Tag Archives: Life Rehab Resources

Life Rehab Resources: Comedy

I haven’t done one of these posts in a long time. It’s late in the day, and I decided hours ago, sometime after I got up from a long nap, that I was taking the rest of the day off, but I can’t stop thinking about this podcast I listened to this morning, and I wanted to come here and tell you about it. And I figure if I’m going to take the time telling you about it, there’s a bigger story there, so I might as well just tell you the whole thing, or at least most of it.

I have always loved comedy, loved a good laugh. It’s as essential to me as food, air, water, sleep, music, or books. My favorites growing up were Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Barbara Streisand (I know she might strike you as an odd choice, but her physical comedy and self-deprecation mixed with a gorgeous voice were comedy gold to me), Mary Tyler Moore, Bill Cosby (*sigh*), Dick Van Dyke, Danny Kaye, and Jerry Lewis (*sigh* again) — (and yes, I am aware most of this list is white people).

When I got older, it was cool to like rougher comedy like that of Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. The older still I got, the less I could stomach comedy. I couldn’t see past the misogyny and racism, the way some comedian’s shtick seemed to boil down to “look at what a mess I am, isn’t that funny?” Rather than make me laugh, it often left me feeling disturbed and confused. And as I had more real life adult experiences of my own (adulting really sucks sometimes), it was harder and harder to make me laugh.

I entered a comedy dry spell. I didn’t go out of my way to seek it out, and none of note found its way to me. Then something started to shift. Two things happened: Tig Notaro was diagnosed with cancer and almost immediately did a live show which started with her walking on stage and saying to the audience “Good evening. Hello. I have cancer,” (the show was recorded and turned into the album Live); and Mike Birbiglia‘s My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend was released, “Mike Birbiglia tells the touching story of his believing and disbelieving in love.”

These two shows changed my comedy world. These were people talking about real, authentic, hard shit, but through their storytelling, they made me laugh, made me think, and somehow, even though they talked about how hard and messy it was to be a human, they made me feel better. We laughed together about how weird it all is. They cheered me up. With the door so lovingly opened, I found my way back to comedy.

Now comedy is a regular thing in my life again. Three podcasts I listen to on a regular basis are You Made It Weird, “Everybody has secret weirdness, Pete Holmes gets comedians to share theirs”; Put Your Hands Together, hosted by Rhea Butcher and Cameron Esposito, “a first-of-its-kind weekly standup podcast. PYHT delivers 75 minutes of jokes and backstage chats with LA’s best and brightest comics,” and 2 Dope Queens, “Join the 2 Dope Queens, Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams, along with their favorite comedians, for stories about sex, romance, race, hair journeys, living in New York, and Billy Joel. Plus a whole bunch of other s**t.”

This morning I listened to You Made It Weird #357: Mike Birbiglia #4 while I was doing my physical therapy exercises, and putting away laundry, and taking a shower. I’d already listened to the first hour yesterday while I was cleaning the house. I like Pete Holmes’s comedy, and I really like his new show Crashing, and I love his podcast; but what I really really really love is when he gets to talking about spirituality. He’s Christian, but if he didn’t say that outright, you’d think he was a Buddhist.

This particular episode had so much good stuff I can’t even begin to cover it all here, but one thing he said has stuck with me all day. He talked about how when he sees someone getting road ragey, he says “where are you going?” His point being “where is it you are trying to get that is so important you go into a rage if you don’t get there in a timely manner?” He was giving the example in the context of talking about a larger issue, how we all are rushing around, grasping and reaching for something else, and completely missing the fact that we are right here, and being here is the whole point. Every time I caught myself slipping out of the present moment today, I asked myself “where are you going?” It’s a potent antidote to mindlessness, to discursive thinking, to suffering.

Maintaining a sense of humor is so important. And yet, it matters to me that there remains a balance between reality and comedy. I don’t want to be shocked into laughing or distracted from what’s bad; I want a way to process and understand the brutality of life without falling into despair. Good comedy like that keeps me from turning my pain into suffering, for myself and others, and I feel better because it lightens the weight of the reality we all face. It keeps me from giving up.

