Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Some days there is nothing left to say except what you have already said.  In other words, my mind is currently percolating on whatever it wants to talk about next.  I've learned to give it the time and space it needs.   While I'm waiting, let me present "Breathe," an entry from an earlier blog originally written August 17, 2010.


On July 1st, I started the P90X exercise program. I didn't start it because I'm an athlete; I'm not. I didn't start it because I wanted to be an athlete; I don't. I started it because I want to be strong. I wanted to regain strength I felt I had lost over the years. I wanted to build and rebuild muscle. I wanted to look and feel capable. Less than 30 days into the program, I found myself waiting at the emergency room for a family member who had had a stroke, desperately searching for strength and capability. 

There is a moment during Stretch X, where you are performing some sort of complicated maneuver that is stretching your gluts and Tony Horton talks about discomfort. It is a longish, rambling quote spoken by a man who is feeling the discomfort that he describes: I don't think I can quote it directly, but I can paraphrase it. Horton says that he feels discomfort and asks "so what do I do? I don't think about it. I breathe." He explains that every time you breath out a muscle releases slightly which, of course, would remove some of the discomfort, but that you can't breathe out unless you breathe in . . ... "So breathe." 

So that's what I did. That advice got me through the day and I realized even if Tony Horton had created a mini catalyst in my brain, it had been advice I had already been using before I had ever heard it. I had done that in the dentist's office when a cleaning seemed too long or too uncomfortable. I had used it when heavy traffic suddenly felt like a parking lot and I wanted to throw open my car door, scream and run off into the distance. 

Anytime I had felt pressured and too fragile not to break, I had used it. 

There will be times where you feel such physical or emotional pain that it is as if half of you has been crushed and you don't know if you want to die or crawl away from the part of yourself that is gone. Breathe.

There will be times when the fear and discomfort is so real and strong you will think you would willingly chew your own arm off just to get away from the trap that you've found yourself in. Breathe.

I can't promise it will make you a better person. I can't promise it won't happen again or again or again. I can't promise it will be easy the next time. But I can remind you of the Nietzsche quote we have all surely heard by now . ..

"That which does not kill us makes us stronger." 

The key to being stronger is surviving what is in front of you.

Just breathe.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Learning from Outlander's The Devil's Mark (SPOILER ALERT)

This morning I was watching Outlander on my DVR.  This morning I saw Jamie's reaction to Claire's Time Travel story.  I saw his reaction to her admission that she had tried to go back to her own time and her husband, after being married to him.

For those who aren't familiar with the show, Claire is transported from her own 20th century to Jamie's 18th century.  She is married to a man in her own time period who looks very much like the bad guy in Jamie's time period.  On television, the viewer has actually spent more time with the actor as the bad guy rather than the husband, so if I'm average, I'm all for her staying in the past with Jamie.

Perhaps it was with a lifetime of silly romances under my belt that I winced a little when Claire admitted she had tried to get home to her husband AFTER being married to Jamie.

"Oh.  Don't say it like that!"

But I was in for a surprise.  Jamie asks if Claire was trying to return to her time and husband and rather than going to a place where he complained that he meant so little to her, he looked grief-stricken as he said,

"and I beat you for it."

You notice what he did there?  He didn't make it about himself.  Rather than look to where life affected him, he earnestly tried to put himself in Claire's shoes.  

I myself can't count the number of times, in the face of a loved one and confrontation, I've looked to where life affected me rather than being like Jamie.  But if I were to make a list of all the things I love about me, at the very top would be the fact that I have been able to do it sometimes..  

It's not about right, wrong or anything being a sin.  It's about living your life in a way where you can be happiest.  You can be happiest when the people who surround you are happiest and all of that happens when everybody stops looking for where there is shortcoming.

Rather than whine about her leaving him, Jamie delivered his wife to the spot she needed to be to do just that.  As a husband and a lover, he acted selflessly and put her needs before his own.  It was a beautiful moment, even if it only happened in fiction.  That sort of love requires not just a willingness to be vulnerable, but an acceptance that sometimes I will be hurt.

All weekend I've been thinking of a friend of mine.  I know him to be a dog person even though he hasn't owned as much as one pet during the entire time I've known him.  I know because he has told me a story of his two dogs and how they died.  He has told me he was so heartbroken he could never own a dog again.  That is how we normally behave.  We get hurt and we build a list of things to avoid so we are never hurt again.  We will be hurt again.  It is unavoidable.  When we guard ourselves from everything that may hurt us, it is love that gets shut out.  Consider my friend.  By never owning another pet, he shut himself off from all of the love and happiness a dog would bring. Worse, he kept his love away from dogs who badly needed a home and for what?  Did it make him any happier?  Did it remove the pain he felt from loving a creature and losing it?  No.  I think it would be more accurate to say it memorialized his pain and kept it precious.  Rather than allowing it to fade to a memory, it kept the emotion alive.  We cling to pain in order to avoid pain.

