This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine...

Saturday, February 28, 2009

One of Those Angry Poems

Here's one of those Angry Poems I've been talking about. Written February 24, 2005, untitled

How silly
to be afraid of the suburbs.
What's to be scared of?
There are good school systems
there. They care for our children,
feeding them knowledge,
the key to the future,
and partially hydrogenated,
dyed, sweetened and genetically
modified "chicken" nuggets,
while we are at work.

While we are hard at work,
collectively, 16 hours a day
(if you are fortunate enough to have
two guardians working full time),
standing in one place, lifting heavy
objects, functioning under white noise,
and complaints from people,
who obviously have more money
and somehow more time, bitch,
about entirely insignificant,
pampered, poncy shit.

The suburbs are so nice!
After working like a dog for
pennies from a billionaire you
get to slump in your nice
sedan, flip to your favorite
clearchannel - pop radio station
and zoom around at 30 miles
an hour, for at least 20 miles
through other suburbs
in traffic, to your beautiful,
very own home, in the suburbs.

Your subdivision is named after
a.) the natural landscape the developers
plowed up to build yours and 500
other families like yours houses or
b.) the people who once existed there,
in peace with the land; wisely.
(Before whitey came through, slaughtered
the innocents and ran the strong off.)

Ah yes. Consumerism, denial, ignorance,
fundamentalism, and apathy. Hooray.


Wow. Let me just say I have not altered the above poem any from it's original form, because really, there's no hope for it. I thought I'd put it up just so y'all could see what the heck I was referring to in my previous posts.

I really just started spewing out key words there at the end, didn't I??

Friday, February 27, 2009

How Will This End?

When a fairy tale ends as this one does, with a death or dismemberment of the protagonist, we ask, How could it have ended differently? Psychically, it is good to make a halfway place, a way station, a considered place in which to rest and mend after one escapes a famine. It is not too much to take one year, two years, to assess one's wounds, seek guidance, apply the medicines, consider the future. A year or two is scant time. (Estes 272)

I think I thought that the years I gave to my professional job would be that way station, but I see it is not. I'm still very much fighting for the ground on which my spirit will prance. I have come a good long way, but there are months of work ahead. I have set aside 3 years' time to get my debt to income ratio manageable and to germinate the seeds of my future. I'm 2 years in. Interestingly, when I moved to Chicago, I set an approximate 5 year timer. I'm 3 years in. It still makes sense and that gives me hope.

In the first post of this series I mentioned a poem I'd written in the parking lot of the first after-college office job. I read it to Ammie a week ago, on a lark because I get the urge to read aloud semi-frequently. That poem, and the others in the book were Angry. Living in the suburbs with my parents, working an office job that was unbelievably uninteresting, and commuting by car (through endless lines of suburbs) for 3 hours a day to do it, nearly drove me stark raving mad. Instead of going mad though, I went dead. Convinced by the Senescent Force in my life, I hopped in the Gilded Carriage. I left all that was real to me; the North Woods, the Clean Air, the Big Lake, the Wholesome Existence, for a dead place 6 months after I graduated. I have reasons, and the stories those reasons get told in are all about how Privilege fucks you up in life. I've said it before and I'll say it again (some other time): I grew up being spoon fed (a certain kind of) Privilege without actually having (the right kind of) Privilege to back it up. That's why I'm so terribly in debt from college. I didn't go to a recognizable name school, I went to the boonies, but I did in a fiscally Idiotic way.

If I had taken the reigns to my life after high school, who knows what would have happened? I probably would have gone to college eventually, but I'm pretty certain I would have known enough to read the goddamn loan contracts before signing them. If I'd worked for awhile, found out what I liked and didn't like, if I had time I wouldn't be in this mess. If the idea of "What Everyone Does" hadn't been so important to my mom, who is so important to me, I would probably be somewhere entirely different. But she didn't know. She didn't have to struggle until she transferred the ownership of herself from her parents to my Dad. And my Dad thought it was a partnership; they never had enough money, like it'd been when my mom was a kid. Goddess bless them, they love each other and did the best they could. They just happened to have given birth to a child who doesn't fit the suburban mold and who asks a fuck lot of questions after reading a truck load of books.
::Rant Ended::

