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Who Am I?

Welcome to this healing blog.  This site focuses on writing; the content related to my professional healing practice has its own space.  Click here to enter that space. 

I practice as a Feldenkrais teacher, TARA Approach practitioner, and counselor who is trained in EMDR. I teach various forms of shamatha meditation as I learned them under the instruction of my teacher, Thrangu Rinpoche. In August of 2014 I began shamanic initiation and training.  Essentially, I'm an indigenous American healer, born and raised in Austin, Texas, with many healing threads that weave together into a tapestry as unique and complex as the people I help

I dance with Julie Nathanielsz and Heloise Gold, both recipients of Austin Critics' Table awards for their work.  In addition to dance, I studied Cuban, Brazilian, and Puerto Rican percussion for a number of years, and have recently come back to the study of Egyptian percussion under the tutelage of Hossam Ramzy.

My nickname/stage name for many, many years has been La Pistola. All I'm going to tell you about that is that you'd better believe it.

I hope that your visit here finds you something to laugh about, something to think about, something to dream about. 

You can subscribe to the blog through the boxes on the right. 

Peace to all, and thanks for visiting.
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It's Not So Dire, After All

Last night, I finally threw in the towel. I thought to myself, Whether it hurts or not, I have got to get moving. I just have to. I can't take this any more.

So I went for a run. It went alright. Slow of course, and the SI joint was sore afterward, but not excruciating. It felt so good to be out in the night air, moseying along, feeling my body move, heart rate going up, taking it easy. Things are healing. Maybe I can dance tomorrow after all. At this rate, I'll definitely be able to make Spirit Lab on Friday--yea!

I'm looking at my little rack of clothes and wishing I had something that felt more like a true "date night" dress for tonight. My wardrobe is so minimal and it's all the same kind of thing, just as it has been for many years. No bling, no ruffles, no florals, barely any patterns. Just a healer and dancer's wardrobe of basic, flowing black. Something about this man is so classically masculine that it makes me wish I had something a bit more...I dunno...girly, I suppose. 

Then again, that's what French perfume and bracelets are for.

So, it is what it is. Le sigh. What's a woman gonna do? You can't reinvent yourself at the last minute. At least not if you're being true to yourself. You are who you are, right?

Off to the day.

Thinking Of Water, And Other Stuff

Friday. Work. Dinner with a friend. More clients are leaving the fold because they are doing so freaking well. This is really good. It also means La Pistola needs to hustle some more work and get herself out there for the 1,000th time. So, made some moves on that today. 

It's really good to see people get well and leave. Means I'm doing things right. Nothing more rewarding than to see, in particular, young people heal and grow and shed their traumas and become who they were always supposed to be. Right?

The SI joint issue has improved, though not completely; I have another Jonathan session and maybe another sports taping that will need to be done tomorrow. I've been antsy all week due to the lack of ability to do my usual things, dance, run, all the stuff I do. I put in a couple of hours in the studio last weekend, but it didn't feel good afterward, so I just lay off for the entire week, which makes me feel kind of crazy and depressed, but it's what you have to do with these things. 

So, I was feeling limited and angsty, and I started looking at the Oxbow in the living room--all neatly packed up in its bag with its accoutrements, all of which I found and put together a few months ago--and thinking about whether it might be possible to get this thing back out onto the water for the first time in a handful of years. Actually, what I'm really thinking about is whether I'd want to try to take this with me to South Texas in November. I even went through and did the process of seeing if I can get it into the car, and it's tricky, but it's probably do-able, though it would make for an uncomfortable trip. 

The other part would be the need for a wetsuit, which I don't have. But I gotta admit that my little monkey mind is thinking about it, or at least about trying to do an early launch some morning and seeing how it feels to paddle. I rarely stand up; I kneel, or lie down on the board and paddle surfer style, having found that both are more efficient in real conditions. The other issue is that I've never actually succeeded in surfing this, or any, board, despite many tries; and there's no guarantee that I would do so this time either. It could be just one more huge experience of getting my ass kicked over and over and over again and coming home with nothing but bruises.

Still, I'm thinking about it.

