Thursday, March 25, 2010

Purple Haze

Purple haze all in my brain
lately things don't seem the same
Acting funny and i don't know why
excuse me while i kiss the sky-- J. Hendrix

Here’s what’s new today: Purple.

Growing up, purple meant Prince, Bubble Yum, and grape soda. Our Mills college class color was purple, and we heard all about how when we were old we’d wear purple. I wasn’t ever a huge fan. For a while my favorite color was blue, then red, then orange, then green. Never purple: the color of royalty, the color of my parents’ alma mater, the color of berries, bruises, and wine-kissed lips.

Now? Purple won’t let me go, and I have some things in mind that aren’t easily said. I attended an art museum event in February, called The Purple Party, so maybe that’s where my attention started to turn; one of the best nights of my life, and with every smile and surprise, my appreciation for the color grew a hundred-fold.

I’ve recently learned that Friday, March 26, is International Purple Day for Epilepsy Awareness. Epilepsy, my dears, is one thing of which I am intimately aware. Even now, I can tell I want to write this in order to bring the understanding I seek so fervently, yet I stumble to find words. It’s surreal.

Most days-- most YEARS-- are free from seizure for me; so far away it seems like something that happened to a different person. I follow doctor’s orders, and, thankfully, quit all the things I’m not supposed to do (like drink alcohol). My personal stumbling block is stress. As with everyone I know, I do the best I can every day, and with each step of self-awareness comes a new level of healing and trust. When I think of seizure, it’s like a descent: a freefall off a cliff I didn’t mean to find myself standing on. Then afterwards, so very awake, aware, raw.
I like the seizure-free me better.

Again, I recall Psyche being snatched off the cliff by Eros, and Persephone innocently reaching for a flower and ending up in the Underworld. I relate strongly to both those myths. I also remember the flip side of those stories- if you don’t reach for beauty & hold out for love, you may miss your destiny. But there are some hard prices to pay.

According to what I’ve read, purple is associated with epilepsy because of the lavender herb. In ancient times, lovers would send each other lavender when they were apart as a sign of devotion, so that neither would feel lonely. I understand this a lot more now. It’s a hardy plant, can thrive even in drought, has many healing applications, and soothes the senses, comforts the skin.

(Also, sometimes rendering or drying the herb intensifies the essence, just as absence serves to slowly smolder affection in lovers’ hearts. Hearts, like lavender, have myriad ways to show how strong, redolent, and resilient they can be.)

I wrote about this in my grad thesis in a memoir. For months, I wrote, studied, and made an academic case for how seizure was the Trickster of my life. And then, I let it go-- by defining the phenomenon I did not let it define me. Funny thing, though: I’ve only shared any of that writing with a handful of people (including my editor and advisor). So, how comfortable do I really feel? Hmm.

I actually do want people to be aware of epilepsy. I have a lovely life that I wouldn’t trade, filled with tremendous friends, family, and experiences I treasure. I was able to earn two master’s degrees, and have been at various times a writer, a therapist, a dreamworker, a PR consultant, and Muse-whisperer (yep, I made up that last vocation, but it works!). I would want people to know what a seizure is, how to help the person having it, what to do next. I’d want them to know that there’s so much more than those few scary moments to cherish and share in a life. I’d want them to understand that holding a hand is a powerful thing when your own is unsteady. I’d want them to know that sometimes we all need to feel cared for, and it’s too achingly easy to slip away.

(People, like lavender, have myriad ways to show how strong, redolent, and resilient they can be. Look for me on March 26. I’ll be wearing purple and smiling- can’t miss me.)

Namaste, Psyche

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Colorful Embrace

I awoke this morning and prayed for something beautiful. I think it was a prayer. Maybe a wish. Anyway, I wasn't being picky or choosy about what that might be. I've just had the most heart-wrenchingly gorgeous dreams lately. Depending on which dream I'm referring to, I'm surrounded by the greenest, most lush gardens; gracefully seated by a koi pond on a hill; or discovering rare wine in a secret cellar beneath ice and snow. In my dreams, I appreciate and protect and share this ripeness, treasure, and surprise. Those dreams, that liminal space...

My waking life has been less simple, and the ground doesn't sparkle as it does in my dream-winter. And so I asked for something beautiful to hold me here today: a colorful embrace. Of course, from the time I stepped out of bed things went awry. REALLY awry. I kept breathing, shifting, remembering that "overwhelm" is a state that passes. Nothing was working, so I decided to stop thinking and start moving. I strode through the sunny neighborhood listening to the iPod. I think I started to really worry about myself around the time I was tearfully (and seriously) identifying with an old Madonna song. Jeepers.