Some other good comedy:

Life Rehab Resource: Rachel Cole

liferehabresourcesI haven’t written one of these posts in awhile, and I certainly haven’t finished the series. There’s so much more worth sharing. Then the other day I was posting on Facebook about people who have shifted my life profoundly, helped me to heal, to wake up, to open my heart a little wider, and I realized I had a few of these posts “in the queue.”

The first time I ever mentioned Rachel Cole here was in November 2011, just two months after I started the blog. It’s clear that it wasn’t the first encounter I’d had with Rachel’s work because the reason I mentioned her in that particular post was to say that I’d finally confirmed a date with her to come to Fort Collins and give a Well-Fed Woman mini-retreatshop. That was the first year she did the retreatshops, and I somehow was brave enough to ask her to come, found the courage to host one.

I was a different person back then. At the beginning of 2011, I had made what would turn out to be my last New Year’s resolution — to be a better friend to myself. This commitment came out of the realization that I hated myself, and I knew enough to know that had to change or nothing else ever would. In September of that same year, I signed up for Andrea Scher’s Mondo Beyondo class and started this blog. By November, I’d made plans to host a Well-Fed Woman mini-retreatshop.

rachelpeach

image from Rachel’s website

I’ve been working with Rachel ever since. I hosted that first retreatshop in February of 2012. That summer, I went to the World Domination Summit and got to hang out with her some more. During the fall of 2013, I took part in the first Intuitive Eating Reading Group Rachel offered. In October of 2013, she graciously let me stay at her apartment while I was in town for a retreat and she was traveling with the second tour of the retreatshops. I returned in November of 2013 to take part in the final retreatshop of that tour, and we shared a wonderful dinner at the end of the last day at this really great Asian place, (I still think about the salad we had, the spring rolls with yam, so delicious). Every holiday season, I sign up for her Wisdom Notes. This spring, I was able to be a part of her first offering of Feast. It’s been four years of some of the hardest, best work I’ve ever done.

Rachel helped me save my own life. Before working with Rachel, I was starving. I didn’t know how to feed myself, care for myself, love myself. I didn’t even know what I was hungry for, food or otherwise, just knew I wasn’t getting it. I was malnourished and struggling. I’d had an eating disorder for decades and didn’t even realize it. I’d been in a long term abusive relationship with myself and was only just becoming aware of it, only starting to see the damage I’d done. Having made the same journey herself, from disordered eater to helper, teacher, healer, Rachel had so much wisdom and so many resources to share. She’s a hunger whisperer, a doula of nourishment, guiding women to a life where they are well-fed and cherished.

When I first encountered Rachel, I was immediately drawn to her. I confess, I was also a little afraid of her. It was obvious I wasn’t going to be able to hide, to remain comfortable in my cocoon if I worked with her. She was the real deal — clear and direct, brilliant and fiercely gentle. She knows exactly what is at stake, how important her work is, and she won’t back down. As she says on the About page of her redesigned website, “While my style is known to be extraordinarily warm, spacious and gentle, there is no denying that this work is radical.”

This video from her website is a really good peek into what it’s like to work with her. It makes me tear up every time I watch it because I just adore her, love her so much, have so much gratitude for her wisdom, her help, her support, her friendship.

Feast for me was like the Master’s program of my work with Rachel. It enabled me to review everything that came before and sink into a mastery of the material, the practice of being a well-fed woman. I’m in touch with what my body needs and wants, but it’s about so much more than my body. I approach my life from a place of self-compassion, clarity, purpose, ease and joy. That just wasn’t possible before Rachel. Working with Rachel also means connecting with a tribe, a sangha of other women making the same effort, all of us trying to wake up. Their support and companionship is a key part of the experience.