Consider this.  When you lock a door to keep something undesireable out, you barr anything good from coming in too.

What I see most in response to the Outlander episode, is a revival of the saying:

If you love someone, set them free.  If they come back to you, they're yours.  If they don't come back, they were never yours in the first place.

The problem with that is our traditional interpretation of the saying.  Generally we see it as proof of love, when really it is an instruction in how to love.  If you love someone, set them free.  Allow them to be who they are and do what they have to do.  That oh-so-judgemental second part?  The one about whether or not they were yours?  I see it as reassurance.  You see, if you allow someone to be free that also includes the freedom to stay with you.

My mother used to have a cat.  I can remember going to her room to ask her something when she wasn't feeling well and being told "Shut the door!  Don't let the cat out!"  Now I myself have two indoor cats that I have said nearly the same thing about.  The difference is my mother was locking her cat in the same room with her.  The other difference?  When you opened my mom's door?  Her cat wanted out.  He wanted freedom.  That's the way our pets were when I was growing up.  We controlled them and they resisted us.  As an adult, I have made other choices.  Right now I am sitting in my bedroom with two cats, neither of which have to be here because I have trapped them with a door.  The final difference?  You will never ever feel as loved as you do when a creature, human or animal, chooses to stay with you when they have the freedom to leave.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Angela's Corner Pieces

Have you ever worked a jigsaw puzzle?  Have you noticed how every time you discover a corner piece, larger bits of the overall picture become clear?  I've noticed I have epiphany moments that work in very much the same way.  I've come to understand that life is not a singular journey that ends or in other words, a person doesn't just "grow up" and spend the rest of his/her life a "finished" individual.  For those who are interested and willing, lessons continue to deliver opportunities for more growth, understanding, and happiness.  In my case, "corner piece moments" arrive on the precipice of change, either nudging me to the other side or alerting me I am already there.

Those moments become like a list of points in the theorem of how I would choose to live my life.  Dedicating an entire blog to any one of them feels less like sharing my point of view than begging you to see life my way.  Not my intention here, nor my personal cup of tea.  Instead, I have decided to  share them with you in the form of a list.

Here are my personal "corner pieces" or things that have caught my attention along the way.

1.  Change Means You Actually Change.  When I embarked on the journey, I thought of change like a mathematical equation where I remained constant and simply added extra elements.  Instead, it is more like folding egg whites into egg yolks and Angela flavor and creating a soufflé.  I noticed this morning that I even sneeze differently.  Seriously.  I used to be vigilant towards whatever made me uncomfortable or felt unpleasant.  From a certain control freak point of view, sneezes are messy and inconvenient.  They also can be a bit uncomfortable if you try to stifle them because "this isn't a good time."  Now I keep my eye on the positive aspects of life.  Even when something seems to be inconvenient or unpleasant, I look for the benefit.  I had no idea that would change my view of sneezes!  They have become the moment of relief after a sudden itch.  Sometimes I will sneeze as many as ten times in a row.  I always have.  The difference is I used to resent it and find it unpleasant.  Now it just makes me laugh.

Change means you actually change.  Your point of view changes and when that changes, what you see and how it makes you feel changes too.

2.  We Think We Understand Life from a Universal Point of View, But Really We Only Understand From Where We've Been and Where We Currently Are.    Consider the concept, "what other people think."  My earliest understanding probably came from someone asking me, "If X jumped off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff?"  I thought it was all about peer pressure.  Don't let someone convince you to do something detrimental or out of character for you simply because you want to be liked.  Somewhere along the way I grew into the understanding that it is also about being yourself.  For instance, if you grow a front lawn because everyone else grows a front lawn, you will never get to enjoy the beauty of the rose garden you would actually prefer.  It became about individuality and how we all have gifts to bring to the party.  Recently, I came into the awareness that when I meet a new potential friend and I hear about his/her hobbies or favorite things, I listen with an ear for what we have in common.  I want to like all the things my new friend likes.  Really I think it comes from a place where I simply understand that the more things we have in common, the more time we can potentially spend interacting.  Realistically, if my bucket list is all dry land and yours is all water, we may like each other all we want, but we're not going to "hang out together" very often.  What I realized was, while I would have loudly protested that I had outgrown caring what other people think, I was taking on other people's stuff to keep them in my life.  I was putting their stuff before my own.  It was subtle and no longer strictly "what they think about me," but it was still putting too much emphasis on "what other people think."

When you change what you look at, you change what you see.  As your viewpoint changes, so does your point of view.

3.  Focus On What You Want, Not on What You Don't Want.  After years of neglect and ambivalence, I'm cleaning up my home environment.  When we clean house on that level, we tend to look for all the things we need to remove.  It's one thing to do it with worn out and outdated furniture, but we tend to do that with the rest of our life as well.  I don't want this job anymore.  I don't want to be angry anymore.  We tend to focus on what we don't want and talk about it a lot even while we are reading self help books telling us to focus on what we do want and not to complain!  Luckily for me, one day I had Facebook open right next to a new book I had just purchased, something about not being angry anymore.  While I was thinking, "I want to be happy," I could read the word angry on the book's cover.  That was the last book I ever purchased that took a negative stance about anything.

