Fat Lady on a Bike: My Journey to Peace and Fitness

Join me and my wonderful Electra Townie bike on my continuing journey to inner peace and both inner and outer fitness.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cycling as Metaphor

When I titled my last post (Breaking the Cycle), I was struck by the irony of those words juxtaposed with the picture of me on my bicycle.  There is cycling (the vicious circle kind), and then there is cycling (the wind in your hair, feels like flying kind).  I suppose there is also the cycle of life kind, or the cycle of holidays.  So cycling, as either activity or metaphor, can be either terrible, amazing, or just plain good. 

As a member of a tribe who read the same book every year, I find the notion of cycling as spiraling both congenial and satisfying.  By spiraling, I mean going around and around, but never ending a circuit in exactly the same place as you began it.  Each time through the book, you understand things a little differently, or notice different stories or phrases based on where you are at that new moment.  Each lap around the track you push a little harder or breathe a little more deeply, or go a little more slowly to pay attention to the landscape.

What I've come to understand lately is that even when it feels as though my cycling is vicious circling, it actually is more likely to be spiraling.  Yes, I keep coming back to the anguish and helplessness of losing my mother, but each time I experience it from a slightly different point of view, and it hurts me a little less.  Yes, I keep slipping back into eating for comfort, but each time with a bit more mindfulness, understanding and compassion and a lot less self-loathing. 

And how does that relate to the wonderful kind of cycling that I do on my bike?  I think the controlling metaphor here is that of the weapon known ethnographically as a bola or more hiply as a meteor hammer -- a weighted ball on the end of a cord that is spun around and around until sufficient momentum is gained and then released to soar away.  If I cycle/spiral enough, I gain momentum and can cycle off into my future, the wind in my hair, feeling as though I'm flying.

A hui hou.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Breaking the Cycle

This has been a remarkable winter and extremely challenging early spring, and I apologize for my long absence from this space.  I hope to write with more regularity as I navigate through this next stage of my journey.

Last Thursday, I had an amazing experience:  a complete convergence between the physical and the psychological/spiritual realms. 

In the physical world, while I have been much healthier this past year than for many years previous, and much more energetic and active, I have continued to experience periodic pain in my knees (osteoarthritis) and left ankle (sinus tarsi syndrome due to impaired leg mechanics).  Over the winter in Hawaii, my ankle was fairly well behaved, but during the past couple of weeks after we came back to Massachusetts, it started hurting more and more.

Similarly, while I had a wonderful winter in terms of mind, heart and spirit, eating well, sleeping well and feeling extremely balanced, the minute we got back east I was bombarded with stressors.  For one thing, we continued to be displaced from the heart of our home, primarily due to the unreasonable recalcitrance of a neighbor who wouldn't give us permission to access our pipes through her apartment until just last week.  For another, in order to hold our rather large Passover seders in the apartment which is usually reserved for that purpose (and storage) but which has been where we sleep for the past 8 months, we had to move a whole lot of stuff out to give us some space.  We also had to remove everything we might need from the unit where the work was going to be done, and we also had to make space in the unit where our offices and second kitchen are so we could eat meals down there once Passover had ended!  Not to mention shopping and cooking for a challenging holiday and 40 dinner guests!

We got through the holiday joyously, but I found my mood going downhill.  I recognized that I had a serious attitude problem; I was seeing obstacles, not challenges, and did not see how to pull myself back to my usual, more optimistic point of view.  And above all, I felt out of balance and desperately in need of restoring that internal gyroscope.

On the Thursday in question, I had a morning phone session with Teri Hirss, my friend, teacher and guide along this journey, and she gently led me to the realization that I was back in the darkest place in my past, that horrible moment of being in a world without my mother, not knowing how to go on, feeling totally powerless and not heard or understood by any of the adults in my world.  While household upheaval is certainly not on a par with the death of a parent in terms of actual emotional trauma, what I realized was that I was similarly overwhelmed and thrown by the intensity of the situation and my inability to deal with it into "lizard brain" mode -- fight or flight only, no higher consciousness involved.  And the resonance with that earlier time had me trapped in my earlier feelings of helplessness and frustration.

