasions when Joe and I go out to dinner together, we've placed our order and are waiting for food to arrive, and are sitting in that quiet pause reviewing progress, making plans, sketching (literally) ideas.

It's taken me most of this year to get clear about what I want and need, to move beyond the clear sense of what I don't want.  Which is so much easier to describe.  Getting to a definition of the positive, on its own, not just in contrast to what's negative, has been months in the making.

And now I'm here.

Pretty happy, as I said, with myself, with sticking to my intention to leave a place where I've been unhappy and frustrated for about three years, for these reasons (and yes, these are my positive bullets):

I’m leaving in favor of a job:
- in the city I live in, in an organization that directly serves my community and the environment with a mission I can get behind and which has nothing to do with cancer, which I’m sick of
- in a location I can ride my bike to, so I’ll be out of my car and have 1 ½ to 2 hours more of my life back a day, plus more time outside and physically active
-  at an organization that has managed to grow even during an economic contraction through strategic moves and investments
- at an organization that is non-profit but operated like a business, with two bottom lines
- with a defined scope allowing me to do work I love (numbers) in a position that is a respected and integral part of a fully-functioning successful management team
- that will support my desire to simplify my life a great deal and enforce a discipline of simplicity through a reduced salary

Probably the best thing about setting an intention, sticking to it, and getting there, is this profound sense that only I can make my dreams come true.  Only you can do the same for you.  This is so great -- this feeling of being in the driver's seat, of being in charge of destiny, of calling the shots in my own life.  When it's a big change, like this one, it just feels so good to accomplish a deeply-considered goal written down in January of the year.

So as of December 31, 2010, I will walk away from the work I've been doing for 10 years and be in a "smaller" position, one with a narrower scope.  Such a tremendous relief. And such a sense of accomplishment. 

And just in time for me to start dreaming 2011.  New list here I come.  Yay!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Deep Delight of a Great Read, or how i discover that i don't know shit about de Tocqueville

Parrot and Olivier in AmericaI am pretty wild about Peter Carey's latest novel.  I've been stuck on the same passage for a few days, not because I'm sleepy while reading and so forced to go back and re-read the same sentence over and over and not because it's been so long since I picked the book up that I can't remember what's going on.

No, it's just that the passage is so delightful that I can't get enough of it, so I keep reading it and enjoying the words so much.  Below I indulge my taste for copying out parts that I love, enjoying the process of making the words on the page, so you can taste it, too.

Thanks to the marvel of the interwebs, I have been cautiously reading a little about the book, watching BBC interviews with the author, reading Ursula LeGuin's review. Cautiously because I don't want other people's opinions in my head just yet, also no spoilers, please.  And it's pretty cool to read what Peter Carey himself was reading while writing the book.

Which is how I realized that I don't know shit about Alexis de Tocqueville, a chief source of the novel's story.   Surely we covered this in AP US History?

Really, I should know who he is, and yet realized with a start this morning that I don't remember a thing.  Don't know shit.  Which matters and yet doesn't, because that same interwebs can just tell me what I need to know.  So great that we don't have to hold everything in our capacious yet challenged brains.

I'm on page 96 and already fearing the end on page 380, not wanting this adventure to end.  If you haven't read Peter Carey, "Parrot and Olivier in America" is a fine place to start. Squiddy soul: so wonderful!

