Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Notes on Grief, For B, M and D

Look, here's the thing:


I wrote this post last week but I've been avoiding putting it up. I don't know why; maybe because things still feel delicate, because I'm scared, because it feels too raw too touch. But I have a sick feeling that it might be getting in the way. Because I believe that what comes up is what needs to be dealt with, even if it scares you. And because I believe we're all on this planet together, and that means that what you deal with I deal with, and on and on and on.


A very special person to some very special people to me died [recently]. As I simultaneously try to grasp the overwhelming desire to protect this amazing family from ever having to feel such tremendous pain, I remember all I've ever learned of grief. I don't even know where to begin with this because it encompasses so much of what I believe both in the spiritual and physical realms. But in trying to marry the two, I'm still coming up against this primal feeling, this anger and sadness I have in knowing that right now, anything I could and would have to say to any one of them would likely make no difference at all in the worlds they feel crumbling around them. But as a person who only knows how to come at anything with compassion that seeks to bear pain for another, likewise I only know how to do it with words that speak of dealing with the present and beliefs in how to move forward.


And it goes like this:


Grief is like a 5-way mirror. It surrounds you in this manner as each time you shift positions a new view is presented. The reflection moves between sadness, anger, denial and bargaining until finally resting on the one right in front of you, the only one that moves us forward: acceptance.


In the same way that I explained feelings, each of these stages must truly be experienced in order to bring us to the next. That rage you feel for the one you lost -- or whatever you blame for taking them away -- is the key to the next door in the grieving process. Even in denial, the emotion that tells us nothing ever happened, there is a truth that speaks to us of the pain in losing that person.


These feelings move us forward. They keep us moving along the path towards inner truth each loss we experience shares with us.


I haven't shared much of my spiritual beliefs yet but this feels like as good a time as any. In my view, there is no right or wrong in this world. There is only learning. As karmic souls reincarnated in an infinite universe, the karma that I speak of is not a spiritual retribution but a choice made on the soul level to experience new teachings in each successive pass.


In this way, that which we experience on the physical level is not to harm us, but to teach us something we hadn't seen yet. The grief we feel does not shut us away from trust in ourselves and others, it opens us up to the learning we find in feeling our way through it.


So this is my advice. When a loss is encountered, no matter what it is, the answer is not to run from it. The answer is not to pretend it never happened, to divert our attention to the next thing, to shove it into the locked room in your phsyce, to run away. The answer is to seek out the benefit in the loss. To seek out those experiencing the same and draw from each other. To feel each part of it as it comes and hope the next day is a little clearer.


I don't claim to understand even a fraction of what it feels like to lose someone as close to you as your own two feet. I have dreamt of losing The Mother, and even the illusion of unconsciousness brings a pain that wakes me with tears seeming without end. It is a sadness so deep I can't imagine ever having to face it in reality.


But I do know one thing. Grief is a complexity of emotions that like anything takes time, honesty and support to move through. If we can find any truth in it, it is that we are not alone. The sooner we can open ourselves up to the wholeness left in the aftermath of loss, the sooner we can find the beauty in it. And that beauty is acceptance.

A Few Things Worth Sharing

In the wake of my day spent doing nothing, the fruits of that labor have come up in a few things I found while dicking around. I'm currently writing this at my coffee spot (you know the one) next to a gaggle of seniors I'm struggling to drown out with the soothing sounds of Bon Iver on Pandora. Needless to say, it's not going so well. Though I'd rather they take their shenanigans to Bingo right now, I hope to god I'm that animated in my old age. It could be worse, right? Cue the cackles.


This article, which pretty well outlines what how believe the world can and should work, if only we could start trusting it. Sparknotes version: quit bitching and make it happen.

Heather Armstrong of Dooce.com
This woman, who is probably one of the funniest and most poignant ever to grace our blue marble. I've been reading her for a while but now is the time to share. I really admire a woman that knows her way around expletives. And yes I'm aware that probably everyone already knows and is over it already, but please acknowledge my late blooming into the world of technology. I've barely got my training bra off.

