Saturday, May 31, 2014

The top ten things I love about Taryn

          I met my pal, Taryn, at Miami University during our junior year.  Seated behind me in method's classes, she and I became fast friends...once we discovered we share the same odd sense of humor.  She's more sarcastic.  I'm more acerbic, but it was a friendship match made in heaven. 
          We've been through college graduation together.  Survived our earliest teaching days by calling each other weekly for support.  And most importantly, each of us had helped shore up the other after countless blind dates and screwball men who often crossed our paths.  In fact, one of the things I remember most about my late twenties and early thirties is calling Taryn after being jilted or juggled or jerked around by a guy and hearing her instant and encouraging reply (see the top ten list below).
          Taryn's been a stalwart support of my career change when I left the classroom and embraced my yoga practice more fully.  She knew me before I knew I wanted to be writer.  Before I bought my house.  Before my grandfather died.  Before any one of the inevitable life lessons came knocking on my door.  But always she's been there during the storm to buoy me through the lightening and thunder; and then afterward to enjoy the rainbow.
          So in honor of our nearly twenty-eight year friendship, I decided to make a top ten list that echos Taryn's eclectic and often sardonic affect on my life.  

The Top Ten Thinks I Love About Taryn

1.  She's an impeccable professional in the classroom.  I don't know anyone who thinks of such fabulous ways to encourage little ones to read.  Google "Taryn's Unique Learning" and you'll get the picture...literally.

2.  Taryn always finds the most hilarious cards and postcards that brighten my day and make me laugh my head off, especially the one that said on the front, "We can talk about anything."  When I opened it up, it said, "My butt itches. See?  Anything!"  And yes, we do talk about anything and everything.

3.  Whenever either of us hears "Sweet Home Alabama," it takes us right back to our Senior finals when we were supposed to be studying...but instead enjoyed shooting spitballs while Lynyrd Skynard played on the tape deck.

4.  She understands when I get emotional about things that are important to me and, in the past, has listened infinitum to my endless stories about men.  And whenever I was treated badly, she always said, "No soup for him!  NEXT!"

5.  Her dog, Izzy, is just about the cutest dog I've ever seen.  I've watched him grow from a little ball of white fuzz into a darling old man.

6.  She totally gets it when I'm obsessed about a book, a movie, or a piece of music.  In fact, I'll tell her, "This one's going on my top ten CD's to have if I'm ever stranded on a desert island."  We haven't discussed this one in a while and I'm curious to see if her tastes have changed.

7.  Taryn's curly hair is to die for.  'Nuf said.

8.  When I wrote a novel that's all letters and emails written between two college friends as they grow up and grow older, Taryn read it and told me, "You can never publish this!"  I replied, "Yes...it would give too much away!"  Love her honesty.

9.  Taryn doesn't think I'm too "woo woo" when I talk about chakras, archetypes, or the crazy lucid dream I had last night.  She listens with a curious fascination and often asks for more.

10.  I know that we'll be friends for another twenty-eight years at least.  Good God, we'll be 76 by then, but I'm sure that all I'll have to do is give her a call and we'll be twenty-one years old again, laughing on the lawn in front of my apartment, sipping A&W and singing, "Sweet Home Alabama."  

     How sweet it will be.

