mind over under

dark, velvety blue-black
an otherworld
closer than possible

I found it
held it
became it

the world changed
but the same

with new knowledge
I returned
I craved its embrace

attached to finding
the place
so close …

there in my head
but elusive to my search

completely available
when I hadn’t been looking.

Image: ‘Under’, Martina Amati. © Martina Amati

Thank you feet

I don’t think I’ve ever thanked you feet, I just paint your nails and carry-on with you holding my weight through everything. I don’t give you much attention and by looking at you I’m rather a cruel mistress. There’s your half toenail that strongly grew new under a toenail that had been jammed so hard it fell off. You have cuts healing from poorly chosen shoes that were danced in all night. None of your nails are even- whites mangled to crooked beds. From day in and day out walking you have dry spots for the lack of attention I give you. There are shadowed scars from surgeries 23 years old and older scars from childhood tantrums that sliced you open. Veins pump blood into you and rise against my skin. Without them you wouldn’t be the strong base of my body. Your calluses and cracks once a month are taken for polish and paint. But I do little but ignore you. Other ladies know you, dear feet, better than I do. I know it’s time to take you in my hands to massage and rub you with lotion, trim your nails, buff out the rough spots and be more vigilant in my thanks. You silently, strongly hold me up through the miles that I walk, the hours that I dance, the nights you ache because I just couldn’t sit down. Bruised and battered feet so ugly to the world, but our beautiful soldiers. You allow me the strength as I press off of you to dive, you kick behind me and water moves. You let me push through this world, you let me swim and dance and run and climb. Sometimes you ache so bad it feels like a knife stabbing through my tendons. Other times it feels like you’re buried under a ton of gravel, but each time we emerge and we soak and we rise and we rest. In the new day, I place you on the ground and you flinch, giving me more aches than you used to. I stretch your toes, flex your arches and then we carry-on with little thanks. Yet each new day you keep me moving- one foot in front of the other.

healthcare inequality

I have had a low-level lingering cough since the last week of May. Over the last several days the cough increased, beginning Friday night it was difficult to sleep and the cough has been joined by chest congestion. Last night, I had to sleep sitting up. It is now June 18th and I went to the doctor this morning. I was diagnosed with acute bronchitis and sinus infection.

I am privileged. I have excellent insurance and was able to see the doctor, get antibiotics, prednisone and Mucinex all for $40. Plus, I was told I might not need the antibiotics, but my sinuses looked bad enough and my symptoms had been lingering long enough the doctor was concerned it could have also become bacterial and since I could not recall the last time I’d used antibiotics she didn’t mind proactively prescribing them. There is zero reason my treatment should have been a privilege.

There are zero reasons people should suffer and be concerned with losing their jobs if they have to take time to go to a doctor or take a day off to prevent spreading disease. The fact that people are asked “May I have your insurance number?” and it’s not actually a question, but a requirement, before they are asked what is wrong with them is simply inhumane. If you are in an emergency situation, by law, you cannot be denied treatment, but for an ailment that needs attention – such as my bronchitis and sinus infection – you could be turned away until the point it escalates into an actual emergency. By then there is a whole avalanche of complications and who knows how many people the contagious person has infected, all because they couldn’t get care pre-emergency. I don’t know how to make the changes that need to be made, other than to push representatives to do the right thing in Washington, but there has got to be more that we can do.

Big pharma and the litigious angle our society has taken is a huge influence on the inflated pricing of all medical care. Those are both machines that are churning away under their own power and it’s going to take a whole nation of boots thrown to jam the cogs, but where are those boots? What do we do? It’s a not a situation where we can boycott the medicines that are needed and pleading to an ethical logic doesn’t seem to have an effect. How do we take back healthcare? It feels like a question being asked into a bottomless canyon. Will an answer return? Can a change be made?