To continue my love affair with mommy bloggers, Motherhood, WTF has rapidly become one of my favorite things to read on the internets. No, this is not a secret plea to the universe for life-sucking little heathens of my own, I have just become acutely aware that the mommies of the blogosphere are some of the best people to find honesty and humor from. Thank you, mothers of the world, for reminding me why I'm waiting until I have nothing better to do to have children  (jk, jk. But seriously, aren't kids terrifying??).
This incredibly accurate, succinct and mature explanation for yesterday's vain SVU marathon search. I agree entirely, Ms. West. It is hella good.

You can thank me for the time well wasted later.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Top Ten List Of Ways To Waste An Afternoon or; My Day

1. Take awkwardly un-photogenic photos of yourself with boyfriend's hijacked cell phone and set as lock screen, so as to remind him of how amazing you are every time he ignores his alarm.

2. Drive home from work hoping no one will notice the tail light you still haven't fixed, despite narrowly escaping said encounter the previous day, while receiving a speeding ticket.

3. Ruminate on how when you got that ticket, the police officer asked you to step out and stand by his car, only to search your vehicle on suspicion of "a faint whiff of cannibus." They're called cigarettes, jerk. Although he was quite nice after determining you are not, indeed, a pothead.

4. Arrive home, search in vain for Law and Order SVU marathon to set as "background noise" for the writing process.

5. Get sidetracked by Sex and the City movie instead.

6. Attempt to take a walk with mother, only to decide you're really incapable of normal human interaction today and hole yourself back up in the basement.

7. Unable to resist any longer, continue along the slow dark path to filling the rest of the evening with Breaking Bad on netflix. You know you wanted to all along.

8. Sandwich break.

9. More Breaking Bad, while intermittently staring at blank screen and writing nonsense intros to posts that will never be.

10. Write this list in an attempt to cover up shame in using an afternoon for screen-staring.

You're welcome, phone.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Why I Drink, Swear and Eat Cake

Look, Here's The Thing:

I have a real problem with taking myself too seriously. Call it perfectionism, call it first born syndrome, call it Daddy issues: it all amounts to beat-to-shit fingernails. You could even whip out the newspaper and blame my astrology -- damn you, anal Virgo of criticism!

This is a trait that suits perfectly an industry where knowledge is power and the more you know, the crazier you are. Seriously, I know exactly what a trans fat molecule looks like and why it sucks for your cells; why the cholesterol myth is both fact and bullshit; the difference between gluten free, yeast free and wheat free -- and a thousand other things that could make a dictionary feel overwhelmed.

So wait, hold on, let me connect these two elements for you (not because you're stupid and can't understand what I'm getting at, but like I said, IT NEEDS TO PERFECTLY MAKE SENSE):

1) I have a tendency to obsess over what I'm doing and how I'm doing it; if it is right and how it could be better. This extends to my work habits, health habits, art habits, and people-associating habits. Sometimes known as "control issues" (pshaww).

2) I am surrounded by information at all times, from those wanting more of it from me to those trying to shove it down my throat (we in the industry call those reps). And there is NEVER too much information. There is NEVER a point when we say "wait, I know enough, thanks, I think I'm pretty healthy for now. I don't need to know how to prevent asthma in my goldfish. We both eat broccoli."

3) As a product of these two phenomena, it is very easy for me to turn this constant input of information against myself, to use it as a google maps for my life instead of, say, a handy atlas. And we all remember being screwed by google maps.

I began working in the alternative health world when I actually really did need help -- both physically and emotionally. But after reprograming myself to understand that peanut butter is not, in fact, a meal -- and I started feeling better -- I was able to take a step back and look at what out of this new well of information I actually needed and what was just overflow.

I see so many people who are new to taking care of themselves. I see so many of these people's crazy eyes spiral when they discover that there is a huge vat of information stored up within the history of human health and science to be consumed. I see all of these people freak out; I see all of these people plead for guidance and structure and more knowledge; I see the anxiety in every one of them when they realize there's no way they can ferment their own sauerkraut while whipping up a batch of kombucha to send in BPA-free containers with their kindergarteners to the first day of class and oh-my-god-they're-going-to-get-cancer-at-age-5. And I see them run to Wendy's when it gets too hard.

