Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Day 30: A word...or four

It is the last day of NaBloPoMo and I'll be using the final prompt of the month for today's post:

"Have you chosen a word of the year for yourself for 2017? What is it? If not, what words would you consider?"

A couple of years ago I set an intention for the year.  I don't recall what it was.  I might have done it at the beginning of 2016, but unless I wrote it in my journal (which I'm too lazy to get up and retrieve from its shelf), I don't recall that either.  Maybe a word, one simple word, will be easier than a full on intention.

What words would I consider for 2017?

Hope comes to mind first.  I think we are going to need it.  I think we will need to remind ourselves that somewhere ahead of us in this dark tunnel is a light.  I think we will need to remember that there is an generation coming up whose values are more progressive and open than any before.   We will make progress.

Work.  Work because there is going to be so much of it that must be done.  I expect difficult times; that we will need to take a stand over and over and over again.  I expect moments of exhaustion, but the work will be done because there really isn't any other option.

Community.  Do I need to explain this one?  I can say this for the election results, it has brought people together.  I have seen and experienced friends reaching out to each other in concrete ways (you know, beyond the usual social media likes and virtual hugs).  I sent of a few dozen holiday cards this week, something I've not done in years, because I wanted to connect in a more real way.  We will need to continue to come together, to support one another, and to love one another.

Finally, I'd pick joy, because even in the toughest of times we need to celebrate the high moments. We need to share cake on birthdays, spontaneous picnics and potluck dinners (yes, my joy often involves food).  Even gloomy old me has to smile once in a while.

Hope. Work. Community. Joy.

There are my words for 2017.  Somehow I think this coming year's words will be more difficult to forget.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Day 29: One to go...

Tomorrow will mark the end of this year's NaBloPoMo.  Assuming that I write a post tomorrow, it will be the first time I've successfully completed it in the month of November when the rest of the blogosphere is participating. I have usually done it in the month of December when I was on break from school.

I enjoy blogging.  Writing has always been one of my primary tools for processing emotions, change, and significant life events and this month was full of such events.  On the upside this made for a lot of available blog fodder and I rarely found myself drawing a blank as to what to write about. In fact I was more likely to have a need to write about something I didn't want to yet share, than I was to have a desire to share and found I had no topic to write about.

This month my blog contained far more personal emotional expression than it usually does.  This was, I think, a good exercise for me because I often tend to keep painful things close - usually out of shame, embarrassment or simply not wanting to seem a bother.  But the events of the past several weeks were overwhelming and I actually found myself unable to contain them.  I was grateful to have this forum as well as my friends and family as support.

I discovered too that my writing did not benefit just me.  Several people shared their feelings on what I wrote.  Through comments, emails and a few face to face conversations, people shared what resonated with them and expressed that my experience helped them in some way.  They felt a little more connected, a little less alone.

I can't really ask for a better compliment than that.  Connection and understanding are things we all need and if this blog provides some of that in even a small way it is worth the time and effort I put into it.

I've one more post to go.  Thank you for taking the time to read these posts, for sharing them and commenting on them.  Thank you for connecting.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Day 28: Unfinished

This image is of a doily that I started to make during the last couple of weeks of my grandmother's life.  I would find someone to give me a ride to the nursing home she was in and I'd sit beside her bed and crochet. Sometimes it was a couple of hours, other times it was a whole afternoon or evening.

She was on a fairly large amount of medication and so while she was communicative she often talked to people who were not there or addressed me by another name.  Sometimes she would go through the motions of doing things with her hands and when I asked what she was doing she'd tell me she was knitting or washing the dinner dishes.

The last few nights I visited she was unconscious.  I continued to work on the doily.  It was a complicated one with sheaves of wheat in the pattern.  It was meant to line a bread basket.  The pattern book had been her mother's or maybe her aunt's.  She'd given it to me years before along with crochet hooks and a tatting kit that had been her mum's.

I was still working on it the day she died though I didn't crochet during my visit.  I just sat next to the bed holding her hand.  She woke for a bit and the nurse asked if I wanted to speak to her.  I did and so I went to the other side of the bed where she was looking.  Her eyes were unfocused due to the medication but the nurse asked if she could see me and if she knew who I was.  She said my name.  I smiled and told her I loved her.

Her eyes closed and she went back to sleep.  Soon after I received a text that my ride was waiting downstairs.  I kissed her hand and told her I'd return the next day.

I can't say if I knew that visit would be the last one because she was in a place where any visit might be the last, but I was not surprised when the call came the next day telling me she'd died.

The doily still sits unfinished in bag tucked at the bottom of my project basket.  There will be a day that I sit down, find my place in the pattern and finish the project.  I'll probably have a dinner party just so I can make and serve biscuits in a doily lined bowl.

And I'll probably tell the story of how the doily came to be, and how much I loved my grandmother.

There are days, like today, that I miss her so very much.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Day 27: Letting Go

Today's post will be short.

This morning I came across this article on the Psychology Today website. It is about how we, as children, develop patterns and habits of behavior that will shape who we are and how we relate to the world for decades to come.

It also discusses why, even when those patterns and habits are self destructive, we have such a difficult time letting go of them.  It explains that one of the most terrifying things you can do is to choose to change, even when it means starting over from scratch.

