Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Welling Rage

When I was in high school, a boy in my class asked me out on a date. He shared a car with his brother, so he asked if we could go on the date in my car instead. When I told my dad about this, he asked, “Are you going to let him drive?”
“No,” I said. “It’s my car.”
“Well,” he said. “You don’t have to be such a femi Nazi about it.”
I am not that old, invisible audience. That did not happen in the 50’s – it happened in the late 90’s.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was told I should let a man drive my car like a good little girl, but I was still as surprised as anyone when Trump won the election. Since that night, I have been reeling. I have felt isolated, betrayed, and alone, because alone is the place I go when I’m most afraid. There’s no one there to help you, the most terrified part of my reptile brain tells me. You’re the only one you can count on.
Fear does that to me. Fear makes me feel like I am standing in a rainstorm, screaming for help, but no one can hear me. Fear makes me feel like I’ve lost my goddamn mind – like there’s no one else out there that feels like me, understands how I feel, or will stand beside me in my darkest moments.
But I’m not alone. The number of people – to say nothing of our electoral system – who voted for Clinton has outstripped the number who voted for Trump. I have talked to many friends and heard from many others who feel the same. The people in the podcasts I listen to; all my go-to sources of inspiration, strength and courage voted the same way that I did. When I look at the people who voted for Trump, I know that a lot of them voted for him because they did not feel that Clinton and the Democratic Party had their best interests at heart. I hear them say that they did not vote for Trump because of his racist, xenophobic and misogynist opinions and agenda. The trouble I face with these voters is that they decided they could overlook those parts of his personality. It scares me.
I was living in Spain on 9/11. I had just arrived; I spent almost another year outside the U.S. before I came back to a country locked into its own fear. During that time abroad, I made friends with several Muslims, who experienced open acts of racism because they shared a religion with the terrorists on those planes. I became better friends with two of them than I did with most of the Spaniards in the residence hall where I lived. A lot of times, I felt I had more in common with them than Spaniards, many of whom made fun of me because I didn’t speak the language well and couldn’t communicate my needs, my emotions, or the fact that I was a real, three-dimensional human being. Nevertheless, what I experienced studying abroad is nothing compared to what many Americans and immigrants have experienced here in the U.S.
I am terrified, but I also have some hope. I have hope because I came back to the U.S. in 2002 feeling like everyone had lost their minds. Right before I left Spain, I met an American woman on Fourth of July. My friend asked her if the country agreed with what George W. Bush was doing – at that point, weapons of mass destruction were still being cited as the reason the U.S. was invading other countries. No, the woman said. We don’t agree with him, but we’re behind him because he’s our president. Hearing that made me feel like I'd lost my mind.
The dissension I see – the people passing around donation suggestions for civil right defense groups; the rallies; the protests and the marches – they give me hope. I’m not alone in my fear, and I’m also not standing alone in a thunderstorm, wondering why no one else can hear me. There are many of us. We’re not interested in having a country that gives into its fear and takes it out on others. Although I don’t think making it an us versus them issue is ultimately going to heal the country, the anger in me is welling up. I am fucking pissed that a man who brags about grabbing women by the pussy was voted into the White House. I am pissed that he just demanded an apology from a multicultural theater group who respectfully used their first amendment right to free speech to ask the soon-to-be-vice-president to hear them. I am pissed we seem to have taken a huge step back in time. And I’m scared. But I’m not alone.
I felt like I betrayed myself after 9/11, when I didn’t use the voice I had to speak out about what I saw in a bigger way. I only talked about my experience abroad and the pervasive fear I felt when I got back to the States with people who I thought agreed with me. This time, however, it’s been boiling in my gut, and I cannot keep it to myself. Sure, there are people who say it better than I do; there are people who have more followers and readers. There are people who stand to lose a lot more than me. But for the record: I’m here, I am not ok with this, and I’m saying it out loud.

Love and pissed kisses


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Owning the Authentic, Sensitive Me

Dear Barbara,

It has been four years and one day since you died in my arms. I tried to let the anniversary pass unnoticed, but I couldn't -- it didn't.

I am in such a different place than I was when I met you, the same day I lost you. We did not have a deep connection as such, except for sharing the last moments of your life together, which are perhaps some of the deepest moments of all.

