Competition

Recently, at a gathering with other drummers, I realized that competition is an unconscious habit in my life; a knee-jerk reaction to be “the best” separates me from myself and others.  I feel superior or I might feel inferior, but neither is satisfying. Why would I continue to compete if it brings me discomfort?

I decided to use Byron Katie’s process of enquiry, called “The Work”, to shine a light on my process.   Katie, an amazing spiritual teacher, devised a method of enquiry- asking four simple questions to deconstruct the stories we unconsciously identify with.  Here is how it works.

Start with the subject that bothers you. Then you ask yourself:

  • Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
  • Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
  • How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  • Who would you be without the thought?

This is my subject: I need to compete and/or be competitive in order to receive recognition and have value.

Is it true?

Yes. Being the best will protect me so I never have to prove myself again.  I won’t be afraid of receiving criticism. I can wear my perfection as a cape. I can be known as Infallible Woman!  I will be favorably recognized. I will be safe. And good enough.

Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

No, I can’t.  It does really depend on how I see validation and recognition. Is success really success or is it something else?

I grew up with two intelligent, handsome, funny, clever, older brothers. I tagged along looking for their attention, as a little sister does.

My parents loved all of us, but the boys, being 3.5 and 5.5 years older, had things to talk about at the dinner table that I didn’t always follow.  My father would ask them questions–science and math, school stuff that was beyond me. I wanted to have something to talk about! I spoke up and asked “What about me? Ask me something!” My mother said, “Okay, let’s talk about dolls.”  Everyone laughed.

I felt humiliated and ashamed.  I knew that I was being laughed at.   

That’s when I remember first feeling a tension and need to compete  I had to find a way to receive the attention I needed. Obviously, (to my seven year-old mind) I had to be cleverer, smarter, and more quick-witted than my brothers.

When a child is raised by narcissists, there is not always a clear way to get a recommended daily allowance of self-approval.

I didn’t have another adult around who would say, “Don’t worry, kid. They just don’t get you. It’s not your fault. One day they’ll see.”  Instead, I sat by the edge of my mouse-hole waiting for to see if there will be any cheese for me.

The cheese I wanted was  the unconditional regard and love that is EVERY person’s birthright. When we are young and don’t get the positive attention and mirroring we need, we feel that it is somehow our fault. We are wounded. Each of us works with our wounds differently. Some of us drink, drug, isolate, manipulate or become numb to our humanity. Some become highly successful, while never feeling full or satisfied.

I compete.

So no, I don’t absolutely know that it’s true. But I still believe it.

How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

When I’ve felt this need to compete for my place, I feel threatened, envious, and vulnerable.  I shut down around those people who appear more successful or are more recognized– except for my teachers, who I idolize and idealize.

Sometimes the competitive urge wouldn’t show up. But that’s the exception. And, in the world of drumming, the demon of “no cheese” was loud and clear. Maybe I was once again comparing myself to men like my brothers.

What a shame. I was forty when I began my path with the drum. As I learned to play, I had a level of skill, but no high speed or pyrotechnical solos. However, when measuring myself against others, I put myself down for not being better. I was pouring salt in an open wound by setting impossible standards.     

If I didn’t think that I had to compete to be recognized and valued, who would I be?

This is where the rubber meets the road. The path of competition triggers inner harshness rather than softening. Of course I should let go of judging and critiquing– and instead be who I am, not who I think I  should be.   

However, when I imagine being my own cheerleader, I feel both hope and sadness.

Hope is pretty easy to understand. I allow myself to be released from judgements; I have no hoops to jump through; I let go of defensiveness.  It might be possible to develop sympathetic joy, to allow others to be great, without diminishing or thinking ill of myself. I imagine real comfort in not having to prove myself or jockey for position.

Then why should there be any sadness?

Honestly, it’s hard for me give up the fantasy that there is an infallible external source that will permanently validate me; to accept that the responsibility of developing self-care and self-praise is up to me. It brings up a sense of existential loneliness. And truth.

It is time.  Imagine freedom of need for any recognition. Imagine feel worthy without cause.

