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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.  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 30 years; I dance with my friends Julie Nathanielsz and Heloise Gold, both recipients of Austin Critics' Table awards for their work.  

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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Pantsuit And The Sad Hoard

I have a replacement date for the gala.  My friend Bret.  You wear pantsuit, Bret?  I should have asked him.  He would wear a pantsuit if I asked. He's tall, blond, gorgeous, daring, and gay. I would have asked him to be my date originally if I'd thought he was into that sort of thing.  Turns out he is, and he's the perfect guy to dress up with, because he knows how to look gooood.  We are gonna have a fun time.  I am SO glad that's resolved.  Now I can spend my time planning our evening.

We talked a bit tonight and I told him I'd closed the door on the Knight and feel relieved about it. That kind of weird is never a sign of anything good; it's just shady, y'know? I don't even need to know what was going on with that; I don't want to know, I just want to not have that kind of stuff, game playing, in my life.  It's too many Shades of Crazy Ex for me.  There's the clueless guy or the sweet guy who can't get it together, and then there's the weird shady, and that's what this feels like, and I'm headed in the other direction, like fast.  See ya laters.  Good luck with everything.  Fun times, dude.  

The sad part of this evening was, I hadn't been inside my parents' house--and I mean really inside--for a long long time.  And their hoarding problem has gotten considerably worse.  It is not looking good in there.  There's a reason that the post PTSD And The Children Of Hoarders resonates for so many people and is the #2 ranked post on this blog.  I get letters about this post, from all over the country and all over the world, ALL THE TIME.  I was able to write about this issue because I am the child of two hoarders.  They haven't been as bad as what many people have to experience, but I am intimately familiar with the issues because I have and do live those issues when it comes to my parents.  And, like many people who hoard, they are getting worse with age, and I am fighting that feeling of dread about having to deal with the fallout some day.

I have the issues that adult children of hoarders have:  I hate shopping with a passion.  I always worry that I have too much stuff and am always trying to reduce the amount I have. When my environment gets cluttered I freak out, which is why this year has been so trying for me as I have not done a good job with this due to all of the terrible stress I was under until pretty recently.  And of course, the first thing I turned my attention to when I started feeling better was: how much stuff can I give away, what can I get out of here? Because it can be an obsession. Because being disorganized, because having clutter, or too much stuff, means going there, into that bad place of being crazy and not knowing that you are.  

It isn't objectively true--I've had the same amount of stuff my whole life pretty much, and if I lived in 2000 square feet I'd have just what I have now in 200--but the feelings, the fear, those are tough.  This is the first year of my life that I have ever had adult bedroom furniture--dresser, bed, bookshelf--because I was so afraid of accumulating things that I would panic at the idea of buying furniture.  I've gotten used to the furniture now and enjoy it enormously, but I doubt I could go further more than one small step at a time. It's one of the reasons I've never been able to imagine owning a house. House means stuff means that slippery slope to the bad place I grew up in.  I know that this would never happen to me--cognitively.  Emotionally, I still have to work on it.  My ideal living situation is a 1000 square foot yurt with exactly what I have now in it--and nothing else but empty, blissful space.

Those of you who come from hoarding families know exactly what I am talking about, that obsession with trying to make everything less.  Unfortunately what happens to a child who grows up with this kind of trauma is that you end up trying to make everything about yourself less, because you can't stand it, the isolation, the shame.  Your needs, your emotions, your very self. You try to make them go away so that you don't need anything, because parents who hoard have so many complex mental health issues that they don't meet your needs. And then you eventually become codependent because of it. You follow?  Yea.  This is why I recommend both trauma treatment and deep work on codependence for the adult children of hoarders.  We need both.  I'm not codependent at all anymore, but tonight, I felt myself being overtaken by that rage, that anger over wanting to do something to fix it.