I saw dead grass and leafless trees achingly far away from budding out. My cheeks were flushed with effort and I was out of breath and suddenly back on my block. As I slowed my pace, I took a long look at my house. The lawn service never came back to finish clearing things out, so I dropped to my knees and started making piles of the old leaves and broken limbs with my hands. I could feel the crush of leaves breaking and thorns pricking my skin and just continued steadfastly clearing.

And there it was-- underneath all the muck, having survived the snow, sleet, and every other harsh Kansan wintry attack: one flower, blooming, waiting for me to uncover (or discover) it. My flower is a pansy called "love-in-idleness," on display with purple and cream-white petals. Shakespeare referred to it in A Midsummer's Night's Dream as the base of a potion that made one fall in love. (A little syzygy there, too.)

Today, I fell in love at just the right time with a flower called love-in-idleness. Today, I remembered love and beauty are so closely tied. All it took was my surrender, the reminder of valuing patience, and the act of digging away to make room for what was waiting for me all along, right in my own front yard: already abloom.

Gratefully present,

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Psyche & the Heart's Rhythm

I've been writing iterations of this post for long enough, and by now I'm feeling restless. You know what I mean? Like you'll burst if you have to keep it all inside? So who knows- stream of consciousness will take us on a quirky, unedited jaunt here.

Someone asked me why this blog refers to Psyche. Lame wordplay, I suppose, but at the time it made sense: my personal psyche, the collective psyche, and Psyche, the mythical woman who captured Eros' heart... I was steeped in all of this at school, and it seemed a good enough name for what I was up to. I strongly connected to Psyche's myth, and have felt at times like the girl alone on the cliff, waiting; the girl sneaking in with the lamp to get a closer look at the one she's with; and performing Aphrodite's (seemingly endless) tasks with nothing but hope & desire & perseverance. And patience, I suppose.

My father is a cardiologist, so I grew up learning a lot about the heart: its functions, its structure, its rhythms. I learned how to take what you've been given genetically and protect it the best way you can. I've learned how to put yourself in harm's way, to begin to heal, to see others' health differently, too. When I asked my dad what the heart should sound like, he slowly said "lub-dub, lub-dub, but with emphasis on the DUB." I'm positive he's given this rudimentary explanation to at least a thousand souls like me: curious, maybe nervous, but wanting to understand. I thought about it the other day. He hears heart dysfunction so often after all these years that it must be a blessing to hear a healthy heart beating when a patient comes to see him.

In my own life's inquiry (mostly psychological, literary, poetic), I've been so focused on tasks to prove my self worth that I almost forgot my own heart and how it sounds. I realized that I've recently had another experience akin to one of Psyche's- when she hovers above sleeping Eros with her lamp and realizes who he is. She is in love. Not with a stranger in the night, not with someone making rules that she (of course) broke, but with who he is: winged, illuminated.

Anyone who knows the story knows all the trials, the stumblings, and the successes in Psyche's quest to appease and win over Aphrodite and her lost lover Eros; knows that Psyche went to hell and back (no, really!) on the off-chance that she could try again with her beloved. The damn thing is that angry and absent as he was, Eros watched her the whole time, loving her as she struggled. Was she so intent on proving herself worthy that she failed to notice that she was already in his heart? What is so scary about being seen & accepted that we often fly away like Eros did: reacting defensively, instead of allowing someone to lovingly discover us & care?

Recently I've been working on marketing strategies, non-profit fundraising ideas, event coordination. I am trying to balance these new tasks with the self that connects me back to my heart symbolically, lyrically, and literally. Some of the smallest, strangest questions have arisen in me lately with no linear answers. All of a sudden I'm tongue-tied. I don't want to play hide and seek. I want to be seen and found- my own stumbling block is allowing that unfolding. Until then I will quiet my fears and attend my heart .

Because when I do, I can hear it strongly, clearly, liltingly, not a flutter: lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Through the Door: The Story Writes Itself

"Sometimes exactly what you need walks right through the door."

I think the first time I heard this was in class with Dr. Allen Koehn at Pacifica. Something about psyche and unconscious constellating and, well, life living you. I knew what he meant (about counseling and psyche), but I never extrapolated beyond that context to anything else.

Until last week. On a particular day, I awoke impatient. I had a board meeting to get to that I knew would last most of the day, and I wanted to prepare. I ended up going early so that I could attempt a new surrounding as cure for this wretched mood o'mine. I sat at the table and checked emails, antsy as the rest of the members and staff filed in.