It's a surprisingly difficult concept to put into practice.  Consider how much you talk or hear other people talk about the things they don't want in the world.

Career politicians.
Narcissistic, abusive partners.

Turn off the news.  Limit yourself to a pre-edited internet page each morning on Facebook, Google+ or one of the other social networks.  I can hear my parents in the back of my mind saying I'm choosing to live my life with my head buried in the sand.  Maybe it is the equivalent of putting my fingers in my ears and saying "I can't hear you," but at the same time, my life is undeniably more peaceful and happy since I made the decision.

My parents and many other people like them, leave their TV's running near 24/7 on CNN or Fox News.  The information age has tricked them into believing we have to be custodians of every bad bit of news that happens.  It's like we believe that we are causing the things to happen by not being vigilant enough in our awareness.

On August 24, 2014, there was an earthquake in South Napa where I live.  Within days, my Facebook feed was flooded with, not only pictures and videos of earthquake damage, but nearly dozens of predictions about California's next big quake.  I seemed to have friends who were reading each and every prediction.  Consider this.  When that earthquake happened at 3:20am, no news service warned you minutes before it.  You were either prepared or you weren't.

5.  Keep monuments to your successes, not your disappointments.  Seed your environment with items that make you smile or gasp in awe at their beauty.  I have been a digital photographer for nearly ten years.  I almost never print any of my photographs anymore.  I look at them on a tablet or computer.  Every time I looked through my printed photographs, I would find ten or more that reminded me of the time I tried to become a stock photographer.  I sent the required number of slides, consisting of photographs I had already created.  Labors of love.   I received word back that they were interested.  After my second slide submission, photographs shot all with an eye to becoming a "stock photographer," I received a "no longer interested."  Every time I look at some of those latter  photographs, I think those are the shots that didn't cut it.  If my conscious mind is noting each photographic disappointment, I can imagine the nasty things my subconscious mind is interjecting.

A metal trunk I purchased years ago was hidden behind my sofa.  It was buried under two blankets and six pillows.  When I finally dragged it out of its hiding place, I remembered how beautiful it was.  I remembered how excited I had been when I bought it.  I believe in the Law of Attraction.   I've learned that, when I'm focused on being positive, my life is more positive and happy.  If I weed out all of the extraneous extra items in my life and focus on only the things that bring me joy, inspire me or that I find beautiful, I think I will have given myself the largest affirmation I can.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Shredder: A Manifestation Story?

A long story short, I have begun purging my house.  What once was going to be a simple reorganize and clean operation, has become a systematic removal of everything that no longer works for me.  I say this a lot, but it is the best thing I've ever done.  And still, it is.  Let's just say I feel physically lighter.  It is that good.

Where I now have two file cabinets, I want to have one.  One is all about my writing and support for my writing and the other is all about my taxes and business information.  Since I have done more support for my writing than actual writing and all of my business has gone digital, it shouldn't be hard to combine them.  I haven't used my shredder in years.  It is covered in dust and I'm not too surprised when it won't work and shows an overheating error.  I open it up.  Find it full.  Empty it out and clean it.  I try running it again.  Overheated.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to need to buy a new shredder, but I simply unplug it and over the next three days, I occasionally check.  It always says, "Overheated."

At the same time in the back of my mind, I'm remembering that a friend told me you have to put any shredded paper going into recycling into a clear plastic bag.  I know that I don't have any clear plastic bags, so I'll need to get some.  I keep repeating that to myself as if trying to remember a grocery list.

On the fourth day I worked.  It wasn't the sort of work I do typically.  More like every now and then.  It involved installing speakers in a gymnasium and me performing as an anchor while they were being lifted up the wall.  Anyway, there were six speakers and each speaker came in a clear plastic bag.  After we were done, I asked if I could have them.  I came home with the bags and the next time I tried the shredder, it worked.

There are aspects to that story that could serve to cheapen it.  The fault with the shredder, I realized later, was pilot error.  I was not getting the lid onto the body correctly.  You could say the cost of six plastic bags was too inconsequential to even notice, let alone attribute to manifestation.

There is a reason they call it "flow."  There is a way of being where life is not a struggle.  Things go wrong, like a shredder not working, but rather than react to it.  Rather than try to "make" something happen.  I simply take note of it.  I give it time.  Look at it like seeing everything that hinders my progress as simply signs telling me it's not ready to happen yet.

In my experience, it is best to wait until things are ripe.  Things are ripe when you have all of the materials you need to proceed forward, or in my case, the six plastic bags I needed.

In terms of monetary value, I manifested less than five dollars, but in personal gain?  I now have a better appreciation and understanding of the phrase "skating through life."