Let’s put my house in order! There are no Oscars (or Grammys) to be won, nor external prizes that are worth suffering.

My mirror can be hung straight on a wall, easy to find and ready to be polished.

 

I have valuable work to do. And I recognize that.  

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Dear Cynthia,

Dear Cynthia,

I am writing this to you–knowing you can’t read it, knowing I can’t reach you by phone or e-mail (not that you ever used email!).  I am writing this because I am thinking of you now—and have been thinking of you through weeks of rewriting this letter– trying to say the right words about our long years of friendship, knowing I will never see you again in bodily form.

I miss you. I missed you the moment I knew you were gone. I felt a sweet pang, with sharp tears. Just like that. Then I thought: you don’t have to struggle to breathe any more. You don’t have to cover your ass. Nothing. It’s all free for you, and I felt so happy.

When we last talked, ten days before you died, you said that you wanted to be remembered as having “passed away,” not “passed, for God’s sake!” People who said “passed” instead of “passed away’” were offensive to you.  And remember, you said: “ I don’t want that song, ‘Amazing Grace’ either.  Feh!”

Remember? We laughed!  “Feh” and “oy”, “whatever ”, “yeah, right” and “ugchh.”(spoken with a  long, dry, guttural throat chhh sound.)  Our communication is sounds and gestures– exchanging looks and rolling the eyes–multi-dimensional.

And you aren’t Jewish.  Okay, okay, you did convert. That gives you some kvetching rights.

We met in our twenties during the sixties. There’s a whole story in that one sentence. You knew me, my essence, and my neuroses before I was fully grown-up. You are a placeholder of my history.

 We were hippies. We lived together in a funky commune–kids, cats, and six ”grown-ups”. You were a different kind of hippie; you had a straight job. You were older by five years. You had two kids.

 We loved the psychodrama encounter groups held at the Forest Street commune down the street: Monday, Thursday, Friday nights and marathon weekends, led by Vic Lovell, the edgy psychologist.  Psychodrama was all about exploring emotions, repressions, aggressions, depressions. We “worked” on our issues by acting them out in the fishbowl. This was the most amazing thing I had ever experienced! I was from New York. You didn’t talk about feelings. You said, “Get outta here.”

You and I were a part of the Psychodrama Workshop, where we learned how to “act.” We “actors” would step into the circle and play the role of  parents, girlfriends, bosses, whoever the protagonist had a “situation” with. But really, what the hell were we doing? Experimental psychology? Guerilla theatre? Did any of us, including Vic, our fearless leader, have a clue?

I remember our meetings, sitting around the circle, smoking cigarettes, discussing someone’s ego, or id, or asshole.  In that day the heaviest trip that you would lay on someone was: “You’re copping out, man!”   And you and I, we were the “in” crowd–“the actors.” Of course, we never copped out!

I left the psychodrama practice before you did. The work didn’t fit me anymore, but it was hard to leave this group. You were my chosen tribe–my first homies away from home.

By that time, you married Ed and no longer lived in the commune. You had two more kids, boys– and our lives went in separate directions. While you were raising your boys and girls and I was going through something else. I went to college and other things.

Nonetheless we connected.

I remember a time you were smoking a cigarette in your VW, stopped at a light on the corner of University and Ramona.  I was on the street corner with my boyfriend Bob.  I saw you, impulsively jumped in your car, and we drove away. That’s the way it was with us. Big spaces of time with no connection, but our relationship was gold.

Do remember when you organized that psychodrama reunion?   You got me, Fred, Nick, Richard, and others to come for a salute of our past and to the continuance of Vic’s work. We all went out afterwards. You were still connected to Vic and the practice. I couldn’t understand it.

We lived near each other in the late eighties. I would see you in the morning at the liquor store on the corner, buying cigarettes. You had just gotten off your night shift working at the hospital. We said ‘hi,’ but there was very little connection in our lives.

Then, something changed.

Grace died. Grace, the red-headed loud-mouth, with her eagle-eyed squint, the mater suprema of the psychodrama tribe, died. We reconnected on the boat in Monterey dispersing Grace’s ashes. Remember? You said “It’s no accident that we were meeting again. We need to reconnect this friendship.”