And then there's the climbing shoes I found in the gear bag. I'm a wimp anymore; I don't want to fall, being old and stuff, and I don't own any toproping gear, which I guess means that at this point in my life all I can do is traverses. 

Which is so puny.

Still, I'm thinking about it.

It's Weird When You Don't Have Parents

A special topic to me: young people without parents. I have a lot of those.

In a lot of cases, one or both parents is already deceased. But that's not always what it is. Sometimes a parent isn't available because of mental illness, addiction or a personality disorder. Regardless of the cause, I have a *lot* of young people who don't have parents in my practice.

I was sitting with one such the other evening. I got a little firm with her about not continuing to see the guy she was seeing, who was doing that thing boys do--"I will sleep with you and go out with you indefinitely but I won't be your boyfriend." (Case in point, the guy I just dumped, who did that to his girlfriend before me, and that dude was 53 years old--ridiculous. Boys don't necessarily ever grow up, and beautiful women don't need to be with a guy with the moral compass of a 14 year old). 

I know what this beautiful young woman wants--a partner, maybe a family. I said to her, "You don't have any business continuing to see a guy who has explicitly said he doesn't want to give you anything you want and isn't willing to commit to a future with you."

We struggled with it a bit. Back and forth. Finally I said, "I know I'm being hard on you. But you know what sweetie? You don't have parents. You're trying to make adult decisions to make your life better and move forward and grow beyond the struggles of your past, and they're not here to help you. 

"I have more than one job here. I'm your therapist, but I *need* to stand in and also be your Mom at times. Because I *know* this is not what your parents would have wanted for you, if they were here. I know they would tell you you deserve way, way better than this."

I saw the tears well up. Mine did too. I said, "There are going to be times that I'm going to need to lean into you, because it's what's right."

It was good. She texted me the next day and thanked me for the clarity and the tough love. She's a beautiful girl, and she'll find someone who really loves and appreciates her if she just keeps moving and keeping the door open. She doesn't need to be spending her precious time on a guy so selfish that he won't even consider her wants.

Ya know?

So, I was thinking yesterday, that it's actually really good I never had kids, because it lets me be a part time Mom to many, the motherless ones, the ones who need me.

Right?

To Re-Enter The Stream; The Many Aspects Of Race And Class

Well.

I finally decided that I'm ready, after a four year hiatus, to put listings back up on two therapist referral sites. It's time; I'm willing to give it a year each to see what comes of it. It's interesting, to go back, write these profiles and see how much I've grown during the last four years of clinical work (a lot, it's amazing the ground that's been covered). I've never had much luck with mainstream advertising, since I'm a very eclectic practitioner and not at all a clean fit for my profession, but it feels like it's time to come out of hiding and give this another go.

Of course, I immediately ran up against Psychology Today's ignorance of multicultural counseling, as displayed by the fact that you have to choose the ethnicities/races of people you have "special knowledge" about--but you only get to choose two! I've worked with people of probably 20 different cultural backgrounds, and I get to choose two? Well, since I'm a "mixed" myself, I guess that covers it, doesn't it? 

Jeesh.

Whatever. I'll probably end up writing them a letter, since I usually seem to end up doing that when racism and/or sexism within my profession rears its ugly head. Which it does. All too often for my taste. 

But there you have it. That's why I do what I do.

Which makes me think about, again, Book Two, which I started working on, and man, it is complex to talk about these issues of race and class and gender and identity. Very complex. I spend every day in this matrix, and am good at it, but writing about it is a different thing, because it is so multi-layered. For example, a good part of today was spent navigating the "Am I a fake because I am a brown person who looks white and now has the benefits of educational/financial/class privilege?" question.

This is a question I get very, very often from the adult children of immigrants, second generation like me, whose parents are working class and came from poverty. These kids, doing their doctorate programs or working their high level corporate jobs, don't know who they are. They straddle multiple worlds, and feel torn apart on the inside by the differences, and because they are thoughtful, conscientious young people, they feel guilty. Sorting that out is a huge part of our journey together. Am I allowed to enjoy privilege when I have seen what it's done to my parents? Can I live with myself if I succeed to the point that people in my parents' class have no access to someone like me? Stuff like that. 

