Friday, December 12, 2008

And so...

"What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun."
~~Ecclesiastes 1:9

Yes, that's right, I just quoted the Bible. Once in a while some of it seems apropos.

I'm having this growing sense lately that everything matters and nothing matters. That life just does what life does. Maybe there's meaning. Maybe not. Maybe we're going somewhere with all of this human stuff, maybe not. Maybe it just is what it is.

For all of my ranting, I am getting the feeling more and more strongly that none of it really matters. Life is cyclical. It's evolution working itself out. My little speck-of-dust-life really means very little. This is not to be fatalistic, but realistic. Perhaps my idealistic musings are naive. Perhaps misguided. Perhaps short-sighted. I don't know anything really. And it's okay. It's the great mystery of life why anything happens at all. Maybe it just is what it is.

It's a funny thing to watch my reactions to people, places and things. To memories and future projections. That three pound universe we call the mind is a most intriguing place. I've ranted here on this blog about my mother, religion, having children, the state of the world, and a bunch of other stuff that has been meandering through my consciousness for many years. Perhaps it was a necessary part of the process, whatever that process might be. Perhaps it just is what it is. Perhaps none of it matters and never did. If this moment right now is the only one there is (how could there be any other moment to be lived than the one you're in right now, unless you're Hiro Nakamura from the Heroes show and can time-travel of course), then what came before and what comes after is of no real consequence. There is only now.

Life continues to make a hypocrite of me. To remind me that I have little idea of what I'm doing in this life and should stop thinking I do. Strangely, after my long rant about childbearing, I've been thinking more about having a child. Bizarre that. As if, somehow, releasing the anger I felt around the issue freed me up to see it in a different light. Sometimes I think I should just shut up and keep these things to myself and just let things work themselves out on their own, without me spouting off. I hope one day I will be able to do that.

tall penguin

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

To Dance With Snowflakes

There are dishes to be washed
Floors to be mopped
Clothes to be cleaned

Outside my window
Snow is falling
Flakes of white
Inviting me for a dance
Who am I to turn away?

tall penguin

Living the Questions...

"Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

In my last entry I spoke of the awareness that seems to come from the ether upon asking a question. It is as if the questions of the heart are silent prayers to an unknown god who reveals what needs to be known in the course of life itself. As I've said before here, I'm treating my life as a sociological experiment, meaning that I have become the observer/scientist. I ask questions, wonder about the answer and when it will appear and in what form, continually open the space in my life for an answer (meaning I clear away the emotional debris that has contributed to my lacking clarity before this point) and then I live my life. And as dear Rilke so wisely stated, "someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."

For me, the key seems to be suspending any and all beliefs of what you think the answer is. Like any good science experiment, the observer can make a hypothesis but he must not let that sway the course of the experiment nor influence the conclusions he draws. I like letting my life unfold out of the questions of my heart. I like wondering "What will happen next?" I like not knowing where it's all going. I like being surprised.

I think this is what all the great inventors realized. I've read a number of accounts of how the great ideas of history came to people. It was when they'd put the questions to rest and turned to other areas of their life. They left the questions hanging in the ether and went to work, or did dishes or went for a walk or had coffee with a friend...and poof, from somewhere came the answer, the needed clarity. And the world was forever changed. I think this is the magic of life. I think this is the power of questions and the magic of holding a sense of wonder about life and everything in it.

So, be five again. Ask lots of questions. Wonder. Look at the sky and get immersed in the shapes the clouds make. Assume that you know nothing. Start every day, every moment, with a fresh breath and a fresh eye. There is only one life and it is the one living through you right now. And it is wonder-full.

tall penguin

Shift...

About a month ago I ranted about my mother and how frustrated I had become with myself because I was accepting treatment from her that I would not accept from anyone else. My beliefs around the concept of "mother" had been so deeply ingrained in my psyche that I'd lost my perspective on how to see her as I would see any other human being, and act from that place. In that entry I asked, "Why should she be treated differently than any other human being I interact with?"

As is so often the case these days, I noticed a shift in my awareness within days of asking this question. I'm finding an interesting phenomena occurring, that when I begin to question a belief, and release the emotion surrounding it, a new perspective gathers around the issue; clarity and a new way of seeing things. I realized that if I wanted to deprogram the belief that my mother deserved a pedestal and required special treatment, that I was going to have to remove my mother from the pedestal and treat her like everyone else in my life. Which meant calling her on unacceptable behavior. And showing her the unconditional love and compassion I'm learning to express with others in my life.

Fortunately, the universe obliged with yet one more triggering situation around my mother and I took the opportunity to be clear about her behavior and how it was driven by a false perception of the events. I reassured her of my love for her and my desire to be part of her life. And something shifted. Something has changed between us. We are beginning to interact like...adults. I dare say we're both growing up. And I'm pretty damn proud of us.

tall penguin

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Outliers

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and The Tipping Point, released his new book yesterday entitled Outliers. Gladwell has a knack for looking at what lies beneath phenomenas and his latest book takes us on yet another journey into what appears to be so, questioning all the way.

What makes someone successful? That's the question Gladwell tackles this time around. Society seems to commonly believe in meritocracy, the idea that successful people come to their success by innate talent and a great deal of sacrifice and hard work. Outliers takes this assumption and turns it on its head. His findings are interesting and eye-opening.

For me, this is exciting reading. Seeing as I believe that our quality of life is based on the questions we ask, I am always intrigued when someone questions the status quo view of something and wonders, "Is this really so?" Gladwell proposes that there is more to success than just hard work and that luck, opportunity and timing play a greater role in success than we might think.

So, have a read and let me in on your thoughts.

tall penguin

Friday, November 7, 2008

Kudos to Mom...

So, it might seem from my ranting that there was nothing good about my mother's parenting. Not true. Here's a list of things my mother did that I remember fondly:

1. If I had a friend to our home for a sleepover, Mom would make me us a munchie tray and put it in the fridge before she went to bed so we could wake up in the middle of the night and have snacks.
2. My Mom attended almost every one of my school trips, events and parent/teacher interviews.
3. She took us shopping and modeled for me how to get the best deals on good quality products.
4. She showed me that money can be stretched pretty far with a little creativity and faith. (Did I say faith? You didn't see that. Move along.)
5. She showed me how to be generous with people; with my time, my energy, my love and my money.

Of course, if I wanted to, I'm sure I could make a case to show how all of these things were taken to the extreme or of questionable motive. But that's the great craziness of life isn't it...we can spin the story any way we want to. We can see things through any filter we choose. When it comes down to it, I may not ever know why my mother did the things she did or made the choices she made. I can speculate, extrapolate, interpolate and all manner of other 'ates' but the reality is, who knows why anyone does anything? And, does it really matter anyhow?

tall penguin

Monday, November 3, 2008

To wonder...

Life makes hypocrites of us all. In the past year, I have done a number of things that I once judged others for. I've gotten drunk, gotten high, smoked, engaged in casual sex, gossiped, lied, paid my bills late, said hurtful things and done hurtful things. I have also loved more deeply, spoken more honestly, experienced deeper joy and been more present than at any other time in my life.

My mind still judges quite a bit. Old habits die hard. The difference now though is that I do my best to inquire rather than to state. Even when I write here, there is a mental question mark where you see a period. Life has become a series of wonderings for me. A long list of questions to which I hope I will never have the answers. It is the journey that excites me. I've often said that I now treat my life like a great sociological experiment. I play with situations. What happens if I do this? What will be the reaction if I say this? If I do this differently than I've ever done it before, what will happen next?

At the end of my day, I sit with all that has occurred. I watch it replay like a movie. There are moments of That was interesting or Didn't see that coming or Yup, just as I predicted. There is a knowing deep down that none of it really matters in the end and that it's part of the great mystery of life why anything happens at all. So I play. And I wonder. And I hope that when the final replay of my life occurs, my last breath will be a deep belly laugh. Oh my, what a ride.

tall penguin

For Elessa...


I hope you see this. Wherever you are in the world, please find your way to a bookstore (in person or online) and get yourself a copy of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. It's the story of a china rabbit who learns about love. This book speaks to me and I know it will speak to you.

Love,
tall penguin

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Conflict Not So Scary Anymore...

I used to be completely afraid of conflict. I used to hold back what I was thinking or feeling in case someone would disagree with me. I used to believe that my ideas were who I was. Not so anymore. In recent posts, I've been sharing more of the meanderings of my mind in their raw state. And the reactions have been interesting. People are disagreeing with me. And it's okay. When I feel like clarifying a point, I clarify. But there isn't this need anymore to defend in the sense of my needing to be right, as if my identity hinged on everyone seeing my point of view (a cult throwback I'm sure). I'm actually enjoying just having you all engage in the discussion with me.

