abuse, Addiction, Anorexia, Archetypes, Bulimia, character study, Christmas, Colorado, Death, depression, Existentialism, Expansion, Fear, Health Issues, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, Non-Fiction, Nostalgia, Relationships, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Yoga

softening of the sap

I’m going to make up some of the piece for effect.  Sometimes, the metaphor unfolds from the writing but this one I’ve sort of planned out.  I use symbols and images to feel more real–to create something I can’t just vent over the phone while staring at refrigerated biscuits in the store after work.  Symbols and images creating the here-but-away glazed effect of the internet where one’s soul is felt in tiny comment bubbles but the vulnerability of immediate physical proximately can be easily avoided.  Instead of what I could say easily in person (and no one likes raw truths in person) I say elaborately through words, details, pictures, creations that ebb in and out of my control.  In these spaces I feel safe. In these spaces I am in the moment. There is one heartbeat, there is another—no need to coregulate.

_______

My dog once got tree sap on the tuft of fur located on his back, towards the tail.  That spot where dogs love to be scratched and will saunter underneath two blue jean tree trunks to feel the finger-branches of their owners.  One paw up, another paw up, tongue dangling from mouth, breath heaving.  A rhythmic ritual caught short on this day as the sticky, nostalgic smelling sap wraps around my fingers with black wires of fur and deformed pine needles.  I examine the spot now a cow lick of small chunks of tree bark, shiny in the light of the kitchen.  I thought about the hike where this had happened and how hikes sometimes start to look the same not because of being jaded or well-adventured but because the breath remains the same.  The steps, just like the dogs, back and forth in rhythm and ritual.  But the sap—this sap.  It was stuck.  It was hard.  It was amassed in a dark forest, off a path, a break in the flow.

I got stuck about 3 years ago.  There were moments when the sap would loosen, when I could start to work on the problem, but then in the dark forest I would find more resin.  I would stop looking up and become so focused on one thing that my back too became sap covered.  Tree-glue painful to pick off my own skin and oozing from trees in suspension, like a still shot of puss from a wound.  I had career hopped then which always come with a new creation of meaning, a way to make sense of purpose out of current circumstances.  With each move from mountain town to mountain town I would lose confidence, I would become painfully aware of my own personality—able to be friendly one moment, withdrawn the next.  The sap would harden and crystallize.  I felt frozen.  I felt trapped.  I felt suffocated.  There was one winter when we cut down Christmas trees and I found one for my own home.  I hosted a Christmas party.  The sap was soft then, the heat of friendship had loosened the sap.

Our neighbors gave us a Christmas tree this year and it looks much like the one I had cut down a few years ago.  I took it down yesterday and put it in my truck and a little fish thought swam through my head—I’ve already been here.  I’ve done this.  I’ve cut a small tree and let it dry up and scratch around in the jumper cables and bottles of oil in the dark belly of the truck topper.  I wondered how long the tree would stay this time and remembered a few years ago riding in the back after dumping the tree, noticing yellow pine needles feeling them stick in my legs as I smiled and watched the boy I had a crush on.  Softening of the sap.  Like teenagers that day in our laughter and I wonder when I will tear down dirt roads again in my truck hardly noticing sap as I chase waterfalls and peaks.  This Christmas brought its own patch of sap—a new problem that brought old problems, a folding of time in which I felt smashed in the middle.

Because of time, because of my tendency to never give up—the sap came out of the dogs fur.  We got a hairdryer and the look on the dogs face said I was an evil torturer.  I was ready to ban bacon from his world, outlaw walks, throw all the balls into the sea.  I wonder if I get this same look too when someone is trying to help me through something really painful.    The dog had worked for the clump of sap, I had worked for my pervasive depression and abusive interpersonal relationships.  Don’t take it away so soon.  I live like a preserved mosquito within this resin–I can’t annoy you here.  The dog yelped when the sap finally became soft enough, olive oil was massaged through his fur and lots of pets and kisses followed.  Then a bath.  This time he looked a little more forgiving—he knew now I was helping him.  I feel my heart starting to soften in the soapy warm water, things are melting, the crust of a loaf of bread has been cut into revealing the stretchy puffiness below.  I am moving through, with, and into this depression.  I am moving through, with, and into this light.

 

“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.” — Madeleine L’Engle

Christmas, depression, Dharma, Dichotomies, Expansion, Faith, Family, Fear, Health Issues, Jail, Mental Health, Mindfulness, Nostalgia, PTSD, Running, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Suicide, Trailrunning, Universiality, Wyoming, Yoga

I am in recovery, and I drink

An article about me recently came out detailing how I was able to recover from addiction to meth using yoga as a tool of recovery.  I used the drug almost exclusively intravenously everyday my senior year of high school and on into my twenties.  Mix in some blow, some pills, a bit of heroin.  All of this is true.  Another truth is that I’ve not used meth, pills, coke, or heroin in more than 7 years and I’ve not touched needles in as long.