"Sweet Home Alabama"
Miami University, 1988



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Betty Draper's eyes

          Now that the sun is rising earlier, so am I.  No longer spending my mornings shivering beneath a pile of blankets listening to furnace blow, I wake to feel fresh air breezing through the windows.  I hear the sounds of birds twittering in the treetops.  I revel in the sight of blooming columbine that brightens my garden.
          Solomon must have felt as I do when he wrote:  "For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard on our land."  Now, I'm not sure what a turtle would sound like.  Perhaps it's all a metaphor anyway...turtles rising from the sea to lay their eggs on the land before returning once again to their primordial home.
          It's peculiar to imagine it -- turtles having voices, but I'm very familiar with the energy of this most ancient of creatures.  Native Americans call our earth "Turtle Island" as it represents our primordial mother, our source of sustenance.  Turtles take their time.  They carry their homes wherever they may travel.  They instinctively know how to protect themselves.  Possessing both an incredibly hard outer shell and an exceptionally soft underbelly, turtles can never shed their protective layer, for if they did, they would perish.
          In retrospect, I can clearly see why I chose the name "Turtle Island" as one of the primary settings in both my first and third novels.  In fact, for three years, my former agent pitched one of my books with that title.  I've recently changed it as I returned the manuscript to its original premise, but the core of the symbolism remains the same. 
          The newly re-titled A Tapestry of Truth will be released on June third, and it's been a long journey to get this novel out of the sea and onto dry land.  I created the narrator, Annie Schreiber, in 1994.  Started writing the manuscript of her story in September of 2006 and finished the first draft the following June.  Now, seven years later, you'll have the opportunity to read a book that has been the most difficult for me to write as Annie is by far the most unlikable character I've ever had worming her way around my imagination. 
          Still, I imagine some of you may readily recognize this uncommon protagonist, particularly if you're a fan of "Mad Men."

          In the winter of 2011, I came across an article in a magazine entitled something like "Shows We Love That Keep Getting Better."  I've always loved period piece movies and television, so when I read about how the writer was enthralled by the fourth season of "Mad Men," I was intrigued. Having never heard of the series, I readily found the DVD's at our local library.
          Starting from season one, I was hooked.  By the third episode, I called my agent and said, "People are going to think I ripped off Matthew Weiner.  Annie Schreiber is another incarnation of Betty Draper, right down to her blonde hair, ruby red lips, and her tight-lipped, narcissistic sarcasm."
          "Don't worry about it," my agent said.  "It's a good thing...it shows you've written an authentic representation of the time."
          But by the time I finished watching the third season, I started to worry.  I called my agent again.  "Okay...now I get that women of the sixties had a certain look and manner, but I just watched a scene in the Draper kitchen that could have been directly lifted from chapter six in my novel."
          "Don't worry about it," my agent echoed.  "I'm actually pitching your book by describing Annie as being very much like Betty Draper.  'Mad Men' is hot right now...it could really work in our favor."
          "Yeah, but she does some of the exact same things I wrote about years ago," I replied.  "That's too weird...even for me."
         
          Years have gone by since then.
          Now "Mad Men" is in its eighth season.  I've watched Betty Draper get divorced.  Remarry.  Gain weight.  Lose it.  Have a brief affair with her ex.  And all the while, she continues to lie, manipulate, and subjugate her feelings.
          In that time, I've edited A Tapestry of Truth at least seven times, but with each rewrite, I realize that perhaps there's a bit of Betty Draper in all of us.  We may not manifest it in the world.  We may not act on our childish emotions or our desire to "get exactly what we want when we want it."  But I imagine one of the reasons people love Betty (or love to hate her) is because they see a little of themselves in her experiences...or pray they never have to encounter a person like her.
          Neither Betty nor Annie would win Mother of the Year awards, but I believe that, in the end, they did the best they could with what they had.  Our reaction or response to their behavior is ultimately colored by our own character.
          For as Rumi once said, "Delight in someone else is simply something you've suddenly remembered about yourself."
          I wonder if the same is true about revulsion.

          In looking through Annie Schreiber's eyes one last time, I've seen a lot more of my hidden shadows.  But what's a shadow if something that's lacking light?  It's not necessarily good or bad.  It's just waiting in the dark for the next sunrise to reveal its true nature.
          So as I embrace the longer days that springtime brings, I'm also celebrating a new awakening of much more than the earth's rebirth.  I'm learning that, like a turtle...like Annie Schreiber...and even like Betty Draper, I too have a tough outer shell, but a vulnerable interior.
          To accept and honor both places has been both difficult and delightful. 




          

Friday, May 23, 2014

The missing piece

          There's been a quote by Anne Lamott floating around the Internet and it's got me thinking...but not in the way you might imagine:

Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid?
It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.