* * * * *
     I touched Mathilde’s bare shoulder, and gently drew back her hair.
     “Go,” she cried. “Just go.”
     “I’m not going anywhere.”
     She did not look at me but went to our bed, picked up my trousers, and threw them down into the street.
     “What have I done?”
     She was my treasure, my ball of pain and beauty – her luminous eyes, her curved little belly, her perfect thigh. Who she was fighting I did not know, but I was old enough, had scars on my ankles and my arms, a piece missing from my ear, and saw how the moment had come, like an unexpected death, like God striking, the lightning hitting, and I was a man tipped from his bunk on the ship to find not floor but death water, bubbles, the fierce cold fingers of the salty night. There, die. Rise no more.
     There was no point in asking is it fair that I should lose everything I love again. I took my duffel and threw in my tools, my better clothes, a book, and with no word to Maman I made off down the giddy seasick stairs, emerging half naked into the courtyard where the children were already playing with the trousers, from whose pockets all coin, even my good-luck acorn, was gone. It had taken only ten minutes to have my body flayed, my bones stripped clean, my squiddy soul out in the sun to dry.
     I headed for my English printers, for where else could I go? The day was sunny and cruelly pleasant. Along the way I spied, in every cafĂ©, the sweet familiarity of couples who had spent the night happily in each other’s arms and I, who had been for six years one of them, was cast beyond the pale, a poor lonely foreign wretch. I found my friends all gone to work, and the landlady, who had always been so pleasant to me, said her house was full. Reluctantly she brought me some bottled ale and wrote the tab on my friend’s account.
     Then I removed to a hotel on the rue Richelieu, where, on the strength of Monsieur’s famous name and my good clothes – which I was forced to lay out on the bed – I was given, for twelve francs every month, a “parlor next to the sky.”
     It sickens me to tell the rest, my many trips back to the faubourg Saint-Antoine where Mathilde finally softened enough to lend me a hundred sous. There is little that is not pathetic but in the end, no matter what injustice he suffers, a man is still a man and cannot be a sniveling wretch forever, and I set out, at an age when one expects this shit to be well past, to present myself at the petite maison, declaring myself ready to travel to America or Hell, whatever would remove me from my present state.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Home Practice: more benefits

I've been continuing my home practice, not every day, but often enough, on a little schedule of my own creation. As I go along I am more and more aware of benefits, even as it remains hard, some days, to get off my ass and go do it.  Still, it's going swimmingly, I think.

So, those benefits of which I speak?

- a cleaner house.  Yes, in order for me to be able to practice in a room inside my house, that room needs to be clear of clutter, the floor clear of dust and dirt (and dog hair).  Practicing at home is enforcing its own discipline on my house-keeping, which is not a bad thing at all.  I end up feeling satisfied on two fronts: clean body, clean house.  Creates a nice sense of contentment and ease.

- an awareness of my own breath.  Practicing alone, with no musical accompaniment, no outside-teacher's voice, means all I can really hear, besides my own mental chatter, is the sound of my breath moving in and out.  I think I realized very quickly that in class, I am not really focussed on my breath - so many distractions allow me to disconnect from that fundamental.  It's so interesting to be inside the quiet of that simple sound.

maybe it's boring for him?
- more together-time with my beloved dog.  Jasper can't seem to stay away from my mat.  There's something so funny about the way he'll come in, settle on the back sixth of my mat, body partly on, partly off, and just hang out.  I like thinking about the simple geometry of each pose, how to turn my back foot or jump back into plank without stepping on him.  Keeps me aware of where I am in space.

part of the view, old painting of LT's
- finally, the just being home is another benefit of the home practice.  I have been really, really enjoying being home more, feeling more deeply integrated into my house and life here.  I love the view from the window where I practice and the art on the walls.  There's something so satisfying about being still and truly inhabiting the space that so much hard work over years and years has gone into making.

This is such a good thing, I can't believe I've resisted it for so long.  Then again, it's happening at just the perfect time, when I am ready and can really enjoy it.  Yay!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Another adventure with a stranger

As I was leaving birthday-sneakies yesterday, pulling out of my parking space near the Barnes & Noble in Town Center, I saw in the rear-view mirror an old woman shuffling her way towards the car, gesturing at me with one hand, holding onto the walker with the other.  I slowed, to make sure she had clearance to get around me, but then realized that she was on her way directly to my open window.

I had just stowed a couple of bags of birthday goodies for the kid in the back of the car and thrown my sweater back there, too.  In typical fashion, it was hot yesterday.

I spend the entirety of November 14 and 15 every year reliving the birth of my son.  It's a very special couple of days for me, a combination of awe at the present and the past alike, a day of bringing them together into focus.  Anyway, I was -- yesterday afternoon -- feeling happy, remembering how hot it was the day Laurent was born, sunlight streaming into the room at Mt. Zion hospital in San Francisco.