Even if it means not even being all that sure who you are when you strip all of those patterns and habits away.

It is frightening.  But it is, I think, worth it if it means truly knowing one's self.

I am in that process, the one of letting go of those patterns and habits that, until now, defined who I was.  It is frightening and sometimes leaves me paralyzed with indecisiveness as I have to navigate new ways of decision making.  But as I let go of each little bit of who I thought I was, I find another tiny piece of who I am.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Day 26: Holiday Cards

Holiday Stamps - USPS
I have never been regular about sending out holiday cards.  Some years I spent hours on end crafting homemade cards to send off to family and friends.  And others, well, I had a list of excuses as to why I didn't want to handle that particular chore...

...I didn't have time to do handmade cards and if it was just going to be a card off the shelf why bother?
...Even if I bought cards off the shelf I just don't have to time to track down all of those addresses, write the cards, stamp them and then mail them.
...No one does this any more.  I mean why not just let the tradition die out?
...Oh look now it's just two weeks before the holidays, maybe I could send New Year's cards instead.
...oh...Happy New Year, guess I'll try again next year.

This year on the day before Thanksgiving I found myself standing in front of a very small display of holiday cards at the drug store.  I had gone in to look for a light bulb when I saw the holiday decorations on display and wondered if they might have boxes of cards.  It had been how many years since I sent them out regularly?  Three?  Four?  Maybe five...these days most folks send ecards, if they send anything at all, and I'm just as guilty.

I thought of how nice it was to open the mailbox and see something other than a bill there.  An envelope with a handwritten address; a concrete, solid representation of my being in someone's thoughts.  I wanted the people I cared about to have that moment where they would know someone paused in their day to let them know they were thought of kindly.

I didn't buy the most expensive box, or even the prettiest cards, but I bought a box that I thought would have enough cards to send to everyone who might be on my list.  I'd not made the list yet so 24 cards seemed appropriate but when I began to write out my list this morning I quickly realized 24 would not even be close.  I went to Reny's to buy another box and on my way also stopped to purchase stamps.

I spent much of this evening writing them out.   I admit, at first as I sat looking at my list of names, I questioned the wisdom of doing it. The list was not short and that was so much writing.  But I dug out my good pen, poured a glass of wine and set upon my task.  As I began to write, crossing each name off the list as the address was penned on the envelope, it felt less and less like a chore.

I found the process to be a bit meditative as I looked at the next name on the list, brought the image of the person to mind, often recalling some memory of them, and wrote a short personal message in their card.  It was enjoyable to think of the people I love and cherish.

I managed to get about halfway through my list and hope to finish the rest tomorrow so that I can walk them all to the mailbox on Monday morning.

I don't expect many cards back, if any at all.  It is a tradition that seems to be fading, and it has been years since I sent them out myself.  But that doesn't matter, what mattered to me was doing some small thing to create connection with people who are important to me.

And this year connection seems extra important.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Day 25: Wounded

"It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real, they are bruised and wounded." - W. Somerset Maugham

Lessons. Those times when an event in life causes us pain; when we suffer loss or rejection.  When we first learn that the only way to get out of it is to move through it.

The first time it might not even cross our minds that there is and end to it.  That sadness, grief, pain all of it, will eventually fade.  That may be the first lesson we learn - that we can survive.  It may take a time or two more to recognize it fully.

And we survive in whatever way we can.  Not all of us develop great coping mechanisms.  Some of us numb our pain, distract ourselves from it using drugs, alcohol, sex or even isolation.  Keeping busy, busy all the time so that we never have quiet moments where our thoughts might wander.

And some allow the process to happen, move through the pain and have faith that we will come out the other side.

I want to believe that I am in that healthier place.  This year I made a commitment to facing my own shadows, allowing my personal demons to speak their piece in the hope that I would come to a deeper understanding of myself.  And while I definitely underestimated how difficult and time consuming it would be, I think I have made progress.  I have faced events that at one time would have brought me to my knees.

Instead I am still standing, bruised and wounded, struggling, grieving, but able to keep moving forward.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Day 23: Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  It is a day full of controversy.  I do not profess to have any answers to the questions posed below, but for whatever it is worth...these are my thoughts.  

Days of thanksgiving are common holidays around the world and many cultures have days which are set aside for the purpose of expressing gratitude.  Thanksgiving Day as it is celebrated in late November in the United States has a terrible past.  It is impossible to ignore its origins in conquest and the genocide of indigenous people. 

A day for coming together in gratitude is worth having and many want to transform today’s thanksgiving into a day that is apart from its origins.   We have traditions shared with friends and family that are beloved to many of us that we do not want to give up.  Yet we can’t turn our faces from the facts of this holidays roots in the slaughter of native peoples.

Here in the United States we tend to idealize family.  We like to believe that when we gather on this day that we do so in love and celebration, yet for many of us this holiday is a difficult time.  It can mean coming face to face with family members who have hurt us.  It might be the only day of the year we see distant or estranged siblings.  Many find themselves pretending that all is okay, all hurts are glossed over even when there is still pain present.

