Thursday, June 25, 2009

Toxic Thinking

While unsuspectingly sitting in an empty movie theater having settled in to watch "The Proposal", a troupe of about ten elderly women noisily arrived and decided to change their seating (wtf? the theater was empty) by sitting in the row right behind me as the movie began. How did I get so lucky...

Their raucous bantering continued through the opening of the movie into the dialogue already in full swing. My heart started pounding, I wondered what to do, and thought, f**k this; I paid to listen to a funny film, not a gaggle of Betty White wannabes. I turned around, looked them over and said loudly so they could actually hear me over their din; "Excuse me, but can you please keep it down? As you can see, the movie has begun!"

Their reactions were startling (but probably shouldn't have been)--laughing uproariously as if I were some intruder into their delightful afternoon and who was I to interrupt their important conversation?

I tried to ignore them, giving them a chance to get into the movie instead of each other (wanting to curse whoever sprung them from their nursing home) and they kept up their bantering and cackling until I wondered if I was in the company of a coven of witches instead of just bitches.

Occasionally the one behind me had to tap at my seat to let me know she was still there, as if her cackling wasn't clue enough, especially as she was doing it even when none was called for. I mean, I laugh unabashedly at movies, embracing the zen of humor wholeheartedly, but her behavior was over the top, as if to prove that she could do whatever the hell she pleased.

Which definitely affected my enjoyment of the film. I would have appreciated it way more if I wasn't so focused on the antics of the geezer brigade behind me. It was unsettling, since my grandmothers (may they rest in blessed quiet peace) never prepared me by displaying such childishness. So I felt like I was sitting in front of an out-of-control geriatric version of belligerent teens.

I comforted myself with the thought that while I couldn't control what was happening behind me, I at least had the courage to speak my peace, and for the rest of the movie knew that whatever they were doing had more to do with who they were and not so much targeting me. I had simply asked for civility. Common courtesy, which turns out, is not that common. But I also knew that they knew that to act this uncivilized they had to do it consciously. And therefore had to be aware of their actions. Which they had to live with, as our time together would soon end. And even I could tell they weren't all that comfortable being such blue-haired biddies.

After an interminable while, their ego-strutting lost its steam until by the time the movie finally ended, they quickly filed out the door as I breathed through the closing credits in solitude. Maybe their Depends were just too full to hold any more and they were making a bathroom break.

I had managed to enjoy this remarkable movie somewhat, but the effort left its toll on my body, the stress chemicals still coursing through me after two long hours. And then, sitting in my car gathering my thoughts, I burst into tears with the realization that it wasn't food that was making me fat (specifically, the stress-caused belly fat collected over the past two years), it was my uninvestigated thinking that was putting on the weight. Uninvestigated thinking is a term Byron Katie uses in her inquiry process called 'The Work'.

The revelation was shocking, because all this time I have been obsessing over eating healthier, becoming raw again, making sugar and fast foods evil etc. but the real problem is not the food, but my thinking about stressful situations--like my movie theater adventure--that led to overeating comfort foods, and the 'badder' the better.

Note: I recently read this; “Our thoughts, our beliefs, our emotions release chemicals in our body that can eventually kill us. Our anger, depression, anxiety is more dangerous than the food we eat or don’t eat.” And there you have it. Fat cells expanding.

As this new thinking sinks in, I actually look forward to sitting in front of noisy people in movie theaters (a long-time pet peeve never so thoroughly tested until today) again because it shows me exactly where I still have work to do.

So thank you ladies, and...

Photo credit:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Barefoot in the park

I decided to visit the park where I had often over the last decade connected with Utah's four seasons, both with family and on solitary meditative walks. Where I strolled with my aging parents when they visited from Florida. Where the kids and my ex rode their bikes and where we played on the playgrounds. Where I rediscovered my youth on the swings, something about whistling through the air, your head thrown back in the wind. Suddenly the mental cobwebs are out and being in the moment is in.

I wanted to park in front of a favorite copse of trees but someone else was already there, reminding me that my run was pretty much done here. It's just not my spot anymore.

A creek flows on one side of the park trail. In spring the creek rushes with snowmelt and dries up in summer, hence its name, Drycreek. It's so unbelievably weedy now. Did the economic hardships trickle down to city funds with barely enough left to manage the park? You used to be able to see the current flow down the creek as you walked the meandering trail. Now you have to carry a machete just to catch a glimpse. It's more of an auditory experience now with you wondering where that sound is coming from. The weedy overgrowth reminds me of the condos blocking the view of the beach along the Florida shoreline where I grew up.

But oh, the shifting seasons! Spring--with its birds and frogs and the creek rushing over the rockbed, snowmelt winding down the mountain, the grass uber green.

Summer--with its relentless heat, the dry creek quiet now except for the symphony of crickets that crescendoes in August; and children running everywhere, celebrating their three month freedom. The walker's sprinkler dance, where you try to keep pace while the sprinklers shower you with watery rainbows which you dodge because the irrigation water isn't particularly refreshing.

Fall walking, my all-time favorite, with trees lining the track in burnt orange and fiery red and the crisp air hinting of changing weather heralding...

