wordjunkies

from one junkie to another!

Reality -vs- Fantasy (=wall) April 29, 2012

Part 2; April 29, 2012

Previously on wordjunkies: Stubbornly rooted in the fantasy of an anxiety-free, socially well-adjusted existence, Annie Maier prepared for an appointment with a client. Dressed and ready to go, she climbs into her car only to see:

There in my lap, south of my naval, northeast of my thigh… a bright swirl of white and red. But wait! What was this curlicue of color doing in a place that should, according to all calculations, contain only black? As my perfect world doesn’t include someone to remind me to zip my fly, and so I often don’t, I hastily patted my nether regions, all the while assuring myself there was NO PROBLEM. A quick tug and I’d be all set. Except there wasn’t anything to tug. Jumping from the car, I bent double to get a better view… of my underwear.

Rent:

Noun

  • rip, tear, split, hole,slash, slit.
  • gorge, chasm,fault, rift, fissure, crevasse

Damn damn and damn. I sprinted back into the house and up the stairs to my closet. Like many women, I have several pairs of black pants. Unfortunately one was on my body with a gaping hole where there should be none, one was downstairs waiting to be ironed, and one was dirty. That left only one other pair, bought at Macy’s 15 years ago. I remember because I lived in Arizona at the time and I’ve forgotten nothing about that period in my life. (Unlike the years spent in Connecticut, details of which I’ve spent a fortune on drugs and therapy trying to forget.)

Balancing on the side of the tub to get a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I realized that age wasn’t the only problem facing my geriatric drawers. They were also gray, not black, and of an indeterminate material reminiscent of polyester. Vowing to start a new Goodwill bag, I ripped them from my body, praying for a miracle as I ran back to the closet. But no miracle awaited. Spinning about in a swirl of indecision—different pants meant a different shirt. what shirt? maybe the white one? what about a skirt? too cold. brown pants? okay but what shoes? sandals? no boots. then what about socks, are the good ones clean? undies? they’d have to go, can’t wear red with brown. earrings, oh no I’d have to change the black earrings and then the bracelet, that would have to go too. could I wear black jeans? I’ll call bill, he’ll know. didn’t the website say “business attire” only? Sydnor wouldn’t care, but everyone else might. what if they refuse to seat me? they might—my bubble finally, irrevocably burst. Ten days of anxiety and 40 odd years of dueling states of existence crashed around me in an audible burst. It was 11:55. I had exactly 35 minutes to get dressed and get uptown. Pulling the tacky gray pants back on, cursing the entire time, I ran back out to the car, this time grabbing only a towel to wipe my sweating forehead. It might be 60 outside, but inside my head it was about 107.

Needless to say, I was late. Made later by getting lost not once but three times. And by driving the wrong way in the parking garage, which understandably upset the attendant.

At 12:45, I panted my way up to the lobby, finally found Sydnor, made my apologies, and then set about the business of enjoying lunch.

All of this is to say, I hit a wall. Not suddenly, but in slow motion. I saw it coming toward me, like a barricade at the end of a crumbling, blacktopped street. Getting larger and more solid with each step I took, until there it was at my nose, and I was suddenly bleeding.

(to be continued)

 


 

Reality April 23, 2012


I live in a perfect world, where clocks never stop, traffic never snarls, and pants never, ever get holes in them. I wake up to a neat house each morning, eat my Kashi in a clean bowl, read the newspaper, complete sudoku without cheating, and let my kitty in and out only once. The washing machine never jams, the dryer never stops spinning and there is always hot water. My car starts every time I place the key in the ignition, my phone only rings when it’s convenient and no one comes to the door unexpected. Even if they did, that would be fine because my hair is always in order and I never smell funny, not even when I tumble, eyes half-shut and jammies still warm, from bed. Neighbors stop to say hello, but only when I have the time, and inclination, to talk. Clients arrive on schedule, as do I, and doctors see me within 10 minutes of my scheduled consultation, during which time I am not at all disgusted by climbing onto and off of the enormous, porcelain-white scale with numbers so large Mr. Magoo could read them from 15 feet.

