art and a reboot

OH MY have I been in trouble with myself. Ever since the nightmarish election, I’ve been in trouble. I keep trying to stand up, find myself, breathe, reorient my mindset. I’ll make headway — return to the mat, the street, the vegetable market — and for a moment I am back. But I’m back in that moment, still surrounded by chaos. And it’s a specific kind of chaos that’s my own worst nightmare. The incessant (even when it’s nonsensical) lying and gaslighting, and a country of people who are just fine with it. (Mercifully almost all of my own people see what I see, but not all do.) And that’s not even considering the hideous political stuff he’s doing, the destruction, the looting.

And so I’ll rally and pull it off for a few days: oh yes, yoga, how delicious. A daily walk, hard again at first but after a week getting a little easier. My wonderful food, lots of cool water, clear mind. And I won’t put pressure on myself about it (great! Now I’m completely back! That’s all behind me!) but the constant falling off and then struggling to right myself has been especially awful. I’ve tried being gentle with myself, tweaking expectations, setting low bars, surrounding myself with people who support me, and that’s all gotten me through but I haven’t sustained a reboot.

At this point I’ve gained 22 pounds, from my lowest weight. I’m not quite back where I started a few summers ago (and having sustained my comfortable self for a couple of years, this is hard to take), but I’m in the neighborhood. I was talking to a friend yesterday who asked if I wanted to let HIM have this effect on me — and of course I don’t, of course, but that doesn’t make this stop. It’s actually a thing, the “Trump Effect” — like the ‘freshman 15’ people are eating their misery.

This past week I’ve had a social date every single day, a meal or a drink, and all week I’ve been anticipating today as my next reboot. I’m taking a class this afternoon (watercolor, “bold blooms” — flowers and blossoms, just the perfect medicine) and stopping at the grocery store on my way home to buy fresh, beautiful, healthy food. After dinner I’m either taking a walk or taking a restorative yoga class. It’s not a clear, sunny day here, but I’m filling my day with beauty and color in the hopes that it helps.

Intro to Watercolors: Bold Blooms Workshop
Sriracha Rainbow Noodle Salad!

Fingers crossed, y’all. Is there any worse feeling than just being out of control, unable to stop yourself from doing what you don’t really want to be doing? Unable to start yourself in the direction you really want to go?

How are you?

three things: 12/23/16

1)  I’m just going to launch right in: I have more self-conversations (out loud and just in thought) about poop every day than you might ever dream. PLEASE tell me you’re this way, please. It’s a strangely big part of my life; women with my kind of history of sexual trauma are significantly more likely to have IBS and to get cancers of organs in the pelvis compared to women without this history, a fact that always punches me right in the intestines. Like having to go through all that in the first place wasn’t bad enough? And yet of course it also makes sense in a body-mind way. My siblings and I had severe problems pooping as children; I always said that mother scared the shit into us. So it’s always been a complicated thing for me, I just couldn’t do it. Two or three times a month only, that kind of thing (no exaggeration). It got a lot better for me when I changed to a vegetarian diet and started having a green smoothie every morning 2.5 years ago, but it still shocks me when I go nearly every day. Shocks me. I almost always comment on it out loud, a kind of cheering myself on, the kind of praise you give little ones when they’re toilet training. “Good job! Look at you!” And I always wonder why there is no weight loss after a particularly big one. 🙂 Come on. I don’t mess with a thing that works; my morning smoothie has been exactly the same for 2.5 years now: a banana, almond milk, two giant handfuls of fresh spinach, and a bunch of frozen unsweetened peaches. Oh my is that good. I never ever tire of it. And then I go poop.

2)  La La Land. Gosh, I loved it so much. I just loved it. Of course I am always hoping people around me break into song and dance, so that’s an important thing — if you don’t, and if you don’t love the old musicals, you might not like it. But I really did, and every single time they started dancing I started smile-crying. Every time Emma Stone’s wide, large eyes were gazing at Ryan Gosling, every time either of them were excitedly talking about their dreams and plans, my hand rested over my heart or on my throat and my eyes filled with tears. It’s about dreams, and love, and the intersection of those, and thank God there are young people in the world dreaming their dreams. Thank God for that. I hope the change in US politics won’t squash them in its meanness.