I'm not just talking about health here. I'm talking about all the things we spin our hamster wheels doing, that seem so very important to our survival but to be honest just shorten it. All I know from anything I've ever learned about myself and this world is that there's no way you're ever going to do it all right all the time. There's no way you're always going to eat organic, there's no way you're always going to be able to work full time and make 5-course allergen-free meals for your family and go to therapy and catch up on a hobby and read a book and garden all at the same time -- probably at that point you're just going to take a nap. You're never going to get to all your appointments on time when you're child is puking. All we can do is know what we know, and act on it in the best way we can. I'll never be someone that doesn't eat sugar, because it's so tasty and thinking about the sugar content in half a chocolate chip makes me nauseous. I'll never write, paint, work and maintain my relationships every single day. I'll never be perfect, because I have way better things to think about. Like clothes.

And that's why I drink, because there's nothing like a good glass of Gnarly Head after a long day. That's why I swear, because nothing is worth talking about if taken too seriously. And that's why I eat cake, because fur realz, what kind of sick world doesn't have cake?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Fair Fight or; Quit Talking When I'm Talking

Look, here's the thing:

Right. So I'm supposed to be at work right now, pioneering the world of alternative health, but I'm currently so frazzled by a week spent arguing with various persons that I don't think I can be trusted with the treatment of your infant's colic at the moment. That's what coffee breaks are for, right (if I never go back...does that still count as a "break?")?

My Scare-apist (or Frownselor, depending upon your damage,) was actually the one that gave me the idea for this. After a session spent unraveling my clusterfuck of a week latest disagreements she noted its potential usefulness in a blog post. See, she's smart and hip.

So how are arguments started and how do they get remedied? Arguments are the point at which that boundary you've created for yourself, that emotion-fence, has been breached. The emotion serves as the indicator that something, indeed, has gone wrong, and now we've come to the point that It Needs To Be Discussed, because right now I Just Feel Like Shit And You Are The Reason Why.

But now here's the hard part. Unless you have the unfortunate disposition of being schizophrenic, most arguments are held between two parties. Like you and your partner. Or you and your friend. Or you and your dog, but at that point I'd like to note that sorry, whatever problem you have with your dog is YOUR FAULT because you raised him, you awful parent you. So stop yelling when he barfs in your shoes.

Seeing as two people are now part of the discussion, you do have every right to yell and scream and bitch about how pissed off you are. You may throw your barfy shoes, if you so desire. But then you are wholly responsible for the backlash. Stop telling me that your boyfriend doesn't listen when you scream at him for using your curling iron as a fly swatter, because chances are if you have indeed come at him swinging it, he is unlikely to See Your Point Of View.

Arguments are about cooperation. Arguments are about unearthing pieces of yourself that can only be seen when they feel wronged. Arguments are about mending and repairing; about moving forward to the next thing so that you may become stronger knowing each new vital piece of information about one another.

After many lengthy discussions about the pieces of her relationship that were keeping them from moving forward, one Very Special Person came to me simply giddy over the argument she and her saucy boyfrann had recently had. Turns out, laying things out on paper is not an activity confined to the weeping families on Intervention, and according to her it really worked. Two and a half hours later, the two happily skipped into the sunset having honestly pinned each other to the wall over their respective woes.

What I'm trying to say here is that being honest with what you're feeling about someone else is the only way to argue successfully. It takes sitting with yourself to find where the anger comes from and why. It takes being still with that feeling to get at the root of its origin.

And on the flip side, you have to really be willing to listen to what the other person is saying in order to move forward. Relationships are two-way streets. No one person is right and no one person is wrong, but the two of you can learn to communicate what your individual boundaries and feelings are, even if it takes some yelling and screaming first. And if you really care about someone, isn't that the true goal? To come to a mutual understanding so that you can move forward?

To be fair, I don't feel like I'm totally qualified to be writing this right now. I've had enough huffy walking-away, angry stare-down, yelling-screaming-silent-seething fights for one week. I've been wrong and I've felt wronged. But at the end of the day, I care too much about what I'm fighting says about me about and those I'm fighting with to hold onto it for too long. All I can hope for is that we get through it stronger, knowing more about one another each time.

Now can somebody please buy me a drink already? It is my BIRTHDAY-EVE.

Friday, September 14, 2012

You Know Who You Are

Big-Ups to a few people that have made the last 24 hours pretty cool. Just because I feel like it:

These two amazing girls for agreeing with me that swings are still cool, especially those covered in tires and hanging from an underpass. Also, if anyone can find the end of my gums in this picture please let me know.

