Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.

20Jul/200

Insomnia and Me

Every night I have 2 discussions with my Trauma Brain:

1a) I have completed enough tasks that I'm "allowed" to sleep.
1b) I'm always allowed to rest, 1a is wrong.

2) Sleeping is safe.

Yoga helps lots, I mediate or do some kind of physical practice. Often both.

Hot showers, just got out of one. Water is very helpful to me.

For many years I want aware of my fear of sleeping. Like many emotional states, I experienced the fear somatically. So much of my trauma is before cognitive integration was available to my brain, so I just don't feel right.

These days of pandemic and protests against police violence have made it harder to convince my body that I'm safe. When I feel less safe, my critical self spends a great deal of time telling me to go do the dishes, clean the floors, deal with the blackberries, catch up on email, finish the taxes, make a budget, defrost the freezer.....

And that's just taking a few seconds to transcribe my inner list of things I must do before resting, playing, creating art, etc.

8Mar/200

Just Write

I found myself anxious about forgetting to post yesterday. I thought about what I "should have" posted. I considered how WordPress lets me set the date, I could technically write two posts today and make it look like it was written over two days.

Then I remembered that this is my blog and I’m returning to it instead of putting so much stuff on social media. When I’m going to the time to thread tweets, it goes here. The content is mine and easy to return to, unlike my tweets.

For so many years I thought of myself as a writer. I’d get down on myself whenever I’d lose steam with a daily writing practice. I went right back to shaming myself for not writing this morning!

Art has become my daily creative practice. My day feels incomplete without creativity through art. On the other hand, yesterday I totally forgot about my goal to write some here every day. I made art twice, forgot to write.

After too much dithering, about “Doing it wrong!”, I finally was able to allow myself to just skip yesterday. I want to write more here than social media platforms, that’s the goal. I do not need my brain to add more pressure, that’s not the point.

16Oct/170

Willingness Gratitude

I've had another tough day, so much so that I've really had to start writing to figure out my gratitude for today. For a moment I thought it might be the fact that tomorrow is another day and I can put this day to rest. However, as I wrote a little bit, it occurs to me that I'm grateful for my willingness to unlearn old patterns of behavior that now, at age 48, really hold me back from flourishing personally, professionally, and in my relationships with the people I love.

Sometimes I really feel like a badly programmed robot.

Having been an isolated, only child and my Mother's predilection for moving nearly every year of school, I often am left feeling that I'm lacking in communication skills. Beyond the isolation of being an only child, my Mother used "grounding" as a frequent form of punishment, limiting me to my bedroom except to go to school and the bathroom. I believe I often would even get a plate fixed in the kitchen and eat by myself in my bedroom. I never thought of sneaking out as a teen, by then I was too afraid of her to even consider trying it.

People who know me primarily as a yoga teacher might be surprised to know that I don't feel like I'm great at communicating. In my years in technology my communications skills were always credited as a contributing reason for promotions, raises, and bonuses. In the realm of more public communication, those connections that feel a little less personal and intimate, I'd say my skills are better than average.

My teacher likes to use the phrase, "Professional Extrovert", which is pretty apt. I can be fairly easy with a group of people in front of me, but one-on-one interactions often feel so much harder and I'll find myself thinking, "How do real humans do this connection shit?!". In the worst case scenarios I freeze up and fall back into old patterns of behavior that don't really help in the present day, and often create more problems.

Knowing it, being aware of it, and being any good at stopping it are all every different parts of the work to do to change behavior. I'm still on the first two and trying to figure out how to get good at stopping it instead of stopping it through painful communication failures. How do I reprogram the routines that convince me that quiet retreat and productivity are the answer, because they always did improve things for my abusive Mother?

Today it feels like there are no answers, however, I am willing to keep digging into the mess of it all, to do the rewiring of old patterns.

 

8Mar/160

Calm Abiding

This past Saturday would have been my Mother's 73rd birthday. It made the week feel a little fragmented, but I was upfront with people about it. With CK's encouragement I made it off to the Collage Guild meet-up and worked on a few pieces, including this one that veered off the month's theme project quite a bit and is still in process.

