Thursday, July 28, 2011


It's strange the things that call out to me. I saw these ropes, all ordered and neat and knew I had to shoot them. And now I know why. To me, they represent Life. Yes, Life. All neat and ordered. Tidy.

Or so I thought.

My life has been anything but neat, ordered and tidy since the divorce. I have been on an emotional roller coaster, moments of anger, frustration, panic, sadness, hurt and lately; peace, tranquility and happiness. I have faced financial upheaval, learning to do without certain amenities. I have made decisions I would rather not have had to make, like looking for a roommate; but through it all I've discovered a person I have missed, ME! I remember being a fun person, enjoying myself. When and where I lost that part of me, I don't know.

I recently attended a party where the only person I knew was the host who very graciously suggested I invite a friend or two, so I would know some other people to lessen my uncomfortableness. I did invite one friend, but at the last minute she could not accompany me. I ended up having a wonderful time, met a great group of people, and learned to just be me. Still, it was a little daunting, this being my first party in a long, long time; but now I  know I can do it again. It was a first step, I'll need a second, and a third...

I'm still discovering me, and will continue to for a long, long time. In fact, I hope I never stop. I'm uncovering the hurts of my past and learning how to address them to let go. I'm rediscovering the strengths of my past in order to lean on them to get through a tangle in the present. There will be incidents which will trigger a hurt from the past, but then I must realize the present is not the past, it is NOW. And I must look to the strength of the past to deal with the incident in the present and move on. There will be future parties, social events, and eventually, dating. All of these will continue to lead me along the path of self-discovery, complete with knots and tangles. But I have the skills, and have had all along, to untie the Ropes of Life.

So, life isn't neat, ordered and tidy as we would like to think. It's more wild and untamed like Catalina Island and the sea behind the ropes, waiting to be explored and savored like a new restaurant, or a city you've never visited. It can be scary, but exhilarating at the same time.

Now, there's a little Honduran restaurant I've been dying to try. (Maybe after payday!) And I'm off to plan a trip to.....Rome? Buenos Aires? Boston? 

And, all this talk of rope has given me an urge to watch an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Oh, with regards to the photo, I was also drawn to the varied textures... the land, the sea, the rope, the wood. And the different shapes... the vertical lines, the ovals of the ropes, the coils and twists within the ropes, and the ripples of the waves.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Box

"You approach a small house on the island, upon entering you see a special friend. Your friend hands you a large box, beautifully wrapped, with a bow of your favorite color. You open the box to find a smaller box also beautifully wrapped. In this smaller box is everything you need to continue your journey." 

This was a scene in my latest meditation. I received the second box with a calm happiness, for it was given with love. I wondered what further tools I would need to continue this journey of self-exploration, of growth, of self-acceptance.

In peace and tranquility, I opened the box.

It was empty.

I was actually elated, for it was then I knew. I don't need anything else, nor anyone else. I already have all the tools or skills I need to continue this journey. I may need to recover them from the depths of my toolbox, dust them off, and sharpen some of them. It's been a long time since I was on a journey like this. In a long term relationship we sometimes stop discovering ourselves while we are discovering our partner and then try to navigate life's challenges with someone else by our side, so some of my tools are a little rusty. It's often difficult to see yourself within the context of a relationship, even though it's the best laboratory for self-discovery as long as you take the time to observe yourself, which, admittedly, is not an easy thing to do.

Actually, I contradict myself. I really do need someone else. I need to see myself in situations with new people, so I can learn more about myself in new contexts: professional contexts; social contexts, both straight and gay; and eventually, dating contexts. And I need someone, a professional, to help me sort out what I learn about myself in order to internalize it, accept it and move forward.

I shared my understanding with my meditation group, and the leader asked me how was I going to remember that I already had everything I needed for my journey. Without hesitation I replied, "I'll make an empty box." And that is what you see below. I made this little origami box, choosing the crane patterned paper because of the legends of the crane. In Greek and Roman myths, the dance of  the cranes was considered to be a symbol of the love of joy and a celebration of life itself. The crane also symbolized Apollo, the sun god, who heralded in spring and light, and rebirth. Throughout Asia, the crane has many significances, among them, happiness and eternal youth; in Japan, China and Korea in particular, longevity and good fortune.
So, my little box will sit where I will see it frequently, reminding me that I have everything I need to continue on my path, and the crane symbolizes rebirth, happiness and good fortune. And, eternal youth (in spirit), for my arthritis reminds me eternal youth is not physical.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Ok, so this isn't my best shot, but it's workable for the topic.