Well, for the past twenty years I made sure it didn't happen. 
I've already written my memoir.  And six novels.  And three children's books.  And swam naked in the ocean.  And sunbathed sans clothes at the sulfur baths nearly every day when I lived at Esalen Institute in Big Sur.  I've healed my people-pleasing persona and have cultivated a life that is rich, full, and undeniably juicy.   And just yesterday while sitting on my front porch swing on a deliriously delightful day, I stared into space and watched the gentle spring breeze blow through the blossoming columbine in my garden.  I'm living proof that one can create all of these things by choice...and not by chance. 
Yet, there are days when I don't really feel like my life is all that fabulous. 

I've lived long enough to know that a lot of people see the world as they are...not as it truly is.  Many of them might look at the life I'm now living and think, "Man, that woman has it made.  She's got her own house.  Her own business.  She's got a bunch of books coming out this year.  She's healthy.  She's doing what she loves."
While all of those things are absolutely true and I wouldn't change a thing about the long and often lonely path that got me here, I also know that by living it myself, I've come face to face with incredible and often overwhelming pain, undeniable drought...both financial and emotional.  The price I've paid has been high along this road to a "big, juicy creative life."  I've lost friends.  Lost family.  Time and again, I've let go of work that provided a steady income, but sucked me dry energetically and spiritually.  More than once I've hit rock bottom and had to start again. 
But as I look back now, those days are long over. 
The pain of the past now just a memory.
              
This being human is a wonder and a mystery.  I can live through utter darkness and walk into the indescribable light.  I can embody all the things Anne Lamott proselytizes about and still not feel completely satisfied.  Why not?  Because the missing piece is not in what I do...what I have...what I know. 
The missing piece is in the acceptance of who I am.
I can be bored or angry or complacent or frustrated or enamored.  I can be stilted or soft.  Elated or depressed.  I can be all of these things and more, but the moment I realize that "this too shall pass," I can embrace the totality of my life more completely.
Nothing lasts forever.
One day I'll leave this earth...but I'm not dead yet.  I only pray that in the time I have left, I'll walk softly, doing whatever it is I'm motivated to do.  Creating what I'm here to create.  Letting go of everything that is not who I really am.
At the end of all things, I'll simply shift into another realm of being.   But until that time, whenever I'm in doubt, I'll turn off my mind, relax and float downstream.   As the Beatles once encouraged us all, I'll play the game "Existence" to the end of the beginning.
              


              

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A little thread from A TAPESTRY OF TRUTH

     Tonight's the night...I'll finish the final edit on my latest novel and send it off to my editor for one more look-see.  And on June 3rd, it'll be available for digital download on Amazon.com.  The splice and dice has taken a while, but I'm thankful for one more go 'round.  One more chance to hone a story that echoes the voice of a character who revealed herself to me almost twenty years ago.
     Once an enormous enigma, throughout the journey of bringing her story to life, she's no longer a mystery to me.  And in finally knowing the timing is right for this novel to reveal itself to you in whatever way you embrace it...well, that's the great gift of writing.
     It's been a long journey to bring Annie Schreiber out of the shadows and into the light.  I hope you enjoy the ride.

     Here's a little taste of what's to come....

