Archive | October, 2014

Is Technology Killing You?

31 Oct

There are days when if one more thing beeps at me, indicating that I have a text, email, or phone call, I want to pick up the phone and throw it against the wall. There are times when I want to smash the thing into a million pieces and scream, “Leave me the f— alone!” Can I get a witness, or am I the only person on the planet that feels this way?

Don’t get me wrong. My smart phone is a device of incredible convenience, and at times, pleasure. It allows me to work for myself, to stay connected to family and friends, and to be in a long distance relationship despite miles of geographical separation. But I think technology is slowly killing us.

The new normal is to be constantly beeped at like we’re Pavlov’s dog subjected to classical conditioning.

We are not entirely powerless here. We can have periods where we turn off the notifications and/or the phone. We can also elect to not have a phone, although in today’s business world, that isn’t really an option.

For someone who has had to work years on ironing out co-dependent behaviors, the phone presents a challenge. When it beeps at me I feel like it’s a person who IMMEDIATELY wants something from me. I have to pause and say to myself, “Your emergency is not my emergency,” or, “I’m in the middle of something. I can’t get to you right now. Whatever it is can wait.” If I’m driving in the middle of heinous traffic conditions, it’s best I focus on the road and tell the phone, “Go away! Later!” Or, if I’m in a deep intimate conversation with someone and the phone beeps or rings or vibrates or buzzes, I can pause and say, “Let me turn this thing off.”

The other day I took my car in for an oil change. My mechanic’s shop was a buzz with activity. Cars and people were lined up for his attention, the phone was ringing, and the office attendant had temporarily stepped out. Yet he didn’t seem harried or flustered. He just calmly did what he needed to do, one thing at a time. Not only that, he did it all with a smile, despite having thrown his back out. “What is his secret?” I thought. “What keeps him grounded and in the moment? Was it because there was no smart phone around?” I doubt he had one. However, I suspected his demeanor had more to do with something internal that allowed him to triage nonsense and to know the limits of what could and couldn’t be accomplished in one day.

After working at a cafe for an hour, I returned to pick up my car. It wasn’t quite ready, so I sat down on a bench to wait. Immediately, I pulled out my phone. Then I stopped myself. What the heck needed checking? I’d just caught up on all my email. At that moment, I felt a ray of warmth grace my cheek as the sun appeared from behind a cloud. I stopped. Could I just sit here for ten or fifteen minutes and do nothing? Could I just close my eyes and breathe?

I hate beeps and loud noises blasting from televisions, radios, and leaf blowers. I always have, even as a little girl. Instead, I love the sound of silence.

At the core, I gravitate to the most basic things in life: a flower; a bird; someone’s smile; a good book. As I sat there, I thought, “This is MY life. It’s up to me what I do with it.” I can make a choice. Technology can run me, or I can run technology.

At certain points in the day or night, I press the “off” button. Then I work on recharging my body, mind, and spirit. Otherwise, this device is going to crash.

No Prison Party

27 Oct

I was twenty-four years old the first time I visited my mom in prison. I can’t remember what kind of car I drove to the facility, what I had for breakfast that morning, or what I wore. I don’t remember what I did afterwards – whether I was alone or with a friend. The details blur as in a dream one can’t recall, yet I will never forget my mother’s expression as she peered at me through the glass divider.

She looked stressed, disoriented and haggard. Always immaculately preserved, her hair showed grey roots I had never seen. Without make-up, her face seemed to have aged five or ten years, yet the body underneath the orange scrubs seemed fragile and childlike. Her gentle, Bambi like eyes darted back and forth, frightened. Depression was plastered on her face.

“Isn’t it terrible?” she kept repeating on the phone. I twisted the cord on my end of the receiver.

She was an apparition before me. I wanted to run as far away as possible. What the hell was I supposed to say? I stared back, willing compassion to be reflected in my eyes, yet my body was numb. I couldn’t feel any sensation in my heart. It too was in prison, locked behind bars.

Somehow the car made it back to my mom’s ex-husband’s house. I was staying with him for a few days, even though he and my mom divorced when I was eight. As a graduate student, I didn’t have the money to stay in a hotel or to rent a car. I had barely been able to afford the plane ticket for the visit, but the prison social worker had urged me to come. She said my mom was suicidal. They thought my presence would help. My mom was supposed to discharge two days after Christmas and they didn’t want her to make an attempt.

My love had never been enough to keep her from drinking. I had never been enough. How was my visit going to save her life?

Are You Daring To Bloom?

25 Oct

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The other day, while out on a walk, I passed by this flower. It seemed to be saying, “Here I am in all my glory, and I am not ashamed of how magnificent I am!”

There was nothing pretentious or narcissistic about this flower’s attitude because unlike humans, it had none. It was simply fulfilling its genetic encoding. Given the right soil conditions, and enough water and sun, the plant was doing what it was designed to do: It was blooming.

I am fascinated by nature. I love that there are a gillion varieties of plants and flowers and that none of them compete with one another about who is better. The rose doesn’t try to act like the daisy, and the orchid doesn’t wish it was a lily.

I believe that like this flower, we are here to boldly live out our true nature. We are all here to actualize and to express the Glory of our Maker. Each of us is unique and has something special to do, according to our personality, loves, and talents.

Not all flowers bloom on the same time table. Their blossoms unfold when they are ready . The conditions also have to be right, and we, like good gardeners need to be aware of the environment. Is there enough fertilizer in the soil and is there enough light? Is the garden too crowded, and if so, how can we gently make more room, so that roots aren’t tangled? How can we work with the entire garden to ensure its overall beauty?

