08 July 2013

We'll See Part II

"We heard you've been refusing pain medication." She looked down at me stretched on the table.
"Why? Do you have a history of addiction?"
"No. I just would prefer to wait until they are absolutely necessary. And they haven't been yet."
"My name is Emilia."
"No it's not."
"Yes, but I spell mine correctly. You're not Italian, are you?"
"You'll have to take that up with my great aunt. And yes."
"You must be from the south."
"Right. Near Naples."
"Ah. Well my family is from the north, which is why my name is spelled correctly, with an 'E'."
A nice-faced man whose name began with a J came over to put a medical hairnet shower cap thingy on my head while she explained to me precisely what was going to happen with my anesthetization.  During a pause, I said "I've never been under before. I'm scared."
She finished explaining and asked if I had any questions. I didn't. I needed to sign a document that verified I understood. I signed.
They wheeled me into the operating room and I shimmied onto the thin table. Some lady with dark skin and ornamental gold earrings said some words to me. I don't remember what they were. I was out.
I woke up three hours later still in the operating room, my head turned to the right, a rubbery oxygen mask poised over my face. I remembered some of the dreams I had, something about being at a kind of festival, amongst many people doing something similar, celebratory.
I remember going into recovery and saying clever things to the nurses and to my dad and the Midge and Luana who fed me ice chips. Glorious ice chips. The nurse boasted, "I always say we have the best ice chips of any hospital." Truer words were never spoken.
As I transitioned from recovery into my room, I was informed that labor and delivery was full, so I'd be in pediatrics.  I thought it interesting that I'd be in labor and delivery at all, because I didn't feel as though I'd properly "delivered" anything, but I guess it is a GYN issue so okay. But peds it was.
The nurse, named Tracey, was sweet and reminded me of my mother's sisters.  Turns out she lives - yes present tense - in Florida and flies to Massachusetts regularly to work per diem shifts at various hospitals. When she learned that my fiance was on his way from Florida we had an instant bond.
I was transitioned over to the bed, where I noticed that I had cuffs on my calves that were uninflated. I asked Nurse Tracey about the cuffs: would they be inflated? "You don't really need them," she said.  "Right." I responded "because I can move my legs and will be getting up relatively soon."
"Do you want them inflated?"
"I guess not."
Luana stood at the foot of my bed and squeezed my toes.
That was the moment that my dream became reality, and I said so. I reminded Luana that I told her about my dream, and Tracey said, "I have goosebumps right now."
I hoped things would turn out well.
I spent the rest of the evening and night doing all I could to remain present and to move gas. Move that gas. That was my sole mission.
I had been leaned back in the bed and Tracey suggested I try for the first time to get up, possibly to use the bathroom. My father, Selah, and Luana stepped out as Tracey began to raise the head of the hospital bed. About 3/4 of the way upright, I was seized by a terrifying, paralyzing pain through my entire front that gripped my breath and froze my body. I moaned and my crazy eyes looked into Tracey's, I could barely mouth the words "pain. I'm in pain." She very skillfully said, "try to breathe deeply, try to relax your body." It was as if my whole abdomen was in charlie horse.  I actively relaxed my muscles, snuck in little breaths, and leaned back again. It was terrifying.  It was temporary.
We tried again. I moved slowly, breathing deeply, rolling first to my left side in tiny baby movements, giving space and time to the aches that threatened to grip me again. After minutes, I was upright in bed. At the edge of the bed. Weight in my feet. I made it to the bathroom and spent several more minutes waiting for everything below my waist to relax enough to let anything pass.
I returned to bed.