Old lady approaches and I realize that she's waving me down.  I ask her, through the window, if she needs something, if there's something I can for her.  She asks me for a ride home.  It's only, she says, two blocks away.

In an instant, all kinds of things tumble through my mind.  I take in the fact that she's wearing sweatpants, a turtle neck, a cardigan with all its buttons buttoned, long-fingered red gloves.  She clutches the walker, a plastic bag containing a clear box of noodles and broth dangling also from one hand.  Her teeth are very yellow.  She is frail.  I can smell faint alcohol on her breath.  She has no purse, no place on her person where a weapon could be hidden, ax or shiv.  I'm not supposed to pick up hitch-hikers, and she's a hitch-hiker of a sort, a super-frail one, a bit of a mess.  Really, the only risk in saying Yes, besides having a stranger in my car, is that she might pee.  That would truly suck.

So I say Yes, of course, hop out, help her with her seatbelt while she delightedly asks me about my tattoos.  I place the walker in the back of the car, careful not to squash any of the presents I've bought for LT.  I get in.  We push off.

I keep up a steady chatter of questions and little stories as we travel on towards her house.  It's farther than two blocks, more like a mile.  As it turns out, it's not unusual for her to get a ride to the shopping center from someone she knows.  She has a little lunch at Chang's (hence the wine smell, the little bag of left-over noodles) and then finds a ride home.  Clearly, this ploy works on others.  It worked on me.

She asks about my tattoos, do I have others, do I want more -- she has a friend who has tattoos covering his entire body.  Her eyes sparkle when she talks.  Her speech is slow but animated.  Could be the wine.  I am relaxed.

She asks if I was at the bookstore.  And I say yes, I was out shopping for presents for my son's birthday.  She asks how old and when I tell her, she replies that I couldn't be more than 20.  We have a laugh about this.  Her son lives in San Rafael with his family.  She sees him often.

And then we make the left-hand turn onto her street, and I pull to the curb at #11 and help her out.  I give her back her walker and she gets ready to make the short walk to her front door.

As we're parting, I ask her her name.  Pat, she says.  I tell her mine.  Delighted to meet you, we both say.  Enjoy the rest of this beautiful day.

And then she shuffles off.  I get back in my car and head home.

I suppose it's possible that this happens all the time, all over the place, that people do these things for each other all the time, for total strangers.  There's something that feels special about the opportunity, and yet, I know, because I learned it yesterday, that it's actually not unusual, since Pat is able to find a ride home several times a week.

Still, it's unusual for me, and I feel lucky that it was my car Pat approached, that I said Yes and went a little out of my way to help someone I may never see again in my entire life.  I won't soon forget the sight of her funny little face, eyes lit up, right next to me in the car, a stranger reminding me, again, of how much we're all the same, riding along companionably together.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

and behaving badly in the safeway self check-out line

Really, I do know better.  I know better than to use the self check-out at Safeway.  I have never managed to get through that experience without being supremely irritated, the machine asking for items that I don't have, challenging the weight of that particular box of brownie mix as if I have anything at all to do with that.  Today was no exception.  And now I am regretting making the choice of the self check-out, even though the regular check-out lines looked even more insane.  I annoyed and embarrassed my kid and just generally acted like an asshole.

I know this is one of those petty annoyances of modern life, like endless voice mail shenanigans of "Press 1 for this, Press 7 if you can't remember the last 6 god damn options."  I assume the supermarket chain is making money by putting one poor harried employee in charge of 6 self check-out lanes.  I can only imagine that on a Saturday afternoon like this one, that job is a huge pain in the ass.

But really: say "This is a one-person job, ma'am" in that condescending tone one more time.  Go on: awaken the sleeping Jules, I dare you.