Rachel is now accepting applications for the next session of Feast. The deadline to submit is August 19th. I can’t recommend the program enough. I endorse Rachel with my whole heart and would urge any woman who is suffering, who is hungry, to take a chance and work with her. It could change your life.

Life Rehab Resource: Nature

liferehabresourcesI’ve learned a lot from teachers, from practice and study, but the one place that continually amazes me with its wisdom: nature. I’ve often said that for me, going hiking or on a long walk, climbing up a mountain or standing on the beach, or even just sitting in my backyard is like church, especially if there’s a dog or two with me. There’s just something about the ground, the sky, the trees and rocks and dirt and blooms and bird song, that makes it easy to understand what otherwise is confusing, complex. There’s a quiet, a spaciousness that allows contemplation and insight, fosters contentment.

magicforestI can’t be in a place like this and be distracted. I am grounded in my own body, my own breath, present for each step. It’s a particular kind of magic, medicine.

When I realized Kelly was actually going to die, nature comforted me. She’d been sent home from the hospital, hospice was there, her body failing her, but somehow I still hoped for a miracle, my faith equaling how much I wanted her to live. But when her husband posted on Facebook that she’d slipped into a coma, there was nothing left to hold onto, no plans for “when she got better.” Rather than “the thing with feathers,” hope was the thing that had flown away. I felt utterly hopeless, helpless. I was in Colorado and Kelly was in Kentucky. There was nothing I could do, no phone call or visit to make. There was only waiting for the final word, the news that she was gone.

My front flowerbed had been neglected for months. With the latest update, hope’s departure, I went out and got on my knees in the dirt, pulling weeds, trimming and clearing. It was as close to praying as I could get, reminded me that even as things die, life continues, things turn green and bloom.

This morning when we were walking, Eric said “look at how much greener it is where it burnt.” A whole area had been cleared by fire and was growing back, a riot of green next to water still black with ash. Whether on purpose or accident it doesn’t really matter, space was made, new growth happened. We get so upset, often rightly so, when we lose something we love, but sometimes the worst thing that could ever happen is also a catalyst for growth.

It reminds me of that haiku by the Japanese poet Masahide, “Barn’s burnt down — now I can see the moon.” Losing Obi and Kelly, and then Dexter, were some of the worst things that ever happened to me, and yet that the depth of suffering, the weight of that sadness, caused a shift — woke me up. I am stronger, more content, have more to offer now.

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift. ~Mary Oliver

Nature constantly brings me back to these truths. That nothing is ever really lost, even amidst the ongoing and sometimes catastrophic change. That the waves will keep coming, that they will knock you down, but you must keep getting back up or drown, that if you keep going it might get easier. That there is a season for everything. That death is real, happens to all of us, all of it. That after the longest, coldest, darkest winter, the blooms and fruit return. That even though there are tigers above and tigers below, we can taste the sweetness of a strawberry in this moment.

And, basic goodness is real, it exists and is fundamental. When we saw the above patch of grass, Eric said “each blade has a drop on it,” and it made me think about how each one of us has the same basic nature. Both yogic philosophy and Buddhism talk about this essential goodness, this natural state of vast openness. Certainly we get confused about it, act as if it’s not true, generate so much suffering, but that doesn’t change the fact that “each blade has a drop on it.” You can call it love or compassion or divinity or wisdom, but it’s there — in all of us, in every thing.

Nature is the place I see this the most clearly. I think about how an apple tree doesn’t question what it has to offer, but rather rests in its genuine and natural wholeness. It stands as it is, takes on the nourishment available to it and produces fruit. It never asks “is this apple good enough” or “maybe I should make peaches instead,” it just is. And when it’s time to let go of its fruit, and later its leaves, it lets them go. There’s no clinging or attachment or fear, there is simply surrender.

Nature provides both space and wisdom. If I show up and pay attention, there is so much to learn, such sanity and intelligence, so much support and comfort. In that connection, that relationship, I can slow down, find clarity, breathe.

