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.  My own healing journey has flowed through developmental psychoanalysis, somatics, Karma Kagyu Buddhism, dance, and energy medicine. Essentially, I'm an indigenous American healer, born and raised in Austin, Texas. My healing gifts developed along several pathways over the years, all of which flow together and interweave as the need arises.

I've been in the performing arts for 28 years; I dance with my friends Julie Nathanielsz and Heloise Gold.  Recently joined the Midnight Lotus dance collective with my lovely friend and teacher Amae Amani.

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.

Really Out Of Looney Land; Healthier Habits

For whatever reason, last night I was remembering some of the crazymaking stuff that happened in my last relationship, and shaking my head as I remembered it.  Particularly, I was thinking of a scenario that happened a lot toward the end:  

I would try to set up a time and day to talk to the ex about things--couples counseling, what was happening between us, where things were, all the stuff you need to talk about when a relationship is in serious deep trouble.  He would inform me that he was busy and "didn't know when he would be able to talk."  

I would then say, "All right, fine.  Be well and let me know if you do want to talk sometime."  At that point I was focused on not engaging unnecessary conflict for the sake of preserving my time and energy.  And he would then go ballistic.  Calling me and ranting me out about how I clearly didn't want the relationship to work, how distant and uncaring I was, and how he had time to talk on this day or this day and he never said he couldn't talk to me.  And I would listen to this, thinking to myself, "Actually, yea dude, you did just say you couldn't talk and didn't know when...About 15 minutes ago."

This kind of stuff happened ALL THE TIME with that guy.  Man.  That was nuts.  I'm a human being and I make mistakes, but I'm not so far gone that I don't remember what another human being said to me 15 minutes ago.  For God's sake I'm a therapist.  I remember things people told me two years ago.  Not verbatim, but the gist, and I'm pretty good at it--my clients have often commented on how well I remember things that happened a long time ago.  That was another thing:  if I didn't remember something he said exactly the way he said it, word for word, he would get really agitated and condescending and tell me that I "misunderstood" and try to force me to both admit I was wrong about my memory and to repeat after him what he claimed he said, word for word, which was often substantially different than his original statement.  When I would refuse to do this--as you imagine, there was no way I was gonna play that--he would rant at me.  Everything, every little thing, had the potential to create some kind of nuclear sized drama.

Man y'all.  That was crazy, and dumb.  And my ex was someone who worked in mental health, too.  I was starting to think about whether I needed to record our conversations to bring into couples therapy, or what.  He had actually apparently done that before--recorded our conversations--he threatened to post them publicly somewhere to prove I was mentally ill.  I told him to go ahead, but he never did it.  My guess is, he listened to these recordings that he supposedly made and realized that he sounded way more nuts than me, but it's also possible that he never actually recorded anything at all and was just trying to intimidate me in that way, who knows.  That's dumb, too--I'm a performer and not afraid of anything another person might say about me.  I've had people try to ruin my reputation before, and every single time, time made everything come out in the wash--on my side.

Anyway, the moment I realized I was thinking about recording anything was the moment I said to myself, "No way, this is ridiculous--this isn't worth it."  If you have so little voice in a relationship that the only way you can substantiate your side of things is with an actual voice recording, you're not in a relationship--you're in a dictatorship, an emotional police state where everything you say and do is under watch and under fire.  That is how it felt being with him, and I guess that's why I don't miss anything.  It feels a lot more like escaping from North Korea than a breakup, being gone from Looney Land.  

It's good on this side of the barbed wire fence.  I spend time with my friends and do things I love and no one guilt trips or yells at me about it.  It's very peaceful and nice.

So.  The focus now is rebuilding healthier habits, since apparently (unsurprisingly) I was way more depressed in that relationship than I thought and had allowed some things to lapse more than is good--exercise, eating well, overall taking care of myself.  I'm now feeding those things back in and supporting the healthy emotional habits that I'm working on too:  time with friends, only spending time with people who love me, not being alone too much, satisfying work, art making.  It's all part of what I need and always needed.  Even while I was living in Looney Land.  There isn't much fun to be had in Looney Land, as it turns out. 

