Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Unrelenting message from the Universe: You have the right to write

July 27, 2014
“There is nothing so degrading as the constant anxiety about one’s means of livelihood. I have nothing but contempt for people who despise money. Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five. Without adequate income half the possibilities of life are shut off . . . You will hear people say that poverty is the best spur to the artist. They have never felt the iron of it in their flesh . . . ” 

—Of Human Bondage

Snippets from my writing yoga journal, January, 2013 to August 9, 2014


August 9, 2014, Full Moon
Just for a moment, as I drove around the bend and caught my first glimpse of the fullness of the white moon, I felt that familiar, involuntary pang of loneliness in my solar plexus. I’ve come to realize that as much as one may revel in solitude, there will always be these moments when one longs for romantic companionship. But now is the time to explore the whole psychological and spiritual state of being alone—unexplored territory that I ran from in my younger years. It’s time for me to give being alone a chance.

* * *
August 3, 2014
Sunday, a day of rest. Walked the dogs this morning in the warm, drizzly rain. Now feeling lazy; just want to read, eat, sleep, dream, escape . . . Feeling the pleasure, this evening, of letting the world shrink . . . of cocooning with the canines in our cozy den. This pleasant feeling of hibernating must be how my old parents feel every day.

No sooner had I written the above words than I heard the creaky back gate unlatch.There stood an old friend who lives around the corner, in summer shorts and sandals, peering in the window through his glasses and asking, “Do you want to go for a walk?”

Of course I do! My inner sloth just needed a little nudge. The sleeping dogs were already jumping up and down, yapping and raring to go, their earlier walk long forgotten.

We walked at top speed up North Canada, toward the basin, with spectacular views of the purple sunset sky and gold-pink light reflected on the mountains.

On Sunday evenings here in Ojai, the residential streets close to the downtown core are virtually car-free. We can enjoy the urban forest–our majestic old oaks, growing dark at twilight, with their branches spreading outward, the pine and eucalyptus trees, reaching for the sky, and the pepper trees carrying the warm scent of summer. We can delight in the park-like, friendly village atmosphere, and count our blessings.
* * *

July 26, 2014
I woke up in time to catch the first glimmer of dawn and hear the pure song of the neighborhood birds heralding the new day. Every morning the blessed coolness that descends on this valley during the night belies the heat to come.It’s the perfect temperature to practice yoga outdoors. Since moving to this new house a few months ago, I’ve started a ritual where I lie on my back on the large, unusual, eight-by-four-foot, three-inch-thick cement table that someone built on the patio behind this 1948 house.One wonders what this slab of concrete was originally used for . . . one friend wants to turn it into a ping pong table! There’s a brick barbeque pit nearby. This table easily seats ten people, with ample space in the center for food, flowers, drinks, and baskets of fruit—or a roasted pig.

I’m sure that whoever built it never imagined that, some day in the future, some vegan woman would unfurl her purple yoga mat in the center of this cement slab and lie on her back, grasp her big toe, and move her leg in all directions while looking up at the brightening morning sky.

It took me a while to trust that this table wouldn’t break—at first I stored unpacked boxes of books and papers underneath, just in case it crashed. Now the space in between the two brick pillars that hold up the heavy slab serves as a cool cave for Honey, my loyal Aussie.

The table itself makes a fabulous yoga prop—holding on to the edge of the table when lying on the back and opening ones leg out to the side, helps anchor the whole body and keep the pelvis level . . . it’s the perfect height for support in the Standing Poses . . . and there’s ample space on top of the table for all the Seated Poses . . . I even practice the Goddess Pose–Supported Lying Down Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) on the table at night, looking up at the starry sky . . .

Ojai being the small town it is, after I moved here I found out that the elderly lady who originally owned the house went to my dad’s church. In fact, they were close friends—she knew my whole family, and I met her when I was a young girl going to Sunday School . . .

* * *
July 14, 2014
My writer self can’t bear the unfinished business of my Life. The outraged child, the unfazed, undaunted woman is bursting to come forth. I must write the things I can never say to my father as the hours of his life wind down. His dark brown skeletal figure lies sprawled on the bed—he grow weaker and sleeps more and more—but as I putter in my childhood kitchen, fixing my mom a grilled cheese that we end up feeding to the dogs, I feel all the old fears. As so many other memoir writers reveal as they lay their soul bare, we can never get our parent’s approval . . . but the child within hungers for it and when my father suddenly rises from his almost death bed (one never knows) and tells me I still don’t know which pan and which burner to use (and asks me if I washed my hands—I’m the dirty daughter with the dogs) it cuts me even as I laugh at the ludicrousness and unfairness of it all.

I think what burns me up the most about my own father is his lifelong insistence that “I treat all my daughters equally,” when nothing could be further from the truth!

It’s all so ironic!
* * *
* * *
Facebook is the new Akashic Record
June 14, 2014
Woke up at 4 a.m. —stepped outside into the cool night air to sit under the still full moon. The urge to write is stronger than my need for sleep–to have even a three-hour block of time to write has been a luxury these past few months with teaching six group yoga classes a week plus private lessons, a house-sitting gig, helping a friend with his new four-legged . . . trying to sell my car, doing bare minimum book promotion, and on and on . . .

