Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's only the dark side, Luke

          One of my fondest childhood memories was sitting in the old Glenbyrne Theater in south Toledo watching "Star Wars" over and over with my little sister.  During the hot, sticky summer of 1977, Laura and I would find our seats in the air conditioned theater, our skin breaking out in chills of excitement every time we saw the enormous title burst onto the screen simultaneous with the opening blast of John William's music. 
          We must have seen that movie, and the two sequels, at least ten times.  Back then, we didn't have DVD's.  Not many of us owned VCR's.  So going to the movie theater and seeing the ultimate battle of good versus evil play out in front of us made for some exciting moments.  In fact, during my first viewing of "The Empire Strikes Back," the theater started shuddering.  I thought it was because of the scream of X-wing fighters roaring across the screen.  But no.  Toledo registered an earthquake that day....and boy, did we feel it.
          Halloween has rolled around again, and while it's not all that earthshaking (unless you count the high drama involved with changing trick-or-treat schedules due to imminent rain), it does get me wondering about the original purpose for All Hallow's Eve.  A precursor to one of my favorite times of the year, All Soul's Day, Halloween was a way of honoring the dead, the shadow, the dark side within us all.  In centuries past, "soulers" went door to door singing and saying prayers for those who have passed.  Nowadays, we've lost that tradition, although kids (and some adults) often dress up in shadowy versions of what death or the dark side might look like. 
          I'm not much for scary things.  Clowns in particular are undeniably on my "stay away" list.  Still, many of my friends love this time of year and decorate their homes with ghoulish decorations that both delight and deter many neighborhood kids.  Me?  I gave away all my Halloween decorations years ago. 
          Still, I do love to poke my dark side now and again to see what's lurking there.
          Recently while teaching an Astrology class, I said to my students, "We're all born with light and shadow.  Most of us tend to gravitate toward the light.  Dark things scare us."  I shrugged.  "But what's shadow?  Just something that we can't see until we shine a light on it.  And believe me...whatever you don't work through in the light, will maneuver itself in your shadow and you'll be met with it again and again in relationships, in difficult choices, and in your life lessons."
          "And by the way," I added with a wink.  "Bright light always casts a shadow somewhere."
          In some ways, I wasn't surprised at all that Darth Vader turned out to be Luke's father.  That clandestine moment when the truth was revealed in the second "Star Wars" movie turned a lot of heads, but I remember thinking, "Yep...that sounds about right."  And when Luke finally makes peace with his father at the end of "Return of the Jedi," he's really making peace with his totality.  I had to wait through nearly two hours of mildly annoying Ewoks and gun fights to get to that very satisfying conclusion. 
          When I started writing my first novel in the mid-nineties, I soon realized the two main characters represented my own light and shadow.  Interestingly enough, it's Michael, the dark side of me, that is my favorite to write.  He's tough.  Mouthy.  Freedom seeking.  Heartbroken.  Struggling.  And ultimately, he's working through his demons.
          Tomorrow begins my favorite month of the year.  Autumn colors and the changing weather suit me just fine.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I love to dig out my sweaters and polar fleece.  And always in November I tiptoe into my dark side to see what's waiting there.
          Tomorrow I will begin writing a new novel that's been waiting in the darkened drawer of my desk for over a year.  Once again I will resurrect Michael's character and let him provide a voice for my shadow.  Once again I will shed a little light on that which is unknown, but will soon be bathed in luminosity.   
           This is the third novel in which Michael will have a starring role, and once again, I'm looking forward to what he'll reveal as the story unfolds.   I just watched an old episode of "Northern Exposure," and Chris in the Morning had these wise words to say:  "There's a dark side to each and every human soul. We wish we were Obi-Wan Kenobi, and for the most part we are, but there's a little Darth Vader in all of us. Thing is, this ain't no either-or proposition. We're talking about dialectics, the good and the bad merging into us. You can run but you can't hide. My experience? Face the darkness. Stare it down. Own it. As brother Nietzsche said, being human is a complicated gig. So give that ol' dark night of the soul a hug. Howl the eternal yes!"

          May you and yours have a safe and happy All Hallow's Eve! 

          Here's a link to a haunting tune by one of my favorite artists, Loreena McKennit, singing "All Souls Night." 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Measuring up

          Last week I had my annual physical.  What a treat (yeah, right) to be poked and prodded and asked a million and one questions because my physician's computer system magically updated itself in the last few months.  The result was a plethora of inaccurate data for many of the patients and I was no exception.
          I found it frustrating, yet fascinating to be questioned endlessly about the health issues I used to struggle with years ago.  "How's your depression?"  "Is your pain still chronic?"  "How often are you getting a migraine?"
          "Please put all of those in the 'resolved' file," I told the nurse.
          "What's your pain threshold today?"  she asked.
          "On a scale of 1 to 10, how much pain are you in?"
          "Zero," I told her. 
          "That's incredible," she smiled.
          But not as incredible as what I discovered when I stepped on the scale to get weighed and measured.
          Having struggled for years in my teens and twenties to measure up in the weight category, I no longer give much thought to what the magic number might be.  I watch what I eat.  I exercise.  I rest.  I meditate.  I leave the rest to the wisdom of my body and in return, it has blessed me with maintaining a healthy balance for the past ten years.
          Still, I couldn't help but do a double-take when the nurse measured my height and said, "I've got you at five feet, seven inches."
          "What?" I replied.  I've been five feet, five inches tall since my eleventh birthday, so I was skeptical.
          "Here....look," she said, pointing.  "I was a little off, but rounded up."
          Sure enough, I measured in at five feet, six and three-quarter inches tall.
          "I've always said I wanted to be five feet, six," I laughed.  "Guess all that yoga really worked to stretch me out!"
          Still, I've been practicing yoga for nearly seventeen years....and getting Rolfed annually for more than a decade. 
          Why was this the year I finally grew up?

