Sunday, December 29, 2013

rock skate bounce roll

“Though lovers be lost, love shall not; And death shall have no dominion.” 

with the winter holidays in full swing and the end of near nigh, i am confronted with the reality of having lost inspiration with an effort that has been going for about 5 years now. i got to provide energy which became instrumental in forming a peer-led organization that meant to address stigma for people living with hiv- head on. i started a newsletter that has been published quarterly for all those years- being placed in clinics around the state showing newly diagnosed individuals that living with hiv was not only possible but both practical and profitable- ergo one can live a much more enjoyable and well-rounded life with good health and steady income-additionally one can learn about living with hiv by working with others who are struggling.

somewhere along the way, i became disenchanted with the federal and state systems that are funded to provide services for hiv positive individuals. other than the 1st issue of this newsletter, there has only been 1 offer of financial assistance to this publication-(although a link to our site is provided on their website) and this was never followed up on, nor were we given the courtesy of a phone call to explain why. the city receives over 6M annually to serve persons living with HIV and not only did a peer publication never receive funding, getting any information to use for publication was like pulling impacted teeth. However, there is plenty of energy to squabble internally amongst the city hiv office and the planning council to hold up the funds for 2013 by cancelling all  monthly scheduled public meetings and involving federal representations to help settle internal disputes- with all of this disagreement and discord being about personalities and not policies. 

so not only do persons living under the poverty level have no visible and emotionally present representation, those living on the fringe and the outskirts of metropolitan areas continue to not receive copies of our newsletters because the city and the state don't deem it important while annually thousands of dollars are spent educating new case managers and providers most of whom are on a turnstile with their careers and hiv is simply a stop. can you feel my frustration here that those who will be living with hiv for the rest of their journey here are passed up to throw education and support to those who are just passing through (and already earn a paycheck)? GRRRRRRR
i find myself tired of this incongruity. i am well aware of hypocrisy and i am certain i have my own. but the audacity of the hiv office's disregard for the spirit of its general mission has turned into a toad.

beyond this is our organization. with the onset of successful treatment modalities and the transition towards the american care act, most of the underprivileged people with hiv will qualify for medicaid and not need the array of special services. our mission to normalize living with a health condition becomes prime for transition as well. since i have been working in substance abuse field for almost a decade now, i find that hiv is no longer the issue it was in our community. yes way too many gay men (and others) are being diagnosed. but this is not the problem as i see it. hiv diagnoses are just a symptom of the problem- mental health and substance abuse. but this is not something we as a community (or culture) are ready to begin discussing with compassion and objectivity. 

this is my frustration at the end of 2013 and one of the flags i will be waving in the years to come. i am more interested in beginning conversations about self-care, mental health, and shame-based trauma. yes safe sex conversations are appropriate, but healthy boundaries and saying "no" to one's self hold more intrigue for me now. in looking up quotes to place under my 70's roller skating photo for this post, i realize that although i am no longer impassioned by the last 5 years, i am certainly grateful for them.  i don't know if i will leave our hiv organization, but i have to find different involvement and feel strongly that its mission needs to modify drastically in order to even strive to be relevant. 

if i am honest, part of my passion comes through creating change and developing processes. it sounds so geeky, (prolly is), but that's the truth. i have been able to be involved in creating change in my community, albeit small, and that has been a complete blessing.  and i hope for more blessings in my life and in yours.

i wanted some old school today- this is an unknown mix with a couple of crash-y edits, but i do like the 70's vibe. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

holiday musing and darkside -live in paris

Charles Dickens

i simply want to wish any and all of my readers a festive holiday season. i continue to receive the benefits of making change in my life through my moods and my experience. my self-respect grows, and my ability to care for others increases with the practice i put into it. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

festival of light

i thought i would just share some short stories that have the winter solstice as a theme. somehow it has never really occurred to me until now, just how dark these last few weeks in december are and how important and affective the symbolic lighting of the trees and the bringiing in the light of stories and fables about the best in us- the kindness in us, and the giving qualities that almost all of us possess- when we are giving we are far less likely to be dwelling on other emotions. 

The Story of Santa Lucia

(There are several versions of the story of Lucia but this is a nice one!)

Lucia was an Italian girl, born in Sicily in the 3rd century A.D. It was a time when the Romans were persecuting Christians, and Lucia's family was Christian. When her father died, Lucia vowed to remain unmarried and to serve God, but since she didn't tell anyone about this vow, her widowed mother went ahead and promised her in marriage to a suitor who was not a Christian. Lucia said no thanks, I'd rather be an old maid, and she proceeded to give her dowry away to the poor. The young man's pride was severely injured, so he reported Lucia to the Roman authorities and she was tried and convicted of being a Christian. The judge decided that a suitable punishment for a woman who wanted to remain chaste was to be sold into slavery - to a brothel. But when the soldiers came to take her away, they were unable to move her! Rather than being awed by this, they proceeded to pour oil over her and set her on fire. The oil burned - Lucia did not! Still unimpressed, the soldiers beat and tortured her and tried to get her to deny her Christian faith, but she refused. So they stuck a sword into her throat and that did kill her. She died a martyr's death on December 13, 304 A.D. For her faithfulness, she was made a saint. 
How did a Sicilian saint become a part of Swedish tradition? Legend has it that back in the Middle Ages, the Swedish province of Varmland was experiencing a terrible famine and people were starving to death. On the longest night of the shortest day of the year - which also happened to be St. Lucia's Day, December 13th - a light suddenly appeared on Lake Vanern. It was a large white boat filled with food, and at the helm was a beautiful young woman in a white gown wearing a crown of lights. Lucia had come to rescue the Swedes! As soon as the ship was unloaded, it disappeared.
Swedish custom is that on Santa Lucia Day, mother and children get up very early in the morning to make the traditional Lussekatter (rolls made with saffron) and Luciapepparkakor (ginger cookies). The oldest daughter portrays Lucia dressed in a long white robe with a red sash with a crown of lit candles on her head. She carries the tray of food as she leads the procession of mother and the other children who sing the traditional Santa Lucia song as they march to the father's room. 
Traditionally, the winner of the Noble Prize in Literature has the supreme honor of crowning Stockholm's Santa Lucia. Traditionally, miracles can happen at midnight on the eve of St. Lucia's Day and animal may talk. Traditionally, the cook buries the lutefisk in beech ashes on St. Lucia's Day. You don't have to be Swedish to celebrate Santa Lucia - Lucia wasn't a Swede! Välkommen! Varsågod!