I just had to get out of there tonight.  I couldn't stand watching my 80 year old mother digging around in three closets so full of God knows what that they were threatening to topple over on her. Or to look any longer at the three empty beds stacked high with clothes or the shelves full of boxes and magazines from 15 years ago that are everywhere.  Or deal with the parts of the house that smell bad. My mother asks me about clothes or purses or belongings I had 10, 15, 20 years ago and is always surprised when I tell her I don't remember those things or don't have them anymore.  She often expresses disapproval at my giving things away.  And I say nothing. 

The day will come when all of this is going to fall apart.  It's inevitable.  Sometimes I think growing up in this kind of world equips you from the get-go to be a really good Buddhist.  Because you already understand about cause and effect, fallout, karma, the seed that leads to the flower whether you want it or not.  In fact, thinking about it, I'd add the serious study of Buddhism to the list of things for adult children of hoarders to get into.

Ya know?

I did say to my dad tonight, on my way out the door, "This house doesn't look good.  This is not a good situation.  I really think you should do something about it." I should not have said that, in that tone, but I was at the breaking point. And he just looked at me with that glazed look, just like the people on those shows, like, what are you talking about?  What situation?

Man.  That part feels just, like, so bad.  The sad hoard.  But what are you gonna do?

Put on a lace dress and go to a dance show.  That's what.

Making Lasagna For The Army

So I wonder: do I tell the sad-weird parts first, or the funny-weird ones?

The funny-weird ones, of course.  Everyone knows that.

I take the Mumster to Pei Wei for dinner.  I do this because I know the menu is very limited there and I have a plan.  The Mumster has this thing about ordering something and then not liking it and sitting there looking at you with big sad eyes while you enjoy your food.  She often decides that she likes your food better and starts eating it off of your plate.  The way that you solve this issue is that you order the same thing for both of you from a very limited menu.  That way she won't be pining the whole meal about what she coulda, woulda, shoulda had.  See what I mean?

So that part went fine. I have to say, my mother looks great, always has, and I surely hope I got those genes, because she's 80 and quite pretty, you'd never know it. She eats all of her food without complaint--amazing!  I hold out two fortune cookies and say, "Pick one."

"I don't like," she says petulantly.

"Just read the fortune then.  You don't have to eat the cookie."  She takes one, gets the little package open and cracks the cookie.  Mine says something about how my co-workers appreciate my great creativity.  Of course, I work by myself.  She hands me hers, which says, "Two small jumps is sometimes better than a big leap."

I read it to her.  She squinches up her face. "What mean?"

"What do you think it means?" 

"I dunno," she shrugs.  

Then....the big part comes.  I take the Mumster to the Mall.

Y'all know how I feel about the Mall so I don't need to go into that. I decide to limit her target range to Macy's.  We get 50 feet in and she starts drooling over the Martha Stewart cookware on display.  She loves Martha Stewart, and honestly, if my mother had been born in this country into education and even a little bit of means, she could have given Martha Stewart a run for her money because she's a hell of a cook and would love to have a team of gay boys to boss around every single day, just like Martha.  But, didn't happen, so she just obsesses over her cookware.

She fusses around and holds up a steel pan the size of her torso.  "Lasagna pan! I need!"

"That's a nice one," I say obligingly.

"Not big enough!" she declares, setting it down with a disgusted look.

"Who are you making lasagna for?" I ask, puzzled.  "The damn Army?"

"Hmph!" she answers.  (Standard answer to 'question I can't answer' by the way.) She continues to root around in all the shiny pots and pans.  I'd forgotten some things about shopping with her, like how she thumps me on the shoulder or arm when she thinks something is too expensive, which is constantly because my mother is a Vietnamese woman from the Old Country and anything over 4.99 is too expensive no matter what it is.  So I get the joy of experiencing that. It's sort of like one of those massage things with the long handle and the ball thing on the end only a lot more inconsistent.  I try to think of it that way anyway.

