Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Just Figured Out Why I Love Art

When I was a teenager, heaven for me was 2 hours with a girlfriend flipping through posters, prints, graphics, art, celebrity pics, and landscapes at the PRINTS PLUS store at the mall.

Oh to buy a poster and have it framed was to take home a piece of heaven!

My mom used to wonder what I was looking for in those images so jumbled, mass produced, and commercializde.

How could we spend so long fli-fli-flipping image after image?

I know how now! We were waiting for our bodies to say yes to an image. It feels so good when that happens. When you connect to an image like I did to this one above on the left.

One time at PRINTS PLUS, I got a Herb Ritts picture of a cute guy in button flys. Another time, Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing. But it wasn't all about boys for me. I remember feeling so sophisticated the day I bought Monet's Waterlilys, and so sexy the day I picked up Lord Leighton's Flaming June.

By the time I found Chagall and Gustav Klimt, PRINTS PLUS has gone - as had my teen years, but I felt the same way (physically in my body) when I fell in love with those artists, as I did the day I stood coveting Annie Leibovitz' Lennon Ono Rolling Stone cover-turned-poster.

And now I see… all that flipping through racks of images was a meditation of sorts. I was waiting and preparing myself to be in the moment. To be in my body.

I think standing in PRINTS PLUS in 1987 with Sue Philson, flipping through a jumble of art is probably the only time in my teen years I allowed myself to be connected with my only true compass, my body. No wonder I never wanted to leave. PRINTS PLUS was the only place it was really safe for me to tune into my self, listening and connecting with my body authentically and without judgement.

I was searching for an image that enabled ME to see MYSELF…

Oh look, here I am now…

My friend Jessica Hanff introduced me to this amazing artist named Richard Stine. (Both images on this post are his and there are about 100 more I would like to copy/paste here!)

I just spent the last hour flipping through his images on a website called Image Kind and I was transported back to the Meriden Square circa 1987.

It's nice to know all that flipping had a pretty spiritual purpose. Who knew a PRINTS PLUS could have been so holy.

Want to take a spin through Stine's amazing collection? Find it at

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Some nights…

Some nights I want to write long passages.

Some nights I want to detail my decisions and open a hole for the world to crawl into my madness.

Some nights it feels okay to connect, to reach out, to be my imperfect self.

Some nights, after the crimson shades turn black, I feel a gentle openness and I think:
"Maybe everything does make sense after all."

Tonight, however, is not one of those nights.

Tonight is a night where words can’t fill in the hole in my heart.
Tonight imperfection is not a good enough answer.
Tonight the blackness feels more suffocating than gentle.

And to be honest, I’m really not sure why.

I’d be more okay with the ambiguity if I could sleep in a darkened room somewhere in a little anonymous B&B in Darwin or Cairns.
I’d be more okay with the ambiguity if time didn’t seem to be moving so fast.
I’d be more okay with the ambiguity if it didn’t suck so damn much.

Nights like this I understand why Americans watch so much reality tv.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Hello, Angela? This is God Calling.

Have I ever told you the first thing God said to me? I was in Scotland for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the mid-to-late 90s. I should note that the 90s corresponded quite nicely with my 20s and my 20s were a pretty painful time for me. Sex was the closest I could come to love and on that particular day I had just fucked some fairly random guy so I was feeling good but I was also running late for a hair appointment.

It was the day I was supposed to get my "skunk stripe" (the streak of hair in the front of my head that's a different color - now it's purple but at the time I first got it was blonde). Anyway, I was running late so I stopped at a pay phone (No cell phones then, I know, I'm old.) to call and say I'd be late for my appointment.

"Sorry, we won't be able to see you if you aren't on time."

I thought they were kidding! What? I'm 10 minutes late and my appointment is canceled? After all, I called. That was the right thing to do. People were late all the time, why was I different? I wished I hadn't called and was sure if I had just shown up they would have fit me in. I shared this with the girl at the shop to no avail.

I was pissed at the shop and even more so, at myself. I'd left the cozy bed of whats-his-name and it would be too weird to go back and I couldn't even get my damn skunk stripe. What was I supposed to do?!

At the time I was new to A Course in Miracles and a crazy idea popped in my head.... pray. And so I did. For a couple hours I walked the streets of Scotland decrying the base-injustice of a canceled hair appointment. Poisonous thoughts filled my head, but I cracked a teeny tiny window of my heart open.

Dear God, I release the woman who canceled my appointment and I love her. I am willing to see it another way.