We started the meeting, and a man I had never seen before stood up and spoke, alongside his wife and daughter. He presented us with a check from his foundation, and we all applauded this generous gift. (We usually don't have guests to these meetings, so it was refreshing to see new faces.)

At some point, this man looked around at each one of us and said that he knew how difficult this reorganization was, how unexpected and challenging - emotionally and in every other way. He told us how important the work for children with special needs is, and how the future looks much brighter for kids and families because of this organization. He also rightly pointed out that even on our most difficult days, when we are frustrated, upset, and having to make hard decisions, that all of it is so temporary and achievable, unlike the experiences of many of our clients. And that people are watching, wanting to help, and rooting us on.

I know that everyone in the room was deeply appreciative of the presence and generosity of this man and his family. But that encounter was like a tiny miracle for me. I needed to hear it that day, above all, and had not known how much until this kind, smiling man stood there, speaking from his heart. All of a sudden, I knew that all the things I was carrying - including insecurity, sadness, pain - all of it was mine to eradicate. All of the toxic nonsense had to go, and I was the one to make it go. I was humbled, inspired, and ready to make room in my life for lovely things.

And so I have. I set apart some friendships that weren't feeling so friendly and some worn-out promises I made to myself and sent them packing. There was simply no room for any of it anymore. I caught up to the fact that at present my life is so damn good. My darling friend fell in love, another is published (again), and still another has recommitted to his own life seriously enough to pause, reflect, and be. Kindness, compassion, and courage all around me that I can see and reciprocate -- exactly what I want to build on from here.

I treasure such enriching experiences in my days, and the unexpected gifts that turn the world back around. I've had my eyes opened wide, and what do you know? I'm already on this gorgeous path, surrounded by the most amazing people imaginable. No need to search for what has already been found. Now to embrace, honor, and live soulfully in the world -- each moment offering opportunity for connection, growth, and joy.

It's high time to seize it all.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

October Day

Just adding this in, quickly, and updating between things on the list. I felt I had to take a bit of blogspace to post a little something else to the dazed reverie of an October day in Ta Town. Yes, I am in SERIOUS need of caffeine...

A friend wrote to me last night, in reference to men, me, and my purpose in the world:
"I wonder if you draw for just this reason, like a seashell, to the whispering of soul."

That may or may not be true, but I think that is how I seek to be in the world; that is the calling that lingers as I walk through the autumn days.

Maybe the key is just to Be, in the midst of the Becoming...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Just to Reiterate: I Believe in Love

Not a surprise, but as with all things psychological, mythological, and anything that strikes my fancy and grabs my attention, I start down one road of thought and others reveal themselves. I have begun reading the "Red Book," slowly but with concentration and zeal. And issues... First off - I am somewhat apprehensive about actually touching it. Secondly, it's quite a handful. Third, I go slowly from one part of the English to look at Jung's hand in German and back. It's a task. It's one I've craved in my soul without knowing it.

Call it the fault of academia or never getting out of thesis mode or whatever you wish, but other long-ago thoughts come to mind when I read lately. The inquiry into one thing leads to another, and there you go. Lately I have had trouble concentrating when I read, so everything I love to study is a struggle; writing is arduous. It's vexing and erodes my established sense of self. However, perhaps that is exactly where I need to be right now, as I set sail on this soul journey with Dr. Jung. I wonder if this is a way to revive and re-establish the notion of personal and collective psyche? Hmm.

Anyhow, some of the old stuff from my days at Mills College have come to mind lately. Who knew I actually paid attention in college? I remember a few years ago, reading "The Body Artist" by DeLillo for Myth class at Pacifica, and being reminded of Adrienne Rich's poem "Diving Into The Wreck." I adored this poem, and hadn't thought of it until the themes of love, loss, and bridging a sort of understanding between two people came up years later. Of course, that day we had Marion Woodman guest lecture, so the only one remembering anything about my anemic presentation on the book is, well, me.

SO, here's what came to mind again last night, and has transformed the meaning of my day, from Rich's "On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978.":

'An honorable human relationship–that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love”–is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying for both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

It is important to do this because in so doing we do justice to our own complexity.

It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.'

I realize yet again how though I treasure introspective moments and the lush landscape of personal psyche, there is nothing like the aspects of self that are discovered, mined, created-- changing and flourishing-- when those we love really do walk that hard way with us. I only love as much as I find those who will love with me; I only inspire affection as deeply as those that inspire me.