          For years my Rolfer and I have been working to unwind an insipid scoliosis pattern in my spine.  This summer's three-series was particularly grueling and I asked him mid-way through, "Do you think I'll ever let this one go?"
          He shrugged.  "Time will tell, but there's always that possibility."
          Ever since I discovered the minor "s curve" in my spine, I've been acutely aware of unwinding any pattern that encourages me to split off to one side, to disengage with the world and "check out."
          I've learned the hard way that's no way to live.
          And so, ever since I strive to stand in my center, even when it's painful.  When it's hard.  When I find myself having to confront repeated situations that call out for a different response than "fight or flight." 
          Instead of reacting like I used to, I choose to stay present and work through it with awareness.  
          "You must be a pleaser," one of my knitting students said to me recently when we were talking about one of my recent challenges.
          "I wouldn't say that," I replied.
          "Then you might be a non-confronter."
          I nodded.  "Yeah, that's more accurate.  But I'm learning that if I don't confront a situation, it'll keep confronting me."
          And after all, confrontation can be a healthy way to new roads of communication and clarity.  It can also lead us through open doors of new experience.

          I've had a little crush on someone for a while.  He works somewhere I frequent occasionally and while we don't know each other well at all, we do have short, but sweet conversations.  I even ran into him the other day while working through my "bad, bad thing."  It was good to see him...a reminder that the potential for new beginnings is always on the horizon.
          And yet, there's still a part of me that wants to tug me off center.  The part that asks incessant, unyielding questions:  Will I measure up to what he might want?  Am I good enough?   Am I too independent?  And the most difficult of them I too old?
          At this point in my life, I don't give a lot of credence to those very human, yet very obsolete curiosities.  They waste too much of what I could be focusing on and creating right now.  I suppose I can put all of those questions in the "resolved file," too.  Who knows?  Maybe one day soon, I'll tell Mr. Crush we should plan to run into each other on purpose.
          After all, if I can shoot up an inch and a quarter in a year's time, I know I can keep growing in other areas of my life as well.  All I need to do is stand tall, stand in my center and keep walking forward.


Friday, October 18, 2013

A woman's right to snooze

          It's a full moon Friday.  Couple that with a lunar eclipse and Mercury going retrograde on Monday, and you've got a recipe for confusion, wonkiness, and weird vibes all around.  It's funny, but as the sun rose this morning (and I've been up since 4:00, so I witnessed it firsthand), I felt the craziness of the imminence of three astrological events strangely diminish.   
          You see, for the past ten days I've been extraordinarily moody (and I'm usually a sap, not a b*&%h).   Repeating old behaviors (see my last blog).  Feeling out of sorts.  My sleep patterns have been out of whack since the beginning of October and I'm now feeling the full effect of not getting enough shut eye.  Ever since I started practicing meditation and yoga in my late twenties, my body has become more attuned to the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) shifts in the planetary swirl of change.  Unfortunately, it takes my mind a little more time to catch up and realize what's going on. 
          Things are becoming a bit more clear now...thank heavens.  And after a week and a half of wading through life on tenterhooks, the full moon eclipse is finally here, I'm ready for a rest.
          It's not all that unwarranted.

          Last summer I was visiting my friend, Smita, while she was readying her house for company which would arrive the following weekend.  She asked each of her four children to choose a bathroom they would clean themselves.
          My pal, Harshil, complained that he didn't want to do it.
          "I'll trade you," I said brightly.
          "You will?" he grinned.
          I nodded eagerly.  "You betcha!"
          Harshil tilted his head to side.  "Why?"
          "Who has to clean every room in my house?" I asked.
          "You do."
          "Who goes to the grocery and cooks all the meals?"
          "You do."
          "Who scoops the litter box and takes out the trash and cuts the grass?"
          "You do," Harshil sighed.
          "Who has to do the laundry, go to work and pay all of the bills?"
          Harshil nodded.  "I get do."
          I lifted a brow and smiled.  "Cleaning one bathroom doesn't sound so bad now, does it?"
          Harshil grinned back at me.  "I guess not."
          October has been particularly busy with yoga classes and workshops and fall garden clean up galore.  I'm not complaining, mind you.  I'm just's a lot to have on my plate in addition to keeping up with the household.  God knows how my single friends with children do it all.  I'm just finding my balance after adding another kitten to the mix.

          This weekend, as fall finally settles in for a nice, long visit in my hometown, I'm looking forward to quiet afternoons on the couch with a cup of tea and a stack of good books.  I may take a hike to soak in the ever-changing foliage.  
          Then again, maybe I won't. 
          Sleep is calling my name, beckoning me to sink deep and find balance in silence.  So friends...if I don't answer your email or phone call right away, don't worry.  I'm happily lost in the forest, dreaming a little dream of peace.