In the afternoon, I went to physical therapy, and Lena's magical hands set to work on my ankle.  She probed deep and hard, and then told me that massage was all about breaking the cycle of pain.  If there was knotting and spasm in a muscle, it would break that spasm.  In my case, where she said she felt no spasm, it could break the cycle of escalating pain by desensitizing the nerves.  While this was painful at the time, it could offer great relief.

When I left PT that afternoon, I walked out into the sunlight with a light heart and a pain-free ankle.  The cycle was broken. And I've been pain-free and feeling balanced again ever since.

A hui hou.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Peter Pan and the Lost Boys

On Sunday afternoon, we took Alex (age 7-1/2) and Emma (age almost 6) and their parents to see an amazing, in-the-round production of Peter Pan.  It was a wonderful, magical way to introduce kids to the experience of theater, and we all enjoyed it a lot.  They particularly liked the flying against a 360-degree panoramic projection of London, while I favored the crocodile -- a huge puppet on wheels propelled by the feet of two strong young men, ticking and roaring in fine fettle.

Thinking about the play itself, however, left me feeling a lot less delighted.

The usual qualms about Peter Pan and its author have to do with whether Barrie had an unnatural interest in little boys, but that isn't what bothered me, at least not primarily.  As I watched the story unfold, what struck me was every character's yearning for a mother, even the pirates, and Barrie's apparent urge to turn all little girls into mother figures, with a corresponding lack of understanding that little girls also yearn to have mothers, not just to become them.

As someone who lost my mother at age 13, I could empathize with the lost boys and their stories of being literally "lost" -- abandoned on the street by mothers (where are the fathers?) who in some cases seemed unable to care any longer for their beloved sons and in others simply threw them away.  In Peter's case, he returned home from his imaginative flight only to find the window barred against him.  Interestingly, in this time period, when death in childbirth was one of the main causes of mortality among young women, no mention is made of the even more likely scenario of being barred from a mother's loving embrace by death.  Barrie's issue seems to be all about being rejected.  I can empathize with that, as well.

In Peter's (and Barrie's) world, what does motherhood consist of?  The main duty of the mother seems to be telling enthralling bedtime stories, followed closely by imposing the order of a bedtime ritual.  These seem kind of trivial, until you think about what they represent.  The bedtime ritual is fairly obvious, as it represents the safety of having limits set and the physical nurturing from which those limits stem.  The story-telling is a little bit more subtle.  I think it represents nurturing of the spirit, encouragement of imagination, adventure and fun -- in other words, all the things that being a boy means to Peter.

What place do fathers have in this world?  Clearly, they (as men) represent all the things that Peter hates and fears:  growing up, getting a job, being responsible, as well as setting more disagreeable limits, such as making Nana sleep outside instead of in the nursery where the children -- and their mother -- want her.  But there is an even more sinister implication in the fact that in most productions of the play, Mr. Darling and Captain Hook are played by the same actor.  Hook is Peter's arch-enemy, someone who is always trying to kill him, as Mr. Darling is the arch-enemy of his children, always trying to make them grow up and be responsible.  He, like Hook, feels he doesn't get any respect and is humored by his family the way Hook is humored by his men.  The difference is, of course, that Hook controls them through fear of injury and death, while Mr. Darling is pretty much completely ineffectual, yielding all control of the household to his wife.

One of the ironies of the play is that, despite the focus on girls as mothers, each of the female characters except for Mrs. Darling (the actual mother) saves Peter's life.  While you could regard the fierce protectiveness of Tiger Lily, Tinkerbelle and Wendy as maternal instinct, in fact they each behave in ways that are as physically heroic as Peter's own actions.  And certainly, Wendy gets to enjoy flying around London as much as either of her brothers.  In the strange and wondrous world of Neverland, girls may be mother figures, but that doesn't seem to mean simply waiting on the sidelines waiting for the boys to come home. 