When I was driving home afterwards, feeling all cracked open and tender, I happened to listen to the podcast Song Exploder and the composer of the main song was talking about the process of creating and performing the song. It was the most beautiful coda to seeing the movie. Here you go:

3)  It’s so very hard to feel any holiday spirit, mainly because of the incoming “president” and all that unfolds in his hideous wake every single day already. It’s like getting hit by a nuclear hammer of fear and loathing and dread throughout the day. I didn’t set up my Christmas tree this year since I’m leaving on Christmas Day for NYC. But I have been having such beautiful one-on-one time with friends, brunch with Cindy yesterday, lunch with Nancy today, coffee with Deb the other day, time just to spend with people I love. And I’m making all kinds of good stuff to give those people: lemon cakes for Nancy, today, and a pecan cream cake and those yummy roasted butternut squash and caramelized onion galettes to take to Katie’s house tomorrow for our Christmas Eve dinner. I love making food for people, and while I’m cooking and baking I’m trying to leave space for my heart to open up to a holiday feeling, but it’s just so flat and squashed by the hideousness of our politics, it’s hard. I’m trying. I’m trying. I’m an inconsistent cook, even though my trying is always the same; sometimes I’m really very good, and other times it just doesn’t work the way it should, but I know that people love and appreciate the effort so I don’t worry too much. When anyone cooks for me, I am dazzled by it.

Happy eve of Christmas Eve everyone. <3 <3 <3

five things: 12-16-16

    1. just married, and just barely 21

      Thirty-seven years ago today I got married to my first husband. My truest belief that day was that I’d be celebrating this anniversary with him, with whatever family we might create, and that I would be with him until we died. My intention was true and real, and my love for him was true and real and permeated into my marrow, and he was absolutely the right person for who I was then — broken, fragile, scared, in need of safety and care — and still we were just so very wrong for each other in just the right places. We hadn’t been married even a month when I lay awake one night thinking, with a kind of horror, about how much smarter I was than him. And the horror was from being willing to say that about myself, and about having that matter to me. It horrified me, I didn’t want to notice, I didn’t want to care. And honestly, I wouldn’t have, but the dynamics of our relationship (him benevolent father, me fragile child) resulted in his complete inflexibility, he was always right. I feel very sad about it all, sad that we were both edged into the places we were, and I think it definitely changed him. He has always been the kind of person who wanted to save people anyway, but he became too grounded in the paternalistic role. But I never would’ve even gone to college had we stayed married, and I never would’ve found myself. Today I’m thinking about all of that, but I have less than no desire to speak to him; he became a right-wing Tea Party bunker-desiring nut job, not to put too fine a point on it.

    2. I started re-reading Loitering, Charles D’Ambrosio’s extraordinary collection of essays. (Here is my GoodReads review.) It circles around twin themes of the difficulty of life (including suicide) and the truth of ambiguity, uncertainty, and the unresolvability of anything approaching “truth” without those elements. I’d never read D’Ambrosio when I heard about the collection, and his is a startling mind. The collection was on sale yesterday, $1.99 Kindle, so I shared that on Facebook and decided to re-read it and it’s as wonderful as I remember. A couple of quotes:

      “The canker of self-consciousness has been long in me, so like a lot of writers I not only do a thing, I see myself doing it too—it’s almost like not being alone. That morning our hero skipped in his skivvies down to the shore of the sea . . . it was dark . . . the fog . . . Storytelling!”

      His childhood was as difficult and violent as mine, and his brother committed suicide (a theme he pokes at throughout the collection); I think this quote alone will tell you why the collection is so powerful to me:

      “If I could intervene and change my own particular history would I alter past events in such a way that I’d bring Danny back to life? Would I return the single rimfire bullet to its quiet chamber in the gun and let the night of November 26, 19__, pass away in sleep and dreams or drink or television or whatever the anonymous bulk of history holds for most people? Would I uncurl the fingers from the grip, would I take away the pain, would I unwrite the note and slip the blank sheet back in the ream and return the ream to pulp and etc., would I exchange my own monstrous father for some kindly sap out of the sitcom tradition, would I do any of this, would I? And where would I be? Would I be there, in the room? Would my role be heroic? And where exactly would I begin digging into the past, making corrections, amending it? How far back do I have to go to undo the whole dark kit and kaboodle? I mean, from where I sit now I can imagine a vast sordid history finally reaching its penultimate unraveled state in the Garden, under the shade of the tree of knowledge, raising the question of whether or not I’d halt the innocent hand, leaving the apple alone, unbitten.

    3. Tonight I’m having dinner with my friend Lynn and her boyfriend because he’s going to backpack around SEAsia for a couple of months and he wants to hear my stories. It’s funny; SEAsia is my very favorite place, and I can’t get back there often enough, but I don’t know that I have stories, and I’m a little anxious about it. I can tell excitedly about the places I’ve been, tell my impressions of the places, but I’m not sure what I will convey except for my enthusiasm for the places. And then I give myself a little shake and remember: Lori. You don’t have to plan out the “successful” conversation in your head ahead of time. You’re seeing friends. You’re eating Indian food. You’re talking about a place you love. Relax. Are you this way?
    4. I want to see Manchester-by-the-Sea, directed by Kenneth Lonergan. I read a wonderful article about Lonergan that made me want to see it, but then I read a review that bemoaned yet another movie about an emotionally stunted man. Here’s the NYT review, and here’s the trailer, and I want to see it anyway.

