the ocean is never calm and still, but the depths are very different from the surface

Come in

It’s an ocean
Big enough for us all
Float under the bridge with me
Or wander out to distant ships at sea
Stay on the surface
Or come down in the depths
Leap out and crash back in whale form
Or surf the wake of a boat
Or in the waves to catch a fish
Storms come and rain and rainbows
Sky with clouds lightening sun stars
Climb a rock or lighthouse or cliff
Or stand on a boat
But then return oh love return to the sea

___________

from 2015

feeling, farm, friends

My theme is happy things: feeling, farm and friend.

Feelings: I find our culture a bit bipolar about feelings. Love and friendship and joy are celebrated and other feelings are labelled “negative”. Grief, fear, anger, basic  grumpiness. I see posts about staying away from “toxic” people and away from people that are “downers”. But we all experience all of these feelings. Feelings are as important as thoughts. Feelings are quicker that thought, hormonal and electrical information in brain and body: we pull the finger out of the candle lightning fast, we jump out of the way of the swerving car, we feel the cascade of fear if someone is following us at night. The feeling is not always correct — we may feel threat from someone who is not threatening us.

In high school my daughter said that most of the arguments she noticed were someone saying something not well thought out or offhand as they left. It is misinterpreted, stewed over, discussed with other people and then  the person who felt that it was “at” or “about” them will react. The first person is shocked and doesn’t even remember or understand the trigger. Misunderstandings all the way.  We have to step back from feelings and have the courage to be vulnerable and ask, “What did you mean when you said that?” We all get grown up and over that after high school… well, I try.

Farm: I got my first local CSA box on Wednesday, lovely vegetables straight from the farm and tulips! I get an email each week and often with recipes.  I love my CSA box. I eat more vegetables too, because I don’t like to throw them out.

Friends: My  friends give me  such joy! I have an email this morning from friends in Berlin, Germany! I have not seen them for more that a decade but they are coming to visit this summer! What absolute joy!

And may your day be joyous too!

F

Another photograph from Hawaii, my friend Patrick and one of the lovely green turtles. For scale….  

Unarmored

I have been working with orthopedic massage for three years. My sister died in 2012 and my father 14 months later, in 2013. My father’s will was from 1979. My maternal family grieved via five years of lawsuits. I lost my sister, my father, and my maternal family. For good, as the song says.

I showed up for a massage in 2014. The ortho massage person said, “You are locked in an armor suit. Toes holding on to the floor, knees locked, head and shoulders forward, a fight or flight defensive posture.” I lift my toes up and say, “My toes aren’t clenched.” But they were.

For the next week I was to walk around, or attempt to walk around, with my toes off the floor. I practice: toes up, knees bent, lift foot, gently touch heel ahead, then shift weight forward, weight even on great and little metatarsal, toes are not to grab the floor, lift the trailing foot and repeat. I am furious that I have to relearn how to walk. HOW TO LET GO OF THE ARMOR SUIT?

I go once a month, now. I went weekly for a long time, then biweekly. Pieces of armor would drop off in the massage, but I would armor back up at work. Posture, posture, posture, breathe, don’t tighten those muscles up, check in with toes and with abdominal muscles…

Yesterday I go. We talk. It’s been a really weird month and I don’t know why. Letting go of all sorts of things and people and stuff. My pile of stuff to get rid of, clothes, books, mugs, art, is getting larger. And I was very grumpy the day before the massage. I thought, well, it’s been a dark February, I hate taking pills, maybe I need some sun, I mean, vitamin D.

But at the massage: a huge piece of armor, locked muscles in my lower back and hips, is gone. It feels weird. I didn’t know it was gone. Certain movements feel entirely unfamiliar, because I am used to moving the muscles as a locked group. My brain attempts to tell individual muscles to move and then there is a pause… as the brain and muscle negotiate unfamiliar territory. Medial gluteus medius… moving that feels so odd and unfamiliar.

Ortho massage says, “Usually when I ask you to move muscles, you are ON or OFF. FULL STRENGTH or no response. This is all new: modulation. Gentle.”

It feels so strange..

He knows how I feel. He says, “I felt so unbalanced as my armor dropped off. As if it dropped off bits at a time, a piece on the right side and suddenly I don’t know how to move because it’s all different. ”

Yes, that is what I am feeling. Unmoored. Light. There is less gravity. Gentle. Surprised. Less grumpy afterwards: I am so surprised, I had rather given up that I would EVER drop ANY of the armor suit. Pleased and a bit shyly proud. And deeply deeply grateful…. to my ortho massage person and to many others: friends, books, kind strangers, my patients, my colleagues (that is, the ones who have been kind. There are quite a few who were not. Let them go.) and the parts of my family that I keep… the ones whose actions DO mean they love me.

And my significant other says that I’ve seemed more peaceful this month. I check. I do feel more peaceful, which is so odd when I started the week feeling peculiar and unmoored and as if something was wrong. Something wasn’t wrong, I just had not even realized that I dropped a huge piece of invisible armor. The night before the massage I went to a dinner. Because of the deaths and lawsuits, I had very little social life for many years. A decade, really. After the dinner I thought, that was odd. I am not who I was ten years ago. I am not sure who I am in a social setting. I am surprised to be invited to a dinner. And I let the old me go: it’s ok. I will find out who I am after a decade as a hermit, a hermit due to circumstances, not by choice nor under my control. I let it all go: and I think that is the moment that piece of armor finally let go.

For Good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQJaZO2nfGg

just

Justice is one of the Seven Virtues, from one of two lists. This is one of the four cardinal virtues extolled by Aristotle and Plato. Do you feel just?