It still hurts, Barbara. I have felt raw all week; dragged down and in need of space -- infinite amounts of space. I told someone that this anniversary always felt a little rough to me, especially because it comes the day after 9/11 and right before my birthday, and they were surprised. It made me feel ashamed that I still feel it so deeply, but I cannot change the way I feel, anymore than I could keep your airway from closing off on that night.

"Did you tell her to remember The Light?" someone asked me the day after you died. We were at an ashram, you remember, and a lot of the teachings focused on the Light -- there was even a meditation around it that people would stop and perform together during the day, called The Light. No, I said, I didn't. I didn't because The Light didn't resonate with me. As with many of the teachings at Yasodhara, I did not find that they spoke to me, and I felt shame about that, too. I have realized lately that it's a recurring theme: someone tells me something that will supposedly help me, it doesn't, and I take it on as something I'm doing wrong. I'm not doing anything wrong.

There have been many times in my life that I have wished someone could just tell me how to feel better or get better. I have sought out many healers of various kinds in search of an answer. I am realizing now that the shame I feel each and every time is because I cannot live up to their standard. However, that shame means that I am not owning my right to take what I like, and leave the rest. Instead, I use the ways I don't measure up as a whipping stick to beat myself with -- everything from not telling you to remember the Light, to not being able to let this anniversary pass without pain, to what I should and shouldn't eat according to the latest medical research, to whether or not I can fucking meditate.

It makes me tired, Barbara. I am tired of not listening to myself, although many people tell me I am better at living authentically than others. If I can let go of the black and white thinking, I can know that I am actually both of these things: I struggle with what others think and judge myself harshly for not being able to do it "better" while also casting a lot of society's norms to the wayside.

I feel deeply; I am sensitive. Depending on who you ask, this is either my biggest weakness or my greatest power. Depending on the situation, I vacillate between which of those beliefs I subscribe to. Someone recently paid me the greatest compliment of my life when they told me that it was clear to them that I was open hearted, then asked me how they could become more like me. I nearly wept, because it's true that I wear my heart on my sleeve and I cannot pretend otherwise anymore.

It's not that I miss you, Barbara; I hardly knew you. I do not miss the person who I was when I met you. I do not want to rewind the years I have had between now and then. But sometimes, I want it to hurt a little less, you know? I want to be able to hold my emotions up to the light and smile at them instead of finding them coursing through me like my very blood. I have not found that kind of detachment yet -- I am not there yet, and I want to be ok with that. I want to be ok with feeling as much as I feel; for being exactly who I am, open hearted and weepy, and also moving forward at the pace I am able. I want it to be enough; I want to be enough for myself, so I can put down all these expectations that I heap upon my shoulders in others' names.

Ultimately, even though I didn't say anything about The Light to you in your last moments, I showed up, Barbara. I was there for you in a way I didn't even know I was capable of. I held you, and I let your last moments be about you. I held the space, which is no small feat, especially for the amount of pain I was in then. Although I am feeling raw this week, it's different. I am better -- infinitely better. And owning how much I am as myself -- how far I've come -- is a major step toward owning my sensitive, amazing self.

Love and sensitive kisses

Saturday, September 3, 2016

I Have Fear (and Thirst, and Hunger)

In Spanish, you don’t say you “are” afraid, or thirsty, or hungry. Instead, you say you “have” them. (Tengo miedo; tengo sed; tengo hambre.) In fact, in Spanish there are two different ways to say “to be” depending on what aspect of yourself you’re describing. You can say “I am tall” (soy alta) because tall is an attribute that will likely stay with you for most of your life; at the same time, you can say “I am nervous” estoy nerviosa) and make it clear that you are only nervous right now – that your feeling is not necessarily permanent.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, invisible audience. I am just about to restart teaching Spanish classes, so that is likely part of it, but I’ve also been thinking about it from a perspective of how I talk about myself, and how different it is to say “I am feeling fear” than to say “I am afraid.”