So she finally decides on a couple of pieces of cookware.  The Martha Stewart roasting pan is one of them.  The salesman shows her all these different lasagna pans and she's not happy with any of them. She keeps saying, "Too small!" Finally he looks at her puzzled, and she says loudly, I kid you not,

"I MAKING LASAGNA FOR THE ARMY!"

Oh wow.  I have to walk away for about five minutes because I can't stop laughing and I don't want anyone to see it.  But of course the sales guy sees it and he's laughing because I'm laughing even though he doesn't understand what the joke is.  But every time she turns around to talk to him he immediately composes his face and becomes very attentive, which she loves.  That's what he gets paid for, I guess.

Then she decides I need to look for clothes.  Of course, I'm sure this is because she doesn't like what I'm wearing.  So, obligingly, I follow her around pretending to look for clothes.  She says, "You wear pantsuit?"

"What do you think?" I counter. "Do you think I wear pantsuit?" (This kind of shit is what makes me realize all over again that my counseling degree is worth platinum.  Platinum, people. Not silver, not gold. Platinum, like your no-limit Visa concierge card.)

"You wear?" she asked. "Professional!" She eyes me.  Finally she says, "You have no boob."

"You just noticed?" I ask politely.

"You don't have!" she says loudly.  Then she decides we're done looking for clothes.  Or, I am.  She gets herself a nice Tshirt and a purple sweatshirt.

I did come home with some nice sheets.

More later.

Tricycle Till You Cry

Man.  It is HARD to rehearse on a tricycle for 75 minutes!  Not to mention that I laughed my ass off. Repeatedly.  Till I cried. And the homeless guy who appeared started laughing out loud too, SO hard, watching us.  Oh man.  Too much.  I am wore out.  And I still have to take the Mumster shopping. What a Halloween this is turning out to be.

I left the Knight a voice mail telling him that if I don't hear from him I'm going to just look for someone else to take to next weekend's show.  I was nice about it, but I said, I have no idea why you are blowing me off and not communicating.  If I did something to offend you, I wish you would just tell me and cleanly close it rather than acting like this.  I didn't get the impression that you were this kind of person, and I don't know what to make of it.  Anyway, here's your out: if I don't hear from you, that's cool.  I would have been happy to hang out as friends. Or not. Please call me if I'm misunderstanding anything.  Thanks.

Ya know, though, I realized upon hanging up that I'm over this.  This guy is acting weird, and when someone acts weird like this, it means one of four things:  immature, personality disorder, addict, or just can't get their shit together.  And honestly I suspect #3 (which has strong overlaps with #1 and #2).  There was something about him that made me wonder marijuana.  I was getting a 420 type vibe. Plus the drama with the money, and a couple of other things he mentioned, seem to possibly point to "using addict stuff." It was one of the things I intended to ask him about next I saw him, how much he smokes/drinks/whatever. However, I think I already know the answer: Too Much.  I'm a smart person and I work with addicts all of the time.  It's not like I don't have a framework for getting that "vibe." Yea?

He'd also mentioned that his last girlfriend (2 years together) repeatedly broke up with and/or cheated on him (it wasn't clear which, but she was clearly involved with other people multiple times).  I didn't understand that at the time (as in, why would you stay with someone who cheated on you over and over) but now I do.  When you're a guy with major baggage who doesn't work out your shit, your only choices are Bottom of The Barrel Girls, which is what she sounded like.  And a guy who dates the bottom of the barrel is so completely not the kind of guy I'm interested in romance with, because he doesn't respect himself.  (Not to mention the next person you date, if she respects herself, is going to need you to get tested for everything under the sun knowing that you stayed with someone who had multiple partners at the same time she was with you.) 

Dude has major life issues. I actually feel kind of sorry for him even though I don't like the way he played this out.