It's very, very complex. There are no clear answers. It is really about getting down into it up to your bum and wading around in it together. Working with it in the room is an art, but writing about it? Another whole thing.

But, very worthy, and of course, this is the book my clients want me to write, because they want my profession to know how to talk to people like us.

I get it. I'm willing to take on the challenge.

It's Not Anyone, But The Right One

Something I say to my clients a lot. Particularly those looking for a partner and finding themselves lost in that deep, deep despair that modern methods--i.e. online dating--seem to engender. They look to me to tell them what to do in the great wasteland of OKCupid and Match and Tinder and It's Just Lunch and all those other things.

And I keep saying the same thing:

It's not anyone you're looking for. It's the right one.

I say this because I know how easy it is for any of us to get lonely, or scared, and start lowering your standards. I would like a partner too, so I get it, how lonely it can be sometimes. I think this is particularly true of online dating, for some reason. Somehow, there's something about online dating that can create a sense of both too many choices and no real choices at all. Personally, I tried OKCupid for about 24 hours twice this year, and decided after the second attempt that I was not going to use online dating at all. For one thing, the only lasting people I have ever met from online things in my life have all turned out to be friends, not romantic partners. This is great, of course, but friends were not what I was looking for, though I'm extremely glad to have those people in my life. 

For another, all the people I ever actually dated from online turned out to have significant issues that made them unsuitable partners: mental health problems, untreated addiction, social problems, they were already involved with other people or cheating, and/or a host of other things that predisposed them to trying to meet others through an impersonal, distancing medium rather than face to face. I think it is easy to hide behind a computer and present a certain kind of image of oneself; it's much harder to do so in real life, especially when one meets a person again and again. I found again and again, also, that men I met online were extremely prone to abusing both text and email for communication, rather than doing the simple, human thing like making a phone call or talking face to face. I found all of this rather alienating and not conducive to building the type of warm, truly personal connection I like to form with others. 

I work hard to get my clients off the Texting Relationship. It's like pulling teeth, but I'm insistent on it simply because I have not seen that it leads to many real life things that work. I have a handful of clients who are getting married within the next year, and none of them met their partners online. In fact, among my circle of happily married friends, none of them met their partners online, either. I know it's supposedly the way of the world these days, but I would rather meet a living human being face to face in the real world, or not at all. It would be nice to know that the person I am talking to has some of the same appreciations of the world, some of the same interests, some common ground, the interpersonal skills to have that face to face conversation. It also keeps me interested and engaged in the world around me.

So--it's not anyone you are looking for. It's just not. It's the right one. A relationship that is bad for you is far worse than being unpartnered. Online dating feeds the "anyone" phenomena and doesn't easily support the "right one" phenomena. Too many choices that aren't real choices. Too much distraction. Too much emailing and texting and doing anything but really connecting. You have to fight against much of what online dating is in order to really connect with someone, and waste a lot of time going on dates that lead to nothing and leave both people feeling disappointed. Isn't life disappointing enough without feeding that beast?

I think: notice the world around you, its beauty and surprise. Go places. Explore new things. Make friends with nature and places that nourish and surprise and enrich you. While you are there, perhaps there is another person who feels the same sharing your space. Talk to them. Make a friend, maybe more, but at the least, a friend. You'll have made your life a better place for the day in a way that can only make you more whole. 

I also think this applies to everyone, not just people you would date. I was in a restaurant the other evening and this old, kind woman kept smiling at me. I still regret not talking to her. She had a beautiful, interested face, she wanted to connect with me, and I could have made both of our lives better by taking that few minutes. If I see her again, I will.

Keep it real. Life is short. 

A Space To Be Filled; Freedom

A long day. The calendar looks rather empty next week and beyond. Heh. One of the things about being a really, really good healer is that you run right out of work because the people you see get well. This year has been incredibly financially tough--a month out for surgery, not being able to work much post surgery for many weeks, many clients graduating from therapy (yay!), medical bills, a raise in my office rent. 