We usually measure an object's worth by its value, my car is worth x dollars. My Disney collectibles might be worth y dollars. And when I saw this bank in Koreatown, I knew I had to work on a blog on worthiness. It just hit me.

But, people aren't objects. So how do we measure our worth? And I'm not talking net worth.

In the past I had made specific requests for birthday and Christmas gifts, and when parents and friends gave them to me I felt worthy of accepting them, because they felt I was worthy of the time and money spent buying and wrapping the gift. After all, they were small items; a certain book, a certain record/cassette/CD, etc. When I received gifts, no matter how "unique" from my students, I felt worthy of the love behind them. (I'll never forget all the kitschy little figurines of dogs, all probably from the 99 Cent store. I talk about my dogs in class, a lot.) But when the Universe gives me something, am I still worthy? And while the gifts from the Universe are nowhere near a small trinket, does that make a difference?

I had a revelation after my ex left. I had many about him actually, but this one was about me. It hit me like Thor's mighty hammer, right across the heart: "I was so effing tired of taking care of people, especially my partners. I wanted a partner who would take care of me!" I believe I actually hit the steering wheel and said it out loud while driving, thankfully, alone. There, I said it, I owned it, I felt so relieved to have acknowledged what I wanted in my next partner. (This was months before I saw The Man Across the Bridge.) And I said it to the Universe.

Yes, I AM worthy of what ever gifts the Universe sends me, and no, there is no difference in what the Universe sends me than what that little first- or sixth- grader did. A gift is a gift. And it is the giver that decides the worthiness of the receiver and the appropriateness of the gift. So, if the Universe decides to send me a gift, then the Universe must believe I AM worthy of that gift.

So, what makes it hard to believe we are worthy of a gift like love? I have come to feel we all believe we are worthy of RECEIVING the gift of love, but have a hard time actually ACCEPTING the gift. I think it's because by ACCEPTING the gift we are then accepting the WORTHINESS associated with the gift itself. So, why, then, do we have a difficult time ACCEPTING the WORTHINESS of being loved? Perhaps we're afraid of being hurt again after our ex or another adult left us; perhaps bullying in school left us with such low self-esteem that we self-sabotage by focusing on our imperfections, I'm not ___ enough.  (Fill in the blank with your perceived fault; right now, mine would be 'financially secure' and 'toned/buff.')

And when the Universe arranges for me to meet the Man Across the Bridge, it's up to him to decide whether I'm financially secure or toned/buff enough, isn't it? And if he wants to love me for exactly who I am, I need to relax and accept the fact I am worthy of his love. And that's hard to do, but I'm working on it. After all, I wouldn't want to disappoint the Universe and not accept a gift.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Entrances and Exits

This week I went to USC to take some pictures. I was looking mostly for the architecture and my original theme of lines, as well as material for my blog. I knew it was their summer session and I expected some people on campus, but it was also their freshman orientation. It seemed every shot I took people either walked into it or were sitting in groups and I couldn't work around them.  It was very frustrating until I took the shot directly above and I knew it would somehow turn into a post. But I didn't realize how emotional it would be.

People come into our lives for a reason. They can enter and remain for a very long time; a parent, sibling, child, lover, or friend or they can be transitory; a clerk in a store, a stranger on a street, or a fellow traveler on a plane. But for however long they are here with us, they will teach us something, we just have to be patient long enough to learn what it is.

And they exit for a reason also. Sometimes they exit voluntarily (my ex comes to mind here) and other times not. Most of the time they exit because the lesson is over, whether you have realized it or not. But not always.

Moving forward is not easy, especially when you have not completely let go of the past.

Today I bought a birthday card to celebrate a birthday I haven't celebrated in 8 years. I stopped in a small stationery store, and I wandered around lost, eyes glazed, on the verge of crying. For this had been clawing at me for a while now. And this was the first time I was publicly going to address it.