Life Rehab Resource: Practice, Part Two

liferehabresourcesRemember how I said last week I could write a whole book about practice? How the post I wrote then couldn’t possibly say everything there was to say about it? I hadn’t planned a Life Rehab Resource post for today, but when I started writing and one accidentally fell out, it was about practice. So here we are, Part Two.

I just did my first yoga series out of a Yoga Journal. On one of our morning walks this past summer, we went by a house for sale that had a full box of about ten years worth of Yoga Journal magazine sitting out front on the sidewalk. I passed it up at first, tried to convince myself I didn’t need them, was in the process of decluttering, but ended up going back for them.

Now that I’m training to be certified as a yoga instructor, I decided to go back through the old issues and do some of the series, see if there was anything I wanted to “steal.” I’m going to try and do one new series a day, supplement my own practice. I’m not making it out of the house to as many classes, so need to do more on my own at home anyway, start building my own vinyasas (a series of poses).

When choosing a Yoga Journal this morning, I went with the earliest November issue I had that included a series, since that’s my birthday month. Oddly, even though the oldest issue I have is from 2003, there wasn’t a November issue with a vinyasa until 2008 — my last birthday before everything shifted. By February 2009, just a few months later, both Kelly and Obi would be diagnosed with cancer. I had been practicing yoga for a few years by then, using a mat Obi had chewed a tiny hole in when he was just a baby.

Yoga FeetJust like writing and meditation, the practice of yoga came to me in fits and starts. It was years after my first attempts that yoga became a regular thing for me. As with those two other practices, when it finally stuck it felt essential, like I’d die if I didn’t do it. And when I say “I’d die,” that’s not just an exaggerated way of saying how important it was, it’s the truth. Writing, yoga, meditation, and dog, practice, saved my life.

And just like with writing and meditation, the benefit compelled me to want to share, to teach the practice to others. This is where I find myself now, training to be certified as a yoga instructor, going through old Yoga Journals looking for ideas.

The series today was “Invite Quiet.” It suggested that November was a season for turning inward, just like nature does, and that this series of forward bends could help cultivate quiet.

Forward bends are, by their nature, introspective and meditative…Forward bends are calming to the nerves, soothing, and grounding. These poses teach us yoga is as much about surrender as effort, if not more so. ~Yoga Journal

This, I would suggest, is true of practice in general, of life, that it’s “as much about surrender as effort.”

A willingness to surrender is your greatest ally in forward bends [as in practice and in life], helping to quiet the mind and release stiffness…In the spirit of introspection, be more curious about the process than the destination. ~Yoga Journal

As I invited quiet in this practice this morning, other things came:

  • the sound of the wind
  • the climbing rose bush that needs trimmed back scraping against the front window
  • the occasional dog bark and car engine
  • the call of geese
  • the hum of the heater
  • the tick of the clock
  • the occasional shift, sigh or snore from the boys, all three of whom were napping
  • the memory of what the vet said this morning, that a clean MRI for Sam would be good news since “it might be a tumor”

There’s no place anymore that’s truly quiet, free of all sound. At the very least, there is always the sound of our breath, of our own heartbeat. Where there is life, there is noise. And yet, through practice there seems to be the opportunity to cultivate calm and space, to slow down and be still — which can feel a lot like quiet.

Life Rehab Resource: Practice

liferehabresourcesDisclaimer: I could write a whole book (and am) about practice, so to imply I’m going to be able to say everything there is to say, or even only the very most important things there are to share about practice in a single blog post is just silly. And yet, this is the life rehab resource that wants to be shared today.

I started thinking about it when I was writing my morning pages. This is a practice I first learned by way of Julia Cameron, who describes it this way,

Morning pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages* – they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind – and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.

She even made a video about the practice.