I recently heard a TED talk that is likely what got me thinking about this in the first place. It’s called “Could Your Language Affect Your Ability to Save Money?” by Keith Chen. In the talk, Keith points out that the countries that are best at saving money don’t differentiate between the present and the future. His example is rain. Those countries basically say “It rain today” and “It rain tomorrow” instead of “It rain today” and “It will rain tomorrow.” That single extra word gives us English speakers a separation between today and tomorrow – to these other countries, there is no difference between what happens today and what happens in the future.

With Spanish, my fascination goes the other way. Am I identifying so much with my fear because I hold it as close as how tall I am, my hair color, and my gender? If I say I have fear instead of I am fear, would that change things for me?

I’ve been standing in an interesting place recently. It’s uncomfortable. I don’t like it. I am facing some deep-seated fears that I’ve had for a long time. But instead of moving or leaving like I would have done before, I am practicing patience, and trying to see how it will all work out instead, and staying put.

When I look at what I want out of my life, I am still afraid (I still have fear) of jumping completely into the boat. I want to write. It may not be apparent from my lack of blog posts, but that’s exactly it, invisible audience. In one of her most famous posts on, Cheryl Strayed counseled a would-be writer to just “write like a motherfucker” after the woman sent her a letter about how much she felt a need to write but couldn’t bring herself to do it. “That you’re so bound up about writing tells me that writing is what you’re here to do,” Strayed told her. That line has stuck with me ever since I first read it. It describes me in a way that hurts, deeply.

I look back at some of the posts I wrote in Panama, and I am awed at my own courage. Frankly, it’s some of the best writing I’ve ever done. I was also in more pain than I’d ever been in…although perhaps it’s more accurate to say I was allowing myself to feel more of the pain than I’d ever let myself feel before.

I do not feel as much pain anymore, thank the entire pantheon of gods and goddesses. I am starting to feel a deep need to write again, but I’m not sure what to write about if it’s not about deep, bottomless pain. Perhaps that is what has stalled me. Perhaps I am getting closer to “having” my pain than I am to “being” my pain, and I don’t know how my writing will be different in this new space.

I want to turn more to writing. I have fear around this idea. Despite four published books, a current co-writing project with a friend, and a daily writing practice, I struggle with the idea that I can make money as a writer. This, despite the fact that I have years of evidence that tells me I can make money however I want to. It will likely take more time. It will likely take more courage. It will likely scare the ever-living shit out of me at times. But I like to think that if I have fear instead of being fear, it will be easier to cast off – much like I cast off hunger with a simple, delicious meal.

Love and having hunger kisses,

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Open-Hearted Living

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me I was sensitive or wore my heart on my sleeve, I’d have a lot of money. It took a counselor to point out to me that this is not actually a bad thing – that sensitive people know when someone is in pain; that actually, sensitivity is a super power.
Recently, I did a weekend retreat and someone gave me the most amazing compliment I’ve ever received: “It seems to be that you’re very open-hearted,” this person said. “How can I get that way?”
Even as I find myself moving more toward that space, where I value my open-hearted nature when I can bring myself to wear it, I realized this morning that I still have a lot of ideas about open-heartedness that are likely making my life more difficult than it needs to be. 

For one, it seems I hold a belief that open-hearted living has absolutely nothing to do with making money – in fact, in any interactions that I have around supporting myself, I had better hide that big old heart of mine or risk getting it stomped on. Even bigger than that fear, however, is a much deeper one: if the person I’m interacting with sees that I’m open-hearted, they won’t see any value in me, and will not hire me.

It seems that I am struggling to see open-heartedness as an asset, invisible audience, even as I seek more and more to live in an open-hearted way. I have been making more and more friends that value the sensitivity that I was criticized for in the past. Thankfully, it’s been a long time since I’ve been confused for a rock hard bitch – at one time, I gave that first impression to a lot of people. However, I think I have discovered a deeply fundamental belief about this person that I have always been: as much as it feels better to be open-hearted and authentic, I have not believed that those characteristics apply to making a living.

Last night I participated in a group discussion with people who were seeking ways to incorporate authenticity into their everyday lives. Someone asked how many of these people considered their work to be a spiritual practice, and most of them said it was – that they were able to give their best to their clients when they treated the help they were giving them as an extension of their own desire to be authentic, vulnerable, and open-hearted. This blew my fucking mind, invisible audience. I realized that was not how I worked. I realized that, as much as I have sought more authenticity in my life, I have been denying that my authenticity had any place within my work life.

