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...