As I was writing my morning pages today, I was thinking about how they are a life rehab resource I’ve been able to maintain no matter what else is going on in my life. There are lots of other things on my to-do and to-be lists right now that I’d love to be doing but had to give up, temporarily. For example there are stacks of books I want to read, a list of movies I’d like to watch, Nia and yoga classes I’d like to attend, letters I want to send, courses I’d like to design, two books and various essays I want to write, but for now there just isn’t time. But morning pages, those get done every day no matter what. For me, they are like warming up before exercising. It’s the thing I need to do to be ready to write the stuff I plan to share.

Just as Julia describes it, much of what I write as part of my morning pages is garbage — whining and complaining, rants, confessions, anxiety, speculation, disillusion and confusion, lists, “and then he said” nonsense. A record of confusion. It gets it all out of the way, clears a path, makes space for the truth, what needs to be said, wants to be shared — the lotus that pushes its way out of the muck.

morningpages

there is a tattoo of a lotus on the inside of my right wrist to remind me of exactly this

In writing out all the crap I can see how silly it is, how ridiculous I am. It’s the same when you watch your thoughts and emotions arise in meditation, where the instruction is to observe them arise and let them go without getting attached. I realize through sitting practice how much of my life is spent in reaction to my thoughts and emotions, getting triggered and hooked. Someone says something, judgement kicks in, and off I go. A thought arises and I run after it, trying to catch and hold it, turn it into something solid.

A fundamental quality of all practice is the cultivation of observation without attachment. Practice helps me to see the ways I habitually react, sometimes allowing me to interrupt myself and rest in the gap between thoughts/emotions and action. Through practice I contemplate how my habitual patterns and discursive thinking are no longer serving me. In this way, practice helps me to ease suffering. Over time I start to realize how blindly driven I’ve been by my thoughts and emotions, see how empty they actually are, and start to relax, consider other options, access a deeper wisdom and compassion, and employ more skillful means.

For example, on the yoga mat, I observe how in a pose I might criticize myself for not doing it “right.” Maybe I compare myself to the person on the mat next to me who seems to be doing it “better,” or I judge myself against a “perfect expression” of the pose. The thought arises that I’m doing it wrong and I begin to criticize myself. Shame quickly follows and soon I am smashing myself to bits, not really practicing yoga at all. In a final act of aggression, I force my body further into the pose, causing discomfort or pain, possibly even injuring myself.

sundaymorningyogaThe longer I practice, the more I am able to interrupt this pattern. I notice the thought or emotion arise. I pause and am curious about it instead of immediately acting on it. I consider what might be triggering it, notice how it feels in my body, all while trying my best to not start telling myself a story about it. Staying with this, I might understand that my body is unique (in the case of the yoga pose “gone wrong”), and at this particular time this is what is. Maybe my quads are especially tender after lifting weights or doing a lot of walking earlier in the week, or maybe I didn’t get enough sleep the night before and I have less energy. I recognize that the compassionate thing to do in this moment is a slight modification of the pose to maintain alignment and accommodate my body’s current state. My self talk shifts to love for my body, appreciation that I showed up to practice, gratitude that I’m paying attention and working with my body in this way, listening and trusting, being gentle.

Suddenly there is space, ease where before there was struggle. As in yoga, it’s best when writing morning pages — with all practice, actually — to not force or attempt to control, but rather show up with an open heart, be curious about what is, and in this way sink into and allow the truth of the moment.

Life Rehab Resource: Ask for Help

ringo "helping" me do laundry

ringo blue “helping” me do laundry

“I tried carrying the weight of the world, but I only have two hands.” ~ Avicii, song lyric from Wake Me Up

It’s hard for me to ask for help. I am the helper. I provide support for others. I fix all the problems, anticipate the needs. When I find myself overwhelmed, confused, unable to handle what is happening, I don’t reach out. I am convinced that I should be able to do everything myself.

Right now my life is difficult. I took on too much at once — a new project at work, a new puppy, a sick dog, and yoga teacher training. At the same time, I am still working with the grief from the loss of Dexter, and even Obi and Kelly before him, as well as deep sadness about other things. I’m also working with a therapist, trying to heal 30+ years of disordered eating, distorted thinking. Because I’m so busy, I haven’t been taking care of my body like it needs. I feel weak and tired, sluggish. I’m convinced I am failing, making a mess of things even though I am trying so hard, doing the best I can.