Hang on, I think something just exploded in my head. Do you hear that ringing? And what’s that cloud of blue dust? Let me check my manual…

Yes, it’s just as I thought; I exceeded my brain’s capacity for delusion. That last bit about the scale must have put me over my daily limit. Way over. Because, as you may have guessed, I don’t actually live in a perfect world. I live in an average world. Things are not tidy and clear. They are sticky and snarly and surprising. I just act like I live in that other place. I do indeed wake up each morning. And I do eat my Kashi in a clean bowl with the newspaper spread before me. That, however, is where the resemblance ends. Because, there’s

Fantasy:
Noun

  1. the faculty or activity of imagining things, esp. things that are impossible or improbable
  2. the product of this faculty or activity
  3. a fanciful mental image, typically one on which a person dwells at length or repeatedly and which reflects their conscious or unconscious wishes (my personal favorite!)

and then there’s

Reality:

Noun

  1. the state or quality of having existence or substance
  2. a thing that is actually experienced or seen, esp. when this is grim or problematic (hahaha!)
  3. the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them

I’m a big fan of both words/worlds, as each has it’s own charm. Fantasy (mine, I obviously can’t speak for yours) is exciting, dangerous without being threatening, and, often, colorful. Reality (also mine), on the other hand, is solid, finite, and, often, reassuring. As number 2 above would suggest, however, reality has its downsides. I mean, existence is all well and good, but toss “grim and problematic” into the mix and it’s suddenly not so rosy. Maybe that’s why I tend to prefer Neil Gaimen to Stephen Hawking (though Hawking is way cool, too.)

Still, I’m not a total dreamer. I do surface from my subconscious (read: delusional place of cute puppies and a nest of chickadees in every tree) from time to time–mostly to see what’s for dinner, but occasionally to make an attempt at writing (living) from/in a state that remotely approaches nonfiction. This isn’t really a problem, as I’ve lived my entire life on this earth flopping between various states of being, not all of them as clear cut as fantasy and reality. The fun starts when I am not allowed to surface on my own but am instead jerked, hastily and unceremoniously, from that lovely, warm refuge where everything runs and goes and happens on schedule and with comforting regularity and then tossed into the slightly more foreboding, infinitely cooler pit of chaotic happenstance.

For instance, last Friday I had an appointment with my best client, a man with whom I’ve worked for the past six years on various projects. He is an angel. A LOM with about 8 hairs on his head and eyebrows that spring in 13 directions. He’s also amazingly well-spoken, Oxford educated, and professionally/politically/socially successful. All of which render me damn near speechless every time we get together. To say I need to be on my toes for our meetings is a vast and unfortunate understatement. Usually, I start stressing about a week in advance. Last week was no different. At least not until he left a message suggesting we meet uptown at the City Club. Two things: I hate driving uptown, and I’ve never stepped foot in any place that ended in “Club.” Stress doesn’t come close to describing what went  on in my head as I dialed his number and heard myself say, “Perfect! I’ll see you then.”

Friday morning came. I set my alarm for 8:30 for a 12:30 appointment. Pretending I wasn’t nervous about driving uptown and didn’t feel like throwing up at the idea of having to act ladylike and professional, I relished the crunch of my oaty ohs, read the paper from inky cover to inky cover, worked the puzzle without cheating, and called my daughter, all with due diligence. (I also let the cat in and out about a hundred times, but we won’t go there.) So steeped was I in the fantasy of not being anxious, I decided I had time to clean the not-so-neat kitchen, which led to scrubbing the also not-so-neat bathroom, and straightening my seasonally confused closet. Then, remembering I hadn’t printed directions to the Club, I sat down at my computer, checked facebook and email and only then googled places where people not me eat lunch. At 11:15, I noticed the time. 11:15! RUNNING up the steps, I jumped in the shower, scrubbed, shaved and rinsed all the important parts, jumped back out and dried my hair.

Now, this is the point where I often slip from my reverie. I can, on any given day, spend upwards of 15 minutes trying to decide which of my unsuitable garments to place upon my equally unsuitable frame. But Friday, the reverie held. My favorite gray sweater was clean, my red shell had just arrived from the hotel in Chicago (where I had inadvertently left it behind), and my black pants–the ones I hadn’t worn in about 5 months–still fit. I pulled my shoes on, poked earrings into my lobes and headed out the door, grabbing keys, purse, and directions in one swipe.