5. I’ve gotten to the point in my life where there is little as pleasurable as making a very nice meal for someone I love. Preparing the meal for my poetry group made me SO HAPPY (and it helped that the food all came out the way I wanted it to come out!). It took me a long time to get to this point; while I often enjoyed making meals that my kids enjoyed, and especially making treats for them, the tyranny of dinner-every-night-no-matter-how-I-felt took the joy out of it. I’m making a meal for someone I dearly love next week and the anticipation of that, even the anticipation of planning the menu, is delicious all by itself. Yet another toast to the pleasure of keeping on living.

Happy Friday, everyone. xoxo

hi, beautiful

2015And here we are in the new year, 2015. The year my second daughter will turn 30, staggering to the mama. The year I will turn 57, a little less staggering to the mama somehow. The year I’ll go to Colombia, and Iceland, and back to southeast Asia. And today the day I will see almost all my book club women (but no Faith, to my sorrow), my boon companions here in Austin. We’ll eat well, laugh a lot I have no doubt, and Marc will be in the mix, which will be . . . interesting.

Someone in London, Ontario has been slowly and systematically reading her way through my blog, month by month. It’s been very interesting to observe; she (I assume she) doesn’t know what’s to come in late October 2012, and I wish I could warn her. She’ll be as shocked by the sudden crumbling of my whole life as I was (well…..kinda, not really). Periodically I’ve wanted to see what she was seeing, so I’d open a month page and read through the posts for that month, in that year. It’s been a lot of fun, actually, revisiting those days, seeing the kinds of things I wrote about.

One thing I did a lot of a year or two ago was to share links, things I wanted to read or think about. I haven’t done that in a while, so I thought I’d do it today; in case you’re in a lying-around kind of mood maybe something will strike your fancy. Here are some links I’ve saved:

Links about books and literary stuff to read

Life stuff

Movies

Food

OK! Happy new year. Thanks for following my blog, for commenting here or on Facebook, and emailing and messaging me about posts, or other things my posts make you think of, or for any reason at all. I look forward to seeing how this year unfolds for us all. Peace on earth is too much to hope for, but I’d settle for a quiet weekend here and there, wouldn’t you?

And p.s. Since my daily gratitude email system has apparently gone down for the count, I’ve decided to put it here. There may be days that’s all I post, just a short note about what I’m grateful for. Dang, that system was so great . . . I really miss it. For 616 days in a row I made note of what I was grateful for, beginning right after Gracie died. Usually my daily gratitude was about someone specific, and that may well be you. I’m just going to use first initials, so since I know a bunch of people whose names begin with K, and with D, you’re just going to have to wonder, I guess. Since I write my posts the day before, and schedule them to go up at 7am the next morning, there’ll be a tiny bit of a lag. So here goes:

gratitude: 01/01/15: Today I am so grateful for my wonderful little home, with a landlord who takes such good care of me and with friends N&B just on the other side of the wall who turn this into a home depot, where we watch out for each other as we come and go. I never take having a home for granted, but I really hit the jackpot here.

01/01/13: Struggling to feel grateful about anything today. (I remember that day.)
01/01/14: Grateful today for a new year of life.

boring-ness

It’s really funny — when I was going through the very long year and a half of unrelenting terribleness (all of 2012 and the first ~half of 2013), I worried that my posts were so heavy or dark that you would get sick of it and just quit reading me. Again with the introspection, again with the suffering, jeez enough. On occasion I thought I’d better write a different post, a “happy” post, but decided the whole point for me is to be as authentic as I can about my life, so that’s what I wrote.

Now I’m on the inverse side of that. I’m in a period of reflection, change, growth, and joy (except for the damn days-long headache) and I imagine that you’re getting so bored with that. As much as I love that you read my posts, this blog is really for me, to say “I was here and this was my experience of life.” And so I hope you stick around no matter what’s going on, even during prolonged runs of trouble or joy.