There is a story about a princess who had a small eye problem that she felt was really bad. Being the king's daughter, she was rather spoiled and kept crying all the time. When the doctors wanted to apply medicine, she would invariably refuse any medical treatment and kept touching the sore spot on her eye. In this way it became worse and worse, until finally the king proclaimed a large reward for whoever could cure his daughter. After some time, a man arrived who claimed to be a famous physician, but actually was not even a doctor.

He declared that he could definitely cure the princess and was admitted to her chamber. After he had examined her, he exclaimed, "Oh, I'm so sorry!" "What is it?" the princess inquired. The doctor said, "There is nothing much wrong with your eye, but there is something else that is really serious." The princess was alarmed and asked, "What on earth is so serious?" He hesitated and said, "It is really bad. I shouldn't tell you about it." No matter how much she insisted, he refused to tell her, saying that he could not speak without the king's permission.

When the king arrived, the doctor was still reluctant to reveal his findings. Finally the king commanded, "Tell us what is wrong. Whatever it is, you have to tell us!" At last the doctor said, "Well, the eye will get better within a few days - that is no problem. The big problem is that the princess will grow a tail, which will become at least nine fathoms long. It may start growing very soon. If she can detect the first moment it appears, I might be able to prevent it from growing." At this news everyone was deeply concerned. And the princess, what did she do? She stayed in bed, day and night, directing all her attention to detecting when the tail might appear. Thus, after a few days, her eye got well.

This shows how we usually react. We focus on our little problem and it becomes the center around which everything else revolves. So far, we have done this repeatedly, life after life. We think, "My wishes, my interests, my likes and dislikes come first!" As long as we function on this basis, we will remain unchanged. Driven by impulses of desire and rejection, we will travel the roads of samsara without finding a way out. As long as attachment and aversion are our sources of living and drive us onward, we cannot rest.

Monday, December 9, 2013

i'm bustin' out

Well, not just one wish. A whole hatful, Mary. I know what I’m gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that. I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I’m comin’ back here and go to college and see what they know… And then I’m gonna build things. I’m gonna build airfields, I’m gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I’m gonna build bridges a mile long..... George Bailey (It's A Wonderful Life)

as the year comes to a close and fb has launched it's "2013 year in review", i am flooded with an odd sense of almost urgency. i have walked through a couple of dreams coming to life. i have felt the immense reassurance from the universe that some of me indeed makes sense. i have witnessed change happening in peoples' lives that have been as breathtaking as watching pink or orange sunrises.

i vowed last year to make room for love in my life. somehow i have managed to do this. i intend to grow this intention in my life and to expand it and to be more specific. i watched as part of my world seemed to fall apart and i did what i always do, but i also found the where-with-all to lean into the destruction and try to glean something from it. this last bit is a definite sign of progress for me.

i am excited for the chance to let go a bit more. i have been holding on to some invisible side rail feeling as if i could be knocked over at any moment- also with a deeper feeling that maybe i didn't deserve to be carefree. this year has swept in change with regard to this. i am grateful for this and i am both nervous and excited to change even more.

as i review my year, again i am amazed at the ninth step promises coming true in my life. perfection has not been reached, nor will it ever be- but a global shift has taken place in my world. it feels really wonderful and i want to examine it more closely. happy holidays.
The choice is ours...
Do we want more of what brought us to AA ...

We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people—was not a basic solution of these bedevilments more important ... ?
3rd ed. Big Book pg. 52 

... or do we want what practicing the principles of AA promises?

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.
We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear.
We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
Self-seeking will slip away.
Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

3rd ed. Big Book pg. 83 & 84 

Friday, November 29, 2013

world aids day 2013

world aids day is preceded by thanksgiving by just a few days. i am publishing a post from my former blog "kickintina" which describes the footprint that connects both of these very significant days in my life. the emotions and the intentions of remembrance and gratitude, loss and illness have shaped my psyche, my heart, and my perception. i wrote on facebook that my friendship with paul was very influential in the structure of my adult personality. this cannot be truer- caring for my friend matured me. feeling helpless around making him well right-sized me, and feeling blessed by knowing him has helped me feel protected - almost cocooned from danger (if only that were real :)

i am working on my thanksgiving post a bit early as i have a full day on thursday. i am supposed to jog with my buddy first thing in that morning, but it is also supposed to be very, very cold and i don't know if i will make it. i am cooking a turkey for the rocky mountain roundup speaker/dinner, dropping it off, and going to my cousin and his partner's home for my actual meal. my mom, aunt and uncle are going and they haven't done a home dinner in the last few years. they have eaten out because they don't have to cook or clean up after which makes some very good sense to me.I am looking forward to the whole day, and i'm spending tomorrow night at my cousin's house. i'm sure we'll hear some of the same old stories that usually get told at family functions. we were a pretty close knit crew in illinois and that has carried over to most of us here. it's not the same, but it's very familiar and that is a blessing. 

one of the stories i will not hear this year is my last thanksgiving in chicago. i am going to write about it here and hopefully the tale will unravel itself a bit differently than it has in the past. i have spun this yarn on a few occasions, but i have always kept the focus the part where i am the victim. and honestly, thanksgiving still is a challenging emotional trek because of the drama on this day. it really is the day i stopped dancing. the last day that is until i started channeling velvet- but that's a tale for another day.