I don’t know if you knew, but I was hesitant to get involved again. I was so busy. I had a business, a husband, and a young child.  I was drumming–taking classes all over the Bay Area, studying Hebrew at Stanford. I had a band, was writing a newsletter, and had a cable TV show. I had huge amounts of energy and excitement and involvement in all of my life, and didn’t know if I wanted to invest in someone else.   But you lived right down the block.  It was good to have a girlfriend to hang with, especially one that knew me.

I began to drop in and visit you. If your car was parked in front of the house I’d blast by for coffee and a cigarette in the back yard. We began sharing our current lives. Your husband, Larry, and my husband, Glenn, your kids from different marriages, and my son. Tantra classes with our spouses. My mother, who you adored.

Later, I fell in love with Terrance, and solving that problem–(Terrance wasn’t my husband yet, and Glenn still was) strengthened our bond. I lived in two worlds: in one I was ecstatically in love; in the other I was abjectly miserable, guilty, ashamed. But I was not willing to stop seeing my lover.  You knew about this struggle. You read it in me. You shared it with me. And you covered for me. You had nothing against Glenn. You just wanted to see me happy.

Remember when you got bossy? In fairness, I welcomed it–originally. I needed your advice. You were my big sister, my mother. Over time I depended on you too much. But I was dishonest with you. I didn’t tell you,”Stop being like my mother!” Instead, I crept away from our relationship. I put on my cloak of invisibility. Looked like someone was there, but it wasn’t me.

When you decided to get a facelift I wasn’t honest enough to tell you that I didn’t want you to change your precious face. I thought your desire was vain and silly and unjustifiably expensive. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy for your skin to heal after years of smoking.  I didn’t tell you that. I acted it out. I didn’t show up post surgery. And that broke an unwritten law in your world. You fired me as your friend.

I didn’t want to be excommunicated. I called you and wrote letters. I begged for forgiveness and you resisted. You were so stubborn that you were admirable–in a stupid way. For six or seven years you wouldn’t communicate with me. I called your kids and asked about you, hoping that would encourage you to call. You didn’t.

Then, your heart attack. Your daughter, Wendy, called. I hate hospitals but I came immediately. You,  intubated and unconscious. I came and went with the family, and I was there when you came out of your coma more than a week later. Do remember that?

In the beginning, you couldn’t speak. When you did, you told me to fuck myself. Then you thanked me for being there for your kids.

We had a good laugh.

Thank god, you stopped smoking.

As your heart healed, we’d talk on the phone or see one another again. Our friendship was in the eternal now.

Last year I noticed that you’d been wearing a wig. I asked Wendy about it. Wendy said, “Ask Mom.” I asked. You wouldn’t tell me. But, of course, I knew the answer. Wendy confirmed that you had been diagnosed with cancer– two kinds; brain and lung. I tried to talk with you about it, remember?  I said, “I think I know what the wig is about ,” and you said, “Well, don’t tell me.” End of subject. The elephant was standing in the middle of the living room with wig on its head and we couldn’t talk about it.

Finally, in our last conversation, over the phone, you opened up: you felt shame that people would judge your cancer because of all those years of smoking.  Do you remember what I told you? I said, “We do what we do to survive, even if we are killing ourselves by doing it.”

By the end I could hear you panting for breath. You didn’t let it stop you. You kept talking until everything was ironed out between us; everything was complete. You said that you wished you could see my face one more time and I would love to have granted that wish, but I was in Sequim, and you were in the Bay Area, and before I could make the time, you were gone.

So I miss you, my very dear friend.

I selfishly miss you as someone who knows me so well– who holds history with me–knew my mother, my son, my brothers, my teachers, my marriages, as well as our story. I am grateful for your kids and for all the gifts that you gave me– the support, the conditional and unconditional love. I want to ask you if I could have done or given anything more to make a difference in your life.

Sadly, the choice is taken from me once again. I can’t see you or call you. All I can do is write.