This has been a huge fear for me to face. One that I think is instrumental in my growth as a human being. I'm willing to be wrong. Everything that comes out of my mind is up for question. If you suspect bullshit, please, call me on it. It's all good. Just realize that the reverse is also true. It's called open dialogue. What a novel idea. Thank you all for being willing to engage with me here. I learn so much from you all every day.

tall penguin

Scene From The Bookstore...

Lady customer approaches me:

"Do you have any books on puberty?" she asks.

"Yes, we do. Is it for your daughter?" I ask, motioning to the girl at her side.

"Yes."

"How old is she?" I ask.

"She's 8 but she's already started growin' tits," the mother says.

Woah. Did she just say that? Yup, she did. She just called her daughter's beautiful, budding breasts tits.

Not much more to say on this. Just another day mixin' it up with humanity.

tall penguin

Tagged...

CyberLizard tagged me to write six random things about myself as part of a "blog meme". It's sort of a blog chain letter. In usual tall penguin fashion, I'm not going to follow the rules by tagging six others to continue the meme, but I did want to do the exercise. Curious myself to see what comes out of it.

So, here we go...six random things about myself that you don't already know:

1. I order Creme Brulee in restaurants because I enjoy cracking the caramelized sugar on top. Yes, I am Amelie.
2. I still have one of the original Care Bears from back in the 80's. Well-loved, well-worn. Which one you ask? Bedtime Bear, of course.
3. I have a love/hate relationship with cats. Basically, I love to hate them. Yes, yes, I know...I'm supposed to love all of God's furry creatures, but alas I do not. And we could go into all kinds of psychoanalysis as to why this is. It could be because our first family pet was a neurotic cat named Ginger. It could be because I reject my own feline nature. It could be because I've only ever met one cat I respected (Sasha, you ROCK!). Whatever the reasons, I am not a fan of the cat's work. Ironically, I have recently acquired a cat poster from fellow blogger Irregular Tammie, which now graces my bathroom wall. It combines my loathing of cats with my newly found fondness for smoking.
4. I'm secretly beginning to enjoy disagreeing with people. I'm sure this is how wars get started. I'll do my best to use my powers for good and not evil.
5. I'm a counter. I count ceiling tiles, panes of glass, the paintings on my kitchen wall; anything that forms a square, I will count. It's obsessive, not compulsive. I do not think bad things will happen if I don't count, I just count. And related to this, ever since I learned shorthand back in Grade 12 Notetaking class my fingers or tongue automatically spell out every word I see in shorthand.
6. I love the way my body curls, contorts, rises and falls during orgasm. For someone who only experienced her first orgasm at 25, masturbation is now the ultimate journey into self-loving, a connection with the Divine and a deep meditation and exploration of who I really am.

So, there you have it. Just when you thought there was nothing left to learn about the tall penguin.

I leave it to you bloggers out there to tag yourselves if you like. Comment on this entry when you've posted your list and I'll be happy to read it.

tall penguin

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Cult of Another Sort...

Both of my parents are still alive. I have friends however who have lost a parent in death. When I speak to them of the issues I have with my mother, they often tell me how much I'll miss her when she's gone. I don't buy it. They tell me how much they wish they'd tried to make peace with their parent, how much they wish they'd said or did with them before they died. Nope, as far as I'm concerned, I've done and said all I need to do and say with regards to my mother.

I think that when a parent dies, it is not the person we grieve, it is the relationship with them that we never had that we grieve. It is the realization that the relationship we wished and hoped to have with them since we were a small child was never there to be had, that it never will be had, and now, there is nothing left to be done. When I left the Jehovah's Witness cult three years ago, I went through a deep grieving process. I realized that the relationship I had with my mother was based on my staying a JW. Once I left, any bond we had disappeared. I was no longer willing to stay enmeshed in her crazy cult dynamic. The grief I felt was for the mother I never had.

Frankly, as it stands right now, if my mother died tomorrow, I would grieve for the life she never lead, for the children she never saw, for the joy she could have experienced. But I will not grieve that she is no longer here, no longer part of my life. I have done that grieving. In fact, I would feel relieved that the ties that bind are freed and that maybe, just maybe, my brother, my father and I could have some semblance of normalcy before my father passes on. But life is a pain in the ass...I'm sure my father will die first (men usually do) and my brother and I will be left with this woman called mother.

We put parents on a pedestal, like their choice to unite an egg and a sperm was some altruistic decision based in love and awareness. And for the rest of our lives, we excuse all manner of behavior based on these illusions of what we owe them for the sacrifices they've made on our behalf. It's bullshit. It's all bullshit. If I met my mother in any other context, there's no chance in hell I'd let her be part of my life. Yet somehow, this word mother confers upon her a "get-out-of-jail-free" card. Why? Why should she be treated differently than any other human being I interact with? I would not accept this type of treatment from anyone else, yet somehow I've been socialized and programmed to think it's okay. It's crap. I grew up in two cults: the JW's and the cult of the mother. The former was much easier to deprogram than the latter. What a mindfuck.

Edited to add: I think the bearing of children is the greatest ego-trap of our time. What makes anyone think that adding their genetic code and their particular parenting style to another living being is going to bring anything good to this planet? With a world filled with unwanted children, crap parenting, war, strife and other reflections of a demented collective consciousness, what makes someone think that their adding another soul to the morass is a good thing?

tall penguin

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Brokenhearted

The heart breaks and breaks
and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go
through dark and deeper dark
and not to turn.
~~from "The Testing-Tree" by Stanley Kunitz

I have learned from love. And I have learned from heartbreak. Both are good teachers. I'm beginning to see that one opens the way for the other. Each time my heart is broken, it opens. More space is created for love to enter and flow through me. Doesn't mean it doesn't hurt like a son of a bitch though.

tall penguin

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This Epiphanous Moment is Brought to you by the Letter "A"

I had another epiphanous moment last night. That moment where life becomes so completely clear and the threads lay out plain and you see the tapestry that every little yarn has weaved. And I laughed, hysterically. It's funny. Life is funny.

And the other thing I learned last night is that I am ever expanding in my ability to love, or rather channel love. We are all love. Most of us just don't know it yet. I know it. And it's pretty fucking cool.

And the other thing I learned last night, beside the other thing I learned last night, is that my sense of intuition is a strong and powerful force. Why did I ever doubt it?

There are things percolating in my universe. Things beyond my wildest imagination. I am going to have everything I've dreamed of in this life. I just know it. I knew it. But now I know that I know it.

Oh, and my body has officially decided that it's only sleeping every other night. And it's okay. It's all okay. I've come to accept this body and go with its flow. It's doing its body thing. The less I fight it, the more it loves me. Funny that. I think life is like that too. Fight less. Love more. Easy. Easy.

tall penguin

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Communication Anguish

I sometimes go back and read through this blog from beginning to end. Often my thought is, "Wow, there's some pretty good stuff here." Other times I think, "What the fuck am I talking about?" I have a tendency to anguish over communication, not knowing whether to say something or not. Is it the right time? The right place? The right words? Is what I'm saying true or am I weaving some bullshit story?

I have been attempting to take a "let it stand" approach to my life these days. I am doing my best to say what I need to say and then let it go, even when I see it's misunderstood or it's being reacted to in a way I didn't anticipate. We're all caught up in these stories in our minds of what we think we've just heard. We assume, make judgments, become afraid, pull away, draw close, shut down, get angry, become sad. Words. Letters. Sounds. They're just blips. Why do we take it all so seriously?

tall penguin

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What are you doing now?

So, I went to my High School Reunion. Well, it wasn't really a reunion so much as the 30th Anniversary of the school's opening. There were folks there from across the last thirty years. Only about a half dozen of them were from my time at the school. I was able to connect with a few of my old teachers though and that was cool.

What struck me though, more than going down memory lane at my old high school, was the walk to and from the building. I got off the bus early so I could take the stroll to school as I had so many times as a teen. I was struck by the beautiful trees that lined my route to school. Their fall colors washed that back-to-school feeling right through me. I stopped along the way and picked a few leaves to commemorate the journey.

After the reunion events, I walked back the same way and recalled that these trees were about the same age as I was. They had been planted when the development opened and my family moved in shortly after I was born. 34 year-old me. 34 year-old trees. Cool.

Reunions bring out one question in every interaction, "What are you doing now?" It's a silly question. As if the last 17 years can be encapsulated in your current job description. I ended up saying, "I paint, write and occasionally sell books in a bookstore." But the trees---they had a better answer. As I was walking home, I asked them, "So trees, what are you doing now?" And they said, "The same thing we've always done---we're being trees."