in 1985, i had gotten an apartment with my best friend paul the previous year. we had shopped and hunted for 3 months for that beautiful soon-to-be condo on logan blvd. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, full kitchen, dr, front and back balcony. it truly was stunning. but on the day we were moving in, paul was completely tuckered. i remember him sitting on the back of the rental truck, saying he just couldn't move any boxes. He was exhausted. and before we finished, he insisted he go to the hospital. we complied, and he was admitted and was in the hospital for about a month.

i went to visit him in that place every day. the first couple of days, i donned a hospital gown, mask, and gloves, but soon decided to put them aside after that. i wasn't going to be looking at him dressed like an alien, or like i was afraid to be near him. i wasn't. i loved him. still do. and i wasn't going to cause him any extra anxiety. i would bring him meals from some of our favorite restaurants. the hospital food sucked, of course, and i knew he needed to eat. we had a very pleasant time being food snobs in there and would laugh together and became closer, without ever really discussing the elephant in the room. i couldn't go there emotionally.i now know it's called denial, but then i thought of it as survival. i remember one day going to visit him, and finding him in his room alone, with a fever so high that his body was convulsing, jumping up and down on the bed with no assistance. it scared the shit out of me, watching him jerking up and down like darryl hannah losing life in blade runner. i left in horror and came back a couple of hours later, never speaking a word to him about what i had seen.

my drug use started to escalate after this. the cocaine use was incessant and i drank vodka to counteract the effects of the cocaine. numbing became my priority. this actually caused paul to move back in with his parents, and my friend robbie (foxy)moved in. poor fox- he had no clue as to the mess he was entering. but that's another story. 

fast forward to thanksgiving 1986. paul had been living with his family for a few months now. he had been in and out of the hospital. i had invited about 8 friend over for a holiday feast. i spent all day preparing the food. turkey rubbed with butter and tamari, baked with apples, onions, and cranberries, stuffing, brussel sprouts, home-made cobbler, etc. as the day progressed, the weather took a turn for the worse. a thunderstorm took hold. one-by-one calls with cancellations started to come in. it had become dark outside, and the last call came from my friend blue. i think he really had waited until he absolutely knew he couldn't get there. no cabs were running etc. i remember sitting at the head of the table, looking at the fitz and floyd and the crystal candle holders and feeling stunned. the phone then rang again, and it was paul's brother on the phone. he wanted to let me know that paul had passed a few hours earlier that day. he had gone peacefully and was no longer suffering. i returned back to my seat and looking over the empty but well laid table, clutched my wine glass and took a big swig. a huge lightning bolt back lit the entire sky, was followed by an earsplitting crack of thunder, and the power in my apartment was knocked out. there i sat in the dark, and found myself feeling more alone and more confused than i could remember. and i was a victim. and i had imprinted that pained mask onto myself and held it there for a good 20 years. 

i have managed to let go of that branding i did. i honestly loved paul, and was completely a mess having lost him. i laughed so freely with him, and he understood so many things about me that i always felt shame around, and never did anything but expect me to succeed. we dined a lot, and we read a lot of books- mostly the classics, and the "gay" authors. we participated in a salon of a sort with a few other friends, and would drink wine and read aloud from books like "To The Lighthouse" by Virginia Woolf, "On The Road" by Jack Kerouac, and my favorite "Orlando" by Woolf as well. We talked about Vita Sackville West and Virginia, about Paul Bowles and his entourage, Kerouac and his mary-men lol, Stein, Toklas, and the ex-pats....

today, i am thankful i have let go of that old albatross that was choking me through the years. i have moved on to another perception of that time and that day. i am not frozen, i am living and participating again. i am again among the living, and am not in the throes of the walking wounded. i can celebrate today without anesthetizing. i can struggle and maintain. i can look forward and think of a future in practical terms, in lieu of living in a fantasy and only seeing the future as a sparkling illusion. i am so very glad paul was in my life. i am so blessed that he saw me for exactly who i was and loved me because of it. this is something that will never be replaced. and something that will never be lost.

today i see that life is a banquet, and i spent way too much time 
starving myself. there is more to life than one singular sensation.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

blood like lemonade

“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”Laurell K. Hamilton, Mistral's Kiss

Once upon a time there was a group of merchants who wanted to go to the sea. A guide was required. They set out in quest of such a man. After finding such a man, they started the trip and saw a temple when they reached a land of wilderness. A man had to be immolated to cross it.

After consultation, the group of merchants said that they could not choose anyone in the company to be killed, for they were all related. The only one fit to be sacrificed was the guide. So they killed him. After performing the rites, they soon lost their way and knew not which direction to go. They then died one after another.

So are the people in general.

Those who seek to fish for treasure in the sea of Dharma should keep the commandments of doing good deeds as their guide. If they break them, they will end their lives in the wilderness and can never be rescued. Furthermore, they will have to go through the Three Evil Paths of Transmigration and suffer forever and ever.

Such men are just like the group of merchants who killed the guide and died in a body as a result....Buddhist Fable.

image credit- peter stein's faust at marathon theatre
“If one good deed in all my life I did, 
I do repent it from my very soul.” 
William Shakespeare

today's post is full of allegory. after the recent passing of a friend. i have come to a sort of secret compartment in my life. i was talking about how strange it was to have known someone on both a professional (counselor to client) level and as a fellow community member and volunteer. this caused me to pause for a while and consider the hidden cost of being an addictions counselor working with lgbt persons with addictions (who may or may not be hiv positive).
it is a complete recurrence that gay men (hiv + and hiv -) will appear when they need support and then disappear when they no longer feel the need for support (for a variety of reasons). as a professional there is an ongoing and undisclosed cost of knowing and caring for a person and then having them leave your life just as quickly as they appeared. and my experience is that when the "gay" factor, and the "hiv +" factor are combined, i have found that the boundaries have been a bit less distinctive. i might have cared a little more, or offered a little more support. and of course the disappearance of these folks from my practice has consistently left a deeper impression. but after they leave the treatment cocoon, they enter back into the community arena along with me and the rest of our world. because these individuals and i have engaged in a therapeutic relationship, returning to a friendly relationship is strained at best. i know more about them than they probably would like to admit. they have shared secrets with me. if they did not complete, nor were successful with treatment, then this usually means they won't want to see me in person, nor see themselves in my eyes. this is perfectly understandable- almost expected. but it does have a price tag- especially in a smaller community. it is not a deal breaker at all. it is simply that i haven't really looked at my own real needs in all this.
until this week, i have not looked at my own feelings about this whole brief therapy process. with bryan's passing, i now understand that it has had a price. i have assumed that my skills as a practitioner are lacking at times. i have felt that i am too blunt for people too early. i have even felt that i am too old at times and out of touch with current lgbt culture.