Just from dictionary.com

adjective

1. guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness:

We hope to be just in our understanding of such difficult situations.

2. done or made according to principle; equitable; proper:

a just reply.

3. based on right; rightful; lawful:

a just claim.

4. in keeping with truth or fact; true; correct:

a just analysis.

5. given or awarded rightly; deserved, as a sentence, punishment, or reward:

a just penalty.

6. in accordance with standards or requirements; proper or right:

just proportions.
7. (especially in Biblical use) righteous.
It is also an adverb.
This is from the list that does not match to the Seven Sins. Is being just a value for you, a virtue? And if so, which meaning? One person can be talking about the law while another is talking about fairness and they can be taking opposite sides. Would you say that you are a just person? And again, which meaning has the highest value for you?
I took the photograph in 2009 at the National Junior Synchronized Swimming competition. We hope that judging is just and fair and the rules are applied in sports and by the legal system.

 

Pandora’s Box

I read this: Was Pandora framed? today and thought, I know I have a Pandora poem….and here it is, from 2011. And another write up, Why the number line freaks me out, that too. When I think of infinity and Pandora’s Box…. it’s worrisome…

Pandora’s Box

Oh, you’d think
It would be empty by now

But I open the box again
I say what I want

And hear “No.”

I sit in want
Old wants
Buried wants
Pressure rising

I know by now
What is happening
I let it rise in me
I do not fight it
I clean the bathroom
Scrub tile and grout
Wants claw inside me
Burst like striking oil
A geyser from within
Black sticky want
Screaming up through the air
Falling everywhere
Filthy, flooding

It will take a while to clean up
this dark matter,
pollutant to poison
or fuel to sustain?

 

I took the photograph yesterday on North Beach. It looks like a popped child’s toy, pink. But it’s not…. it is all over the beach. A seaweed? Something hatching? Nature is a Pandora’s Box as well…. infinitely creative….

Under the surface

For the Daily Prompt: mope.

Mope. We think we should not mope. Go down, be down, downer, don’t go there… but sometimes we have to let ourselves feel, and feel deeply, even if it’s not the popular feelings.

I was grumpy four days ago driving with my daughter for a skiing vacation. She gently told me not to grump at her. By the next morning it was clear why I was grumpy: an awful cold had come to visit and I was not going to ski. And I probably got it from her, but maybe not, and it doesn’t matter. I moped a little, but was mostly proud that I rested for two days and did not try to push through it, power through it, feel the burn…. I’ve done that too many times and then gotten really sick. I rested for two days and slept for twelve hours daily and moped a little. And yesterday I did ski for part of a day. Then we drove home, my daughter driving most of it, and I hurt all over by the time we got home….

If every feeling is a gift, a visitor, sent from the Beloved, as Rumi writes… welcome them all. This body is a guesthouse, says Rumi. Welcome moping and treat it gently and with kindness and understanding, as we all long to be treated….

The Guesthouse.

 

Stress and the sympathetic nervous system

People talk about adrenal fatigue: what is it that they mean? And how can we address it?

When we are relaxed, or less stressed, we make more sex hormones and thyroid hormone.

When we are in a crisis, or more stressed, we make more adrenaline and cortisol.

The pain conference I went to at Swedish Hospital took this a step further. They said that chronic pain and PTSD patients are in a high sympathetic nervous system state. The sympathetic nervous system is the fight or flight state. It’s great for emergencies: increases heart rate, dilates air passages in the lungs, dilates pupils, reduces gut mobility, increases blood glucose, and tightens the fascia in the muscles so that you can fight or run. But…. what if you are in a sympathetic nervous system state all the time? Fatigue, decreased sex drive, insomnia and agitated or anxious. And remember the tightened fascia? Muscle pain.

When we are relaxed, the parasympathetic system is in charge. Digesting food, resting, sexual arousal, salivation, lacrimation, urination, and defecation. So saliva, tears, urine, and bowel movements, not to mention digesting food and interest in sex. And muscles relax.

If the sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive, how do we shut it off? I had an interesting conversation with a person with PTSD last week, where he said that he finds that all his muscles are tight when he is watching television. He can consciously relax them.

“Do they stay relaxed?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” he replies, “but my normal is the hyperalert state.”

“Maybe the hyperalert state, the sympathetic state, is what you are used to, rather than being your normal.”

He sat and stared at me. A different idea….

So HOW do we switch over from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic state?

Swedish taught a breathing technique.

Twenty minutes. Six breaths per minute, either 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out, or 6 in and 4 out. Your preference. And they said that after 15 minutes, people switch from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic state.

Does this work for everyone? Is it always at 15 minutes? I don’t know yet. But now I am thinking hard about different ways to switch the sympathetic to parasympathetic.

Meditation.
Slow walking outside.
Rocking: a rocking chair or glider.
Breathing exercises.
Massage: but not for people who fear being touched. One study of a one hour massage showed cortisol dropping by 50% on average in blood levels. That is huge.
Playing: (one site says especially with children and animals. But it also says we are intelligently designed).
Yoga, tai chi, and chi kung.
Whatever relaxes YOU: knitting, singing, working on cars, carving, puttering, soduku, jigsaw puzzles, word searches, making bean pictures or macaroni pictures, coloring…..and I’ll bet the stupid pet photos and videos help too….

My patient took my diagrams and notes written on the exam table paper home. He is thinking about the parasympathetic state: about getting to know it and deliberately exploring it.

More ideas: http://www.wisebrain.org/ParasympatheticNS.pdf

I like this picture of Princess Mittens. She looks as if she has her head all turned around. Isn’t that how we get with too much sympathetic and not enough parasympathetic nervous system action?