Luana stayed behind and offered me reiki as I lay there and gratefully received her energy and attention. Later the nurses would ask about it, having seen her hovering her hands over my body.  We joked about alternative healing methods, as I noticed that Tracey was like my own personal yoga teacher, reminding me to lift my gaze, to take deep breaths in, long breaths out, especially when I didn't want to.
The paralyzing terror grip happened once more during the course of the evening, this time when I was alone. I had the wherewithal to press the call button and heeded Tracey's imaginary advice to relax my body and breathe as deeply as possible. She rushed to the room and coached me through the rest. I was up again, this time for a short walk that ended with me in a sweat almost unconscious. The nurses ushered me into a wheelchair, and suddenly I burped and felt incredibly more comfortable. I asked to sit in the wheelchair for a while, and told them it felt like "being in a hammock." They looked at me like I was crazy and acceded. I sat upright, took sips of water, small bites of a raspberry ice, and burped as I watched fireworks out the window (that is when I had the wherewithal to update my Facebook status).  I wound up back in bed but couldn't sleep so I just hovered around consciousness and manipulated my position so that I could keep burping. I realized that humming mobilized the gas that filled my body cavity.  I imagined that the process was this: gas from the operation filled my body cavity; it needed to make its way through the membranes of my digestive organs so that it could be processed, either up or down (nothing was happening below the navel at this point); humming helped to vibrate the gas so that it moved more efficiently into the digestive organs, and small sips of water allowed it to transmute; deep breaths into that breathalyzer thing (incentive spirometer) that helped to push the cavity gas around and open up my digestion, so that when I sat upright, I burped! Maybe that makes no sense! Maybe it is scientifically crazy! But you better believe it worked for me and I sat up all night humming, sipping water, breathing deeply, leaning forward, and burping. And that gas moved. And at 4 am I farted. So there.
Gabriel arrived around midnight, after flying most of the day from Miami to Atlanta to Boston via a buddy pass generously provided by the Midge.  He walked in, I was sitting in a chair, and I couldn't even look at him, because if I did I would have cried. And my guts could not take a cry. Not physically. Not emotionally. They would have cramped and spilled. So I looked away and just touched his hand, never happier in my life to see him. I knew all along I picked the right one, and having him there over the next few days just confirmed it. He is the most beautiful and brilliant man and I can't even begin to express the heart explosion of gratitude I feel to have him in my life. Not surprisingly, he was an absolute peach (a "Gabe" as my sister would say) for the next four days. I cannot wait to be his wife.
Gabe and I sat up together for many hours, the nurses pulled out one of those chair thingys for him to sleep on, and we both dozed until early morning when the busy-ness began: a visit from the doctor; a visit from the resident; a visit from the phlebotomist with an adorable baby face named Cesar; an offer of clear liquids that I could barely consider; the change of nurse shift again.  My temperature was fairly steady, my blood pressure was decent. There was talk of discharge. I was yellow and very puffy from fluids, but sure, I was keen to go home. Wheels were put in motion. I went home around 1:30 pm on Saturday and did my best to rest, but was wobbly and could feel my heart throbbing in my head. I dozed some, ate some, and then around 9:30 pm felt not quite right. Every time I got up to use the bathroom I developed the chills and trembled, and this was during last week's heat wave on the 95 degree day. I took my temperature, it was 100.6. My discharge paperwork said that immediate medical attention was necessary if my temperature exceeded 100.4. Fuck.
[To Be Continued]