Anything can be done, but will it? Lawmakers can choose to simply say, “This is wrong. We will now have healthcare for all and this is how.” They could all wake up and do the right thing, but that is unlikely and it makes me angry that people somehow can’t understand why it’s simply right to let all people have not just decent, but outstanding, healthcare. 

Less affluent countries provide accessible healthcare to all their citizens so it’s not about money. People may argue it’s somehow “not fair” if people don’t pay in, but we all do with taxes and so much of our healthcare is for-profit that the tax argument is weak. Any argument that “healthcare” for all is a socialist ideal needs to wake up and recognize that America has an enormous number of socialist-leaning programs. We all pay for the military, but everyone doesn’t serve. We all pay for roads, but everyone doesn’t drive. We all pay for farm and ranch subsidies, but everyone doesn’t eat wheat and meat. We are not an entirely capitalist or democratic or (far from it) socialist country. We’ve morphed into some undefinable variation of mix and match values that boils down to action for dollars and at this time, Americans are paying about twice as much per year as folks in economically similar countries, yet getting inferior healthcare so clearly we are getting inaction for our dollars: We can do better.

Affordable healthcare does not mean entirely single payer or tax dollars pay for everything. Affordable healthcare could be subsidies for prescriptions, well visits, all vaccines, and screenings. It could mean reducing the costs of consumables in hospitals to actual market value. It could mean actual oversight of Medicaid groups so public money that is going into private programs is properly audited. It could mean finding school nurses so kids are screened and things like lice and the flu are caught before they tear through classrooms. Affordable healthcare means access for everyone, not just those lucky enough to have landed a job with great insurance. Also, health care for everyone means people have the flexibility to change jobs if they need too without fearing losing said great insurance. Affordable healthcare could be all of those things and more.

Affordable healthcare creates a sense of safety and is a demonstration of equality. Healthcare equality for those in your community is not taking things away from one group, but helping all people have access to that which they need to achieve a healthy life. I think the first societal goal we need to help each other achieve is access to the resources to be healthy. There is no reason all Americans can’t have good healthcare – except for selfish greed and that’s the worst reason ever to prevent people from having good lives. 

broken promises

I break promises to myself. Frequently. The promises usually fall around restrictions and not having a believable goal. Whole 30 diet challenge, no drinking, no men, writing 30 days straight, sleeping at certain times so I can get up early to run are all examples of broken – some repeatedly – promises. The truths are:

I love food and eat beautiful meals (usually) and am blessed to not have food sensitivities – maybe because I eat really well, but I’m not going to test a 30 day junk food diet to check my math. I don’t drink all that much (a bottle of wine often goes sour in my fridge). So why limit something that is already naturally limited?

Writing happens everyday and when I do it more, it flows more freely, but if I demand of myself “Write everyday!” my words seem to dry up.

Men come and go and that’s just the way my life seems to be – most become friends which is lovely.

Finally, I am a night owl so I should let myself enjoy my natural rhythm when I can which means many 5-6 hour sleeps and occasionally sleeping in on the weekends. It’s all worked well so far, so why do I keep trying to futz with a good deal? This is all to say, I have a new promise for myself, but I am framing it as a gift and a challenge.

I’ve been training in Krav Maga for the better part of 2 1/2 years and, while I’ve taken a few chunks of time off and ebbed and flowed with my intensity, I’ve been steadily achieving skill. I am now eligible to test for my orange belt and I am really excited about this development. The exam is a physical trial that will last approximately 5 hours and will review all the skills our Section 2 curriculum. When I look over the curriculum, I feel a bit intimidated, but I know I have covered everything listed – just not all recently.

Over the next month, I will be focusing on training – taking the classes that make me uncomfortable so that I’ll be able to complete my advancement. These classes include choke defenses and groundwork that puts me in an extremely vulnerable situation, but I know it is much better to experience this vulnerability in the gym and learn how to overcome being overtaken than to experience such a situation in a real world setting and be harmed or killed because I didn’t have the opportunity to train. So I will train, eat, sleep, repeat over the next 30 days. Some days I will try to run, because I need to ensure I have my endurance built up, and I’ll definitely swim, but mainly I will try to get in lots of gym time so I will be comfortable when the test day comes around. Reps and endurance will be vital to ensuring I advance.

