"Sometimes the only power you have is to tell your story." -Evelyn Wilde

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How Rude!

Manners are a lost art- said someone, annoyed

We live where people vacation. One accepts that as part of making a life in South Florida. I am very grateful for the ocean and warm weather most days but complaints about Florida are well documented and my latest gripe involves the migration of French Canadians.

In the winter we expect it. The aging population of our neighbors to the north have long enjoyed their golden years on our shores, but in July it came as entirely unexpected. Our peaceful building was overrun recently and children screaming in French is not nearly as charming as one might think.

My man and I huff and puff as we peer over our balcony at the swimming pool they have colonized. "It's 8:00pm - go inside!! They've been here for a month- aren't they bored by now?! Why aren't they at Disney World already?!!

It is not their presence that bothers me as much as their manners, or lack thereof. Basic parenting and self-awareness seem lost on them--your children screaming, in a community without any other children, is going to be a problem. How is that not obvious?

Anyway, hopefully whatever public holiday which extends for four weeks in Quebec will come to an end and I can have my 9:00am swim back soon.

The problems of privilege, indeed.

This trivial inconvenience did get me thinking about manners though. On a macro level. On a Trump size level.

Why is he ahead in some polls? Is he qualified to be the leader of the United States? I would say no, emphatically, based on resume alone. But he is ahead and people who support him remark at how much they appreciate his "tell it like it is" attitude. Many say the same of Chris Christie, also running for the 2016 Republican ticket.

So what is it about loud, brash, insulting men- because that would never work for women, except on Fox News and only if they look like Pageant Queens- that some people respond so well to?

It could be the Twitter and Facebook driven culture that allows us all to opine in isolation. Every vile thought can be validated and debated but getting the last word in is really the only goal of any of it, solutions be damned. Donald Trump calling people weak, stupid, or pathetic may mirror the snarky bitch in your head but that doesn't mean he (or you) are right.

It could be a reaction to Politically Correct culture that exists more so now than ever. A whiff of offense ignites reactive Tweeting which has caused many Comedians to opt out of their College Tours, and other engagements, because of the sterile parameters they are forced to abide by.

Having consideration for others, however, is not the same as being easily offended.


Emily Post, the Grande Dame of etiquette, and who's grandchildren continue to promote her work today, was quoted as saying “Good manners reflect something from inside- an innate sense of consideration for others and respect for self.” She is also credited with this: “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”

Please, take that into consideration: on Twitter, in the voting booth, and especially at the pool.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

To Be or Not To Be...a Mother

They've left. Returned safely home to their mother and father, who are my younger sister and brother-in-law. The last three hours of their visit I always yearn for their absence, the next three days I mourn it.

We are knackered. Our home a mess. There is Nutella in my carpet, chlorine in my hair, and four loads of laundry to do.

 
To be an Aunt to these two gorgeous, smart, funny, and adorably challenging children is a huge part of my life, a source of so much joy.

They stay with us for a few days every couple of months, usually when they are on school holidays and in conjunction with time at my mum and dad's. An arrangement that has provided free child care to their parents, quality time for my parents, and a gut check for us, non-parents.

Those two little people monopolize our television, Wi-Fi, meals, and sleep. Yet I cherish their cuddles, giggles, insights, and sleep. All Joy and No Fun , as Jennifer Senior wrote about on the subject of  Modern Parenting, attributed from the sociologist Viviana A. Zelizer, ."..describing today’s children as “economically worthless but emotionally priceless.”"

In the exhaustion that precedes my niece and nephew's absence I resolve to make my uncomplicated life even better and bigger. In the emotional tailspin that follows, however, I can quantify the void that is left, analyzing everything from my relationship, to my caloric intake.

I look at my sister and her husband and see the demands of being really good parents etched onto their faces. The sacrifices made every day, preventing their own individual talents and dreams from being the focus. I admire and worry about them, the way both can be felt about people who reflect our ambivalence back at us.

My man and I are child free; by choice until a year ago, by fate, biology, unknown, et al., since.