The clerk asked gently, "Are you looking for something in particular?"

"I need a birthday card, blank inside is ok." My heart is pounding.

"We have a nice selection over here. May I ask, who is this for?"

"A woman. It's her birthday, and I need to make amends." My lips are quivering, I take a deep breath.

"Might I suggest a blank card, that way you can write your own words instead of finding a verse that fits the occasion." The clerk is gentle.

"She had been my friend for years, in fact, she was with me at my first partner's deathbed." I am holding it back.

The clerk nods understandingly.

"My next boyfriend warned her not to come around me as she reminded me of my deceased partner. And she stepped aside for my happiness." My eyes well up, the clerk is understandingly silent. "I didn't find out the truth until 2 months ago through a trusted third party. And it's been 8 years we haven't spoken." My eyes well up further, voice is cracking.

"A true friend who would step aside for your happiness, knowing you would return." The clerk adds tenderly.

"I need to apologize." I'm trying to hold myself together.

"You do not, neither of you did anything wrong; you are asking for a restart, to pick up where you left off 8 years ago." Oh, god, it's getting harder to keep it together now.

I settle on a card with an Asian-themed vase filled with green, purple and pink hydrangeas.

People enter and exit our lives for a number of reasons. In the past year I have been blessed to meet a number of new people, mostly gay men. Some have been transitory, teaching me a simple lesson; others have lasted a while longer, their lessons ongoing. Some lessons I saw early on, my first date since my divorce taught me I could meet a new man and not feel that I was cheating on my ex. Some lessons I am still trying to figure out. But all of these lessons, like being emotional in a stationery store in front of a clerk, are preparing me for the Man Across the Bridge.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Independence Day

First let me say this is not my photograph, it is free clip art.

Independence Day is when we celebrate our independence from our colonial past. Or as Ellen DeGeneres recently tweeted, when we celebrate Will Smith saving our planet from aliens.  Either way we look at it, it is different for me now.

Three different friends asked me today if I was going to watch any fireworks. And I said, "No. I have to stay home and calm down the dogs." I lied. Well, I didn't truly lie; Mufasa, my youngest, is prone to colitis when stressed. When I clean the house for company, he sometimes gets colitis, an inflammation of the colon leading to diarrhea. When new company comes over, he sometimes has issues. We once had an $800.00 emergency vet bill because three normal, very active children, ages 5, 2, and 8 months came over and he had his worst case ever. He ended up hospitalized overnight hooked up to IVs. And now, he's lying comfortably at my feet, barking occasionally, as fireworks and firecrackers are popping and whistling in the night air. Now that doesn't mean colitis won't show up, it usually takes 2-3 days for the evidence to present itself. Simba can also get colitis, but is not as prone to it as Mufasa. But this is not about their emotional issues. This is about mine.

I realized I have been using my dogs as an excuse. And more than just for tonight. Yes, they might get stressed out because of the fireworks, but they will also survive. I've become a pro at reading their signs. And I get proactive, I keep Pepcid on hand and slip them a little something when I suspect they are stressed. I also told my friends I didn't know where any displays were. I tried looking for them, but I couldn't find any on the interactive internet map. The truth is I just could have driven a small distance to a hill, parked and looked out over the Valley and seen many displays at once. I just didn't want to drive to spend the money on gas. While my budget is very tight right now, I must not use it as an excuse. However, I must be realistic, which is different. There are steps I can take to get some relief and I have a summer to work on it.

I have also used them as an excuse around Halloween. Somewhere it is written all gays must descend on West Hollywood for the Halloween Carnival and many of my straight friends go and always ask me if I am. No, I needed to be home to hand out candy, and to calm the boys down because of all the visitors.  Protective barking is normal for dogs as they are alerting the pack to possible intruders. I don't get many visitors during the rest of the year, so Halloween night really sets them off. Mufasa has never had an episode of colitis after Halloween that I can recall. The truth is I hate going into WeHo as there is never any parking. Streets are permit only, the parking lots are difficult to get into and then you pay for parking. And getting there from my house isn't terribly convenient. The ex lives there and as we share custody of the boys, I must pick them up when he has them, so I am getting better at reading the traffic. But, still it's not my favorite place to go. But, I need to get over myself, as I need to get back into the community. (Possible blog on that later.) And the street closures, only add to the confusion and difficulty.