Conversations About Cheating, And Such

Part of dinner conversation with the Count.  He likes to pose theoretical "what if" questions to me, which is always interesting.  This time it was, "What would you do if a guy who was committed to you went on a date with someone else and then told you about it, admitted that it was wrong, said nothing happened and that he knew it would hurt your feelings?"

"That's easy," I said calmly.  "We'd be breaking up."

He seemed astounded.  "Really?  But what if he was committed otherwise, nothing happened, and he told you?"

"Darlin', someone already in a relationship with me who has just gone on a date--his words--with someone else is not committed, and what 'happened' is that he went out with someone else behind my back," I said drily.  "Do you see the irony in what you just said?  I know that you, yourself, have a lot more tolerance for ambiguous situations than I do.  But I think you have your own reasons for putting up with that stuff, maybe because you also have ambiguity, I don't know."

"Don't you think it's kind of extreme to end a relationship over one mistake?" he asked.

"Fair question," I replied.  "But I don't think it's extreme to end a relationship over lying, which is what you're talking about.  Lying is corrosive to the trust that relationships are built on.  It's just about the most serious issue in a relationship that you can have.  

"What your scenario would really tell me is that the guy I was with had no idea who he was with.  Look, I'm a strong person, as you know.  But I am able to take in and listen to feedback from my partner and talk about things.  If a guy I was seeing did something like that, what it would mean to me was that he was either a coward or had seriously misjudged my ability to have a conversation about issues in our relationship that he wasn't happy about.  There is no reason for a grown man to act out like a teenager would instead of just opening his mouth and talking to me about things.  It's so passive aggressive."

It was an interesting discussion.  I told him, "A lot of people want someone to be with who is more healthy than what they've had in the past.  But they don't want to do the work on themselves so they're healthy too.  Then they meet that healthier person, and they're the dysfunctional one, and the healthier person walks away...If you aren't working to be deserving of someone healthier and more mature, in general, you can't expect someone healthier to enjoy being treated like they're the same as your previous partners.  I just think the scenario you described is the behavior of someone who is very immature and can't or won't communicate.  I'm also sensitive to this issue because my ex continually accused me of somehow being unfaithful or having relationships with other men, and I've never cheated on anyone in my entire life."

"Well, maybe he was projecting all of that, doing it himself," he remarked.  "I don't think lying is good.  I do think people do it to avoid drama."

"I think people do it because they're weak and trying to put one over on another person," I said.  "I'm just not like that.  I would never want to be with someone like that either.  It's really not that hard to be someone with integrity, despite how much people whine about it."

Haha!  How's that for a bit of soapboxing on a Saturday night?

Seashore Dances And Good Men

I told Hel this morning that I'm going to work on our dance while I'm down in South Texas in just a few more weeks (yeahhh!).  I'm extremely envious of her Ipad Air for movie making, but I have a little video camera I can take if I want to record anything.  It's good to work on dances at the beach; I've done it before, and it should be quiet down there at that time.  The water might be a bit chilly still so it could even be preferable to doing typical beach stuff.  Mostly I want to go for long walks, think about things, paint pictures, eat, hang out with no schedule and no plan.  

Hel said, "I like your friend, the Count.  He seems like a great guy."

"He is," I agreed.  "He's living that confirmed bachelor life, which is cool, he's happy that way.  You can't ever go wrong by having good friends.  He's a pretty awesome person.  If he ever decided he wanted to go down the road of commitment and partnership, I'm sure he'd be a great husband.  He's just not in that place in his life.  Ya know, it's not only about meeting people, it's about meeting the right person at the right time, isn't it?"

"Yeah, that's the art of it," she remarked.  "I'm so glad to hear from you that you've got so much clarity about what you're about and what you want.  It makes you a good person to give men life lessons about how all this works with a real woman and a real partner."

I laughed out loud.  Am I giving lessons?  I said, "You know what's nice?  I'm really good at picking good men.  If you put me in a room with 50 men I will pick out the good ones in less than 30 minutes.  I know a good heart when I see it.  I guess that's why generally I don't have the same complaints about men that a lot of other women do.  A man can be a good man and just not in a place in his life where he's ready for a partnership.  I always think women should know men like this as friends."