What would we do if we sat at that table and acknowledged all of what we bring when we sit down?  What if we were to acknowledge the full shared family history, one that includes not just the joys but also the pain, the sadness and the grief?  What would our dinner be like if we openly faced the truth of what family really means?  It would likely be quite difficult, and we might decide to never come together again, but we also might see the full truth of how we came to be this family for the first time. We might have some chance of healing…

Now expand that thought to this holiday.  Yes, there is something wonderful in gathering in gratitude but what would it be like to acknowledge the other feelings that surround this day?  We need to accept all parts of this day and be present with that.  We cannot gloss over this holiday’s history.  If there is ever to be any hope of transforming this day, if there is to be any hope of healing, the full story of the day much be brought out into the light.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Day 22: ...

Photo of "The American
Dream" by artist
Judith Hoffman
I do not know what to title tonight's blog post.  I am feeling so many things:


I keep reading article after article on how to handle transitions like this (and sadly, there are a surprising number of articles out there about what to do when a parent removes you from their life...) but though receiving the affirmation that there is nothing wrong with what I'm feeling does make me feel a little less lost, it does not make me feel better.  Not in this moment.

I know progress will be made.  Healing will happen but I see a long road ahead, one with so many cycles of processing, grieving, letting go, processing, expressing, letting go.  Healing almost never occurs in a linear fashion.

I'm get there.  I'll get there.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Day 21: Leading with my nose

Day 21 and once again I am avoiding writing about what is actually at the forefront of my mind.  So I visited The Daily Post and saw that today's prompt is "Aromatic."

Which made me laugh a bit because it was just yesterday that a friend remarked to me that I "lead with my nose" and that sometimes I reminded them of a dog.  I was not offended.  What they were referring to is my habit of noticing scents.

I have a rather strong sense of smell.  When I was younger I thought everyone could tell the difference between how the soils in different parts of a forest smelled, or would know who had been in a room by the scent that lingered in the air from their passing, or how butter starts to smell sour after only an hour out on the table.  It turns out most people can't detect these things and, quite honestly, they probably should be kind of glad that they can't. The world can be a very stinky place sometimes...

I have a habit of sniffing people when I hug them.  You won't notice that I do it most of the time, and honestly the habit is so ingrained that I don't notice that I do it either, but somewhere in my mind I will have a memory tucked away of your scent.  I will also notice things like what you ate recently, or if you hugged someone who was wearing perfume.  I have been known to ask to sniff someone again if there is a scent I can't identify (Being unable to identify a particular scent drives me a little bit nuts actually...I will stay in one place sniffing the air until I figure it out, hence the dog comment).

When traveling I have picked up on a sweet odor and, after following it to its source, I have discovered wonderful bakeries, breweries and restaurants.  Once I even found a religious procession which I quietly watched from a distance.  Another time a candle shop.

I have some favorite scents.  The sour smell of fresh cut oak.  Soil beneath decomposing pine needles.  Wintergreen, particularly those pink Canadian mints.  Wool yarn.  Sandlewood.  Brown sugar. Rope that has soaked in salt water and is drying in the sun.  The dirt earthworms are packed in. And wild roses...and straw. Sweat.

And a few I really can't stand like dog poo, wilting spinach, sour butter and ice cubes that have been in the freezer too long. But most scents are at least interesting even if they are not particularly pleasant.

Scent permeates my dreams and I will often awaken with dream odors still floating around in my mind.  My waking nose is left feeling confused as to why they have suddenly disappeared.  I have had dreams where I am chasing scents as clues to find my way out of a maze, but most of the time they are just a part of the dream like what I see, hear, touch and taste.

This strong sense of smell is just one more piece of who I am, but I do like the idea of going through life leading with my nose.  It has led me to interesting places and it does mean I go through life upright, with my head uplifted, looking ahead...which is not such bad way to wander.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Day 20: Scorched

I was having a hard time figuring out what to write about today.  I have so much on my mind that I don't want to publicly write about at the moment and I'm trying not to be gloomy about life.  I wanted to write about something light, maybe even a bit frivolous so I went to The Daily Post for a blog prompt...


Yup. That is today's one word blog prompt.  Scorched.  There is nothing light about scorched.

When I think of scorched I think of cracked desert flatland where it's so dry you need to drink your own urine to survive.

I think of carelessly cooked marshmallows and the aftermath of lightning strikes.  It brings to mind hearts broken time and again until sadness and rage turn them to ashes; fish bones on drought dried riverbeds; and hot milk left unstirred.  Cracked lips.  Blistered skin.

Scorched.  Scorched is everything I don't want to write about at the moment.

Oh I know what you are thinking.  Scorched is today's lesson.  Scorched is just what I need. Scorched is the thing that represents my pain.  Scorched is only hard to write about because I'm projected my current inner state onto a word.


Maybe it is a good word.  Scorched is what is left after the burn.  After the fire has reduced everything it touched to bits of carbon and ash.  Scorched is...wait for it...what makes room for new life to form, green shoots to grow...(la, la, la, and light, love and light...)

Maybe.  Maybe it is all of those things, but maybe I'm not at scorched yet.  Maybe I'm still neck deep in the fire.  Maybe there is still smoke rising from the ground and any seed planted will simply dry up, never to germinate.

