4:30 in the morning

Since I completed my book this past March, I found that I haven’t felt motivated to write. Maybe it is the wrist arthritis that kicked in right about that time. Maybe it’s postpartum book depression.  Whatever it is, my writing has taken a vacay for five months. And that is long time to go without posting a blog, without sitting at my computer, or writing in my journal.  

Here I am, today, ready to see the words dancing out of my fingertips. And what was the inspiration? A prompt, a movie, a good book?

No. My dog.

Some of you have met our wonder dog, Paolo. He is a noble poodle guy, about 15 years old and a beautiful reminder of impermanence. Last year, Paolo developed eye ulcers. He cannot see worth a damn. He finds his way around through his nose, his intrepid courage, and familiarity with his surroundings. If something changes in his environment he may run into it. I saw him trip over a hose in the wrong place, do a full somersault, and keep on going. Despite his lack of sight, there is still a spring in his step and a waggy tail. He may not be able to see us, but the love that connects us is still present.

To add to this complexity, Paolo recently lost his hearing. (Well, he is 105 in human years.)  If I clap my hands very loud, or shrilly whistle, he hears. But regular speaking is lost on him.  

 

It is challenging watching him age. I cringe when he doesn’t know that the wall is looming and  he is heading straight for it.

There is nothing I can do to mitigate the persistent march of time and his inevitable demise.

Eventually, he will pass on, and reincarnate as the Tibetan lama he is… but for right now, he is our precious, aging dog-ness.

Last night, before bed, I wished aloud that I could wake up at 4:30 in the morning. My fantasy was to be wakeful, inspired, and ready to write. To have that magical quiet time– when the sun is beginning to rise in the Northwest. I imagine myself  developing the ability to write for hours, instead of minutes. I will write novels, articles, blogs, simply by getting up at 4:30 in the morning.

In reality, I have slept in.  My wake-up is around eight-thirty. I take my time, languidly rolling around, before I greet the day. I get in the hot tub, make an espresso, take vitamins. And an hour later I might be ready to deal with the computer. But I answer emails, track down correspondence, and shop.

But, I conceptually yearn for the hours of the breaking day, the introspective time, the quiet magic, mysterious dark.

Last night, my dog stood next to my side of the bed sneezed, shook his head, jangling his dog tags. Like a mother listening to the sounds of a child in the night, I heard Paolo through my haze of my sleep and bolted awake.  The call of nature for senior dogs might be pressing. Pups and I went to the front door and he trotted out.

Paolo stepped on the grass lawn and sniffed the air with his elegant snout, then continued to establish the perimeters of his watch: all four corners of the yard were safe and contained. He peed in the requisite places. He went into the rhododendron den. I watched Paolo jauntily prance across the yard, stopping from time to time to sniff the air and listen to what only he could hear. His investigation lasted more than fifteen minutes. I was fascinated by his carefulness, listening to the wind, inhaling the scent in the air, and his stillness. The mindfulness of dog.

Then, he turned and came back inside, walked to the bedroom and laid down to sleep on his dog bed. I was tired, too. As I got back in bed to go sleep I looked over at the clock.  4:45am.

My dog was listening to me.

 

And here I am writing.

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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.