This chick, who reminded me why I still risk being late for work every single morning (wait a minute, I don't risk it -- I am late for work every single morning) to stop at Starbucks. And it's not just the chemical dependence.

My most amazingly awesome customer, who kicked off my birthday weekend right with this cupcake from here. Janky frosting may or may not be due to pre picture-taking partaking. Or bad driving.

This person who has been a friend longer than I care to think about, despite the fact that she hated me at First Sight. Something about me being controlling or other such bullshit. Stop thinking I'm controlling RIGHT THIS SECOND, YOU. And go get me a beer.

Also, beer.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On My Aversion To Teenage Girls

Look, Here's The Thing:

I was once a Teenage Girl. I was once obnoxious, self-entitled and catty. I once traveled in packs, spoke in "like" and was Really Fucking Annoying. I know what you're thinking: "how can someone so articulate, witty and self-aware once have been one of those girls I see at Starbucks wearing shorts more akin to thong underwear? Surely not."

I assure you, I was once one of those girls. Minus the shorts, maybe -- I never had the confidence to bare my cellulite in such a manner. Maybe because unlike my womanhood, my cellulite came in at twelve.

I'm reminded of how much I can't stand teenage girls every time I decide it would be really nice to sit at Starbucks for a while, attend to my addiction (caffeine) and get some good, solid writing done. Because every time I journey over to said watering hole, there is always a gaggle of the aforementioned young Medusas hellbent on prohibiting me from doing anything that even smells like productivity.

The grating voices. The shrill yelling. The language that relies far too heavily on adverbs as actual conversation fodder to be near trackable. The spectacle that not even the soothing voice of Sam Beam can drown away.

Like most good grudges, I can come to terms with the fact that my distaste for this strange mutation of human comes from an aversion to my own time spent as One Of Them. Because looking back on the times before I came to be who I am now is just really, really difficult.

When I was a Teenage Girl, I had the spine of a jellyfish. My world was ruled by the whims of my friends, who had the power to create a day's happiness or crush it with bracelet-laced fists. The Mother and I were constantly at fisticuffs over my desire to play by their rules -- the only one of which mandated I did whatever they said. I was completely, one-hundred-percent codependent. I didn't tell anyone how I really felt because I knew my role: I was the counselor, I was the shoulder to lean on, I was the one that always said yes because we're-never-talking-again-if-you-don't-come-to-my-graduation-party-I-don't-care-if-you're-puking-you-brains-out. And it was totally, like, my fault.

When I began to break away from the relationships that I had come to view as more harmful than productive, something curious happened. First, I felt really powerful. I felt in control of who I chose to be and what I chose to do. Second, I felt really lonely.

Because I had been living within the lives of others. I had built my identity around this construct (the anchor I found, though, was the art I was making; it was then that I realized how I had been using it as a lifeline to preserve that which I was hiding). But out of that loneliness came truth. The loneliness gave me the space to move toward the things that I really wanted, not what was being dictated. The loneliness became my Safe Place to come back to, to find strength in, to restructure which direction I was headed in and find the faith I lacked in myself to choose my own path.

So whenever I feel the haughty glare of some sixteen year-old who's just gotten her license so OF COURSE she is far superior to I, in my thrifted granny skirt and ancient telephonic communication device (my phone's a piece of shit) and I feel the repulsion fill the back of my throat, I know what that is. That's me, staring at myself through the lens of time and just hating where I came from. That's me, looking at a girl who didn't know "no" from a chip in her nail polish. That's me, wearing neon hair clips and an armful of bracelets and what are you doing with your hair, child; hating her mother because she actually did understand how to say no. That's me, without a clue of who I wanted to be.

I'm glad I'm starting to see her now.

Teenage Mosifer and Nichola, circa 2007. Friendship status: intact

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Really Eloquent Way To Talk About Diarrhea

Look, here's the thing:


I spend a lot of time talking to people with problems. I spend a lot of time talking to a lot of people with a lot of problems nearly, every day. I talk to all sorts; from the crazy to those who think they are sane (tangential fact: no one is). I've picked up my fair share of both wisdom and cynicism along the way, but what I've come to believe is true in talking to all these problematic people really boils down to a few simple truths:


1. You are in charge of your own health. Period.

2. Your health is largely determined by the amount of stressors in your life -- from self-created ones to the out-of-control.