Another reason I have used in the past is once you've seen one display, you've seen them all. My first partner and I would go to Disneyland almost every week during the summer (we were passholders back then) and stay through to see the fireworks display. And no one does fireworks like Disney. So, anything else is a step down. And when you've seen that many displays, plus the ones at baseball games for homeruns, and driving through the Cahuenga Pass by Universal Studios, they lose their magic. Fireworks are fireworks, Independence Day or not.

I was sitting on the floor playing with them both, distracting them from the pops, whistles and bangs, when I realized everything I'd written above. So, I got up and walked out the door and out the gate to the street outside my community. There is an elementary school across from my community and I could make out some of the displays that went above the treeline behind the school. And, people down the street were setting some off as well. I stood there watching these displays, celebrating our Independence when it occurred to me, it was my Independence as well. With the growth I have experienced, it was Independence from my past, Independence from the hurt and anger from my divorce and other past events. While the US can never ignore our history with Great Britain, both positive and negative, so much of our present is a result of our past. For example, many linguists describe us as two countries separated by a common language. And while I cannot ignore the events of my past, both recent and distant, they have also shaped me into who I am today.

I did actually enjoy the fireworks I could see, I just wish the school had turned out their yard lights.

 I caught Mufasa, foreground, at the beginning of a sneeze. He doesn't like having his picture taken, so after this he refused to cooperate any further. He is a Pomeranian, after all.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Glaciers and Streams

Alaska's famed Mendenhall Glacier sits outside Juneau. I was treated to a trip to Alaska by my now ex-husband for my 50th birthday. I thank him for the experience. I had been wanting to go to Alaska since I saw my grandfather's slides (!) in the late 1960's. It became the trip of a lifetime.

But, wait. My lifetime is not over. Yes, I am past 50, over halfway through an average human lifespan. But, over halfway does not mean downhill. 

What does the glacier have to do with me? Well, let's see...

A glacier is a frozen river flowing ever slowly down a mountain usually to a body of water. I am definitely not frozen, I am a warm, giving person. I give a lot to the people in my life, some may say even too much. I give to my students, my friends and partners. I have learned that I gave too much to my past partners. Will I still give to the Man Across the Bridge? Absolutely, but I will learn to let him give to me.

Nor am I a river, but I am flowing; flowing through life. Glaciers flow v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y down the mountain, and while I have no control over the speed at which I flow through life, for that would mean controlling the earth's rotations, I can control the speed at which I experience  life. I can sit on the sidelines and watch it go by, or get out there and participate. Sure, aches and pains from advancing age, may (may!) have to be taken into account, but there are other adventures that can be considered.

But, what can I learn from a glacier? Patience. Patience in the areas of my life where patience is necessary, learning to slow down and savor those special moments and experiences, like a fine wine, meal, or piece of chocolate. In the last few months I feel I have been more like this stream flowing quickly down the mountain. I have grown tremendously in my new life. Too fast? Perhaps, but I don't feel overwhelmed by it, rather exhilarated, liberated. So, maybe not. 
Both the glacier and the stream have their beauty; the quiet elegance and massive strength of the glacier as it slowly crawls down the mountain and the rapid twisting, churning and splashing of the stream as it winds its way downhill. As glaciers and streams flow down the mountain, they change the landscape of the mountain. Glaciers scrape up the mountain and push the accumulated debris down to the ocean or else it becomes embedded within the glacier to be discovered later as the glacier melts. Streams will move around larger, immoveable problems, like trees, or pick up and deposit smaller problems somewhere down the mountain. As rivers and streams move objects downhill, the waters tumble the problem over and over, eventually breaking it into smaller bits and pieces, depositing the situation somewhere along the stream's path. The waters will eventually also erode an immoveable problem until it, too, can be dealt with.

In dealing with life's situations, it is best to look at the magnitude of the problem. Is it immoveable? Can I work around it (for now)? Or should I pick it up, and erode it until I can no longer consider it a problem? My lesson here is I need to be a glacier where patience, elegance and strength are called for, and a stream where twisting and churning are needed. Trouble is, I don't always know which is which.