On the other hand, it does seem to mean that girls spend all their energy taking care of boys. I would worry about that being the message my granddaughter took away from seeing the play if I weren't convinced that the things she's most likely to remember are the flying and Tinkerbelle's rude behavior! 

Still, as a lost girl myself, I find myself feeling sad for all the lost children and wondering what made Barrie so sensitive to that need for nurturing.  Perhaps we all need to learn to be our own "mothers" and find ways of nurturing ourselves and providing ourselves a structure in which we can function happily and productively.  I know that's what I'm working on.

And who says the theater is not relevant?

A hui hou.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Sister's House

I am sitting in my sister's house.  We came down here to Fort Myers, FL for Thanksgiving, as we did last year, only this year I stayed on for a couple of weeks to have some extra biking time in the warmth.  For the past week, I've been here on my own, as my sister and brother-in-law travelled to Chicago.  So I've been here by myself, eating at my sister's table, watching her tv, doing laundry in her washing machine, driving in my brother-in-law's car, and generally making myself at home in her world.

This may not seem like such a big deal.  Siblings visit each other all the time, and even borrow each other's dwellings.  But when I think how my sister and I were lost to each other for 35 years (for the whole story, see The Story of Princess S), my sitting here in her house is nothing short of miraculous.

Though we have been back in each other's lives for almost three years now, and though I have felt lots of feelings about all aspects of our shared and unshared histories, evidently I can still be sandbagged by anger and grief.  Last week, before she left on her trip, my sister and I spent a day hanging out together, talking about everything in our lives, and as it almost inevitably does, at one point the conversation turned to the past.  I heard again from her how she had been told that I was the one who chose not to have anything to do with my family, not once, but twice, when in fact I had been twice disowned.  We shook our heads sadly together at all the wasted time, and I thought that was it.  But I spent the first two days of my solitary sojourn in a fog of depression and emotional eating.  It was only on the third morning, as I rode my bike on the beautiful, exotic John Yarbrough Linear Park trail , that I realized that I had been ambushed by grief for all the time we lost and anger at our father and stepmother for their selfish, hurtful actions. 

When we talk about the past, my sister often tells me how grateful she is that our reunion has given her back some positive memories of our mother.  She's three years younger than I and managed to keep less of the good parts even than I did, in my total blocking out of my past.  But since we've reconnected and shared our memories, she's been able to connect also with our mother in some very healing and beautiful ways.  She told me that as she finally came to feel some peace with those memories, she started seeing dragonflies everywhere, and the dragonflies reminded her of the sparkly rhinestone jewelry that she loved to look through in our mother's jewelry box.  She added that seeing dragonflies now makes her feel at peace and loved.

As I rode along the bike trail in the sunshine and realized that I'd been grieving for my mommy and grieving for the years I did not have my sister in my life, I looked up and there was a beautiful, iridescent green dragonfly above my left shoulder, moving along with me.

I burst into tears.

And so I sit here in my sister's house, or drive around in my brother-in-law's car, feeling at peace, and loved, and very grateful that I have my sister and brother-in-law in my life now.  And that beautiful dragonfly is dancing in the sunlight.

A hui hou.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On Turning Sixty

As I mentioned yesterday, this is a reflective time of year in the Jewish calendar, and I've certainly been in a reflective mood since my birthday at the end of August, on which I entered a new decade.

On August 29, 2001 I turned 50.  To celebrate, Carol and I brought all the people whom I counted as my family (having been discarded by my birth family long before) to Hawai'i for a week-long celebration, an opportunity for them to get to know each other (some had never met) and also get to know my very favorite place.  It was an amazing time for all of us. 