Yesterday was extraordinary, and the very best part of that is that the extraordinariness was in the ultra ordinary. I wasn’t sitting on Borobodur, in Ubud, on a boat in the Mekong, prowling Hanoi, panting for breath in Borneo, looking at clouds on Macchu Picchu or Lake Titicaca. I woke up, made coffee, went to the farmer’s market, did some yoga and later some meditation, tended to my life, listened to music, made a delicious dinner, read, and slept. ORDINARY. And yet it really, really wasn’t. You’d have to be me to appreciate some of these things:

  • I woke up later than I’d intended but had a night of completely uninterrupted, dreamless sleep. (for the win!) Instead of freaking out and jumping up, throwing clothes on and racing out the door at high speed — after all, I’d wanted to be there when they opened!!!! — I thought it doesn’t matter when I get there. It just doesn’t matter. Take your time. My kids will understand how startling that is. And so I did my morning ritual as I always do, I made my French press of super dark coffee, I dressed (red shorts!) and put on my normal tiny bit of make-up (i.e., mascara and lipstick), checked that I had small bills in my wallet, lingered a bit with my coffee and put the rest in a thermos, and walked out my door. Stood in my breezeway and saw what a beautiful day it was. Smiled.
  • There were a lot of slow drivers on the road — Sunday morning, I suppose — and each one taught me, reminded me to take it easy. My temper flared up with the first one and I literally gasped….why! I am in no rush! Put down your shoulders, breathe. And when I came up behind the next one I smiled. Thank you for the reminders. I am in no rush, it’s a beautiful day, just be here, look around. (Kids, can you believe it?!)
  • such a beautiful day
    such a beautiful day

    Got a great parking spot and didn’t race to the market — and not just because I got there 10 minutes before it opened. (Lesson learned there, in light of the first point above!) I stepped out of my car, got my market bags, and stood in the sun with my face turned up to it. Wondered why I haven’t gone swimming. I live in Texas! We have amazing places to swim here. Noted to myself: go swimming. I wandered through the park on the way to the market stalls, enjoyed the reflection of the clouds in the lake. Isn’t it a beautiful day?

  • At each stall, instead of just buying the stuff quickly and moving on (and I always did that because I didn’t want to be annoying to them, they’re busy), I instead moved slower than I usually do and looked each grower in the eye and paused just a couple of minutes to talk to them. And each of those conversations made me so very happy. They were without exception warm and friendly and gracious. I left each stall feeling a little taller.
carrots of all colors, peaches, tiny sweet figs, tomatoes, pesto (cilantro and pecan!), okra, and farm eggs.
carrots of all colors, peaches, tiny sweet figs, tomatoes, pesto (cilantro and pecan!), okra, and farm eggs.
  • Slow walk back to my car, feeling the rising heat on my neck. Isn’t it a beautiful day? I arranged my purchases in the car so the tender stuff wouldn’t get crushed, and pulled out of the parking spot. As I got on the busier road I saw a ladybug on my windshield and it made me laugh and cry at the same time. Hello, sweet little ladybug, how ya doing. It hung on all the way home. I played Man, by Neko Case — an amazing hard driving song that you can’t listen to once, so I listened to it the whole way home and felt so much joy I thought I might leave my body.

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Really do listen to this fantastic song. And not for nothing, I was in the audience at this performance, dancing my brains out. Her music was vibrating in my bones. IT WAS AMAZING. 

And all that was before 11am. I felt so happy I could not stop crying, just grateful for this amazing life, this amazing day, and I thought about the horrors, the bombings and death and starving, the terror, the fear, the imbalance of the world, and it broke my heart too. Those things were happening right at the same moment. Children were being tortured and abused by their parents here and there, right at the same moment. Women were being raped and tortured, right at the same moment. And just for the day, just for that one sunny day, I got to taste some of the joy. If I don’t taste it when it presents itself, I am a complete idiot. For my turn will come again, and it may come in ways that are so terrible I cannot even imagine them. It may break me. But for that day, joy was on my tongue and I am so grateful for that.

and then it suddenly becomes easy

All my life I have dieted (with brief periods of severely not dieting, which led me right back to dieting). I’ve talked about all that enough here, told the old fat cow stories, blah blah blah.

Despite not doing much of anything to take good care of my physical self, I am in remarkably good health. My weight is more or less OK, more or less stable; my blood pressure is so ideal I take every chance to brag on it (112/78!), though I don’t do anything to help it; all systems are go, and on full steam ahead. I’m so healthy and for no real reason other than good genes, I guess. Hardy pioneer stock. That’s me. But you know, how long can I count on that? I’ll be 55 in 6 weeks, and I want to be in good health for several more decades so it’s past time to be serious about it.

Jeff, my VERY sweet and deeply thoughtful health coach
Jeff, my VERY sweet and deeply thoughtful health coach

And so I hired a health coach. When Jeff and I had our initial consultation, I was nearly in a panic and felt like I just had no idea what to eat. This diet banned food X, that diet banned food Y, and decades of that left me with every food carrying a “no-no” in my mind. I approached my work with Jeff the same way I’d approached the years and years (and years) of therapy, with the assumption that oh my God, we’ll be digging into the roots of things and it’ll be slow and difficult and….