A few times on Facebook, I requested support. I was asking specifically about raising a puppy, needing to hear from people just how long things would be this hard. I’ve done it three other times, but am suffering from some sort of amnesia about how this works, and keep getting stuck thinking this is how it’s always going to be, that the difficulty will never end. But every time I post about it, ask the question, it seems like people don’t take it seriously and end up either joking with me or offering more general encouragement. This helps, but I am desperate for a timeline. When will this ease up?

So I asked for help directly. Stacy Morrison is an online friend. We’ve never met in person, but follow each others blogs as well as being connected through other social media, and have developed a friendship that way. We have a similar way of seeing the world and are working with similar struggles. She also just so happens to have a six month old puppy, a Lab/Terrier mix, so I knew she would still remember, be able to give me an answer. I reached out.

Her response was immediate, direct and compassionate. What she said didn’t change the specifics of my situation, but I immediately felt better about it. The support she offered made all the difference. And all I’d had to do was ask.

There is no shame in needing help. There is no shame in weakness, illness or sadness or confusion. There is no shame in being overwhelmed and not knowing what to do. We don’t need to hide our broken hearts, our struggle, our suffering. Telling the truth, being vulnerable is how we access the support we need, is how we heal. We can start by admitting we can’t do it all ourselves, that we can’t fix or handle everything that comes our way.

Go ahead, kind and gentle reader. Say it with me: I need help. Can you help me?

Life Rehab Resources: Taking a Break

liferehabresourcesI had an idea for what I wanted to write about today, but then a puppy happened. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a puppy, or a baby or anyone else in your life that needed constant attention and care, but when you do that’s pretty much all that can happen. The days you manage some self-care in addition to their care, like showering and eating, count as success. I am lucky and have help, an amazing co-parent who has made room for me to meltdown, to freak out a little, to feel disappointed because of my unrealistic expectations, to struggle and suffer in a confusion of my own making, to give me a break when I need it, but it’s still hard and requires effort, time, focus.

The only reason I can write this is because Ringo is in his crate napping. I feel so lucky to have this time, the calm, the sweet and soft of these moments to counter the ones when he’s feeling punky, fussy, tearing at my clothes, trying to nurse on me, frustrated and crazed, caught up in his baby brain which wants what it wants and has to have it right now.

Sam needs me too. He tore up his accessory carpal pads showing off for Ringo in the backyard (when the ground is frozen, it’s hard as rocks, and it’s happened one other time, is known as a “braking injury”) and we have him back on a higher dose of the nerve pain medication after another visit with the Neurologist. He also has a new little dude in his house who is getting a lot of attention, causing chaos, and Sam is a very sensitive dog. I am working on relaxing, trusting we are doing what we can for him, giving him a good life, but I sometimes feel like I’m failing him, failing all of it.

samandringoSo that brings me to an essential life rehab resource: having reasonable expectations, knowing your limits and when you reach them taking a break, asking for help. Allowing what is happening in the moment, whatever arises, meeting it there, and constantly reconsidering “what is needed, what can I do in this moment, what support do I need?” For me right now this means relaxing my expectations, lowering the bar, only doing what absolutely has to get done. For now, I can only do what I can do, even though there’s a whole list of what “should” get done. I am aware that this time, when Ringo needs us so much to just get through a single day, is brief. Instead of wishing it away, rushing it, rejecting or regretting it, I can drop everything else and be here. This is practice, life — the willingness to meet what comes with an open heart.

But being in that here means being less in this space, skipping some things that would typically be happening. So if I seem distant, if I forget it’s Friday until late in the day and write my regular post late or skip it altogether, don’t take it personally, kind and gentle reader. It’s temporary. All of this is temporary — that’s the good news and the bad.