I do wonder how I'm going to make it through the rest of the year, but there is no way to approach such a thing other than to do just what I am doing. If all collapses--which it always could--I would simply regroup and then start over again, somewhere. That is what one does, right? I have started over many, many times in life. It's discouraging, scary, but I learn from each iteration. 

I know who I am and what I have inside of me. Whether it is always seen or not by others is not the point. I currently have a roof over my head, food, a working car, I am breathing mostly without difficulty, so there is the basis for whatever there is to be built. I think of my mother, who came here as a refugee, with nothing, not even the English language. I am her daughter. I carry that same strength within me. Whether it costs me as much as it did her is up for question, certainly. But the wiring is all good.

Things rise and fall; a healer doing her small, but important, work in the world has to remember who she is and why she is here. 

There is a lot of work to be done round the office, and while working on it today I wrote, in my head, the first chapter of Book One. It doesn't ever come quite out on the page like it does internally, but there is some raw content to work with, there. I decided that if there are not clients, I will use the free time at the office to start working again on the installation I would like to make either as a private showing or possibly for the West Austin Studio Tour. I started working on it a year ago and stopped, but the images for the project are vivid, and like any installation, it has to be made in the space; installation cannot be separated from the environment it is meant to inhabit. 

It is a work about grief, about temporal experience, about dark beauty; about the delicate, the raw, the unfinished, and that which changes. It feels very important to me to make this piece, and there are a lot of technical issues that have to be solved in order to do so in terms of construction, materials, how things break down in time, that sort of thing. 

I think back on that short relationship that ended and I no longer feel angry; just sad, that I went through that, and compassion for him. I don't know that person's pain or how he ended up being the way he is. I do believe that someone who yells at another person and says the kinds of things he said cannot be a truly happy person on the inside. I don't want to expose myself to someone who yells, who doesn't respect me. It isn't worth it to me; it hurt too much, brought up too much stuff I want to move past and forget about, things it took a lot to heal from. 

I have only two other exes who ever raised their voices at me; one I'll never talk to again, the other and I are fast friends now, but it took years before I would reply to his emails after that happened. To be fair, it would have happened a lot faster if he had picked up the phone and called me, but I understand why he didn't; he felt bad about what he'd done, and didn't want to invade my space any more than he already had. So he just would write, and wait a while, and write again, and wait again, and eventually, I answered. I'm happy to say that since then I have come to know him as a truly good man who doesn't behave that way habitually. I think my walking away made him think deeply about what he was doing, and when we finally reconnected as friends, he was a much gentler, kinder person.

I am sorry, I suppose, that the man I was seeing never got to know me, never took an interest in my work, that his own world was so overwhelming and unmanageable that he never truly saw the real me at all. I would like to think that if that had happened, it might have turned out differently; but there is no way to know, and it seems to me that there was really no room for me in all that chaos, no room for peace, no room for connection, no room for growth and intellectual stimulation and all the things I would like to share with a man. I need that space to grow, that peace; I cannot live, or thrive, in a situation of constantly upended priorities, drama, no boundaries. It's too much like the house I grew up in. I need the safety and warmth of a loving container for my heart so that I can be the woman I need to be in this world.

It was what it was. I did my best with all of it; I really did. This, I do know. And I am at peace with that. I tried, and that's all that one can do.

I am aware of the precious freedom that it is to be a woman with her own life, choices, a heart that can love a man of her choice, an education--all things that women all over the world mostly don't have, things women have fought and fought for, and still lack in most circumstances. That precious freedom and the wisdom and love of a wise woman's heart is not to be just given away to those who don't respect it. Freedom is a precious resource, and as such deserves to be honored and shared with those who can truly benefit from it.

Yes?
Yes.

Cake In A Jar, Food, Shifting

So, I had to get this little jar at Phoenicia--cake in a jar. Little cakes, to be precise, called "baba cakes." My curiosity got the better of me. Grandfather cakes. They're these little cakes the size and shape of mushrooms soaking in amaretto. I like amaretto--but not enough to buy a bottle--and I like cake--but not enough to buy a whole cake or usually even a whole slice--so it seemed like the best of both worlds. 