Now it’s 5:30 a.m., the sky grows light . . . a little while ago, while it was still dark, I heard the first bird herald the dawn . . . the most beautiful, pure sound . . . until just now it sounded like a solo song . . . so loud and strong. . . except for the occasional roar of an early morning car, all is quiet here on this friendly little side street in downtown Ojai . . .
* * *

May 29, 2014
Unrelenting message from the Universe: You have the right to write.
A long time ago when I lived out in the boonies on Thacher Road and pecked away on a manual typewriter to write my first newspaper columns, in between raising my three-year-old son, doing daycare for a handful of kids barely out of diapers, plus working as a night janitor cleaning offices, and doing other housecleaning gigs, an older neighbor woman, hearing of my aspirations to write, gave me the sage advice to “Write about what you know.”

At the time she told me this, I thought “Write about what you know” meant that I should write about what I knew about cooking with tofu instead of turkey, growing squash and tomatos with mulch and no pesticides, raising kids naturally without sugar or meds, and all the other stuff I was into as a young, idealistic, hippy mom.

Only in recent years have I come to realize that “Write about what you know” also means all the other life stuff that I mainly relegated to the pages of my journal . . .

* * *
May 23, 2014
Scan_Pic0018Being a Gemini (May 24), I changed my mind a dozen times picking out the birthday photo that most reflects the inner me. It’s not the baby pictures, the public persona/political campaign/author head shots, nor the hundreds of yoga photos . . . it’s this one. The writer self, sitting on the floor in Upavistha Konasana, Seated Wide Angle Pose, proofreading.

This photo was taken during a happy moment where I felt confident about the direction of my life—a nice change from the many moments when I wonder how much longer I can keep the wolf at bay. I had just landed another yoga book contract, and felt like I was swimming in money—which reality quickly snatched out of my hands. Truth be told, not a day goes by that I don’t question the sanity of juggling two careers with sporadic spurts of income: writing and teaching yoga. Even now, at age 65, I think about dropping one of them. But, for my dual Gemini nature, that would be like asking me to choose between my two children.

* * *
May 4, 2014
I finally finished reading Of Human Bondage. I confess that as I arrived at page 605 I could not hold back the tears of relief, and I wanted to kiss the author’s feet when I realized that after all the misery there was going to be a satisfying happy ending.

There were so many parts I connected with: the heavy religious indoctrination, the realization of the absolute futility of life, the obsessive love affair, his awakening to the beauty of nature, his awareness of the great gift of being amused at one’s own absurdity, and his constant struggles with poverty.

“There is nothing so degrading as the constant anxiety about one’s means of livelihood. I have nothing but contempt for people who despise money. Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five. Without adequate income half the possibilities of life are shut off . . . You will hear people say that poverty is the best spur to the artist. They have never felt the iron of it in their flesh . . . “
* * *
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
1 a.m.
The hour is late, but the cool night air, the stillness that descends on the valley, is irresistible. The cricket that lives in the cement wall outside my window is wide awake, chirping its heart out. A few hours ago I jumped off the treadmill and started reading “Of Human Bondage” by W. Somerset Maugham. My education on Planet Earth wouldn’t be complete without my absorbing this autobiographical masterpiece. I’m in the habit of writing on a book’s opening page the date that I start to read it, and this one says “December, 1990.” Evidently it was too much for me back then, but now I’m ready.
* * *
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
The overcast sky, with layers of light-blue fog hanging over the mountains, adds to the mystique of the intensely green valley below. As I drink in the panoramic view of meadows and still-open spaces, the orange groves and the oak, pepper, pine, and eucalyptus trees—our dense urban forest, the lungs of the earth—my imagination can easily take flight and transport me to Shangri-La. From the top of North Signal, one sees only a scattering of lights . . . most of the inhabitants are hidden under a canopy of trees.

* * *
Monday, March 24, 2014
All is quiet here in the tiny cabin at the top of North Signal Street. Chico wrapped up in a yoga blanket, Priscilla cozy on the small bed, Honey stretched out on the floor so that I have to be careful not to step on her. A cold, dark, foggy night—not a star in sight . . .
* * *
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Still no internet–but after days of feeling lost at sea, I totally see the irony and humor of the situation!
* * *
February 28, 2014
Still no internet. Am on friend’s computer for half hour about once or twice a day. Please leave time sensitive messages on my cell: 805-603-8635.
* * *
February 27, 2014
It finally rained and rained —real rain drops, all night long. Everywhere I look, I can feel the earth’s delight! Walked the dogs to my favorite yoga-in-nature spot at the top of the basin, near Pratt trail, where you can drink in the beauty of the ever-changing clouds moving above the mountains . . . already the early morning sun shone with intensity but you can see signs of more rain headed our way.