Too much Aristotle (I'm sure) but I do believe happiness is an aim, a process, and an activity. The more I see of the world and experience treasured people in my life, I believe love is more than a stance, a decision, a lightning-strike. I wrote the words numinous and liminal earlier and I think love is so much nearer to these concepts, but still-- I can't get close enough. Love has its own avenues, landscapes, and languages. How exquisite to love another, and how my soul shines when I am loved in return; whether agape, storge, philia, or eros, I bask in the glow.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mermaids, the Red Book (and how!)

Oddly, I began by writing out the answers to the Proust questionnaire, which, as you can see, are going un-posted as of this evening. I'm not exactly sure what I'm doing now by writing, but in a time of transition, I've got to look to a mirror. At least a little.

Embarking on Year Two of living in Wichita: a place I've variously said I'll never live again; or, I won't live here unless married or with the most fabulous job; or (this time), only for three years and that's final. So it's not a love affair without challenges. In truth, it's way less than a love affair... more like a comfy marriage where you ignore the deep problems and make sure the yard is up to neighborhood standards. And take a lot of trips so you don't have to get to know each other that well.

My life here in Suburban Middle America is pleasant, mostly. I have precious little to complain about, and have met new aspects of myself over the past year that have surprised me. I am torn, sweetnesses. I left Pacifica a new girl: divorced, more sure of my professional self, deeply valuing my education and proud of my accomplishments. I've had some health issues arise but even these are short-lived and manageable. My friends who play tennis are happy to see me on the court again. I now have routines focused on being here and present in a mindful way, instead of "present" somewhere else. The Taurus in me should be thrilled, right? Right?

As some of you are aware, I started writing and researching mermaids several months ago. New Year's with Crystal in SB was a catalyst, as was a dream Kristi had about me living underwater. I knew something was calling me, and I had to pursue it after recurring dreams and waking synchronicity compelled me. Mermaids are actually pretty perfect for that kind of thing. Some days I feel really split between this person with business sense and practical knowledge (including clinical), and this other fringy person who wants to steep in writing, myth, fairy tale, symbol, and everything the unconscious has to offer. My days of philanthropy are spent in this action-packed triage mode of offering a hand with my sister's former preschool (special needs kids) that declared bankruptcy a few months ago. Am I helpful there? I hope so. I am certainly not a mogul, a lawyer, a banker, or a CPA. But I do what I can, every so often taking a moment to hold in my hands these photos of my sister from that long-ago time, reminding myself to be strong and keep doing my best.

So why do I come back so often to mermaids the moment I walk in the door? Who the hell in Wichita, KS, wants to know anything about that? Who wants to know about it ANYWHERE?

I've considered mermaids in different ways. From the viewpoint of the sea-nymph, from the view of the sailor at sea or spectator ashore, and from my own personal perspective. What might it mean to feel affinity with the depths and rhythms inside myself and others, armed only with a comb and a mirror, a voice and play? What does it mean to surface and long for?

I've looked for counseling work here, and so far have been met with strange looks, protestations that I am "over-qualified" due to my DBT/psychoanalytic supervision, and some who just can't get in touch with how my education and work hangs together in any kind of practical way. It has been discouraging at best. I've had times of hating this town, times of feeling very pitiful, times of despair, and times of going back through the tenets of all that we learned and studied trying to see what the hell and why.

There are moments when you waver, and times when you must let your soul speak, despite the consequences or further misunderstandings or ridicule. My inner Ayn Rand showed up in a debate I never should have participated in the other day, and I was informed that I was "stupid" by a person I've never met. Which is fine -- being underestimated is not new to me. However, it brought up even more dichotomy within me. I know part of individuation and growth is to live with the tension of the opposites, and embrace your own peculiarities and eccentricities. To know what you know and love what you love with no apologies.

I'm wondering if this is where the midlife crisis begins.

Anyway. I'm going to try a few things and see what works. I may not be 'landlocked' in order to find the perfect mentor in depth psych, but I can certainly add a few things to the collective discussion. I nakedly admit to anticipating the "Red Book" with fervor. I desire something soulful to touch me deeply again. Jung started writing it at 39; I'll start reading it at 39... I already know that by revisiting my old, beloved psych books, I fall back into the cadence and language I know and love.

I'm finding that this mermaid call is a much truer compass for me than the one found on the boat, much truer than consulting the charts. All I want to do is see the sun peer down into the shadowy depths. I want to sun on the rocks all day, combing my long hair, peering into the mirror. I want to swim with dolphins and sing to the sailors and if they follow me to safety or to their peril that is the chance taken. I want to wander the waves and arrive wherever I am meant to be -- uncharted territory or no.

And, most of all, I want to hear that song resonate within me, and sing it for myself (& for others who seek soul and meaning).

I appreciate your reading through the ramble, my dears.
Love and light.