Before the ground can become green again, the soil has to cool.  There must be a rain storm or two. Then the seeds can start to put forth their roots and tender shoots.

In this moment of now the rain drop sizzles to steam when it falls.  The fire that came here is still turning the tree roots to charcoal.

Scorched is a word of past tense and right now, right now the present word is burn.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Day 19: Light

Lately, when I wake in the morning life feels heavy.  I wonder how I am going to find the wherewithal to pull back the covers and place my bare feet on the floor.

I feel as though I live in the shadow most of the time.  This year I have made it a goal of mine to face that shadow and embrace it; to acknowledge and accept this part of myself that I have fought against for years.

It is pretty common for me to scoff at the idea of light.  This is in great part due to the tendency of some light leaning folks to demean or diminish the part that shadow plays in our lives.  We are told that dark is negative and frightening, that light illuminates and guides.  We should shine a light so bright that it destroys the shadow altogether.

I find darkness to be a safe place.  Yes it is heavy and trying, and there are days when it feels as though it might eat me up, but it has also made me strong.  It has made me patient.  It has taught me to use senses other than my sight.  I listen. I breather.  I shiver with the touch of the night breeze...

But the dark is also often lonely.  And while I do not want the light to wash away my dark haven, light, the soft light of our hearts that we each carry, can illuminate the path to others.  This light is not the sort that drowns out the shadows with florescent intensity; no, it is the trail of luminaries that guide us to the sacred circle, to the fire, to the place where we can gather and connect.

Day 18: Better late than...

"Some days, 24 hours is too much to stay put in, so I take the day hour by hour, moment by moment. I break the task, the challenge, the fear into small, bite-size pieces. I can handle a piece of fear, depression, anger, pain, sadness, loneliness, illness. I actually put my hands up to my face, one next to each eye, like blinders on a horse."Regina Brett

Day 18's post is actually a day late.  Yesterday was a terribly difficult day for me.  Well, admittedly the past two weeks have been tough, but yesterday was rather bumpier than most.

I am hoping to be back on track with life today and share a longer, more involved blog post later on this evening.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Day 17: A Quote

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment." - Buddha

I'm trying Buddha, I'm trying...

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Day 16: A view on a view

I wish when I took my walk tonight I'd not left my phone behind because I'd be better able to illustrate my post.  With a picture, I'd not have the burden of describing to you the vista my eyes took in when I walked to Fort Sumner Park off North Street in the East End of Portland.

I can tell you that I walked to the very edge of the park.  I stood looking to the west and from as far as I could see to the North and as far as I could see to the South lay the city I call home.  I will tell you how I heard the jingle of a dog's tags as his owner walked him on Sheridan Street below.  How I pulled off the elastic that held my pony tail so that the wind that caressed my cheeks could lift my hair.

My eyes took in a view that included the lights of a tugboat in the harbor and the steeple of the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Cumberland Avenue.  I could see the tall buildings that surround Monument Square and the lights of the older buildings on the West End.  I could see the flashing lights of the air port, the dark spot that is Deering Oaks Park and the steady ribbon of rush hour car headlights as they zoomed along 295.

From this vantage point I could see Back Bay Tower, Kennedy Park and all the new luxury homes popping up around the city.  I could see the Forest Avenue Hannaford and the light of the Glickman Library on the University of Southern Maine Campus where I had spent many hours studying not so long ago.

I saw the city lights reflected in the waters of Back Cove and smiled at the line of red taillights that I knew to be traffic waiting to turn at the light on Vannah Avenue. If it were daylight and clear I'd see the White Mountains, but tonight, in the dark,  I had to take for granted that they stood there still some distance beyond the glow of the City of Westbrook and the blinking light on the smoke stack of Sappi Paper

I thought of all of the people who were beneath my gaze at this moment.  Thousands, coming to and from work, preparing dinner, sitting down to meals, tending to sick loved ones, worrying about the future, hating their neighbors, loving their children, crying over lost loves, fearing the next knock on the door, wondering if anyone cares...

And I thought how right now, tonight any one of those people would be free to come here.  To stand and take in this wonderful view, this spectacle that was, for me tonight, reminding me of just how fragile and connected we all really are.  Anyone, regardless of who they are could stand on this spot and experience this...

But that may change. Right next to the spot I was standing taking in this panorama of humanity, is where a developer wants to build luxury condominiums.  Where, if they should by built, six stories high, you will be able to take in this same wonderful view but only if you can pay the price of $350,000 - $500,000 dollars?  I'm not sure on the cost other than it is more than I or many can afford.

A view might seem a small thing to some, and one friend even told me recently that views don't matter.  But to me, to many of us, it does matter.  This park and its view are a part of our community, and it is a place where anyone in that community can come an enjoy this wonderful vista.  If those condominiums are built they will turn that view into something exclusive to the people who can afford to pay for it.  It says to a part of our community, "You don't matter. You are no longer worthy of having this."

At a time when community is something we so desperately need, we should be looking twice, three or a hundred times at anything can take away from that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Day 15: Muddling Through

It has been one week since the election.  The press is carrying frightening stories of Trump appointees and so many of us are still finding ourselves trying to explain why this matters.  And feeling so very frustrated about how the reasons should be obvious.