Winter--the coming snow that sparkles under my crunching boots. Snowshoeing those bright winter days, the field blanketed in dazzling specks of white giving you a surprising sunburn after just a few laps around track.

Unlike the usual trail walkers, my daily exercise adventure began on a dark January day deep into local inversions (the air heavy with pollutants and probably not fit to breathe) a solitary park fixture until the spring thaw brought out the regular walkers craving their sunshine fix. But outfitted in gear worn while on snowshoe treks on the ski slopes of Brighton, the cold doesn't faze me and the eerie quiet is peaceful.

Today I see familiar dogs-- a small, black Boston terrier without his parents, off his leash, oh wait, here comes Dad, only without his wife. We were practically family considering all the times we encountered one another over the years, greeting each other in silence. They didn't seem to care for me much but their dog sure did. His enthusiasm even made up for the lack of theirs.

Someone is yelling "Duchess!" and then I see a golden lab running back to her irritated owner, who walks with his hands behind his back, as if he is carrying the weight of the world--preoccupied coming up with solutions--and who doesn't have time for her lollygagging today.

Of all the furry friends the kids and I made here over the years, and they are many and varied, I miss the wolf-dog that came out of nowhere to chill with me. Sometimes he lay there all nonchalant, in the middle of the field while I paced around him on the track. Sometimes he followed me, at his own slow pace, until one day he just stopped coming. I still miss him.

I remember lazy afternoons spent sitting in the van, with a good book, a journal and drinking funky raw Kombucha, and listening to what the birds had to say. Sometimes overhearing conversational snippets from passing social walkers in groups of two or three.

More than once I cursed the evening baseball and football games and morning practices that hogged every conceivable square inch of the park. The parking lot overflowed with bulging SUVs then, with loud adults and unsupervised kids running merrily amok.

Then there were the two anniversaries I spent contemplating my ailing marriage; once during a thunderstorm that drowned out the tears, and on the other Wendy's takeout numbed the pain, the chocolate frosty a descriptive representation of our chilled relationship. I spent many mornings writing here, reflecting on the direction our lives had taken. And practicing walking meditations until I could have opened my own healing practice.

While walking alone I never felt alone. There were always fellow walkers, children, birds, dogs and the occasional cat. Then there were the quaking aspens who seemed beside themselves with joy to see me before slipping into winter hibernation. The steadfast spruces that stayed the course all year round, quietly wise. Breathe in, breathe out; just keep breathing, they whispered, and the wide open support kept me coming back for more.

Time has changed not only me but the park as well so being here now feels very different. The need to find refuge and answers is gone, and it feels like it does when you visit the place you grew up. You're all excited to revisit fun memories, but after awhile you know it's time to go. Home.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

They Woke Me With Their Screams

Monday morning I thought the world was coming to a raucous end (and I'm not an apocalyptic sort) when this incredibe earth-shaking, lingering thunder woke me up. Which is remarkable since I was wearing earplugs. And I live three stories up.

I moved my gravity-resistant (well, not really, I just didn't want to get out of bed) body to the window to see what all the hullabaloo was. I was scared and thought that some military thing was happening, or maybe some kind of end-of-the-world crap.

Because the only other time I've heard this sound--besides the Space Shuttle taking off while camping nearby overnight with hundreds of other people, and mosquitoes--was growing up on military bases. And when fighter jets scream overhead during 4th of July parades, like the Air Force Thunderbirds flying in formation.

It was the 1960's and we lived on Bitburg airbase in Bitburg, Germany. I was around 4-years old when we moved there from Taiwan, and the base would run the B-52 Bombers out at night, practicing precision bombing maneuvers. It was loud. It was terrifying. It was the Cold War, for Pete's sake. And I remember being really scared a lot in the beginning. And you couldn't help but notice because they were flying out at night when things are supposed to be quiet so you can actually, oh I don't know, sleep.

To paraphrase the Air Force Website, "The Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC) became the preeminent instrument of American defense strategy. Standing continuously alert for the rest of the Cold War, SAC's arsenal of bombers, such as the long-range B-52 Stratofortress, was joined in the 1960s by intercontinental ballistic missiles, such as the Titan and Minuteman. Together with the Navy's missile-launching submarines, these powerful weapons comprised America's nuclear-deterrent triad."

I guess with enough sleep deprivation you learn to sleep through anything because after awhile I didn't notice the incessant thundering anymore. I learned to tune it out just like I stopped hearing the ocean when we lived along a Florida beach. Not to mention, I also have the ability to tune out whining children--gift from God preserving what's left of my sanity.

So when I looked out my bedroom window, all that was visible were the white contrails streaking across the blue sky. And I was left to wonder what the hell the skies were up to this Monday morning.

Credit: photo courtesy of

Monday, June 8, 2009

Wierd Science

This wondrous book about Wesley the Owl is making me trippy...all the way down memory lane.

What I wanted to be when I grew up: scientist. And this book is making me wonder what the hell happened along the way?

As a child I went through career phases. Astronomer for a long time (thanks, Dr. Smith, from Lost in Space), archaeologist (both Indiana Jones and Lena from Summer Lovers), and psychologist (aka Bob Newhart, mainly I think because he was so funny).