Endurance and good energy – can’t have one without the other – are important building blocks in the weeks before the test. So part of my training will be intentional food choices. I will eat well and at home as much as is reasonable. Considering I work from home this *should* be just about every meal, but I am bad about getting busy and not making time for my needs, so my daughter and I end up grabbing too many meals outside of the home. This month, and perhaps it will be a continued habit, we do more eating at home. I’m not getting crazy with my diet. There will be no eliminating foods or being low carb / high protein or high carbs or water til 2pm and coconut fat the rest of the day. Instead, I will be thoroughly enjoying my favorite foods and cooking. For me, part of training should be self-care. When I make the effort to feed myself beautiful, lovingly prepared foods, take lots of epsom salts baths, spend time stretching, and get enough sleep, I have more energy and train with a clear head. Hmm, taking care of my body seems to correlate to better performance … could it be that easy!?!

This evening I went to Fiesta and loaded up on my favorite things, plus added a couple new indulgences. I was starving and would have normally grabbed a burger before shopping, but I waited. Then, after groceries were in the car, I opened a tin of dolmas and the bucket of labne and used my finger to scoop the labne on the dolmas. It was completely uncivilized and so exceptionally delicious I am surprised I got any of either foods home. I also bought ingredients to make hummus, dal, and nopales, eggs, fresh pineapple, wonderful red leaf lettuce, avocados and lime and mini corn tortillas. Warm tortillas with avocado and lime alongside some nopales and eggs (nopales con huevos) may be the best breakfast ever.

IMG_7556.jpg            IMG_7557.jpg

I will be cooking a lot so I may need to have people over for dinner soon. Here’s to a great month and accomplishing goals.

Rising Sun

I was recently asked to write about mental health and rising within ourselves during a dawn ecstatic dance event. Initially, I said no because the idea of writing in public save coffeeshops and school cafeterias and subways and bars was terrifying. Then I realized my concern was not writing in public, but the idea of writing in real time. The expectation was terrifying. Also, being up with a pen ready at 5:30am on a Sunday was not a thought I’d ever considered palatable. But after saying, “No, thank you,” the idea took root and soon I realized this was an opportunity. I write, that’s what I love and what I fear. As a child, it’s how I saw myself as an adult – as an imbedded war correspondent or moving through refugee camps or on the outreaches of the world in her most untouched places – I dreamed of telling our stories. So … I couldn’t very well turn down an invite to share thoughts about mental health as spurred on by a 5:30am Rising Sun ecstatic dance event.

What follows, isn’t a retelling of the event, but thoughts I had as I sat on a front porch of a warehouse reclaimed for community living space. People inside preparing fresh fruit and juices, colorful people smiling as they entered, whimsical flowing pants and long shirts tumbling around their sleepy limbs. Later, I would join in a cacao ceremony and watch from a makeshift stage as they danced. Those stories I may elaborate on another time, but now unedited thoughts on mental health that came to me as a reflection of the cycle of a life based in a day.
As is all of life and her conditions, mental health is a balance of energy. Mental health is dawn and darkness and all the moments of one life’s day. Birdsong and daybreak — possibilities are endless and bountiful energy pervades, but winds move in and storms can overtake — dropping a darkness of shadow on your soul.

In that darkness, rain hammering down, you can become lost and feel alone though people are close. Thunder of emotion rolls within and it feels as though the rain will never end, but it will pass. At times you must seek shelter in your day – regulate with food, water, rest, connection – in order to rise from the storms. After the respite – be it a day or a season – the storms end and the sun shines. It is your dawn and you will rise with the fierce beauty of desert sun. Nothing holding you back from your own energy. Nothing breaking the extension of your soul from earth to the farthest stars. It is your day and sun rise is imminent.