Being. Just being human. That's what I'm doing now.

tall penguin

Friday, October 17, 2008

Badass Goddess?

I blogged about my recent penchant for smoking cigarillos. Well, here I am in my first official smoking photo (right). And I dare say I make this look good. Deena says I look like legendary singer/songwriter/badass Patti Smith (left). Whacha think?

tall penguin

"Short and Shit"

This was how my neuropsychiatrist/sleep specialist described the state of my sleep, as indicated by the last sleep study I had done. Apparently my brain is in a state of hyper-arousal, even while I sleep, which interferes with the ole sleep cycle. Quantity and quality both get affected making my sleep experience "short and shit."

Doc regularly works in the U.S. with war vets suffering from PTSD and says my sleep patterns are similar to theirs. He figures that the traumas this mind/body have dealt with have landed me with a system that is hardwired for hyper-arousal. I've blogged about the sensory overwhelm I often feel while awake and how easily I enter that state of hyper-arousal; it would seem that the brain never quite winds down. Even when I'm sleeping, it's frantically processing both my internal and external environments, leaving me chronically sleep-deprived. It's also likely to be the greatest contributing factor to the chronic Fibromyalgia pain and fatigue. As it turns out, my joke about having an ADD mind in a Chronic Fatigue body is probably pretty accurate. No wonder it has always felt as if I have my foot on the brake and the gas at the same time.

The greatest part of all this? (Aside from getting to try yet another sleep med... cause the last one made me crave all things fried and fatty...geez I may as well have been smoking pot...all I wanted to do was eat...ALL THE TIME. When I wasn't eating, I was thinking about eating. Even when I was eating, I was still thinking about eating. All I could think was "What can I eat next?" Note to the world: At low doses, Remeron will help you sleep, but dammit, when you're awake, you'll eat yourself out of house and home. You've been warned. Okay, I digress.)

The greatest part of all this? Emotionally, I've never felt better in my life. Ya, I'm sleep-deprived. Ya, I experience chronic pain; it's the low-level hum in the background of my life. And ya, I have a sore throat, swollen lymph glands and general fatigue most of the time. But, for the first time in my life, none of these symptoms have me. I'm alive people; not just breathing alive, but alive alive. I want to be here. I want to live. And dammit, I'm having a jolly good time in this crazy thing called life.

As I walked out of the doctor's office and down the street, I found myself laughing out loud and then tears appeared from out of nowhere. I was laughing and smiling and crying, so completely delighted with myself, delighted with life, delighted with the fact that I'm here each day in spite of this mind/body and its particular challenges. I've done pretty damn good with the hand I've been dealt. And for the first time, I was thankful for everything--all of it. It's all okay.

As I was leaving the doc's office, he said, "It's great to see you doing so well." Yup. Me. Doing well. Or rather, me being well. Actually, it's just me being. Finally, just me being me and that being enough. Isn't this what I wished for a year ago? Remember this? I blogged there about what I wanted. My long wish list. Well, at the end, it all came down to:

"I want to know that even if I don’t accomplish any of these things, that I’m okay, that I’m loved and that my life is worth living."

A year. I can't believe it's only been a year since I wrote that. A year of presence. A year of love. A year of life. I have arrived. Everything else from here on out is gravy my friends. And I'm looking forward to every tasty bit of it.

tall penguin

Heart Smile...

The smile that comes from the heart lingers on the lips like the kiss of a lover.

tall penguin

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Connect With the Other...

In my travels through the world of psychotherapy, I once tried Gestalt Therapy. The one thing that has stayed with me from that experience is how often the facilitator would stop my current rant and story-telling and say to me, “Connect with the other," the other being him. With that, I would look into his eyes, breathe and become present again. And suddenly, what I was ranting about seemed of little consequence, or at least could be breathed with. There was something so very poignant about those brief moments of eye contact, and something as equally poignant about how much I would try to avoid them.

I reflect on what connection means, what love means, what relationship means, what it really means to be intimate with another human being. And that is it. It’s seeing the other. To see another, to truly connect with another is so very rare. We can make all sorts of eye contact, but do we really see the other person? Can we see them through the window of our heart, without the story going on in our minds about who this person is or who we think we are?

You know that man I’ve been blogging about—the one I claim to love? It hit me the other day that I am not even consciously aware of what color his eyes are. I’ve had numerous face-to-face conversations with this man and yet can’t even recall ever noticing the color of his eyes. Where have I been? (Edited to add: They're blue. A deep sea blue. I'm going to blame their vast beauty for my lack of awareness in their presence...I know, I know...gag you with a spoon.)

I’ve heard people express that they wake up after twenty years of marriage to a person in their bed they don’t even recognize. And I wonder if they ever saw their mate at all? Do we really see each other? Do we ever truly “connect with the other?”

tall penguin

Let It Stand.

I came home from work last night and read your comments on yesterday’s post and realized that what I was really trying to say didn’t come across. I sat and composed a reply comment to clarify. And then I stopped. I realized how many times in my life I’d began conversations or emails with “What I really wanted to say was…” How often I was afraid of my words being misconstrued, how very often I felt so alone because I thought no one understood me. I stopped. I didn’t post any clarifying comment. I decided to let it stand.

Language is an art form. Like any art, once created, it is left to the interpretation of the receiver. And that interpretation is inevitably shaded by all manner of perceptions. It is what it is. What is true for me now is that these words can never show you who I am. They can never portray the boundlessness of this being. And so, it doesn’t matter what I was trying to say. Nothing matters. And it’s okay.

tall penguin

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sigh...

I've been battling a cold for a week now. I'm PMSing. I feel like simultaneously crying, screaming and putting my fist through a window. And I have to work today because if I don't, the company won't shell out the Stat Holiday pay from our national holiday yesterday (some bullshit about having to work the scheduled shift before and after the holiday).

Getting ready for work, my head clouded with snot, rage and suppressed tears, I turn to my roomie and say, "If I weren't working today, I'd call in sick." Story of my life folks. Story of my life.

tall penguin

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hmm...

I was just reflecting on past relationships and my tendency to enter high-conflict situations. And the related tendency to create conflict, or at least feel drawn to create conflict, when there is peace. Somewhere within my psyche there is a belief system that the best learning comes from conflict. And I look at the world and can't help but think that most of the planet holds the same belief. Scary.

tall penguin

Turkey Time...

There is a twenty-pound dead animal thawing in my fridge. And for the first time in my life, it seems wrong to me.

I even found myself hesitating the other day when the roomie asked me to kill a spider in our apartment. If he's not around, I usually just let them live. Not sure what it all means. It's interesting though.

tall penguin

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Making Peace...

In my last entry, I wrote about feeling intense rage towards a God I don't even believe exists. There is a residue of the God I was raised with, the ideals I attributed towards this personage and my expectations of him. They were all in my mind, of course, as well as the collective conscious of the Jehovah's Witness group I belonged to. It seems strange for me now to be making peace with a God that I don't even believe is real. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that I am making peace with my previous conceptions of the Divine. It is a letting go of any expectations I had of this ideal.

And I think of how often we rage against ideals. How often I have set up my own "gods"--my parents being the prime examples. As children we deify our parents; we give them otherworldly abilities, as well as high expectations. And inevitably, they fall short. How could they not?

I realize that making peace with my parents, with God, with my past, is about healing the illusions, about letting go of what was never real to begin with. It is about allowing the events and people to be just as they are. This happened. That happened. She did this. He did that. If I take out all the emotional overlay about what should have happened or was supposed to happen or what could have happened, all that is left is what is. And what is, is neutral. Without all the emotional overlay and judgment, there is a just a retelling of events. And once you can get to that place, there is peace. The suffering subsides. It becomes just another chapter in the life of.

This blog has been filled with emotional overlay and judgment and what I wish could have happened and feel should have happened. I let it all unfold in real time. I hope it stands as a testimony to the insanity of the mind while it's in process. It has been said that one must tell their story until they don't need to tell their story anymore. I'm getting pretty bored with the story. It's why I haven't written as much of late. Sure, I still get pretty triggered up at times. And there is always something lurking in the subconscious waiting to be processed. But it matters less and less to me. It passes through me much easier and faster now. There is a greater and greater letting go.

Not much matters. It never did.

tall penguin

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Unrequited...

I have decided to open up a discussion on unrequited love. Well, it's not really a discussion, it's more of a lament. Unrequited love frustrates me so. There is no cut so deep, so real, so raw as the realization that an object of affection does not feel affection in return.