So, I took the day off. I relaxed as much as I could. The little jagging voice that wants to know how I intend to get out of all this debt prison is quite present. Before I melted into the ground, wanting to puddle off like Alex Mack did on Nickelodeon all those years ago, I was more certain. I was hanging onto my plan, keeping my feet on the ground. I am hoping to get back there now, because the combo of wanting to run away and not knowing how just really staggers me. I'm not hopeless, I'm just a little fearful. That was some really hot rage. I'll repeat my mantras and ideas and remember to take time to myself while I work the stable job that supports me while I (find a way to) get There. I'll ask how it can be different, so no one else has to wonder how it could have been.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Leg Traps, Source of Rebellion and Being Grateful

I read Women Who Run with the Wolves, chapter 8, Self-preservation: Identifying Leg Traps. The entire chapter is based on the story of The Red Shoes. Dr. Estes pins her psychological arguments on the oldest mythological tales.
Briefly the story: a poor, orphaned, homeless little girl makes herself some red rag shoes. She is absolutely proud of them. She is skipping along one day when an old woman pulls up in a gilded carriage. Old woman takes little girl in, burns her red shoes, locks her up, makes her go to church and conform. Little girl eventually receives new, expensive, fine, red leather shoes and is obsessed with them. Little girl later has curse put on her shoes and is doomed to dance herself to death. She has to cut her feet off at the ankles and spend the rest of her life crippled, but free to tell the tale.
The traps, which the little girl faces as soon as the old hag in the Gold Rolls slides up, are titled: the Devalued Life, the Senescent Force, Soul Famine, Injury to Basic Instinct/The Consequence of Capture, Trying to Sneak a Secret Life, Shadow Rebellion, Normalizing the Abnormal, Obsession and Addiction (at which point the little girl gets her feet hacked off!).

Last Monday I was experiencing a good dose of Shadow Rebellion. Ammie took seriously good care of me that evening, plying my mood with the most beneficial comfort food ever (recipes here!). I fell asleep relatively early and had no dreams. On Tuesday morning I was falsely calm. By the time we arrived at the bus stop, a mere 2 blocks from home, I was on the war path toward my cubicle. I smoked a cigarette and bitched. For much of that day I tried to cram "5 pounds of mud into a 10 pound sack" (thanks again to Dr. Estes for that one). I generated borderline antagonist emails to my boss in response to the messages she sent me. I arrived early to "prove a point." I dragged myself through hours of boring and inconsistent systems work and pushed myself to stay away from the more glittering lands of the internet.

The night before I'd come to realize that this backlash was due to my diligently ignoring the needs of my psyche, but I hadn't put recognition into reaction yet. When I heard my boss humph audibly in response to, what I imagined to be an defensive email from me, my mood magically lightened a little. I used that flumpf of light to propel me further upward into more calm manners.

Obviously Not Cut Out For This.
Obviously Unable to Restrain from stirring the toxic pot when I'm dangled too close to it. When I realized how petty, tortured and terrible I was being I became slightly alarmed. This was not a good side of myself. Now, when I take more time for myself during work weeks, I have been managing to cope fairly well. I believe that's the "Normalizing the Abnormal" leg trap. But like I said before, I'm not ready to leave this job. Yes; for my spirit, the source of all that I think is worthwhile and beautiful and good in myself: This. Really. Sucks. Sigh.

At some point yesterday, I decided today needed to be a Mental Health Day off. (See why I can't quit this job, goddammit? I can do it, and do it well, when I'm feeling stronger and more determined to Get There, the comfortable way.) I do have a toxic boss. The work is unstimulating 75% of the time, but still, I'm grateful to have it. Maybe stupidly, though I doubt the 500,000 Americans who lost their jobs in January would agree with me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Anger, The Heart & David Bowie

Well this has been quite a week. In typical Aquarius fashion, I could begin 12 different places at once - wait, make that 13. On Monday I blew up, but squelched it to the best of my abilities. Ok, maybe I shut the paper tray on my printer harshly and left brusquely at 5:15 on the nose without saying "goodbye."
Once again, I feel like a caricature of a human being, so let me continue...On my hurried way to therapy... Oy. No really though, I lost my marbles, went bananas, seethed, but did so internally. I felt white hot.