People are mobilizing.  Marches are being planned and phone calls are being made.  People are connecting and making their voices heard.  For some this is automatic but for many, perhaps the majority, this sort of action is new.

We are all trying to wrap our heads around what the future might hold and still keep some sense of normalcy.  Trying to find a way to function, taking care of our families, going to work, getting through the day while carrying the terrifying realization that nothing is normal anymore.

The day after the election self care was the top of the list on my three action steps.  A week later and I feel like this is something I have failed in.  I'm not sleeping well and I'm not moving/exercising as much as I'd like to be.  I'm physically tired and my mind seems full of white noise.  I feel a need for a routine but I'm having a difficult time in establishing one.

I am trying to be easy on myself, to recognize that I am doing the best that I can right now.  I know I am capable to doing better and doing more, but I have to accept where I am right now.

I'm muddling, like many of us, the best that I can.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Day 14: Supermoon

"There is a side of the Moon which we never see, but that hidden half is as potent a factor in causing the ebb and flow of the Earth's tide as the part of the Moon which is visible." - Max Heindel

Earlier this evening I walked to a spot near my home where I could look over the ocean to watch the moon rise.  I was not alone in my plan; strung along the hillside and down the road to the beach were several hundred people, all gathered to watch the full moon come up.

There was a time in my life when seeing so many folks out to watch this event might have annoyed me.  I'd have wanted the more selfish experience of watching the moon alone as though it were rising just for me, but tonight I was glad to see the multitude of people who had gathered to witness something so mundane and magical as a moon rise.  It felt rather festive.

People were friendly and said, "Hello" or "Good evening," as I sought out a spot to sit.  There were families, and couples.  People with their dogs and lots of solitary folks like me.  Conversations wafted up the hillside through the darkness.  People asking what time it was, and "Is that it?  Oh no. No, that's just lights on the island."

When the edge of the moon appeared on the horizon things quieted.  Hushed murmurs, of "There it is." and "Ooooohhhh it's so beautiful..."  And when it finally broke free of the horizon there was clapping, cheers and the sounds of a distant group of human voices howling, with a few dogs picking up the call.  And then for a one delicious moment things fell silent again.

Soon I began to hear car doors closing and engines roaring to life.  There were footsteps behind me as people passed, making their way back up the hill and heading home.  Shortly after I too stood up and began to walk.  A long line of cars slowly wound its way up the beach road beside me.

This gathering was not planned.  There was no listing on an event calendar, no signs stapled to telephone polls or community bulletin boards.  Tonight was just a gathering of people who all wanted to see the bright full moon rise.  It seems to me we need more moments like these; moments of witnessing something beautiful together.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Day 13: Grief

Blogging every day have been difficult for me though not for the reason you might think.

It isn't finding the time to write each day.  I have plenty of time to write.  It is instead what to write about that is the issue.

I have kept a journal since I was about nine  years old.  Writing is a lifelong habit.  It is where I turn to when I have things to celebrate, things to ponder and things to grieve.

Writing is my go to tool for processing.

And right now I am in the midst of processing something so huge and so terribly painful that when I sit to write all of the words that pore out of me are related to this event.

Strange as it may sound the election brought me some relief.  There was a communal pain greater than my own that took my mind off my personal grieving.  But Saturday it started to creep back in. Yesterday the knot of sadness was back in my chest.

Last night I went to bed at 9:30.  My body and my heart exhausted from the week.  I slept for nine hours.  Today, I'm going to turn to another old standby coping mechanism, I'm going to keep busy.

I'm also going to move, eat, pause to breathe...hydrate, rest, create...I'm going to try to move forward and heal.

And remind myself that nothing is static, all things pass...

Day 12: Together

It is late.

My roommates and I just cleaned up from a potluck that was held at our house.  It was an evening of coming together, connecting and just realizing that we are not in this alone.  That there are wonderful people in our lives.

It was so very needed.

If there is only one thing you do in this time of struggle and need, reach out.  Connect with your friends and neighbors in real life in the real world.  It won't just make a difference for you, but for them too.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Day 11: Connection

It has been a tough week.

It was one week ago today that a family member told me that they were "too angry with [me] for words" over my choosing my own name. The ensuing argument of words led to my finally, after years of carrying their secrets, confronting this person on harms they had caused to me and others in my family. Two days and a few emails later I was told I was banned from ever entering their home again.

When I got the news I sat on my back stairs and I cried those deep awful sobs that shake your whole body and leave you unable to breathe.  Despite how awful I felt though I did not lose myself in despair.  First I had an appointment and had to pull myself together enough to get there, and when I shared the news I found myself surrounded by a supportive and wonderful community and most of all, I felt, perhaps for the first time in my life, strong in a decision I'd made. I was feeling heartbreak and deep sorrow, but I also felt strength.

