Monday, April 12, 2010

Lessons Hard and Tarot Cards

I woke this morning from a dream where I was driving on freeways in Singapore with a long vacation planned for travel around southeast Asia. In the car with me was a man I used to date who was complaining about the way I drove. In all fairness, I did seem to think I might be suffering from night blindness in the dream, which would have kept me from seeing whether or not I might be swerving off the road. However, I didn't like his attitude so I pulled over and let him out of the car. I decided to resume my dream during the daylight hours, where I was still having a bit of trouble controlling the speed of my vehicle and had to use both feet on the breaks. I wasn't frightened so much as frustrated with the lack of control I had over my general velocity. I tend to dream about the ocean a lot, and there was plenty of it surrounding the areas where I drove. One journey led to a hike that included some rock climbing on the edge of a very sandy cliff side, which jetted out over the water. Anyone who knows me has never heard a story which involved both rock climbing and me in it. I blame it on long fingernails and a general fear of falling, resulting from a lack of upper body strength. No thank you. So, it was no surprise in this dream when I was hanging on by a thread looking up at all the other hikers who marveled at the glorious view while I fought for my life (or at least to keep from falling into the ocean). Somehow I made it to the top with the slightly too chipper for my taste, campers. You know, those annoying people who might have been cheerleaders, aerobics instructors or just seem to maintain a general sense of overly perky behavior? I usually wish I had a BB gun on such appropriate occasions. Not enough to cause real harm, but just enough to where they can let the rest of us enjoy some silence (after a moment of screaming in pain....BBs do hurt). The dreaming woke me after only 5 hours of sleep and it left me lingering on the emotional purging process I've been going through in the last week or so.
It's been a rough winter and adjustment to being in Paris which has not inspired a lot of hope in myself as well as promise of future projects, however after a freak out about my reality which involved ice cream, Nutella, red wine and a teary phone call to a dear friend in California last week, I am snapping out of it. I called this particular friend because she has a way of seeing through the emotional bullshit to get to the bottom of things, but always in a very loving and intuitive way. It's rare when you have someone who knows all your darkest secrets, doesn't judge you and still lifts you up to remind you how great you can be when you aren't able to feel it yourself. It's not the same emotional coddling that can happen to validate what you've been doing, but the true gift of loving kindness coupled with honesty to bring you back to the facts of the matter. Knowing me the way she does she asked when the last time it was I had read my tarot cards. Now, I know it's hokum and voodoo to some people, but I find it a good exercise which brings me back to my intuition by clearing up any emotional turbulence that might be clouding my vision. Of course it's always difficult to remember the tools one has acquired over the years when becoming overwhelmed by emotion. I realize that not everyone is like me, and I do stare in amazement at those who achieve a sense or calm or even flippancy in their reactions. I am capable of this as well, but moving across an ocean into a new environment, a depressing Parisian winter and a broken leg are not exactly the formula for a healthy mental state. So, I broke out the cards. I have been dabbling with this particular deck for the last 10 years or so, and do not profess to be any kind of expert, but since I do have a strong sense of intuition and know myself better than anyone else it tends to bring in much needed insight that I fail to see otherwise.

Below is the brief summary from the notes I made on this reading. I could go into detail about each card, but I might lose some of you along the way. So if it really interests you pop me an email.

- "What I have taken from this reading is that I am a non traditional person who doesn't know how to accept myself and therefore is resistant to the changes that are naturally happening inside of me. My emotional distress from the past has distorted my current state so much that the brain tends to tell me truths that are in fact false, and if I continue to believe and remain ruled by these distorted emotions, it will only channel my powerful personality into aggression. Therefore achieving balance is necessary and will be obtained by looking at things logically, and carefully weighing options so as not to make impulsive choices which would only create further imbalance. There are external forces which will block my creative energy and try to keep me from being my best self, therefore I should carefully consider how to spend my time with people and environments. My biggest fears are that I am not strong and that others will in turn see any exuberance as false and only deem me weak therefore making me insignificant and useless. Moving forward, it is important to accept that the past will not change, but I must not resist current and future change, for they are always possible. I am NOT subject to the fate of my past. If I learn to understand these things and remain calm there is a fiery new beginning waiting for me to obtain it."