Maybe that’s why it sometimes feels like such a struggle to survive. I do a lot of reminding myself of the ways I am succeeding, even if those successes are really small, but I wonder if the reason that I have seen it to be such a daunting task to build a business is because of a feeling I get on a regular basis. I will begin to focus on bringing in more money, and immediately feel like I am disconnecting or don’t have time for connecting with the people around me; I immediately begin to thirst for more connection, even if it’s just with myself. However, the minute I start seeking that connection, an internal voice says, “You cannot have both. You are either allowed to be open-hearted and poor, or make money and be alone.”

Fucking hell.

As dire as this sounds, I’ve started to find small ways that this is changing. I started writing this blog again, after all, even though at this point there’s no monetary value in doing so.  I find that teaching local Spanish classes is a fun, open-hearted way to make money, and here’s the thing: I find it both easy and enjoyable, especially when I’m teaching kids. It’s easier for me than the other work I do, when I’m more concerned with presenting a professional image than I am with whether anyone is having fun, including me.

So perhaps I have stumbled across a hurdle I didn’t know I kept putting in my own way. Perhaps the secret is to bring more of this open-hearted person I’m becoming to all aspects of my life, not just the personal parts of it. Maybe this realization will help me give myself permission to seek other ways of making money that incorporate all of my values, instead of just the ones that I would have deemed acceptable in the past.

Love and open-hearted kisses,


Sunday, July 17, 2016

F@#!ing Meditation

It’s coming at me from everywhere, like a Zen door-to-door salesman that knocks at the back door when the front door isn’t open. I keep hearing about the research that supports it; how it helps people cope with stress; the way it actually rewires your brain. I see people who look completely “Zenned Out” and I know, I just know, that they have a meditation practice. What I can’t figure out is why I’m having such an issue creating one, too.

It’s not that I’m opposed to self-care – not in the least. I journal every morning; do yoga two to three days a week; take walks purely for the access to nature (while also appreciating the positive health benefits of the exercise); and have regular appointments with people who help me calm the fuck down when I’m feeling riled up. But this meditation thing keeps coming up, and I keep looking at it like a vegetable I’m supposed to eat but can’t quite bring myself to choke down.
The problem is two-fold. One: most meditations encourage focusing on the breath, but – and I realize this is an extreme reaction – I absolutely HATE focusing on my breath. For example, I had a counselor who always had to remind me to breathe when I was in the midst of processing something highly emotional. More than that, however, I find that when I focus on my breath, I get this monstrous wave of anger that comes at me like a tsunami, and it’s outward focused at whatever calm, soothing voice is telling me to breathe. “Don’t you know,” I want to scream at this voice, “That breathing is DANGEROUS?”

Wait, what? That’s the crux of it, invisible audience. There’s something about breathing – about taking the time to focus on my breath – that feels dangerous, like the world will come crashing down; time will stop; or maybe suddenly I’ll just evaporate. Clearly this comes from the reptile part of my brain – the part that cannot bring itself to realize that actually there is nothing dangerous about a relaxed state and that breathing is actually synonymous with not being dead. I’ve thought about this a lot, and I think it’s somehow linked to the idea that if you’re hiding in the woods, for example, and someone is looking for you to kill you, they’ll hear you if you’re breathing, find you and dismember you. When I watch movies and these kinds of scenes appear, that’s exactly what I’m thinking when the man or woman is hiding behind a tree trying not be butchered by a crazy person. “WHY ARE YOU BREATHING? DON’T YOU REALIZE THEY CAN HEAR YOU? HOLD YOUR BREATH OR DIE, YOU DUMBASS!”

So, clearly, I have a hang up about the very essential, life-giving nature of breath.
Second, if I manage to get past the breathing – say, focusing on something else that’s less life threatening – I come face to face with a chasm of grief so deep and so wide that it feels like the sun will fade before I will ever get through it. This is, perhaps, what the fixation on the danger of breath is actually protecting me from: standing at the edge of this ocean of tears and feeling the hopelessness of never being able to cross it.