Still no internet–trying to keep my perspective and sense of humor as the property owner works on running a 170 foot long DSL line in this Wi-Fi Free Zone. Every era has it’s health hazards (predator animals, war, plague, starvation, forced labor, etc.) and, while I’m all for minimizing ones exposure to modern era wireless frequencies, I’m at the point where I feel like throwing in the towel and seeing all the things that could do me in long before all these unknown exposures take their toll . . . but, for now, I’m stuck. My friend who owns the property doesn’t see it that way, and I must respect that.
* * *
February 11, 2014
If I don’t start writing about this latest move to my new hippie writing pad on the hill, I might lose it. Last few days had several near meltdowns where I buried my head on the steering wheel and felt like crying and giving up. But then I looked up into the always optimistic, eager-for-the-next- adventure faces of Honey and Chico, and, you know what, I just gotta keep it together, somehow.

Plus, there’s my wonderful, loyal, loving, appreciative yoga students to consider. When I walk into Sacred Space Studio they catapult me into the present moment and the 90-minute class goes by in the twinkling of an eye. As I remind them to anchor the soles of their feet to the earth, and to “stand on your own two feet,” I do the same. I feel strength and steadiness return.

I don’t ask much of Life but where I draw the line is that I refuse to get rid of my animals. The biggest stress of this entire move has been leaving my three cats behind in the river bottom, in the care of my daughter. Two of the cats immediately adjusted–Ginger, the oldest one, is happy to sleep all day on the special cat cold-weather heating pad that one of my students gave me last year. Leo the Lion likes hanging out with the other cats on this property. But Priscilla did not adjust to being left behind. She taught me the best lesson of this entire moving saga, which I’ll describe on my next break, later today.
(To be continued)
NOTE: Posted the rest of the story about Priscilla under a new poste.
* * *
January 9, 2014
Time to let go of the never ending earthly concerns and rest my weary mortal body on the yoga mat.
* * *
December 31, 2013
New Year’s Resolution
Memo to self (again!):
Make a writing schedule and stick to it!
Let the unexpected, spontaneous windows of writing time be a bonus in addition to your regular schedule!
December 11, 2013
Memo to self (again!):
Make a writing schedule and stick to it!
* * *
November 16, 2013
5:30 a.m. Stepped outside to see the full moon that shone overhead earlier, but she seems to have disappeared. And it’s still too dark to try to find her. Hoping the black sky and cold wind means it will rain.
* * *
November 6, 2013
Time to put my writing hat back on! All the other hats can wait . . .
* * *
October 17, 2013
The full moon rises–no matter what, she stays on track. She’s my lifeline as my own boat drifts at a low ebb, lost at sea here in the Valley of the Moon . . .
* * *
September 1, 2013
I have only four months left to get the first draft of my next Writing Yoga Memoir done. If I could lock myself up in my writing hut and do nothing but write, and if someone delivered fresh vegan meals to my doorstep and a mysterious benefactor channelled a river of funds into my bank account—if all I had to do was walk my dogs at sunrise and sunset—that would give me ample time. For nothing has gone as planned. Real life hits me in the face the moment I wake up. I’m always scrambling to be somewhere on time and running out of cat food and clean towels. So I tell myself that these thousand excuses for why this book almost didn’t get written will only make the story more exciting. Imagine what a disappointment Cheryl Strayed’s memoir WILD would have been if her solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail had been just a fun walk in the park!
* * *
August 9, 2013
The wheel of life keeps turning. There’s nothing I can do to stop it, but I’d like to jump off, disappear, take a nature writing break, and then jump back on . . . without dying.

I don’t feel right unless I write. How many more days will it take before I fully admit this?
* * *
July 18, 2013
As life gets more expensive, it gets harder and harder to find time to write. Old cats cost more than young ones. Houses with yards for dogs cost more . . . everything costs more. But once I find a free morning, the writing gets easier and easier. . .
* * *
July 4, 2013
Writing is the road to independence–a long, strange, and bumpy road. I see myself still going ’round in circles and taking side trips. I’m tired. I want to lie down by the side of the road and rest. But then I pick myself up to clear away all the obstacles, all the road blocks — and set my writing spirit free!
* * *
May 14, 2013
Ten days till my 64th birthday. All I want for my birthday are free days to finish the first draft of my second Writing Yoga Memoir. So right now I’m setting the intention that May 20th is my last teaching day, and May 21, 22, 23, 24 (the full moon), 25 and 26 are all mine. . . .
* * *
January, 2013: The Year of Writing Yoga Memoir

On this cold tenth day of January, 2013, I am setting my intention to make this the year of Writing Yoga Memoirs.

I woke up at 3 a.m. and started writing about how sweet my life is now, and how in January, 1967, I was living in the Haight Ashbury. It was the winter before the Summer of Love, I was totally naive, and I had my whole life ahead of me. I had no idea there would be only four short seasons with only myself to take care of. I could not foresee the lessons Life had in store for me.