So, that's fun!

And yes, on my way to therapy. It wasn't as bad as the psychic indigestion I've subjected myself to in the past, but I probably was scowling for a time on the train. Then I began attracting negativity: perceived thrown elbows, waiting forever for my connecting bus and arriving 11 minutes late.

Yes, it was exactly 11 minutes. I was staring at the clock because I hate being late, which is stupid, because I'm always late. In fact, I'm "supposed" to be on my way to Ammie's right now, but shit, when it rains it pours.
David Bowie.
This is what happens when you get to see the snaking streaks of light that constitute my thought activity. On David Bowie. Ok, back to being mad as all hell, nearly not able to take it anymore.

I've been thinking about my heart chakra lately. Or my heart energy. Or both since they're the same thing. I've been trying to keep open, golden yellow, glowy - if possible.
And I've been to this kind of edge before: last year, and probably every year since I wrote poems in my car. I was in Carol Stream which is a drab, but middle class suburb, West of Chicago. If you're a new reader, let me clue you in here, I hate the suburbs. My hatred has little to do with "the majority" of the people who live there. The primary reason I despise the suburbs is that they are inefficient. So in my car, in March 2005 I wrote poems in the parking lot of my future employer's office. I cried so hard.
When I was a kid I would have temper tantrums. I would throw myself dramatically on my twin bed. I would pound my fists, get snotty, scream into my pillow until I was exhausted and could do nothing but fall asleep.
I wanted to be all of those things on the bus Monday evening. A shaky part of me right now feels it all again. Anger, shaking, anger.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

SLC bound in the Springtime

While a 4 day trip to visit Zem in Philly for the cherry blossoms has been denied by the powers that be at my job (sniffle... the resentment has had 24 hours to subside) I am still Salt Lake City bound at the end of April. This will be my first normal "business trip" ever. How very. So today I'm learning about Salt Lake City so that I can decide if I want to extend my stay there by a day or two and make a little exploration trip.
Although the majority of Utah's residents are still members of the LDS Church (estimates generally range from 60%-70%, although the percentage of practicing members is lower), Salt Lake City itself is less than half Mormon, with some areas (especially areas dominated by ethnic minorities or more artsy areas such as the lower Avenues and Sugarhouse) being lower still. Salt Lake City has recently developed a tradition of even being one of the most gay-friendly cities in the country (the Utah Pride Festival draws about 20,000 people annually) and has a recent tradition of zealously liberal mayors (most notably Rocky Anderson, who organized protests against President Bush both times he visited the city). Utah and Salt Lake City often has a sharp and sometimes bitter divide between the Mormon and non-Mormon populations. The state's position as being the state in the country with the highest proportion of residents adhering to a single religion, and also possessing one of the highest atheist populations in the country, creates a unique situation, and there's generally a fairly sharp divide between the Mormon and non-Mormon populations and cultures. (Salt Lake City, WikiTravel)
It looks, from some maps, like Sugarhouse, which generally gets the nod for being the more artsy/funky neighborhood (and therefore, more likely to have gay bars), is about 1 - 2 miles south of the fancy hotel my employers are putting me up in.

This is gonna be surreal. I'm going to be flying, getting driven, staying, eating, existing on my employer's dime for 4 days/3 nights. I'll be at a big fancy conference for surgical educators wearing my only business suit and acting all pro-feh-shun-al; handing out and receiving business cards like the scribbled upon matchbooks of my past. After the long days of showing computer illiterate surgeons how to navigate the online curriculum I've helped create, I'll go to the king sized suite with the view of the mountains, kick of my stockings and relax before venturing out to the more homey places of the city where the graffiti sneaks on walls, the drinks aren't fresh squeezed, and the dance moves cover over all our insecurities. I wish I could bring friends to crash with me in the room just so I don't feel so alien.

They could all sleep in the giant bed with me, in a tangle of sheets, arms and knees, and in the morning they'd all keep snoozing while I quietly shake my dreams off in the shower, put my business suit back on, and step over the kid-on-the-floor to the networking breakfast downstairs. It'd feel more like home and me. All of this reminds me of my favorite description of Aquarian women in a book called, Sextrology. The gist of the lines I'm thinking of are, You can bet Aqua woman keeps some pretty racy afterhours hobbies, despite her indelible work ethic on the job. I love that book, it's eerily spot-on for my "sextrology" and personality.