I remember once touring a museum which had on display a number of ancient torture devices. One consisted of a colander-like contraption which would be strapped over the victim's chest. A rat would be trapped under the device where its only means of escape would be to chew a hole through the victim's heart. It would be a slow, painful death both physically and psychologically as the victim watched the rat gnaw its way to freedom. Yup, I understand.

And yet the irony, (as my friend A decided to point out) is that the longing for the one we love is what drives great things. As I have discussed before, much of my art comes from this deep sense of wonder, the longing for what might be. I dare say unrequited love has been the basis for most great art across history.

And I wonder where it all stems from. I don't think we ever quite get over the original wounding of the loss of a parent's love. Somewhere along the neural pathway, abandonment creates such a deep yearning within us, an unquenchable thirst which we seek out in the most unavailable of partners. We pour salt on that first wound over and over again. And oddly enough, we reject those that are available to love us openly and truly. There is this theme of wanting what we can't have, a striving for the unreachable.

These recent brushes with unrequited love have raised to mind some outstanding issues I have with the God of my youth, the JW version of God I was raised with. I recall again and again having my choice of loves dissected, first by my mother, then by cult elders. "God wouldn't want you to love that person. He's not one of us, " or he'd be a JW but there was still something unacceptable about him--not tall enough, old enough, mature enough, good-looking enough. Yes, apparently God always knew better. He had a pretty narrow mind for what constituted an acceptable partner, but I was supposed to accept His judgment over my own every time.

Last week, when the rat of unrequitedness began chewing his way through my bare flesh, I found myself cursing God, a God I don't even believe exists. I was shouting at the sky: "Damn you! Why can't you just give me what I want?!" I cried for all the times my wants were substituted by someone else's; for every desire that was deemed inappropriate by "God", by the cult, by my mother; for every time I was diverted from going after something I wanted because someone, somewhere decided they knew better than I did. I cursed the heavens. I cursed every man who didn't love me. I cursed my mother for not seeing me then, for not seeing me now. I cursed myself for every breath I held believing that there was someone out there that gave a damn. And I cursed my foolish, foolish heart for loving again and again, knowing full well the rat lurks behind every ounce of longing. I cursed until they was nothing left to curse.

*****************

Today, the sun is shining in the sky. I still love the man that does not love me. (What good is love if it exists only when it is returned?)

The rat has found his way through my heart.

A sunbeam streams through the hole.

tall penguin

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Subway Connection...

Sometimes the deepest connections I experience are with strangers on the subway. There is this realization that we don't know each other, we'll probably never meet again, so there is only this moment. And all we have is eye contact. We know that words will suffice to say anything in such a short time. We know that this silent witnessing of the other is a divine gift. So we stare intently. We gaze into the truth of the other. And what do we find? We find ourselves looking back.

tall penguin

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Awe...

"The miracle of life waiting in the heart of a seed cannot be proved at once."
~~Kabir

I am learning to wait. I blogged about my issues around waiting, and how often my waiting has been frustrating and to no avail. You may also recall me telling you about the healer lady who told me that I've been a very good sperm in my life, going after things, but that I needed to learn to be the egg, to learn to wait for things to come to me. Well, I'm learning. And guess what? Amazing things are happening.

I have some general intentions for what I want to see happen in my life, but they are more about what I want to feel, experience, the kind of people I want to be around; more than a laundry list of things to accomplish before I leave this life. It is much more gestalt than concrete. I am trusting life to unfold the details. I am astounded at life's little miracles. I am in awe at how things can come together with very little effort on my part and how when I'm trying to make things happen, they often backfire, cause me or others pain, or just generally leave me feeling empty. I am learning to continually clear the space in my mind and heart for the dreams I have to come to fruition.


“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
~~ Rumi

I am in awe of this life. Complete and total awe.

tall penguin

The Divine Feminine

Growing up, I had a love/hate relationship with the feminine. But mostly, it was hate. I knew few women that I could relate to, let alone admire. Of course, my almost-loathing for the feminine was a reflection of a deep loathing for myself. It is only in the past couple of years that I have reclaimed what it means to be female and to see the value in the feminine. I have been blessed with women in my life who I admire and respect and deeply love; the foremost of these women is me.

Of late, I have gravitated towards books about spiritual women, wanting to see what the female experience of "enlightenment" looks like. I blogged about this here. I just finished reading Rita Marie Robinson's book "Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Wisdom: The Feminine Face of Awakening". This book was incredible to read. I found myself nodding a lot as well as smiling and laughing out loud, crying and otherwise responding with a silent yes! Finally, women I could relate to. Women I could respect. Women I could aspire to. Women just like me.

I was browsing recently through a second-hand bookstore. I often choose books intuitively. I will scan book spines until one appears to jump off the shelf. And then I'll read the back, smile and take the book home, knowing it was meant for me to read at that moment. One such book is "The Feminine Face of God: The Unfolding of the Sacred In Women" by Sherry Ruth Anderson and Patricia Hopkins. This book, written, in 1991, chronicles the journey of many women as they define for themselves what spirituality and the divine mean. It is an inspiring look at the sacred feminine in everyday life.

Again, I feel as if I'm being given a profound gift through this book. The gift of spending time looking into the lives of women whose experience mirrors my own. I feel at times these women are sitting in my kitchen discussing life over a cup of tea. And we look into each others eyes knowingly with a silent yes streaming from our hearts. As with my naming ceremony this past weekend, I feel a coming home occurring, as if I am sinking into my own skin, feeling oh so content to be here, to be a women, to be me.

This one quote from a woman interviewed for the book struck me:

""I felt I wasn't very far along," a former student of Tibetan Buddhism told us, as she described leaving the teacher she revered. "I felt I never would get anywhere on my own. But then something arose in me, a trust that something in my life itself was the teacher. And I thought, 'It isn't a tradition that's going to get me where I need to go. And I don't have to become a nun or live in a cloister either. There is a gnosis, a direct inner knowing, that is driving me. It's not somebody else's tradition now; it's mine, and I have to follow it.""

I have blogged often and much about the ongoing experiment I call my life. And this is how I live now, with this direct inner knowing, this sense that I must lead my own path, that I will not rely on anyone ever again to direct my life, that it is mine and mine alone. I remember a moment last summer where I sent out a wish into the ether. I asked to be able to experience life directly. I was no longer content with thinking about life or writing about life or analyzing it from the north shore, I wanted to get into life directly and feel it without restriction. And life has obliged my wish. It is raw. It is mucky. And it is altogether wonderful.

tall penguin

Monday, September 29, 2008

Naming Ceremony...

This past Saturday, September 27th, I officially moved in to my new first name, "Anya". Having been born the first time around near sunset, I wanted my second arrival into the world to be at the beginning of the day. So it was decided that I would hold my naming ceremony at 7:01 a.m. as the sun rose. As the fates would have it (fate often has other ideas), Saturday turned out to be an overcast, drizzly day. But it didn't matter. I was up with the sun to commemorate my new beginning.

My brother, and two of my closest goddess girlfriends, Ganga and Deena, gathered with me and my chaplain friend, Milton, on the beach. I took a moment of solitude before we began the ceremony. I sat on the rocks, waves crashing at my feet, and faced east towards the rising sun. I pondered the journey my former name had given me, what I'd learned through it and thanked it for its support. My mind flashed with memories of places I'd been, people I'd known, all that the past signified. I gave it over to the Divine asking that space be created around all that was, so that it could still inform my future without hindering it. It was a letting go into the great mystery of life, allowing that which will be to unfold as it will.

I walked back along the beach to my friends, who were lighting candles in an enclosure. A blanket was spread out on the ground, kept from blowing in the wind by rocks tacked down at all four corners. We formed a circle. Ganga began the ceremony by leading us in the chanting of three OMs, thought to be the primordial sound of the universe, followed by three Shantis.

My friend, Milton, the chaplain, then lead the ceremony with these words:

"'I call on all who stand in witness of this ceremony to honour the sacred sound bound to this person’s name, to foster the dream bound within it and nurture the colours revealed in it’s sound. I give into your care the name Anya. We dedicate ourselves to her nurture, may she ever walk in gentleness, peace and love.' (Song of the Circle)

We are gathered here today to celebrate not only a new name for this person, our sister, our friend, but we do so surrounded by the four elements that bring life to us – and are the foundation for a new beginning. We stand on the warm, soft earth that gives us stability, we breathe in the clean air that brings clarity of mind, we stand beside the rolling waters that give us adaptability, and we share the warmth of the fire from the sun that activates our intuition. We stand here together surrounded by these gifts to honor one more gift, our kinship and friendship with Anya – and to offer her the gift of our support as her brother and friends.

