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Notes from sabbatical: Slippers

October 23, 2010

Loaded up with art supplies and cheese and tea and a new Penguin Companion, I made my way to Mahoney State Park and checked in at the main lodge.

“Here’s the keys to your cabin.”

“Oh, it’s just me, so I just need one key.”

The ::clang:: sound you just heard was a heavy armored gauntlet falling to the ground at the feet of the Fates.

I drove to my cabin, a little less than a mile away, and unloaded all my goodies. And the cabin was not the rustic sort of thing that I think of when I hear the word “cabin”. This was a lovely little cottage. It was fabulous. I unpacked, settled in, and fell asleep.

When I woke up, I made myself a mug of Earl Grey tea and soaked up the I’m-on-sabbatical-ness of it all. I bumbled through making a second cup of tea and tried blearily to decide if I should start my day by doing Chi Kung, or Shiva Nata, or some stretches, or if I should go for a walk in the park. I decided to grab a blanket and sit on the lovely little sun porch and stare at the woods while the tea was steeping, and see if a decision about Morning Movement might happen while I basked in the glorious green of oak trees and undergrowth.

I’m not sure if I zoned out, or zen’d out, or if it matters, but at some point I realized my hands were chilly, and that if I just went inside to get my tea, the mug would keep them warm. Brilliant!

This is when I discovered that the cabin door had locked behind me.

Now, being a woman alone, I’d locked the front door of the cabin before going to bed. I was completely locked out.

I was wearing a sweatshirt, yoga pants, fuzzy chenille snuggle socks, and satin slippers to keep the porch cruft off the fuzzy socks.

I walked to the parking lot to check the park map in my car to make sure I knew how to get back to the lodge (was it three left turns, or two?) … but I had locked my car out of habit.

Well, the park has lots of signs. And I probably knew the way. So I walked to the lodge.

And really the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. What had been a little chilly for sitting was ideal for walking. It was lovely, and a mile walk is easy. And I found the lodge without any problems.

A friendly park ranger type was chatting with the two desk clerks as I walked up. I explained that I’d locked myself out of my cabin, and gave the cabin number.

“Oh dear. And you probably already have both keys to the cabin?”

“Well, no, actually, I only took one because I thought I wouldn’t need the second key.” We all laughed.

“Oh! Well, since the second key is still here, that does make it easy… here you go. I’m sorry you had to walk all the way up here.”

“Oh really, it’s no trouble, I’d been thinking about taking a walk this morning anyways… I just hadn’t planned on doing it in my slippers.” I held up one foot and wiggled my toes at the park ranger. She grinned and said, “Don’t worry dear, I’m sure nobody will notice.”


I walked out of the lodge just as a middle-age, well-dressed blonde woman was walking in. She looked me over once, and her gaze went all the way down to the slippers. Her head snapped up, she immediately put this tight fake smile on her face, and walked past me without making eye contact or saying a word.

Damn. Now I wish I’d packed the fuzzy blue monster slippers!



Notes from sabbatical: Companion

October 23, 2010

Some things crawl onto my shoulder and stay there. Like the chorus of catchy songs. Or a friend’s funny catch phrase. Or a scene in a story. And when it’s sitting on my shoulder, I mentally hear it, see it, say it, come back to it over and over and over until it decides to go find someone else’s shoulder to sit on.

Two weeks ago, Havi posted a video, “Introducing the Schmoppet” on the Fluent Self FB page. For whatever reason, the Schmoppet decided to hang out on my shoulder while I was gathering supplies for my little micro-sabbatical.

The Schmoppet has a very limited vocabulary. In fact, I only recall the Schmoppet saying two things: “Schmoppet” and “pig companion”.

Yeah. Let those three words cycle through your brain on repeat for a few hours.