“I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.”
Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

although all of these are probable and appropriate, i have never considered that i might need some support around the loss this process brings. i now know that i have just hunkered down, trudged forward, cut my losses and tucked those feelings without processing or examining them with any concern. i don't regret this after realizing this, but i do want to make some changes from here forward. and because of my childhood history of relationship and loss, i have had auto-responses of shutting down when i have become saddened. i have let go of friends because i honestly haven't figured out yet how to do anything else quite yet.
to be less vague, i now understand that i have a primal feeling that i am not okay, so i assume that these losses are the price i am required to pay for being me-(conversely, there are many benefits to being me as well so i don't think this as simply dark and morose).
since my work has recently shifted away from cultural specific clients, i have gained some distance and some perspective on all this. this reminds me yet again that situations and experiences in our lives shape, form, and mold who we are. and all the relationships, fabulous jobs, exciting or relaxing vacations, spas, makeovers, workouts, and new clothes in the world won't really make me any different. i am required to do the work, look at my life and my part in it, feel my feelings, accept them, understand them, and make room for change if needed. and change is probably needed in this case.
i am posting from a quiet place of gratitude today. i hope your holiday brings even a small portion of the grace i feel today. happy thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

one less

“Things get bad for all of us, almost continually, and what we do under the constant stress reveals who/what we are.”― Charles Bukowski

it's been a sad couple of weeks for me. i somehow got turned around in my life and lost touch with the direction in which i was heading. it was confusing, it was humbling, and it was maddening. i interviewed for new jobs and have considered going rogue and once again living as a bohemian might-pursuing truth and joy with a devil-may-care attitude (emphasis right now on considered). in the midst of my melt-down came the news that sweetness bryan mckay had passed-prolly from an overdose of pain medication.

it seems bryan has been part of my world for many years now. so enmeshed is he that i struggle to remember when our paths first crossed. i am sure it was just after i started the strength in numbers gig. i do remember going on an impromptu hike just outside boulder with a few poz guys of whom bryan was included. 5 minutes into the hike, his seizure disorder kicked in, he collapsed on the trail and was chucking up liquid and trying to catch his breath. it was both frightening and frustrating as we all turned back to head home to make sure that bryan was safe.

this contrast of emotion i describe would become my emotional soundtrack when it came to bryan. he was the sweetest soul and so easy to be around. he volunteered at about 10 different community organizations around town and was always oozing with positivity and good will. he was likeable, thoughtful, and mostly uncomplicated. he watched soaps, award shows, and professional sports on tv. his taste in music was uber-ultra gay with the obligatory colorado country twist thrown in. there was not so much outwardly remarkable about him- other than his good looks- he was very much like a favorite pashmina. 

as i considered my life that was with bryan, i thought of james dean and montgomery clift for some reason.  i see both of those souls in very much the same way. they were extraordinarily charming and talented- completely memorable. they were well-loved, engaged, and all the while very fucked up deep down. this was my sense with bryan. 

i think he may have grown up with an overbearing parent. underneath he was very very anxiety ridden and was taking strong meds to address this. as is the case with so many, he overtook those meds with alarming frequency. i had met with him privately for several mandated sessions to discuss addiction and impulsive behavior and how it affects prescription medication. this was at the beginning of a time when the reins were being pulled in on his use. 

about this same time, his visits to emergency rooms seemed to escalate. he was visiting er's with alarming frequency with vague symptoms and illnesses. it is assumed that there was drug seeking going on. he was appearing very often in clinics with symptoms that could not be verified or documented. and there had been talk of munchhausen syndrome which may have been an offshoot of his upbringing. my impression was that upon the passing of bryan's mother he received a small inheritance. with this came several trips to cities like dallas and las vegas where i would notice posts on facebook which had him checking in from the emergency rooms in those cities as well. frankly, i felt quietly helpless and sad when i would read those.

i assume that friends of ours may read this post and get angry as i might seem to be airing bryan's dirty laundry. i hope this is not my intention. i am saddened by bryan's early passing. i was so very grateful for all the volunteering he did for our hiv organization as well as the lgbt community at large. i wish i could be as philanthropic as he. i genuinely liked bryan. 

at the same time, it was just as authentically heartbreaking to be so very aware of his internal and closted writhing that seemingly could only be quelled with meds (and sometimes not even then)- as often as they were procured by proxy. bryan certainly had physical complications in his life. they were accompanied by emotional pain that rarely saw the light of day. i mourn openly for bryan and all the wonderful attributes he shared with our world. and i mourn silently for the unrequited discomfort that he wore like an invisible undergarment. 

the yin-yang aspect of my feelings for bryan are intoxicating. it is like sitting on the edge of a canyon knowing i have to go in some direction, but too amazed at the view to find the where-with-all to make a move. there is some quality in this uncertainty which compels me to love my life. the not-knowing all of this gives me grist for the mill. 