But, I do drink.

In fact, I got pretty shitcanned on Christmas and spent yesterday hating myself watching as others posted this article about me detailing my three DUI’s and how I use yoga to help others.  I felt like a fraud and the folks from AA might have a thing or two to say about my version of recovery. But, I also knew where the desire to get schnockered was coming from.  My family became very fragmented in 2008 and I’ve spent almost every Christmas since alone. This is my work–to find peace in this space and create my own family.

So, to create forgiveness I googled the term “recovery is not abstinence” because this is what I have come to believe, this is one truth I have come to know.  This is true for me, and might not be for you.  That’s the thing your realize–truth can be relative.  And I think this is what has propelled me into living the most meaningful and vibrant life I’ve ever known.  Yeah, life has been crappy at times, and I own that I created it that way.

I found an article called “Reason” by Stanton Peele subtitled “Sobriety isn’t an abstinence fixation, it’s about having purpose.”  When you have purpose, stuff just falls into place.  I’ve never before had so much purpose in my life, I’ve never thought so much about the big picture, and I’ve never been so comfortable living in the gray. Through yoga, meditation, running, and writing I have found a way to express myself inwardly and outwardly.

What got me in trouble in the first place was living in extremes, maintaining all or nothing thinking and I became extremely uncomfortable in AA thinking I was one cocktail away from jail or death.  When in fact, I had maintained some moderate form of drinking for years until the death of my father which resulted in overuse of that same coping skill I had cultivated for a long time.  Looking back, it seems I was more suicidal than anything.  My Daddy had been ripped from me.  I did what I knew, I did what I could to feel better.  I drank, I smoked, I shot up.

I do often wonder if I am justifying, but I know in my heart that so many more folks with addictions might be able to find recovery were it not the constant pursuit of something that seems unattainable.  Even AA knows, we are only as sick as our secrets.  Those of us who have overused substances are far from saints.  But, we are not social pariahs.  We are not diseased.  We like to feel good.  And that’s the human condition.  We all have disassociated in one way or another to get away from uncomfortable feelings.  This is how humans work.

On April 25th, 2014 I broke my sobriety streak and had a beer after a close friend had hung herself.  Perhaps not the best coping skill but a completely human way to cope.  I let myself begin to drink into summer particularly after long runs and I would refuel with a Coors and a burger.  It was actually very relaxing and rewarding.  The running had become like meditation for me and to chill and have a beer after the run gave me space to see what moderate drinking felt like, what it looked like, and how it can be a very normal process.

I had been told in AA how NOT normal I was.  Oh well Jen, you drink, so clearly you are immoral.  You have no control.  You are an addict.  You can’t handle life.  I don’t really think of myself as an addict at all.  It’s no longer a part of my identity and not how I like to refer to myself.  I am a yogi, a teacher, an aunt, a sister.  But I’m no longer an addict.  Or alcoholic. This is one of the many reasons that I don’t find much solace in AA.  There are other reasons of course, but I am an empowered woman.  I am no victim of alcohol, drugs, or my circumstances.

Alcoholics Anonymous, while one of the most successful recovery programs in our recent history, has appropriated the term sobriety.  The program dominates our thinking about addiction and the only way sobriety is achieved is through complete abstinence.  To me, this seems like a complete set up.  For most, it’s an unattainable standard that may be reminiscent of why many of us started using in the first place.  To try and be something we were not, to try to maintain a facade.  It aggravates all or nothing thinking.  And it causes huge fall outs and huge relapses rather than just a shitcanned Christmas.

To me, recovery means that I love my body enough to realize that I cannot drink all the time.  It’s listening to my belly when it says that hard liquor is no good for me.  It’s having water with beer because I’m using the liquid carbs to recover.  It’s having purpose at my job I value enough to not show up hungover.  Its service work to others in my community who are in the grips of addiction.  It’s my values, my plans, my life goals.  I’ve come too far to fall victim to the fuzzy life I lived previously.

There is more than ample evidence that shows addiction is a solvable coping problem rather than a chronic recurring disease.  Being positively engaged with life encourages better coping skills and natural recovery. A number of long-term studies support this idea. Some positive engagement in my life includes a few beers at the local pub.  Sometimes wine with a fancy dinner.  I don’t have to wear a scarlet letter.  I can choose moderation.  I’ve often felt the only space where anyone is shamed for drinking is the rooms of AA.  It’s AA that plans the seeds of distrust and doubt.  Your own mind becomes the enemy when it is the exact tool that can heal you.