It’s a curious thing to sit very still, to meditate and watch how the mind works. The brain and all the cells of the body are like a computer that stores everything. You can try to delete and let it all go, but you cannot will yourself to have a clean slate, as it was on the day you were born. (Some people speculate it is not a clean slate even at birth.) Our memories travel with us until the physical body dissolves — and possibly beyond.

At 7 a.m. it is barely light out here in the river bottom. The sky is foggy white. The tall pine trees outside my window look black. It is a stark, cold winter landscape.

I don’t feel right unless I write. How many more years will it take before I fully admit this? The more I try to focus on work that pays and push aside the urge to write, the more the muse pesters me and pulls me by the hair out of bed. If I don’t grab an hour during the day, I lie awake at 2 a.m. and wonder if I should risk the lack of sleep to write. If I try to deny it and bury myself under the covers, sleep eludes me. I have no choice. I must surrender to my fate.

My favorite Writing Yoga Pose: Seated Wide Angle Pose (Upavistha Konasana).Scan_Pic0018

Photo Credit: Sholom Joshua


The irony and absurdity of life never ends, does it?

May 15, 2014

s3The irony and absurdity of life never ends, does it? On Tuesday mornings its my turn to help my mom clean her teeth, eat breakfast (fresh fruit like cut-up papaya or sliced oranges, and later something more substantial like an egg on toast prepared the Dutch way, slathered in organic raw butter; my vegan sensibilities are foreign to her), rinse her mouth after breakfast, and get her out of her comfy pajamas into some fresh underwear, including mandatory undershirt, and also blouse and pants or a favorite dress.
When I question the need for an undershirt on a hot day, she always says, “Ik voel me naakt als ik niets onder me jurk draag,” meaning, “I feel naked without an undershirt or slip under my dress.”
The whole shebang takes about two hours and includes a pleasant interlude of our listening to her favorite classical music station while I sit on the floor stretching in various seated forward bends and hip openers.
s6I noticed this morning that my mother has finally given up on telling me that “sitting like that is not lady like.” While I’m attending to my mom, my old dad is usually outside basking in the early morning sun. I can spy on him through the kitchen window, which gives me ample time to cover my tracks should he rise from his lounge chair and come inside to monitor if I’m using the right cup or the right spoon.
sMost of the time, when my daughterly duties are done I slip away unnoticed. But this morning my dad was sitting inside in my mom’s easy chair by the window, looking out at the mountains. I could feel he was ready to give me some parting words of wisdom before I flew out the door.”Suzan, you are at an age where you should be taking it easy. You should be sitting around with your legs up on a stool and not have all kinds of worries. Isn’t there some man who would like to be your husband? You shouldn’t give up on men . . .”When I laughingly reply that “I’ve chosen the lesser of two evils,” my mom gets it right away, and starts chuckling.”Dad,” I say, “don’t you know by now there’s no such thing as a free lunch? If I was married I might still have to work plus then I’d have to make dinner . . . ”

“Ah, no,” he shrugs and waves his arms to emphasize his point, “you’ve got to choose the right one. You just never picked the right one. I know you, Suzan, you picked the wrong ones . . . don’t give up on men, Suzan, don’t give up . . . ”

We’ve had this absurd conversation a hundred times, but I take the bait, mainly to make my mom laugh.

“If I married the right one I’d have to go with him on cruises, or travel to foreign countries, or dress up and accompany him to dinner parties . . . and later I might have to take care of him.”

My mom finds the turn of the conversation hilarious and gets increasingly animated as my dad and I banter back and forth.

I kiss them both good bye but before I leave I check their mailbox. Inside is a single envelope with a red line above the address box proclaiming:

“Your Guide to a 2014 Medical Product Benefit.”

Being that my parents are both so old now, I take the liberty of screening their mail.

The letter says: With confirmed eligibility, dispatch cutting-edge ED treatment
PRIORITY ID: 62056-01890
ATTENTION: We are trying to reach you regarding a safe-highly effective erectile dysfunction therapy covered by Medicare and private insurance. If you suffer from ED, then you may be entitled to a proven product . . . It is the ONLY proven therapy therapy to bring back natural functioning . . . However, your reply is needed within 14 days to ensure availability.
Dr. D. Marshall Levy
CEOFounder, CarePoint Medical.

What kind of shameless charlatan world is this?

Is this all we have to look forward to?

Maybe I wouldn’t mind being married to another writer who doesn’t mind if I ignore him when I walk in the door and run to my writing room . . .

Yesterday one of my students left two presents on the seat of my car: a sampler of four cans of Zhena‘s Gypsy Tea– Chocolate Chai, Coconut Chai, Caramel Chai, and Hazelnut Chai. And a book aptly titled, The Merry Recluse, by Caroline Knapp.

I’m thinking to myself, “I wouldn’t mind marrying a very merry recluse!”