3. It is how you deal with these influences that determines your amount of health, prosperity and fulfillment.


Now here's where I get all woo-woo on you (I told you, I grew up with The Mother). Just like feelings, physical sickness is a message. It is a message from the inner-you that something is wrong, something about your life is not going well and you need to WAKE UP, SON. This could be as simple as a need to feed yourself better (quit scarfing McDonald's like That's A Real Meal because hello, IT'S NOT). Or maybe you have chronic diarrhea because you stay up all night obsessing over wether or not you'll get that promotion. Or -- more woo woo -- you never really dealt with that time in third grade when Johnny called you ugly so now you've developed an ulcer worrying about if your hairstyle matches THE PRECISE ONE you saw on Emma Stone (total girl crush) last month in Vogue. Especially on the day of that promotion.


All of the above I would categorize as stressors. So often when I ask people about the amount of stress in their life, I get a blank stare and either a "holy jesus you have no idea" or, "oh, I don't know, I don't think I'm very stressed." Let me tell you, if you can't sleep at night because you're continually arranging and re-arranging the precise sequence of when to get coffee, fuel injector fluid and gas the next morning before work (that's me, last night); then THAT'S A STRESSOR.


But let's talk about the physiological reason why this affects our health. Because I know you're like, I WANT PROOF, WEIRDO. Adrenal glands. The tiniest damn organ in our bodies (I don't actually know if that's true, but go with it) that is like The Holy Mother over your system. Adrenal glands react to stressors -- you know, fight or flight. They produce adrenaline (duh) but because we don't really live like cavemen anymore, when they react to stress with a surge of adrenaline it doesn't have much to do. You're not going to fight your annoying boss who's staring into your cubicle during a quick sesh of Facebook stalking, and you're probably not going to flee to the parking lot to cry about him bitching you out for it, either.


So all that adrenaline (cortisol, too) has no where to go. And after a while -- after more jabs to your adrenals for This reason or That reason over the course of a day and then several -- your adrenal glands are like ENOUGH ALREADY and they kind of just go limp and stare into space like you do on your drive home from that godawful place. And then, when you get home and your kid falls off the monkey bars at the playground and your adrenals are all "I'm done for today, thanks" you leave him sitting there crying because you can't even stand up (fact: this actually happened to young Mosifer. The Mother had some adrenal issues back then, too).


And that's when all hell breaks loose. After a while, your body starts sending you little love notes. Cries for help. Pleas to calm the fuck down, please -- we can't handle this anymore. Insomnia, IBS, chronic fatigue, alopecia (and that's my true story), weight gain, weight loss, candida, blah blah blah. All of these can be linked to adrenal problems.


So what the hell are you supposed to do about it? Start by paying attention. And when they say "take a breather;" do exactly that. Breathe. Cry. Run. Take a moment for yourself. Because you are worth that much, and because your health and your sanity depend upon it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It's All About Me: Life on a Tightrope

Look, here's the thing:

I've been working on this painting for the last few weeks. It's an experiment of sorts, because I don't often allow myself to paint with such abandon. I'm trying to loosen up, to let things happen more organically without being such a control freak about it. And that's what led me to the following musings...

This has been the most unproductive long weekend for me ever. I hope you can hear the bile in my throat when I use that word: unproductive. For some reason whenever I know I'll have an extra day off work I generally assume I'll use that time to Get Stuff Done and working on my Plans For World Domination (though those Law and Order marathons beg to differ).

So when instead of painting, frustratedly navigating the Internets and writing I spent the weekend sleeping til noon (gag), spending time with my family, playing disc golf and shopping for Buddy Holly's birthday, my uber-critical Virgo looks back at those days in disgust as if I've slept through midterms. Or something else college students care about -- glow in the dark party? What do I know, I'm a lowly dropout (<--see! I told you to watch out for her!)

This something The Mother and I argue about constantly. She, in all her psychic-wisdomness, can't stand when I complain about being unproductive. It goes something like this:

ME: "Oh Mai Gawd, I'm such a lazyass. I woke up at noon (gag) again and now I'll never get anything done. What a waste of a Labor Day.

