Somebody that I Used to Know

A lot of my life has been about pain.  Trying not to feel pain.  Picking other people to share my life with that were drenched in it.  Choosing shattered, sour hearts and traumatic childhoods, chests puffy with defense mechanisms.

And maybe this sounds melodramatic, but for a long time all I wanted was to lay next to someone, very very still, and feel dead and empty together.  I tried to do this once, but my boyfriend at the time was uncomfortable.  I guess I can’t blame him.  He bribed me back to life with ice cream (keep this tip in mind, guys.  it worked then.) and suggested we “get out of the house.”  We went to the harbor but I still felt dead, my feet slowly shuffling the boardwalk.  My eyes might as well have been closed.  I wanted to lie very still and have him lie with me, the empty sighs of our bellies the only noise.  We didn’t need to be touching, it wasn’t about that.  I wanted negative space.  If I’m being honest, I wouldn’t have minded a theme song, a grey’s-anatomy-esque soundtrack.  Chasing Cars by snowpatrol comes to mind.  He didn’t want this, he wanted to keep his feet walking and listen to pop in the car and say cheesy things that would make me laugh.

There is a place for each of these things, and there is a point to all of this, I promise.

The point is, things are shifting.  I am shifting.

I don’t have this aching need for my pain to be heard anymore because I am the one listening.

Thich Nhat Hanh says we are the babies and the mothers.  I think this a perfect distillation of the human experience.  When we try to be just one is when we get into trouble.

All these mirrors I created for myself, the pain I felt in Hungary, in the deaths last spring of Sam and Cal, in my wounded ex-boyfriends, filled me full of light.  They broke me first, true, but cracks let the light in.  I have been so splintered, so in pieces, and so full of light.

The thing about light is it’s always moving.

quiet

You know that moment when a child is being quiet?  Like, really really quiet?

First, you breathe a sigh of relief.  But then, your mind starts going.

What could she be doing?  Is she getting into something?

Inevitably, without a doubt, she is.

My absence from this blog has kind of been like that.

Readers, I know I’ve been unfaithful.  But I have a reason.  An awesome reason.  Before you get excited, this has nothing to do with babies.

Ok, you can get excited again.  It’s my new venture, a small business with a big idea.

Gather Round Kitchen.  A mobile and virtual community kitchen.  A builder of community.  A fighter of food waste.  A blog.  An artisanal small-batch preserving company with a big heart.

This is where I will be doing most of my writing, about canning and life.

Feel free to follow me there.

In the meantime, I’m not closing this blog, just remaining open to the possibility it will go quiet.

If I have learned one thing lately, it is that I am not in control of much.

Better to surrender.

Happy spring to you all!

Jess

Small Comforts and Gluten-Free Blueberry Cornbread Muffins with Agave

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Sometimes you just need something comforting, of the variety you can put in your mouth.  Your hands need to busy themselves mixing and folding.  Sometimes, when it feels as if nothing in your life is working, you just need to put something in the oven.

This is some kind of a miracle, that all of this powdery and oily stuff can come together into something incredible.

Baking can be a prayer for action, a lesson of patience, risk and play.

All of these values and virtues are present in my life right now, and I don’t have many words to share with you about it, but what I do have is a recipe for Blueberry Cornbread Muffins.

These muffins are wonderful.  They are substantial little guys, crumbling only in your mouth.  They are slightly sweet and have an amazing texture, with just the right amount of grit and grain from the cornmeal.

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Blueberry Cornbread Muffins with Agave

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease 1 muffin tin.
Combine dry ingredients and set aside.
Mix melted butter and agave. When the mixture is no longer hot, add eggs one at a time and mix well.

Add dry ingredients alternately with soy milk and mix to combine. Then gently fold in the blueberries and orange zest.

Scoop batter into greased muffin pans and bake for 20 minutes or until muffins brown on the edges and the tester comes out clean.Makes 12 muffins.

An Idealist Idea

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I have this novel idea.  It’s a tiny bit revolutionary, so keep your pants on.  If you have pants on.  This is the internet, after all, and a Sunday.

Anyway.

What if everyone did what they wanted to do (a.k.a. followed their bliss)?  

This is a great idea, for obvious reasons.

But the best reason is this:

If it happened?  If we quit doing what we grudgingly pretended to enjoy?  

There would be room for other people, people who actually enjoyed that work, to do that work!

So go make some space!  Make space for yourself, and you will make space for others.  

Release what does not serve you, it might serve someone else.

And for crying out loud, take the instrument down.

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Listen, Motherfucker; or How Not to Talk to the Universe

“Listen, motherfucker,” I said.

“We had a deal.”  The freeway is passing me by.  All these cars taunting me while I drive my grandma’s.  The freeway just goes and goes, and I take a minute to have a talk with god.

“Look, the order hasn’t changed.  I still need a car.  I told you I needed a car two weeks ago.”

Cars have been haunting me.  Now that I need one, I see them everywhere.  Cars are everywhere, where I live, but I am talking about a specific car.  The specific kind of car (compact hatchback, great gas mileage, ~$5,000) I envisioned and then special-requested from the universe in my nicest voice.  I even wrote affirmative sentences (in the present tense, of course!) about it in my journal, and spent lots of time with my eyes squinched shut just envisioning driving that little subcompact tuna can around.  But I’ve put a new voice on because that asshole hasn’t done anything about my desires.  Yet.