As I approached the 10-year anniversary of that occasion, I realized that my whole life is almost completely different now.  9-11 was still two weeks away.  I had yet to acquire my first 78rpm record.  I had no grandchildren and only one of my three stepchildren was married.  I was still performing with the Wholesale Klezmer Band.  I had not yet been to Green Mountain at Fox Run or met the wonderful teacher/counsellor/friend who has helped me through so much of what I've chronicled in this blog.  For that matter, I had not ridden a bicycle for over 20 years.  I was just starting to work on my first KlezKamp as Associate Director, and had just returned from the very first Aloha Music Camp (and the Mohala Hou Foundation was several years from coming into existence).  I had never painted a watercolor.  I had not been in contact with my sister in almost 20 years.  I had never met either of my nieces and in fact didn't even know of the existence of the younger one and had never heard of my now-beloved brother-in-law.  I had never played the 'ukulele or lap steel guitar or studied Hawaiian.  I had never been to Madison, Wisconsin or spent much time in Vermont.  I had never meditated or done strength training, never bounced on a fitball, and had pretty much stopped dancing.  I was not (and could not be) legally married, and had not yet met two of our now closest friends, who came to us as a result of our marriage. 

In short, almost everything that occupies my energy now and many of the people and projects closest to my heart were nowhere in the picture.

I am extremely grateful for all the changes of the past decade.  Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

A hui hou.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On the New Year

Last week we celebrated Rosh Hashono, the Jewish new year.  I've always thought that celebrating the new year at the same time, more or less, as the beginning of the new school year made a lot more sense than starting in the middle of winter, but on the other hand, it seems kind of odd to be starting up just at the time when the growing season is over.  I suppose the best time to celebrate a beginning might be in the spring, but after the summer is over, there is definitely a sense of getting back down to business that makes Rosh Hashono feel, to me, like an appropriate starting point for the year.

Though the Jewish new year is, in pretty much all respects, a much more serious affair than its secular counterpart, the one aspect the two holidays share is that sense of starting over with a clean slate that leads to resolutions.  In the Eastern European Jewish tradition, there's an actual ritual for that process, called tashlikh, which is Hebrew for throwing or casting away. On the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashono (or any time before the end of Succot, in some traditions), we go to a place of moving water (rivers or oceans) and cast bits of bread, representing our sins, into the stream so that we can be cleansed of them.

This was not something my family did when I was a child.  In fact, I first encountered it when I attended services at the place where some of my stepchildren were going to Hebrew School.  It seemed kind of fun, and a good excuse to go on a frequently sunny afternoon and be by water, which is something I always enjoy, and sing one of my favorite songs, but I can't say it felt particularly meaningful.  In more recent years, when we've celebrated the days of awe in Hawaii, going to do tashlikh led us to discover the beauty of Ala Moana Beach Park, which we had previously seen only from the road, and spend a quiet time with the surf and sea life.  But the best iteration has been what we do with some of our grandchildren.

We believe that a big part of our job as grandparents is to weave a connection between the newest generation and the traditions that we love, and the best way to do that, at least while they are all still so young, is to create fun and interesting experiences that they will associate with us and with the Jewish holidays.  For the days of awe, which abound with seriousness, the choices for fun and child-friendly activities are rather limited.  Apples and challah dipped in honey are always a big hit (our youngest, this year, discovered that he could use his apple slice as a scoop for the honey), and shofar (ram's horn) blowing is another fun activity.  But the casting out of sins?  That seems a little heavy for their innocent little souls, even if the river and the bread-throwing part seemed like they could be intriguing in the right sort of way.

While the concept of sins didn't seem appropriate, we figured that all kids over the age of 1 understand the notion of bad behavior, or behavior that  makes mommy and daddy upset.  Over the last few years, we've thrown away whining, not cleaning up the playroom, pushing siblings and a variety of other pre-school "sins."  This year, the kids threw away "bad behavior," being messy, and nightmares. And I threw away impatience and despair.  It felt very liberating.  As I watched the chunks of bread float merrily down the stream and listened to my grandchildren shouting with excitement over something they had found in the water, I felt peaceful and content, and happy to be starting this wonderful new year.

May we all enter this new season full of peace and a sense of adventure.

A hui hou.

Friday, September 9, 2011


For the past few months I've been thinking a lot about support -- what it is, why we need it, why not having it is so painful.  One of the things I've realized is that though there are many different kinds of support, they all seem to have a couple of things in common.