It's the physical manifestation of "the funeral is over, let us eat cake and drink wine" celebration, only it's little bitty cakes soaked in amaretto, which is even better, since I don't really like wine that much. Wine seems to be a thing with a lot of women my age, but I have to admit, I don't really get it. I don't particularly enjoy talking about wine, drinking wine or going to wine oriented events or vineyards or any of that. It just sort of puzzles me, to be frank. But I get that wine is a thing, a social boat I apparently missed in my life, and I am OK with that. Hell, it's only one of many social boats I missed. You can only expect so much from a woman whose mother still sends her texts inquiring, Mom. How you like your trip and Portland beach? What you like to do for your D.O.B? Mom. 

I guess she doesn't know that Portland is inland. I really appreciate the way she always identifies herself at the beginning and end of every text, just in case I'm not sure who it is. 

All this does make me reflect on a conversation with a client the other day about food. He said, "Is there something wrong with me that I'm not, you know, into food? So many people are into food, and when you are dating women, they're REALLY into food, and I go along with it, but I have to tell you I don't understand it. To me food is fuel."

I laughed, because Austin is such a foodie/hipster culture, the kind of place where people ooh and awe over a tiny plate with two brussels sprout leaves cooked in duck fat on it. I mean, it's brussels sprouts. I dunno. I sort of get it, but I honestly had to tell my client that I couldn't be much help in this arena, since I feel pretty much the way he does and am someone who forgets what I just ate immediately after it's gone. 

I did make him laugh uproariously by describing the almost - traumatic experience of visiting the Tillamook Cheese Factory in Oregon, which I only went to because someone insisted I had to. Man, that place was a giant, brawling comestible zoo of people stuffing their faces to the hilt with everything ever made from cow juice that you can think of. It was a horrifying funhouse of consumption on a massive scale. I feel sure that that visit set me up for subsequent negative events, such as almost socking a guy in a bar in Manzanita where I went afterward, which I never wrote about either because at the time it was too embarrassing. (I was tired. I was hungry. He was an annoying, persistent local. It wasn't pretty.)

I swear that I had a little PTSD come up by the time I got out of there, the Tillamook Cheese Factory and the whole northern Oregon coast. It was just, much too much, you know. Okay. It was WAY too much too much. That's what it was. It definitely qualified as an "overwhelming experience."

Anyway. The lovely man I'm going out with on Saturday has read through parts of this blog and made great suggestions about taking material from even the blog as it is and making a book. He's very supportive; it's amazing to me, that he would be so interested. He sent me a link to the work of a guy, a vet, who did just that, and I spent some time reading that work, which both intrigued me and made me sad--the stories of those who come back and can't find their ground again, here at "home," are so deeply poignant to me. I think war takes away your sense of home, whether you are the occupied or the occupier. It is the nature of that thing.

I am certainly very intrigued by this man. I am sure he has his pick of the lovely ladies to go out with. Interesting, that he would be interested in this little ragamuffin, over here in my wee corner.

Things are shifting. Yeah, they are. I just found out I can renew my office affordably for two years. The same two years I feel are going to take me to the next place in my practice and my personhood. It's not a coincidence.

Grateful for everything today, including the little cakes in a jar.

The Things That Make People Happy

They're simple, really. Those of us that work in mental health know what they are. The things that make people happy. The things that build and sustain resilience not only in individuals but in families and tribes.

Those things are: family, community, meaningful work, spirituality, and creativity. Not one of them: all of them together, as a package.

It's simple. But it isn't. The structures that support those things have largely broken down in our society across the board, which, in my opinion, has a lot to do with why so many Americans are eating antidepressants. As human beings, we need the above things in order to be happy. It just is. We are hard wired that way. There is no getting around it.

One of the things that deeply troubled me about the last man I briefly dated was that he did not seem to value, or even really understand, the incredible positive effect that his being in a good, committed relationship would have on his children. It's hard enough for kids to go through divorce; when parents don't seek out and build good, solid adult relationships afterward, the kids get stranded as they grow older, not having role models for that kind of relationship. 