I'll be working my way through the 18 firefox tabs in my browser window today, to see all I can about SLC and its more "apt" recreations. In the meantime, if you know anyone I should meet in the city, leave a comment. New friends are always welcome.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Opening my heart

I'm learning, slowly and meditatively, that my heart has spent much of my life very protected, very guarded, and how to have it open more constantly. It is interesting, because I love so strongly from my head and my gut, to find that my heart's voice is very shy indeed. I am learning to encourage it more and to embrace with it more; and it is beautiful and precious.

What does this mean?

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Two Parter: On Stress and Sensitivity

I'm crashing. I've been on the go, go, go for more than a week and the vibration of all the movement is starting to jangle my brain. I've been eating pretty well, doing yoga on my own 2 - 3 times a week and focusing on staying grounded and "in my core". (I haven't read any of my chakra books yet, so I'm not sure if what I'm doing really is strengthening my 3rd, 4th and 5th chakras but it feels right, so I'm sticking with it for now.) Despite all that, today I can't focus, my back is hurting and tight up to my neck and the base of my head. I'm trying not to put too much attention on those things; choosing instead to focus on what is good and pleasing and that I can make it until I do get to rest. If I keep positive, doing all the things I have to do until said down time comes will be more pleasant, at least.

Aaanyway...often this crashing is combined with a longing. I was doing so good last week! I didn't cram every day with 12 - 14 hours of out of my home doing stuff and it backfired. Sigh. I'm just whining. I am a kvetcher, I didn't want you all to forget that.

When you're over-tired where do you feel it?
For me, my head begins to pound and that pounding moves down over my entire body until I'm vibrating and having lots of joint pain. I begin to feel arthritic, bloated, stuck up (ahem), and fuzzy. I begin to lose sight of myself and any stressor seems bigger than it would have when rested. I begin to despair over lost time for art, reading and sanity.

What do you do when you have too much on your agenda for the amount of energy in your body?

I'm still reading Women Who Run... I remember Dr. Estes writing about the choosing of storytellers in traditional cultures. The storytellers were often picked out at a young age and they apprenticed until they were ready. They spent at least a decade learning the stories that contained all the lessons their people needed to know and how to tell them most effectively. They learned to never share too much at once so that the recievers of the stories could absorb what was important and figure out the rest on their own.

It strikes me that I am a self proclaimed storyteller and that I was often derided, or clucked over, for being "sensitive" or "too sensitive" while growing up. The storytellers, as Dr. Estes wrote, were often chosen or noticed because they were the thin-skinned children. They were the kids who didn't want the world to stop being light and amazement just because they had grown some. They were sensitive. I always felt like I was being insulted or chided when I was clucked at. I felt they were calling me weak, or some times, a "cry baby."

Now I understand myself better, I know where my roots are leading me too and I can look at this lable in my own, empowering way. I am sensitive, yes. I pick other people's feeling up quickly, I know when they sense my sense, I know when that makes them uncomfortable or not. I misunderstood my senses for a long time, so that I often felt unsafe in places. It has always been my way to blend in like a chameleon in new situations, even though my Aquarius sun sign wants to be singing out and in the center of the hustle all the time. This dichotomy within me caused a lot of insecurity, especially when I got to high school. I understand now it was a protection mechanism for me. I did not believe that my true self would be accepted and so I hid it. I sometimes worry that it was a cowardly behavior for me to do that, but I try not to worry that.

What end would my "bravery" of standing up and revealing myself have gotten me? Would I have found friends to take me in? Would I have come to understand myself more quickly?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Womens' Rights Across Cultures

While at lunch with coworkers last week a discussion came up of women's rights in India. I think the discussion cropped up because I was talking about the cultural "India Invasion" (much like the British invasion of the 60s) that is beginning to gather strength in the states. My friend said something to the effect of "that [cultural influence] may be, but women in India are still treated very poorly". I always have to throw a wrench into a discussion with that kind of statement. I do so for a few reasons:
-I am compelled to disavow any statements that blanket a culture. Especially if the speaker does not live in, or have frequent, deep interactions with, the culture she speaks of.
-In working with, and learning about, women's movements I have been conditioned to approach women of other cultures humbly, knowing that their way of being and feeling empowered may look nothing like my way, even if they reside in the same city as I do.
-I have learned from teachers and readings that women in India and the Middle East are making progress toward a more equal existence and that should not be diminished. It should not be overstated, for there are many atrocities yet still, but are there not atrocities against women in my own culture? Are women not raped by their husbands or relatives yet still in this country? I said as much to her; something to the effect of responding that "it's still ok for women to be raped in the states."