Financial support, clerical/administrative support, emotional support, even the physical support provided by things like sports bras, jock straps and orthotics -- in each instance, what underlies the support itself is acknowledgment of a need, a lack or a place of pain, and what the support does is address that need, fill the lack and say "I know that hurts.  I know that's hard."

Support around an issue is not the same as fixing a problem.  Just before setting out to write this post, I reread my last entry, which contained a reference to the traditional Jewish mourning practice of sitting on the floor during the week of shiva.  The part of that practice that I did not previously mention is that those who come to comfort (ie, "support") the mourner are instructed to come in quietly and sit there, waiting for the mourner to speak or not, as s/he needs.  The task is not to make small talk, not to make the person grieving feel better or move past grief, but to acknowledge that grief and give the mourner an opportunity to share memories, to cry, or simply to rest in the company of people who understand.  When I was sitting shiva for my father, many friends and colleagues came to be with me, most of whom did not know about that traditional practice.  While I appreciated their love and concern, I got the most comfort from the few who simply came in and sat silently on the floor next to me.

Using mourning as an example is particularly fitting, as what I've been going through lately has been very much about the lack of true support I experienced after my mother died.  There was so much focus on getting on with life and the need to be "strong" that no one ever acknowledged that the bottom had just dropped out of my world.  At the age of 13 I was, in essence, told to be an adult and take on whatever responsibilities were thrown my way without question or protest.

For the past two weeks, we've been living in chaos caused by household renovations, and I have been totally thrown by how disconcerted I've been.  Part of me is dealing with it,as I must, but another part of me wants to curl up with a blanket over my head.  Part of me wants my mommy.  Since that is never going to happen, I have to learn to sit quietly on the floor with my self, acknowledge my feelings and give them -- and myself -- space to breathe.

The other day, when I posted on Facebook a brief comment about feeling overwhelmed, a bunch of friends from all areas of my life posted comments essentially acknowledging what I had said, and it was actually kind of astonishing to me how much better I felt after reading them.  How different would my life have been if, 47 years ago, one of the adults in my life had sat next to me, put a hand on my shoulder and said, "I know how sad you are and how scared, and it's okay to feel those things.  Life is going to be different now, and maybe it will be hard for a while, but eventually you'll start to feel better.  That doesn't mean you didn't love your mommy or that you don't miss her, but you'll start to feel better because life does go on and is full of wonderful experiences"?  Would I have avoided needing to be always competent?  Would I have avoided stuffing down emotions with food?  Would I have had an easier time asking for help?

I don't know the answers to those questions, and in a way, as interesting as they are to contemplate, the answers don't matter.  I think that my task, now, is to say those things to my self, to my young self and to my current self, until I come to believe them.  I have to be to myself the loving adult who was missing from my life all those years ago.

It isn't easy, inhabiting these deep places of pain.  It isn't easy to sit quietly in the face of grief.  But I'm very glad to be here.

A hui hou.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fathers' Day Musings

Today is Fathers' Day, and Facebook is full of warm and loving tributes to all kinds of fathers, both living and dead, as was the Sunday newspaper.  As I read the interesting and often heartwarming tributes, I found myself suddenly catapulted into the dark place I inhabited after my father died, 20+ years ago.  In Jewish tradition, a mourner "sits shiva" for seven days after the burial, and it is customary to sit on the floor or a low stool -- not for punishment, but as an outward indication of internal discomfort.  I sat on the floor that week and tried to figure out how I could deal with the liturgical presumption of honor and love for a parent when I felt neither of those things for the man who had sired me.  I finally figured out that while I felt nothing but anger and bitterness towards my father, who had betrayed me, I could genuinely mourn my daddy, who had given me life, taught me values he couldn't live up to himself, and encouraged me to be myself and stand up for what I believed.

