All posts by Cate Montana

About Cate Montana

Cate Montana, MA, is a freelance journalist, screenwriter and author of Unearthing Venus: My Search for the Woman Within and co-author of The Heart of the Matter with Dr. Darren Weissman. She lives in the Pacific Northwest. Connect with Cate at www.unearthingvenus.com

Discovering God and Belief in the Wake of a Storm

GodEver feel like you’ve lost track of yourself? Like work has taken over? Me too.

As great as the last few years have been getting published and getting out there, there’s also been the growing sense of, “Damn –  where’s my vision?”

So, after giving a workshop with Betsy Chasse (author Tipping Sacred Cows) in Sedona, I took the opportunity to run off to the desert afterwards for some down time.

Now some folks might think Las Vegas is the perfect place to unwind. But I ran the other direction, as far away from the craziness of modern life as possible, straight into the arms of a shaman. Well, not exactly his arms. Unless picking me up off the sofa after a particularly intense ceremony, stripping me naked and shoving me (with admirable indifference) into a steam bath counts. (Not!)

But seriously. Medicine ceremonies are just that. Medicine. And there’s a reason for taking medicine. This world is pretty insane. And doing doing doing all the time can “do me” right off-track. I figure if I’m out giving radio and TV talks and workshops then I’d better have my mind open and my head screwed on as best as possible – for myself and everyone else.

So I went on a vision quest.

I’m not going to pussyfoot around and say my two weeks were nothing but
rosewater massages and a no-alcohol, high-fiber diet. There were no massages and no rosewater (and no alcohol!). I did smoke ayahuasca and poisonous toad venom, however. I rubbed frog poison into my upper arm where the top layer of skin had been burned away with a lighted stick to better absorb the chemicals that would give my body the strength and stamina to undergo the ceremonies. And I was given many visions.

And then, after my week with the shaman, I drove myself deeper into the desert in southern Utah and performed a solo ritual to further integrate what I’d learned. And in the middle of that mind-blowing ceremonial morning a Great Dust Storm with 60 mph winds drove up from the south. And I sat in the storm and let it rage around me, watching my mind do its fandango with all its usual crap until it, too, was driven away and I was left with…

God

The Earth as God

The Universes and all Creation as God

The Body/Worlds as THE PINNACLE of creation

Hmmmm…. you know the whole New Age philosophy about every thing being God? About every thing being One Thing? It’s a great philosophy isn’t it?

Thing is, for 30 years I’ve said, “Everything is God” and not really meant it. Oh, I thought I meant it. But subconsciously? (where it’s all really happening) subconsciously I believed God was really “Out There” and not “down here.” In my deepest mind/heart place I didn’t believe/trust that things—tangible things—were really God at all.

Which meant, unavoidably, that I never thought I was God at all either.

Well, all I can say is: now I know better. And in case you’d like to know what I learned that morning in the desert, here goes:

The Earth is an out-picturing of God.

The Earth and I and all things, peoples, stars, meteors, spiders and crickets, children, old men, motorcycles, galaxies and ice cream are the result of God’s passion for itself… God’s passion to know itself, to see what It can do and create… to see what marvels and spectacles It can spin out of the fabric of Itself.

A divine intelligence, God asks for absolutely nothing … although It craves recognition. It longs for the moment when part of Its creation and thus Itself awakens and says, “OH! I SEE! OH! GOD! This is what I AM! DUH!”

Recognition – it’s what all of Creation is for…

To know SELF. To touch self and caress self and inhale self and make love to self and ADORE SELF, looking around, looking in the mirror, singing glory glory glory alleluia… ringing like a bell with quiet epiphany, realizing everything I gaze upon and touch is me—the old Indian man asking for a dollar in the Giant convenience store parking lot, the little girl running past, the ravens floating overhead, the overloaded semi-truck pulling its load uphill …

It’s all me
It’s all you
We are all one.

Believing in God in All Shapes and Sizes

GodI thought I’d long ago gotten past believing in some sort of external “God.” (And by God I mean the anthropomorphized image of a guy in a beard and white robes meting out judgment based in rules of obviously human making.) And then, there I was, sitting in stop-and-go traffic one day.