As you can see the cards did not tell me what lottery numbers to play, when I will die or that I will fall in love with a blonde haired man with black eyes. What it said so clearly is that my emotional stability is distorted, has much to do with my upbringing (duh), and that even though I think I have worked through it in therapy or whatever, I am obviously still carrying more of it into my present than is necessary. Everyone has a screwed up family or childhood in some way, but some of us are just wired with higher levels of natural anxiety that cause us to deal with it differently. On the exterior I appear to others like a relaxed, calm person who has her shit together, but the reality is I always carry around a large amount of internal suffering. However, after a so many years of trying to hide and carry pain all on my own it started leaking out (via vomit or uncontrollable emotional reactions) usually at very inappropriate times and with the help of inebriating substances.

After an attempted death by Nutella the day before, I decided I needed to get out into the sunshine (yes it's been sunny in Paris this week) and have a little fun. I did a little yoga, went to Parc Monceau and wrote for a few hours on the grass then met up with some friends for dinner. We were wandering around (first time out without a cane, crutch or leg in a brace) trying to decide what kind of food we were in the mood for with the myriad of restaurants before us, and finally decided on a hole in the wall Italian place. It was reasonably priced and not much to look at with its plastic red and white checkered tablecloths, but presented the warm aromas of a proper Italian kitchen. We were welcomed by a tall lanky older man with some serious bed-head who seemed to have lost a few teeth somewhere along the way. Two of us decided on the prix fixe menu, and as we ordered were informed that with the special menu came a free tarot card reading from one of the two Italian-gypsy-like women in the back of the restaurant.Two tarot sessions in one day, why not? I tend to look at such coincidences as more of a cosmic joke being played on me rather than giving it any great gravity of importance. The first card this woman pulled represented a man with whom there had just been an "upset." At first I thought she was going to generically talk about someone I may or may not have been dating, but she turned to the subject of my biological father who had recently been in the hospital and how it created conflicting emotions within me. Okay, one point for the tarot lady. There have been times where I thought it might just be easier if my father were dead, because at least I would not be pulled in close only to be betrayed and disappointed by him again in this yo-yo of a relationship we have always had.

In the grand light-bulb moment, I have seen the real affect of what he taught me about love and what it does to me anytime I start to feel the slightest bit abandoned by a man. The best part is realizing I really can choose to look those feelings in the face and say, "no, I will not tolerate these emotions any longer" and react in a much healthier way. As my friend Jeremy would say "it's time to put on your big girl panties!" There's peace in understanding the reason for a behavioral and physical reaction that has dictated one's actions. Rather than solving the search for love by putting a temporary Band-aid on the wound - which would indefinitely turn into an infection of continually festering, potentially life or limb threatening gangrene - making choices that avoid the gangrene altogether would appear to be the wiser decision.

(Pictured above is me, my sister, youngest brother and biological father)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

God Help Me. Jesus, stay out of it.....

The cast has been off for over a week now and while I still don't have full function of my joint, tendons and surrounding muscles (not to mention that my body does not seem to be very happy that there are several foreign objects made of metal inside it) I am surprised how fast the progression has been from the day of removal in the hospital (when I cried because I could hardly put weight on it) to now, when I took the metro for the first time in 2 months over the weekend! The unveiling from cast to leg was pretty gross. Dried blood everywhere, long gangly leg hair and peeling alien skin that itched like there were fire ants crawling all over it. Not attractive in the slightest. The very cute tall man-nurse that removed my stitches gave me some of the best physical pleasure I've received when he cleaned my wounds with a piece of cotton that applied some much needed scratching to the area. I could have died happy at that moment.
I was going to save the pictures of the gruesome aftermath until the very end of this post, so as not to allow anyone's lunch to be lost......but....sorry.