Climbing into the car, I checked the time. 11:45. Perfect. I had 45 minutes to get uptown, get lost, call my husband, get more directions, get found, and find Sydnor. Phew. I pushed the key into the ignition, took a few deep breaths to center myself, and reached for the seatbelt.

That’s when I saw it. There, in my lap, south of my naval, northeast of my thigh…

to be continued. 

 

S*** Sandwiches, (Non)fiction, and Truth April 13, 2012

Filed under: Philosophy,Writing/Words — Annie Maier @ 3:27 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

April 13, 2012

The last three posts sort of took it out of me. Or maybe it was the (blissfully few) shit sandwich responses I received. For those of you unfamiliar with this term (surely there are others besides me!) I will explain it to you by paraphrasing my dear friend Raki: A s*** sandwich is when someone gives you negative news (or in my case, negative feedback) bookended by something positive. Though Raki didn’t explicitly say so, I would also add that there are some seriously passive aggressive vibes associated with such a sandwich. I mean, really, if someone says, “Wow, that sweater is great. Didn’t they have your size? Well, have fun on your date!” what they really mean is, A) you look like hell and should go home, immediately, and change, or B) you shouldn’t be surprised if your date stands you up. I don’t know about you, reader/writers, but I’m an honesty kind of person. Just give it to me straight, sans bread and sans… well, you know.

Anyway, that was way more than I meant to say about that. Must be talking with Raki that set me off! I laugh every time I think about her explaining this simple cultural concept. (For anyone who needs more, there are an amazing array of results when you do a web search. Here are my two favorites: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Shit%20Sandwich and http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/shit_sandwich)

Anyway, while I am undaunted in being perfectly honest, and in speaking my mind as far as common decency allows, I’m going to take a break this week and give not a word essay, but a word poem. Or maybe a word story. Let’s see what my infected brain spits out.

Oh wait, hey, before I begin, I just thought of something in connection to the word of the day (which is, though I haven’t told you, “truth”). This sort of relates to what I say above, in a convoluted, literary way. There’s a lot of discussion about “truth” in relation to creative nonfiction (as opposed to basic nonfiction, otherwise known as journalism, which is even more black and white than the paper it used to be printed on). One side thinks truth is set in stone and the other side thinks truth, in this context, is necessarily flexible. (Here’s a great blog/article from Brevity: http://brevity.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/the-derrata-controversy-why-truth-matters/ ) Perhaps not surprisingly, I fall in the stone camp: truth is, for me, way too fluid to be messed with. Which means truth, even in the realm of my own writing must always be qualified. As in, “I think this is how it all came down, but really, what do I know?”

Taking this train to its logical conclusion, I also believe that fiction is an excellent genre for exploring, perhaps even exploiting, truth. Hence:

Truth

noun

  • the quality or state of being true
  • (also the truth) that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality
  • a fact or belief that is accepted as true

as in:

Vomiting Half Naked on a Plane

This story is true.

Three women sit on the lawn. It is lunchtime, but only one is eating.

Woman #1 is young, dressed in a white tee shirt and black jeans. Her hair is curly and wild and she doesn’t wear any makeup. Her eyes are small and the lids wrinkle shut when she laughs in a way that makes her look adorable rather than decrepit. As she speaks, she picks at a sandwich, alternately eating a piece and tossing a piece off into the grass. Curious squirrels stare at her from a distance.

Woman #2 has her back to me. All I see are stubs of short hair beneath a black and white bandana. She has a tattoo on her left arm, running from the crook of her elbow up and around her shoulder. I can’t make out what the tattoo depicts, but it seems intricate—perhaps a swirling green dragon.

Woman #3 has straight black hair bleached on the ends, pulled off to the side as if that half of her body belongs to a gypsy. The half that is exposed reveals a very small ear, the lobe of which boasts two pieces of spiraling black plastic joined in the middle. The earing is ugly and somehow threatening and I can’t stop looking at it. She wears a black shirt over black capris, with brown sandals on sunburnt feet.

I should say I know all three. I should say I transcribe the following conversation as it flows from their mouths, just as I will go back later, collect all the bits of discarded bread and toss them to my own, less timid, squirrels. That is, verbatim. I should say we are strangers and they are unaware of my presence. I should say I am in hiding, though they can see me sitting before them on the damp grass. I should say I am concerned about grass stains.