A TAPESTRY OF TRUTH

Prologue
Seattle, Washington
present time

Tucked in the tranquil corner of her backyard, my great-granddaughter plays in a sandbox shaded by maple trees.  The sun glints through the lush green leaves as Sophie scoops up endless shovels of sand and dumps them into a pink plastic bucket near her feet.  She wrinkles her eyebrows, deep in contemplation.  I imagine what she's thinking as she surveys the tall, round turrets that run the perimeter of the sandbox, allowing no way in and no way out of her palace under construction. 
Finally, Sophie stands up to survey her work, hands on her hips.  A few moments later, she steps out of the sandbox and takes off her shoes and socks. 
I watch with effervescent expectation. 
With her bare feet she squashes the turrets on the south side of the sandbox, pushing the errant sand back into the middle where it can be recreated into something new.
I'm content to silently look after Sophie, for it is intriguing to witness the span of generations in a child so young to this world.  My own life ended long before my great-granddaughter was born and now I am in-between worlds, in a place of non-existence.  For this is not the peaceful heaven I was promised by countless ministers who believed that a penitent life would yield divine rest in the end. 
No.  I am certainly not in any heaven of God’s making.  In this personal hell I don’t see my husband or my children who have passed.  Nor my mother or father, or even my sisters.  Their spirits have their own places to be I suppose.  Their own time to keep.  
Or perhaps I hide myself from them in death as I did in life.
Memories of my carefree childhood days in Shaker Heights filter through as I watch my granddaughter's daughter grow and change and remind me so much of my youngest...my Allyson.  But darker images also rise up and frighten me with their gnashing intensity.  In those moments, I long for a bottle of Smirnoff's to help me forget all the lies I told, the lies that were told to me. 
This must be the purgatory my mother-in-law used to warn me about in the time periods between my children’s births and their baptisms.  I have been baptized, not once, but twice, and still here I am left to witness all that has happened in my earthly life and all that passes after my death. 
A vengeful penance for all the things I did and didn't do. 
All the choices made and unmade.
Still, after all this time, I know there must be a way out of this solitude.  There must be something, some passageway that will connect me to the souls of the ones I love.  I am desperate to believe that is true and yet in the midst of darkness, I’m helpless to direct the ebb and flow of where I am, not only in the present with Sophie and her family, but also in the memories of my past where I linger in the hopes of discovering the shattered pieces of who I once was so long ago.  Perhaps in silently standing witness to the lives of those who came after me, I can find some purpose in the reason I was born.
That I wasn't a mistake of fate. 
So I watch over Sophie as she wipes her brow and continues building her fortress of mystery.  And I begin to wonder if perhaps that’s all we truly are…each one of us.

A fortress of mystery, longing to be solved.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Can I get a witness?

“There's no pain on earth that doesn't crave a benevolent witness."
From The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

            I'm near the end of the final edit of a book that has long been an albatross on my soul.  I didn't want to write it, but in the summer of 2002 Lisa, my friend and co-conspirator in all things literary, kept asking questions that nagged at my conscience.  Queries that kept me up at night wondering how in the world I would be able to write a book from the viewpoint of a woman whose life is entirely different from mine.  How could I capture her voice?  And did I even want to?
            At the genesis, Lisa asked me, "Well, I want to know why Annie is the way she is.  Why is she such a horrible mother?  Why does she make the choices she does?  How can you write a book so I can understand her better?"
            "Well, if I write it in first person, she'll have to be dead," I offhandedly scoffed.  "There's no way on heaven or earth that she'd ever take ownership of her actions if she were alive."
            "Hmm....now that would be interesting to read," Lisa brightened.
            "Oh man...," I grumbled.  "But how?  Should I have her wandering in some purgatory where she has to witness her own life and the way her behavior screwed up everyone in her path?"
            "You could."
            During the initial stages of writing I'd call Lisa and say, "Oh, I hate this woman.  She's narcissistic and bossy and sociopathic."
            "Keep writing," Lisa would say.
            For over six months the cycle repeated itself.  I'd write a handful of chapters, then read them to Lisa all the while bitterly criticizing Annie and her self-destructive choices.
            "Keep writing," Lisa echoed every single time.
            Near the end of the first draft I finally sang a different tune.  "I still don't like this woman at all," I said.  "But I'm beginning to understand her.  I have compassion for her...and in writing the book from the standpoint of her being a witness to her choices, I get to see what happened in the first book (Surfacing) through different eyes."
            "Keep writing," Lisa said, smiling.
            I finished what is now A Tapestry of Truth on June 4, 2007.  It was a Monday night and I had been writing all day, sprinting toward the finish line by pumping out over thirty pages before it was time to take a break and go to spinning class.  Even while on the bike, my mind was back in my office, winding its way through the last scene...imagining what it would feel like to finally finish a trilogy that had been over a decade in the making.
            Later that night, as I wrote the last line, I felt a surge of pressure rise up through my chest and I got on my feet, breathing as though I had just swum up from the deep end of a diving hopper.  Then I fell to my knees and burst into tears, thankful beyond words that I was able to finish what I had started.  That I was able to grit my way through a book that has proven to be the most personally difficult.  The most emotionally autobiographical.
            
