lie in the boat; look at the stars

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Last spring, after metaphorically spending some years building a safe enough boat, I set off from the familiar country of a 21.5 year relationship to destinations unknown. I just knew this land was no longer something I wanted, nor was it particularly good for me.

A year before, I’d begun examining all my relationships—family, friends, animals, plants, house—discerning what still worked and what did not. Every being gets to be who/what they are, I just don’t want to be around them much if I deem their actions/words demoralizing, unsafe, not inspiring or supporting, unkind, or just not ‘beautiful’ in all the ways that term manifests in my life: art, language, gentleness, food, joy, growth, sensuousness.

The thing about the unknown is that it’s unknown. Our culture is one that’s not fond of change. It craves novelty, but change not so much. The “leap of faith” that Kierkegaard wrote about is one that I experience each time I participate in any creative process, so it’s not unfamiliar to me. But just like lifting weights or certain asanas, it never really gets easier. A blank page is a blank page is a blank page. Trusting something ‘higher’ than myself—letting go—is what’s required. I must push off from my comfortable habitual shore.

Re-creating one’s life is a larger version of an artistic leap. It can be fearful, angst generating, thrilling—much like any other creative process—but your actual existence is on the line. Teenagers and burgeoning adults do this more often than age 27+. Most don’t choose to re-fashion themselves unless they believe they have to, and then it can feel so terrifying that they’ll fill that rushing hole of panic with whatever will stop it. Peccato, as it’ll just circle you back to a similar shoreline: same shit, different acreage.

This time, I choose to stay in the boat, to allow the space for my inherited injuries to heal. To be with instead of trying to fix the patterns, the pain, the sorrow, the grief of ancient stuff I’ve carried with me into every alliance. Those wounds didn’t comprise the bulk of of my relationships, by any means, but an infection in your toe affects the whole body.

Like anyone else, I don’t want to sit on this hot-seat of suffering. I don’t want to face what I once felt was inescapable. When we’re children, we’re vulnerable, dependent and needy. It’s the nature of childhood to be so; we must survive, and we do. Some of the ways we do is to place those impossible parts into exile. Later, we go to therapists/mystics/shamans to try to remember and recover these pieces in order to integrate them. There’s no way to become whole without embracing your banished pieces. And what I call suffering didn’t have to manifest only as physical horror. A sensitive soul is just that. A longtime friend calls me an “indicator species.”

Back to my symbolic boat. Simplistically, half of me gets weary of the mess, despair and sorrow. She wants to fall overboard into a new relationship, ‘fun,’ drink, drugs, even death. The other side says, “Give me those oars! I’ll find us dry land! TODAY! We’ll do more yoga, play guitar, write! I’ll save you!” That half is a douche-y chin-upper [see: chin up my ass], the ‘tell’ being her exclamation points!! These polarized, unrealistic sides are ‘valid’ and they both mean well, but neither is effective.

The first time I pushed off in a hand-built boat some 23-ish years ago, I held out for some months but jumped ship too early into a new romance, even with my mantra being: I want to heal more than I want to stop the pain. I was too young to realize I’d be jumping with an invisible backpack of ache that I’d just have to reopen and confront later.

Now my mantra is: Your job is to lie in the boat and look at the stars. Lie in the boat; look at the stars. Stay in the boat, dear one; look at the stars.

It’s paid off. Some stars are starting to shine for me—all of me—twinkling auspiciously of an untried regeneration. I suspect a powerful beach isn’t too far off. After all, my name means reborn.

 

~photo of Willem de Kooning’s studio. He once said something like: If I paint what I know, I’m bored. If I paint what you know, you’re bored. So I paint what I don’t know.

 

catcalling 101

cartoonAll around the planet, females have to fend off catcalling from when we’re toddlers, topsy-turvy teenagers, ‘hot moms,’ middle aged, finally slowing at matron until we’re almost invisible at ‘peri-crone.’

If we’re smirked at, whistled to, insulted, kissed at, patted, pinched, sang to, leered at, winked at, had lewd gestures performed in front of us, yelled at, scolded or called names even once a week—after 20 years of that—it’d be overwhelming. For some of us who regularly walk in cities, it’s outside of 10 times a day. Check out this comic strip by Ursa Eyer and especially this 2-minute video of a woman who walked around the NYC for 10 hours (in jeans and a tee-shirt) and was catcalled 10.8 times an hour!! plus, creepily, had one guy silently walk next to her for five minutes!! (exclamation points extremely necessary here)

Besides the obvious intrusions written above, this stuff starts with saying ‘cute’ comments to children, like: S/he’ll be a heart-breaker or You’ll have to beat them off with a stick, are despiritingly objectifying. Kids don’t like it and they feel uncomfortable.