And there is was... the voice of God. In my right ear. As clear as a bell.


Yep, those were the very first words God ever said to me. "It's not always about you." I laughed at the snarkiness of it all. A calm came over me. Somehow, in that moment, I knew it was true.

Susan Hyatt's recent talk about text messages from God reminded me of that story this week. I am pretty sure if I had a cell phone back then, God would have texted this to me that day. Through the years since, that small phrase has been the source of so much comfort for me.

Today, I had another one of those "It's not always about you" moments. Years ago I shared a kiss with a ridiculously handsome man. The man was 15 years my senior and he was not exactly my boss, but let's just say he was in a position of authority in relation to me. (Why yes, I did have Daddy issues, why do you ask?)

At least how I remember it now, he invited me to dinner at his house one night and that's when the "kiss" occurred. After the kiss, he asked me to stay over, but I had another plan. I desperately wanted to spend the night, but I calculated if I played hard to get and went home, he'd for sure want to see me again.

As desperate as I was to stay and enjoy the night. I was even more desperate for control. It was all games, manipulation, and bullshit. That particular prison is how spent most of my 20s actually – EXHAUSTING!

But my plan didn't work. Despite my working "The Rules," he blew me off. I was sad and mad about this primarily for 2 reasons… 1) because I genuinely loved our friendship and missed him; and 2) because my game didn’t work and I wished I had played it differently.

Okay, let me be really honest. After weeks of torturing myself over how I played the game and over the loss of a friend, I boiled it all down to this: I clearly just wasn’t pretty, funny, or cool enough for him to waste his time with.

Since that night back in 1994, we haven't spoken, until a couple weeks ago (I LOVE YOU MARK ZUCKERBERG) and today we met for breakfast.

This time I brought God with me. It was great to see him. We always had so much to talk about. This guy is just one of the most inspiring people I've ever met. Before the breakfast was over he got serious.

"There is something I want to clear up," he started. "I guess it's my guilt/shame admission... That night when we were at my little bungalow. I've been carrying around a lot of guilt for how I handled that. You were so young and considering my position, I knew it wasn't right. Then when you reached out to me after, I didn't respond because I was so ashamed and of course ignoring you only made it worse. I handled that all wrong. I wish I had been more mature. I'm sorry."

Oh the pain of this particular loss had long since subsided, but it was so sweet to hear this apology/explanation. For years I had made it all about me and never bothered to look at it from his perspective. I was so sure it was about me, that I never considered the age or power differential or anything going on in his life as a possible reason for the end of whatever it was we had.

Of course, I accepted the apology, thanked him for his honesty, and was overwhelmed with gratitude.

As I drove home, the tears started flowing. How many times had I abused myself physically, verbally and emotionally for things that literally had nothing to do with me? How many times have I jumped into a cess pool of someone else's business insisting it was my own? How many times have I rejected myself in my search for someone else's love or approval.

The message is the same as it was that summer-day in Scotland:

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

What's Awesome about Teen Angst

I should be doing something else right now. I just got off a conference call and I’m moving into my next task for the day. I took one, deep meditative breath and it hit me. It hit me like a ton of bricks falling on my head and I don’t want to work. I want to write. I want to stew. I want to hold myself in my own arms for a few moments.

I just got smacked upside the head with one of my biggest personal epiphanies, literally out of no where. All the nasty arguing and eye rolling I did with teachers in high school and college (not to mention my mom), is not evidence I was a terrible kid that needed to grow up. I can feel myself now, rolling my eyes at Mr. Germanese or huffing in disgust at Carl Gudienus, and even as I feel that, I can see the huffing and eye rolling was a manifestation of a deep longing for information.

I was so unsatisfied for so long. I couldn’t really verbalize it, I just felt put upon by the universe and all the people in it. I was… unhappy. I wanted more but I was so unclear and unspecific about what I wanted BECAUSE…. I had no role models!

I had no way to picture what I wanted so it was just a deep, unabiding frustration. Like soaking in a stew of discontent. Arguing, bitching and whining – inelegant as it was - was the only way I could think of at the time to express my desire to be taken under someone's wing and shown the magic and miracles of the universe.

Like a toddler unable to "user her words", I threw tantrums and flailed my arms – trying desperately to explain something outside of my linguistic capabilities. I think it was the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss who pointed out -- there is no word for 'art' in Navajo-culture because for Indians everything is art and that the Chinese don't have a word for “no” because “perhaps” is as far as they will go.