Tuesday I cast my vote for several local candidates that I deeply supported and also for the woman who, though she was far from perfect, I thought would become the first female president of the United States.  Instead as the night wore on I, and so many others, spent a sleepless night staring at our computer and television screens in disbelief.  Instead of progress we were faced with a president elect who endorsed by the KKK and who had promised to create a registry of Muslims in the United States, build a wall along our southern border and roll back a health care law that has provided millions with affordable coverage. His running mate is adamantly against LGBTQ rights and wants to remove protections they have fought so hard for. His state has some of the most restrictive laws regarding women's right to control their own fertility.

Wednesday brought despair, fear and sense of hopelessness for so many of us. I felt adrift, not knowing what to do with myself.  That evening I attended a gathering of several hundred people in my city.  Again I felt surrounded and supported by a wide community.  I felt connected, less alone and that maybe there was some hope.

Out of this came a desire to share space with those close to me and so a potluck is being hosted at my apartment over the weekend.  I'm looking forward to sharing food, support and conversation with those in my life whom I love.

All of this has been a drain on me physically.  My asthma has been acting up since late last week and, like many of us, I've not slept well since Tuesday night.  I'm tired.  I'm grieving.  I sad and angry and scared.  But I'm also realizing I'm not alone, none of are, and that has made all the difference.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Day 10: The Everyday Things

Today as I left the house to go teach my dance class I looked up to see a sunset sky that was smeared with red, orange and yellow.  So vibrant that for a moment I was caught up the awe of it.

Yesterday I walked to the edge of the sea where I sat staring out at waves watching eider ducks dive and boats cross the harbor.  I listened to the waves with  my eyes closed and just, for a moment, let myself be.

This afternoon I stood up from my desk to stretch and saw my kitty sprawled across my bed.  I'd left the mattress heater on and she was reveling in the warmth.

This past week has been one of the toughest weeks of my life.  I have never lived with such uncertainty or fear before.  I am worried for the direction of our country.  I am afraid for the safety of my friends and my family.  I am reading in the news of cases of assault, abuse, hate crimes and all manner of awfulness occurring.  It feels as though the world is falling apart.  Things are not good.

And then there are these small beautiful moments that are in such contrast to all of the awfulness. It feels like the whole world has turned ugly and yet here are these things the sky, the ocean, my wonderful Miss Pickles, that are apart from all of this.  They are, for now at least, untouched by the current state of things.  

I know they do not fix things  They do bring me a slice of peace, a moment to step outside of everything else, and they do serve to remind me that there is beauty still in the world.

And even though I feel a sort of guilt for pausing in the midst of this upheaval to enjoy these moments, I hope that no matter how bad things get, and I believe they will get pretty bad, that I don't stop noticing them.  Because I don't think it will mean that they are not happening, I think it will mean I've gone too deep into despair to pay attention.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Day 9: The day after...

This evening I stood in Portland's Monument Square with several hundred other people who were coming together for peace, for love, for justice and taking a stand against hate.

I was surrounded by faces of all colors, ages, and genders.  I saw people I knew, some I'd not seen in years and many new faces as well.

I was reminded that, despite the despair I felt through much of last night and which I awoke with still this morning, that I am not alone.  I live in a city that is for the most part, very progressive and supportive.  I am surrounded by a strong and active community.

I know that I am lucky in this.

Because as I stood there in the square, I was also reminded that there are so many parts of this country where this is not the case.  There are cities and towns across this land were LGBTQ people, people of color, immigrants, women and other minority groups will find that due to the results of this election, they are now less safe within their own communities and that there are few, if any, people willing to stand with them. There are people with serious health issues who stand to lose the affordable insurance they now have (myself included).  There are elderly and disabled people who may lose what little support they now receive.

There is a real and justified fear that exists now.

The man who was just elected president has zero experience with political office.  He policies are not going to be good for the people of this country.  They will negatively impact the environment, and if his own business record is any example, he will not be good for the economy either.

We have a very tough four years ahead of us that are filled with so much uncertainty it can feel paralyzing, and right now many of us feel powerless. I don't have any great answer to any of this, I've no cute phrase to share but I have hope.  And starting today I've three things I plan to do...

1. Pay attention to my self care.  Do all of those things I am supposed to do to keep myself mentally together and physically strong.  I will get enough sleep. I will eat well.  I will keep my body strong.  I will dance.  I will make music.  I will write.  I will mediate.  I will do all of these things because in order to do the second item on the list, I need to be healthy.

2.  I will speak out.  I will stand up.  I will take my place along side those people who want to make this world a better place.  I will give my time and energy to my community, my friends and to those in need.  I will actively work to improve things in my world.   I will help organize.

3. I will pay even more attention to my choices.  We may only vote once a year, but we all have the power to vote with our wallets everyday.  I will spend  my money locally.  I will seek out American made goods.  I will support fair trade.  I will "use it up, wear it out, make do or do without."  I will still live as low impact of a life as I can.  Because it appears right now that our government is about to roll back a whole lot of environmental protections and the only defense our planet might have is how we choose to spend our money.

I don't think these things will work miracles.  And maybe doing these things will only give me an illusion of having some sort of control over an awful situation, but the other option is to stand by and do nothing.  Burying my head in the sand and pretending bad things don't exist is not something I've ever been good at.  Taking action of some kind, any kind, is the only way I'm going to get through the next four years.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Day 8: Waiting

Like everyone tonight I am waiting.

And watching.