A driver to my right was trying to get onto the road from a Safeway parking lot. Car after car crawled past his front bumper towards the next traffic light, never sparing an inch to let him in. Conscientiously I applied my brakes and gave him some space. He waved “thanks” as he nudged into traffic and I waved back, never thinking a thing about it. And then I suddenly realized…

I’d felt a fleeting sense of satisfaction about how “good” I’d been letting the guy into traffic ahead of me. And all of a sudden I saw the invisible belief implicit in that feeling. OMG! At some level I still believed there was some Guy In The Sky WAY UP THERE with a tote board taking note of my actions like Santa Claus, seeing if I was naughty or nice.

Really?

Really. I saw it and was horrified. Surely I was more spiritually evolved than this? Apparently not.

In that moment a whole bunch of other things I do and their raison d’être came sharply into focus. Rain or shine (and in Western Washington it’s mostly rain) after unloading groceries I always push my shopping cart across the parking lot from wherever my car is parked all the way into the cart-holders, no matter how sopping wet I get. I always let other drivers in front of me (does pissing-off drivers behind me count as a negative?); I often say nice things to clerks, noticing their smile or their efficiency or their new hair-do; I make sure I never let my impatience with slow service show, even if I’m seething and up to my eyebrows in thoughts like I’ve got NO freaking time for this! What’s fracking taking so fracking long anyway you fracking dilbert…??? (internal expletives modified of course for good taste and more points??? ack! )

Yep.

Seeing this, it didn’t take long until I was searching out all the other things I still do to  subconsciously placate this invisible Lord God In Heaven Who Is “Into Judgment.”

Any criticism of anyone I usually follow up with a “But s/he’s got good intentions” (or some such platitude). I guard my tongue against gossip. I try not to lie even whitely (and fail. It’s shocking how easy it is to whitewash even the most mundane incident in order to appear even marginally a better person.) Fortunately I’ve gotten beyond accepting compliments with the de rigeur Christian false modesty… “Oh, it was nothing…” But still…

All these actions are to the “good” I suppose. Being patient, being nice, being encouraging to others are wonderful things. The point I’m trying to make here is: what exactly is the motivating factor behind taking such actions?

Yes. I genuinely like to make other peoples’ days better. I like to pay compliments and only do so if said compliments are genuine. I do think patience is a virtue. Why add my shit onto anybody else? I mean, who cares if I’m in a hurry? Everybody’s in a hurry nowadays. And how nice to give others a break. But I’ve been SHOCKED to realize how much I still harbor the belief that by doing these things it will also pay off to some degree with You Know Who.

EEK! Surely I can’t be the only one with this ancient program nipping at my heels (and conscience?)  And what to do with it if you’ve got it?

Well, here’s what I’m doing. I now sometimes let my shopping cart stay in the walkway (not in the lot where it can (God forbid) actually obstruct somebody else’s ability to park.) And I (GASP!) don’t always take the time to shove the ridiculous amounts of postal junk mail through the teeny-tiny slots in the recycling bins at the post office. I occasionally plop my un-asked-for mail on top of the bins for paid employees (or other do-gooders?) to handle. Maybe if enough people do this they’ll replace the new closed-top bins with the old waste paper baskets that were so much easier?

I also don’t let quite as many drivers in front of me as I used to (easing the nerves, no doubt, on those behind me in traffic, so it probably balances out in the over-all scheme of things.)

Who knows what else is next? If God still made curlers I might even wear them in public.

photo by: Michal Osmenda

August Osage County: The Fall of Woman

august osage countyHoly Hannah. Can you spell d-y-s-f-u-n-c-t-i-o-n and m-i-s-e-r-y?

I want to think the main characters in August: Osage County are just cinematic creations—the vitriolic pill-popping Violet and her three daughters—tight-jawed, unforgiving Barbara, quietly wounded, faithful Ivy, New Age escapist Karen. But no.

The film induced too many pangs of recognition, reminders of my own alcoholic step-father and his verbal abuse; the unhappy weirdness of so many of my friends’ parents growing up; Mommy Dearest sitting on book shelves; alcohol and drug abuse statistics; news stories. And from the murmurs, gasps and reactions of the audience it seemed pretty much everyone else in the theater was personally affected too.

“I always wondered if my mother killed my father,” the middle-aged woman behind me stated calmly to her seat-mate as the credits rolled. Really?