We'll See Part I

Before I even begin to process the reality of the past few weeks, let me first say very clearly and unequivocally that I dreamed it before any of it unfolded.  I have witnesses to this, too, because I told more than one person about my vivid dream: "I dreamed I had another C-section, I could feel the pain of walking in my belly. Except this time I recall that there was a risk that I would die, that I wasn't getting the same care, namely that I did not have those blood pressure cuff-like things on my calves that inflated and deflated, just someone at the end of my bed squeezing my toes. I still had to walk around and do stuff, so I thought I might die. And my baby was nowhere to be found."
I had that dream the night before I learned I was pregnant, the night after vivid dreams of adolescent male lions loping around my front yard. I am not usually one to have vivid dreams but definitely  had many when I was pregnant with Selah. I told my friend Luana and my acupuncturist Jeff about these dreams; then the next day I "felt very strange indeed" at work and decided to take a pregnancy test, which turned out to be positive. I was shocked.
Gabriel and I were not trying to get pregnant, especially given the big move to Miami that we were in the midst of executing. Knowing that natural/cosmic timelines work on a scale that is not our own, I still accepted and welcomed the pregnancy and for a couple of days could perceive a male energy interacting with me, trying me on for size.  I had some symptoms, but was not nearly as sick or tired as I had been when I was carrying teeny tiny embryonic Selah.
A day after learning that I was pregnant, I began spotting and then to bleed a little more earnestly, though I experienced no pain.  I felt confused by the signals my body was sending me, though I felt that I had lost the pregnancy and began to feel grief surface.  I had a "wait and see" attitude towards the pregnancy, but still it is impossible to corral the natural hopes and daydreams that come along with knowing that you have the potential for a new life in you (one that is wanted, anyway - I can't comment to the alternative, though emotions and experiences are just as valid either way).  This is why I completed my project for the New York Zen Center's Foundations Program on "Contemplative Care in Early Pregnancy": the time period for a woman between learning that she is pregnant and starting regular medical care (approximately one month for most) is rich, volatile, precarious, and often spent in relative isolation.  This was not really an exception, despite my own work and attention on the matter! I feel grateful for my close sisterfriend who knew intimately of my work and had the capacity to help me hold my experience in the way that I had framed, how I would like to continue caring for others.
It was not lost on me that this entire experience unfolded analogously to the Zen story of "We'll See...", that every seeming positive or negative had its absoluteness turned on its head almost immediately, so that all I could do was to pay attention and suspend judgment.  I'm pregnant, great! I'm not pregnant, terrible! It's ectopic, terrible! You don't have to have surgery, great! You do have to have surgery, terrible! You are going home, great! You are going back to the hospital, terrible! On and on and on, with surprises and kindness at every turn.
So I bled painlessly, a slow prune juice trickle not a red eruption, for several days and let my body try to figure things out. I saw my acupuncturist with hopes that he could "read" what was actually happening with me, as he had known that I was pregnant with Selah before I did. He was equally baffled. Together in treatment we invited my body to regulate itself, but did not try to force an outcome of staying or leaving.
After about five days of ambivalence (turns out you can be "a little bit pregnant"), I called the OB/GYN office who invited me to come to their office right away for an ultrasound and appointment. The ultrasound showed an ectopic pregnancy near my right ovary, about 4 cm in diameter.  The ultrasound tech and radiologist looked me square in the eyes and very compassionately told me that they saw no heartbeat and that the mass was not a viable pregnancy. Being that I had already come to terms with this eventuality I did not feel the need to cry or break down on the ultrasound table, but I give plenty of credit to the tech and doctor for their professionalism and kindness.  My immediate concern was for my health.
When I met with the obstetrician, my first question for her was to characterize for me the seriousness of the condition. Her first response was, "untreated, this condition could threaten your life." And when I inquired about options for treatment, she outlined either immediate emergency surgery or a low-dose chemo drug that would (hopefully) dissolve it but also still held the possibility of rupture and surgery, not to mention birth defects should I become pregnant again during a specific window of time. Okay, rock and hard place.  She said "surgery" and I immediately started to cry out of fear. Again, to her credit, she moved from her "doctor's seat" at the desk in front of her computer to the seat next to me and handed me tissues, acknowledging "Yes, this is scary."  Every single moment of authenticity and humanity resonated with me during this entire process, and I am grateful for them.