thank you bryan for breezing through my world and clearing out some cobwebs on your way. i will always be grateful, i will always be smiling, and i will always wonder. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

wrecking ball

effreide stegemeier circa 1935

“There was once a lady who was arrogant and proud. Determined to attain enlightenment, she asked all the authorities how to go about it. She was told, "Well, if you climb to the top of this very high mountain, you'll find a cave there. Sitting inside that cave is a wise old woman. She will tell you." Having endured great hardships, the lady finally found this cave. Sure enough, sitting there was a gentle spiritual-looking old woman in white clothing, who smiled beatifically. Overcome with awe and respect, the lady prostrated at the feet of this woman and said, "I want to attain enlightenment. Show me how." This wise woman looked at her and asked sweetly, "Are you sure you want to attain enlightenment?" And the woman said, "Of course I'm sure." Whereupon the smiling woman turned into a demon, stood up brandishing a great big stick, and started chasing her, saying, "Now! Now! Now!" For the rest of her life, that lady could never get away from the demon who was always saying, Now! Now--that's the key. Mindfulness trains us to be awake and alive, fully curious, about now.” 

painting by kwangho shin

i believe i stand in the beginning of a fairly drastic change in my world. for the last 5 years i have been pushing my plough in a certain direction in order to nurture harvest. amidst this process, i have seen drought and flood, experienced both exhilaration and exhaustion, and even broken a blade once or twice. 
cumulatively though, my general sense has been comprised of success and gratitude. i have made structural changes in this process- in essence moving the fields i chose to cultivate. and i have been blessed with that choice. 
about 2 months ago, infused with inspiration, i suggested that i modify my schedule and increase my workload-accompanied by an increased compensation, so that i may give up my second job and concentrate growing our services into the black. surprisingly, i received a message which took away my wind. i walked away from that conversation feeling some shame and some frustration. i don't have the education to move forward within my department and would need to spend 4 years cultivating that prior to any advancement for me. to make matters worse the next morning  i found place upon my desk, a book imparting the philosophy of getting things done by having a "yes" attitude. instantly i was drowning in a diminishing pond and dog-paddling seemed both a life sentence and a metaphor.
this is when my life complicated. my judgment has been clouded by the fog of emotions. i felt tricked and patronized. it was almost as if there had been a small earthquake and my foundation has shifted. i am groomed to utilize my insight and my talents, encourage to participate on equal footing, but then challenged to keep in my place until i accomplish more, but work harder and continue to say "yes" until then. i kinda felt like a hooker- and that's not an unfamiliar feeling- nor is it pleasant (you know- we can have fun with the lights out when nobody else is around, but pretend like we don't know each other the remainder of the time).  i have been trying to ascertain damage control since that time. sadly i cannot report that i have had a clear and concise pathway. quite the contrary- i have fretted and fussed in a circuitous fashion, listening too often to the inner child's tantrum-mantras of the past and come to the point of picking up my toys and moving to another sandbox. this has all been set in motion and i am not clear where it will take me, nor which thoughts are mature and which are primal. most mornings and evenings it is the auditory quality of standing in an aviary.
the hypocrisy of the barriers laid out by institutions and their stewards are mind boggling.  health care organizations tout themselves so often as places to heal yet their actual practices include such exclusivity and denial of individuality that they often create as much trauma as they address (if not more). no wonder the bird-sanctuary-like cacophony in my mind has been dizzying. 

the wheels are in motion and i am preparing for a journey of some sort. i feel responsible (as is my way) to those whom i have brought along on my journey. i have touted the wonders of recovery and encouraged others to try to get their feet wet in it. and now i may need to allow them to bask in the beautiful waters of their recovery without me as the direct mentoring presence. but as i type this post, i realize that some of this is the natural order of change- we have to fly on our own at some point. so it is not a requirement for me to feel ownership of something i don't really own. it is possible to remain a source of support without being on site.
in the interim, i was talking with a friend who is experiencing a not-so-different episode in her life. it was so damn easy for me to spout off a diatribe about trusting one's own life and process. truthfully, i know that failure is not failure at all-it's just the feels like it to our ego at the time. we learn so much more from failure than we learn from success. failing has a much more dramatic impact and leaves a more memorable flavor in our mouths. this week finds me asking myself -what are my fears here? what am i trying to control? why the drama? 
i only hope my head will try silence long enough for me to hear the answers to those questions. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

storming the bastille

The time was half past three, on the famous date of July 14, 1789. A huge, bloodthirsty mob marched to the Bastille, searching for gun powder and prisoners that had been taken by the unpopular and detested King, Louis XVI. Even elements of the newly formed National Guard were present at the assault. The flying rumors of attacks from the government and the biting truth of starvation were just too much for the angry crowds. The Bastille had been prepared for over a week, anticipating about a hundred angry subjects and along the thick rock walls of the gargantuan fortress and between the towers were twelve more guns that were capable of launching 24-ounce case shots at any who dared to attack. However, the enraged Paris Commune was too defiant and too livid to submit to the starvation and seeming injustice of their government. But nothing could have prepared the defenders for what they met that now famous day.

The Bastille was governed by a man named Marquis de Launay. On July 7th, thirty-two Swiss soldiers led by Lieutenant Deflue, came to aid de Launay, helping him to prepare for a small mob. Rumors were flying everywhere. The Marquis was expecting a mob attack, but certainly not a siege! The entire workforce of the Bastille had stealthily and furiously been repairing the Bastille and reinforcing it, all to prepare for a minor attack from a hundred or so angry citizens. At three o'clock that afternoon, however, a huge group of French guards and angry citizens tried to break into the fortress. There were over three hundred people ready to give their lives to put an end to their overtaxing and overbearing government. However the Bastille was threatened by more than the numerous crowds: three hundred guards had left their posts earlier that day, out of fear and from the rumors. The besiegers easily broke into the arsenal and into the first courtyard, cut the drawbridge down, and then quickly got through the wooden door behind it. They boldly demanded that the bridges be lowered, but they were refused. The Marquis de Launay said he would surrender if his troops were allowed to leave peacefully, but he was simply rebuked. They wanted de Launay on a noose or with his head in a basket.