One of the things I wanted for my sabbatical was a plushie or a throw pillow or something to squish at night. ::Schmoppet:: I don’t sleep alone very often, so I wanted something to hold. ::Schmoppet:: And propping up my chin helps me relax my jaw while I’m sleeping** meaning I’m a little better rested in the morning. ::Pig:: Rested = Awesome. ::Pig Companion::

So there I was, wandering around in Target, picking up anything remotely squooshable and hugging it under my chin to test for size. ::Pig:: Like you do. ::Schmoppet::

And I was having no luck, in a very Goldilocks kind of way. ::Schmoppet:: This one’s too big, ::Pig:: these are all too small, ::Schmoppet:: this one has a funny texture, ::Schmoppet Schmoppet:: this one’s the wrong shape… ::Pig Companion::

Mentally, I turn to the Schmoppet cheerfully riding my shoulder through the store and give him*** an exasperated, “REALLY? Aren’t you getting tired of this yet?”

The Schmoppet strummed his air guitar and gave me a reproachful ::Schmoppet:: right back.

Okay, I guess I was kinda asking for that.


I gave up on finding a suitable squishable and started heading out of the store. And there, on an end cap, crammed on a top shelf, marked “clearance”, were a stack of Pillow Pets.**** ::Pig::

And this one was just right. ::Pig Companion::

There were two monkeys and a penguin, and as it turns out, I’m rather fond of penguins and monkeys scare me a little. ::Schmoppet:: So I had a new friend. ::Pig Companion::

Schmoppet, it’s not a pig.


It’s a penguin.

::Pig Companion::


::Pig:: … ::Win?::

I grinned.

::Pig-Win!:: ::Pig-Win!:: ::Pig-Win Companion!::

Win indeed, little Schmoppet.


** Despite never having been in the Navy, I apparently have a deep-seated aversion to sleeping with my mouth open, and tend to clench my jaw while I sleep. Ow.

*** Um, her? its? Does the Schmoppet have a gender?

**** “It’s a pillow! It’s a pet! It’s a pillow pet!” Somebody needs to have a heart-to-heart talk with their marketing department.

Cozy Lover’s Getaway for One

October 13, 2010

Yesterday I posted about needing to get back into a good relationship with myself, instead of this strange cold-war depression stuff that sucks.

I kinda had this thought that it would HAVE to be some incredibly long, drawn-out, Sisyphean uphill struggle kinda thing. That it might require two agonizing years of slogging through mud as I try to dig my way out of a deep hole. With rats in it. UGH.

I fixed something resembling supper for The Menfolk and crawled into a hot bath. And cried.

And as I was wallowing in self-pity and despair and almond-scented hot water, I had this kooky idea.

What if I went on a little retreat for the weekend? Just me, and some candles, and the Shiva Nata DVD, and a bag full of mediation and self-work tools and tips and exercises and stuff. No internet, no other people, just me and ME (and maybe some trees).

Okay, maybe it won’t magically revolutionize my life and fix all my problems in one weekend — that trick hardly ever works. But maybe it can kick-start the process. Charge it up. Dust off the practices and techniques I need right now. Or maybe I can take walks and naps and just be. And that would be okay, too. And maybe I’ll spend some of the time screaming and crying. If that needs to happen for the dam to burst, it could be a safe space for that to happen. It would be okay.

So, instead of starting out by taking myself out for coffee, I’m doing a lover’s retreat weekend. A honeymoon reunion.

::happily starts looking for a cabin in the woods::


October 12, 2010

So… I have lost touch with someone.

She and I have had a long complicated relationship. In fact, we disliked each other for many years, probably because I believed a lot of the mean things other people said about her. And then, about five years ago, I made a commitment to work it out and get to know her better. And we spent time together, and slowly grew to like each other. We became friends. And the more time we spent together, the deeper and more amazing things became. We fell in love and inspired each other and it was glorious.

And then I did something really unethical, and we fought over it and instead of resolving things, we just… stopped seeing each other. And we haven’t really spoken since.

It’s been about two and a half years.

This is awkward because we’ve still been living together.

This is awkward because we are the same person.

No, I don’t mean in a split-personality, schizophrenia or dissociative way. I mean that the above has been a metaphor. But a really bloody accurate one.

And now I’m stuck in apathy and depression, and wondering how to get back to that great relationship I had with myself a few years ago. How to get back to self-respect, and self-love, and doing things like meditation (spending intimate time with my Self) and art (self-expression) and all that stuff. And I don’t know how to get back to that. I don’t have answers for this. I don’t have a plan.