The determining factor, I was told, was the level of pregnancy hormone (HCG) in my system, and whether it was high enough to determine the course of treatment: too high, and it would mean surgery right away; moderate and increasing, the methotrexate is recommended; moderate and falling, we may get away with not having to intervene immediately and instead watching and waiting with the caveat that any pain would require me to go to the emergency room immediately.  I rolled the dice and spent the afternoon by Jamaica Pond with my reiki healer sister goddess Luana, who helped me to regain equilibrium, power, and good sense as we waited for the number to be determined.  After being told not to drink or eat at all since my 10 am appointment in the event that I required emergency surgery, I decided around 4 pm that I'd have a grapefruit and some water and pick Selah up and go home.  If they really wanted me to come in then things would be moving with a little more sense of urgency (yes, I called 3 times to get the results and even harassed the lab at Brigham & Women's who told me that they don't deal directly with patients, only with doctors).  They called on my way home and told me that I was at 1772. Not high enough to cause alarm, not low enough to be calm.  I would be in for blood draws about every two days to track the rise or fall of the hormone in my system. Day 2 it fell to 1502; day 4 to 1446; day 6 to 998; day 8 to 863. I was still not in pain.  The doctors I saw and spoke with offered cautious equanimity.
July 3rd I went for a repeat ultrasound that showed the mass in the same place and position, 2 mm larger.  With the hormone levels decreasing, the doctors chalked the moderate growth up to an internal breakdown before breaking apart and being reabsorbed. I was okay with this. Selah and I went to our friends' annual Thirth of July party, played and ate and watched fireworks on the beach in Swampscott.  So glad we had that festive time together.
On the morning of July 4th, I got out of bed around 8:30, went to the bathroom, and came into the kitchen to drink half a glass of water. Selah spilled some of her water that she was getting from the refrigerator spigot, and as I bent to wipe it up I felt pain in my abdomen. Real pain. I went back to the bathroom and sat on the toilet in a sweat, just getting my bearings and seeing if it was something that would pass or exacerbate.  I returned to the living room where my dad was bustling between grilling peppers for the family pool party he was planning to attend in Albany that day and tending to the lawn. "I don't feel so good," I said as I sat in the recliner, trembling and sweating.  "Do you need to go to the doctor?" he asked.
"Do I have a couple of minutes or do you need to go now?"
"You have a couple of minutes."
He disappeared to clean himself up before planning to take me to the hospital, and I realized that I couldn't stand up straight and was starting to feel woozy beyond woozy. I called an ambulance.
Operating automatically, I managed to stagger into the bathroom to brush my teeth and comb my hair (priorities!), packed my toothbrush and phone charger into my bag, told my dad I had called an ambulance and went out front to sit on the steps and wait. I texted a few people, including Gabriel and my friends who knew what was going on, and then not one but two ambulances appeared along with a police car and fire chief truck from Westborough, the town over.  There were many nice uniformed men standing around me, asking me questions.  I did my best to tell my story accurately and was ushered into one of the ambulances for a trip to Metrowest Medical Center. I wasn't sure about going to this place as I had the opinion that it might be a little too podunk and wasn't sure about the level of care I could expect.  Again, "we'll see..."
During the ambulance ride (my first ever!) I had the benefit of having the paramedic intern from Quinsigamond Community College trying to insert an IV in my hand during a particularly bumpy stretch of route 135. The July Effect loomed for me as I said, "ouch. ouch. ouch." as he kept missing my vein. They pulled the ambulance over so that he could have a steadier hand to try out his handiwork. Both of them really were keen to offer me medication for nausea, something for pain, but I refused both. I wasn't nauseated and I could handle the pain. My capacity to work with pain is threatening to medical professionals, this theme surfaces continuously.  It is not me trying to be tough, it is not me trying to be a hero, it is me putting my practices into play.  Why do I practice if not to use it when the opportunity arises? The savvy ones acknowledge what I'm doing and trust that I know my body; the insecure ones try to convince, cajole, or bully me into "staying ahead of the pain."  Over and over again. But I expect it, so I know how to set my boundaries and what to say to short-circuit power plays.
We made it to the hospital and I rested in the ER bay, attended to by a kind older nurse named Cissie. She reminded me of my own Auntie Skipper, my grandmother's sister, and so I felt secure. She asked me questions, removed my jewelry and put them carefully in a bag, and tactfully recommended that my dad take Selah back home shortly after they arrived to keep me company.  "You're going to be here for a while, they should probably come back later," she cautioned. That was her way of knowing that whatever I was about to experience could be traumatic for a four-year old to witness, and to create an atmosphere that was supportive for all of us.  Dad and Selah left when I was feeling like I was going to pass out, and my best friend The Midge arrived shortly after.  She sat with me as I talked to the ER doctors and they prepped me for surgery (you have to have surgery - great!) and walked with me to the OR, giving me smooches on the forehead before I went in to meet with the anesthesiologists.
[To Be Continued]