So that's that, donezo.  Removed him from Facebook too. I'm rarely on there, but my little Facebook world is a safe space and I'm keeping it that way. Back to the drawing board on the gala event.  I'm actually OK with going alone since the money goes to Hossam and Serena, but it would be cool to take someone with me.  I'm going to ask girlfriends too. Why not? It will be a long, fun evening of beautiful women in lovely costumes and classic Egyptian music.

Now onward to the main event, Mumster Time.

Dostoyevsky, The Mumster

I think I've got the tricycle in order.  I need to take it out for a spin to check.  I can't believe that Hel and I are even going to attempt this.  It's hilarious and honestly, it's kind of insane, like a lot of the stuff we seem to get into together.  

The whole reason I bought this thing is that I wanted to be just like the old Asian ladies in Chinatown who ride around their big tricycles.  You see them rolling around in Htown near the Menil. I've just always thought that was cool and that I would like to be just like that as I get older--an Asian lady on a tricycle with a bucket hat, carrying flowers and groceries in her big tricycle basket. So I looked and looked and finally found one of these.  Right?  And then, as it turned out, my neighborhood is kind of a bad place to try to ride one of these.  It's hilly and you really need a lot of flat space to have the most fun on this thing, because on hills, it is an angry Brontosaur that does not do anything you want it to do.

Well, then Hel, who is from NYC and has always wished she was Chinese instead of Jewish, got inspired.  And now she has one too.  Her neighborhood is flatter so she gets to ride more with a lot less struggle. And now we are going to try to make something on these, the tiny Jewish lady who wishes she was Chinese and the tall Asian lady who learned almost everything she knows from Jewish people.  It's really weird.  It's hard to explain and it all comes together in a strange soup of je ne sais quoi.  I mean, who knows, maybe we will decide it doesn't work after a few tries, but then again, I didn't think the "raunchy bellydancer" section of our last piece was going to work for quite a while either, and it ended up being rather amazing.  Hel does not suffer from doubt, which is one of the great things about working with an artist in her 60s.  She is over all of that and she really goes for things.

So we are going to go for something, and see.

She was pressing me the other day for details about the weird depressions I suffer from. I told her, "This is different than anything else I've ever experienced, and I know a lot about different types of depression.  It's not related to anything; it's just this strange flatness and shitty feeling.  

"What I've noticed, though, is that it almost always precedes something shamanic--a strange animal sighting, a vision, a peculiar occurrence.  And I've been thinking a lot about Dostoyevsky and how he wrote about his epileptic fits, how they were preceded by these moments of clear light and communion with God, the oneness.  I seem to have the opposite thing, a deep darkness right before something clear and strange comes through.  I was completely obsessed with Dostoyevsky as a teenager.  The Idiot was one of my favorite books for many years."

She was very interested in all that.  I haven't had a bad spell in a week or so though. Allen gave me a tincture that really seems to be helping. I would like to be able to access the shamanic world without the drop out beforehand, because it feels terrible, honestly, and scares me.  But I also think about my friend telling me that the healers she works with talk about how being in the healing state is a very fearful thing, which is why it requires a lot of containment.  I can see that now.

And, I'm going to see the Mumster tonight.  The original Munster.  I scheduled it this way on purpose because today is Halloween.  Of course, she didn't notice I did that. My subtle sense of irony and wit are completely wasted on my mother, which, played the right way, is part of why this shit can be so funny in such a wrong, macabre way.  She just wants to go shopping.  Takin' the Mumster shopping on Halloween.  Now that's going to be a hell of an experience.  I'm probably going to have to write for three days straight afterward to process it.

Get ready, y 'all. It's a-comin'.

And So We Begin

Healing for Housemate.

The two dogs cluster into him and get really close.  He asks, is this alright? I nod.  Because healing is always a group thing.  Including the non human beings in the room. I figured that out during Still Now.  Animals know.  They feel it when the air changes and they come in close, to help.

A healing.  He cries, silently, tears coursing down his flushed cheeks.  And at the end, he says one simple, poignant thing:

I've allowed the survival of the fittest mentality to control most of my life.