“I always knew I’m fucked-up because of my mother,” another woman said, strolling past on her way to the door.

“Holy crap.” Francesca, the friend I’d gone to the film with, turned to me, eyes wide. “Is the world really like this?”

Is it? I’d like to know! Comments please!

For sure the film drives home the point of just how much pain there is locked up in human beings—and how suffering, meanness and abuse are passed from one generation to the next. The sins of the fathers and mothers as it were—not “sin” as in doing bad and wrong, but sin as in missing the mark on life—relentlessly passed from one generation to the next, century after century until?

Until we get to see it.

Sin was originally an archery term that meant you “missed the mark” or bulls eye—your targeted goal. And what is the targeted goal of life anyway? Being a better person? Figuring out how it all works? Having fun? Contributing to the wellbeing of the whole? Having interesting experiences? If so, surely we’re ready to stop seeing this kind of experience as interesting? Like, maybe soon we’ll have had our fill of meanness and sorrow and be ready to call these kinds of people and their drama-filled lives “boring?”

But until that happens audiences will pay to see stories like these. It’s what theatre was designed to do from the most ancient times.

Stories let us witness ourselves. They let us stand (and sit!) safely outside our pain and see how it contaminates and ruins everything—how we unconsciously contaminate and ruin everything—how the bleakness that rules so much of our lives happens. The camera zooms into Violet’s face as she sits on the swing telling the story of her mother’s Christmas present to her and we get it. We can’t hate her. We want to, just like her daughters and everyone else around her want to. But she is us. Her story is our story, tirelessly passed along—the story of the ravening dark Goddess that lives in us all; the maddened Goddess that shows herself most clearly through women.

Beyond doubt, August: Osage County is a story of the Fall of Woman and what has happened to her. The men, who clearly are not without their flaws, mostly move around as loving foils enduring abuse. Even Violet’s husband’s suicide occurs off-screen. It isn’t important. It’s simply the kind of normal fall-out that happens when The Feminine is too deeply wounded to care about anything or anyone anymore.

The image of The Feminine we enjoy seeing and being around does not live in this film. The light side of the Goddess is beautiful, lyrical, self-sacrificing, loving, passionate, compassionate and inspiring—like Arwen, the elven beloved of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. In Violet we see the opposite. Here She is the equivalent of the Orc and the Uruk-hai—the fallen elves, tortured and mutilated beyond endurance until they become a force for evil.

The blessing of August: Osage County is that here evil has a human face on it and we are able to see Violet is not evil at all, just wounded. We are able to see what pain does—how it looks, what it says, how it lashes out—and finally have compassion. We see the light, love, beauty and hope in us all—the young woman in Violet’s wedding picture—marred and twisted into unrecognizability and we feel for her and feel for ourselves.

It’s not an easy movie to watch. But then life is not an easy movie to live. And in both there is hope. One day all of us will get in a truck in our pajamas and move on.

Is More Money Really Going to Make You Happy?

iStock_000006667499XSmall“Everything else in my life is great. If only I was making an extra $1200 a month, I’d be the happiest woman on the planet.”

I said that. I really did. Fortunately I said it to my really great friend and co-author Darren Weissman in one of our Skype calls. He let the words sit and steam a bit (fresh manure does that when it hits cooler air temperatures). Then, without a hint of incredulity, he asked, “You really believe that?”

In that moment I did. It was true! If I had just that little bit of extra cash on a steady basis I wouldn’t have to keep dipping into my diminishing savings to pay all the bills. I wouldn’t be afraid anymore. I’d feel secure. I’d be secure!

Yeah, right.

In the face of his quiet question, the bubble of delusion popped. My vision of a safe, predictable future based on a little extra cash evaporated. I laughed as I admitted I’d let the lie of “security comes from externally-based tangible assets” seduce me yet one more time.

But Darren didn’t let me off the hook. Instead he guided me through his LifeLine Technique—a process designed to reveal and transform subconscious emotions, memories and programs and just as swiftly rewire the brain into new, more intentional patterns.

In that hour I processed buried memories of the harrowing life and death drama that had been my birth experience: mother in a coma, premature caesarian delivery, baby me shoved in an incubator… a full-on drama with residual fears and trauma that hadn’t been dealt with in 62 years.