My daddy was a loving man, quick to hug, who loved to play.  We spent hours in the back yard, playing catch or badminton, and he seemed to enjoy helping me with school projects.    He was funny and outgoing, and loved to argue about ideas with me.  He believed that I could do anything I set my mind to accomplish and that the whole world was open to me, not just the parts officially labeled "for girls." He taught me always to tell the truth.  He loved me unconditionally, or so I believed.

My father was a weak man, whose supposed principles were subject to considerations of expediency.  He had great ideas and intense passions, but never followed through on them for very long.  Our basement was littered with remnants of his previously all-consuming projects.  He seemed to value a peaceful life above justice and fairness.  Under the influence of my wicked stepmother, he stole from his parents.  And he disowned me, not once, but twice.

Thank you, Daddy, for giving me life and helping me become the woman I am.  On this day of reflection and remembrance, I miss you more than I can easily express, torn away as you were not by distance or death, but by your own misguided choices.  I wish I'd had you longer in my life.

A hui hou.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Road Trip!

Tomorrow, I'm leaving to drive 1300+ 78rpm records out the the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where they are going to be the centerpiece of the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture.  This represents a small fraction of my total collection, so this is only the first of many such drives, I suspect.  I've gotten the records loaded into the car (bless MiniMoves and More for their willingness to do such small jobs -- small for them, huge for us!) and all the electronic files safely stored on an external drive.  Now all I have to do before leaving tomorrow afternoon is get all my personal stuff together.

I love road trips.  Since I was a child, taking pride in helping my dad navigate, following the AAA Trip-Tik and keeping track of the family's expenses, I've loved the feeling of anticipation and adventure of setting out in the car.  I could sit for hours (and did), looking out the window, trying to imagine what life was like in all the places we passed.  When I became an adult, I loved doing the driving, especially the ability to leave the designated path if something interesting caught my eye.  In our travels, Carol and I especially love going to the ends of roads whenever we can.  There's something very satisfying about that.

During my younger years, driving also became a supremely comforting activity.  During the tumultuous years before Carol and I got together, I would spend hours driving around New England by myself.  I'd turn on the radio or listen to tapes and follow the most circuitous, scenic pathways I could find, barely stopping to eat or take care of bodily functions.  This was, in fact, pretty much the only time I successfully comforted myself regularly without food.  I don't know exactly why it worked, but it did.  Then I became a gigging musician, playing with the Wholesale Klezmer Band, which was based in Western Massachusetts, so I had to do a lot of driving for both rehearsals and gigs.  While I usually enjoyed the drives to the venues where we performed, the drives home were less thrilling, especially in the middle of the night, and driving kind of lost its charm.  Since I quit the band, most of my driving has been strictly functional, and the fact that until last month, our cars were both aged and kind of uncomfortable didn't make the prospect of taking to the roads very appealing.

But now, I'm filled again with that early excitement, and a brand-new, comfortable car with incredible amenities (XM radio, a fully-functional iPod connection, adjustable lumbar support) increases the likelihood that my imaginings will resemble the reality of the ride.  I look forward to the long hours by myself, free to listen to whatever catches my attention in a moment, or to be still and think, or not.

In my younger years, when I hit the road, all I had to do was throw some clothes in a bag and walk out the door.  Things aren't so simple now.  Somewhere along the line I became incredibly high maintenance!

I have to pack all my medicine and nutritional supplements, enough for the  whole time I'll be gone.  I have to pack my CPAP machine and mask.  I have to pack a fairly comprehensive selection of food, since my recently uncovered sensitivities make eating at the roadside service areas, or even most convenient restaurants, next to impossible.  It will probably take me 10 minutes to pack my clothes, and 2-3 hours to get everything else ready.  I guess that is one of the consequences of aging.  I'm trying to feel grateful that I can take care of myself so well on the fly, rather than weighed down by all the restrictions and imperatives.  But whatever I feel, tomorrow afternoon, as close to 2pm as I can make it, I'll be behind the wheel, heading west.  And I'll be grinning my head off.