Luck? Gratitude.

 Because my habit of mind is looking at what is missing in my life, or what’s wrong, or what could be wrong, I sometimes don’t see what a great life I am actually having. Isn’t that odd?

So I’ve removed my head from my butt for just a few minutes to share (and maybe crow about) some of the highlights of this amazing life that I live.

  • One: I have awesome jobs!

Job 1: I teach drumming and rhythm to people who feel called to it.They might not know they are called, but if you show up for one of my classes, you’ve been called.

I am especially good at working with:

Beginners: I deeply enjoy teaching the BASICS of drumming–how to make sounds, explore rhythms, having fun making music. Learning the origins of rhythms in the oral tradition. Creating a village through playing together.

Explorers: Folks who want to explore rhythm as a means to mindfulness, health and vitality.  Get your strength and focus on with drumming!

Musicians: Anyone who wants to deepen their understanding and knowledge of rhythm, timing, and expression. This is the real deal. Learning about time and space is NOT for sissies. Rhythm can kick your ass

 If I am just in my own quiet bubble, not comparing myself to anyone else, or my approach to other system of learning, I feel good about my teaching and its contribution to the world. I  have had quite a few students progress and become teachers in their own right, and I count that as an indicator of “success.”I see that people feel happy when they are drumming. They smile and their body language expresses relaxation and joy. Drumming is magical, transformative AND fun! And I get to teach it!

I also guide people in TaKeTiNa, a different kind of rhythmic work. TaKeTiNa is a musical rhythmic process which engages people through their whole bodies–with stepping, clapping and singing. This modality connects to rhythmic intelligence by grounding it in the body–before playing an instrument. TaKeTiNa boggles the minds, delights the senses and cannot be explained easily– since it is not a linear process. I enjoy the evolution that people go through as they let go into a deeper sense of knowing.

Job 2: I read Tarot cards. I started to learn the Tarot in 1973, when I started exploring  spirituality and the occult. I am largely self-taught.  I settled in with the Crowley deck, and I read cards for the Spring and Summer Renaissance Faire  in Northern and Southern California from 1974 to 1977. There were also long periods of time where I didn’t want anything to do with the psychic world: it took too much energy for me to read. It was difficult for to confront the pain some people brought with them. They come looking for solutions. What if I can’t help?

Last year I began to read again “professionally”, at a metaphysical bookstore in Port Townsend, Washington, not far from where I live.  The world of the Tarot is a mystery for me, always fresh and new. I don’t know if I am “right “ according to Crowley or not, but my clients seem satisfied.  I intend the readings to be for the highest good for each individual.

Job 3: I marry people.  I do about two ceremonies a year and what I earn doesn’t even dent my cell phone bill! I love the process. I have developed a list of questions that I have the prospective bride and groom answer separately and independently. No, this is not the newlywed game; it’s the Zorina-is-going-to-get-you-to-think-about-being-married game. Each partner is asked to reflect on what they value in the other and also to identify the“ touchy spots” between them. When we read the answers together, there is opportunity to  discuss whatever is unclear. Then I write the ceremony for that couple based on their their answers,using their own words as often as I can, so the ceremony reflects their sentiments, their voice. What a great opportunity to be with people during an important step in their evolution.

  • Two: I have awesome people in my life.

I have family.

I am married to an interesting man who I love and feel deeply connected to. We are on a journey of relationship together that is mysterious and ever-unfolding.  Terrance is a meditation practitioner and lover of all things consciousness-related, primarily with a Buddhist slant. He is also a therapist.  Great chemistry between us. He is my supporter, and true partner. He spoils me and cooks for me, and reminds me to stay in the moment. He is an artist in many ways. He’s a great dancer. I sleep better when we are together. He remodels our houses and he built our studio. He is my life companion and we are evolving our co-creative abilities.We’re two very different people and there are sometime impasses. He would like me to go on more retreats, and I would like him to be more social or to like watching trivial movies. And there we are. The longer we have been together, the deeper the curiosity of our “other”-ness becomes. Respect, intimacy, love and affection, and learning and humor are mainstays.