And so, I tell folks I’m in recovery.  I attend counseling to manage my anxiety and depression that have led to substance abuse in the past.  I perform service work at least once weekly to help impart tools that keep me healthy and engaged in life.  I create space for others as they work through relapses and we all begin to cultivate forgiveness of ourselves and others.  And, to me, recovery is simply self-love.  It’s the highest form of grace.  It’s accepting ourselves exactly where we are.  And then we can begin to change.

Archetypes, character study, Christmas, Death, depression, Dharma, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Fear, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, mountains, Non-Fiction, poverty, privilage, PTSD, Self Growth, Self Love, Universiality

the family tree

Whatever happened, happened a long time ago.  Before you were alive.  Before he was dead.  It happened in the family tree but like in winter, it’s hard to tell which part has died.  All the branches look the same, soft and sparkly in the winter, twisted and soft in the midnight light of summer.  We all see the tree differently in different light, seasons, different elements paint it’s long and sturdy arms. The transgenerational pattern of white, green, brown, black, tree-colors come and go like the patterns of the weather and seasons of the heart.  We fight, branches are cut off, new branches grow, different phases of the living thing—branches in the sky and roots in the ground.  Sky-father and mother-earth, all of our beliefs rest in this tree.  Whatever happened, some say it began in the trunk, in the branches, or in the veins of leaves, arriving as if by train, harsh elements propelled forward.  Some say by saw, by fire, by rain.  It happened before we could name it or give it a feeling, a symbol, a mood.  We sometimes still see the pink elephant, the things we won’t name, slip in and out of the jungle of connections between us, between the vines of our father and his sister around the ferns of our grandmother and her children.  And that’s just the way things are, so we say.  We live and we die and we don’t figure it out but the tree is still alive.  The family moves on through winter and summer.  Spring and autumn.  The tree still stands watered by love and the knowledge that although it might not see it branches on all sides, there is love from all sides, connection.  There are also things that happened a long long time ago to plant this family tree, this line of origin, these blessings of family, prayer, and love.

A Wind Has Blown The Rain Away and Blown

“a wind has blown the rain away and blown
the sky away and all the leaves away,
and the trees stand.  I think i too have known
autumn too long

                  (and what have you to say,
wind wind wind—did you love somebody
and have you the petal of somewhere in your heart
pinched from dumb summer?
                            O crazy daddy
of death dance cruelly for us and start

the last leaf whirling in the final brain
of air!)Let us as we have seen see
doom’s integration………a wind has blown the rain

away and the leaves and the sky and the
trees stand:
             the trees stand.  The trees,
suddenly wait against the moon’s face.”  

ee cummings

Asana, Body Image, character study, Christmas, depression, Dharma, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Health Issues, Higher Education, Mental Health, Mindfulness, mountains, privilage, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Trailrunning, Universiality, Wyoming, Yoga

big gulp breath

I’ve started to do things I like because I like myself more and more each day. I run–not lose a billion million calories but because I love feeling the sun on my skin midday. I don’t worry about walking either and stop to gulp breath like diet soda which I also drink because I like the way it feels and tastes.

I love my job. I don’t try too hard because I don’t have to. Part of the love is that I can just be myself. I do yoga with weights because I favor strength over flexibility and I like the way my arms are starting to take shape again.

I go out every now and again and hang out with the people I choose. Ones who I can be my complete and utter self around—no matter how that self may feel. I still get defensive and worry about others approval but I like that I’m working on that too.

I listen to all kinds of music because I can. I don’t care if there are cuss words in a class. I listen to what moves me. The word fuck sometimes moves. I don’t go to live shows as much as I used to. I’m okay with that, too.

I love teaching yoga because its more about being with people than alignment. Its more about being humble together than showing off a handstand. Its more about loving yourself than loving the illusion in the mirror. Its more about seeing your true self, rather than what the world has tried to create.

The moment you over think how someone sees you, is the moment you stopped being true to yourself.

Christmas, depression, Dharma, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Fear, Laramie, Mental Health, Mindfulness, poverty, privilage, PTSD, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Universiality, Yoga