…..and it just hasn’t been like that. Eating is now the easiest part of my life, a sentence I never would’ve imagined I’d say. I told Jeff that last night and he laughed. Threw his head back and laughed. But it is easy! The whole world of vegetables? All mine! All the fruit in the world? Mine! Whole grains, lentils, mine all mine! And tofu, which I adore, and all those spices and herbs, and OHMY green smoothies, first thing in the morning? Here’s what I ate yesterday:

  • greenbreakfast — smoothie of almond milk, fresh spinach, a frozen banana, and frozen peaches. emerald green deliciousness.
  • lunch — a juicy heirloom tomato, an avocado with squeezes of fresh lime, some carrots, and some hummus with pine nuts. luscious magnificence.
  • dinner — a stir fry of broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, water chestnuts, lots and lots of fresh ginger and garlic, onion, and tofu, with a splash of chili oil. amazing.

Man alive, I’m telling you that all that food made me so happy. Each meal was dizzying (and three of them!), and delicious, and brainless, and all so good for me.  But it was the freedom of it, the not-freaking-out-about-it, the luxuriousness of just being able to eat whatever looked good, whatever sounded good, and know that not only was it “good” food, it was also very good food.

And then starting my morning off with a green smoothie has helped me want to also start my day off with my fast neighborhood walk, a couple of miles. By 7am I’ve had my exercise and absorbed a brilliant emerald green smoothie that is so delicious you can’t imagine.  (Also, that smoothie makes me feel more awake than any cup of coffee.) That helps my whole day be oriented in a different way; it’s kind of confusing how easy it’s been. (But my biggest challenge now is social — dinner party tonight and dinner party tomorrow night, neither probably having the kind of food I’m loving to eat…hmm….)

I had a conversation with friends the other night about “deciding” to do things. I do think we decide to do things, but it’s not that simple. (As a neuroskeptic I’m hesitant to say this, but there is brain evidence that a decision is made before ‘we make it,’ so the whole idea of deciding something is fuzzier than most want to accept.) Deciding to adopt a new way, deciding to stop an old thing that’s not good, deciding to move on, those aren’t finger-snapped decisions. I think we come to those actions through a process, and I don’t think we can short-circuit that process — if we do, it doesn’t stick. I’m pretty sure about that. The process isn’t separate from the decision, it is part and parcel of the decision, I believe. So when we finally “decide,” that’s really just the endnote of the decision.

Jeff and I talk a lot about how some kind of shift happens and then suddenly it’s just easy, suddenly the struggle is over, the fight is won. That happened to him; he was very overweight and in extremely poor health, and then he just changed. *Poof,* almost. There were still a lot of life changes and hard work ahead for him, but the struggle was gone and “hard” work wasn’t nearly as hard. It’s actually quite fascinating, and he is my constant inspiration. (Plus just a really great guy, intelligent and kind and hilarious.)

So one reason, I believe, that this change has been so suddenly easy is that it wasn’t sudden. It’s been a process of trying to get here, and that stuff was NOT easy. The trying and failing, the trying this and then that, not so easy. Another reason I think it’s so easy and sudden is that it’s no longer about rigid slates of “Dos” and “Don’ts” — do eat meat, do not eat carbs/do eat vegetables, do not eat fruit. Instead, it’s “Hey! See this smorgasbord of wonderful fresh food? Have all you want! It’s all yours, enjoy.” Now I just need to let this shift happen with strength training, my next “decision.”

If you’re engaged in a struggle with food, you might just try a green smoothie for breakfast, and don’t change anything else. Jeff’s and my secret idea is that the green smoothie has supremely magical powers and it will change the rest for you, but shhhh. (And if you’re in Austin and need a health coach, please let me hook you up with Jeff. He’s wonderful.)

xoL

at least the food has been great

fabulous guacamole on the most fragrant perfumey tomato EVER
fabulous guacamole on the most fragrant perfumey tomato EVER

Despite the really terrible and frightening things going on right now, I’ve been eating very well.

Spicy red curries — homemade curry paste

Tangy Caesar salad — homemade dressing with coddled egg

Delicious fresh green curry

Greek salad with the sweetest EVERYTHING, cucumbers to die for, tomatoes to kill for

Homemade chipotle sauce to spoon over anything

Smoothies deluxe, whatever I wish

A bit of bright-side-looking going on right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Happy Saturday y’all — I hope it’s beautiful where you are. xoxo