It's not like kids stop needing that role model when they turn 18. If anything, they need it more as they enter their 20s and early 30s, because a lot of the time, they are going to want to go on and get married and have a family too, and the people they most want to get that guidance from is their own parents. If their parents don't figure that out, they usually end up in the office of someone like myself, struggling, not knowing how to make the adult decisions that they need to make to get where they want to go. I cannot tell you how often I hear from a young person, "I want to be able to go to my mom/dad about these (relationship) things, but they're/their relationships is/are a mess." Many times a week.

It's very important that parents commit themselves to maturing and growing their own characters and relationship skills in order to be able to model and pass on those skills to their children as young adults.

I would try to talk to him about this--because his behavior and his moral choices around his previous girlfriend really bothered me--and he would just try to change the subject. He seemed to feel that somehow he could just do whatever he wanted in his own relationships without affecting his kids. One of the things I told the Banker was that when the man was yelling at me on the phone for the last time, I thought, So let's say he treats me this way. And if I stay with this man, his children are going to see him treating me this way. And they are going to grow up and either become people who treat other people this way or who allow themselves to be treated this way, who think doing this kind of thing is OK.

I thought about how his little girl would grow up thinking it is OK for a man to yell at you. How that would set her up to be vulnerable to being in abusive relationships. I would be a part of creating that belief by letting her see that happen to me.

I thought, I don't see anything to look forward to.

I'm a feminist therapist for a reason: I don't believe in women being treated badly. It was inevitable that the relationship would end. I stayed too long as it was; I should have walked away the first time he acted like a bully, the first time he refused to lower his voice when I asked. I am glad it was only three months of my own life. I had the option to leave and seek healthier people to be with. Kids don't have that choice. They get what they get.

I work with those relationally stranded young people every day and see how hard it is for them. I am glad to be there for them, to stand in, to be the mature adult, the extra parent that they need. I really wish parents would think more about it: more about building the matrix of family, community, meaningful work, spirituality and creativity that their children need in order to move into the world with confidence, believing in themselves, possessing the tools needed to find the love and connection that they not only want, but need. Deeply. 

I have had the great good fortune of spending a lot of time around families that have done this, and the benefits are multigenerational, extending far beyond the original couple or couples that put in the work. It's an amazing thing and there is nothing that equips young people for resilience and mental health more than the choices that parents make about building that matrix for their kids. You can't put a price on that. It's priceless.

Aaaand The Winner Is...

Okay. There's really no winner. Because a blog is a living thing. However, as y'all know, sometimes I like to take a look at the old Stats page and see what the top three contenders are.

The top post on the blog is The Scapegoat Who Changed Her Family Role. This post is from 2012. 9,187 hits as of today.

First runner up is Why We Wear Fishnets. From 2012 also. 4,120 hits.

Second runner up is PTSD And The Children Of Hoarders. From 2013, 2,832 hits.

Total hits to this blog for all time: 138,480.

The Stats machine on Blogger is so primitive that there is no way to know how it really works or how accurate it is. It's sort of fascinating because there is no way to know how information gets around or why certain posts get the amount of exposure they do. For example, I tried writing other posts on fishnets just to see what would happen, but they never gained any traction. What makes the above one different? No way to know.

Is it like the hundredth monkey? If I wrote enough posts on fishnets, say, 100 posts, would I achieve some new kind of stature in the world of those who blog about fishnets? Or would I just become a top contender on fetish underwear sites? How interesting would that be--if people looking for that stuff ended up on the blog of a trauma therapist?

I don't know that I want to find out exactly where that would go, at least not right now, but the idea of writing 100 posts on fishnets intrigues me. That would be hard to do. It's a writing challenge. To me, all of this, stats, readers, all of this, it's a lot like performance, like dance. You go out there and you don't quite know what you are going to do, or who is there and bought a ticket, nor do you know how your audience is going to receive and react to what you are about to create and commit yourself to. You just don't know if the flower growing in the crack of the wall has its roots in Timbuktu. That's part of the intrigue of it.

So that's what that is. It's odd, and interesting, isn't it?