18 February 2013

Reflections on Retiring from Teaching Yoga

I know it's a retirement because it feels good, complete, bittersweet, consummate.

Sunday, February 24 at 8:00 am will be my final premeditated time teaching yoga.  I have been scaling down since December, and this will be the last hurrah.

A large part of the retirement has to do with the relocation of my daughter's father to Washington, D.C. I arranged my teaching schedule around the time that he spent with her. I am grateful to him for providing me with the space to teach in some capacity during the whole time that she has been alive.

Another part of it has to do with finding myself wildly out of balance when it comes to my external commitments and my own self-care. Full-time single motherhood, full-time employment, a daily 3-hour round-trip commute, plus regular attendance at the Foundations in Contemplative Care Program in New York City and its accompanying homework and volunteer hours have left me with nary a moment to make sure my socks match nevermind nourishing and replenishing myself enough to make sure that I am offering my whole, fresh, open, full-of-potential self to all of my endeavors, equally.  I do my best to meditate during little snatches in my work day, but the luxury of a yoga practice or the protracted time alone that my introverted self needs to feel truly fantastic are pipe dreams at this time.  Instead of beating myself up over this, I remember the wise quote offered to me by my meditation instructor about not trying to "rearrange the furniture while the house is on fire." Things will evolve, they always do. In the meantime, I am rearranging my priorities instead of the furniture.

I love teaching yoga. I absolutely live it. That was not a typo. It is one of the things that I do, in addition to cooking, dancing, and practicing yoga (and writing - sometimes), that feels like I am channeling. Also chaplaincy work to some extent, but I am still refining my end of the channeling bargain on that one - not quite as fluid with that as the other things, thus the continued attention and levels of learning.  But in teaching I open up, tap in, and let it flow. That's not to say I'm speaking in tongues or something, but whatever comes up, whatever comes out, originates from a place beyond myself. And it's not even like I'm taking the people in the room on some fantastic voyage: my sequences are pretty plain, the practice I offer is downright boring. Intentionally. In boredom there is space for depth; in depth, space for intimacy. Intimacy is the heart of the practice.  Intimacy comes when we are not looking to be entertained, when we have preserved our own agency on the mat instead of handing it over to the teacher for some kind of ass kicking.  I know that many (most?) people see yoga as their fitness regimen to be done harder and more intensely, but for me intensity is not a sweating, bucking thing but instead a softening, a deep acknowledgment.  The most intense moments of my life have looked like me sitting still and feeling elevated above whatever issue has been plaguing me so that I have the perspective to approach it skillfully, with kindness and deliberation. Grace is intense. Going slowly is so much more challenging than being aggressive, habitual, reactive. Being forgiving, being kind to oneself sincerely, resting thoroughly - these are the real "achievements" of a yoga practice, as if there were achievements to be had.

All of this comes from a breathing practice. Fundamentally. Enough said.

Though I've been teaching for somewhere around nine years, this relatively short amount of time has been subject to much (r)evolution and some of the most profound learning I could have ever asked for.  It originated equally from heartbreak and annihilation as it did from those blissful moments of right action, right speech, synchronicity.  Over and over again yoga returned me to myself, kick and scream as I might. That is the intention I have done my best to preserve in my instruction of the practice: "Here you are. Still. Again. I'm here too with you. It's okay."

Sadhana is and forever will be my yoga home, there is no place else like it on earth for me. I have been there longer than I have been anywhere else, and if and when the stars align for me to take a class now and again, you can bet that you will see me there on my mat.  I'm immensely grateful to Glen for more than I could possibly enumerate here, but basically I'm grateful to him for seeing me and for letting me know it's okay to be seen. We were unknowing reflections of one another when we first met, and that has only deepened in the past five years.

I've been trying to think of a way to acknowledge the politics that we unwittingly/unwillingly subject ourselves to when daring to be a part of (or apart from) the "yoga scene," but at heart it comes back to what I already wrote.  Everyone is flawed, beware of those who distort or ignore their own shadows, and if you are fooled by them once, shame on them.  If you are fooled by them twice, then you haven't yet learned the lesson about not handing over your own best interests to someone else. The practice exists for you to learn how to recognize and hold that warty side of yourself without judgment, to figure out how to stand by your own side, to develop resilience, and - believe it or not - for you to acknowledge and establish boundaries that simultaneously keep you safe and open to growth.  Be an adult, unhesitatingly.