Photo Credit: Cathy Snyder

  — in Ojai, CA.s4

Casting out demons

May 14, 2014
May 12, 2014
During my yoga practice this morning, my mind kept flitting back to the film I saw last night, Philomena. It hit close to home on so many levels. The deep sense of shame and guilt when, at age eighteen, I had to break the terrible news to my Pentecostal Christian father that I was pregnant. At least I didn’t get sent to a convent to work in the laundry and have my child snatched away. But I felt the blow of my father’s rage, and, like untold women before me, tried to escape his wrath by getting married.
Some years ago he apologized to me, his firstborn, for his extreme strictness and failures as a father. I’ve long since forgiven him. Yet the feelings we experience growing up seem to be embedded in our psyche, in our cells.
As I write this, I remember the first time I ever felt deeply ashamed. It was in Holland, and I was probably around age five or six because the memory is very clear. I had been playing with one of my neighborhood friends, and we had either gotten into her mother’s makeup or maybe she had one of those play makeup kits; in any case, I had smeared red lipstick on my lips. And, as luck would have it, I was told that I had to come home. The pastor of our church was visiting, and my dad wanted to show off his beautiful daughters. Back then wearing makeup was against church rules—a serious sin. I still remember my dad furiously scrubbing my mouth with a hot washcloth until my lips burned, trying to get that red lipstick off before the minister saw me. No wonder that, when I’m opening the front of the body in backbends, sometimes it feels like I’m casting out demons!

Fishing on Facebook: A Writing Yoga Memoir, Yoga Teacher Magazine

January 28, 2014

 Book Review by Ivan Nahem,  founder/editor, Yoga Teacher Magazine


Fishing on Facebook: A Writing Yoga Memoir is a well-told, well-paced and timeless tale. It’s really not all that much about yoga per se, although one might say it’s about the wisdom that comes from both yoga and suffering. Suza is a renowned yoga teacher with several wonderful instruction books to her credit, but this is more about her personal life, a disappointed-in-love story. As in most memoirs, the author is a good part of the story, and here she’s quite a character in and of herself. And the portraits of the supporting cast are vivid (especially the villain), and we even get fine ambience in the description of the Ojai environment, including the yoga scene there.

What threw me a few times while immersing myself in this story is that I kept hurting for the author, cringing for her unfortunate decisions, sharing her distress over the jerk with whom she was falling in love, and with whom she kept thinking, despite mounting evidence, she could make it work. Maybe it’s because I live with the handicap of being a guy and so I know guys – as in the principle that you can’t bullshit a bullshitter (not that I’m anything of the sort, of course!) ― he just seemed transparent, such a scammer, the kind of guy you run for the hills from. He proves to be a pathological liar, the kind of person who lies to themselves at such a deep level that lying is a way of life. AND he’s terrified of sex and does everything he can to avoid any such real situations; love is just power play. As a reader I sensed early on where the pattern was headed, so I knew that this paramour was a lost cause and that sometimes made the narrator’s choices appear inexplicable. In any case there were times when her hurt was so raw — and then she would see him AGAIN! — and I was quite tempted to hurl the book against the wall, but the book is actually in my Kindle, so that would have been counterproductive.

470591_10150741641279703_266408929_oAnd if I reflect in all honesty, I’ve been deceived myself a few times, so my discomfort with her naiveté is ultimately unwarranted. It’s apparent that Suza’s story strikes a chord, especially among other women (shocking surprise!). Recently I had a dialog with another yoga teacher about her lying ex-husband (or “wasband” as she put it) and how deceived she felt in that relationship . . . Well obviously this is not a unique theme, but Suza makes the story work with all the very verisimilitude detail. If you’re in the mood for a cautionary tale like this, definitely give it a read. Suza’s a deft writer and her voice is very welcome.

Ivan Nahem is the founder/editor of Yoga Teacher Magazine.

Embracing my inner Pippi Longstocking

November 15, 2013

My big treat two or three times a week is slinking into Farmer and the Cook and filling my African grass basket with avocados, oranges, bananas, soy creamer, cucumbers, hummus, soup (if it’s ready), chocolate chip muffins (I’m eating one right now), and whatever other goodies from their bakery case that I have cash for.

As I stood filling up a cup of coffee, I noticed an exceptionally slim, beautiful young woman talking to an older woman friend. The writer in me caught parts of their conversation: “Be sure to smudge the house with sage . . .” I had the impression the older woman was advising and consoling the younger one on matters of the heart, and I was close enough so that when I reached for the soy creamer and looked up I saw tears flowing down the younger woman’s flawless face.

I wish it were as easy as lighting candles and smudging the house with sage. Seeing the two of them talking and then hugging, I remembered how, for years and years, back when I was young and skinny, I’d pour my heart out to my older women friends. They were so patient with me, even as they rolled their eyes and tried to talk sense into me. But I had to learn the hard way–through experience.

Seeing this woman’s tears reminded me of the worst-ever breakup, with a sweet man I was hopelessly addicted to. I should have figured it out on our first date when he snorted “nose candy,” and those times when he snuck Ecstasy (still legal back then) into my orange juice, but it took a good long decade before I emerged from that river of denial. When he finally left, I didn’t think to smudge our house with sage. But, after sobbing for three days, comforted by my black potbellied pig, Rosie (who slept beside me on a blanket), and my dear white miniature poodle, Muffy, I had the sense to open all the doors and windows and let the fresh air and sunlight in.