And I’m scared that I’ll never get back to that. That I’ll have this memory of confidence and love and empowerment and always be trapped in this state where I’m sad and irritable and unmotivated. Forever.

I’m scared that I’ll extend the hand of friendship to myself and there will be nothing there, or that my inner self will reject me.

I had some idea that starting to write this would help me understand what’s going on with more clarity, or that some notion of how to start the reconciliation process would come to me… but it didn’t. So I guess I’m just putting this out here as a “Hey, at least I’ve noticed this thing. And I would like to change it.”

What is my wish?

I would like to figure out some little steps I can take to re-establish a bit more connection with my Self. A re-introduction? Something to take those first steps toward reconciliation.

So I’ll send that little wish out into the Universe, and see what comes to me in the next week.

Shivanote, Week 1

October 11, 2010

Discoveries about Shiva Nata in my first week:

  • The moves are familiar to me. Between Egyptian cabaret candle-dancing, Chinese martial arts, Bollywood fusion dance workshops, and nights dancing at the goth clubs, I’m pretty well equipped to jump in and play.
  • This does not in any way mean I’m in SHAPE to do this. I was worried my triceps were going to burn? They might be, but I can’t tell because my upper back and shoulders are screaming too much to tell what might be going on with my arms. Wow ow. On the other hand, this should strengthen the exact muscle groups I need to keep my mid-upper back in good spinal alignment, which has been a perennial problem for me. Yay! Of course, this might just mean I’m not relaxing my shoulders enough. Must try to notice that.
  • The puzzle-solving part of me wants to sit down and write out the number sequences and chew through the math and make charts and formula reference sheets to make memorizing the pattern easier/faster. The somewhat more detached part of me thinks this might be too efficient, that forcing my brain to absorb and process it slowly through following along with the DVD might be more effective at making the brain strain and build neural network connections. Hmm. There’s the desire to be “top of the class” (what, even alone in my living room?), which pulls in the opposite direction of the desire to maximize the effect of the practice. Havi warns against the former in her essays. I’ll just follow along for now, and see how long I can hold out against the urge to “sprint”.
  • Pretty much anything with a 4-beat tempo can be commandeered for Shivanautical purposes. I’m starting with some slow blues. Maybe I’ll work my way up to ska. ;)

Friday I’m in Love

October 8, 2010

Love notes of the week:

  • Dear new socks, I have such a crush on your right now. Is it bad that I just want to cuddle with you all the time right now? Of course, now that we’re getting the obligatory autumn second-summer heat wave, I think it’ll be a while before we can snuggle again. And I want you to know that even though I got you on sale, I promise I’ll never think of you as “cheap”. Unless you unravel on me after the first wash. But I’m sure you aren’t That Kind of Sock, right?
  • Dear Shiva Nata, you make my brain all twisty. I haven’t felt like this since studying Ancient Greek. I like that you make me feel like I’m in college again, because that’s hot.
  • Dear hardware store, thank you for the giant box of dremel bits at a shockingly reasonable price. I’m going to go destroy something get creatively sculptural this week. Hey! I wonder if that gardener on the south end of town will be selling gourds again?
  • Dear husband, have I told you that you’re totally hot? What? Only 27 times this week? Well. Here’s one more, then. And the picture in the paper is adorable and I might buy a copy so we can use it to remember the suit-and-tie days when we’re retired and living in some crazy hippie commune years from now. Also, thank you for bringing me flowers when I was all exhausted from insomnia. And you totally rock for framing two more walls in the basement… and trusting me to drive Atlas the Wondertruck through the yard. TWICE.
  • Dear Twitter, I’m sorry I said all those mean things about you. Now that I know you’re a bar, you’re much more likable. I might even come hang out every once in a while.
  • Dear tarot cards, it was lovely hanging out with you again. What a great party, huh? Bellydancers and costumes and only two creepy guys in the whole coffeeshop! It was fun hanging out, and I really enjoyed introducing a bunch of folks to you — I could tell that most of them got over their shyness and prejudice pretty quickly. You’re such an ambassador. We really need to get you out for something other than Halloween parties. C’mon, it’ll be fun!
  • Dear son, you constantly impress me. You’re making good grades, excelling in nearly a dozen extracurriculars, and even when the stress gets to you, you still manage to pull it together and ground yourself and get back on track. I’m so proud of you. (And if you need to let one or two of these activities go, that’s okay, and I totally understand. You do not need to do all the things.) (That offer does not apply to the dishes, however. Sorry, man.)