The vicious crowds shouted for him to lower the bridges. De Launay sent a note to a mob leader named Hulin, claiming that he had 20,000 pounds of gunpowder and if the besiegers did not accept his offer, he would annihilate the entire fortress, the garrison, and everyone in it! Yet, they still refused. The bridges were finally lowered on de Launay's command, and he and his soldiers were captured by the crowds and dragged through the filthy streets of Paris.

The mob paraded through the streets, showing off their captives, and crudely cutting off many heads. The National Guard tried to stop the crowds from looting, but it was useless. They continued marching on, maKing their way to the Hotel de Ville. Upon learning that the Bastille had been taken, King Louis XVI, who was residing at Versailles, was reported to have asked an informer: "Is this a revolt?" and La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt said, "No, Sire, it is a revolution." Little did Louis know that the mob's next plan was to march to Versailles, and take him away with them as well.... reposted from

there seem to be so many similarities in these times as those in 15th century france. the ruling class of course is corporate board members and they are bleeding the environment, the national treasuries, and the working man's paycheck so that they may acquire more wealth and indulge themselves in luxuries and whimsies that are hardly necessary. the rulers infused their will using force, fear, personal freedom, and economic insecurity to excise their will. 

what it must have taken for those parisians to muster the fire to storm the gates. i believe the international occupy movements are the first serious response from our millennium to such tyranny. the majestic response has been very much mirrored as well. shutting down public parks, macing and arresting citizens who dare oppose the status quo. using smoke and mirrors, the ruling minds create criminals out of passionate, focused, and patriotic hearts. arresting those who incite their constitutional rights and dousing their hearts with litigation and invasion of privacy even going so far to deem these folks as terrorists engaging in treason. the audacity of this is numbing. i can see why angry birds and world of warcraft are so popular. our nation is so needing to resolve this conflict we are muddled in every day. there will no doubt come a day soon where we will be storming our own bastille.

however, this post is really a music post. i have run across an english band that has blown me outta my shoes. i have listened to some of their music for the past coupla weeks and i am smitten. but it's not just me. 
here is what neil mccormack of the uk telegraph had to say about the band just last week

Bastille are the British debut success of the year. Their single Pompeii has sold two million copies around the world. Their album, Bad Blood, went straight to number one in Britain in March, spending six months in the top 10 before becoming the highest entry by any new British artistin America (at number 11) this year. Yet no one saw this coming – not critics, not their record company, not even the band.
“Led by me, we’ve always been a group of pessimists,” according to Dan Smith, singer, songwriter, keyboard player and producer for the London four-piece. “Our expectations have been incredibly low. I never, ever imagined leaving Great Britain. For us, going to Scotland was a big deal.”
Bastille did not even make the long list for the Brits Critic’s Choice award or the BBC’s ones-to-watch poll. As the popularity of traditional bands waned, the record industry openly fretted over whether there would ever be another Coldplay again. And then Pompeii lifted Bastille to the head of the pack. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised,” says the understated Smith.
If you are still trying to place them, Pompeii is the song that starts “eh-eh-oh, eh-oh”, like a choir of autotuned monks chanting over a burbling synth. Although the Roman town is never mentioned in the song, the 27-year-old explains that he was imagining what the dead victims might have to say to one another. “If you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing’s changed at all?” Smith sings in a soft, clear, tuneful voice. “Oh how am I going to be an optimist about this?”
“It is essentially about fear of stasis and boredom,” explains Smith. “Being quite a shy, self-conscious person, I was afraid my life might get stuck.”

it seems to be dan's smith's vocals which really pierce my hard candy coating and get me starting to melt on the inside. please note that i am including acoustic versions here. they do not play acoustic always - at all. the acoustic vibe fits my mood- and probably my age. it amazes me that 4 guys with some instruments are still able to rock my world.

Friday, November 1, 2013

when doves cry

Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.
William S. Burroughs

“nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know 
…nothing ever really attacks us except our own confusion. perhaps there is no solid obstacle except our own need to protect ourselves from being touched. maybe the only enemy is that we don’t like the way reality is now and therefore wish it would go away fast. but what we find as practitioners is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. if we run a hundred miles an hour to the other end of the continent in order to get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem waiting for us when we arrive. it just keeps returning with new names, forms, manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves.” 

another week sails by. i am feeling stronger and healthier, although a patient came to an appointment yesterday swirling in a cold virus and i am pretty sure i am at odds with that today. a couple of weeks ago, i had put a message out into the world that i was open to a change. that message brought a response this week and i have acknowledged a doorway to change and started to make room for additional energy to enter my world.

it felt strange to do this. i wrestle with my own nature which creates the most discomfort in situations for me. my friend paul always repeated to me that it is not our reactions to life that get us into trouble, but our over-reactions to life that create problems. more and more i see what he means. i have hosted a plethora of feelings during this tiny process i speak of here. and i find myself encountering remorse and guilt as i consistently swim in after a new experience. that of course is my own brand of ptsd- shame. 

there are two trends in our modern culture that i have always avoided, however have also come to understand more deeply in accordance with understanding myself. tattoos are one exercise in self-expression that have always overwhelmed me. firstly, i remember my grandfathers old green inky and crinkly tattoos from the navy. i thought they were the ugliest and creepiest things i had seen. i absolutely never wanted something old and green on my skin. also i never really have found an image that would be universal or long-lasting enough for me to be able to connect with 20 years later adorning one of my appendages. but as i get older i realize they are badges of courage in a way. they represent a validation of experience and proof of life in a way. i still don't need or want to get a tattoo, but i certainly respect the tradition they have become. i think i may have an emotional tattoo almost branded in my brain. that is enough.