While I yearn for the experience of motherhood I also question my ability to commit to a child's needs every day. I doubt the fragile state of my own mental health- fatigue, stress, noise--- all too real triggers for darkness and despair to apply for openings inside my head.


As we have endured 12 cycles of disappointment, we now must enter into the whose fault is it (?) phase and the Doctor's appointments required. I'm not able to comprehend the science experiment that my uterus could become nor the implications of a child-free life just yet, though.

All I can do is write. I don't know what I think until I write about it. Even then, it's murky, but that might be the Mimosas I just had at a very relaxing, child-free brunch.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Love Wins



What a week for Progressives. The Supreme Court made their decision on the side of justice, equality and kindness. The world seems like a better place.

Also in the news: Islamic Jihadists conducted attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait and nine peaceful souls were lain to rest near a church in South Carolina.

We couldn't even have a minute to celebrate, unburdened by the reality of  hate.

Why is the good and bad always a trade off?

The yin and yang of life makes me wonder just how much is the law of the universe- the rough with the smooth- the balance of nature. And how much is us, struggling with change, clinging to what we know with a vice-like grip?

Change makes people scared. People can be scary. People live in piles of garbage, or hurt their own children, just to avoid change and stunt their own growth.

I've written before about the need to be right, and that arrogance certainly smacks of religious zealots of every denomination. But the sad and pathological acts of individuals, the hate rhetoric spewed by Republicans and Gun Rights advocates, that's not arrogance as much as delusional fear.

The killer in South Carolina, Dylann Root, was quoted as saying to his victims "You (Black People) are taking over this country." Clearly that opinion was not formulated with data. That was a point of view shaped by his community and family, by the common interest groups he aligned himself with, who portray the world through the lens of blame and paranoia.


Is it getting better? In so many ways it is.

Check this out, care of the Astrologer Rob Brezsny:

Big dairy company refuses milk from farmers who mistreat animals.
http://tinyurl.com/plhk9w2

New Green Overpass Will Let Wildlife Cross 6 Lanes of Highway
http://tinyurl.com/q9dva9s

Houston Nearly Halves Homeless Population In 4 Years
http://tinyurl.com/qyo46bm

Or do you feel the same? Just turn on the TV or drive through Harrison, Arkansas with a rainbow flag and Hillary 2016 bumper stickers on your car. 

It's a blessing and a curse, this life of ours. As so many voices said today: "Love Wins"-- I just wish it didn't have to come at such a high cost to our humanity.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

African American

When my sister applied to college in 1996, I cajoled her into an experiment: choose one application, keep every detail exactly the same, but one - check the box for 'African American'.

She never stated that she was black, just African American, which she, well we, both are. We were born in Lusaka, Zambia and moved to America as children.


My sister was actually accepted to a great school, but my parents, aware of our stunt, made her refuse their myriad offers (scholarships, housing, clubs) so she went to the same average, commuter school as I did.

I wasn't trying to make a point about Equal Opportunity back then, just the limitations of political correctness. Especially in the mid to late 1990's when we, as a people, were struggling to accept Madonna much less Obama.

Almost 20 years since, the system is still flawed. Some areas of the country have achieved huge gains; a child born (in a major city) in the 90's probably sees race in a different way than I do, albeit through a screen. Yet my sister could apply for Grad School today and still receive far more benefits as an "African American" than if she applied the same semantics to a job application.

While some areas of society bend and shape shift to accommodate minorities, mostly in education; from gifted programs with a different "under served population" criteria, to colleges, desperate to meet their diversity targets. The world around us, however, still sees a black man as a suspect, a mixed race president as foreign, and a white lady with a passport stamped from Africa as a "Missionary or something?"

African American in title alone, I will never understand the experience of driving or job seeking while Black. I won't even pretend like I do. But I do know that opportunity and equality are not found in polite language alone.

I am African American: I moved to America from Africa when I was five. Trayvon Martin was from Florida. Eric Garner was from New York. Tamir Rice was from Ohio.

It's time we stop using African American as a polite salve we place over an American wound that has yet to heal.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Even Therapists Get the Blues

Depression is a predator, patiently stalking for the right conditions to strike: stress, fatigue, loss. Somehow it always knows.