I have kids.

I gave birth to a wonderful son with my first husband, Glenn. Terrance ( husband number two)   has brought a step-son, daughter-in-law and grandson into our lives . I am amazed at the close relationship that we share (or at least I feel that way). We are friends as well as family.  I  absolutely love Thanksgiving, because it is when we get to hang out. I realize the treasure of feeling close to our children.I also appreciate the evolution of these relationships as they changes from parent-children to equals and family.

I have two wonderful brothers.

Both of them are introverts, which means I sometimes don’t understand them, but I definitely love and appreciate them. Because of family dynamics and a wonderfully (note: sarcasm)  controlling mother, we spent many years away from each other, developing own lives and families.More recently, Queen Judith the Great and Dominant passed on, and contact seems easier. even though they are both older than I am, we’ve agreed that I’m the big sisters, and  am training them to be little brothers  It is important for our education and continued growth to shift the balance from time to time, and for them to to realize that there are other ways of looking at the dynamics of our relationship.

My middle little brother and I hang out in Florida, where he lives. I remember when we were kids we were reading these Peanuts comic strips. One of the “themes” was Linus imagining himself as a simple yet rich country doctor with a red sports car. That is my middle brother. Mark is a very successful doctor and surgeon who created a thriving practice. He is in partial retirement now. He occasionally assists in surgeries and her raises bees. I love hanging out in the South, eating oysters, walking his four (or sometimes five) dogs, and giving him foot rubs.

Mike, my oldest little brother, and I meet three times a week on-line to write together–if we both remember. He is my first mentor in this life. He turned me on to everything: from Odetta to Joan Baez, how to play guitar, e.e. cummings and jazz. He is very, very bright. Unnecessarily, and without invitation, I used to compare myself to him and always came up short. In our maturity, I see the gifts and talents that I bring to his life.  I appreciate the time that we share, building a new relationship .

Then there are my brothers’ kids, too! Yeah!  and their kids!

I am lucky to have surrogate “children”. These are people who pick me to be part of their family.I have a “spirit” child, who I have known since she was four. One woman calls me her ‘soul‘ mother. I have been connected to her since she was fourteen.  “Nems” – the third woman is a dear, dear friend. I am so fortunate to be chosen to be close to these women. There are others too–soul sons.  When we are together our relationship is beyond the category of “friend”. We have adopted each other.

I have friends.I am  a social being, an extrovert’s extrovert, although as I get older, I need more time to retreat into my own world. However, by any introvert’s standards, I am way out there! I will admit that I am super, super lucky. I  have a few friends that go back as far as high school, but I have even more friends that are part of my first family of choice. No matter how much time and distance there is between us, there is an ageless quality of interaction. My first tribe (outside of my family of origin) was in California:  my psychodrama family. We were part of a group of psychodramatic “actors” lead by Vic Lovell, exploring alternate ways of working on dreams, relationships, problems. We led groups or participated in groups and marathons every week. We lived together in communes, explored the counter culture in every way there was to explore it: sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Also meditation, the occult, bodywork, and alternative healing.

Most of us ended up thriving as professionals: therapists, writers, restaurateurs, computer scientists, deadheads with jobs, entrepreneurs, rolfers, nurses. A few suffered collateral damage and passed on. There is this sense of connection that lasts to this day. Each and every one of them is dear to me. I have a history that cheers me and awes me. We had so much fun, and it was so crazy! I can imagine why Burning Man is so great for so many people… but I feel like I had my Burning Man every day for years. Doesn’t mean that I won’t go to Burning Man someday, but boy oh boy, the sixties was a wild ride.

And I have continued to develop my network of connections, expanding relationships with those I have worked with, taught, and have encountered as like-minded individuals . Sometimes I am better at spending time developing community than one -to-one, but it is because of my tunnel-y visioned propensity. But even given that, mine is a rich, rich  life!