Yes, when finally, the really, really tall woman working the 6 self check-out registers made her way to where we were trying unsuccessfully to get past the "unexpected weight detected" message on the touch-tone screen, after I chased her around, trying to get her attention while customer after customer cut ahead of me, when finally she came over to help us, she said, "Let me tell you how this works."  I said, "No, can you please just clear that error message?"  She responded, "This is a one-person job, ma'am," and simply would not believe that while my son was trying to scan things, I was doing nothing, standing by or alternately chasing her around the store, trying to get help.  When I said, "I wasn't doing anything," she responded, like a robot, "It's a one-woman job, ma'am.  Let me tell you how this works."

After lecturing me in monotone, she did clear the error message.  But we couldn't help repeating to each other, "This is a one-person job, ma'am" over and over, just to get through the frustration of the experience.  It gave me only a little pleasure to realize that we used the button for regular bananas instead of organic when prompted, because we were so excited to see the right picture and eager to be done.  So we saved a little money, but I don't feel good about any of it.

I know that Joe, truly my much-better half, is able to get through the self check-out just fine.  He is infinitely more patient and much less of a jerk.  So, just like my self-imposed ban from Trader Joe's for a few years, I'll be avoiding the self check-out from here forward.  Even if it takes longer, it's so much better for me and everyone else if I side-step the shop-rage.  Such a paradox, since I'd generally rather not deal with people if there's a machine option.  But it turns out that actually it's so much better for me to wait longer, make chit-chat with the checker, spy on the next-person-in-line's food choices.  As long as the person ahead of me doesn't write a check, it should be just fine.

And here's Jules.

Friday, November 12, 2010

being awesome your whole life

It's pretty great and amazing that we live in the time that we do, when we get to be awesome for our entire lives.  I think I must have grown up with a different idea.  In fact, I know I did.  Getting old meant getting lame, getting boring, getting stuffy.  In fact, if you were really cool -- Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon, Janis Joplin, James Dean, Darby Crash, Sid Vicious, oh and so many others -- then you actually really were dead, your unworldly genius burnt out hot and fast, too good for this world, live hard, die young.  The Who said it best: "I hope I die before I get old."

Naturally I can see how self-serving it is to unfurl my Manifesto of Perpetual Ageless Awesome, given that I am just a smidge away, 2 years + 2 months, from 50 myself.  But the older I get (the wiser?), the more I am certain that "old" is not about chronological age.

You can keep being awesome forever, as it turns out.  After all, note that those old Who men are still performing, and at the Super Bowl no less.  They got chronologically old, didn't die, and still are awesome.  [Too bad recent setlists don't include My Generation.  Such a great song, and would be so sweet and funny if they sang it.]  And The Rolling Stones?  Or Meryl Streep? Don't get me started. We are surrounded by examples that you can be awesome at any age.

In a yoga class recently with Stacey Rosenberg, she talked about how inspired she is by her students, by her friends and community, that we are all such seekers (and yes, that made me sing another Who song, thanks), always exploring how we can be fuller, truer expressions of our own selves.  This, she continued, seems distinctly different from previous generations, in older times, where there was a sense that you got to a certain point in your life and you were done, set, no further possibility of growth or change.  At a certain age, you just sat down.

Those days are so gone.

I don't have to look far for examples of how to remain young. It's not just celebrities, huge rock stars.  My parents are number 1 Manifesters of Perpetual Ageless Awesome, always proving it isn't chronological age that makes a person boring and stuffy.  It's really something else, a shutting-down in the mind, a disconnection, a loss of engagement.  And our friend Pierre, who just turned, yesterday, another shade of 80 -- utterly delightful, always, plugged in, entertaining, delighted with the world and delightful as a result.  Across the age-range of my friends, I see it too.  That this engagement with the world is what keeps you vibrant, supple, alive. 

Let the young snicker as I continue to sing, loud, "I hope I die before I get old."  Because I know, and you know, that really, I'll never get old as long as I live.  I'll just keep being awesome and getting more awesome all the time.  It's the only option, unless you want to be dead while you're still breathing.  

Here's my anthem, sung by someone whose Awesome is still unfolding, across genres and decades, keeping me on the path, singing the whole way.  Thanks for inspiring the Manifesto, EC.

And keep being awesome.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Man Booker prize: what I wish for...