Now, I know: That was an intentionally outrageous and provocative thing to say, but I do not think it without merit. I do think it was probably too much an affront, it's shock value perhaps too strong for the situation. Regardless of the shock value, or the way I approached making my point; the point, which is that the culture of patriarchy and overvaluation of straight, able-bodied, white men and their bodies/politics/ways of being in the states is still a huge problem, stands. Violence, be it physical, economic, emotional or spatial, against women is still an epidemic in the United States. Women are still objectified, still made targets of violent ways of thinking in the media, still undervalued, still forced to conform to unhealthy "norms", still treated as less equal. We all know this. Violators of women, especially, know this or they would not think they could perpetrate the things they do.

So, when Ojibway Migisi Bineshii posted a link to this blog: American Feminists...Meet the Rest of the Globe in her weekly Stories and News from Women Bloggers, my interest piqued. The title of the blog she linked to is interesting and the article being referenced is about a "Cambridge study that says Muslim women feel free, secure in Europe." The article is pretty short and leaves me wanting to read the study, but nevertheless, it's good to find these things.

I love that the distance between peoples' minds keeps shrinking. I'd like the distance between peoples' homes to shrink too, so the land can have more space to thrive, but that's another issue entirely. (Or, Mother Earth, is it?)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"...If You Can Move Thru Your Shame Generally, There's a Reward Waiting For You..."

Antony talks about spirit, being transgendered and music on NPR. Huge.

Oh Antony Hegarty. You are one of my heroes.

"Joyous Body: The Wild Flesh"

Excerpts are from Chapter 7 of Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. pp. 213 - 229. New York, NY: Ballantine Books. 1995. These excerpts are about embracing the body. (The last one, with its poetry, is my favorite.)

It makes utter sense to stay healthy and strong, to be as nourishing to the body as possible. Yet I would have to agree, there is in many women a "hungry" one inside. But rather than hungry to be a certain size, shape, or height, rather than hungry to fit the stereotype; women are hungry for basic regard from the culture surrounding them. The "hungry" one inside is longing to be treated respectfully, to be accepted, and in the very least, to be met without stereotyping. If there really is a woman "screaming to get out" she is screaming for the cessation of the disrespectful projections of others onto her body, her face, her age. (218)

The idea in our culture of body solely as sculpture is wrong. Body is not marble. That is not its purpose. Its purpose [is] to protect, contain, support, and fire the spirit and soul within it, to be a repository for memory, to fill us with feeling--that is the supreme psychic nourishment. It is to lift us and propel us, to fill us with feeling to prove that we exist, that we are here, to give us grounding, heft, weight...The body is the launcher of those experiences. Without body there would be no sensations of crossing thresholds, there would be no sense of lifting, no sense of height, of weightlessness. (221)

The body is like an earth. It is a land unto itself. It is as vulnerable to overbuilding, being carved into parcels, cut off, overmined, and shorn of its power as any landscape...The breast in all its shapes has the function of feeling and feeding. Does it feed? Does it feel? It is a good breast. (227)

There is a line in Ntozake Shange's for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. In the play, the woman...speaks after having struggled to deal with all the psychic and physical aspects of herself that the culture ignores or demeans. She sums herself up in these wise and peaceful words:
here is what i have...
big thighs
lil tits

so much love

Toxic Food Syndrome

I have been thinking about food more than usual lately. This is partly because of Ammie's love for cooking, her friend Nicholas's Candida problem, another friend's recent embarkation on the "PMS diet" (not a diet for weight loss; a reevaluation of what she eats so that she can feel better and have more mild PMS symptoms) and my continued interest in eating better to feel better.