Hel said firmly, "I think that when you meet a man who is obviously a good guy and he's in some kind of ambivalent place, that something happened in his past that caused that.  And it's something he has to look at and work out on his own apart from you in order to become someone who's really ready for a good relationship.  That's my opinion."

I like Hel's opinions.  Clearly, they brought her the love she wanted, since her husband is one of the coolest men and best partners I know.  I figure it's not my place to tell anyone anything about their ambivalence.  It's really only my place to stay in touch with who I am and what I want.  And to go to the ocean and dance. 

Ketchup Throwing...The Theater, And Love

Okay.  So I took the Count to see Wunderbaum not knowing that it would turn out to be a full on extravaganza of food throwing, partial nudity, extreme situations, and so forth.  It occurred to me as all this was going on that I'd never even asked him if he particularly liked theater in general.  These are the moments where you are very glad that someone is already your friend.  At the end of it all, I turned to him--after inwardly debating how I could possibly feel this out--and asked, "Was that too much?"  

He said, "That was the best show ever."  

Phew. K.

I am having a fabulous time at Fusebox--even made it to a late night event thus far.  It's good to see friends and practice being engaging (I have not made it to flirtatious yet but at least I'm talking to people and being available to be talked to, which maybe counts for enough).  And been having vigorous discussions with others about relationships and love and all of that.  For whatever reason, the theater opens all of that up for me, maybe because it's a world where all kinds of relationships get fashioned and played out in the course of an hour or two. 

I was talking with the Count tonight about teaching the dating class (one more week--I'm gonna miss these ladies) and how I think of love as not something we 'get' but as something we do.  I see love as generative; an outward moving force that wakes up happiness in others.  He said something really poignant:  "That's what's hard about breaking up, I think.  It's not the love you are not getting; it's the love you are not getting to give that you miss."  I was struck--as I often am--by the depth and thoughtfulness of his words.  

It made me think of a text exchange I had with my dear old South Texas friend last week.  He wrote:  I've been thinking about your situation.  I get what the hurt is.  You never wanted to be in love with a vindictive person.

You're right, I replied.

Loyal is real but it isn't all to that mess, he wrote back. Folks like you and me don't get it.  I had to learn about boundaries.  Crazy people don't care.  They can't leave their hell.

Somehow this exchange was very comforting to me.  Because my dear friend gets it.  I helped him through something similar once, actually.  And, most of all, I know my friend is someone who knows how to love; he's got one of the biggest hearts of anyone I've ever known.  He is very in the present with others, open to who they are, on top of his own projections.  When someone like that speaks to me, I listen.  I know I'm getting it from a good source.

Theater and reflecting on love--they go together.

Just Say No To Negative Nelly

When I saw Hel this morning, she said, "I heard late last night about your flirtation-fest...who did you meet, who did you like?"

I named a few folks.  Some she knew and others she said she could "find out about" (how awesome to have friends who can spy that stuff out, eh?).  And one person she said, "NO, don't you even think about it, he's an alcoholic, that guy..." She shook her head.

"I don't really count that guy in the experiment," I clarified.  "I'm not surprised.  I immediately got that whole Negative Nelly vibe from him.  He was interesting to talk to but he wasn't on the short list of guys I could see myself getting to know more."

"Well, he's nice enough, he's just..." She shrugged.

"No, I wouldn't call him nice," I said thoughtfully.  "He was not nice.  He was just interesting.  That's all.  That's not enough.  I'm not surprised he has a substance abuse problem."

This conversation kind of tickled me.  Also made me realize how interesting really isn't enough.  Me no like that Negative Nelly, fussy vibe.  I really don't have any interest in getting to know someone who is full of criticism and disparaging remarks about what's going on around them.  I notice how people like this often are not engaged in making any art themselves and have therefore made themselves immune to other people looking at their process and making their own comments or snide remarks about it.  I kind of think that anyone commenting snidely on the art of others who is not making work themselves isn't really in much of a position to unload their vomit on others.  If you're in the ring, you get to play.  If you're not--sit in your seat, eat your popcorn and leave those of us who are actually trying things out to our devices.  