We bloom when the time is right. The poet Hafiz wrote: “How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all its beauty? It felt the encouragement of light against its Being. Otherwise, we all remain too frightened.”

Yes, we most definitely need love and light for our essence to unfold. Yet we must also dare to bloom. It’s not all about the outside environment. We also need to express our personal DNA.

There is no shame in taking space. In fact, we have an obligation to share our beauty with the world.

Are You White Knuckling Life?

19 Oct

My significant other-person golfs. He is wild for it. I have only tried hitting golf balls twice in my life. Both times were with him. During our little lesson at the driving range, he told me not to grip the club. Instead I was to hold the club like a bird in my hands. Whatever. Even when I got a blister thirty minutes later, I didn’t think I was holding the club that hard. Later that night when I looked at this photo of me, I saw “it.” I wasn’t just gripping the club. I was strangling it. For further proof, the veins in my neck and arms were about to bulge.

I don’t know what it is about humans that makes us susceptible to over-extertion. We try too hard to control outcomes. Instead of easing into things and allowing a certain degree of flow, we push with our will.

Occasionally, we see the light and lighten up. The next day when I tried hitting golf balls, I loosened the grip. Surprisingly, I hit a few well.

When we grip too hard on things, we don’t allow for any type of organic evolution, whether this be in our relationships, work, or creative endeavors. There is a tension that needs to be struck between surrender and action. What helps negotiate this dynamic is our breath. The more we can let oxygen flow through in and out of systems, the better we navigate our life force.

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This seems to be the lesson someone wants me to learn of late. The other day I received a card in the mail from a friend. Written on the card, in large letters, was the word, “Breathe.” I burst out laughing. If my friend only knew that her card had come like an omen.

It’s time to stop white knuckling through this year. Instead, it’s time to breathe a little…

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Fabricating Drama

12 Oct

If all the world’s a stage, my mom’s death in 2008, played out as a tragedy. She was found dead on the streets of La Mesa with pills scattered around her. She died from acute intoxication of amitriptyline, a medication given for sleep and to calm nerves. She had just been released from prison, after doing time for her fifth felony DUI.

Her death was the climax of untreated depression and alcohol dependence. It was a terrible event in my life, but I had anticipated it as a possibility because she had made previous suicide attempts. I loved her very much.

After her death, events in my life became quiet. There was no drama. Nothing was wrong. No one was in the ER or in jail. No one was dead. To counter the surreality of this, I developed the nervous habit of checking things to make certain all was fine. I discovered my anxiety increased because things were suddenly calm.

When you grow up around addiction, the resulting dynamics often lend themselves to “drama.” Things occur that are only supposed to happen in the movies or on a depressing t.v. show. You work hard not to fabricate drama, yet you’re so used to it unfolding, you stay on guard for calamity nonetheless.

One time my mom didn’t answer her phone for many days. I was in my early twenties and came into work crying, thinking my mom might be dead. I had called the police to see if they could do anything. Eventually, my mom surfaced. Over the course of my tenure at this particular workplace, my mom disappeared a number of times. Because of this, my boss pulled me aside and said, “This is beginning to feel like the girl who cried wolf. You have to stop getting upset.”

So I followed her directive. I became numb. I sealed off. I survived.

To practice detachment, expressions like, “Your emergency is not my emergency,” became personal mantras.

The funny thing about the wolf story is that the wolf eventually comes. My mom died. The drama became a reality.

I try to be a serene, peaceful person who lives in the moment. I often tell myself, “The worst thing already happened. Nothing bad can ever happen again.”

Sadly though, if you’ve lived with this kind of life experience, sometimes the fear of loss is just there, hovering over you when the  stakes are high. There was a time when I didn’t fabricate drama. There simply was tragedy. And the weight of it lingers like smoke hanging in the air.

Personal Inventory: Are You Living The Life You Want?

9 Oct

This morning, despite the fact that I need to be up and ready by 8:00 a.m., I spent an hour in bed reading a light, fluffy novel. I didn’t immediately check FB or my email. I simply stayed in bed, enjoying Nantucket and red roses, as my mind travelled to the setting of my novel.

Last night, I crawled into bed with this same novel and fell asleep by 8:30 p.m. I then proceeded to sleep for ten hours. This was the second night this week that I slept that long.

My boyfriend would attribute my behavior to the fact that I am an introvert. According to him, I’m on the extreme end of the introverted scale. I attribute my behavior to the fact that it is Autumn, and that I am tired. Autumn is the season where we harvest the events of the year and take inventory. It is the time where we prepare for Winter. If we live in a cold climate, which I don’t, we are at the mercy of the elements. If it rains or snows, we may choose to stay in and build a fire.

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What crop are we harvesting and was there a good yield? And what do we need to do to ensure next year’s crop? Sometimes this entails letting a field lie fallow. Regardless, Winter will induce a period of dormancy.

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Fall and Winter are probably my most productive periods of the year intellectually and creatively. Yet they are also the seasons where everything in me screams to slow down. I want to savor the pretty October days and the cool nights. I want to actually enjoy the holidays vs. be consumed by the stress of them. And I want to feel my own life, as another year rolls by. The older I get the more I realize that the years pass quickly, and that if we don’t take ownership for how we want to live, regrets will surface. I will not live that way. I want to fulfill the dreams I had as a child, that I played out in my mind, as I trotted off to school and admired the Pumpkins and turning leaves of Fall. I want to watch that sun setting like orange fire over the Pacific, and to know that I embraced its beauty.

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