To help me recover from the shock and disappointment of the breakup, my pre-teen daughter surprised me with a gift of two tame rabbits. They made me laugh through my tears. After playing with them outside on the grass, and not wanting to confine them to a cage, I had the brilliant idea to convert my bedroom into a rabbit room. This was something I could probably never have done if I still had a husband!

So I got rid of his dresser, our giant marital bed, the romantic lights, the decorations from India–all the stuff we had bought together through the years–and schlepped a bale of sweet smelling alfalfa hay into the house, a few sections at a time, until the entire hardwood floor looked like barn flooring, covered in hay. The energy of maleness, sex, and painful breakups flew out the window, and was replaced by two same-sex rabbits cavorting innocently about.

My daughter, her friends, and the kids next door quickly discovered that rabbits, like kittens, love to run through tunnels, play hide-and-seek, and hop over boxes and other obstacles. Soon the bedroom became a bona fide rabbit playground. With no man in the house to manage me, I embraced my inner Pippy Longstocking–my favorite childhood heroine who lived carefree, independent with no parents and kept her horse, monkey, and other animals in the house. In the weeks after that painful breakup, I no longer cared what the house looked like. Hay spilled from the bedroom into the hallway, and the rabbits nibbled at my toes . . .


Time for a Little Levity

May 8, 2013

Time for a little levity:

Last Friday I walked into my bank. Way on the other side of the room I immediately spotted “Liz,” the character in my book who blew the whistle on “Adam.” If it hadn’t been for her revelation, who knows how much longer the charade would have played on.

I hadn’t seen Liz in more than two years, and for a second my mind went into a spin. She walked over to where I was filling out my deposit slip and we gave each other a hug.

“I see you got your book published,” she said, laughing.

“Yes, I did!” I replied. “Did you read it?”

“Yes, I did!” she said, with a knowing smile all over her face.

We just looked at each other and laughed as we each remembered the synchronicity of Adam arriving just as she was leaving my Sunday-morning yoga class, and the look on her face when she recognized him.

“I’ve lost all respect for him,” she confided as the teller credited my deposit. We laughed and chatted some more as Honey and Chico ate the biscuits the teller gave them.

“The good thing about writing that book,” I said, “was that I learned how to write dialogue. That book got me going on turning my journals into memoirs.”

Bumping into Liz at the bank made my day. I walked out of there feeling like a wealthy woman.

Health—including mental health—is wealth!

Fishing on Facebook: A Writing Yoga Memoir


Can you build a bridge and burn it at the same time?

February 7, 2013

Scan_Pic0018Last night I finally opened the boxes of journals that I’ve been schlepping around for three years, and OMG, it’s like opening Pandora’s box!

My cats are so excited, hopping into and around the boxes; they can feel the erratic energy flying around. It’s all there—except for the early journals from the 60s that, in an attempt to free me from the past, a boyfriend had me burn. (So these journals go back to the 70s and 80s)

It remains to be seen why I feel compelled to turn my kitchen into an office so that I can arrange all these crazy life stories into the form of a book; it may just be for my own integration. I only know that, unless I do this, I cannot sleep. I have this idea that, if I spread everything out in the open, then when I wake up at 2 a.m. I can go right to my writing table and in nine months birth my next book.

I’ve already laughed in the face of all the obstacles. It is so blatantly obvious that money is not always a true measure of success. Nor is lack of money always a true measure of failure. (I have a stack of books by authors who died in poverty and were buried in unmarked graves. I hope that doesn’t happen to me.)

When I see rock star yoga teachers teaching mega classes with hundreds of students, I remind myself that this phenomenon occurs in every belief system. In the religious world there are wildly successful charismatic ministers with mega services that, in their size, leave mega yoga classes in the dust.

When I visit my parents, I’m reminded that there is no end to the belief systems in this world and no lack of evidence to substantiate just about any belief, from far left to far right to heaven above and hell below. My dad is so looking forward to seeing his mother, who died decades ago, in heaven—he mentions her every time I visit. He is surrounded by books on the afterlife—a far different afterlife than the one described in metaphysical books, but equally compelling.

My journals reflect the mind of a mad woman who has possibly thrown out the baby with the bathwater. But at least I’m aware that I’m insane. I recall some years ago challenging the reality of a longtime friend with dementia. She looked me square in the eye and told me in no uncertain terms, “Don’t you think that if I’d lost my mind I’d be the first to know it?” (Found this gem in my journals, too.)

I don’t mind if the whole world subscribes to the Law of Attraction that says like attracts like, you attract what you need, and you create your own reality. It doesn’t matter to me what people believe, so long as they don’t mind if I don’t believe it!