Photojournalist was a major contender in college, though technically not a science. But always, always, a writer.

The best thing about studying at Florida Institute of Technology was being around all the geeky scientist types. Never got into the engineering majors (though I lived with one), but the biologists (marine biology was particularly tempting) and other scientists flipped my petrie dish.

One of my favorite jobs fresh out of college was working as a receptionist for a company in Houston, Texas, Tanox Biosystems, and what I actually loved about it was, of course...the scientists. We had one memorable French guy from South Africa who was hilarious (not all scientists have a sense of humor, turns out.)

Back to the book. Owls in particular have always been one of my favorite creatures. So much so, having weirdly identified with their sensitive, loner personas, named myself Dancing Owl at one of T. Harv Ecker's Peak Potentials camps. It was Enlightened Warrior Training Camp it's purpose was to have you face every fear you might have. LOVED it (both the camp and the name). I kept picturing an owl, who btw also take themselves very seriously, dancing around on one foot and making everybody laugh--just not on purpose. Which is kind of the story of my life.

This very funny book has brought on a flood of memories and turned on the scientist wannabe nature in me, and so in my next life, I want to be one. Again. I've decided.

Now I just have to narrow it down to which science....

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What Would Yoda Say?

I was reliving the almost nightmare of yesterday--when the fire alarm was pulled by a child in our condo--recalling the screeching, light-flashing siren going off indoors and other strategic areas of the building that made it impossible to ignore, although some folks did try.

Only after the police, fire department and paramedics arrived with the rest of us milling around, and with the screeching still going on, did a few folks wander out of their condos here and there.

And I thought I was weird! Because when it first went off I grabbed a few items and carted them off to the car. Then I went back for more, feeling very guilty like, what if the building exploded and I died because I was too busy trying to take my crap with me?

And what did I take? Birth Certificates? Passports? Divorce decrees? Checkbooks? Jewelry? No, not at all. I went for my camera, I-pod, a check made out to me, and then debated on the earplugs, eyemask and laptop. So, I'm not sure what this says about me.

I take great comfort in the fact that I actually left the building and didn't just ignore the sirens. Although neighbors who were already outside waiting for help to show up looked at me going back in like I really was one jedi short of an Order.

But what they didn't realize was that this time I didn't leave the family pet inside to fry (mainly because right now we don't actually have one) like I did when the backyard, a natural preserve, in our previous home caught fire one dry August.

I just didn't see any reason to upset my already high-strung parakeet, figuring the fire would be put out before reaching the deck and burning the house down, which it was; thanks to two teenage neighbors, one of their moms, and two of my hoses, but that's another story. Even thought the fire got so high at one point that people driving up the hill could see it a mile away.

But hey, at that time I stopped to take nothing with me, heeding the advice of the 911 dispatcher who said, "Get out NOW!"

But after yesterday, I wonder what Master Yoda would have to say regarding going in and retrieving things at the possible peril of life? Potentially leaving my children of divorce motherless (okay, okay, you can stop rolling your eyeballs around in your head now, it's really not pretty).

Maybe I could design a Facebook personality quiz around the question, What would you take with you in a fire emergency? and what that says about you.

Or not.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

24 Coke-free and Counting...

The story goes I ate the mums at my parent's wedding reception...but, I digress.

It's been 24 hours without a vanilla Coke (my own personal brand of heroin, for all you Twilighters). And I haven't displayed any wierd withdrawal symptoms, like killing my neighbors. Yet.

Although I came close when a bored--and apparently unsupervised--child in the building pulled the fire alarm. Not only did the Star Trek Enterprise screeching (red alert! red alert!) drive me from the condo, it brought the police, firemen, and paramedics to our quiet little corner of the world.

And is it just me, but do you have to be eye candy to work those professions? Everyone of those guys looked like they were on their way to a calendar shoot. Because they were looking mighty fine I forgot all about tracking down that little kid who interrupted my well-guarded blog writing time. But, I digress.

My Coke elimination strategy based on consuming raw foods--besides making me forgetful--has worked its magic so far, so I'd like to pass on the magic to you (in case you cared):
  • Camomile tea with raw honey and lemon.
  • Blueberries in plain, non-fat yogurt (hey there, Brown Cow).
  • A couple bottles of water.
  • Odwalla green smoothie and a handful of blueberries
  • Ambrosia for the gods chocolate smoothie: 2 bananas, spring water, lucama powder (Peruvian superfood), raw cacao and hemp seeds. Seriously, I could LIVE on that.
  • Too many raw larabars; coconut creme, cherry pie, pecan, and key lime.
  • A salad of spring mix, and goji berry trail mix topper with a dressing made of tomatoes, fresh garlic, green onions, cilantro, apple cider vinegar and virgin olive oil.
  • Hummus
  • Synergy Kombucha, Superfruit flavor
Okay, it was all a little heavy on the sugar, but it felt good just to get off the refined sugar and caffeine. And yeah, the cacao powder IS caffeine but my story is, it's still healthier than Coke, and I'm sticking to it.

Maybe I should try eating the mums garnishing the dining room table next? They're raw...