Ruby Wax understands. She is an American who has made her success in Britain as a Comedian and Writer. Like many funny people, the laughter comes from a dark place which she recently wrote about:

...Some part of your brain is trying, as it always does, to find a reason. For other illnesses when you feel sick there's an explanation - you might say to yourself, "Of course I feel terrible I have an infection, a virus, cancer" (pick one). With dementia at least you might be the last to know that something is wrong, but with depression you're completely aware and cognisant that you're gone and what's left of you is on auto pilot that tries to steer you into the bathroom and find food and that's about it.

I'm a Mental Health Professional. I know the patterns, chemistry and treatments, yet it still catches me off guard. Depression doesn't care about a wall of certificates and diplomas.

Sometimes I sit across from clients and want so much to say "Me TOO!" Of course I don't. I'll never say how much I understand but I do know it gets better and how to make that happen. I just don't always follow my own advice. When I feel this way I resist the same insight I give to others: meditation, medication, exercise, gratitude, volunteering, support. I try to deny, numb, or diffuse the symptoms just like everyone else.

 
 
While our own experience does make us more relatable to others, if we insist upon shared experience (as a condition for accepting support) we would certainly exhaust much of the help that is offered.

A professional doesn't have to experience something to know about it-- many male doctors have delivered babies-- but we all have our version of struggle, even those who help and heal.



Get help:


Sunday, November 30, 2014

How to Not Get Married Like a Crazy Person

A 2014 report predicted that "Godless" Millennials will be the end of Right-Wing Conservative Politics. I really hope I am alive to enjoy an Agnostic, Liberal, Feminist, Friendly World- Transgender Leaders and LEED certified housing for all!

Perhaps it will also mean that my niece, a gorgeous, smart and independent five year old, will not grow up planning every detail of her wedding, or at the very least not feel obliged to be married. Until then, I accept that marriage is still kind of a big deal.

I have been married twice. I had a courthouse wedding, a Las Vegas wedding and am starting to plan a third wedding, because I'm a perfectionist in need of a project. The love in my life right now is not contingent upon a wedding. I just like a good party and want redemption for the first two half-ass attempts.

Needless to say, a very dear friend is contemplating her first wedding and I sure do have some advice for her. I wish a wise woman had shared her wisdom with me. Would I have heard her? Doubtful. Nevertheless, for those brides/grooms more self aware and sensible than myself, I do have some ideas, a bit of inside information, I'd like to share.

So.

Put down the Bridal magazine and your mom's 25th text of the morning about guest lists and venues. Imbibe a tranquil inducing substance of your choice. Take a deep, cleansing breath...........and...here we go:

1. Congratulations! Seriously, it's a big deal to love and be loved. You found your lobster! Please know that is all most people want to commend and celebrate.

2. That person you love is a fucked up mess. Accept that now. Get couple's therapy now. Get your own therapy- now! You're a fucked up adorable mess, too. Marriage is not a car wash that you go into tarnished and come out of pristine. Just accept that now and get help now and if the person you love is flawed now, they'll be all of that and a bag of chips the day after you get married. Accept it, try to fix it, or move on.

3. Weddings are parties. They are not the defining social event of your life and you will feel empty inside after you drop 30k+ to fail at that.

4. Look gorgeous, document the day, and throw a really good party. Whatever your version of that is.

5. Have someone assist you in the operations of that day but don't let another person's aesthetic (mom, friend, wedding planner, et al) create your party.

6. If it all seems like too much to cope with--stop. Seriously, just give yourself permission to stop. Your mental health is way too important. Go to the courthouse and/or leave town. Save the money for an amazing vacation, property or your Roth IRA.

7. Keep it real. You are NOT a Disney princess. You know that, right?

8. Be as tasteful and/or as honest as possible about asking for stuff (gifts, money, etc.). It's a weird expectation anyway so mind your manners but be crystal clear of your expectations.