I have had powerful teachers. Give credit where it is due. Starting with my brother Mike, Vic Lovell, Jim Price, Baba Olatunji, Ma Boukaka, Fritz Smith,  Reinhard Flatischler- I have had a series of remarkable teachers and guides. Despite the tough times– the difficulties of learning and the differing of agendas, the wanting and desire to be recognized and accredited by my mentors–I feel enormous gratitude for all that I have learned. With some, there’s unfinished business. With others, our time together on this earthly plane is over. I say it now even if I am no longer being mentored by you: thank you. I am glad our paths crossed.

  •  THREE:I have health.

Despite my tendency to be a drama queen, and the internal crises that I occasionally suffer, I am grateful and fortunate to have a healthy body. I am strong from drumming, walking, yoga, and when not lazy, swimming. I have the embodied ability to dance, sing, express myself in a thousand joyous ways.  Thanks to my genes, my jeans fit year after year. One lucky duck! People say that wealth is not as important as health. As one ‘ages?’ ‘matures?’, you really begin to get it. Things sometimes ache for no apparent reason. There are visits to eye doctors, dentists and the like which are necessary evils. Colonoscopy, pap smears, or mammograms, anyone? Good health is an amazing gift.

In summation:

You might see that I have designed an interesting life for myself. I would even say without fear of jinxing myself that it is rich — filled with interactions that  encourage expansion, growth and positive change . From time to time I lose focus on the map, or forget the friends or family that give meaning to the shape of my days.

But when I do, I just need to open my eyes, look up and out, and remember.

So count your own gifts, the parts of your own lives that flow in the background because they operate so well. Appreciate all the the people that contribute to making your life work, feel supported. Notice the invisible support that life gives you each and every day, the breath that you inhale and exhale. Remember that your life is a journey, not a destination. Nothing is cut and dried. And it ain’t over till the Fat Lady sings.

Depression and Hysteria

I am a hysteric-in-recovery, and I live with an insidious enemy: anxiety/depression, the foundation for an emotional valence that comes and goes.

This morning I am writing. I don’t really care what comes out of the keyboard. That’s not the point. I am in the activity of writing. That’s what matters.

Writing is not as satisfying as getting high and working with Sculpey (polyform clay). At the end of writing there is still more work that needs to be done. It is called rewriting. It goes on and on. There’s always more to do. Kind of like life.

I am in a good place right now. These days I wake up, and tired or not, there is no ambient, overhanging mood. There’s just a map of what I have to do, and a basic sense of well-being that accompanies it .

I do the things that nurture me: go for a walk with my dog, make my morning coffee. Three days a week I meet my brother Mike on-line and we write together in a virtual room 3,000 miles away from each other.

The day has started and the rest of it purrs along– one minor miracle after another. It is amazing how simple, basic, and ordinary life is.

I still have an often-accompanying sense of “I haven’t done enough yet,” but it seems separate from me. Maybe it’s a family trait, or a social convention, and not a personal flaw. I’ve had that same sense of urgency since I was eighteen, so it is nothing new.

In my non-depressive/ anxious state I feel good about life. We are buddies, life and me. We go along together. Nothing bothers me that much or that long. I forget where my keys or cell phone are, but it’s no big. I get annoyed, I get over it quickly. I make a mistake and cringe, but I find my balance again.

But when I am anxious or off-balance it’s different.

I live in a scary place. I don’t breathe. I feel compressed. The fact that I am not breathing increases my anxiety, of course, but there is no use pointing that out to my body. I’m caught in an endless, downward spiral.

I know that I need to change something, but knowing that doesn’t change anything or suggest what I might change. I feel I am being self-indulgent, as if I could simply say “knock it off- won’t you?” and I would, and that would snap me out of it. But I can’t, and that admonition lands on top of all the other negativity that is coloring my perceptions.

When I am in an anxious/depressive cycle, the basic operating mood is dread, and my ambient mood is high alert. It is red on the inner terrorism scale. There is no escape until it ends.

I can’t believe that I am stuck. I rail against myself, as if I could choose to get out of  this state immediately.

I am amazed at people who don’t have the inner emotionality that keeps them frozen in place, waiting for some other being to solve the problem of living and breathing.