holidays and hard candy

Holidays are like black licorice.  Some find them nostalgic and live from under the tree themselves a gift to the holiday season ready with cards, vintage ornaments, cookies, hot chocolate, all traditions and rituals practiced with such mindfulness and care like orchestrating an entire Nutcracker pageant, dancing the delicate ballet of life.  I cannot stay bitter at a time when I see this passion and see this play unfold in faces stained red from candy canes and fingers sticky from exploring a magical world criss crossed with strands of light.  The magic is reversed for others and Christmas cookies become too sweet lingering in the mouth whose teeth are biting at the lip of poverty wondering how to make it through the next 30 days.  Life morphing into a horrible cliché, a made for tv movie.  Main character standing washing dollar store plastic dishes staring out the window of subsidized housing painfully aware of peeling paint and hair and dirt stuck to the window sill.  Contemplating the bottle of wine under the bed that was bought in shame after registering for a holiday basket, kids screaming, mind screaming, body hurting, lights too bright, feeling raw and jumping at the sudden touch of the holidays.  Nothing is ever as simple as black or white and because we all are in one another in some way we are both of these people–Tiny Tim and Santa.  Stereotypes founded in some semblance of truth because what is underneath is the same:  love, pain, fear, joy, togetherness, isolation.  These we share.  These are our gifts.  All of us holding onto the ghosts of the past, the fuzzy reality of now, and the anxiety of the future.  Money doesn’t cure this basic human condition.  The underbelly of the holidays makes some hyperaware of their inability to give or receive and others such joy to create rituals that heal, both wrapping up the past and looking toward the future keeping in the now through the practice of sacred patterns.  And because I can only write in juxtaposition and think in binaries doesn’t preclude any of us from feeling the bittersweet energy of the most emotion filled time of the year.  And so, on this new day of a new year, completely symbolic, I will appreciate the past and trust the future while breathing love in and out in this very moment.

character study, Christmas, depression, Dharma, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Fear, Laramie, Mental Health, Mindfulness, poverty, privilage, PTSD, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Universiality, Wyoming

pretty piece of flesh

I was really crappy to someone today.  Like, really crappy.  I could feel the crappy starting in my belly from my place of security and then my eyes narrowed and I felt a reaction to the smell of plastic and office supplies.  Supplies pushed by nose-hair tendrils into my lungs catching on the cilia inside phlegm,  inching out after having collected the pollution of the air, the pollution of my mind.  We all just push around negative energy like chunks of dirt we can’t pick up with a broom—I’m mad I have no printer and now I’m mad at the dude who has no copies who was probably already mad before.  The negative energy spins and spins collecting sparks like piles of coal dust in a corner waiting to be spread out away from its own volatile energy and pushed around so it doesn’t catch fire again.  Is it the smoldering that is fine?  Does the explosion get to us? Or do we just fear the fire?  Because it’s bound to happen, energy piles up, energy is released.  Touch your skin now and feel the heat of your own body–its own furnace, its own sun with planet arms revolving and watching its path bumped out of line by small daily interactions.  Daily interactions that bother my sun-core.  I am not mean to people I don’t know over copies and yet here I am.  Mean.  Just plain mean. I find myself saying…well I am the customer.  I am self.  You are other.  I am subject, you are object.  We are distinct now as I have found you cannot help me.  And now you might just not want to.   Later I lay and stare at the popcorn and bundled parts of my ceiling letting it reflect my flawed character–my idiosyncrasies.  And I hear the thumping narrative of excuses we have for being crappy.  Oh well she’s just mean to people over the phone.  Another pile of dirt hidden.  Oh well he’s just grumpy in the morning.  More dust collecting for fire.  Part of being uncomfortable is cleaning out the corners to find the fires before they happen.  But please, don’t let that stop you from burning here and there.  Rise from your own ashes and appreciate your own flesh.  Because we are all flawed chunks of flesh.

Christmas, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Fear, Health Issues, Laramie, Mental Health, Mindfulness, poverty, privilage, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Universiality, Wyoming

prison and trees

Nostalgia. I started thinking about Christmas and its ritualistic significance and its ability to regress us all—whether that’s your mom serving you waffles and milk on Christmas morning or wearing pajamas and watching cartoons for three days—you are allowed to regress. Encouraged to take on your current role with steroids—I am now sister and daughter and professional and have taken on the roles of my mother.   I feel jealously in my belly and heart knowing that I don’t have a holiday at home waiting for me. This is neither good nor bad and only thinking turns this opposite-of-holiday into a large hunk of food that has become lodged in my belly—I just can’t get it out. But, we all have our fears and dread the holiday for reasons that are all too personal—someone will mention your appearance, someone will make you aware of your position in life, you know the snide comments will come. And this is the magic of self-love, the true magic of Christmas. The holiday spirit is loving yourself even if you’ve eaten three waffles and have syrup on your worn out t-shirt. Its loving yourself even when your cooking is questioned or the gift you chose doesn’t have the hoped for effect. It’s loving yourself even if you have no family, will receive no gifts, will not look forward to a roasted slab of meat. Truly loving yourself is better than nostalgia because you are truly in the past, present, and future. You are existing in three realms with love that expands beyond what you can comprehend. And the best part about this self-love is that it creates space to love others. To love them with a Christmas spirit that reflects the Christmas tree. Several cities in the United States with German connections lay claim to that country’s first Christmas tree. Windsor Locks, Connecticut claims that a Hessian soldier put up a Christmas tree in 1777 while imprisoned at the Noden-Reed House. He put up this tree to symbolize life and freedom even the in the trappings of prison which can be like the trappings of our own thoughts. Put up a tree in your heart and grow your branches of self-love and watch the rest of your world grow as well.