Yes, there is karma and there are laws of nature, but I cannot in good conscience pretend that I know how it all works. That North Korean sociopath dictator who sits in his palace while his starving people reportedly turn to cannibalism is not rich because of good karma. The young woman killed yesterday by the Taliban was caught up in circumstances beyond her control. I don’t believe she attracted being tortured and shot.

My own life has not been a life-and-death drama, but my journals reveal the heavy religious conditioning, the brainwashing from birth, the deeply embedded patriarchal belief system I was born into.

On March 3, 1996, I wrote these words on the road to freedom: “Over and over I see that, for me, my relationship with the man in my life is the core of my life . . . it is either cultural conditioning or my female nature. Maybe when I’m 50, after men-o-pause, I won’t be like this, but today [and all the years prior] I am in this [incomplete] state . . . ”

Underneath this telling entry I wrote down my horoscope for the week of March 7-14, which asked: “Can you build a bridge and burn it at the same time?”

Fifteen years later I can unequivocally say, “Yes!”

“No fair! You know all my secrets!”

January 24, 2013

Well, yesterday (Wednesday) was really exciting. By some cosmic coincidence my pregnant yoga student had a baby girl a few minutes past 5 p.m.—the same day and time of her weekly prenatal yoga class, just like I joked might happen. But not in the yoga room—in a birthing room. While my student was delivering, I met a kindred-spirit, out-of-town, vegan Facebook friend (and her darling husband) for the first time in real life at The Farmer & the Cook. And then, to top off the evening, I went to bed with the man of my dreams, Colin Fletcher, The Man Who Walked Through Time. I have not yet learned to manifest bags of gold, but somehow every book I’ve ever wanted to read magically appears on my doorstep—usually without my even having to ask. It almost makes me believe in the Law of Attraction.

While waiting for the freshly made potato soup to finish cooking, I got acquainted with this exotic couple, Viktoria and Augusto Nieva-Gomez. Viktoria already knew all about me from reading Fishing on Facebook plus all these posts. “No fair!” I said after we hugged. “You know all my secrets. Now tell me yours!”

Viktoria and Augusto both have strong accents, so first I asked where they were from. He was born in Mexico, she in Austria, and they met eighteen years ago on Christmas eve in a Brazilian restaurant in Germany. I love romance, so I wanted to know all the details, and to my delight Viktoria turned out to be a high-energy chatterbox—a writer’s dream come true. If I got the story straight (and I hope they feel free to correct me), they fell in love in Europe and then got married in a beautiful Native American ceremony in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they knew no one but everything fell into place.

It was great fun to hear about their life together, first in Mexico and later in California. As Augusto periodically spoke up to clarify a point, I noticed that I was unconsciously scanning the room. Although I was listening intently, my eyes were wandering. Maybe it was the sweet energy between Viktoria and Augusto, or the looming full moon on the horizon, but my eyes fell ever so briefly on one or two men sitting at nearby tables who suddenly looked attractive. It took me by pleasant surprise.

Still waiting for the potato soup, nut loaf, and other vegan delectables to appear, the subject inevitably turned to how it is that some of us, raised on the delicious childhood tastes of ham, sausages, pork roast, hot dogs, and crunchy fried chicken, come into the awareness that these are sentient beings we’re eating. I heard myself saying that custom can accustom people to any atrocity. People in some foreign countries sit in a restaurant and order various dog-meat entrees, freshly killed from the crates of dogs stacked nearby. That is the custom that they’re accustomed to. In this country, our custom dictates that it’s perfectly normal to celebrate religious holidays by eating pigs and lambs.

To further spice up the conversation, I brought up the idea that some of my distant Indonesian ancestors were probably cannibals. I mentioned that I had recently read about an elderly man who claimed to have eaten humans and, when asked “What do they taste like?” replied, “Very much like pigs.” Which doesn’t surprise me, as their physiology, to the best of my knowledge, is closer to humans than that of any other animal.

When our food arrived, the subject turned back to romance and relationships. Because Viktoria was a bona fide “real reader” and not one of my editors or longtime acquaintances, I was thrilled to hear that she rolled on the floor with laughter while reading my dating memoir. She had not only shared the book with friends but mailed copies to Switzerland and Germany! She told me how she had loved my description of Earth Cafe Raw Vegan Chesecake as being “the only real treat on the planet with no calories.” And, since it turned out that she and Augusto were visiting Ojai to celebrate her birthday, she surprised me with a piece of “Strawberry Fields Forever” Earth Cafe cake, and a box of Lulu’s Maca Buttercups, a handcrafted raw chocolate cup that actually tastes surprisingly like Reese’s peanut butter cups, only filled with sprouted almond butter. It was a totally delicious, delightful evening, and then I fell asleep with Colin Fletcher on my chest . . .