Woman #1: …so there I was, sitting between them with my pants ripped away, vomiting.

Woman #2: What happened to your pants?

#1: They ripped away, I told you, like tear-away pants, they just ripped away. I was sitting there vomiting (she imitates someone vomiting into a bag).

#2: Did the people next to you say anything?

#1: What could they say? They had a half naked woman puking right beside them without pants.

Woman #3: Okay, I so you were on a plane, vomiting, but what happened to your pants?

#1 starts from the beginning: I was rushing, late, hung over. They’d had to hold the plane for me and everyone was pissed off, grumbling and shooting me evil frowns. I bent to shove my bag, a duffle bag from the army store with all kinds of hooks and things, under the seat and one of the hooks caught on my pants, they were cheap-ass pants from Old Navy, you know how their clothes are, like crepe paper, all thin and cheap. Plus I had worn them every day for a month but didn’t wash them much because I was 23 and gross with dreads and shit. When they caught on the hook, they ripped away.

#3: What did they do?

#1: Who?

#3: The people around you.

#1: Nothing, they were trying not to look at me. I mean I was standing there without pants. Thank god I had on underwear.

#2: I was gonna ask that.

#1: Yeah, I did.

#2: So you vomited because your pants came off?

#1: RIPPED off. No I vomited later. I have a really sensitive stomach (her companions nod). I puke all the time, in stores, cars. I threw up at a movie last month. I ran out into the lobby and vomited in a trashcan, I was standing there heaving and some guy who worked there felt bad for me. He kept saying are you okay, are you okay. I said yeah, that movie is just really disgusting. He gave me free tickets.

#2: You threw up because of a movie?

#1: It was GROSS!

#3: And they gave you free tickets?

#1: Yeah, which was nice, but useless, I lost them. I lose everything.

Her companions nod. The squirrels move closer.

 

Expectation, Unreasonable or Otherwise April 6, 2012

Filed under: Philosophy,State of Mind,Writing/Words — Annie Maier @ 1:22 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Part 3; April 6, 2012

Previously on wordjunkies: Distressed at having been dissed by a quasi-friend and collaborator, Annie Maier took her disappointment and anger to the keyboard, hoping in the process to 1) catch and release said emotions (slippery little devils that they are), and 2) determine her role in the wake of said dissing. We now rejoin Annie, who sits sipping a now cooled coffee and reflecting upon the smoldering embers of her previous relationship.

Cool and warm: I need heat. I need movement and expression and closure. Except that I don’t. At least not the last part. An amazing thing has happened over the past few days. I’ve let it all go. I’m not angry. I’m not disappointed. I’m not concerned about my role in what I saw, six short days ago, as a disaster. Shit happens. I mean honestly. Everyday people step on one another and love one another and ignore one another, and life goes on. We move through the good and the bad with varying degrees of “success” (whatever that looks like). Hmmm. Maybe that’s my word for the day. Success. A new direction in the rant turned exploration turned musing turned miniature apex in my existence.

Success:

(noun)

  • the accomplishment of an aim or purpose
  • the attainment of popularity or profit
  • a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity

Let’s ignore number 2 for now, as popularity remains, to a geek like me, a completely unknown entity, and profit, well, profit and I have never, ever seen eye to eye. And, because I don’t believe people can be measured by nouns, let’s skip number 3 as well.

So number 1: What did I hope to accomplish in the penning of “Expectation”? The easiest answer is that I sought to vent what was quickly becoming a miasma of emotion. But the deeper, more honest answer is that I wanted to determine if there is a difference between anger and ill will. Between stating your mind and aiming to hurt someone.

Should you be so inclined, following me into this next installment will require a completely different bit of knowledge. As briefly as possible: boy met girl. Boy was black and white. Girl was gray. Boy and girl ignored all indications of color blindedness and married… No wait. We don’t need to go that far back! Remember when I said my husband patted me on the shoulder and urged me to wait? (I think that’s in Part 2.) Well, that was fine. It is, after all, in his nature to be cautious. But me? I’m more of a “oh, pretty rattlesnake!” sort of person. Anxiety has enough say in my life, I will not admit caution. Sunday, the day after I wrote the bridge-burning email, I said, aloud, “I hope I didn’t wound (insert person’s name).” Because that is what had concerned me from 3 to 5am as I alternated between counting fluffy miniature sheep and replaying the unfolding events of the weekend in a continual loop of baas and brain-words. And my husband, ever loving, ever supportive, ever practical, answered, “Of course you did. That was your intention when you wrote the email.”