And that fussy thing--whew.  I can't do fussy people, people for whom nothing is ever really good enough.  I have this theory that people who are difficult in this way have higher than average narcissistic tendencies in their personalities, or they're depressed, or both.  (I guess you get depressed when you're narcissistic because the world somehow doesn't ever seem to agree with your self assessment of what you're entitled to, eh?).  I envision myself only getting to know people who are essentially positive and looking for the good in the world around them.  I have no idea why that fussy thing is so prevalent in people my age...but who cares?  Focus on that which I like and am drawn to, and let the rest be the rest.

And well, finding out more about that adorable playwright would be cool too...

The Good Looking Men Of Fusebox

It has been some kind of 10 days of good looking men.  Who knew there would be so many of them at the Fusebox opener tonight.  It's always the gentle, shy sweet ones that get my attention, especially in a crowd full of theatrical folk, and there were some of those around, so delightful.  I am most certainly not ready to be fully "out there" just yet, but I was very much enjoying meeting and re-meeting and talking to so many attractive and engaging people, both male and female.  

I love this festival because I see so many people I know and haven't run into in a while, and meet so many new people.  Fusebox events are events where people hang around and talk and share what they are doing.  People aren't just standing around getting drunk or staying bound up in cliques.  There is time and space to have real conversation and get to know people. 

Julie was getting some manly interest too.  I said to her afterward, "So nice to be out here and remember that the world is full of people for us to meet."  We both had a great time and went over to East Side Kings afterward for some amazing food.  

We decided that in addition to being our favorite Austin festival, this year should include an experimental mini-flirtation-fest for the two of us.  Just to see how that feels, you know.  It's off to a pretty swimming start.

The Right To Seek Support

Sometimes, in EMDR sessions, I will help clients frame the positive beliefs that help transform negative past experiences.  One that came up the other day was "I have the right to seek support."  

I was thinking about that when I saw Megan yesterday.  She was so thrilled to hear how well my business is doing.  She said, "Oh oh, I knew this would happen for you.  I've always known.  You are so gifted that it just had to happen.  I am so glad!"

"Me too!" I agreed.  "I don't know if other people get as excited as I did about putting a check in the mail to the IRS for my quarterly payments AFTER paying off all of last year's taxes.  But for me that was this big moment of arrival.  The first quarter of this year completely undid all the mythology my family has had about me my whole life: that I'm irresponsible with money, a failure, not doing anything that will lead to success, and basically not worth much.  Putting that check in the mail yesterday, I knew that all that was over.  I can't even describe how that felt."

"You know, I wonder if your ex knew," she remarked.  "I wonder if he knew you were about to make this big leap forward and if that's why he was acting the way he was.  That happens, you know.  People sense that you are about to make a big transition and get out from under their control and they throw everything at you trying to keep you where you are."

"I wanted to come to this place with him.  But yeah...maybe you're right," I said.  "My family has never been supportive of my chosen path or my being self employed.  The general idea seemed to be that since I was a failure and wasn't worth much, the best I could do was get some crap job with benefits.  I have never once heard a word of support from them for my choices.  My mother doesn't even know what my graduate degree is in.  The good thing about all that is, I don't owe them thanks for my success.  It's all mine.

"And the ex...He was already starting to say stuff like, you need to work less so you can spend more time with me.  That is not the thing to say to someone who is in the first two years of building a business.  He knew I'd spent 12 years struggling and studying and going to school and working for no money to get ready for this transition, and it felt like he was only pretending to be happy for me at rare moments.  Maybe that's what did it for me--seeing that and realizing that he was going to sabotage my hard won success and happiness.  I can't have that, not after all the work I've done, not with my family history."

"Even without that," she remarked.  "Even without that, you have the right to be supported in what you are doing.  I support you and I'm glad that you are coming to this place only in the company of people who really believe in you.  It's better that way Elaine, it really is."

Thanks, dear friend.  It helps to hear it, as I navigate this new place.  Especially from women who have made it!