If only there were a way I could sign up for automatic delivery every year of the Man Booker Prize shortlisted titles...  You can buy subscriptions that deliver an orchid or bottle of wine every month for a year.  I swear I even saw a subscription last holiday season, maybe on J. Crew, enriching the receiver with a new cashmere sweater per month.  I could be convinced on that one...

But really I just want this one annual delivery -- all those Booker Prize books to appear magically in my mailbox. 

Instead I'm on Amazon right now, buying them separately.  I know Alicia's read the Peter Carey (love Peter Carey). Anybody read any of the others and care to chime in? I'll read them regardless since this list never fails to introduce me to writers I might not otherwise find on my own, always refreshing.  

Yes, I could take them from the library, like Alicia, but for whatever reason (habit, idiocy), I need to own the paper they're printed on.

Coming soon, though not automatically, to my mailbox, the 2010 Man Booker Prize shortlisted titles:

Peter Carey, Parrot and Olivier in America
Emma Donoghue, Room
Damon Galgut, In A Strange Room
Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question
Andrea Leavy, The Long Song
Tom McCarthy, C

Monday, November 8, 2010

Home Practice: day 2 of new resolution

All I need is this...
Part of my middle-of-the-night realizations last week, during a long insomniac interlude, was that I really, really need to practice on my own at home.  I've been waffling in a dilemma for a while about where and when to go to class: do I re-cancel the YogaWorks membership despite the killer-deal they made me (yes), do I become an unlimited annual member at Yoga of Sausalito (no).  How do I get back on my 5-times-a-week schedule?

And how do I do all of the homework for my Teacher Training?

Simple: practice at home.  There's no better way to develop myself as a teacher than to teach myself in this way, to create the habit of regular daily solo practice.

Other benefits that I realized yesterday, after successful Day 1:

- it's so quiet.  I love seeing my friends at yoga and chatting, hugging and kissing before and after, but man, practicing in the quiet of my home-office is so peaceful.  Makes it easier to give my hyper-active monkey brain a break...

- it's so quick.  Going to a 1 1/2 hour class, no matter where I drive, takes around 2 1/2 hours with travel time (since naturally, I have to arrive early, then there's the inevitable post-yoga Slow Loris putting back on of shoes and ambling slowly back to vehicle).  Practicing at home took me one hour, start to finish.  For now, I think an hour is plenty; I'll build up from here.

- it's so hard.  Stringing together poses in a sequence, in a flow that makes sense, that builds to a pinnacle pose, is no easy feat.  Not to mention staying focused, not letting my mind chase after the dust bunnies I can see from cobra pose...

After my practice yesterday, I exclaimed to Joe, full of happiness with myself (maybe a smidge too much),  "practicing at home is going to change my life."  He replied, "well, actually, honey, I want to just remind you that you've only done it once."  That sounds mean when I write it out, but actually it perfectly typifies our dynamic balance -- he helps me keep my feet on the ground when I am likely to get carried away by the wind in my own head.  It's so true that the proof of the experiment will be in doing it in a sustained way.

Which is where I'm going right now: day 2 of new resolution, practicing at home.  Yay!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Putting things in their places

We've been wondering for a while what to do with all of Joe's left-over chemo meds, truly disgusting substances whose names I can't mention without Joe groaning and reliving the pain and nausea and horror of that experience.  There they've been sitting in the medicine cabinet, next to the dental floss, since the conclusion of chemo last January.  I turned the bottles so the names weren't visible, especially on the dreaded super-fucker Prednisone.  I'm not sure we've been clear about what to do with them - do we have to keep them, just in case?

I've done a few Google searches, trying to figure out how to dispose of them.  Used to be we could have just taken them back to Kaiser and they'd get rid of them, but no longer.  Apparently there's a pharmacy in San Anselmo that takes back unused prescription drugs, but the thought of driving there and finding out they no longer do it, has put me off.  But now here's the perfect solution.

For $4.95, the prepaid TakeAway envelope means we can drop these poisons in the US mail and be done with them.  Awesome.  On the other end, the pills will be inspected, then incinerated.  Which is better than them finding their way into our water or into some unsuspecting fool's mouth.  And certainly better than them sitting there as a reminder of a super-painful time.