For what is in a name? . . . It is the embodiment of the person who carries it. When we say the name, the person comes to mind. It is not just the person though – it is who she is, what she cares about, what makes her laugh and what makes her sad, how she has helped us through our lives, and how we have helped her, all the times and emotions and words we have shared. It brings to our minds – this is what she believes, this is what she does, this is how she looks. So simple is a name – yet so complex, for once known – simply saying it – even thinking it - brings to our minds all the delights and joys and happiness of knowing who carries that name.

We are here to be part of re-naming you – you are now known to us and to all the world as Anya –a special name chosen by you. Be proud of your name and make it proud of you.

A new name is born, a life is changed, the first step taken on a new path. We are here not only to witness this happening, but to pledge our support and love to she who carries it in her mind, in her heart, in her spirit. We are to honor this special person in our lives – our Anya. Do you all so agree and pledge to do so?"

My friends supported their pledge with a resounding YES! I cannot even put into words what it felt like to look around this circle of ones so dear to me and know that they've seen me through so much in this life and held a sacred love for me, so deep, so real, so pure. The greatest and most profound gift I received during this naming ceremony was the gift of being seen. As I locked eyes with each of my friends and my brother, I was struck by the awesomeness of the connection we share; the deep, penetrating unconditional love and support we give to each other and the vision we hold to be the greatest grandest versions of ourselves. Tears of joy slipped down my cheeks.

Next, I took three crystals and gave one each to my brother, Ganga and Deena. I asked them to infuse these crystals with the essence of who they are and when ready, to return the crystal to my waiting hand along with a pronouncement of their wish for me this day. They each did this in turn, folding the crystal in my palm with their intentions for the new Anya. As a symbol of moving forward with my new name and carrying these three souls and their gifts to me wherever I go, I closed my hand around the crystals and stepped over a line on the ground declaring "I am ANYA!" At this point, I was all smiles and felt my heart do a little dance.

I then read the following poem by Rabindranath Tagore, one of my favorite Indian poets. This is my prayer to the Divine as I move into this new life:

“Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not. Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own. Thou hast brought the distant near and made a brother of the stranger.

I am uneasy at heart when I have to leave my accustomed shelter; I forget that there abides the old in the new, and that there also thou abidest.

Through birth and death, in this world or in others, wherever thou leadest me it is thou, the same, the one companion of my endless life who ever linkest my heart with bonds of joy to the unfamiliar.

When one knows thee, then alien there is none, then no door is shut. Oh, grant me my prayer that I may never lose the bliss of the touch of the one in the play of the many.”

The chaplain closed the ceremony with a Light Invocation where we bathed ourselves in Divine Light. I felt lifted, inspired and loved.

Afterwards, we sat on the blanket and listened to Ganga sing in her beautiful angel voice songs of power, songs of bliss, songs of enlightenment. She sang one of my favorites, "The Butterfly Song", whose chorus echoed through my mind and heart the rest of the day:

"Fly high, fly high like a butterfly
You were meant to spread your wings.
Fly high, fly high in your heart, in your mind
You were meant for greater things."


I then took to the beach and danced around while Ganga sang some more. We took pictures. We laughed. We cried. It was wonderful. And although the sun never made an appearance, my heart was alight with the radiance of love.

Milton asked me to choose a Memory Stone from the beach to keep as a memento of the ceremony. He also chose one.


It had always been a dream of mine to wear a sari. On my last birthday, I was given some beautiful silk sari fabric by Deena and my brother. It seemed only fitting that I would have this fabric made into a sari for my naming day. And so it was. I ventured down to Little India in my city and had a sari tailored for my special day. Deena learned from the Indian shopkeeper, a friendly lady now affectionately known as Auntie, how to wrap the sari for me. We bought bangles, earrings, a bindi and some mehndi and put me together for the evening.

Saturday evening, I donned my sari and stopped in at the bookstore where I work, before heading to Little India for dinner. That little bookstore has had a profound influence on my life, in ways I don't think I'll ever even fully comprehend. Everyone at my ceremony, with the exception of my brother, I had met through that bookstore. Deena was a co-worker. Milton and Ganga were once customers. Ganga is now my co-worker at the bookstore. My dear manager, Shahadat, who is like a father to me, declared me "Indian Barbie." I felt like a princess.

There is more to this story (isn't there always?). There were so many serendipitous occurrences, things that came together for this ceremony so beautifully and divinely. But they are best told over tea. Words on a page sometimes just can't express the full range of an experience.

Thank you all for sharing in this day. I have carried you all with me with each breath. Namaste.

tall penguin

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Professional Dabbler

I've been doing plenty of painting lately and not so much writing. I'm still journaling but not doing so much of the kind of writing I've done on the blog over the past couple of years. I don't know why. It is what it is.

I'm really enjoying painting. There's something very visceral about the feel of the paint sliding across the canvas, much like my love for the glide of a medium point Papermate pen across newsprint. It's almost sexy.

Right now, the greatest joy in painting is the exploration of color. I find myself smudging, smearing, mixing, blending, and otherwise making a mess of various colors to see what they do together, much like a child finger painting to get a feel for what the medium can do.

The backsplash over my kitchen sink is now dotted with a rainbow of paint smatters, which I'm sure my landlord will not appreciate when I move out, but I figure it's all fair considering the squirrel incidents and the lack of squirrel-proof window screen in my humble abode. I also now have a kitchen wall full of artwork from myself and my friends. It looks like a Kindergarten classroom and I love it.

Creation is an interesting thing to watch unfold. Working with paint feels different than working with words. Words feel very concrete, like there's only so much you can evoke from a string of letters. Paint feels like it has this depth of emotion that gives me an opportunity to get to layers of feeling that I often can't access with language.

I think there's also the benefit of my allowing myself to be a "beginner" with these visual arts. Not considering myself an artist allows me to create art. Once I think I'm supposed to know what I'm doing, creativity falls by the wayside. Funny how that works. I like being a novice. I like dipping my hands into new things. I've spent so much of my life starting over after major change. I guess I've developed a pretty strong inclination to starting fresh again and again. Perhaps Jack-of-all-trades will be my claim to fame. Nah, I'm going to call myself a Professional Dabbler. I like that.

tall penguin

Friday, September 19, 2008

Go Ask Alice

The sun woke her as it beamed across her face. Autumn, just around the corner, had not yet made its full glory known. While the nights were cool, the days still felt balmy. She laid there squinting. The image of a man appeared through the glare. She could not make out his face but she knew he was smiling. He offered her a flower, which she clutched to her chest. She breathed it in. Nothing. It smelled like silence.

The man drifted back into the sunlight. Now, there was sound filling her. The steady beat of a familiar melody. It rattled around her soul like a fly trapped in a jar. "Remember what the dormouse said."

tall penguin

Friday, September 12, 2008

On Suicide...

I have had suicidal thoughts through most of my life. I don't even know how the idea of suicide as an option first entered my consciousness. I recall watching my mother worry over my older brother's teenage depression, concerned that he would one day take his life. My experience with my first boyfriend, who I met when I was 14, plunged me very viscerally into the world of suicidal thoughts. I remember many late night phone calls. “I’m going to kill myself tonight,” I would hear coming through the receiver. I would spend the next four years with the worry and sense of responsibility I felt to keep him alive.

After that period of my life, suicide became kind of a default setting in my brain. It was always on the table as an option when the going got tough. Perhaps it goes back even further to hearing my mother utter these words almost daily, “I just can’t take anymore.” She always seemed to teeter just on the edge of this life, one foot in, one foot out.

At the age of 19, I got married. I recall doing the suicide dance with my husband on more than one occasion. I would lock myself in the bathroom with a bottle of pills threatening to overdose. Looking back, I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t know how to live. I didn’t have the skills to deal with the stress I was feeling, nor the words to ask for the help I really needed. These suicidal gestures were the actions of a five-year-old packing up all her belongings and stating to her parents that she’s leaving home. I was that child for a very long time.

Some time in the past couple of years the nature of the suicidal thoughts changed, as did the depression that precipitated them. Rather than being hooked into any one event, there was a malingering existential angst clouding my world vision, a desire for death coming from the deep question of life, “Who am I?” I would look around at the life I had once called mine and wondered “How the fuck did I get here?” And by extension, “How the hell did any of us get here?” I would flip on the news and sink into a core knowing that humanity was in deep trouble, that this world we’d created while basking in our own glory was sheer madness. I longed for death to escape from my part in the collective insanity. I would spend days in bed not wanting to contribute any further lunacy to the morass, attempting to sort out who this “I” was and how she could move about life in an authentic way.