There are some really wonderful new teachers who are drying their wings, which is another reason why I am not fretting about retirement.  To them I will say this: take care of yourselves so that you can be the kind of teacher who responds to students without an agenda.  People are crazy and beautiful and they will try to make you responsible for both states and everywhere in between.  But you're not! You never need to "fix" anyone. Breathe and feel them, and let them have their experience.  You will be fine, they will be fine. Loving them is harder if you're not clear in the love you have for yourself, but really that is all you need to bring with you into the studio. An earnest love of the human condition. Poses, shmoses. The poses will come. Be love.

Pay attention to minutiae. Feel your feet. Don't worry about the variety of aromas that waft your way. Baby yourself. As in, be as gentle with yourself as you would a little baby.  No, really.  Strengthen your core; be able to soften it at a moment's notice.  Rejoice in whatever makes you geek out.  It's not about the clothes, the exotic retreats, the advancedness of the peculiar, invented asana, the renown of the instructor, the mystery of the Sanskrit and co-opted pan-Asian culture, or the volume and tenor of your "om." Go slow. Embody your breath. Be curious with your discomfort. Stop trying to be so cool. Stop trying to be right!  Listen. Respond. Listen. Let that bubble of truth burst into your practice and into your life. Little ones first. Then the big ones.

Here you are. Still. Again. I'm here too with you. It's okay.  


29 June 2012

Self, Will

Hayyyyyyyyyy, I'm moving!

Relocating. Re-relocating.  And several close to me have said, "how can we help you move?"  Brilliant question. 

Today I moved a Gang of Big Things with my pal Gina.  She benevolently forced herself and an Enterprise van on me [halfway through the work she said, "thanks for letting me wear you down," which to me was the highest compliment. I am a tough nut. I know this. Sorry.] and, family style, we moved things from place to place, collaborating our brawn and winding up at the Goodwill, giving away appliances for free out of the van before they made their way inside. 

My beloveds are frustrated by my unwillingness to assign them roles in my Big Move. Today Gina aka Dr. Phil said, "Let's talk about why you will never accept help." I attribute it to my hard-nosed Catholic upbringing and being the eldest child. Self-sufficient, cubed.  I then launched into a sort of explanation that has helped me to understand my moves for the past 10 plus years.

The theory of psychogeography has existed for three quarters of a century, and has met with a practical resurgence in the form of Will Self.  My colleague Michael first told me of this man, who walks from airports to his urban destinations (in order to give talks about Psychogeography, one presumes).    He registers distance traveled, reinvigorates the life of the land- and cityscape with his presence, and arrives with a corporeal assimilation of what it means to have traveled.  This is how I feel about moving.

Taking time to relocate in a way that is systematic and deliberate, not only do I do my body a huge favor by doing Real Life Crossfit (c'mon... it's yardwork. It's moving. It's being the mother of a toddler. All of these things ARE Crossfit.), I also get a literal feel for my possessions. I am no turtle. I only wish I could carry all of my possessions on my back at once.  But having moved umpteen times in the past seven years or so, I have become skilled at the slash and trash method of distillation.  I am a sucker for keeping birthday cards, but will launch into the recycling anything that no longer serves. 

And so I take my time, and work my breathing while negotiating heavy boxes and tight corners.  Moving always sucks. Always. It could be the ideal situation you're moving into, you're elated over it, and at least once you break down sobbing. I have no doubt this sobby mist will waft over me at some point in the next week.  And I'll just let it come! And take a walk to the airport. Just because.

22 June 2012


This weather - thick and hot, with scents hanging in the air - makes me feel sick to my stomach, but somewhat fondly so. I have somatic memories of severe summertime morning sickness, coupled with the most brutal loneliness I have ever experienced.  These sensations lodged themselves in my cells four years ago, and whenever the weather is like it is today in Boston, they resurface and remind me how much has evolved since then.