As I was piling the pills into the envelope and remembering that whole interlude of misery, I realized that DUH, if my vata is deranged, if I don't have a routine anymore, it's because my old routine got blown up, completely obliterated, as did Joe's, by lymphoma, and supplanted by the routine of fear and chemo for 6 months, from which we have still not, it appears, completely recovered.  Amazing that I could lose sight of this -- sometimes I am such an idiot, it surprises even my idiot self!  We are still trying to get our footing, still feeling at a loss even as we make gentle progress toward taking back the full territory of our lives.

Getting rid of these pills, sending them to their fiery hell, is such a relief.  It really is a way of marking the end of that time, erasing the remaining traces from our surroundings.  From here, we can keep going, a little more space freed from the cancer and reclaimed.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Overwhelmance: noun.  1.  a state of being overwhelmed by abundance, generally characterized by a failure to recognize one's own good fortune.  May be seasonal in nature, i.e., common in the fall, coinciding with harvest.  2.  a condition common amongst the entrepreneurial and talented, facilitated by advances in modern technology and typified by a sense of having too many opportunities.  3. the modern tendency to over-commit, then complain about it;  the romance of being overwhelmed. First known use: 11/6/2010.

Walking in the woods is a deep comfort. It's like sex, actually. Every time, afterward, I say to myself, damn, this is basically always possible, why don't I do this more often, why don't I do this every day?

Such a deep comfort to be outside.

I derive so much bone-level satisfaction from being surrounded by the evidence of all of the other mysterious little lives, turning over rocks and touching salamanders, wondering who left all of those gnawed acorns at the base of that tree, watching crows and hummingbirds, trying in vain to engage squirrels in conversation [i can get them to stop and stare at me, come closer, but the communication breaks off before we get past the pleasantries...].

I need it.

So much that's simple and basic and obvious occurs to me as I'm tramping along, like the overwhelmance above.  It helps that I read something great that Samin wrote on 11/4 just before I walked out the door.  I was feeling simultaneously inspired and solidly in my resolve to simplify, slow down, look around, enjoy.  Walking up the trail I realized how lucky we really are, that we have so much capacity, and how that places us firmly on the path toward both greatness and burn-out unless we can constantly practice viveka, discernment.

Oh, how truly lucky we are to be in this time and space, in each other's company.  Even if the squirrels won't really talk back.  ;>

because my vata is out of whack...

Lately -- ok, mostly for months, since we got back from Bali, and even maybe beforehand -- I've been feeling like I have no routine, like I'm just running between things, like I'm on this treadmill of alternating run-like-hell or punch-stop-and-do-nothing.  I've also been feeling bored, anxious, bummed-out, not all the time, but enough of the time that it's a nuisance.  For a little while, I contemplated the idea that perhaps I was depressed, post-cancer trauma or something.  And I've been eating like shit, just not taking care of myself.  AND I'm back to my insomniac, migraineur ways.

At the same time, I feel I should interject that I've also done some fucking great stuff lately, had a lot of fun, learned great things, made new friends and new big commitments, so it's not like it's been this continuous dismal blah for ages.  It's just that all of the good has been layered over this sense of unease that I haven't been able to shake.


And duh, it was only reading an article in Yoga Journal, of all places (not a fan generally of that magazine at all, so not their target, except that since it's become a parade of Anusara All Stars every month, I keep finding myself picking it up, oh look, there's Kenny, there's KK, there's Laura...) that I realized that, double-duh, my freakin' vata is totally out of whack.  Yes, my vata is deranged.  I'd link you the article here, but YJ's website is retarded -- part of their plot to force you to buy the issue that's on the stands, grrr -- so I can't.

So obvious, right?  "If your vata is acutely increased, it can cause problems.  You may experience typical vata  symptoms like anxiety [check], constipation [TMI], and insomnia [check, check]...  A pitta person with vata derangement might become more hotheaded [check]."  Other common symptoms include agitation, fear, intestinal disturbances, and difficulty focusing.