What would you say to the boy? I ask. The boy who fought to gain and maintain his place in the schoolyard, the locker room, the sports field, the classroom, the barracks, the desert, the office.  The boy who feels that if he is weak, he is rejected, he is cast away, unseen, discarded, unsafe.

That he's going to be okay, he says.

What part of you says that? Find that now, I say gently.

There is much more to do.  I give him instructions.  He is to stop triggering his immune system and to drive the car that works until he starts treatment and gets stabilized with Allen.  He is to call Jonathan and get an assessment on his back, before the surgeon gets hold of him.  He is to stop fighting all of this, stop trying to fix it and accept the help given, starting now.

I feel guilty, he says.

I look at him intently.  This man has looked out for me for the last 12 years by giving me a safe, affordable place to live and a stable home for myself and my little pets.  Without his help I wouldn't be where I am.  I would have been too sick, too poor, too stressed to go to school, to get well, to change my life. He has been my family: friend, brother, protector.

Guess it's your turn to receive, I say. Just do it.

I turn and walk down the stairs, to give him some space.

And so, we begin.

Lecture/Help

I finally strong armed Housemate into calling my acupuncturist.  I'm worried about him.

This whole midlife car crisis has spurred a whole other series of problems related to his chemical exposure issues from Desert Storm.  He's one of those people who periodically gets letters in the mail from the VA asking if he's having any weird symptoms.  I forced this household into a chemical free way of living when we became housemates; he used to use a lot of toxic cleaning products and so forth, and I taught him all about gentler stuff and threw away all the stuff he used to use.  So he's been pretty good thus far, over the years.

However, the rotating-car thing, which started out funny, has now become scary; it's exposed him to vehicle after vehicle full of new-car fumes, off gassing from the upholstery and plastics.  And having this happen repeatedly many times in a row has now pushed him into a place where he is suffering from so many symptoms of chemical sensitivity that he can't drive any car except one of mine, because mine are old and don't have fumes emitting from them.  So he's been driving my second car for almost two months while the two cars he bought sit in the driveway, unused most of the time.  More than that, though, he's really sick at times, and I think it's stirring up his PTSD from his Gulf War experiences too, so it's all coming up at the same time, which is just a horrendous combination for your physical and emotional health.  

PTSD pushes your stress hormones into a crisis place which is the last thing you need when your immune system is already going haywire.  I should know.  I went through this for three years, during internship, and it was pure hell.  When those things arise intertwined--and they will if the way they formed coincided in time in the past--you have to deal with them both at once.  It is a rough road and it is a lot more common than people think.  The TARA system taught me about the links between trauma and physical ailments.  I can help him with the trauma part, but the health part is another whole thing, and it'll take him down if he doesn't do something. 

So I finally just sat him down and talked to him seriously and at length about the need to get effective and ongoing help with his health.  And, he listened, and he called my acupuncturist today.  If acupuncture can do it, Allen is the right person to handle something this complex and pervasive. I figure start there and see what can happen for him. I told him to drive my car as long as he needs to drive it, a month, six months, a year, two years, till he starts to get well.  That's why I bought two cars in the first place, to have a backup plan.  I didn't know this would be what was needed as a backup plan, but regardless, it's there, and he can use it.  And he is.

I can tell he's scared.  Poor guy. But, I'm here to help figure out the plan.

Little Hellos And Unasked Questions

I got a sweet check in from paramedic guy the other day.  He pops in via text and says hello periodically. I like that he does that. I'm glad that we worked through our situation and remain kind to one another.  

Man. I was SUCH a mess when I met that guy. I didn't even know how messed up I really was. And I was thinking about it, that period of time, and realizing how I made a lot of assumptions about things he said to me.  The first time I met him, I asked him what he was looking for and he said, "I don't want to define anything." And I looked at him and thought to myself, so this guy just wants to hook up and that's it.  