I'm trying to unlearn old habits and retrain myself to eat foods that make me feel good. I definitely suffer from toxic food sensitivities, though I'm not sure exactly which foods cause my ailments yet. The ailments are: burning/achy joints, low energy, bloated feeling stomach, inability to lose weight. I am frequently incapable of staying with concentration at work, but I don't know if that food's fault. I also have an irregular cycle and wonder how much my eating affects that.

So my (aforementioned) doctor's weekly newsletter is timely and appropriate this week.
Recipe of the week: Barley Mushroom Soup

• A 35-year-old woman who has had two unsuccessful sinus surgeries and still remains chronically congested.
• TR, 44, described by the rheumatology department of a leading Chicago teaching hospital as having “seronegative rheumatoid arthritis,” meaning she had all the features of rheumatoid arthritis but her blood tests were negative for the condition.
• A young man seeing a world-famous gastroenterologist for his ulcerative colitis. He’s worried about the immune-suppressant drugs he’s been prescribed, yet when he asks if food allergies could be involved, his doctor dismisses his concerns as quackery.
• BD is just four years old. A third of her body is covered with an eczema-like rash and her pediatrician wants her tested for attention deficit disorder.

Need more examples? How about chronic obesity despite dramatic calorie restriction? Unexplained mood swings…chronic indigestion…fatigue…headaches...acne...asthma
…poor focus and concentration.

Except for obvious food allergies, like the severe reactions from peanuts and shellfish or lip swelling from strawberries, I was never taught a thing in medical school about food sensitivities as a cause of chronic illness. And decades later, medical students haven’t progressed one iota. Gastroenterologists, allergists, and rheumatologists are either oblivious to the role of toxic foods or openly hostile to the concept.

When I explain the reasons for this deliberate ignorance of food sensitivities to non-medical people they shake their heads in disbelief. They don’t believe American physicians would compromise the health of their patients on the basis of nothing more than a glorified turf war.

Here’s the story: At the onset, the American medical profession’s contempt for any research not homegrown may have played a part. The first articles about toxic foods appeared in South African medical journals in the 1960s. More articles then appeared in the UK. American doctors seem to vaguely distrust anything beyond our borders, and woe betide any research that has to be translated.

What South African doctors realized was that certain foods could sufficiently irritate the lining of the intestinal tract so that large, incompletely digested food molecules could “leak” through the intestinal barrier. This, in turn, would trigger an emergency response from the immune system, which would produce antibodies in much the same way that antibodies are produced against viruses, bacteria, and even cancer cells.

However, instead of the antibody (called an IgG antibody) clearing out these large food molecules, it attached itself to them, and this clump would land somewhere in the body and start causing problems. It might irritate joint linings and produce arthritis symptoms, irritate sinuses and cause chronic nasal congestion, or land in muscles and diminish muscle efficiency, causing fatigue.

This unusual reaction to food differed from regular allergies (like hay fever or hives) because with an allergy, a different family of antibodies (IgE) shows up and triggers the release of the chemical histamine, which causes symptoms. This is why you take an anti-histamine, like Claritin, for hay fever.

Given this information, US allergy specialists stated categorically, “If there’s no histamine, there’s no allergy. This ‘leaky gut’ stuff is nonsense!” They then convinced the gastroenterologists there were no food sensitivities with comments like “Do antihistamines work for ulcerative colitis? Of course not.” Worse yet, the insurance companies, not wanting to pay for anything to begin with, asked the allergists if they should be paying for food sensitivity testing. “Ha!” answered the allergy association, “Why not pay for homeopathy or snake oil or acupuncture while you’re at it.”

And so, to this day, the vast majority of health insurers will not pay for food sensitivity testing unless (and here’s the best part) it is performed under the supervision of a certified allergist and specifically tests for IgE antibodies.

Currently, millions of people are eating foods responsible for a whole range of chronic symptoms, from memory problems and asthma to headaches and obesity. These same people swallow vast amounts of prescription drugs to suppress, but never cure, their symptoms. This of course pleases the pharmaceutical industry, which would collapse if patients started taking their health into their own hands.

Next time: Symptoms of toxic food syndrome and how to test for it at home.

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD

To follow up, I will post some quotes from Women Who Run with the Wolves about body identity and feeling good, later today.