Wound

(noun)

  • an injury to living tissue caused by a cut, blow, or other impact, typically one in which the skin is cut or broken.
  • an injury to a person’s feelings or reputation

(verb)

  • inflict an injury on (someone)
  • injure (a person’s feelings)

I was horrified dear reader. HOR-RI-FIED! 

My mate and I went back and forth for about an hour—him saying wounding was the intent, me saying wounding is NEVER my intent. Him saying wounding was inevitable, me saying wounding involves taking aim. Him saying wounding is a consequence of anger, me saying wounding is not a byproduct. Then, because I was damned if I was going to get pissed at him for something he hadn’t even been involved in, I threw my hands up (quite literally) and shouted that I just did not GET IT! I was incapable of processing his inability to see a distinction between speech and attack.

But the whole thing did make me wonder: Is there a difference?

That’s what the last three posts have been all about. And the answer? Well yes, dammit. There is a difference. While I did speak, I did not take aim. I had no intention of hurting the former quasi-friend and collaborator, only of saying to him/her “This SUCKS,” as clearly as I possibly could. I believe I did that. And I believe that, in writing this blog, I’ve come to accept that arson is sometimes necessary to integrity. Burned bridges be damned.

 

Expectation, Unreasonable or Otherwise April 2, 2012

Part 2; April 2, 2012

Previously on wordjunkies: Annie Maier was distressed at having been dissed. Enraged, she paused… Thought about her reaction (gone and done, no time to change. Desire? Not really.) Wondered if she had perhaps erred in her previous assumption that one would, if done with another, speak up. Such thinking had, after all, led her “straight toward expectation and into the arms of…”

Disappointment:

Noun

  • the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.
  • a person, event, or thing that causes such a feeling.

and,

Anger:

(noun)

  • a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility

A very strong feeling. Upon learning of this deception (noun; the act of deceiving), I freaked out. Hearing my screech and observing the force with which I hit “respond,” my husband very gently placed a hand upon quaking shoulder and suggested I hold off till morning when I might better be able to “control” my emotion. But at that moment, I had little interest in control. I wanted to stand on the roof and shout this person’s name for all to hear. I wanted to whip out my credit card and order a two-page ad in the Charlotte Observer. I wanted to D E L E T E D I wanted to… cry.

Ever since taking “Mind Moving” with Erik Anderson, possibilities for using writing not only as an access into our own inner workings but as a method of contemplation and release have been swirling in my brain. When the opportunity to make this dream a reality arouse, I leapt at the chance. I plotted, wrote, and marketed the class. My cohort was not idle in this time. S/he worked as well. Not as hard, not as passionately, but still.

The day came. I sweated and worried: Was the idea as good as I thought it was? Would people be inspired? Had I chosen the right examples, written the best exercises. left enough time for all I wanted to accomplish? Would everyone show up? Would they be glad they had? Would I?

The time came. Everyone filtered in. With the exception of one slight glitch,  D E L E T ED – – D E L E T E D – – D E L E T E D     The day was a success. We planned another workshop, six weeks out.

So what went wrong? And more importantly, did I have the right to become so angry? To feel betrayed? If it was simply a matter of I’m sorry, I don’t want to work with you, well, fine. But say so. If it was something more, okay, still fine. But say so. In the ensuing silence, I assumed all was well. Assumed six weeks meant six weeks. I waited.

Now, that may have been a mistake. Should I have initiated the conversation sooner? Maybe. Would that have changed the outcome? I think not.

Anyway, Saturday night. I pounded out a response. Expressed my dismay. Told the person I was horrified. Hurt. Said his/her behavior was reprehensible, unkind and presumptive (that felt good!). Said I wasn’t surprised, as I’ve witnessed such behavior in the past—that felt even better.