These suicidal tendencies I encourage. These wonderings and musings I respect. Where I used to think, “Why are so many people suicidal?” now I say, “Why aren’t more people suicidal?” Why aren’t more people waking up to the illusion we’ve collectively rested our laurels on? Why aren’t more people questioning the status quo? Dammit, why aren’t more people wondering how to leave the Matrix?

Last summer, when I hit the darkest point of my young life, I thought about death daily. For the first time, it wasn’t about escape. It was about finding truth, finding something real within my soul that had become saturated by an illusory existence. Almost everything I had held up as “me” was gone. There was pain. There was suffering. The ache in my heart went on for miles. I could have forged a river around the planet with my tears. I holed up in my apartment and really felt what I’d been running from my whole life. Grief, disappointment, anger, rage, despair—suffering in spades. The details of the story became meaningless. It didn’t matter who did what, or to whom or when. It was just this intense, raw emotion rising its way up through the core. And it was real. Finally, something real.

Almost a year ago, I hit a turning point, a fork in the existential road, where I made a conscious choice to live, to choose life every day and do my best with it. Over the past year, I have sunk deeper and deeper into the knowing of this moment as the only moment there is. There has been an unfolding into who I really am, a still place that we all share. And it is enough. Finally, it is enough.

tall penguin

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Some Photos...

I've been wading through my Iphoto and cleaning up shop. I've whittled down 6000+ photos to just under 3000 and there's still more letting go to be done. I wanted to share a few photos with you. Doesn't matter when and where they were taken, I just like them.

tall penguin




Creative Chaos...

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
~Thomas Mann


So, I haven't forgotten about the book, you know, that thing I keep talking about writing. It takes up a fair bit of my conscious meanderings. It is also producing an inordinate amount of gastric acid in my stomach these days, as I attempt to figure out how to birth the damn thing. I stumbled across this site recently and have sent the woman an email asking about fees, process, etc. I just realize how completely in over my head I am, how completely overwhelmed and inept I feel. I know if this thing is gonna be born, I'm going to need some help. We'll see where this leads.

Ever since I decided to call myself a writer, the writing has come slower and with much more agony. In a state of complete block and frustration today around not feeling able to write, I decided to get out my art supplies and paint. I don't consider myself a painter and so I can paint quite easily. I can churn out all kinds of stuff, some of it might even be considered good, but that doesn't matter to me. I'm not a painter.

Ahh...but the writing. Yes, the writing. The writing confounds me. I am a writer. So why can't I write goddammit? Once I put a label on who I'm supposed to be, my body seems to do a little shut-down. Who am I to think I'm a
writer? Who am I to think I'm anything in particular at all? And what is this writer beast anyway? What does it mean to be a writer? I write. But so do most people on the planet. I hate these labels. I hate these boxes. I'm not a writer. I'm just a girl who occasionally puts her pen on the page and stuff comes out.

So I painted, and apparently, as you can see from today's entries, giving myself permission to not write has allowed me to write. It's bizarre the little dances we do with the mind, how we can shift its focus and voila, the longed for thing arises out of the ether. No wonder so many artists smoke, drink and are notably a bit disturbed. The creative process is a complete pain in the ass.

tall penguin

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Playing with Fire...

I used to be afraid of fire. A pyrophobe was I. I've always seen it as a metaphor for being afraid of my own anger, my own internal fire. As I embrace joy, I am also learning to embrace rage and oddly enough, my fear of fire is dissipating.

I have spoken here about my experiences smoking pot. When I first started, I couldn't light my own joint. I was too afraid of the fire. I would have to rely on a friend to light it for me. This past Spring I bought my first little glass pipe, and graduated into using a BBQ lighter to light up. It kept the flame far enough away from my fingers to make me feel safe using it.

Today, I ventured into new territory. I bought my first lighter and played with it until I could light my own cigarillo (did I tell you I've fallen in love with cigarillos?). I only burnt myself once and can now get the damn thing to light within five tries. And every time I succeed, I do a little dance of joy...Wahoo, I've created fire!

So, cigarillos. I've acquired a taste for Captain Black Sweets. I don't smoke them often but when I do, I quite enjoy them. There's something very powerful about smoking that I never understood before. It's a sort of fire-breathing-dragon-I-don't-give-a-fuck-what-you-think-of-me kind of thing. It almost feels as though I'm giving a fire-tipped flip of the bird to everyone I see. I wonder if this is what people get addicted to. Maybe it's not just the nicotine. Maybe it goes deeper than that.


An amazing thing starts to happen in one's life when you realize that you're not the story your mind weaves. You suddenly realize that you can go out each day and make up your own story, that you can play with life in a way you never did before, and that so many of the things you judged others for (like smoking) can be fun in moderation. That it just is what it is. No more, no less. I like living life one moment at a time. It's really made every little bit of it so very precious.

tall penguin

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Actions vs. Words

It has been said that actions speak louder than words. I think one of the first and greatest mindfucks we receive as children is the realization that the adults around us often say one thing and do another. The cognitive dissonance created by the "Do as I say, not as I do" modeling of our parents, authority figures and other mentors of our early life leaves patterning that is not easily undone.

I recall, as a child, being very aware of the gap between what I saw adults do and the words they spoke. It was confusing and frustrating. Inevitably, I learned the lesson well. I suspended my intuition about what I saw, instead choosing to believe words. And I would suspect that this is where my deep loathing for language arose. I could neither master how to hide behind my words, as the adults around me did, nor could I figure out how to speak my truth and match it with action.

Of late I have watched this pattern unfold around me, feeling its effects quite acutely. I sit back and watch adults, including myself, say one thing and do another. It is maddening. And I wonder what it takes to be honest with each other. Perhaps it first requires us to be honest with ourselves. We have become so used to using language to mask who we really are, hiding behind words as if our very lives depended on it, that we now believe our own rhetoric.

I believe it was Maya Angelou who said, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them." Yes, I'm learning this. Painfully, yet gratefully.

tall penguin

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Taking It Back...

Well behaved women rarely make history.
~~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich


I went into a Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall yesterday. My old Kingdom Hall. The one where I was last a JW. The one my parents still attend. Wait, let me back up this story a bit.

So, I have a history of peacemaking at my own expense. In the past I allowed people to stomp on my boundaries. Well, that was then, this is now. A series of events has transpired in recent weeks, well I'm sure it's actually a case of years. And the proverbial straw broke this penguin's back. My initial response was to do the letting it go thing, to "take the high road", to rise above it. I noticed my right eye started twitching. And I knew my body was speaking what was really going on in my unconscious. The twitching eye is my particular sign for repressed rage. It remembered how often I let things go. Abuses. Boundary violations. Bullshit. How often I'd pushed down quite justified rage with the love band-aid. But the wound still stank. And I knew it.

I woke up yesterday morning, my eye twitching, and a heat running through the core of my body. And I decided to spend the day with the rage and let it all come to the surface, allow it to work its way through me, rather than stuff it down. I had previously made plans to spend a few days off at my brother's place while he's out of town. My brother lives right in the heart of my old JW territory. The bus I take to get to his place goes right by the old Kingdom Hall I attended.

As I'm riding the subway toward my brother's home, I allow the rage to well up. I do my best to just watch it, letting go of any particular story as to why I was angry. I just let it come up and felt it to the core.

I transfered from the subway over to the bus platform. As I'm sitting there, up walks an older JW elder from my last congregation, along with his wife, who recognizes me, although she can't recall my name. I tell her who I am. She asks how I am, says it's been so long since they've seen me at the Kingdom Hall. I say, "Yes, it's been three years."

Her husband avoids eye contact with me and I get the impression he's not too pleased that his wife is continuing to speak to me. Shunning is the protocol for an "apostate", the label I have been given by the JW dogma, and oddly, his wife is not complying. But he does respond with a quick "fine" when I ask him how he's been.

Wifey proceeds to ask questions about how my life is going...are you working? are you getting married? do you still talk to your parents...cuz you know it doesn't matter how old you get, they still gave you life and you should not forget that. (At this point, I want to tell her that the only strain on my relationship with my parents is the tenets of her mindfuck of a cult, but I instead ignore her comment and say I contact my parents when I like.)

The conversation ends, I wish them well and we get on the bus. A few stops down the road they get off in front of the old Kingdom Hall. I look at my watch. It's approaching their Sunday meeting time. Hmm...

I make my way to my brother's place, drop off my things and turn right back out the door and start walking towards the Kingdom Hall. For the past three years, I've cringed every time I saw that building. A mix of grief, self-pity and plain disgust kept me from ever wanting to step foot in that place again. Frankly, it scared me. But today was different. I'm different. And I had rage on my side, propelling my feet along the street at a feverish pace.