And hoping...

...that hate does not win.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Day 7: Good friends...


They are one of those things I consider a treat.  Tonight I ate an oyster with spicy peppers.  It was one of many tapas that were served along side the cocktails I indulged in at a local restaurant (Lolita - which  has a wonderful night called Tapas Monday which you really should try if you are ever in Portland, Maine on a Monday night). 

I was at this place in the company and recommendation of a friend who very kindly offered to listen to my woes while we sipped and ate.  

There was salted cod, octopus, oysters, fried pork, chorizo sausage and something with egg and mashed potatoes.  All delicious, and filling. 

But the best part was the company.  We all need those friends who when they hear of our pain, dial us up and say, "Hey, do you want to just escape for a little while?  And if you don't want escape, if you'd rather vent,  I'm here to listen."

You know what?  I'm quite lucky to have a few of those folks in my life.  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Day 6: Quiet, gratitude and wishes...

Tonight things are peaceful.  My sick feeling of yesterday is passing; the friends who told me 24 - 48 hours appear to have been right.  I played music with my troupe this morning and after I tackled a household project I'd wanted to do since moving back into this apartment.

I have some wonderful quiet music playing, a few candles lit and some incense burning.  It is warm and my kitty is curled up near me.  And I'm munching some rippled potato chips - a guilty pleasure of mine.

Tonight, I am feeling gratitude for all of these things and for much more.

I am grateful that, for the time being anyway, I live in a place where I am safe.  I am grateful for the supportive friends and family that I have and for the community that I am a part of.  I am grateful that I have people I can turn to when I am sad or in pain.

I am grateful for all of the deep personal work I have done this year.  I am grateful that I can recognize how far I have come.

I am grateful that I have a voice with which I can speak up for those unable to speak for themselves or to help amplify their own words.  I am grateful that I have a body which, when needed, can be counted among the many who stand for peace and justice.

I recognize that there are so many people in this world who do not have these things and I recognize that there have been many times that I did not as well.  I am grateful that my eyes are open to the pain of the world because it is only with opened eyes and hearts that we can see the change that needs to happen.

My wish for the world tonight is that we all find a place where we feel safe, warm and sheltered in both body and heart.  That we all find a day where we feel loved and supported.  That we all find a way in which we can contribute to a world where no one goes hungry, where we are all healthy and we've enough left in us to give to the future.

And finally, I wish that, while the day where all in the world have all that they need, may not come in my lifetime, I will always find time and energy to do the work needed to help that day arrive.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Day 5: Rest

Today I am sick.  I have the sniffles and a cough.  My body is tired and asks for rest and I giving it that.

I've spent most of day in bed.  Napping, watching Penny Dreadful on Netflix, drinking tea and eating soup.  Everyone tells me this tends to be a 24 hour bug and that by tomorrow I'll likely feel much improved.

There was a time when I did not do "not doing" well.  When I would have pushed through whatever sickness or hurt I had and press on.  Take this pill and go to work.  But I have learned the value of rest and healing.

My "To Do" list has been set a side for the day.  I will pick it up tomorrow.  I know I may not complete as much as I'd like, but that is okay.  Today though I need quiet.  I need peace.  I need rest.

I need to let my body fight this virus and, with the events of the past couple of days, I need to let my heart rest too.

I am, in this moment, feeling a bit proud of my snifflely self.  I am caring for myself without guilt or a feeling of being selfish.  I am caring for myself because I know this is what my body and my heart need.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Day 4: A name changes everything...

Yesterday, I did something that was very empowering to me. I chose to take a legal name that honored the matrilineal lines of my family.  It is a name that is comprised of a variation on my birth name, my paternal grandmother's name and my mother's maiden name. It is also the name I have been using in nearly every aspect of my life for the past decade, so changing it legally also cleared up a lot of confusion.

Not everyone in my life is accepting of this change and some hurtful things have been said.  It is made worse by the fact that the source of this is a person who's approval I have sought for so much of my life. Approval I never, even as an adult, felt I received.  This is something I have struggled with.

There were so many conscious and deliberate reasons I chose to take my new name.  Yet, as I sit here with knot in my stomach and my heart feeling clenched (after reading their angry words over and over and over - because I am obsessive like that - let's stab that knife in just ooooooone more time...) I wonder if part of me chose to do this because, despite how much this hurts right now, somewhere deep inside I have finally reached a place where their approval is something I no longer need in order to be happy.

I chose this name in great part because I wanted to defy the patriarchal traditions that have defined and confined women for so many years.  I wanted to stand up and claim the heritage of my mother, my grandmothers and all the mothers before them.  But perhaps there was another small act of defiance in there too; one deeper and even more personal.  An act that allowed me to feel ownership of myself fully.

On Day 3 I wrote about my sense of emptiness and the bowl I imagined inside of me that I could fill with whatever I chose.  Yesterday, into that bowl, I put my name.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Day 3: The Bowl

In recent years I have begun to explore what I see as my identity.  I have asked myself over and over again, who am I?  What is it that drives me?  What are the things I love?  What am I passionate about?

I often felt a hesitancy in answering these questions and over time I came to realize that my hesitation came from the fear that I might ask the question and not be able to come up with an answer.   That I might ask, "Who am I?"