Maybe that was a mistake. Not the saying so, but the witnessing. The expecting I wouldn’t be treated that same way. I ended the email with the assertion that I would not be returning to his/her studio for any reason. That felt best of all! Because I’ve been supporting this person’s business for FIVE years. Not only by attending his/her classes but by referring potential clients. We’ve made drums together, chanted beneath the moon together, shared wine. In the past year, D E L E T E D. The  D E L E T E D.      D E L E T E D.  D E L E T E D continued to go out of respect for the person and our history. D E L E T E D. But no. Fed up, I burned that bridge straight to the ground and left it smoldering.

Which leads me to…

(to be continued)

 

Expectation, Unreasonable or Otherwise April 1, 2012

Filed under: Philosophy,Writing/Words — Annie Maier @ 9:37 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

April 1, 2012

Expectation (part 1)

Hang on boys and girls, I feel a rant coming on! Or a vent. Or maybe just a meandering, meant to bring clarity and clear my cluttered head.

I made a fateful error this week. Well, actually, I made two fateful errors.

One error was subtle: Unbeknownst to my brain, my heart has, for a couple of months, been holding an expectation for the future based upon an agreement with a quasi-friend and collaborator. The other error was blatant: When my expectations were unceremoniously crushed, that is, when the person in question D E L E T E D failed to uphold what I saw as his/her part of a deal, I responded with an extraordinary burst of fury. To understand the import of such emotion, it is important to note that I am not an angry person. My mom is what is commonly, sometimes even affectionately, called a loose cannon; raised in a household of frequent rages, more often than not accompanied by potentially lethal flying objects, I coped by becoming a cream puff. I rarely raise my voice, never strike out, and refuse to use the “f” word because of its negative, decidedly angry, connotations. Nonetheless, I’m telling you, on Saturday night, my head nearly ripped from the scrawny mooring of my shoulders.

Up until then, my day had been going great. My daughter is home for a visit; I had held a successful event that afternoon; and we had just returned from a lovely dinner and movie. Intending to send a note of thanks to the afternoon’s attendees, I saw it: An email, bearing the innocuous subject line: D E L E T E D Suspecting nothing, I opened the email. That’s when I learned that what had started as a joint effort had, quite suddenly and without warning, become a one wo/man venture. I had been cut from the team.  My quasi-friend and collaborator did not come out and say this last bit in the email, however. Rather, I had to visit his/her website to confirm my suspicion. Yes, there it was, a blurb I HAD WRITTEN for a workshop we had designed together. Except this time, there was no mention of Annie Maier.

WTF! my brain screamed (though without the F of course). How could anyone be so unnecessarily mean? So senselessly D E L E T E D? So blatantly D E L E T E D?

Which brings us to today’s word:

Expectation:

(noun)

  • a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
  • a belief that someone will or should achieve something.

Throughout time, philosophers have debated the nature of such beliefs. William Shakespeare felt that expectation was “the root of all heartache,” while the Dalai Lama teaches that it is only in “reducing expectations,” that one can “promote contentment.” In general, I agree. I also believe completely in the Buddhist tenet that all acts must be performed without expectation of personal gain. I do struggle however in maintaining an equitable sense of what I should or should not “expect” from others in regard to their behavior not only toward me, but toward all sentient beings. Albert Schweitzer asserts that we “must not expect anything from others,” as “only from oneself has one the right to ask everything and anything. This way it’s up to you — your own choices — what you get from others remains a present, a gift.” Yes, yes, Mr. S, I get it! But the fact that we should not expect such “gifts” cannot possibly mean that we are to have no sense of trust that another person, someone who has professed a seemingly sincere desire to be in community with us, will not squash us beneath his/her wriggling toes without so much as a “piss-off you worm.” Is it too much to ask that said person, having apparently come to the end of his/her interest in such communion, would not wo/man-up and SAY SO?