As eyes adjust to new light your place is revealed – the places that rested in shadow are reflected in light and opportunity. Energy shifts – night into day you can make your way. As you begin to see, you begin to stretch and those who have been there all along – those who watched you walk through the storm but couldn’t be heard for the rain and thunder within – as light glimmers – they are there – stretching back and creating space for you. Space you may have not known, but space that always existed. Space that had been waiting for your energy. Phoenix rising has begun.

You step forward into the light and can begin to see this new phoenix is you.
It is your dawn and you must rise.
Rise and reach
Rise and reach

Only darkness can hold you back and the storm is temporary. The fires of the sun are stored in each of us and in all of life. There is a chosen family waiting with a fire for you to join around and thrive.

People love plans.
Creatures of habit are we with expectations and visions of what is to be. When things don’t go as planned we feel a catch in our breath – a sense of disappointment – sadness – anger – fear that we didn’t do right or aggravation because someone didn’t measure up. The thing is, life is chaos. Plans never go without a hitch – even when all appears smooth there is someone, somewhere that knows something didn’t go “as planned.”

When I would daydream about future plans, my wasband used to say, “Stalin had a five-year-plan.” Our marriage didn’t go as planned, beginning with our wedding day, but I stubbornly held on and tried to shoehorn myself into part of a couple that could get through anything. And we could, but not as a shape that was good for my soul. I ignored intuition and abandoned self-care during those years. I lived with checklists and mental guides of how to keep him happy and what not to do to make him grumpy or angry. I turned a lovely friendship into a frothing cauldron by trying to create what I thought was the frame of a “good marriage.” I never felt heard, but realize it was, in part, because I was not listening to myself. I became a shadow of the woman he originally knew and didn’t recognize myself by the end of our union.

I don’t plan anymore. I listen, I move, I let myself be guided. I manifest, I watch, I share, I love, I keep momentum. I sit still.

For some, plans make them anxious. For others, no plan makes them anxious. However, in both of instances it is not “The Plan” that’s at issue. It’s a loss of control. At the core, control and our feelings of control are key to interactions with life and our mental health. In the idea of the phoenix and rising to your truth there is a loss of control. Fire is not something to control, unless it is to be extinguished. It can be guided, but it is a natural, earth shaping phenomenon that creates growth and change by first burning down to the ash. You must allow yourself to burn down, before you can rise again. We must let the sun’s power release in order to direct it within our spirit and journey. Mental health is energy health and that is balance.

Letting go – holding on
Listening – hearing
Dreaming – doing
Stillness – action

Watching adults dance and play in dawn’s light is somehow jarring. It is not what “should be done,” though you can’t help but envy their return to what appears a child-like innocence. Tantric playfulness is the language of adults who have reclaimed fearlessness and connection despite knowing there is pain in the world – perhaps for knowing their pain in the world. Those who embrace the play are outside the norm. There is a freshness to them – in watching them interact and play in the world – that may sit still behind the duty of adulting, but can be released and accessed in a moment. It is welcoming giggles – open arms – spirit of joy even if sadness of time may be known within.

Accepting Aging

I went to a Circuit Training class today. I was looking forward to it because I’ve spent many hours in those classes in the past, but hadn’t gone to that type of class in about a year. It is always fast paced, fun exercises and engaging instruction. Today’s was a level 1, really more because that is what my schedule could accommodate. Let me note, I was in the best shape of my life back in February. It’s now April. I turned 43 in March and have only been doing yoga the last couple months, sporadically, so I know I’ve lost some strength. 

That level 1 class was HARD. Not only have I lost strength, my balance has deteriorated as well. A hardcore belief I hold is that age alone should not slow folks down, but today was a slap of reality to how important it is to stay on top of fitness as we age. I can see how folks easily slide and lose all momentum to keep up strength, flexibility & endurance as the years pass. So, yes, I accept I am aging, but I won’t give up the good fight. Now is the time to kick my health into high gear.