the other trend would be plastic surgery. i am more able to relate to that ritual because there are things i very much do not like about my nature. i almost with that i could have a surgical procedure and the character defects i dislike would vanish into thin air or be tossed away with the other remnants that are gathered in the operating room. i might feel better about my life if i could have my shame removed by a procedure. not likely to happen- but more and more, i can relate to the desire which drives a nose job etc... it's a real inconvenience to not like something about one's self on a consistent basis. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

autumn jewels

The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.
“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another - and ourselves”...
Jack Kornfield.
“We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.”... John Waters
this autumn has been an especially colorful season on a few levels. the late excessive rains in colorado followed by an unseasonably hot indian summer has produced the most glorious red, gold, and orange foliage that i can remember since my arrival in colorado in 1989. each day in october i am still awestruck by the majesty these colors bring. 

along with this is new level of trust and perspective to which i have ascended with my vocation. i have run headlong into my own dissonance between how i want to feel and how i actually feel. i am still working on resurrecting some sense of balance around all this. 

today of fb, i received a note from a former neuro psychiatric resident that i have spent time with at the clinic. although he was working in a different department, we shared office space and many lunches and coffees. i must say i was gobsmacked by the tone and the purpose of his words.

Rod, I'm not exactly sure how to go about this, but I wanted to apologize for not informing you I wasn't going to be able to make the Rally. I'm not going to bother with the excuse for my absence, because it doesn't matter---I promised I'd be there and I didn't show. I also didn't bother to let you know either before or after the fact, and for that, I'm sorry. I thought about reaching out over the past year and came close a couple of times, but I was never quite able to muster the courage to do so. Even though I'm glad you reach out, I wish I had been the one. 

I've since left Chicago and moved on to my official internship at a psychiatric hospital in New Jersey. It's a different world out here on the east coast, that's for sure. My experience working at a psychiatric facility brings along with it many pros and cons. Regarding the latter, I find myself oftentimes discouraged with the complacency I see in the staff. The treatment of patients, at times, lacks the compassion and sense of humanity one needs in order to foster growth and help develop a sense of self-worth and agency in others. Anyway, I bring this up because I realized a huge part of the reason I even understand what it takes to connect with someone in the first place is from quietly observing you in my corner cubicle for 10 months. I've worked with several psychiatrists, psychologists and neuro psychologists who did not teach me as much as you did about how to treat patients. You do great work, and I never took the opportunity to tell you that before I left. I'm sorry for that, too.

 I'm assuming you read that last piece and started feeling a little uneasy. My guess is that you started to immediately minimize the hard work and long hours you put into giving your patients the best care possible, or perhaps you deflected it by attributing it to someone else. Don't. It bothered me you couldn't take a compliment--it always felt like you were depriving yourself of feeling good because you thought you didn't deserve it. Thanks for setting the bar so high, Rod. And thanks for the beats..... (click on beats to hear some sounds from my 80's alma mater laid down in 1988 by jonathan scrappy gilbert.

but more in keeping with my emotional state... here is a selection of arias by one of the best our world has ever known.    

Saturday, October 26, 2013

let the inspiration begin

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change."
as i was carousing the various networking sites i travel among, i came across a remix of a cover version of rhythm of the night which rocked my world.  the cover was rendered by an english ensemble that call themselves bastille and the remix was done by an 18 year old dj/engineer with the moniker of mnek. i found it and i coveted it.

now i own a remix collection by bastille and will probably indulge further. please take a moment - take a sip of their sound- and let it soothe some of the savage of this life right out of your system. because today i have encountered a taste of  joy and a dash of sanity and i want to share it with as many folks as i can.

btw- don't miss track 6- dreams....

Friday, October 25, 2013

practicing mindfulness

It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here right now… with its aches and it pleasures… is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.
Ok, maybe it’s also important to have food, clothing, and a roof over our heads for many of us to be fully human, fully awake, and fully alive. Let’s not let that small point take us away from the brilliance of this quote.

What’s so brilliant about it? For reason particularly driven by subtle messages from the media driven into our forming minds, we are a culture driven by a need for “more” in order to feel alive or happy. For other reasons we are also a culture driven to try and eradicate discomfort. Both of these messages are partly driven by business trying to make a buck and spending billions of dollars are marketing to drive this into our minds.
The price?

A constant feeling of dis-ease within us. We’re can’t be content with where we are in any particular moment because our minds are either trying to flee away from some discomfort or toward some comfort.

Pema Chodron is simply trying to remind us that aches and pleasures are part of the human experience. There may not be a catastrophe when a pain is there, it may just be part of being “fully alive.” There may not be a need to get the wheels anxiety or distress to be set in motion. Of course, if you are under extreme distress or have an inkling that something is off physically, it’s important to get it checked out by a medical professional.

However, next time you’re feeling physical or emotional pain, know that this is temporary and say to yourself, “maybe this is exactly what I need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.” See if you can bring your attention to it with a sense of compassion and caring. Next time you are feeling pleasure, also know that this is temporary and part of being fully alive... reposted from monday's mindful quote

wow- what a very uncomfortable week this has been. i started feeling a sort of gurgling discomfort in my sinuses on monday and stayed in bed for 3 days with a fever and runny nose missing both my day job, but also cancelling on a catering gig which did leave a hole in my monthly budget.  when i spoke with my doctor's office, i was informed that they recommended that i let the infection run its course and would be offered antibiotics after 10 days or so. i felt betrayed by this news which is ironic because i rarely take any meds (, aspirin, cough syrup, cold pills other than my hiv and psych meds for any reason. however i have had a sinus infection a few times before and have found that to be something that i am susceptible to and very weakened by for some reason. back in the late 80's, my sinuses swelled onto the surface of my forehead giving me a cyclops sort of presentation that caused me to scream when i saw my reflection in the mirror. even that time, i didn't take medication, i used steam and vapo-rub for about 4 hours. luckily, the channelling of a lon chaney type creature vanished with not much residual affect other than that gorilla i saw in the mirror. 
anyway, a couple of years ago i had another infection and it went on ad nauseum. i couldn't shake the fever and the nose might as well have been training for a triathlon. the only relief came very late in the game in the form of amoxocillin. and this week i found myself wanting that same order and with the response from my caregivers that i didn't qualify, my sense of balance seemed to waft away like the scent of a freshly baked pie flows out of the kitchen. 
i had to pull myself up from my bootstraps and visit them in person and plead my case- with several sales pitches in tow. "i can't lay around for days doing nothing"- " i feel like i am being punished for being healthy" " i don't really want to use up a week's pto with a crappy fever and box of kleenex. somehow i got my way. 
what also became apparent was that the mercury-in-retrograde stage directions had been put into place. my car wouldn't start, my dishwasher ran some sort of leak, the order of snacks for my group didn't get placed, the meal i planned to pick up for another group didn't get handled because of the car. in spite of all these mishaps ( quite plentiful for one  day) were also met with an answer from my life which caused no real trauma other than to my sense of balance. the early groups survived with no doughnuts- the second group had no attendees so i disappointed no one directly- my friend loaned me a car for a week, and nothing seems damaged by water all over the floor. 
with all the blows to my plans for my life this week, there also has been a net that showed up to catch me from any imminent fall. in other words, i didn't crumble or suffer- other than in my own mind. actually my life protected me - even from me.