In the evening I went over and saw a friend I've not seen in many years. She's moved many times, in pursuit of her studies in medicine, and because I have a hard time getting out. She had a clothing swap Saturday evening and I arrived with a backup plan to ditch my clothes and leave, but ended up staying 2 hours, enjoying the company, and scored some great new-to-me clothing.

Perhaps it is the returning light and the cherry blossoms, but I feel as though I weathered the "bump" of that birthday milestone without too much difficulty. Yes, some extra encouragement was asked for and given.

It is becoming easier to think of her as really dead. That's been part of the pain caused by how she planned her death, and my exclusion from it, just this surreal sense of not believing she's really gone and I'll never see her again. It is getting easier to hold onto this reality.

Two boxes of her personal property were sent to me by way my Mother's old pastor. I was teaching and asked him to leave them on the porch since I wouldn't be away long, also saving CK from the need to interact with him. I found myself somewhat baffled as to why I was sent many of the things the people going through her belongings chose to send me.

In the meantime, I'm waiting for my right shoulder to heal so I can start digging up the soggy earth of our yard. The plan is to move several rose bushes, at our house and some from a friend's house, from shady locations to the front edge of our front yard. I have a goal of roses, dahlias, and lots of differing spring bulbs forming a natural border between the road and our yard. For the moment I need the rain to let up a little, buy a lawn destruction tool, and get my shoulder improved so I can use it. There's also a plan for a blueberry bed for the 3 plants we currently have in big nursery pots.

All that and I'm four weeks into a training program for new business entrepreneurs. I was accepted to a pilot program that provides training and other resources to people who are starting a new business after being unable to return back to their old job. Leaving my  old company ill and unable to sleep, and told by my doctor to not go back, ever, qualifies me for a lot of support.

I'm writing a business plan, working on a marking plan, defining my services and customer personae. It is a whole new world to me, I feel like my to-do list for Samatha Yoga grows every week I'm taking this workshop! It is pretty exciting to be exploring actual business planning protocols to my ideas around teaching yoga.

Those weeks stretching long into the cold, darkness of winter, after I found out my Mother had died, just seem to dull the light inside of me. I don't feel fully restored, still yet healing and grieving in bigger ways too, but I feel more of a sense of equilibrium instead of the flat apathy the news brought.

Just recently the dogs seem to have gone beyond just mild friendship, which is to say that Dora not trying to angrily bite Bertie's face off. Yes, she still bites his lips, only now she does it while wagging her tail with excitement and joy while she does it. We've also seen snuggling happening.

25May/150

Stumbling Towards Peace

So much for my National Poetry Month pledge. Ah well.

Red Gerbera Daisy - May 25, 2015 - Portland, Oregon

Creativity, writing or other artistic medium, has been distant this winter into spring. I'm also not really motivated to read much either. I was thinking this morning about the two kinds of shame that arise around this. First out of the gate comes the, "Why are you at your desk working on collage, polymer clay pieces, organizing, bead work, anything!?" That one is so obvious. I should be making an effort to spend time at my desk dedicated to my art. This is the way artists  become selling artists.

The more subtle voice of criticism is softer and hints at some colossal, irredeemable flaw in not wanting to be creative. To be perfectly content in this slow, fugue state and not desire to break out and make art seems like the biggest betrayal, failure of them all.

Which means that some days, still many days, I work a little (3 classes a week, moving up to 5 come June), try to take care of some household errands and/or chores, and nap. I still feel kind of amazed at just how much  I still nap and how an hour of therapy can throw me into a tailspin lasting for days. A particularly intense therapy session earlier this month has seen me back to nearly daily naps, many over 2-3 hours.

What finally occurred to me on the 11th was that I'm angry. I left that therapy session angry, which was a far healthier response than the shame and body disgust I went in with. That said, I'm really at a loss when it comes to anger. A childhood of being disallowed the expression of any "negative emotions", anger, disrespecting elders, "talking smart", anything perceived or labeled as "back talk", etc. As a young child this was enforced through physical action followed by banishing me to my bedroom where I was also not to cry and carry on, lest I be "given something to cry about". As I grew older I would mostly just be banished. Cut off from contact aside from school attendance. The rest of the time I was in my room with the door closed, shutting me away.