It's strange looking down and seeing the right skinny floppy leg in contrast with a strong muscle-beach-like left one. I do some exercises every day to increase mobility and have been lengthening the duration of my walks as well. Because I am a person who is full of pride (yes even after all of the humiliating experiences that have gone along with this one) it is really hard for me to endure the kind of attention that comes with being an invalid walking down the street. I am down to using the one polio crutch, but it's mostly so I don't lose my balance or get mowed down by the number of inconsiderate Parisians with their scooters, strollers, dogs and reckless children on those god-awful-ride-on-two-wheeled contraptions.
Having all of this time to myself has left me over thinking and analyzing too many things in regard to my journey in Paris thus far. I moved here to create a fresh start for myself in a few areas and admittedly have not been as proactive in taking advantage of this opportunity as I intended on when I first arrived. It's funny when you reflect upon certain decisions that cause you to question your own strength. I waver between feeling strong and weak, but I see that I can't allow those dark thoughts to come in and take over so much that I keep myself from the things I am so perfectly capable of doing. Perhaps, I did not set firm enough goals for myself and allowed that artist's way of floating along in the wind to carry me in whichever direction I felt, as opposed to focusing on where I want to go.

There's this thing that I always forget I do as some sort of default mechanism. When I get stressed out or overwhelmed I always find some man to use as a distraction and become completely focused on him. To my close friends this is no secret, as I adore attention from men due to years of damaged daddy issues. I realize I am not alone as most women fall prey to seeking out male love as over-compensation to the lack of what they received from their fathers. How cliche and ordinary! Ha. Well, it has been my reality nonetheless and when I first arrived in Paris I was dating someone who allowed me to cry on his shoulder and was there for me at every moment. However, after I discovered he had been dating another girl at the same time as me, I cut him off completely and in turn left myself in an exact replica of the situation I was trying to bury from childhood. Directly after I fell into the same bad habit of depression in reaction to feeling unwanted and unloveable. I can happily say that I was not nearly as self-destructive as I had once been, but I still allowed this depression to stop the motivation I originally arrived with in Paris. This pattern is like a strange terminal sickness that I choose not to see, allowing my want for connection to take hold of all emotion and biting me in the ass every single time. Insanity at its finest ladies and gents! Obviously at this moment I am quite clear of these transgressions and can use my current state of level-headedness to make better decisions....that is until what I call "crazy girl brain" starts to take over, bringing in the myriad of irrational thoughts that can only be concocted from years of trust issues.