Maybe I am wrong. Clearly it was just such thoughts that led me up the proverbial garden path. Straight toward expectation and into the arms of…

(to be continued)

 

Squished Body Parts as Shamatha January 7, 2010

Filed under: Philosophy — Annie Maier @ 2:06 pm
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In Buddhism, shamatha is a form of meditation focused on holding, without intrusive thought, a single object in the mind for a desired period of time. (It is also known as “single-pointed concentration.”) Ever since quitting my real job in 2006, I have sought a path to a more compassionate life. Writing is part of that, bringing into focus my own beliefs, fears and obstacles in recognizing and empathizing with my fellow beings. A regular yoga practice teaches me acceptance and patience (with the added bonus of staving off, I hope, arthritis, dementia, osteoporosis and flab). Reading is huge: others have tread the paths now before me, and studying their words allows me to learn from their insights. But while devotion to this, my personal trifecta of bliss, has completely transformed my life, it hasn’t quite resulted in an ability to look at myself and say – Aha! So here I am, Annie Maier, the person I was born to be. I am not, in Caroline Myss’ words, fulfilling my “sacred contract.” Because I absolutely believe in this theory, which suggests we are born with a specific responsibility to ourselves and others and much of our stress and anxiety (the second of which I have in frightening abundance!) can be attributed to not recognizing and/or meeting this responsibility, I’ve consulted a varied assortment of priests, astrologists, shamans, therapists and friends on how-oh-how to figure out exactly what it is I am meant to be doing. Though each of them was to varying degrees helpful, it was the astrologist, the wonderful Steve Nelson who can warm a room simply by being in it, who pointed out that I was in layman’s terms “stuck.” For those of you who study taroh, the place of my self-exile is the tower. For those of you disinclined to such mysticism, the tower can be seen as a symbol of coming change, chaos or an ill omen. My own someplace in between interpretation is that I have remained hidden, ensconced in a hand-picked, self-made fortress under the  misguided notion that I was protecting myself.

According not only to Steve but also my own internal wisdom and that of everyone else I’ve consulted, including the priest, what is missing on my path is meditation. Ah. So simple. So peaceful. So… impossible. Not impossible as in it can’t be done, but impossible as in I haven’t, despite hours of study and a world of desire, made the commitment to take 10 lousy minutes out of each evening to contemplate my navel. But today… An epiphany. In, of all places, the radiology department of Presbyterian hospital, where I stood, naked from the waste up and (okay, disclaimer – this might get graphic) with my right breast sandwiched between a most improperly impersonal slab of stainless steel and a 6″x 9″ plastic tray. Really, you haven’t lived until you’ve placed at least one but preferably two of your most sensitive body parts into the careless, vice-like jaws of a self-propelled machine three times bigger than you as it steadily, slowly tightens its grip. Picture it then, envision me there – well, don’t envision me there, try some faceless, stick-figure woman and call her me – naked before a machine kneading my breast like Play-Doh, while the oh-so-kind radiologist (torturess, masochist, dominatrix, whatever…) said, “Okay, remember to relax and breathe!”

HA!

Now, I don’t dread this day as much as many women I know. It is after all, just a breast (ok, two) and honestly the entire thing can’t take more than ten minutes. Squish, turn, squash, turn times two and you’re out of there. In the meantime, everyone around you is feeling your pain and so breaking their necks and backs and schedules to take the time to be nice to you. All in all, it’s really a quite pleasant experience, minus the squishing.  That said, it’s not exactly a day at the beach either and I don’t necessarily look forward to this yearly putty-fest. (I won’t dwell on the fact, but I’m sure this has far more to do with issues about self-image than pain. I mean, if they were squashing my clothed breast, it would probably be a lot easier to take. Sad, but true.)

Which leads to the epiphany.

Just as the machine rotates its first turn, a thought appears. How, I wonder, can I rise above this situation? And viola! Without further ado, I began meditating. First with my eyes shut, but then, because I was afraid some beatific, spaced out look might appear on my face and freak out the lady in the lab coat, with my eyes open. And I am happy to report – it worked. I was, briefly, transported. The room was warm, I had a drape over my soon-to-be exposed left breast and what the hell, didn’t even notice what was up with the right. And in that moment I realized: if I can will myself out of the humiliation and discomfort of a mammogram – I can escape that damned tower.   

To Boulder with me, then. Following Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman and Jack Kerouac (my new hero –  do read The Dharma Bums) and my friend Celina Mincey (out west chasing her dream) and my daughter Lauren (up north hunting down hers in Alaska), into my sacred destiny.

With maybe a little navel-gazing along the way.

 

 

 
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