What I realized now is that when I'm angry I tend to get in a gray, exhausted, demotiavted funk really quickly. This leads me to just go to bed and nap. I go somewhere quiet and try to wait it out. Which really worked for me growing up, but as an adult.... well it still works because I'm teaching and not working some stressful, full-time+ job in IT. However, I also get that the anger I feel at the abuses I survived is a pretty reasonable response.

And yet... there are my vows, particularly the Ninth Grave Precept which directs us to, "Actualize harmony. Do not be angry."

So I'm trying to find ways that let me acknowledge and reconcile the anger I feel, particularly my "inner, younger selves" that were so utterly denied any way to express anger at what was happening in the present moment. Ways to express the anger that are safe, measured, and do not bring further harm to myself or others. I'm brainstorming some "intuitive art" sessions where I just pick colors, textures, words, and images from my collage materials that the inner anger resonates with and, on the advice of my therapist and CK, I occasionally try yelling and screaming in the car.

1Apr/150

New Path and National Poetry Month 2015

As I am feeling my way into this new way of being in the world, emerging into the life of a yoga teacher, artist, and writer with equal measures of joy and trepidation, I am trying to return to some things that helped foster my creativity, like annual 30 Poems in 30 Days project for April, which just happens to be National Poetry Month.

In years past I've really loved showing my love for poetry by committing to challenge myself to write 30 poems in 30 days. I'm not sure here on April 1, 2015, if I've ever done them all. I'll have to look back and see. I'm not sure I'll get them all done this year, but I feel good about reviving this "tradition" on my blog. Trying to write poems each day challenges me in many positive ways.

The biggest challenge is to just compose a poem. Write it, one day, often at a single sitting (although a haiku may take me the whole day to compose). Don't fiddle with it, just write it, publish it on the blog. Don't judge it, just write it. That's a hard one to work with, but this annual exercises challenges me to work with my inner critic.

New Path

Hospitality Agent Lumpy - Portland, Oregon - April 1, 2015

This uncharted territory
Had beckoned to me,
Yet always seeming
Far off, shimmering
On the horizon.

Yet now I find myself
Right at the edge,
Ready to step down
The road to a new way.
Now, now is the time.

I feel, all at the same time,
Joy, fear, uncertainty,
And, to my surprise,
Delight at moving into a life
I never dared hope to live.

8Oct/140

October Observations

October is here, arriving with a burst of rain and then come days of warm, summery days and crisp evenings. Really, one of my favorite times of year in Portland. Leaves are just turning, apples are plentiful, all the moss that had gone brown in the summer heat turns to green again. I'll miss the last two weeks of the month because we'll be leaving the house, and all the beautiful creatures living in it, in the very capable hands of a dear friend while CK and I enjoy a trip.

Kitchen Benefactors

Part of the trip for her will be work, but we have several days for just us. It has only taken two marriage ceremonies for us to have a honeymoon, but we're finally doing it. I'm getting really excited for the adventure of an entirely new place, one I've always wanted to visit. I'm also just happy for us, the last few trips CK and have taken together have been completely overshadowed by the Mama-Drama-Rama the claimed 2012 & 2013. We deserve a nice holiday with no emergencies to deal with at home.W

My talk to MozFest didn't get accepted, which is disappointing, but it is nice to not be worrying about my slides, etc. before giving a talk. I will be attending though, if anyone else is there and wants to look me up.

I've been applying for teaching positions at studios around town. Really, it feels like auditioning, particularly when I give a demo of my teaching. I never thought I'd come to prefer the grueling, multi-person, multi-hour interviews of the tech industry, but the audition thing is so nerve wracking that I'd take the old way back any day! What I've discovered is that there are a lot of teachers in the area and a lot of owners that have a very specific image they're trying to project.

No, I'm still not working in tech. The earliest review of that, a date given grudgingly, would be January 2015. However, the overwhelming opinion is in favor of me not going back to the tech industry at all. I've been noodling over this quite a bit the past few weeks after getting some unexpected news about my last company/team. I spent a good week in blue sky mode, fantasizing about going back so I could prove I could hack it, or make a difference, or finish something.

Then I had a good talk about all these feelings coming up with my therapist and after some discussion I saw that a large part of my desire to return to my last company is out of some hope it will "fix" my feelings about leaving college. It will somehow repair the past if I prove something that doesn't really matter in the present.