that's the good news. and it is good. the other side of the story is that i have not been on my best behavior nor in my best frame of mind. i have wallowed in a little pity, played a bit of the victim, been a bit gamey and childish,  and worked it more than i would like to admit.  being human is really damn humbling...

am offering 2 selections with today's post- 1 with homage to the mindful part of myself and the other with a nod to the diva that walks the catwalk inside my head with repetition.... mercury in retrograde leaves november 10- fingers crossed we make it without too much more destruction and re-creation..the title of this post is practicing mindfulness - the emphasis is on practicing.

Friday, October 18, 2013

october gypsy

Tiny Wisdom: The Beauty of Starting Over
“Celebrate endings, for they precede new beginnings.” -Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Yesterday I spent more than an hour writing something I intended to publish today—and then I lost it. Since I hadn’t slept much the night before, I wasn’t completely attentive and somehow, I must have closed out the Word document before I titled or saved it.

That same exhaustion made it somewhat difficult to communicate my thoughts clearly when writing. But I did—after an hour, I’d expressed everything I wanted to share. Then it was gone.

Initially, I considered rewriting the post, and trying to remember exactly what I’d written before. Then I decided that maybe the lesson was to let go and start anew.

In college, teachers and peers had to fight me to change even one word in my writing, let alone a full sentence. When they did get me to edit, I’d likely only change a small portion, without allowing that new train of thought to further shape the entire piece.

I was stubbornly attached to every first draft. After putting so much thought and effort into it, I was afraid that making changes would be like picking thread on a sweater—the whole thing would unravel and I would be left with nothing. I would essentially have to start over.

I eventually realized this tendency translated into my everyday life. Once I set a goal, I was afraid to revise it—even if it became clear that was no longer what I wanted—because I was afraid to start over.

Once I got into a new relationship, I was afraid to walk away from it—even if wasn’t healthy or satisfying—because I was afraid I’d have to start over.

Ironically, I wasted a lot of time clinging to things that had run their course simply to avoid feeling like I’d wasted time.

It’s human nature to get attached when we’ve invested a lot of time in something. But an investment is only as valuable as its return—meaning we owe it to ourselves to recognize when we can get a better one by wiping the slate clean and starting over.

Letting go can feel like a loss. That’s because it is. But every loss paves the way for a gain, if we’re willing to receive it. Every time we let something go, we open ourselves up to something better.

what an incredible couple of weeks we have come through. it seems almost like a strange 20th century fiction pulp fiction novel with has given us a peek into the absurd and not the actual events of a 21st century advanced government body. i repeatedly found myself these last few weeks in a state of frozen stun due to the carnival-like quality of rhetoric that was emanating from our capital city. i still don't think i have recovered from the shock that the shut down rolled out. and i wonder what subterfuge was (and is) transpiring while the main stage was occupied by the house of representatives marionettes. 

i am also mesmerized at how this national theatre of the freaks has mirrored in my daily life with an eerie intensity. it is almost as if my interpretation of my role and my activities has deconstructed and i am now looking at my life with new eyes and shaping my impression with new hands. with this new vision i realize i have have been daily interfacing with a multi-headed hydra of malcontents that routinely create a droning drama which feels just like an old record player needle skipping on a scratched vinyl 45. what used to present as an opportunity to problem solve has now taken on a new complexion of a child's face whincing as it endures the repetition of a whining car alarm in the distance. 

another remodel in my life comes via my vocation. i love working with clients still although some of my idiosyncrasies have changed there as well. i am increasingly developing a sense of boundary and becoming less willing to be beckoned at any call. i often find myself walking through the hallway and encountering 5 to 10 questions or inquiries. sadly, at this juncture, i am unable to remember all those soundbites and it often causes me to forget things. so on a daily basis i am setting myself up to err. this is not a pleasant way to practice care giving. of course, i struggle with the appropriateness of having boundaries. but that's a spiritual practice that will probably last my lifetime. 

i have somehow come to view my living situation with a different lens as well. it has occurred to me that i have an option of renting my townhouse out and finding a new place to dwell. this has always been an option, i had just never considered it until this month. and in the considering, i have felt the load i carry daily lighten just a bit. making the effort to actually make the above change is another story. the option, however, resembles a small window opened to let a cool breeze in on a muggy afternoon. 

i have felt myself change my view on so many aspects of my world during this october 2013. i had a solitary "moment" of panic which caused me to want to toss the whole game table over letting the cards, the chips, and the drinks fly all over. instead, i have clenched tightly, almost playing lifeless, recoiling my emotions and recoiling my laissez faire energy output. and with that clenching, a fresh path using these new perspectives is being carved. i can't be sure how this will finally feel, but i am inspired by the vagabond nature of it all. my october 2013 is all about this primal journey my inner gypsy has awakened to begin travelling.