We finished the LifeLine and Darren left me with an intention I’d set during the process: I am absolute connection feeling beautiful. But more than anything else I was left with a stunning reminder that personal transformation and developing inner security is a process that doesn’t happen overnight.

Peace comes and goes. One minute I’m happy and gloriously confident for no reason at all. I know that life works—that whatever I’m doing is fine and that I’m exactly where I need to be.  The next moment an unexpected expense, a casual comment or a memory trigger a typhoon of emotions and fears that in turn stir up old beliefs and a desire to race back to old solutions (like a steady paycheck!).

Now I’m up, now I’m down. It’s like I’m riding an old, wooden, splintery seesaw in my underpants. OUCH! Worse, my whipsawing emotions stir up judgment. I shouldn’t feel this way.

I should radiate happiness at all times. I should feel assured that following my heart means success. I shouldn’t fret over bills or snap at a friend telling me how poor the room service was at the last fabulous resort she visited in Spain. An inner spiritual glow of peace should follow me everywhere, gracing all others in my path.

Right. And I should sign my charge slips Mother Theresa.

Where did I pick up all this “sweetness and light” crap? Apparently there’s a tell-all biography revealing that even our iconic Sister Mary Mother to the World wasn’t nice all the time—or even very happy. And JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame whose personal net worth is now somewhere in the vicinity of $1 billion confesses to having fear and feelings of financial insecurity.

“I still worry about money,” she said in a recent interview. “Funnily enough it bears no relation to what is in your bank account, it is purely emotional.”

No kidding.

So, if taking a vow of chastity and poverty and serving the world’s poor for a lifetime isn’t enough to generate constant joy, and being a fabulously wealthy, beautiful, more-famous-than-God author isn’t enough to generate constant security and happiness… what the hell am I beating myself up for?

Maybe I’m just human. Maybe, like Mother Theresa and Rowling, I have emotions and hidden programs and subconscious fears and issues driving me. How not? I was forced to draw my very first breath of air on this planet by being slapped on my very wet, very naked ass. We all were. And it just got tougher from there—and a lot more beautiful.

Accept it all. Let it all in. Breathe. Embrace the pain and joy. See it. Feel it. Hear it. Embrace the fear and the wonder. Don’t try to change any of it or glue on a smiley face. It’s all okay. And if it’s all okay, I’m okay.

I tell myself this a thousand times a day. And it’s okay that I need to.

Trying to Eat Healthy Ruined Friday Night Dinner : Why We Need a Change

carbseatornoI spent Friday night out at a movie and dinner with a dear  friend whose partner didn’t want to see Thor in a dark world or a dark theater. We Since we’d forgone the pleasures of GMO popcorn laden with insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, fumigants, trans fats, artificial flavors, artificial flavoring and preservatives, we were hungry by the end. Which is where the night took a distinctly different turn from any other “dinner out” night I’ve ever had.

“Pizza?” Tess asked as we buckled up in my car.

Now pizza is my favorite food group in the whole wide world—right after popcorn. Could I dodge both bullets in the same night? I mean it was Friday and party time. Come on!

For once in my life there wasn’t even an inner struggle. “Um. Well. Maybe not.” What’s wrong with me? Somehow a carb fest of gluten with BGH-laced cheese just didn’t seem appealing.

“You’re joking. You love pizza.”

Tell me about it. “Yeah, well, not tonight, I guess. How ‘bout sushi?”

We live in a small town and food and entertainment options aren’t far apart. I drove the short way to the Japanese restaurant where the night’s theme of Consumer Apprehension continued to play out

Ordering a beer and saki wasn’t difficult. But then came the menu. I swear, it could have been labeled, “Pick Your Poison” the way we both eyed it. Tuna? Too much mercury. Crab? Sorry, it’s imitation (red-dyed Alaskan Pollack). Unagi (eel)? Yellowtail?

“Where’s the yellow tail from?” Tess asked the waitress. Another trip back to the sushi chef and we had the answer: Japan.

We looked at one another, the deadly word Fukushima hanging unspoken in the air between us. Forget the yellowtail. Forget the eel. What about the Northwest fallback favorite, salmon? I shook my head. Since Fukushima, for the first time in the 24 years I’d lived in the Pacific Northwest I hadn’t made the annual November pilgrimage to my fishing connection at the local Nisqually Indian tribe to buy the fresh-caught silver salmon that ran upriver from the Puget Sound estuary only 15 miles away.