That brings me back to healing from the idea that you can spend 17 years building yourself into something and be told that you have to stop. I never thought that would ever happen. Maybe wouldn't have had I not had such a supportive wife and felt that I still had to keep everything moving along, regardless of my own health and the health of my relationships.

I am humbled by the abundance of support I now have in my life. Instead of trying to find a job that just gets me by, that doesn't let me take the time to really heal the hurt and trauma I've survived, I am instead thinking of ideas of how to market my private yoga sessions with people. I'm also on Week 6 of The Artist's Way, and that has been bringing me some profound insight on how I view my health and identifying the ways in which I'm mean to myself; writing things down so I can better work with them. I've also been working through a lot of anger about my Mother, huge amounts; my therapist and PMHNP both say that it is about time for me to feel angry, about a whole lot of things.

All that means I'm also still napping, which I'm trying to be less judgmental about having identified my impatience for my need to rest as a way I'm mean to myself! Some things, like having a 45 minute conversation about what it was like at my job this time last year as part of the process to review my eligibility for unemployment benefits, will leave me feeling worn out for a day or two. I am keeping in mind and trying to celebrate that it is an improvement over a week's fugue-state after challenging tasks like that.

The good news about sticking with the hard work is that it is helping things out; I am getting unemployment benefits now that I've been released to some kind of work and am actively searching. I'm going to be applying for a couple of programs that help you establish your own business, which I'm qualifying for since my physician has advised me not to return to my old career. Teaching classes here and there is going to be hectic and costly in regards to time spent commuting and fuel. CK has been brainstorming ideas for me to set up a solo teaching practice, with a class or workshop at a studio here and there.

I've also just started an Etsy shop. It isn't "open" yet because I need to face down my block over photographing artwork to post. In addition to pieces listed, I'll also be taking custom work. This winter I experienced a huge shift it what I was creating and am really excited by the direction I'm heading it, but I've avoiding photography for some fear of failure.

I'm planning to take an introduction to matting and framing artwork class at the Multnomah Arts Center next month. I plan to use at least one of my own pieces of artwork since I have so many questions on how to mat them. I know it will get me over the fear of using the mat cutter I bought a few months ago!

Since I've been doing so much with making art, I've started a new blog, ZenZada. We're also going to include stories about our life (mostly raccoon adventures thus far), reviews of places we stay when we travel, vegan/GF travel tips, and other lifestyle things like that. I started it in part to have a place to write about my co-creative art project with a Portland artist.

Vegan Nosh continues to move along, I've been doing a series of experiments with vegan burger recipes and posting about them. Since we found out CK cannot have gluten, I've been doing more experimenting and cooking at home, which is really better for us in so many ways.

11May/136

Adventures in Altered Art

Back in January I finally decided to sign up for a workshop with Seth Apter at one of my favorite little, local art shops, Collage. Today was the day.

It has been hard this past several weeks. Igal's death has been a dark pall over the bright flowers of spring. I was really quietly pleased that despite the grief, anxiety, PTSD triggers, illness, exhaustion and busyness of April, I still managed to put together 30 poems in 30 days.

In the cleaning, sorting, distributing, and dealing with Igal's apartments, which his closest friends took on, some of his things were sent to, or set aside for people. I helped in the initial days, the apartment was easier to deal with than the meetings to plan his memorial. In the final days our friends decided some things should be brought to us.

Japanese ceramics, a collection that seems to have no theme beyond being pleasing to Igal at some time has been brought to CK and I. I look forward to serving festive dishes, particularly Japanese ones, on these beautiful dishes. At future Thanksgiving dinners it will give me a way of continuing to include Igal, despite his being gone from this life.

Igal's Lovely Japanese Dishes

In January, when I'd decided to attend the workshop, I had so looked forward to discussing my ideas about it with Igal. He had encouraged me to explore using acrylic medium for my artwork. At one of our infrequent, but wonderful Art at Koehler Haus days, Igal sat with me and shared his acrylics to help me learn how to use them.