But you know what? I never actually asked him what he meant by what he said.  I just assumed I knew, and based on what he said, I went on and kept meeting other guys even though I never got closer to any of them, not like I did him. But it is very strange to me that I never even inquired into what he meant.  I may well have been correct in what I got out of that conversation, but it's not like me at all to do such a thing, not ask, which says a lot about how completely out of kilter I really was.  It's just weird to think about.  

Looking back, I think my PTSD was a lot worse than I knew at the time, and that it was seriously impacting my ability to be social and make good decisions.  I was so anxious and triggered just by the attempt to meet new guys that I was probably barely functioning at half-mast for a number of months.  I have to say that I am not sure that it was a good thing that I was out there trying to meet men at that point.  I don't think I was in a safe place or able to make good decisions.  Nothing bad DID happen, but I can see how it COULD have happened, for sure for sure.

It makes me sad to think of how messed up I was over the summer.  I guess it was just bound to be an incredibly rough re-entry, after all that had happened.  I feel so different now--like a different person, with all of that very far away.  It's good.  He really hung in there when I was all over the map.  I mean, he's still in my life, unlike whoever those other people were I met, I don't even remember most of them now. And he never told me I was acting bizarre even though I was clearly having a hell of a hard time, even though he probably should have done so.  For that alone, he'll always have a special place in my heart.  It's funny--he can be kind of a cocky guy at times, but he has this old school way of being gentlemanly too.  Like, even though it's completely true, he would never say to me, "Girl, I just cannot take you to a barbecue and that is why I cannot do this." He would NEVER tell me that.  He would deny it to his last breath.

You gotta appreciate such things.  Little hellos.  Good stuff.

The Guidelines

One of my clients asked me today what my "guidelines" would be for my next relationship.  In other words, what I'd be looking for, I guess.  

Somewhat tongue in cheek, here is what I gave her.  These are the things beyond the obvious things of healthy, employed, not crazy, and not addicted.

--He must not be on the radar of Homeland Security.  I know it's between him and them, but I'm just sayin.' I've had to have this talk with someone before.  I already had to talk to the FBI one time in my life. While those guys are quite friendly, it's really not for me.

--Must know what a watch, telephone and calendar are for, and use them appropriately.  It is OK that all three of these are on his phone.  I'm good if two out of the three are met most of the time.

--Must appreciate fitted skirts, heels, fishnets, lace dresses and perfume on me. 

--Must be self respecting and mature enough to be fishing far, far above the bottom of the barrel.  Must have appropriate fishing skills and equipment to catch and keep large game.

I think that's about it.

My client laughed and laughed...

You Deserve To Be Adored

Saw my hairdresser this morning for a quick trim.  I love this woman; have been seeing her for years.  She asked, "How are you? What happened with all that craziness?" The last time I saw her was during the Crazy Ex debacle, when he contacted me before the play run started.

"I'm all good now," I smiled. "Actually even though it was upsetting I'm glad that happened.  It finalized things.  I'm done grieving.  I don't miss him.  It made things clear to me, that I did the right thing by leaving, that I'm never going back, that it's over.  Ultimately it was a good thing."

"Are you dating?" she asked.

"No. I've been on some dates, but guys are just so flaky and passive," I said simply. "Girl, I'm just taking time for me.  I have worked so hard to go to school, start a business, have a performing arts career.  I met a handful of sweet men but I just can't see myself carrying a guy who doesn't try as hard as I do to make things work.  I really figured out that no matter how sweet a guy is, no matter how attractive, flakiness and passivity are my deal breakers.  Just not a fit.  So I'm just doing my own thing, got some big developments on the radar.  I'll tell you when I see you for my cut."

She turned my chair around, looked me in the eye and said, "Out of all the women who sit in this chair, Elaine, you deserve to be adored.  Don't settle for anything less."  

Then she hugged me big.
Thanks, lady.