A hui hou.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Spiritual Geography

Yesterday was amazing, meteorologically.  I was awakened in the morning by a tremendous clap of thunder, and my bedtime was delayed by one of the loudest, brightest thunderstorms I can remember and some serious concern about the possibility of a tornado.  Then this morning dawned clear, sunny, breezy and mild, a perfect early summer day.  It was peaceful, pleasant and perfect.

As I drove around doing errands and enjoying the sunlight and the breeze blowing through the window, I found myself musing about how the storm and its aftermath were a great metaphor for the upheavals and accomplishments of the inner work I've been doing.  So often it feels as though when I go through the really hard times, the interludes of soul-baring, acknowledging painful feelings and the like, it's like the violence and power and, yes, grandeur of that huge thunderstorm.  But when I'm through the soul-baring and the pain, I expect the clarity and sunshine and peace to follow.  Often they do, but only for a little while.

In geographical terms, it feels as though the storms of Massachusetts should be followed by a permanent move to the perfection of Hawaii.

Unfortunately, the sunshine and peace never last.  Already this afternoon clouds rolled back in and the temperature dropped 15 degrees.  And it seems as though the struggle and the learning are never done, either.

The real question is, much as I love Hawaii, would I be happy living there all the time?   I enjoy the occasional bluster, and the deep clarity of a cool, autumn day, and the changing leaves.  I enjoy the transformation from the bleakness of winter to the blossoming and budding of spring.  I enjoy the occasional violent thunderstorm (though in fairness, I have to point out that this year we had a few of those in Hawaii as well, not to mention an annual tsunami warning). 

Anyone who has ever been an English major, as I was, is familiar with William Blake's ideas about innocence and experience.  Experience, with its harsh reality, always seemed to me preferable to the blandness of innocence.  If my journey takes me through the occasional bout of howling darkness, I can embrace that darkness because of what it teaches me.  Still, I love waking up every morning in Hawaii knowing that 99 days out of 100 the sun will be bright and the sky clear.  And knowing that it will cloud up mid-afternoon, only to be bright and clear again in the cool of sunset.  I would love to have that kind of certainty about my life and health right now.

In the end, I guess my two homes suit me very well, both physically and spiritually.  As I love them both, perhaps I can learn to be happy whatever my internal climate brings me.

A hui hou.

Where, Oh Where Has My Little Blog Gone?

You may have noticed that I haven't been writing much of late.  I've noticed that, too.  As I've thought about why that is, I realized that it's mostly about shame.  At first I thought it was about that famous river in Egypt; certainly in the past, I've avoided dealing with unpleasant things, difficulties and challenges by choosing, either consciously or unconsciously, not to acknowledge their existence.  But the fact is, in the two months since we've been back from our winter home, I've been very much aware of what's bothering me and actively working to try to make life better.  Denial was really not a factor.

And then it struck me that I didn't want to be blogging about what is going on with me for the simple reason that I was mired in shame.  During the period this winter when my CPAP mask wasn't functioning properly, I lost the ability to recognize and respond to cues about hunger and fullness and ended up gaining some additional weight, which was not enough to affect me while I was still in warm weather attire, but catapulted me into despondency as I made the transition to long pants and tee shirts.  The physical discomfort I was feeling in those clothes, many of which I couldn't wear at all any more and the rest of which were all elastic, overwhelmed me and cast me back into a state of shame and guilt and paralysis that I didn't expect to experience again on this journey.  And feeling that shame made me loath to write, which gave those horrible negative feelings all the more power.

You wouldn't think that there would be much I could be ashamed about, given all the feelings and situations I've share in this blog.  Clearly, it isn't about the feelings and situations themselves, but how I feel about them, and about myself.  The fact is, I wrote the preceding paragraph with a light heart just now, whereas last week I was unable even to look at the bookmark for this page on my browser toolbar.

What changed?  I bought some new pants.

This seems like such a small thing to do, a small practical task.  But it actually was so much more than that.  It was a conscious step away from self-flaggelation and towards kindness to myself, towards acceptance of who and what I am in this moment. 

And so, I am back, with much to share and process and celebrate.

A hui hou.