Then there’s the ‘nice harassments’ women endure: You pretty Baby, Don’t you wanna talk? Niiiiicce or the ubiquitous, Smile. This is still harassment. Feeling uneasy while out walking, riding the bus/subway or getting into a store or work makes it that much easier to decide to drive, but if you live in big cities, you often don’t have that choice. Frankly, I’ve even gotten this obnoxious bedeviling while biking.

Hearing the dictum, Smile, arouses anger in me and others. I used to call my regular face “neutral mad face” because if I walked along any street, some wanker would tell me to smile. Why must I smile when I’m out? Lots of men don’t smile while walking and us women don’t command them to show their teeth. There’s a 2 1/2 minute faux public service announcement that gently ‘advises’ us how to view women wearing a “resting bitch face.”

Contrary to media driven messages, my life purpose is NOT to make men happy. None of us are here for your entertainment. I didn’t wear my skirt/shorts/top/yoga pants/jeans/swimsuit for you. I don’t have to smile if I’m not feeling it no matter how much “prettier” I’ll look to you. If you’re male, I’M NOT HERE FOR YOU; it’s not about you. Please leave us be. Say hello to us as you’d talk to a child, a grandmother, a dude, a nun. Wouldn’t talk to them? Then don’t talk to us.

Erin McKean succintly said:

“You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female.'” And neither is smiling.

f@#k the bucket

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The marketing department of planet earth spends outrageous amounts of time and exorbitant monies directing our desires in hopes that we’ll buy or do whatever they’re selling, earning further money only to shell it out again to persuade us to get something else where they gain even more $$, forever and ever, Amen.

Thereby, a common occurrence in my therapist chair is that many people don’t know what they truly want. If they’re teenagers or emerging adults, that makes sense—due to developmental phases, and, simplistically, to pervasive parenting styles that dismiss kids’ feelings instead of helping them to organize their emotions effectively. Ultimately, we erase who we are.

The tragedy is that many/most adults operate from what they don’t want—usually past pain—and subconsciously spend their life ‘avoiding.’ Default living is—unquestionably—sad.

To counteract this, certain souls design “bucket lists,” activities to do or objects to acquire before they die. But are those lists actually what they want, or what they’ve repetitively been told they want? Russell Brand in “Messiah Complex,” warned, “Choose your heroes carefully or the culture will choose them for you.” Damn right.

The problem I’ve found with people who write bucket lists is that they approach life from the head—not the heart—equipped with an agenda, a checklist of achievements instead of an unrehearsed, yet inspired, evolution of deep living. Meaning, one moves from the inside out, following one’s true natural rhythms of imagination and eagerness.

In making art or writing, I may start with a ‘plan’ of sorts but the poem or piece rarely follows it. Often the spark that set it going gets edited out. All art moves organically, or it wouldn’t be art. See: is this art? who’s an artist? for the rant-ress’ take on that issue.

So, how do we know if we’ve been culturally indoctrinated—because fads come and go even if they seem authentic at the time—or if what we feel we’d want is genuinely ours? Contemplating these questions might help clarify:

  • I would do this experience even if I couldn’t tell anyone or no one saw/read/heard about it.
  • I’d choose/buy this even if everyone I know thought it was foolish or strange.
  • I wouldn’t feel superior to anyone if I accomplished/acquired it, or inferior if others did and I hadn’t.
  • If I never publish that novel, hike the Overland Track in Tasmania or produce an album, but enjoy the process of practice/training, would that suffice?

In the land of high expectations, disappointment and regret lurk around the next bend. Second-guessing, insecurity and greed is the head’s static frequency. One-upping for the epic, the extreme or the remote, spoils spontaneity and joy, dangerously disrupting the spirit. In fairy-tales, the princess who’s fake-friendly to the frog for her magic desires has very different energy than the princess who’s convivial for kindness’ sake. So, please be kind; stop comparisons! They never feel right even when you’re ‘on top.’

Check our culture’s paradigm at your heart’s door. Honor your soft-bellied Self.

For a refreshing antidote to bucket lists, see: 30 Things to Do Before You Die

april fool’s is not foolish…yet

Since tomorrow is April Fool’s Day and Easter’s this Sunday, the Rant-ress thinks this older blog post may still have something to offer, especially to those who have kids.

rant-ology!

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Little Luca Lucas came to Nonna’s house for his first Easter hunt of naturally colored-eggs from my “girls,” plastic eggs bestowed with foiled chocolates, pecans and kumquats and a red collection basket. It took a bit for him to get the gist and then…surprise, joy, challenge, satisfaction. Brunch followed: buckwheat waffles a la Kelly, sausagees (vegan sausages) a la Nonna, stewed fruit. To the park for slack line jollity and playground. A lovely personal time.