This morning I drove by the Hilton where I had to jump off my bicycle so I could throw up in their outdoor trash can (that is after having already thrown up while riding my bike, which takes skill).  I remember walking up Washington Street in the South End, leaving from work at the acupuncture clinic and going to meet my friend at Pho Republique (we miss you, Pho Republique) for clear soup, the only thing I was able to keep down, and pausing on the way there to barf into the grass. It was hot (the weather). I was ill in so many ways, and again, felt utterly alone.

The loneliness came from not standing by my own side. It's true that I was isolated from others, partially due to the de facto isolation that comes to newly pregnant women (how I wish it wasn't so): don't tell anyone, keep this secret, no one can know until 12 weeks, etc. etc. I also chose isolation out of the real shame I felt for being pregnant at all. That it was entirely my fault. That I was ruining someone else's life, complicating matters. I did not want to celebrate, did not know how. Plus I felt like God was punishing me, in a protracted, insulting way.  I'd get up in the middle of the night to throw up. I had no energy and couldn't even practice yoga for fear of passing out or vomiting during class. In lieu of giving up the much-needed income that came from teaching yoga classes, I chose to confess to my yoga students and studio owner that I was indeed (fewer than 12 weeks) pregnant which is why I was eating a rice cake 40 minutes into the class and spending most of the time instructing from a seated position on the floor. Not because I was legitimately hungry, per se, but because if I did  not do these things I would be sharing more than they really want me to share, from a kneeling position in front of the commode. Supta Pukeasana, I think that pose is called.
So wrong, yet so accurate.

The loneliness trailed me through my days and shrouded me at night when I sought to be (had to be out of necessity) invisible in my own home, blended into the corner of the couch where I sat every night, unable to move much and stationed close to the bathroom.  If I could just become invisible, just annihilate myself completely, maybe I would find relief in the form of not hurting anyone else.  But I couldn't. Not only did I have to persist on behalf of whoever had made her home in my body, but the seminal wound that I had carried with me was entering its final phases of healing.  This first trimester of my pregnancy was the "healing crisis" (before it gets better it gets wayyyyy worse), and with the exception of two dips immediately after Selah was born and about six months later, the trajectory began upwards from this point in time.

One of the most characteristic aspects of my isolation at this time was actively and painfully alienating myself from one of my best friends.  She represented to me a reflection of acceptance, deep love, and self-worth that I was absolutely unable to summon in myself.  She saw me, she took care of me, she asked me gently to question the state in which I found myself, not with the suggestion that I end the pregnancy but with the acknowledgment that perhaps things could be different.  The clutch of my pattern gripped tighter (especially around my throat), and I severed her immediately and callously from my life.  It is a testament to the bigness of her heart and depth of her compassion and forgiveness that, last year when I called her on Father's Day to apologize and re-open the lines of communication, that she was willing to speak to me and hear me out. I didn't tell her anything that she didn't already know, and she was more gracious in her patience and openness than anyone I have ever known. I feel deep gratitude for you in my life, Audrey Miller.

Others were able to reach through my own personal Pigpen cloud of nausea and self-derision, like the acupuncturist who knew that I was pregnant even before I did.  That rascal. He kept saying to me, "What's going on with you? Something is different. You have this beauty and sweetness to you." And I would lift my crabby head in his direction feeling like a slug in a manure pile and say something like, "Mmmggghhhaaapppphhhtttbbbht. You have no idea what you're talking about. Leave me alone." But then he'd go and rub my shoulders while waiting for his next appointment to arrive, or make little "aww" sounds at me, for which my persistent grumpiness was no match. All I had wanted anyway was to be seen and touched without pretense, and incredibly those who had in fact seen me (the midwife, another acupuncturist) refused to call my state by name to me. I can understand why, we are actively conditioned out of saying to one another, "Hey, I see you. Just wanted you to know." for fear of whatever kinds of reprisals may come, but it's something that, with compassion and the ability to hold those reprisals as you'd hold a toddler having a tantrum, will ultimately expedite and cushion our healing for one another.