Like a Chinaman stuck in a land of NOs, I had no words to describe my frustration or loss. I only had a vague hope someone could explain what was going on. Why did I want more? Why did I feel so small and incapable? What were the rules of this strange land? And more over, why the hell didn’t anyone else acknowledge how weird everything was?

In some ways I had culture shock due to some internalized knowing I needed to know more. And yet I was in a world where I couldn’t’ access it. Books helped. As did one teacher who gave me a glimmer of hope that this "more" I was looking for was out there. Still it was out of reach.

No one gave me what I wanted. No one outstretched their hand and said here… let me show you. Maybe I never met anyone that “knew” how to find what I was looking for. More probably my frustrations shut them out of sharing the lesson. And yet, I see now, I did the best I could. Oh how I want to grab that girl and give her such a huge hug – she tried SO hard. How could no one have heard? I mean, it was an IMPRESSIVE showing made by this inner longing.

You know who took my hand in the end? Me. There really wasn’t anyone else and so I’ve grabbed my own hand, I’ve become my own mentor but my tough love for myself hasn’t always been very loving. For instance, it never occurred to me to love those eye rolls and nasty comments until today. It never struck me that without them, I couldn’t have created a road from my sleepy traditional home town to this mecca of possibility, wonder, love and compassion.

Freedom – total freedom – comes from seeing yourself for who you are, letting go of the need to fix anything, and opening your arms to the journey knowing total safety is yours for the asking. That’s what I’d tell my angsty-teen-self.

Keep rolling your eyes baby girl because that is – believe it or not – the path to your truth and freedom.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

5th annual Purple Thursday Awareness Day -- I am the 1 in 4

I was invited by WEAVE and the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence's press conference to mark the 5th annual Purple Thursday Awareness Day. The event was co-hosted with At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown and I was so impressed that 5 other council members (David Catania, Phil Mendelson, Mary Cheh, Harry Thomas, Jr., and Yvette Alexander) also spoke. I was asked to represent domestic violence survivors.

Here's what I said:

When I first started speaking about my experience as a victim of domestic violence, I thought my story was unique. Over the past 2 years, I’ve met other survivors and heard other stories and realized my story was more common than I ever expected.

My husband and I had a whirlwind romance, so when he threw a full Brita pitcher at my head when we were engaged, I was concerned, but excused it as a bad day.

When he threw my suitcase across the room and kicked a chair the night before our wedding, I took comfort in my wedding party’s theories of cold feet and wedding stress.

His actions were harder to dismiss when he threatened to tie me up and set the house on fire if I didn’t do what he wanted, and my excuses ran out when his rage lead to a life threatening car ride in a snow storm, with our baby in the back and my husband shouting “our son’s safety isn’t what’s important here. What’s important is that you stop the car and left me drive.” Still, I didn’t think it was domestic violence, I just thought it was a bad marriage.

When my husband's emotional abuse and controlling behavior became apparent, I knew exactly what to do - looked for experts to help.

• We completed a year of therapy together with an experienced LCSW specializing in relationships.

• I read lots of self-help books.

• And I got a personal trainer and started taking self-defense classes – just in case.

When I felt I'd tried my best, but the problem wasn't getting 'fixed' and staying was not safe or healthy for me or my baby, I knew what to do – I moved out.

When it got MORE Violent - physically violent - after I moved out, I was shocked. Suddenly and for the first time, I DIDN’T know what to do. I never imagined moving out would make it worse. I thought that was going to fix things. Still, I'm educated and engaged, I sought legal and emotional support. My assumption was I could throw money at the problem and make it stop and I was fine with that.

I hired:
• a $550/hr Bethesda-based attorney suggested I invite him over, provoke him to hit me, and then call the police

• a couples counselor - a phd - who suggested when I felt scared my husband might kill me, that I lock myself in the bathroom or take a walk around the block to let him calm down.

• and when I asked my handsome, successful well-educated boss, our company's CEO, what he would do; he suggested that since I was so much bigger than my husband, I try sitting on him the next time he tried to hurt me.

In the past, I had made a donation to WEAVE as an organizer of the V-DAY campaign at GWU, but I never imagined using WEAVE's services. At this point, however, I'd run out of high-priced experts to call. So when I called WEAVE one cold, morning in January 2009, I didn’t think my situation qualified for their help, I just wanted to see who they would suggest I talk to. Despite my lack of financial need, my successful career, or my many advanced degrees, they nominated themselves to help without hesitation.