Yep, that's me lately. Not surprisingly, the problem I have is with the solution.

The yogic approach to countering vata derangement involves slowing down, being more mindful, breathing smoothly and deeply, and learning to ground...  Do less.  This means cutting back on scheduled commitments, minimizing multi-tasking (and exposure to vata-producing technology like computers and television, particularly right before bed), and making time for daily relaxation.  It's also important to stick to a regular bedtime and to get enough sleep each night to feel rested.  This may be difficult at first.  Excess vata often results in insomnia.  But sticking to a regular bedtime and implementing some other changes that support relaxation should help.

It's ironic, right: people probably assume because I am devoted to yoga that I know how to chill, but the opposite is still true.  I still have trouble with the slow-down, with the mindfulness, with the breathing.  I still enjoy the multi-tasking and my so-called vata-producing technology, which allows me, just incidentally, to express and indulge so many aspects of my self.  BUT I also know that it is precisely this slow-down that I need, especially if I want to get my groove back, i.e., establish a new routine.

Which I really, really do.

So I'm focusing on my damn vata derangement starting today by grounding myself.  By this I mean that I am imposing a no-fly on myself so that I can GET grounded.  I can't think of any other way to start.  And I'm going to do my Teacher Training homework more diligently, and develop my home practice, and eat better, and go to sleep when I need to.  And there's lots more, but if I list it all here, my vata is going to blow.  Instead, I'm putting on my shoes and going for a long walk in the autumn woods with my dog, slowing it down and establishing a simpler, sustainable rhythm, one I can keep with my own two feet.

Friday, November 5, 2010

insomnia and revolution

Four a.m. is the appointed hour for me -- the magical time at which, if I've been insomniac (today, since 1am), I can get up, press Go on the coffee pot, and start the day.  The waiting to rise is all about trying to wait out the sleeplessness, see if sleep will take me back.  But it also has a way of turning the rising into a kind of mini Christmas for me -- I long for the moment, excitement building.  Absurd, yes, but such is my sleepless lot.

I keep my room as dark as possible.  The only light is whatever light is in the sky naturally.  Some nights, full moon nights, that's too much for me and I lower the blinds.  I moved the digital clock a long time ago so that it's still in the room, but out of my immediate sight and blocked entirely by the mounds our bodies make under the blankets.  Anyway, I keep it dark since dark and quiet are the required conditions for my snooze.  If I could leave a window open year round, I would do that, too, but such is my married lot.

But there are times, lots of them, when -- despite managing my requisite sleep conditions -- I am nevertheless awake, reveling in the dark and quiet, having ideas and solving problems to the tune of the twinned breathing of husband and dog.  Sometimes I get to hear owls or wonder at the scrabbling and other animal sounds in the yard.  It is, ironically, dreamy.

And at 4, I can finally slip out of bed and get started.  At last.  Later on I may feel a little loopy (which slows me down enough, actually, to make me more bearable at work, I think), but right now I am loving it.  Loving it in the same way I love jetlag - in that I feel like I am inhabiting my own time, unbound by schedule, awake when I'm awake, enjoying it, being inside my head all by myself.

It's possible this is just insomniac raving, but I was wondering -- sometime between 3 and 4 am -- how many revolutions have insomnia as their source.  I mean, really: sometime between 2 and 3am, I worked out all of my own problems (I'm serious), so it doesn't seem all that unlikely that others have used this special time to tackle and solve bigger issues.  Imagine, French revolutionaries, powdered wigs gleaming just out of sight on the dresser, figuring out their society's ills and hatching their plans in the middle of the night.  Among others.  Unfortunately, my quick Google yielded only insomnia cures (as if!), so so far, that I know of, none of the other insomniac revolutionaries have written about this.

I may need a nap later on, or to be earlier to bed even than usual, but right now I am enjoying being awake.  Especially because I really, really did work out all of my problems, which is a whole separate post that I'll work on when I'm done with this one.  I have time, right?  After all, it's not even 5 yet.  ;)