            Soon after I moved to California and in the fall of 2008, moved back again.  It took three years, but I finally found a literary agent who was mesmerized by Tapestry and pitched it to dozens of publishing houses all over New York City.  Many thought my writing style showed promise, but didn't like the "otherworldly element."   They said they'd be willing to give it a re-read if I changed the premise.  Eager to do more than dip my toes into the world of publishing, I made the decision to gut the plot and write it from a different perspective, one that wouldn't ask Annie to witness her life, but to simply tell it from her very human viewpoint.
            While I didn't hate it, I didn't truly love it either. 
            And I'm certain that's why every publishing house since 2011 has passed on the manuscript.  It wasn't an authentic story because there was no accountability from the main character...not really.  The reader wasn't asked to be a benevolent witness to Annie's story because Annie Schreiber was not a believable witness herself.  
            In returning Tapestry to its original form (with many of the rewritten chapters preserved for good measure), I've been subtly surprised by the experience.  While Annie is certainly not my mother or any mother I know, I'm unsettled to discover that she embodies shadowy characteristics that I carry deep inside.  She wants the same things I sometimes do.  She feels conflicting emotions and acts on them in ways I haven't, but might have had I been born in a different time under different circumstances.
            I'm not Annie, but I've been a witness to her awakening, and in doing so have been awakened to my own mortality.  My own demons...and my own angels as well.  

            Through it all I've come to understand the value in having a witness to the unfolding of life's journey.  The importance of close friends, confidants, spouses, partners, or even children who can see the tangible nature of a soul's unfolding.  Last night I watched an HBO movie "Taking Chance" that tells the story of a Marine's choice to escort the body of a fallen soldier from Dover Military Base to his home in Wyoming. 
            Based on a true story, the movie honestly and somberly allowed me to witness the sacred and dignified way in which one man traveled alongside a comrade one last time.  Near the end of the journey, the Marine was lamenting to another soldier that he should have been in Iraq fighting instead of pushing papers in a cubicle.
            "You are his witness now," the soldier replied kindly, but firmly.  "Without a witness they just disappear."
            I respect what the man was trying to say, but I wonder if it is wholly true. 
            I've lived most of my life alone.  While my friends have witnessed a host of "Katie Stories," mini-miracles that invite them into a world they cannot see, for the most part, the most poignant moments in my evolution have been spent in solitude.  During some of most harrowing experiences, I can viscerally remember phoning one, two, three, sometimes ten friends to try and connect, to invite a witness into my life so that I wouldn't disappear, but no one answered the call.
            It was in those moments that I found a quiet place to sit and practice being a witness to my own life.  Years ago I learned a meditation technique in which I relax into the back of my head and imagine that I'm sitting in the back row of a playhouse.  The curtain opens and whatever is going on in my mind is played out on the stage.  I sit by myself and watch where my mind wants to be.  What I'm feeling.  What I'm cursing or judging or enjoying. 
            I don't try to stop the thoughts, but I don't get enmeshed with them either.  I just watch.  I practice being the benevolent witness to whatever is happening in the moment.
            And moment by moment, the feelings pass.  The thoughts drift away.  My heart opens and I can see more clearly the choices put before me.  The decisions I can make...or leave behind.
            