Just say no to Pacific salmon.

Shocked at our dilemma, we continued to plod through the menu. Chicken? Neither of us could stomach the idea of eating agri-business chicken because of the ghastly tortured existence the birds endured. Same with beef and pork. “Shall I come back?” the restless waitress inquired.

“Sure.”

“Christ. I can’t believe this,” I murmured. Eating out used to be so much fun.

“You know, I went to Safeway the other day and walked through the whole store and couldn’t find one thing to eat that wasn’t processed, filled with sugar or artificial crap,” said Tess.

“Really? What about their organic section?”

“Trucked from God know where with a carbon footprint the size of Texas?” she shook her head. “I finally drove to the co-op, bought a bunch of local organic vegetables and we made a stir-fry.”

“Maybe we should just get uki-udon noodles and some veggies?” I suggested unenthusiastically. Maybe we should go to my house and cook?

The waitress came back. For lack of any other real choice, we both ordered miso soup and east coast shrimp. By that time all I wanted was another beer—or something stronger.

But dammit, I’ve numbed myself long enough. Last night was inevitable. It’s been coming ever since Rachel Carson first started blowing the whistle in her book Silent Spring way back in 1962. And although we’ve come a long way on the environmental front, we’re far from a widespread populist movement demanding clean air, clean water and healthy food on our tables. Hell, state amendments to label GMOs have been beaten out in the two most progressive states in the US through the vast injection of Monsanto Money into ad coffers.

We’re being sold bad health with a vengeance and we’re buying it with hardly a blink.

What will it take to change? Glow-in-the-dark caviar appearing on Elitist Corporate Tables worldwide and them finally waking up? Maybe. Or maybe more of us just need an educational Friday night out now and then.

HELP: How Do We Stop Sexualizing Children for Halloween

A recent Causes petition exhorting Target to stop carrying sexy Halloween costumes for young girls recently landed in my in-box.

“From sexy witches to naughty leopards and “slutty crayons,” Halloween costumes that encourage young girls to sexualize themselves are everywhere. News flash: little girls aren’t sexy – do we really want society to look at our daughters this way?“

Absolutely not!

I’d almost added my electronic name to the petition when it suddenly hit me. Wait a minute. You have a choice as a mom and a choice as a consumer. If it offends you, don’t buy the product.

Easy for me to say—I don’t have the terrific task of explaining to a kid in various stages of public whining, pouting and storm just why a particularly slinky, slit-to-there witches outfit isn’t for her.

“It’s not appropriate.” Was there ever a more tired response guaranteed to trigger more “why not?” whining than that? And how, in God’s name, can anybody adequately explain inappropriate sexual behavior and what it might trigger to an eight-year-old anyway? In a store? Running late for gymnastics class?

And how did society get us in such a terrible place that we have to have this kind of conversation in the first place? Is it as bad as I think it is? Or is it a generational thing? I remember my mother saying things like, “You’re wearing that over my dead body.” But I was at least 16 at the time.

Times have indeed changed if eight is the new 16.And not in a good way.

Sexualization of women and little girls has reached epidemic proportions. And then there’s Miley Cyrus in a class by herself where she’s apparently always wanted to be. No wonder the petition-starting mom wants to cut the conversation off at the source! But darn-it, are the stores really the source? Is Target really the target?

I don’t think there’s a conspiracy driving the sale of revealing clothes—although it’s a great gimmick for the garment industry selling clothes with less and less actual cloth in them for ever higher prices. And I don’t think there’s a conscious desire to sexualize children. Corporations are just following the buying trend. And the trend of ever-more-exposed, younger female flesh is visible in almost any magazine, billboard, video game, advertisement, movie or TV show.

Maybe it’s a response to global warming?

Nah. It’s a time-honored tradition, and, as any salesman knows, you don’t mess with a good thing. You just keep ramping up the show. Yes, sex sells. Why child sex sells I cannot fathom or want to fathom. But here’s what’s puzzling. Over 85 percent of consumer sales, no matter what the item (okay, maybe not automatic rifles), are made by women.