I have a name for this phenomenon; I call it “waiting at the train station.” Waiting at the station means someone else has the power to decide what to do with my life… even if they didn’t ask for that power.  I’m waiting at the station because I have unconsciously given up control.

HOW could I do that?

Years of practice.

Believing that what someone else thinks is more important than what I choose. Imagining that choosing to do what I wanted or needed would threaten the source of love I imagined I was dependant on; so tied to. Choosing meant loss, abandonment.

When I was young, my Mom was the Beneficent Goddess of Love, Light, Charm, and FUN. Really quite a powerhouse of a woman. But she could also be the Wicked Witch of the East. When she was ”on the warpath”, (which could happen at any time, for any reason,) she was scary. No wonder, I felt the threat of nuclear invasion as a reality. I needed a bomb shelter to protect me from my own mother. At the same time,  I was completely emotionally dependant on her. I was fleeing her. And I needed her with me. Duck and cover and take the bomb with you.

I am still working on growing that part of myself up.

It comes down to this: tolerating how I feel on red alert. Not pushing it away or trying to explain it. “Knowing” doesn’t help when I’m dread-filled. I have given myself to the Dark Side of the Force and I have fight to keep myself from disappearing into THE DEPRESSIVE PANIC-FILLED UNIVERSE. (Ominous music plays in the background.)

For a long time, I have used my friends to help me tolerate these awful feelings, to make the emptiness more bearable. Sorry guys! I am consciously working on not doing that now. I am sixty-five. I am looking down the road to life’s inevitable conclusion. I want to grow these parts of myself up, to the best of my ability, and be able to navigate the dark forest of my mind, pleasant or unpleasant as it might be. I want to think less negatively and feel more love toward the being that is me.

I have a new plan.

I will develop an avatar–RavenLight Ganesha– the clearer of all obstacles, real or imagined.

The next time I hear the sirens that signal red alert I will ask RavenLight Ganesha for a map to help me out of the Miasma Swamp. It will involve looking for buried treasure or finding hidden trails rather than feeling helpless, overwhelmed and immobilized. RavenLight will carry a flashlight and bring some snacks.  In the middle of moving through the underbrush and those dark, shadowy areas, the lighted terrain will feel more familiar and friendly and the path will appear.

2 Brothers and 1 sister

In late October, my two brothers and I met for a family reunion. The last time we three spent time exclusively together was 17 years ago when my father died. Late January 2011 our mom, the dynastic matrilineal benevolent dictatress, kicked the bucket, crossed over, or died (whichever you prefer to call it). We decided it was time to see what the family configuration looked like without the queen of f!?#ing everything running the show.
We are notnot close, but at the same time we are different species of humans.
Whether it is the male/female thing, or the fact that both of my brothers are more analytic and I am emotive, or it is that they are introverts and I am an extrovert, whatever the reason, we speak different languages.
My eldest brother is a voracious reader and writer, and although officially retired continues working as a consultant in the computer industry. My middle brother is a doctor, also “retired” yet continues to assist in surgery and subs for docs who need vacations.
And then there is me, the youngest, the former flower child, and current drum, percussion and rhythm teacher, who is certainly is not done teaching or working!

We picked a spot to meet in AZ that entailed a fair amount of driving to get from one spot to another. And that turned out to be a brilliant choice.

As we sat in the car together driving from Pinetop to the Petrified forest, from Winslow, AZ, to the Grand Canyon, we remembered our childhood, telling stories about our parents, our relatives, and recounting bits of history in the family Wolf.
We shared.
Lots of driving and lots of stories. One brother drove and the other chronicled the stories in his laptop (which will eventually become a movie- starring Silent Bob and Ethel Merman, as our parents with John Malkovich and Allen Arkin and Julie Kavner as us kids.)

Some stories were hysterically funny, and some gave me a stomach ache.
But all in all, it was an amazing time, to spend some days with each other, and the new tribe that we are.

We figure that in another few years we will be up for another close encounter of the third kind.
Until then, I can say this: I love my brothers. It was great to be together as adults, each a tribal leader of our own clan, connected to a single root: Judith and Milton Wolf.