Logically, I can know it is likely not as deep or as wide as I imagine. I can see that crossing it one stroke of the paddle at a time is the way to get through it, instead of wringing my hands from the shore. But you know what, invisible audience? There are people who never fucking cross this ocean. There are people that cannot bring themselves to even stand on its shores and look across it, despite the fact that it may be their life’s work. And as much as I fear crossing this ocean, my deeper fear is that I will forever be stuck wringing my hands on the shore, unaware of what exists for me beyond the horizon, and whether it’s as far away as I think it is.

“Well, at least you know what you’re up against,” one of my meditating friends told me when I described my struggles with meditation. I wanted to slap her, even as I recognized the truth in her words.

So despite my fear, my anger, and my grief, I will continue to try, one step at a time, to wade into these waters. And funnily enough, one of my favorite lines for coping with grief comes from the timeless rom-com classic, Sleepless in Seattle, and has to do with breath.

When the radio talk show host/therapist that his son has called asks Tom Hanks how he will deal continue to deal with the grief of losing his wife, he says, “Well, I'm gonna get out of bed every morning... breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won't have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out.”

Love and deep breathing kisses,


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Being Enough

Hello, invisible audience. It’s been a really, really long time.

Don’t think that because I disappeared that I forgot about you – in fact, I think about you all the time. However, my life has changed in such profound ways since I sent out my last real blog post about the panic I felt as I drove into Mexico that I haven’t even known where to start. Barring the occasional resurfacing, it turns out that restarting took almost two years.

I’m not sure if this post will be the beginning of more regular blog posts from me, but I’ve decided to dip my toes into the water, to see if I still have anything to say. The fact that I’ve decided to write after an almost sleepless night is probably more significant than I’d like to admit. At any rate, here I am.
I have been thinking a lot lately about being enough. For the first time in many years, I moved in to a shared house at the beginning of the month, and I’ve found my insecurities came to join me like so many long-lost friends and extra roommates. Am I clean enough? Am I quiet enough? Am I loading the dishwasher correctly? Are my anxieties as apparent as I think they are?
Someone pointed out to me that in 34 years of life I have lived more than many people who are in their 60’s, and I realized that therein lies the problem. On the one hand, I try not to compare myself to others because in so many ways it makes me feel inadequate – Why don’t I own a house yet? Why do I still drive an old car? Why can’t I bring myself to rock the trucker hat? – while on the other hand I rarely give myself the credit I deserve for what I have accomplished, even if those accomplishments are only important to me.
Some days, I am so high on the life I am creating that my heart feels as if it will burst. I live in Leavenworth, a beautiful mountain town in the North Cascades, chock full of clear, cold rivers, pine-scented trails, and an amazing community that I’m beginning to feel a deep connection to. On other days, my insecurities rear their ugly heads and I am laid flat by the fear that I will never be enough – thin enough, confident enough, financially stable enough, capable enough, well enough – to accomplish anything ever again.
Yes, I know, it sounds drastic. It is what I refer to as black and white thinking: the idea that life and its experiences are good or bad, happy or sad, this or that, when really they are all of those pieces, all at once. It’s tough to grasp sometimes; tough to be ok with. I find myself fighting within myself, struggling to find a theme, a meaning, and a single way to see the world that will make sense, not just today but all days in a row – I want to figure it out once and never worry about it again.
Of course, those are the days that I am afraid of the mystery that on others days I welcome and seek out – the days that I remind myself that I love surprises, and that the best things that have ever come to me were the ones I never could have predicted or expected. Those are the days that I am not wondering whether I am enough, and am instead find myself completely satisfied with what is instead of what will be.
For the first time in a long time, I have found myself craving the option to discharge these fears in a post to you, invisible audience. There is still something about the process of aligning black symbols together in neat rows on a white background and launching them out into cyberspace that eases the fear a bit. Although I certainly haven’t put down writing completely in the last two years, I have missed this specific outlet for my thoughts – I have missed you, and the writer/reader relationship we have.
So here I am, seeking my own enough-ness with a crowd of invisible folk who live out in cyberland. And here you are, taking it in as I test out the waters once again.
Love and plenty of kisses,