At the park, a church was setting up for a large hunt by helter-skeltering 8000!! plastic eggs over the ground. Apparently the idea is to greedily grab as many as possible. No hiding, no challenge, no merriment. Lucas and I walked through this mine-field for the visual but I believe that even this almost two-year-old could feel the lack of inspiration that he’d just experienced. Contrary to U.S. belief, children don’t like ‘easy.’ They LOVE…

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science is not god, sorry

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…but science now appears to be the new religion in some secular communities, complete with self-righteous fanatics who’ve decided that what they’ve chosen to believe science is, is thereby the TRUTH. No one has the lock on truth—not even the Rant-ress.

Facts aren’t ‘true’ either; they’re information. They can lead to truths but scientists are the first to say that one set of facts will be disproved by another.

Monotheistic religions believe there’s one god but many other religions don’t. There’s not one science either. As Dan Gaylinn put it: “Anyone who tells you that something is “settled science” is, by definition, anti-science, since the scientific method is implicitly about unsettling the consensus of what is currently believed to be true. That’s how knowledge advances.”

Thereby:

  1. Science is not god
  2. There’s more than one science (just ask scientists)
  3. Sanctimony is particularly unappealing

I ‘believe’ in science as much as I do in religion, but I belong to no church. They each have something to offer humans who seem to need to create ideology to have faith in. However, zealotry about anything scares me. It’s not an either/or world.

It’s true that religion has fueled most wars since the inception of the patriarchal paradigm. Has religion also formed a structure many people can use to do good in the world, help others and find solace for Self within? Yup.

Science has furnished us with wonderful knowledge of our biological world. Do some find comfort and security with that information? I do! Yet has science created bombs, drones, GMOs, herbicides/pesticides that are killing our flora and fauna? Absolutely.

Until recently, science insisted that bacterial colonies were bad, bad, bad! Anti-bacterial soaps and gels were essential to health! Turns out that science was “wrong.” Microorganisms outnumber human cells 10-1. Yet the gels are still everywhere. Antibiotics were once deemed the savior drug and now it’s patently evident that they’re seriously compromising our immune systems leaving us wide open to all sorts of disease and permanently disrupting our human microbiome, creating resistant superbugs.

In both war and medicine the only thing that needs to be eradicated is this mindset: the avenue to safety is to kill…whatever/whoever. Instead, let’s discover how to live with everything on this planet instead of annihilating what we fear.

The pro-vaxxers are brandishing the extremism of the newly converted. They don’t seem to disagree with the anti-vaxxers as much as dismiss and despise them. There’s no room for open intelligent dialog. Highly educated people reside on both sides of this issue (there are pinheads, too, but let’s not generalize). The cartoon above is needlessly vilifying. When has smugness ever been effective?

If you’ve vaccinated your kids you must ‘believe’ the vaccine works, right? What follows? Your kid is protected. Secondly, this is a country where we’re free to choose the form of medicine that works for us and our kids even if you don’t agree. There’s no unanimity, scientific or otherwise.

Your truth is yours. Leave it there. Be certain and inspired, not self-righteous and jingoistic. Priggishness is unattractive even if absolute ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ could exist. Which they don’t. Nature, and this planet, just aren’t that simplistic.

There’s a few things that always get the Rant-ress’ goat: unkindness, cruelty and defining/dissing another because you see the world differently. Take a deep breath. Find your intelligent heart, then open your mouth.

kidzania insania

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I’ve noticed that many parents unconsciously think that raising kids is about them: what they have to do, tolerate, manage, feed, shuttle, kiss. Sadly, that cramped view has created much of the pathetic society we live in.

Having a child is a crucial privilege, not a obligation. It is a job—the most consequential one you’ll ever have—but as I taught my kids: work and play are selfsame…or they should be. Your ‘mission’ is to give rise to a decent adult human, one who has a sizable vision beyond shopping, soothing and Selfies. Caregivers: you’re forging the next world community.

The rant-ress isn’t suggesting it’s only parental activity that forms this. No. This paradigm is profoundly sick, but you as a parent can be conscious of what impact you and the culture does that could thwart or support your child, and select the latter. It should rarely be about choosing easy. Choose impeccable.

The New Yorker recently published an article about KidZania, a franchise, started near Mexico City (malls adjacent for the adults). It doesn’t offer thrill rides like Disneyland but instead gives kids the “chance to enact the roles of grownups” in a stylized city that’s “corporate, sanitized, market driven.” This urbanity has it’s own currency (kidzos), debit cards, banks, factories, branding stuccoed everywhere, police, courts, jail, insurance agents…and kids do various jobs for ‘entertainment,’ and $$.

Does KidZania also provide strip clubs, grow operations and bars, too? Because we adults know the world of grownups slotted into a soul-shrinking financially-driven culture creates a notorious need for unhealthy soothing.