I arrived at the Hall just before the meeting was to begin. People were still socializing in the main area. I walked into the room and there standing in front of me was my favorite elder, the man who I once looked at as a spiritual father. We exchanged a hello. He said, "Please, find yourself a seat."

I said, "No thank you. I'm just going to stand here."

I looked out through the crowd, a sea of painted smiles, and the room looked so small. The people looked small. Everything looked so small, like when you go back to your grade school and sit at your old desk and wonder how you ever fit in it. I saw the faces of some old friends, who wore smiles of confusion. They weren't sure what to make of my presence there. Of course, I did stick out like a sore thumb, having walked in with my street clothes on. Jeans. Spaghetti strap black tank top. Slicked back hair in a pony tail. Fire engine red lip gloss. Ipod headphones around my neck. Oh, and my skull runners. Their dress code no longer applied to me. And I realized that it never did. None of their dogma did. It only had as much power as I allowed it to have.

I'm standing there, chin up, smiling from ear to ear and a few people, who don't know me, start love-bombing the newbie.

"Oh, I'm J, what's your name?"

"Anya."

"Oh, that's such a pretty name. What background is that?"

I tell him it has a meaning in Sanskrit and Russian.

"Oh and is this your first time here?"

I laugh. "No, I've been here a few times before."

By this time, there is growing concern on a few of the faces of those looking on. I'm sure they want to leap in and protect these unsuspecting souls from speaking to an apostate, afraid that they'll be tainted by sheer eye contact with the Devil's pawn. As I stand there being love-bombed it strikes me that if these people knew I'd left the faith, they would do an about- face and begin shunning me as everyone else there was.

I excuse myself from the cordialities and turn back to my fave elder. I look him in the eye and say, "L, you are a good man. You've always been a good man...and it has nothing to do with this place," I say motioning my arm across the room. "It's just who you are."

He looks at me and then puts his head down. He says nothing.

I then make my way downstairs to look at the smaller meeting rooms where I took the children when they got bored or restless or needed to sleep, the bathrooms where I cried many a meeting alone and finally the library which was used for elder's meetings and closed door interrogation processes that I had at times been a part of, always as the one being interrogated, of course. And again, I was struck by how small the room was. And I could see these men, these "men of God" sitting around this table, feeling that they had the right to every detail of my private life. And I laughed and I swore and I took my power from every one of them, realizing that they'd only had that power because I gave it to them to begin with. And I vowed never to allow another human being to take what didn't belong to them.

As I walked back upstairs, still grinning like an idiot, another of my beloved elders was at the top of the stairs. I said hello. He says, "Would you like to come and take a seat?"

I said, "No thank you. I'm finished here. Take care."

And I left. And I danced down the street and let out a "Hurrah!" It was just a building. It was always just a building. And they were just people. They were always just people. And I laughed at how much time I'd spent over the course of a lifetime worrying what any of these people thought of me. None of it mattered. It never did.

And guess what? My eye stopped twitching.

tall penguin

Friday, August 29, 2008

The L-Word

So, this thing we call LOVE...what the fuck is it? In the dismantling of every belief I've ever held to be true, I find the one I've been most resistant to considering has been the ideas I hold around love. And I have come to realize, as Joni Mitchell so aptly expressed, "It's love's illusions I recall, I really don't know love at all."

Growing up in a cult, you come to see how emotionally charged language can become, how everyday words that have simple meanings for everyone else, have become overlaid with cult doctrine, expectation and emotion. For example, the word "balance", as in "live a balanced life" has come to be associated with hypocrisy. It was what JW's were encouraged to cultivate at every turn, to be "balanced Christians," but the underlying connotation of the word's usage became a vehicle for meaning "Sacrifice everything you can in order to spend more time in the proselytizing work." "Living a balanced life" meant forgoing the simple pleasures of life for more time devoted to the cult. So now, when I hear the word "balance", or the phrases "balanced life", "balanced diet", etc. my body does a little cringe and I have to remind myself or ask what the speaker of this word is actually meaning.

I have found no more highly misunderstood and emotionally charged word than LOVE. More so even than the word GOD. You tell someone you love them and you never know quite how the person has received the word. Some people think it's the request for a lifetime commitment in relationship, that you're asking for marriage, the house, the kids and the white picket fence. Others think it's an invitation for sex. Others see a red flag signaling a request to respond in kind. "She said she loves me, now I have to say it." And still others crave whatever they think this love word means, but will run in the direct opposite direction once they hear it uttered. It's just a word. Four little letters. That's all. And yet, we give it so much power.

I use the L-word quite freely. If I'm feeling connected to someone, I say I love them. It is just a response that comes from the deepest part of myself. It's not even something I think too much about until I see the receiver's furrowed brow or question-mark face, wondering how I could use that word. I will sometimes ask what is going on for the person, what the word love means to them when they hear me say it. And sometimes I just let it go, allowing someone to spin in their own story of what they interpret my use of the love word to mean. Humans are an interesting lot. Funny to watch spin they are. Including myself.

I'm not even sure that the L-word truly conveys what I want to say to people when I use it. It is a child's view of the world, to see people through eyes of wonder and laugh and love so freely. Perhaps "I bliss you" or "I see you" or "I love life living through you" would be a better way to phrase it. Or maybe I should just stop using the L-bomb all together and just smile more. (Is it even possible for me to smile more? I smile a whole lot now.)

I don't know about this love stuff. All I know is that I'm here and I think you're all pretty cool.

tall penguin

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Community

“Paradoxically, a group of humans becomes healing and converting only after its members have learned to stop trying to heal and convert. Community is a safe place precisely because no one is attempting to heal or convert you, to fix you, to change you. Instead, the members accept you as you are. You are free to be you. And being so free, you are free to discard defenses, masks, disguises; free to seek your own psychological and spiritual health; free to become your whole and holy self.”
--Scott Peck

Thursday, August 21, 2008

All is well...

Often I do or say something and kick myself later, thinking I could have done or said it in a more aware and loving fashion. But really, without having done it the way I'd done it, would I have had the opportunity to reflect and learn from it and even be aware that there was another way to do it? Makes me think that perhaps there are no mistakes, just what is.

tall penguin

Life...

Life is hilarious. I had just posted my last entry when my msn started blinking. It is a wonderful woman who used to be one of my ESL students many years ago. I met her because one of the women in my former Jehovah's Witness congregation ran a student home for international students. I ended up teaching this woman English and then she expressed an interest in learning about the Bible from me, so I taught her the jw version of things and she was quite interested. When I left the jw's, I had a conversation with her about my leaving and did my fear-based warning thing along with telling her about shunning and how the jw community was now treating me. That was 3 years ago and we've barely spoken much since.

So I see my msn blinking and see this young woman, my former ESL student and jw Bible student, saying hello. And then this:

"Guess what?" she says.

"What?"

"I'm studying Bible."

"Wow...with who?"

"A friend."

She asks me why I stopped believing in the Bible. And I said, "I did research on the history and saw it to be a book of stories...some beautiful stories but still stories. I don't believe that there is any god outside of the god that you already are."

I try to ask if she's studying any particular religion's view of the Bible and she evades the question. Finally, I ask...

"Is your friend a Jehovah's Witness?"

"Yes, she is."

And I smile. I saw this coming. And there was no angst. There was just love. There was this complete acceptance of her journey. She said she wants answers to her questions. I said, "well I would invite you to do some research on both the origins of the bible and the origins of the jehovah's witness movement...not from their books though...the history is not accurate...other than that I wish you well."

And that was it. We moved along to other things.

I find this interesting for a few reasons.

1. The primary charge around all the jw stuff has dissipated greatly for me. I no longer feel responsible for saving anyone from them. This woman is an adult. It is her life. She is free to choose.

2. I think people gravitate towards religion for so many different reasons. This woman wants "answers to her questions". My mother was the same. And it seems that regardless of what I say to her, she wants to find those answers within the particular box of the jw view. So be it.

3. I often wonder whether people become enamored with the person that first contacts them with a religion/cult. That family connection thing. I remember studying the Bible as a jw with a young girl, around 9 years old, and she said she wanted to be just like me when she grew up. She said she wanted to be a jw, but I think she really meant she wanted to be like me, wanted to give people the feeling I gave her, which had little to do with my being a jw. But, at her age, she could not know that. I hope she can differentiate it later in life.

I think too of my father who converted many years after my mother because of the difference he thought the religion was making in my mother's personality. Frankly, it could've been therapy or the new friends or a medication that made the difference and he probably wouldn't have jumped into those things, but somehow he thought the religion was making the difference and devoted himself to it as a result. In hindsight, I think he would admit that my mother's personality isn't all that different after all, that the religion just gave her some tools to suppress things ever deeper, and appear happier than she really was. But I digress. That's my judgment, not his.