In an average year, women control over $20 trillion in consumer and business spending worldwide. Hello? Do we have a clue how much power lies in our hands?

If we don’t like how something is presented or over-packaged in plastic—we can kill it. If we don’t like how our food is grown, sprayed, polluted with toxic chemicals and GMO’d into something our bodies can’t even recognize as food—we can kill it. If we don’t like how our bodies are portrayed or how our little girl’s bodies are being exploited—we can kill it.

WE’RE NOT BUYING IT. I guarantee when we don’t, markets will change.

Yes, I can hear the screams of millions of frantic-to-be-popular little girls about how “everybody else is doing it, wearing it, and piercing it.” I can hear the howls of young men when their sexually degrading, physically abusive to women video games are wrenched from their clenched fists and thrown in the trash. I can hear the sighs of boyfriends and husbands as certain magazines hit the dustbins and the TV remote CLICKS off a particularly gruesome show or movie showing yet one more violent rape, stabbing and disemboweling of yet one more terrified, victimized woman.

Too bad, so sad.

Will it be easy? Hell no. Is it the “right” direction to go? What do you think? And now, excuse me, I’m going to go sign that petition. Every message counts.

photo by: Veronicaj410

Shoe Shopping for the Definition of Success

party shoes #2Everybody thinks being an author automatically means you’re rich.

We wish that it were so!

Sorry to bust bubbles, but being an author means a Book Virus has entered your bloodstream—a virus that won’t let you sleep, take vacations or go out at night with friends; a virus that tethers you to your computer for at least two thousand hours alone in your office knocking out pages one letter at a time until you finally finish, stagger to your feet, brush the twigs and moss out of your hair, get out of your pajamas for the first time in 11 months and go find a publisher.

Unfortunately, the publishing process depends upon Zeus’ daughters, The Muses, not all being PMS-Y at the same time and Mercury not being in retrograde (but Mercury’s always in retrograde, isn’t it?). Which means most writers never get their books published, and 95 percent of all books published never sell more than 5,000 copies in a lifetime.

Depressing, I know. And did I mention you get to go through all this alone?

Which is why, having caught three Book Viruses in as many years, I recently found myself on my knees in a shoe store trying to find something that would fit (and aesthetically please) the 84-year-old woman I spend 10 precious hours a week away from my writing desk working for as a part-time caregiver.

Now Karen’s sharp as a tack and if it weren’t for the macular degeneration stealing her eyesight, she’d still be out there kicking some serious butt. She’s gracious about her condition and pretty easy going. But she knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to be stubborn about things that matter to her. And that Saturday finding new shoes mattered.

She peered closely at the black loafer I stuck in front of her. “No.”

“How about this one?”

She barely looked at it. “No.”

Suppressing a sigh, I turned away to ransack more shelf displays while Karen pushed her walker down the opposite aisle of Macy’s Women’s Shoes. An hour of “no’s” and “maybe’s” later I had eight pairs of possibilities in two sizes a harried salesman had managed to find in the back stacked next to the chairs I’d “reserved” with coats, in-store coupons, the now abandoned walker and boxes of shoes.

One by one, each pair was rejected. Sitting on the floor surrounded by forgotten “footies,” socks, tissue, spare shoes and boxes, blocking the aisle for the weekend shopping mob, wrestling another loafer on Karen’s well manicured, but aging, foot, I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell I was doing.

I’m a writer! the voice in my head shouted. A three-time published author for God’s sake! I should be out changing the world doing interviews, autographing books, speaking at conferences, not shoving shoes on some cranky old woman’s foot!

The kinder half of my persona swiftly called foul. Unfair! Karen had narrow heels and aging arches. And who wouldn’t be a little grumpy after two hours of fruitless shoe searching? Certainly I was! I helped her to her feet, swiftly clearing a footpath through the clutter so she could safely walk a few steps in the last pair. Had we found “The One?”

No.

Such is the life of a shoe salesman—hours of hustle and fittings, shoe shuffling and mess followed by the buyer walking away without even any thanks for the show. At least I’ve got experience if I ever write a character that sells shoes. I tagged after my employer, now headed determinedly towards Macy’s Woman clothing.

Mercifully, Karen is quick when it comes to clothes. She grabbed three colorful blouses in her size, ignored the fitting rooms and headed for the cash register with a big smile on her face. And the smile changed everything.