9. I think a color palette for the bridal party- eg. beige, black and blue- and a general theme- smart casual, Country Chic (that's a thing, right?) for the party guests- are straightforward, reasonable boundaries people can work with.

...and finally

10. Marriage is a really important commitment when you actually plan on sharing your life with that person. If you are honest with yourselves and marrying for money, power, citizenship- ignore everything I've just said. However, if it's authentic, be mindful of the promise you are making. See it as one of the best opportunities you have to becoming a better person.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

(New) Rules for Western Yoga

 
I don't know about you but I haven't been getting much satisfaction from Yoga lately. I find myself getting annoyed, angry even, while I struggle to practice in expensive classes, held in boutique studios, taught by Pilates instructors who say "Namaste."

It has been a while since I studied my first two limbs of Raja Yoga so I make no claim to being close to the source but I believe the do's and don'ts offered by Patanjali are more necessary than ever, they just need some updating.  So, as an offering of love to Yoga and Yogis everywhere, here is my list of suggested Yamas and Niyamas for our weird and wonderful world of Western Yoga.

Yamas

1. Non-Violence: Yoga Teachers- Please start every class by seriously addressing injuries. Pay attention to students and offer valid alternatives. We all get so excited by the fullest expression of a pose but forget about the rest of the class pushing through pain to impress you/others. Stop practicing and start teaching/assisting/correcting again.

2. Benevolent Truth: Yoga Students- Shut up. Seriously, shhhh! A Yoga Studio is a sacred space. If a casual conversation needs to be had, step off the mat and out of the room. When did Studios and Teachers stop enforcing this?

3. Non- Stealing: Yoga Studios- Class prices are ridiculous! Between the Retreats and Teacher Trainings, Yoga has become the activity of the 1%. If studios are not offering at least two donation classes a day (in a full schedule) they are not doing it right. Pay Teachers fairly- a set rate no matter how many students, based on experience- and offer opportunities for the community to trade time/services/goods for classes.

4. Education and Training: Yoga Studios- What happens after Teacher Training? Are there continuing education classes offered to graduates? What about people curious about more than just Asanas? Open up to suggestions from the community (about what they are looking for or can offer). Workshops and lectures are a great way to create a space that isn't just about breaking a sweat but breaking the mold.

5. Absence of Avarice: We all get greedy with our practice. Our Egos are fighting for space on the mat in every moment.  The joy and heartache that each pose brings is the beauty of Yoga and a metaphor for life itself. Celebrate the practice, don't worry about the 22 year old with a perfect Dancer pose. She is fighting a struggle we know nothing about, or she will eventually. Yoga Studios are not meant to be Country Clubs, if yours is, find a new one.

Niyamas

1. Cleanliness: Deodorant is not a sin, neither is an antibacterial cleaner on those mats and floors.

2. Happy Satisfaction: Yoga Teachers- When did we decide it was okay to rush through Savasana? Is that not the best part?! Don’t run late trying to cram in four postures you are determined to get into your set list. I have places to go after class. Leave at least ten minutes for relaxation and a proper meditative ending, and at least five minutes at the start to bring us into the practice correctly. This isn't Jazzercise- it's a serious spiritual practice. We can leave out the ab crunches if time is running short.

3. Spiritual Effort: Doing Yoga does not make someone a good person. If you move your mat over three inches so a latecomer can squeeze in it will tell me far more about your character than your Crow or Vegan bumper sticker ever will.

4. Self- Study: Explore Yoga. Thanks to its popularity in the West, there are countless versions to choose from. Change it up. Try a class in a hot room, on the beach, with live DJ's. Find a class that teaches how to mediate or just allows space for meditation. Yoga is practiced in every moment, not just the 75 minutes in class, so taking those moments of clarity and peace and bringing them into the office, our homes, and traffic is actually why we practice.

 5. Surrender: Declare yourself defeated. Yoga postures will never be mastered because our bodies are constantly changing and we are all decomposing. As sobering as that is, it takes the pressure off; the only purpose of Asana is being able to sit in mediation for extended periods of time without discomfort. That's it. A nice ass was never part of the equation, just a pleasant residual.