Hahaha....this woman just popped back online saying that she's going to start studying English again too. She said, "and when I study English, I usually think about you because we had a good time when we studied English together." Wasn't that the point I was just making? Sometimes we confuse the message and messenger and accept one because we accept the other.

All very funny. Life living itself. And so it is.

tall penguin

All are one...

It's been awhile. And I've missed you all. I think of you all often, wonder what's unfolding in your lives and send love and light into the ether trusting it will touch you with a smile at just the right time. It's this amazing thing that is beginning to emerge ever fully in my soul, a sense of connectedness, a recognition of the oneness that is. The Romper Room of my heart, I like to call it. I can look in there and see all these names and faces and spirits that surround me. Namaste.

I cannot even begin to recount the events of recent weeks. The details are meaningful and meaningless. Places, people, events, feelings, thoughts...so much and so little. A simplicity is taking me over of late, a detachment from the drama of life. Yes, there is still drama. It is life living itself. But now, I watch it like I'm watching a movie. I see this entity I call me interacting with the other called you, and I watch the story that unfolds between us. And none of it matters. And all of it matters. It is what it is.

I have moments of spontaneous laughter, a joy so pure that comes from a place within my soul that I can only describe as Truth. It is the stillness that connects us all, the quiet place where all is. And I am in awe of this place. I am in awe of Truth. I am in awe of Love. I am in awe of the Beloved. I am in awe of the Divine.

People keep asking me if I'm in love. I say, "Yes, I'm in love with life." And I am. Every little bit of life, living itself out every second of every minute of every day. It is here. It is now. It is.

tall penguin

Saturday, August 9, 2008

To Name a Rose

"A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet."

Playing around with the most fundamental piece of my identity, my name, is an interesting journey. I am amazed at both the acceptance and resistance I've met to the idea. While some have been quick to make the change and honor what it symbolizes, others are confused as to why I'd change my name, why it matters or just really can't see me other than by the name they've previously called me. And it's all good. I have given people permission to call me what they feel they want to call me, at least during this great transition period. In time, I think the new name will stick and it will become as natural as any other name I've been called over the years.

As many of you have watched the unfolding of the tall penguin over the past year, you have witnessed many changes to my thoughts, feelings, and behavior. I am amazed to find people placing me into new boxes, labeling me with new judgments and creating new files for who they think I am. The terms "hippie", "raver", "party girl", "goddess", "writer", "mother hen", "fag hag" and even (never thought I'd get to wear this one) "slut" have been applied to me in recent months. It always makes me smile to hear how someone perceives me. I sometimes play with this, giving people just enough information to make a judgment and find that they will only interpret me according to the information given at the time in that particular context. We all do this. It's human nature. But it's fascinating to watch.

So who are we? What defines who you are? Is it what you do? But that changes. Are you defined by what you did yesterday, are doing today or what you will do tomorrow? Is it your beliefs? They change too. What about your thoughts or feelings...are they a basis for defining you? Alas, these are the most changeable aspects of who we are. Passing blips on the cerebral radar. When all this falls away, who are you really? Is there some unchangeable part of you that always is? Is it possible to meet each other in that place, in that place beyond language and labels and judgment and doing and thinking and feeling? Is it ever possible for me to really be with you? Or are we to be forever caught in relating to the changeable, to the ever-malleable personas we create for ourselves and others?

I long to lead an authentic life. I long to touch that part of you that is the same as that part of me. To sit with all that is. To be. Just to be.

tall penguin

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Winds of Change...

I feel the winds gathering their momentum. I feel ready to leave this city, to leave the place of my birth and move beyond all that I've ever known. As Anya gathers strength, I feel compelled to get on a plane and not look back. I do not know where I will go or what I will do once I'm there, I just know it is coming time for me to leave. And it's okay. It's all okay.

tall penguin

Thursday, August 7, 2008

End of an Era

The ex-Jehovah's Witness forum I've frequented since leaving the group almost 3 years ago is shutting down. It has been in existence for 8 years now and helped thousands see the truth about the Jehovah's Witness organization, as well as provide those leaving a safe place to fall and get their bearings as they enter the "real world".

I'm not even sure how I feel right now. I have made so many friends through this forum and although I have not been there as much over the past year, it is still the community that I go to when I'm processing JW stuff that no one else will understand. And so, there is a sadness in my heart today. A sadness that I can't even put into words. Accepting cyber hugs.

tall penguin

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Shame and Surrender...

One day some years ago, my brother and I were reading the daily Calvin and Hobbes comic and came across this interlude. Not sure of the exact scenario, but Calvin's mother, aka "evil Mom-lady," is trying to get Calvin to do something he quite obviously doesn't want to do and he protests accordingly.

Mom: Oh yeah?

Calvin: Great Zok! She's fixed her mind-scrambling eyeball ray on me! I'm suddenly filled with the desire to go back upstairs and do her nefarious bidding!

Mom: Glad to hear it.

My brother and I laughed. We had our own "evil Mom-lady" and could quite relate. After that, we coined our mother and her accompanying parental stare, the "Evil Mommy death ray." We knew that stare well. Every mother has it and wields it as her personal tool of compliance. You could see that stare across the room and know that if you didn't stop whatever you were doing, or if you didn't do something you were just asked to do, there'd be hell to pay later. Interestingly, although I have no children of my own yet, I have been told that I have mastered this stare quite well. I had a good teacher.

There was another stare my mother had that would sometimes overlap the "Evil Mommy death ray." Or rather, that would underlie it. There was this undercurrent of shame, this sense that not only was your behavior inappropriate, but it was also disappointing. That feeling of "You should know better." And yes, there are definitely situations in life where my brother and I should've known better. Everyday mischief prevails in the life of a child and you're often caught doing stuff you know you're not supposed to be doing. But somewhere along the way, that feeling of being shamed and that sense that I was supposed to know better became intrinsically linked and showed up in my mother's glance in almost every situation where I disappointed her, whether such disappointment was warranted or not.

In the past, I was told by my teachers that I was a perfectionist. My therapists said so too. But I don't think I want to be perfect. I think I have tried my whole life to get everything right to avoid that feeling of shame. I'm not a perfectionist. I'm a shame avoider. I like to get it right the first time because I don't like someone bringing to my attention that I got it wrong and the accompanying shame I feel as a result. The tape that plays and says, "You're a disappointment. You should have known better", and the accompanying "evil Mommy death ray" burning a hole right through my psyche.

A loyal reader sent along this article to me written by Sara Braasch, who, like myself, was raised in the Jehovah's Witness group. She now works for the Freedom From Religion Foundation. I bristled against reading it. And ended up skimming the article rather than giving it my full attention. I felt this urge to tiptoe away from it, like a murderer from a crime scene, not wanting to be associated with the ghastly deed in any way. Why? Shame. Sara's story is my story. It's the story of someone who became a zealot for her beliefs and made a heap-load of bad choices as a result. And my stomach turns just thinking of how completely idiotic I was, how completely sanctimonious I behaved and how utterly misguided I had become as a result of my "faith".

She writes:

I was arrogant and supercilious in my misery. I thought I had a truth that no one else had. Everyone else was a sinner. Everyone else was a reprobate. I even remonstrated against my own parents for their sinful ways. When my father tried to take me, along with my siblings, to see the movie “Splash,” I cried and screamed and refused to go, because Daryl Hannah appeared topless in the film. In fact, I made him turn the car around and take me home.

I did shit like this all the time as a jw. And I feel shame about it. I feel shame around my ignorance. I feel a great colossal finger wagging in my direction shouting, "I'm disappointed in you. You should've known better." But how? How was I supposed to know better? I did what I was told. I lived what I saw modeled for me. I walked in the footsteps of parents and an organization that mirrored fear and distrust and self-loathing. I learned well. Too well.

Now that I'm an adult I've made different choices. And I am still learning each day to make different choices. But it's hard people. Every day it's hard. There are still so many moments where I stop and think "What the fuck am I doing?" And I feel the Evil Mommy death ray pointed squarely between my eyes. And the shame wells up like a million butterflies trying to escape through my chest. And I kick myself for not knowing better, for not knowing what to do next, for not having all the answers, now. And I wonder if it will always be this way. Whether the shame will ever subside. Whether I'll ever be able to stand proudly in the center of my life and shout at the top of my lungs: "I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING AND IT'S OKAY." Some people call that surrender. I think I'll like surrender.

tall penguin