I Guess I Just Got Tired

I saw my dear friend Megan Biesele today for a late breakfast.  We visited, as we always do, about healing, changes of life, and where we feel ourselves going as women.  I've known Megan a long long time, and we've talked more than once about my visiting Africa with her to have an experience of Ju'hoansi healing traditions.  So far it's just a dream, but maybe it will happen some time after she finishes up her longterm projects and is able to visit on a personal basis.

She hadn't seen me in a while, so I had to tell her my relationship had ended (bleah, I'll be so glad when this stage is over.)  She looked sympathetically at me and asked, "What happened?  What made you finally decide?"

"I suppose that technically he walked out on me, as he had many times before, but yeah, you're right, I guess I decided by dropping out of counseling," I said.  "You know, I honestly can't really tell you what happened.  I can tell you the circumstances at the time things changed inside of me, but those really aren't the reasons.  Something just changed."

I sipped coffee and thought about it for a minute.  Finally I said, "I guess the best way to say it is, I just got tired.  All of a sudden I just felt like I couldn't go back, not to the relationship, not to counseling, and not to him.  I can't explain it any other way.  The day I walked out of that last counseling session, within a few hours I knew I just couldn't ever go back there, or do any more for the relationship.  That's about it."

She nodded.  "I know that must have been so difficult and hard.  I know how hard you tried and how much you really cared for him.  But you know Elaine, I think when that feeling comes, it's there, and that's it.  That's all.  I know I've had that experience.  In a way I think it makes things easier because that feeling is so definite and so final, there's nothing else like it."

"I suppose that in my best case scenario there would have been an amiable way to break up and be cordial," I remarked.  "But I don't think he's capable of that.  And that's OK.  That's what I did the Year of Conversations presentation about, actually--that place when things end and fall away and there is no more; that space of emptiness, nothingness, endings, death before a new thing comes."

She wanted to hear about the presentation, so we talked about it.  Megan has always been incredibly supportive of my healing work, and experienced it firsthand as I was studying and fumbling along with the TARA Approach.  She volunteered herself for me to learn on and it was very rich for both of us.  I feel so honored to have the benefit of her decades of wisdom and experience with indigenous healing traditions from the oldest culture in the world.  

It's beautiful, as is she.  I'm enormously fortunate to have such a friend.

If You're Worried You're A Narcissist...

Gotcha, right?  Because narcissists don't worry about being narcissists, right?  They just Are.  The. Best.  Always.  Nothing to worry about here, Just Worship Me. You Know You Want To.  Even When You Know You Don't Want to.  It's Still All About Me.

But anyway.  Here is this little thing you can take, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.  It's not a diagnostic.  Just a little measure you can take to see how you score.  I sought this out for a client of mine who really, really worries that somehow she is a narcissist and doesn't know it.  I kept telling her that being so worried about it is probably her signal that it isn't true, but, like a solid and determined worrier, she didn't believe me.  (So committed, all my chronic worriers!  Formidable!)  So, in desperation, I got into finding this little test for her.  

I took it as well--because what if I'm a narcissist and therefore am lying to her about her not being one since I wouldn't allow any of my clients to be that flawed because it would make me look bad?  See how weird all this can get?  Fun times.  This kind of investigation makes basic discussions about transference and countertransference look like kid stuff.  This is what happens when you have clients who are wickedly smart, therapeutically experienced, highly anxious, arguably overeducated, and multiculturally sophisticated.  It's not a task for the faint of heart.

Strangely, both she and I scored an 11--well below the average of 16.  This led to an interesting discussion of whether or not you'd even take this test if you were actually narcissistic.  It's a koan, like, "Does a fish know that water is wet?"  But who is deciding about wetness?  Not the fish.  The fish is just in it.  The non-fish-beings are probably the ones deciding about relative degrees of wetness.  So, by default, can degrees of narcissism only be determined by the non-narcissists in the room?  Not that there are that many of those, these days, sometimes it seems that way anyway.  

The whole thing starts to get very slippery, in a nondual, Buddhist kind of way.

(I do think it made her feel better, which was the whole point after all.)