I was up late last night after not being able to fall asleep and watched Frida. While I totally hate Julie Taymor (the director) for the ridiculous spectacle she made of Mozart's Magic Flute (and the fact that she's sort of a one trick pony) I still love the beauty of the movie along with the captured essence of Frida Kahlo. I admittedly despise being so emotionally moved by trivial moments on my screen, but when the film ended I was overwhelmed with my own sense of emotions. Let it be said that I am definitely someone who is extremely sensitive and feels everything at the deepest level of my core. When I take pleasure in something it is a pure form of ecstasy and when I feel pain in my heart it's as though I've ingested it into every cell of my being. Even now as I sit here and breathe deeply into a brief moment of sadness, it feels as though it is the pulse of the world running through me, causing my eyes to well with tears and a heavy swell of emotion to rise up from my gut into my throat. I have learned to live with this sensitivity as best I can, and try not to fight against it, as that usually only manifests itself in a downward spiral of self-destruction. I have learned I am not a person who can compartmentalize and pretend something does not exist, rather the only way I can function is to make peace with the emotion as it lives within me. It is quite exhausting to feel so much, so deeply, ALL THE TIME! There are plenty of times when I simply tune it out because I just don't want to deal with it. I listen to other people's problems, read, watch movies or any number of other energy numbing activities that keep me from heading into the turbulent depths of myself. Don't misunderstand as there are just as many feelings of light as there are of darkness. However, it seems one cannot exist without the other, therefore if I allow full happiness, I am also susceptible to the sadness. I never manage to escape either for very long, at least not anymore. I endure my suffering alone, not wanting to burden others with my struggle, but also for fear that a perception of "craziness" might be taken were I to dispel every thought I have all at once. Last night in the deep dark hours of night I had a moment that I can only describe as "I wept for my soul" - god, that sounds ridiculous. It stemmed mostly from the uncertainty if my soul even exists, or if there's a god who cares enough to save it by offering me love and peace for the duration of earth's journey, like all the good books throughout time have told us. I suppose my largest conundrum is that I do not know what I believe. I have scoffed at or mocked others for their personal convictions, yet I envy their ability to be so certain of personal truths. The concept of God is so twisted in my mind, from years of attending churches with different dogmas as to what God deems virtuous and worthy. Some say we are all worthy of God's love, others believe it is earned through daily deeds, but I can't seem to wrap my head around the guilt that was always shoved down my throat for committing "sins." Even as a young girl it was as though I could see God shaking his head at me in disappointment every time I lied, masturbated, or was mean to someone. Why would I seek the approval of someone whose love was proclaimed unconditional, but who clearly didn't like me when I committed acts of unworthiness? It resonates quite well in my ever so Freudian quest for "fatherly love." Because of all this I had abandoned any sense of spiritual connection I felt for this higher power. I have only believed in tangibility, even the kind that comes from feeling the energy of the person next to me or the city in which I live. However, none of it has ever come down from the heavens on a cloud to show me the right way to be (no matter what the bible says...I wasn't there). My mother said something to me once when I was young, and although there is a propensity for malarkey to fall out of her mouth most of the time, every so often there are slivers of insight: no one can judge what goes on in the dark between a person and their God. For all the years of exposure to Christians who concern themselves with the behavior of others, who try to pray away what they deem "sinful" in the people around them, I pose the question as to why they are so worried about the soul's affectation from the acts of one's flesh? Leave them to their God I say. I do not pretend to be a theologian with expert knowledge on the lives of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Lao Tzu or anyone of the sort. Eighteen years of bible thumping, 2 semesters of southeast Asian religion, and years of yoga study does not a spiritual guru make. I don't care what anyone else is into, what works for them or begrudge their journey, but I just don't want to hear about it. To blatantly quote Lao Tzu "Those who know do not talk; those who talk do not know. Keep your mouth closed...." Truer words have never been spoken in my humble opinion. So I guess one could perceive that I think all of our religious prophets, sons of god, or deities who rule the land, sea and sky, were just a bunch of loud mouthed egomaniacs who wanted the world to take on their dogma to satisfy some need for joint community through belief. However, I've already established that I don't know what I believe, yet continue to spew my own ideas, making anything I say truly a moot point. Since I'm already disturbing the taboo waters of religion I will gladly remain open in divulging my own practice of calling out for help in moments of deep struggle when I am alone in the dark. I ask for love and support that cannot come from the human realm and which I find necessary in order to move forward day after day in a world with priorities so far up its own backside that it causes us to swim in a sea of daily excrement.
Is there a God? How the hell should I know? I laugh inside any time someone says "I just know"......please. Well, you don't know the sky is blue unless you've seen it, and you don't know that wind exists unless you feel it on your skin or watch it knock down a tree; you know that 2 + 2 = 4 because it was taught with a tangible concept to you. What we end up with is belief. People believe plenty of things that aren't necessarily true. Just go to your nearest high school and get the daily gossip from any random teenage girl and they will tell you any number of truths. Many Americans believe the French are snotty, uptight, cowards who couldn't save their own asses against the Germans, however the perspectives are quite different from this side of the ocean.

Do I have a real point? No, not really. Do I think you should hop on my bandwagon? Not in the slightest. I'm just trying to figure all this out, and it's better to get it out of my head with the help of my fingers than to overindulge a brain which has a hard enough time coping while millions of emotions, rational and irrational thoughts, chemical reactions from hormones, blood sugar, oxygen or the lack thereof, are swirling around inside it.