Later that day I was at a WEAVE legal clinic and within a week had a temporary restraining order against my husband and an attorney with experience in DV law.

While the case continues to work its way through DC Superior court, I have turned to WEAVE for support again and again. When my legal bills crossed the $50,000 threshold and I lost my job (due in part to time missed at work because of hearings and my inability to travel for work due to custody issues), I turned to WEAVE for mental health support and again they came through with 1 year of counseling with an amazing social worker who really understands my situation and the cycle of violence.

Without the holistic and need-blind services of WEAVE, I don't honestly know if I'd be alive today. The journey is hard and long and it continues, but I believe WEAVE's services have delivered me to the starting line in my own life. My life and my son's happiness are daily celebrations of Domestic Violence Awareness and the services WEAVE provides to this community.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Law of Attraction and third world atrocities

On Rape as a Weapon of War, my Messy Divorce, and How Choosing to Take Responsibility for your Thoughts Makes Both of These Things Better.

I’m one of those “Twitter” people. I can’t seem to stop tweeting my every move – From coffee with a colleague to my opinions on Prop 8 – it’s all out there and I love it. So when I have a particularly clear or delicious though, you know I’m going to condense it into 140 characters and tweet it out.

Recently, I tweeted this thought:

“Believe it or not, neither the number on the scale nor your bank balance are inherently good or bad. You impose meaning w/ your thoughts.”

I wrote this just after I looked at my bank balance and thought: “Perfect!” as I wrote a check for $6,542, virtually emptying my savings account. And then I hopped on the scale and thought “253 pounds, Perfect!” exactly where I want to be today.

And then, I couldn’t stop laughing. I mean it was like I was sucking down helium balloons. Ask 10 strangers on the street and I’m pretty sure they would say 253 pounds is not a good amount to weight and $0 is not a good balance for a savings account. But for me, I loved it and I was empowered and invigorated by both numbers.

I love my weight right now because it provides the cleanest, clearest way I can communicate with myself at a time it’s extremely important I listen to myself. I am taking lots of risks and part of how I know if I am heading in the right direction is by the direction of my weight. As I move closer to my most authentic self, my body seems to be miraculously gravitating to a lower natural weight. I’m not stressed, not dieting, and I have never felt better or more beautiful.

When I wrote the check I was smiling. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend sixty-five hundred plus dollars and I LOVED that I could write that check and pay that bill. I felt lucky to be able to solve a problem by writing a check and I felt confident that money will continue to come to me and my savings account will be plenty full when I next need it. Money has always been easy for me.

Of course I didn’t say all of this on Twitter. I just quietly made the observation and moved on with my day. But that simple post got 36 comments. It was like a Washington Post article about Michelle Rhee

Here was one comment:

“So if you're penniless and massively underweight due to malnutrition, you can just think your way out of it?”

I thought about it and said: “In a way… you can: if you think "I'm penniless," for instance, you'll continue to be. If you can find ways you aren't penniless... Ways you are rich... And focus on them, it's CRAZY but you actually create more richness. Now granted... if your situation is so dire - you are in Sudan in a refugee camp - it's going to be REALLY hard to believe there's a way out. But it happens. Look at Super Model and former Sudanese refugee Alek Wek for instance. Point is whether you think you’re penniless or you don't, you’re right. What you dwell on, you create more of.”

And that opened up Pandora’s Box on “The Law of Attraction” and third world atrocities. I did this too when I first started with coaching with Brooke Castillo. She’s say some version of – whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. And I’d come up with 625 extreme examples to hold up as exceptions to the rule.

Now if you know Ms. Castillo you know that wouldn’t cause her to back down for a second, so she hung with me – through each raped, pregnant 12 year old; genitally mutilated 9 year old; and fire-wood-gathering Sudanese refugee. It’s not the easiest way to learn the law of attraction. So much better to manifest a cup of coffee and take it from there. But I didn’t want to learn the law of attraction, I wanted to analytically prove it wrong. And what I attracted were more analytical arguments about other things being wrong. But hey, if you are like me, and you like to take the long way home and understand how the law of attraction works in the most dire circumstances before you go applying it to your own life, you might be interested in my answer to this question I got in response to my tweet:

“Could you really tell someone who, for example, has had their limbs chopped off with a machete and been raped by Charles Taylor's crew that all they need to succeed is a positive outlook? Surely that's just an excuse not to help other people? (They don't have a positive outlook, they don't deserve aid.)”