Things that needed a little more love:

  • Dear insomnia, I think we need to see other people. It’s just not working out.
  • Dear sock dreams, I love you very much. But sometimes I find that over half of the things I want to order are sold out… but are still listed on the site for me to fall in love with. Ouch. You can be such a tease.
  • Dear taxes, I am still afraid of you in all kinds of irrational and uncontrollable ways. I’m still trying, though. Maybe next year all my forms will arrive during the legally-mandated timeframe and I won’t have to get an extension and will only have to agonize over you ONCE in the year. I think that would be better for both of us.
  • Dear teen-boy-vs.-dad testosterone matches, …really? REALLY? I thought you were just a literary plot device, or… I dunno… a Hollywood cliché or something. You are so WEIRD. Wow. I’m glad you don’t come over to visit often, because see above re: insomnia.

Comment Love:
What are you madly in love with this week? Or crushing on? Or just enjoying flirting with?

When Freedom Creates Paralysis, and Limitations Inspire Creativity

October 6, 2010
Ha ha just kidding

I want to start writing as a little daily ritual. I’ve had dozens of teachers encourage me to do this, and they’ve tried to make it “easier” by telling me “oh, just write anything, it doesn’t matter, you’re a creative person, just write at least three pages of whatever comes to your mind”.

And then I say, “GACK!” and can write NOTHING and get stuck.

It’s exactly like staring at a blank piece of paper with no still life, reference photos, model, or composition sketches planned out. “Just draw” never “just happens” with me. The only way I can do art is with a LOT of planning and intention and set-up. I am not a doodler. This weirds a lot of people out, because hey, aren’t all artists compulsive doodlers? Not this one, sorry.

One of the best art lessons I received was a mini-workshop taught by a marvellous woman who had spent years working as an art teacher in prison. Art classes for inmates. And she told us about the art these guys created and showed a few examples of things they’d made outside of her class. And here’s the thing: these guys had extreme limitations. They were not allowed any possessions, no supplies, they were not given unsupervised time, and if they were caught with this stuff, it would be confiscated. They unravelled their underwear (which wasn’t really theirs, it was property of the state, they could face severe punishment for destroying it) to pull out single threads to do embroidery and sewing projects with needles they carved from the cafeteria’s plastic forks using illicit shivs they had also made using other really creative methods. They shaved the coating off of smuggled-in M&Ms to get pigments for doing watercolor or an interesting delicate faux-enamel technique on plastic (stolen from the cafeteria, again). Incredible origami composite structural work out of hundreds of tiny illicit candy wrappers. All of it painstakingly done.

No freedom… incredible creativity.
Blank canvas, a room full of supplies… no ideas.

So what if I need… not more permission or more openness or more freedom to write, but more structure, more guidelines, more (gasp) rules?

Hell, it’s a theory as likely as anything else, and all the other things I’ve tried HAVEN’T worked. And if it sucks, I’ll stop doing it and try something else.

So I’m creating some structure. Rituals of writing. Liturgy of what to write and when.

Monday: notes on Shiva Nata. Or musing about my patterns. And things I’m letting go of.
Tuesday: letters to myself. Perhaps even dialogues with myself.
Wednesday: not sure yet. (Oh, haha, it’s Wednesday today, no wonder I’m dodging it.) Mad poetry? Storytelling? Something juicy and visceral and inspiring? Or how I’m applying Feri right now?
Thursday: cool things I’ve learned, stuff I want to teach, resources I want to share. Maybe some projectizing?
Friday: a review of the week, both the “ack” and the “awesome”. Also, love letters.
And the weekends are writing-optional, because I often travel or have crazy weekend events.

[Edited to add a very important exception: I reserve the right to not write on days when my husband has a day off work (yes, this is always italicised between September and March, aka the busy season of DOOM) and we have the opportunity to snuggle, work on the house, run errands, and nap. Days with him trump just about everything.]