            A year or so ago, I was practicing and all of the sudden the curtain opened and there was nothing on stage but a wooden ladder and a reflection of me standing there, arms crossed and smiling.  "So now your mind's empty, Katie," I said to myself.  "What now?"
            From the back row center, I shrugged and returned the smile.  "Ida know...why don't you come back here and enjoy the view?"
            She/I did and in sitting next to me, I thought how curious to have no more stories to tell.  No more drama to spin.  No more issues to process.
            "Oh, just you wait," my reflection winked.  "I'm only human...there'll be more.  But knowing I can be both the actor and the witness...well, I'll be just fine."
                      
           
            

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Unforgettable

          It seems I can't open my email this week or check the Facebook feed without being reminded a dozen times that Mother's Day is imminent.  "What's the best gift for your mom this year?" the headlines ask.  "Don't forget Mom this Sunday!"
          I'm all for celebrating the lovely ladies who have brought us into the world.  To honor the courage, grit, and determination it often takes to raise kids in this day and age.  To acknowledge the patience and selflessness required to care for little people who often don't appreciated it.  So kudos to all of you have been a mom for decades, for years, for weeks, or even a few days.  Celebrate the joys of motherhood this weekend!

          Still, every May, I remember those whose tender hearts might be hurting and healing.  I think about people who've lost their mother through death or estrangement.  The ones who lost a child.  Who miscarried.  Who endured another round of failed fertility treatments.  I think of the parents whose children have been missing for weeks or months or years.  This May my thoughts are very much with every mother in Nigeria who is wondering where her daughter is...wondering if she's alive. 
          What about the women who are childless...and not by choice?  For me, Mother's Day was often a bitter pill to swallow, especially in my twenties when it seemed all of my friends were having babies.  For someone who desperately wanted children, every May I'd have a crying jag and feel sorry for myself.  I'd wonder when my life would start.
          It seems that many in our culture don't think their lives really begin until they "settle down and start a family."  But what if that reality never happens?  Are those of us who are single and childless doomed to being endlessly anchored to the starting block?  Am I only considered a "grown up" when I have a family of my own?
          I used to believe that, but not anymore.  Time and space have softened my definition of family, made it much more elastic and flexible.  There have been a host of women who have been like a mother to me, hundreds of kids who have been like my children, several in particular who have lodged themselves so deeply in my heart that, twenty years later, I still think about them and wonder how they are doing now.
          Out of all the children I've taught, there was one boy I desperately wanted to rescue from his family life.  To raise as my own son.  "Brian" was the oldest child in his family.  His parents were divorced and he lived with his mother and siblings in his maternal grandmother's often unstable home.  Brian would come to school clean and well-fed, but he was often agitated and couldn't sit still.  Highly creative and incredibly articulate, he finished his work with ease so he could move on to writing and illustrating his own stories. 
          Brian and I were kindred spirits the year he was in my first grade class and I loved listening to his interpretation of the books I read to the kids.   "I know what that story means," he told us once. "It's about how we're all part of the earth and it's a part of us.  We're supposed to take care of nature and take care of each other.  That's what it's all about...it's why we're here."
          Did I mention Brian was highly spiritual as well?
          It was a difficult "good-bye" for me when I watched him leave first grade and the safe haven I tried to provide for him while he was with me.  I stayed in touch with some of my former colleagues and found out Brian struggled in school and eventually dropped out.  After that, I lost touch with the touchstones that helped me stay connected to him. 
          Of course, I've never forgotten him.  I dream about him occasionally, this little one who I would have loved to raise.  Sometimes he's a boy, sometimes a teenager.  Most recently he was all grown up (as he would be now), almost the age I was when he was in my classroom.
          Always he has a sad smile for me.
          Always I hold him close and tell him how precious he is to me.
          I hope someday I'll run into Brian and get to tell him that in person...but I believe in some ways, he already knows.