Actually what I would say everyone in that position 100% deserves aid. But sadly there usually isn't enough to go around. I would say the more positive you are that you are your family will get the help you need the more likely it will happen? Why? If you think - this is horrible no one will ever help me you are likely to curl up in a dark corner and die. But if you can get your head to the place where you say 'F them! I am going to survive... You, scream, crawl, beg, or otherwise position yourself somewhere you'll get help. Same circumstance. Different thoughts. Different results.

For decades I have been trying to strategically and tactically with great strength, force, and will trying to rearrange circumstances... I mean, I've gone to Herculean lengths. And I'm really good at it.... AND ... mercifully... I am not even at the will of Charles Taylor and his men. But it still was not getting me the results I wanted. When I was able to change what I made the circumstances themselves mean to me, for me, and by me - with no change at all to the circumstances... I got what I wanted.

I have been through a multi-year divorce which has cost me about tens of thousands of dollars and has been going on for years. The divorce has been high in angst and drama. For a long time I made this circumstance mean something horrible - like wrong was done to me and I needed to tell everyone the details - I needed to make it right... I needed to get justice... whatever - I made it mean a lot of things... but when I changed the meaning, the entire circumstance seemed to change... Still in the divorce so no change in circumstance there... but once I turned the thought from

"This isn't fair and is driving me to the poor house." to "I already have what I want and it's just a matter of time until the lose ends are tied up." (but equally true by the way) the fact I have to go to court every once in a while became more of a hobby than a chip on my shoulder.

And now here's the funny thing... once I stopped being obsessed by how this experience was ruining my life (dramatic tone intentional) I stopped calling up my lawyer with new strategies and tactics... SO MATERIALLY something DID change... my monthly bills are going down because I changed my thought. Oh and another thing changed.... my ex and I have spent more time together and while I am not signing up to get remarried it was nice to take our kid to school together on the first day without any drama.

I want to be clear, this isn't about blaming the victim - a circumstance is just that - a circumstance. Certainly I have a lot of empathy for someone raped under the Charles Taylor regime but I can't change that someone was raped. I do know what can change by changing your thoughts is that tomorrow can be a better day.

I'm not trying to convince at all... but if you are up for it - try this wacky experience the next time you have a negative feeling about something. Let's say you have to go to a meeting you don't want to go to. The circumstance is ... 'there is a meeting'. Now you add on this thought: "I have to go and I don't want to". Ultimately that's not true, even if there was a gun to your head you could choose to go rather than risk having your head blown off or you could choose not to go and see if you get shot. If you can find an equally true thought that is an upgrade - not necessarily positive... but just change "I have to go to this meeting and I don't want to" to "I'm choosing to go to this meeting so I guess I do want to be there." and if you can really OWN and BELIEVE the upgraded though... See how it changes the circumstance for you. It's nutty, but I guarantee the results will blow you away. It works every time.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I hit my goal weight!!!

I woke up Sunday morning happier than I have ever been in my entire life. I feel like I am deeply in love with the PERFECT person for me and today I realized why. I HIT MY GOAL WEIGHT!! I have struggled so hard and so long with my weight and the battle is over! Seriously I never thought I'd reach this point but I know now that every diet, every bad day, every pair of pants that made me want to crawl into bed, and every scale or mirror that I accused of being "mean" have all lead me to this perfect point.

I have been made whole. I have MADE MYSELF whole. There is nothing left to fix. It's like when you start dating someone and the person you are dating seems perfect. You can't find a flaw - can't imagine a reason you'll ever break up. And you love every second you spend together, treasuring it like a gift from the Gods. That's how I feel about me.

I don't need to read another book. I don't need to start another diet. I don't need to cry another tear. I have received the gift of myself and I am not going to waste another second. I want to stay up all night on the phone with me. I want to stare lovingly at pictures of myself. I am squeezing every last drop of love into my own arms and now I can only see the perfection.

Every check I write is payable to me (no matter what it says on the "To" line)! Every bit of beauty I notice in others - my stunning mom, gorgeous sisters, friends, roommates, etc - I notice it's all my own beauty. When I meet someone who is smart - I am noticing I am smart. When I see someone (Sally, Heidi!) who is fit and strong and who loves there body - I realize I am fit and strong and I love my body.

And this week - I just can't stop seeing perfection everywhere. Nothing needs to be fixed. I can relax in gratitude and joy. The struggle was worth it. It brought me here. There is no where I'd rather be.

But you are wondering about my goal weight? Well it's the weight I am right now of course, how could it ever be anything else?