TM: "Mol, it's Labor Day. You're not supposed to get anything "done." Stop berating yourself and just enjoy being restful. And do the dishes.

Can't you just hear the irritation in those italics? And they continue, in various colors and combinations in similarly various situations, such as:

- when the Scarlet River is flowing and I spend the week exhausted, furious that I haven't ran in five days;

- when I'm nearing an entry deadline and still pissed that in between taking images and writing applications I haven't painted ALL WEEK;

- during the holidays, when -- DUH -- my regular routine is disrupted and I blame my lack of productivity on uber-laziness.

And the list goes on.

My therapist and I had a similar discussion last week. While intermittently filling her in on the week's happenings since moving back home (oh yeah, That. More on That later) and despairing over What Am I Doing With My Life OhMyGawd, she paused to note my delusion:

ME: "I feel like I never get anything done. My life is going nowhere. There's too much to do and not enough time and if anyone else asks me if gluten free is safe for their cat at work I'm afraid I might bitchslap them. (I would actually never say "bitchslap" to her. She's too nice and I would feel too young and immature (<--obvi)).

HER: "Hold on. You're telling me that since you've moved home, you've started two new paintings and a blog, transitioned into a totally new space and not taken a single day off work?

ME: "Yeah sure. I guess."

Now some might say I need to get over the Drama Queen syndrome or maybe I have Distortion Disorder -- I prefer to blame my parents. But it would be all the same mechanical soft of delusions; the Real Truth is that most of the time I'm just way too hard on myself.

Because sometimes it feels like I'm carrying all my baggage across a tightrope. Between maintaining my relationships, working full-time, writing and keeping a (somewhat) diligent studio schedule, there's no way I could make it across without having everything balanced perfectly. But on occasion -- like this weekend -- the only way to get across is to drop it all for a few steps, and hope you can pick it back up on the next pass.

A Brief Overview Of Boundaries or; Stay Out Of My Yard Or I'm Getting My Shotgun

Look, here's the thing:

If fences exist to prevent other dogs from shitting in your yard, then boundaries are the relational equivalent. And the dogs are people. People that annoy you and really want to climb your fence and leave a big nasty stink-pile of drama all up in your pretty rainbow-filled Mental Playground.

Just like fences, everyone's boundaries are different. For example, mine are wrought-iron and have spikes and turrets and a moat and a dragon and gargoyles that spit fire if you get too close and godammit-I-will-turn-them-on-if-you-interrupt-me-while-watching-Parks-and-Rec-so-help-me-God.

Ok not really. That's what I wish my boundaries were like, but by my own fault it's more like they're made out of marshmallow, which attracts all sorts of peole to come and taste and then eat through to the other side and then ask me how to treat their newly-aquired diabetes just as I'm sitting down to paint. Or stalk people on facebook.

So right, back to the point. If boundaries are fences, your yard is your Safe Zone. Your yard is where you get to play, where you feel comfortable, where you can run through the sprinkler naked without anyone judging you. Because we will, freak.

Then how do you know when a boundary has been violated? You know by how you feel. Just like I talked about how stopping to pay attention to your feelings, that becomes even more important when you need to stop and examine a crack in your boundaries. When you take a moment to really pay attention to just how pissed off you are that you answered the phone during your bubble bath, you realize that you haven't been constructing your fence very well. You are a shitty carpenter.

We all need a yard that takes time and care and tending. But it's only when we notice the excess dog shit and abundance of weeds that we can see where the fence has been trampled. You're pissed off because you haven't been feeding the guard dogs and they're dead and someone called Animal Control and now there's a LOT of people ALL OVER YOUR YARD.

But just like you need to cop to your feelings in order for them to be real, your boundaries don't exist until you act upon them. Until you admit them to yourself. No one will know that you don't want to hear about their bitchy coworker while Gossip Girl is on unless you tell them. Or DON'T PICK UP THE PHONE. And don't you dare complain to me about imaginary friend's big mouth ruining Season Five because look, you didn't lock the gate.

It all works together. Our feelings serve to let us know where our Safety Zone is and our boundaries protect it. The resentment you feel for all those annoying dogs around you is nothing but a constant violation of boundaries, but it is no one's job but your own to acknowledge it. And unless you take care of your own yard, you're going to end up shitting in someone else's, too.