The time and the boredom and my stupid ego’s humiliation in shoes had been worth it. She was happy. She’d found things that would make her feel beautiful. For the whole afternoon she’d been part of the world—a customer, a viable consumer intent on what she wanted—not shut in a house with colored-coded folders, large-print markers and magnifying glasses proscribing her life.

And I’d helped give her those moments.

Would somebody be there for me when I was her age, my body bringing me whatever gifts and encumbrances it would provide over time? I hoped so. And I hoped whoever was there with me would be a gracious and kind companion, not a bored lackey on the payroll longing to get back to their “real work.”

And what the hell is that, anyway?

Speaking to thousands or being there for one? Undeniably there’s a quantitative difference. But from the human point of view (and isn’t that the view that counts?) the satisfaction is the same, maybe even greater, basking in the contented smile of just one.

photos by: mugley & mugley

Find Your Balance Between Leaning In and Leaning Back

rocksDance guru Gabrielle Roth once pointed out that in tribal cultures if a person felt disheartened or depressed the tribe’s healer would ask these questions:

When did you stop dancing?

When did you stop singing?

When did you stop being enchanted by stories?

When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

Hmmmm….

I’m not disheartened or depressed. But I am busy (hard to relate to, right?). After 25 years working as a writer I’m finally birthing my first solo book—the dream of a lifetime coming to fruition—and I’m too damn busy to enjoy the experience.

That is depressing, isn’t it?

Most of my friends are in the same pickle. They’ve spent years chasing their dreams, developing a business, inventing a product, creating a family, and when it all finally lands on their plate, life goes nuts.

Everything becomes about the baby, the book, the film, the promotion, the (fill in the blank). Suddenly the smile disappears, personal conversations get slotted to midnight, new brow lines appear, and housecleaning… well, at least the dust bunnies in my house are having fun doing-it in every available corner!

Maybe I should take the hint and have some fun too?

But then I realize I’m too busy to date. I’d have to clean the house before inviting someone over. Plus how can I have a good time if there’s this anxious subterranean thought-stream flowing beneath every conversation? I can just see it:

Mr. Right looks deeply into my eyes, reaching past the wineglasses to hold my hand across the (newly washed) tablecloth. “Have I told you how beautiful your eyes are in candlelight?” he breathes silkily.

Crap! I forgot to ask about the mailing list and I’ve got to finish that press release and order books and… My mind wanders back to Mr. Right. How did he get hold of my hand?

“Er, did you say something?” I ask.

Sheryl Sandberg of Lean In fame would be proud of me. If I “leaned in” any more my whole life would implode. Do you want to know the real joke? The book I’m sweating over is dedicated to remembering how, amongst other many other things, to let go and lean back.

**

What’s the old cliché? You teach best that which you need to learn the most?

No kidding! I need to stop taking my life and my endeavors so doggone seriously: to remember to turn off the computer, turn off Pandora, turn off the cellphone, turn off my anxiety, tone down the mental chatter and really reflect on what I’m doing and what really matters in life.

I need to learn to STOP!

Yeah, I know. Scary thought. I’ve been raised to believe if I stop that I’m being self-indulgent and  – God forbid –unproductive. If I stop, Sheryl Sandberg won’t like me, the world will fall apart and I won’t SUCCEED.

How can I not believe this?

Humans are now called “resources.” Gross National Product is the measure of my nation’s health—never mind in America 26% of the population suffers from a diagnosable mental health disorder and 50% suffer from a chronic illness.

I’ve GOT to stop.

We’ve got to stop. It’s becoming a public health mandate. But aside from that, for God’s sake stopping is FUN, if we let it be.

Michael Grab, creator of the amazing picture at the head of this blog, leaned in and did what the world expected and graduated from college. But then he flipped the world the bird and started balancing rocks because it was fun. The practice brought what he calls “a zero point or silence within myself.” It brought him balance. Now his fun is his art-form and his life.

Writing has always been my fun. But I cannot let it own me, drive me, whip me. No no no, that would be a tragedy—my personal tragedy added to so many others in this world.

I need to lean back, to remember to dance and sing.

I need silence and the space to listen to other people’s stories.

Photo credit: Michael Grab,http://www.gravityglue.com

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