Another gift of our friends was a decision to bring Igal's art supplies to us. Today I had Igal with me; I brought his paint box with me to class and used many of his acrylic paints and glaze in the start of my project today. I am so humbled that our friends thought these things should come to me.

Beginning the Workshop, with Igal's paint box.

I was so nervous this morning before heading to the workshop. All the usual feelings of inadequacy, of "pretending" at art.  CK gave me a kiss before leaving, encouraging me.

Our instructor, Seth Apter, was great. He immediately assured us that we would most likely not finish! Such a relied to be assured that 54 small collage pieces was a tall order indeed!

We quickly got to work on applying black gesso to all 52 playing cards and a piece for the front, another for the back.

Gesso Down!

He reminded us right away to not forget to work on the cover and back pieces, on book board, pieces in addition to the 52 playing cards. The black and the beauty of metallic, gold acrylic inspired me to create a small Enso. I will admit that it felt really very good when Seth complimented it, showing it to the other workshop participants, and recognizing it as an Enso.

Cover with Enso

Next we were encourage to apply some layers, at least one, of acrylic paint. My colors were all fairly rich and dark, against the black gesso they mostly implied a suggestion of color, which was pretty lovely.

Layers of Acrylic Paint Over Gesso

Then we were to set aside one side for adding text. Eventually my book will have poems by Hafiz and Rumi appearing on these pages. To the other side we received instruction on how to mix the acrylic paint with glaze to make sheer, translucent layers of color over the black gesso.

Layers and Layers of Acrylic Glaze

Next  came time to apply collage layers. Here's where I felt a little lost. I'd thought I'd seen the boxes of paper and emphera I've collected these past handful of years, but I only found the small box of the smallest scraps. Given that we're altering playing cards, it was really just fine, but I still wish I'd found my awesome paper stash!

Next Step, Collage!

All too soon the workshop was over! I am only a quarter or a third of the way done! I really can't wait to get my office fully together, my chair out the box, so I can create!

Just Barely Begun!

Today is all "wrapped up" and I'm already thinking about making a book of Mary Oliver poetry in this form. I'm also really intrigued by Seth's inspiration for this workshop; making one card a week for an entire year. Seems like a great way to combine collage, altered art and haiku into a project.

Hafiz / Rumi Altered Playing Card Book - Day One

4Apr/120

Unfolding Beauty (and Practice)

I had acupuncture today, a long session to discharge all the chaotic energy I've been running on for weeks now. Mostly the only poem I could come up with is:

Too tired
To make
Poetry.

So here's a great opportunity to practice with the side of me that stokes up that chaotic energy to just tough it out, get through. The side that prods the voice that's tired and small into producing anyway. Here's a chance to practice a gentleness that encourages that a haiku "counts" and isn't slacking off on the 30-poems-in-30-days goal.

New Butterflies, Westminster, Colorado, May 2011

And here it is, a haiku about new butterflies.

Emerging slowly.
Wings wet and still unfurling.
Unfolding beauty.

7Feb/100

When my Critic is Quiet

This weekend's retreat was unsurprisingly powerful and emotional. I felt very strongly supported by my Portland friends, something CK helped to remind me of by prompting some friends to send me very positive text messages on my way out to Great Vow, and by the Sangha there. Looking back at the weekend I can see the many ways the residents at Great Vow were supporting and helping me through a retreat I came to very reluctantly.

One thing I figured out that was good to learn are the times when my Critic is silent. That critical voice or sensation in my body is so often present that it feels like I am never with out it. However, when a Dharma sister from our Portland program and I agreed to talk about when it isn't there, since the conversation was shorter, she helped me to see two times when I am utterly free from this feeling.

Unsurprisingly cooking was one of those times. When I am engaged in preparing food there is no critical voice. I am merely present to the activity of my hands, the timing of the cooking, and the food I am transforming. When I serve a new dish to someone the voice comes back, but most of the time I'm pretty confident that what I've prepared will be delicious.

I also realized that when I teach yoga there is no Critic. Even if I am anxious or terribly upset right up until the very moment I begin a class, once I start to teach the voice goes away and I am present and alert. When I transmit the Lineage of Yoga there is no space for the Inner Critic. None.

It was good to connect with these two times when I am clear and free of my Inner Critic. Now I'm wondering when else it is gone!