Yoga yakking

December 1, 2012
Yesterday we were yakking in the yoga room about life, and I mentioned that I’d had a date with a man twenty years younger.
  When I first began practicing with other teachers and students, I used to try to hush everyone up, but now I realize that this “yoga yakking” while opening the body can be enormously therapeutic and insightful.
  One of the teachers present told the story of her friend who married a man twenty years younger. “She’s now in her seventies. He’s in his fifties. They’ve been together twenty-five years, and they are the happiest, sweetest couple you’ve ever seen.”
  “Well,” I said, “If nothing else, this date with a younger man showed me I need to stretch the age range at both ends.”
  When I was in my fifties, I dated a man at the other end of the spectrum—a sophisticated filmmaker in his eighties. He was totally romantic, bought me flowers and beautiful clothes, and joked about sending me to finishing school and taking me to Italy. But, alas, when we went to dinner he ordered veal, and he still smoked pot and hash and scared the daylights out of me with his coughing and hacking . . .
  “My date went great,” I said enthusiastically. “He’s a really nice guy. Very responsible. Vegetarian. And he looked so shiny and clean. He’d just gotten out of the shower. Once we started talking, I forgot all about the age difference.
  “But I think I might have blown it. First of all, I didn’t have anything to wear. All my skirts have rips in them, so I just wore my yoga pants with a blouse and shawl. It was short notice. I should have postponed it. We went somewhere very casual. It was the day after Thanksgiving, and I wasn’t hungry. Just sipped some wine . . .”
  The rest of the story came out while we were opening our hips, stretching our legs, excavating the stiffness out of our shoulder joints, or hanging upside down.
  “It was so interesting,” I went on, “because the age difference seemed not to matter. He’s been divorced three years. Doesn’t strike me as a womanizer. Seems very straightforward, kind, and honest. I had only actually met him in person once, about six months ago. It never in a million years occurred to me that he might like to ask me out. He’s younger than my son! My daughter didn’t approve of me going on this date! We basically told each other bits and pieces of our past. Kind of like a job interview.
  “He told me the story of how he ended up moving to Ojai . . . asked me where I went to school . . . I told him how I had a baby when I was eighteen and that I went to Ventura College and got an Early Childhood Teaching Certificate because that was a job where I could take my toddler to work with me. I told him I did child care out of my home, worked at different nursery schools in town, and basically took care of kids from dawn to dusk.
  And then I heard myself say, “I thought I wanted to teach preschool for the rest of my life, but then when my son turned seven I didn’t want to see another kid as long as I lived!”
  I plum forgot that my young-man date had young children!
  I told my yoga confidantes, “I didn’t really mean it the way it sounded! I can’t remember if I told him that I had a daughter later in life or that I’m a grandaunt to a niece and five nephews! I love kids—really I do!”
  Truth be told, I didn’t want him to think I was some kind of cougar. We’d already joked about cougars before our date when he explained that he liked older women. For me, this was a first-time experiment. It’s in my Gemini nature to laugh and flirt, but as I sat across from this shiny clean young man —the kind I was not attracted to in my youth but was considering now—I noticed that the nun in me had the upper hand.
  Yes, I’d told myself that the age difference didn’t matter. The date was his idea, not mine. When he walked me to my car and, half jokingly, casually said something about me coming over to talk and have more wine, I’d never said no more quickly in my entire life!

Am I my father’s daughter?

October 18, 2012

October 15, 2012

I had the most extraordinary epiphany today at my father’s 89th birthday celebration. We were sitting around the table eating an Indonesian fruit compote and other goodies—a lively gathering of family and friends, all of us laughing, reminiscing, talking all at once in Dutch, Indonesian, and English. Suddenly, out of the blue I heard a woman I hardly know, a close friend of my youngest sister (my dad’s favorite), call MY father “Dad.” Of all the nerve! She was sitting close to him, reading him a birthday card, and they were yukking it up like they were old pals—like they were father and daughter!

I felt so betrayed! Each time she called him “Dad,” an irrational,  uncontrollable pain shot through my heart and solar plexus. I realized it was the exact same raw, painful sensation I used to feel in my gut upon suspecting or discovering a boyfriend or husband had betrayed me in some way. Like someone sticking a knife in my stomach.

It was as if my psyche went back in time to when my dysfunctional relationship with men first began—to the core of the second-class-citizen relationship I have with my father. Growing up, I was afraid of him. Once, some years ago, he actually held me, cried, and apologized for being so hard on me.

But my dad’s religious fanaticism creates a gap between us. And now here was this strange woman from my sister’s church, who had evidently visited my dad many times before, kissing up to him and calling him “Dad,” every chance she got. And he was eating it up! All my father-daughter-man-woman neurosis was staring me in the face. I sat there paralyzed. There was nothing I could do but wait for that old familiar pain that has haunted me all my life to subside.

To ease the pain and appear normal, I reached for a chocolate cookie. I ate several, till the pain subsided. Then I regained my composure, chatted a bit about yoga with the Indonesian ladies, and even signed over a gift copy of one of my yoga books.

As I said my goodbyes, I thanked my father’s friends for their presents and for celebrating his life. I made nice with the woman who had the nerve to call my dad “Dad,” pondering her motives as I looked her in the eye. Then I grabbed my backpack, stepped outside into the sunlight and fresh air, and walked home to my tribe.

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