KidZania‘s CEO believes that children love this because they get to make their own decisions about what they’ll do in this faux metropolis. “We don’t tell them anything. Just cash your check, get money and start spending…”

This might appear to be ‘imaginative play,’ to act the adult, but it’s not. The “Zupervisors” follow cue cards in all activities offered. Sure, kids pick their activity but they’re done for them. There’s no actual discovery, no genuine exploration because it’s all adult propelled. The “industry partners” like Coke, McD’s, Walmart, Domino’s… are there to create a “more authentic experience” of the world. Yeah, right.

What the kids did appreciate about KidZania was autonomy—what my generation experienced when children. We usually played outside all day, everyday—unsupervised—with who we chose, inventing games and rules, brokering between ourselves. When I was seven, I wrote and produced a play [me, the murderer wearing a black leotard] in my neighbor’s garage for our parents, even crafting the tickets. Our moms only helped with costuming by directing us to storage closets.

The rant-ress typically disapproves of team sports for kids vs. ‘personal best’ sports: skateboarding, biking, surfing, snowboarding, tag…because the former is often coach (adult) driven with established rules. Little room for critical thinking, negotiation or personal choice. I hesitate to yearn for the ‘good ole days’ of parents smoking/drinking on the patio while dismissing us kids to sort the world out among ourselves.

Today’s paradigm is hard enough on children without viewing them as marketing targets, exploiting their ‘purity’ and their belief that we want the best for them instead of low-maintenance interactions. Could we PLEASE let child-play be child-play and stay the “f” out of it? This latest ‘disguised educational entertainment’ capitalizes on childhood joy and trains kids to grow up to be characterless minions. It’s dishonorable.

jon stewart should be canned and you should leave your spouse…not

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The cultural zeitgeist (particularly the USA) is now commonly about leaving. You enjoy something, love someone, are comfortable where you live, have a satisfying job, then it’s about time to abandon it and pioneer! Should you decide to remain in that city, that relationship or don that favored, shabby sweater, well, then you’re just not hip, cool, styling or groovy. Novelty has been elevated to the celestial.

A twisted view of this phenom was written by Lauren Martin here. She believes that if you don’t live in five different places in your life then you’re “settling.” For what? Unclear. Appears Martin has the attention span of an ADHA toddler except she also feels that favorite foods lose their edge!?!? No toddler would ever agree. Tell my Tuscan family—or any ethic group—who commonly ingest their exquisite cookery that it’s “stale.” Just because the USA doesn’t have a genuine cuisine that stands the winds of trendiness, doesn’t mean others should ditch their delicious dishes.

I shouldn’t be surprised—but I am—as most United States-ians live “all or nothing” lives. Whenever science proclaims a new health diet, food, exercise, disease or disorder “it” becomes Trendy. See wheat, wheat eat your wheat: foods, fads, allergies for my (March 2013) take on our modern faux-food-fad: wicked gluten. The New Yorker recently wrote a piece interpreting this mania.

Authentic living resides in the middle, not the extremes, cliché or not. Excessive change creates chaos; trivial challenge equals boredom. You don’t have to “spice up” your sex life, swap cities, eschew favorite foods or jilt your beloved to find inspiration. Exciting “puzzles” don’t have to emerge from the outside, nor should they. I’ve experienced chills of fear, hits of bliss both reading and writing. I can be high for days while “solving” something I’m working on, and I often excessively think about my art “dilemma,” similarly to being captivated by a new love.

Being a writer and an artist, I can tell you that when I’m “in the zone,” that’s the bona fide challenge I need and desire. I’m traversing the unknown, experiencing adventure, discovering! It’s flirty & fun, inspiration & bliss, terror & toil. No need to scale mountains, extreme trek or seduce a new paramour to unearth that endorphin hit. I divine it within, at home. Shocking, I know!

This doesn’t mean I haven’t lived in (more than) five places, odyssey-ed (a lot) or made other external changes. I have, but they weren’t forced from the head. Another writer once described his marriage as a “safe harbor” that afforded him the security to journey.

Jon Stewart has been heading The Daily Show since 1999. Recently Terry Gross asked him how he’d feel about undertaking something else, as Stephen Colbert is doing. The anguished ambiguity of Stewart’s answer revealed (to me) how much pressure the “collective unconscious” our culture is dispensing. Johnny Carson never had to deal with this crap in his three decades on The Tonight Show. The Daily Show is absolutely necessary to our country’s sanity, still poignant, and winning awards; why should it stop?? Because it’s not NEW??

If something/someone no longer has fine, inspiring energy, you’ll know it. You never have to decide it. Trust your guts, not your head. Breathe deep, encircle yourself with honest emotions, not random “media wisdom” and just live.

p.s. Encourage Jon Stewart to continue as USA’s court jester. He seems indispensable to revealing the “truth.”