          I'm blessed to have a small, but joyous circle of children in my life.  Many of my friends' children call me "Aunt Katie," and of course, there are Satish and Danta, who I've taught how to play tennis and how to knit and read with expression.  They're not mine by birth, but these children have revealed that I truly am a childless mother...and I embrace that reality with a peaceful assurance that this is exactly the way it is meant to be. 
          The unforgettable lessons I have learned through delighting in the time I spend with children and then coming home to a silent, empty house have been immeasurable. 
          I used to resent it. 
          Now I rejoice in it...this recreation of what motherhood means to me.
       
         


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Unbecoming

          For the past six months I've had some fairly perilous emotions railroading through my brain.  Anger, anxiety, frustration, disappointment, indignation, and disgust...just to name a handful.  
          And that's only scratching the surface.
          I'm not sure if they're caused by fluctuating hormones or lack of sleep.  By finding myself time and again having to stand up for myself or my business.   Or simply because I'm tired of living in a rush, rush, gimme, gimme world that bombards me with messages of what I should buy...how I should look...what I need to make me happy.
          Sometimes it makes me want to hole up in my house and live like a hermit.  But more often than not these days, my feelings want me to take action -- to do something, anything to alleviate the discomfort of living with uncomfortable emotions.  It's at those times that I'm most grateful for a strong impulse control, honed by years of practicing mindfulness.  For if I acted on my emotions, if I did what my anger and frustration ignite in my guts, I'd behave in ways that would be extremely unbecoming.
          And yet...I've heard that in a woman's late forties, her brain catches on fire, meaning that she needs to burn through patterns of the past to rise again from the ashes reborn and ready to experience the second half of life with a greater perspective...a higher understanding of who she wants to be and where she wants to invest her precious time and energy.
          Well, I know it's more than my brain that's up in flames these days.

          I've been dreaming a lot this month.  People from my past visit me nightly and we have long, honest conversations.  Conversations they never would allow in my waking life.  Truth be told, I'm the one doing most of the talking -- returning their projected crap they had once dumped onto me.  The inappropriate come-ons.  The judgmental attitudes they heaped on my head like hot coals.  The nasty, sarcastic insults they hurled my way in an attempt to get me out of their lives.  I've been hauling a lot of that energy around for years and have come to realize that spring cleaning this year will result in a lighter spirit as well as a tidier home. 
          In some of the dreams I certainly do embody conduct unbecoming, at least to society's standards.  It's not what someone would expect from a yoga instructor and someone who works with children.  I'm supposed to always be peaceful.  Always kind.  Always gentle and loving.  But sometimes in my dreams I yell and scream.  Sometimes I speak quietly.  But always I'm pointed in my clarity about how wounding their behavior was toward me, especially when I was blamed for feeling badly about it.
          And always I awake feeling as though the circle has been completed...at least with the person in question.  I no longer feel as though I'm playing a role they had wanted me to play.  The would-be mistress.  The scapegoat.  The crazy b*&%h on wheels.   Or most people's personal favorite, the weirdo New Age freak.
          A long time ago, I was in a heated conversation with someone about how hurt I was by a third party's actions.  How I needed to make choices to sever the relationship.
          "You should be above all that, Katie!" the woman shouted at me.  "You're a yoga teacher and Reiki Master...and this shouldn't bother you!"
          "I'm a human being first," I cried. 
          That was the first time in my life I practiced "un-becoming."  Releasing myself from an archetype that I was playing out.  Letting go of needing to use it as a tool.  A weapon.  A shield.  
          And I've done all of those things, believe me.   
         
          Perhaps all of this "brain on fire" energy is allowing me to blaze through the energy of the roles long ago left behind.  I can see my emotions as harbingers of healing...not a catalyst to kick ass.  In un-becoming all of those things others have projected onto me -- and all the things I had once projected onto myself -- I am free to be who I am.
          I am not a yoga teacher.
          I am a woman who thrives when she teaches yoga.
          I am not a writer.
          I am a woman who loves to write.
          I am not a mother.
          I am mothering to my students and my pets.
          I am not a perfectionist.
          I am entering into the idea that reality and perfection are synonymous.
         
          And in this form of un-becoming, I'm beginning to know and have compassion for my true self.


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