Telling my parents that I was pregnant also helped to lighten the cloud. Their excitement, along with the love and hugs from my grandmother and aunt who were visiting at the time, were enough to spark that little voice in me that said, "This is okay? Wait, this is a good thing? You're happy? Someone is happy for me? For us? I can do this?"  My mom saying, "I never thought I'd live to see the day!" has so much more of a profound meaning to me today than it did at the time, when it was just a poignant joke.  I'm dumbstruck by the timing of events in my life and life in general.  The other night while watching Selah dance around the living room singing some adorable song that she had made up I turned to my sister and said, "I wish mom was here. I bet they'd be having so much fun together."  And this thought makes me miss her and makes me a little sad, but I am also so glad that they had a chance to meet and know one another at all.

I don't want this post to make you sad, it shouldn't. So much has changed in four years and I look back on that Amelia with empathy and only a slight longing that she had been more empowered. But it was training. I'm stronger and more resilient and hope that I can see others more clearly as a result of that time.  And, as I drove into work this morning (one of my last driving commutes! yay!!) and felt the heat on my skin and the memory of nausea float through me, I knew I had to contribute to my healing by writing. Thank you again for witnessing me. Stay cool.

22 May 2012


Uploading photos, checking email at the end of the day, regrouping before I go check that the students are actually in their rooms at 1 am... something in me said, "write!" so I write.

Used to be, I loved to travel. Then I Liked It Well Enough and developed a fear of flying. Then I Really Did Not Care For It.  And now I remember that I love to travel.

This place, Prague, is more mesmerizing and mysterious and familiar than I ever could have imagined. The buildings sigh and tantalize, the history and potential simultaneously evoke a yearning I haven't met in over a decade. Easily I am/was here in 1898, frolicking in cafes, art nouveau (mais a cette ciecle ce n'est pas "nouveau") perfuming from my pores. 

I wouldn't want to live here, as in "make a living," but I would subsist here indefinitely on Moravian wine and long walks to find pockets of Narnia.  

Leave me here, it's easy to lose myself. And I haven't even been to a castle yet. 

30 April 2012

Zen and the Art of Scab Picking

Oh, hello writing. Hello my heart. Since my mother passed away I have gotten a little crusty. That freshness and immediacy had been covered over with a scab of normalcy. Getting cranky about normal things, living in a small little hut of a body, of a world, knowing that I had been/should be vast and open but not really seeing the way out of my shallow rabbit hole. 

Then this morning I interviewed with Koshin Paley Ellison at the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care. I didn't know what to expect, and I got exactly that. I wanted to bring my "A" game, but what is your "A" game when talking to a Zen teacher? Precisely. I told him about myself, about why I wanted to do work in Contemplative Care, I think I was as transparent and honest as I could be. I dolled myself up so that I would look earnest yet still comfortably me (hahaha, the thought of it is funny now... Zen don't care), and offered what I had. Then with ten minutes to spare in our time together, he asked me, "So, when do you let yourself get soft and vulnerable?" He held my gaze while mine darted, especially to the left, my left (does that make me a liar? what would Tim Roth say?) and even would duck a little to try to catch my eye contact when I evaded his. I told him I'd mostly cry alone or with my therapist, that it takes a lot for me to let down my hip-waders (he asked me if I pulled my hip-waders up over my face, I said no I did not). I'd have to feel safe with someone else, feel like they've taken good enough care of their own stuff that me being vulnerable with them would not set off a cascade of emotional reactions (that I would then have to take care of for them, hold for them). A few times, he asked how it was in the moment for me to be reflecting on my own vulnerability. Bastard! How I felt, in that moment, in that room with him. Nervous? But still comfortable? Hip-waders up to the bellybutton, not to the armpits, heart available. I chose to meet his gaze, and not to dart. I softened. He said, "Are you going to tell me what that feeling was?" and I reached for my water bottle to get up and go. Hadn't heard clearly what he said. He repeated, "No? Are you going to tell me?" I said, "Oh. I let my guard down a little." Scab. Off. He smiled. "You'll be hearing from us. Safe travels."