And the response might be, "I don't know..."  

Or worse, just silence.  

For a variety of reasons, I have a tendency to be an approval seeker.  And much of my life was spent trying to make one person or another happy. Sometimes this meant making sure their needs were met, sometimes this meant doing things in my own life that I knew might garner the attention or approval of certain people.  Their approval meant I was okay, that I had a right to exist. 

It also meant that I spent very little time or energy trying to figure out what I needed, what I wanted, and who I was.  When I started to do the work of seeking out just what it might be that I needed, wanted and yes, to ask who I was, the fear was that I'd spent so much time trying to be for others that what I had inside was really...nothing.  That I was empty. 

This weekend I attended a two day workshop where I deliberately faced that possibility.  I sat in stillness and silence, and allowed myself to be open to whatever it was I might see inside of myself, even if that something was indeed nothing...

I sat for what felt like ages, though it was probably only a few minutes, focused on my breathing. Anxiety would pop up and I'd tell it to go, that stillness was okay.  Silence was okay.  And even that nothing was okay..,as time passed the thought begin to form in my mind that empty might not be a bad thing.  Empty, could mean that I had a space into which I could place anything I wanted.  

I imagined that I had a vessel, a low wide mouthed bowl, in my center near my heart.  And that I could put things in that bowl and see what it felt like to be that thing.  I could try out things I was not sure of.  I could also take things out of the bowl that I didn't want or like.  I could fill my bowl myself, with things of my choosing...

My choosing.

This is one of those things that is both freeing and crazy uncomfortable at the same time.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Day 2: To be brave

When I looked at this morning's blog prompt, when was the last time you did something brave? I decided to look up the word in the dictionary.

Webster's defines it as "feeling or showing no fear: not afraid."

This pretty much fits with the image bravery conjures up for me; that of a knight on a horse, wearing polished armor and brandishing a weapon in which they are high skilled at wielding.  In other words, it brings to mind a vision of someone who is hyper prepared and trained to deal with whatever monster they are about to face.

Maybe this is why I tend to squirm a bit when someone calls me brave.  Because most of the time I feel like I'm walking through life ill prepared and quite vulnerable.   From conversations I've had with friends over the years, most of us go through life feeling this way; there is nothing unique about it. Most of us would apply the word brave to anyone other than ourselves.

Which brings me back to the definition (feeling or showing no fear) because in knowing how we are just making our way as best we can, despite our fears and people still call us brave, we are at least giving the appearance of being fearless.  The second part of the definition, showing no fear, seems to apply to most of us.

So, now that I'm done with overthinking what the word means can I answer the question?  When was the last time you did something brave? On a personal level I could say it was allowing myself to sit in stillness during a workshop I attended this weekend.  On the more public level it could be taking a stand for what I believe is right during this election season.  On an everyday level, sometimes just getting out of bed when my anxiety prone brain is racing at 1,000mph is an act of bravery.

In the end I think we are all far more brave than we probably give ourselves credit for.  We all rise out of bed, get through the day in whatever way we can, and start all over again with the next dawn.  And perhaps it is because we do this without armor, without a trained steed carrying us forward and without a mighty sword at our side, that we are truly brave.  Because we are doing all of this from a place of vulnerability...facing the dangers of the day with only our courage and our very frail human skin to shield us.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Day1: Self Care

It's that time of year again:  NaBloPoMo 2016 has begun.  30 days of blogging and for once I'm attempting to do it during the actual NaBloPoMo month of November!   I'm also planning to make use of the prompts as much as possible...mostly so I don't stress over what to write about...

Today's Prompt: When you're having a bad day with your mental health, what do you do to help yourself?

Oh, self care; that beast. Yes, I say beast because when I am on the edge of the wallow and I know (yes, I know) I should be taking steps to make sure I don't fall in (rest, avoid self medicating, write it out in my journal, eat, move...) is precisely the time when my brain toddler starts to whine about how she doesn't want to take a nap, or eat, or rest, or try to clear a few things from her plate so she's not overwhelmed. Plummeting head on into the wallow is just so easy, so familiar and, even though we know it will make us utterly miserable, it feels safe dammit!

Self care however is a risk. It might not work and, ugh, it means having to actually face all of those icky feelings that are rearing their tousled little heads. It means processing. It means, often, forgiving and letting go...which is something I've not always been good or even okay at. However, this year has been the year of facing my shadow and so I've started to do better.

Started. Because there are still times when I get sucked down into the pit and roll around in my deep, dark thoughts like a pig in a wallow - except in this case the pig is miserable. But lately I've started to hear a kinder voice in my brain. One that says whatever I'm feeling does kind of suck, but wouldn't it be easier to deal with if I just took a nap?

Or maybe, instead I could do laundry or bake a pie, just to show myself I am good at something and then later, when I feel safer, I can sit down and face whatever demon is dancing in my brain?

Or perhaps I can have a cup of tea instead of a glass of wine because at the very least crying into your teas is far less cliche than crying into your glass of Cabernet.

Yes, I'm getting smarter about this.  And while I'm far from being an expert in my self care I think I can say that progress is being made. And that's something.