Once I’m done yelling at the universe, a tan Toyota Matrix passes me.  Of course.  I laugh out loud, but then turn serious.

“Okay, maybe you are listening, but what’s the hold-up?  Seriously.”

I can either take this Matrix sighting as an affirmative sign, or a tongue sticking out, and I’m leaning toward the latter.

Do I sound ungrateful?

I guess if I do, it’s because I am.

In general, I’m really grateful, and have lots to be grateful about, but come the fuck on, universe.  A car?  This is a small thing, a simple thing.  I am not asking for a mansion, or a boyfriend without issues—I am asking for a working piece of machinery to help me go places.

Now normally I don’t yell at the universe, or give threats, but this is a special case.  A trial operation.

If I stopped being a smart-ass for two seconds I would realize that detachment is probably the only answer.   Once I detach the car will come, blah blah blah.  (Do you ever get as tired as I do of all of this wisdom?  Especially when you know it’s right?  Talk about inconvenient truths…)

But detachment and peace would make for boring writing material, so back I go to my mobster ways:

“You have until Friday.  Make it work.”

Writing Challenge: Starting Over

Every time I left the country, I started over.  Peels of myself scattered, the citrusy rind curling.  A car in the salty air, a box of books molding; and then a car traded for more money in my bank account.  Converted to soles and bolivianos, converted to euros, to forints.  Pieces of myself, old handprints from preschool and journals wailing with teenage poetry, concealed in cardboard and tape.  Any objects that pointed towards permanency were destined to be on the steps of a local thrift shop or in the hands of friends.  Traded for a backpack and a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s.

Every time I left, it was like shaving my head.

I am not done leaving, travelling, living on other lands.  [It seems easier, sometimes, than living in the States.]

I might not be done shaving my head either.

But I don’t want to cut all of these ties my anxious and earnest hands have been weaving.

This time, instead of starting over in a new country, with all the stumbling, dumb grinning, and those exotic bags of chips, I am staying here.  To build something.  With anxious hands and itchy feet.

Yes, I am itchy to leave and go and see, but I am also itchy to be grounded.

It has taken many countries and lots of arms-flung-upward abandon to realize this one is the most foreign to me.

So I am starting over, again, here.

 

This was written in response to a writing challenge from WordPress on starting over.

Moon in Winter: Meditations on the Turn of the Year

It shouldn’t come as any surprise to you that lately, I have been feeling very wintery.  The moon has been living in my belly; a cold and swollen stone.  Moving is difficult, and direction eludes me.  I could write you all kinds of poetry about it, feed you metaphors about treading water and drowning, about my closed eyes and heart, but I’ve done all of that before.  I am trusting you can picture the paralysis, that maybe, perhaps, you have been experiencing it yourself.

I am no expert on anything, really, but can speak from my experience living on this planet.  It was a hard year for us human beings.  There was tumult and terror, and there seemed to be more than usual, but maybe that just shows my sensitivity to it.  It’s not news to me that change is the only constant, but I felt it this past year more than ever.  In my tribe of friends and family, many people I know (myself included) have been reeling.

If I had to pick one word for 2012, it would be transition.  Related words include: difficult, change, indecision, choice, surrender, grief and growth.

The new moon on January 11th came with a similar message.  Through two readings, it was affirmed to me that depression, turning inward, and slowing down all went hand in hand with this new moon.  I was told to be patient, and not to judge where I am in the process.  We are gathering strength for the next step in our path.

So many of us have been waiting for a long time for the next step in our path.  I can empathize with feeling done with this whole waiting business.  I can empathize with feeling powerless, or perhaps more accurately, afraid of my own power.  But the message that is repeatedly sent to me is this: hang in there, feel your feelings, and breathe through it—a change is coming.

There is another reason to cut yourself some slack.  Besides being a human (a tough break, really, and the only kind of training we get is on-the-job), it’s also winter.  Our bodies and biorhythms are so attuned to nature and the turning of the seasons, that even in sunny California, my body and mind are wintering.  I just recently crawled out of the cave where I was hibernating.  There is another word for it, and I’ll give you a clue: it starts with a D.  But does it really need to go there?  If we want to lie low in a cave for awhile, let’s just do that without judging or pathologizing or trying to fix anything.  With this mindset, for perhaps the first time in my life, I embraced and even enjoyed the hibernation.

It’s amazing what can happen when you go inside.  It’s amazing what is inside of you (Spoiler Alert: the Universe!).  Are you having trouble getting in there?

I want to share with you this meditative exercise from Finding Your Way in a Wild New World by Martha Beck (a truly amazing book for anyone aspiring to live a life awake and aligned with their deepest desires and true nature):

Follow Your Own Bloodstream

  1. Take a few deep, full breaths.
  2. Exhale completely, and pause before inhaling.
  3. In the space before you need to breathe in again, focus your attention on your heart until you can feel it beating. This may take up to a minute.
  4. Take another breath and exhale. Along with your heartbeat, find the sensation of your pulse moving through your hands, feet, scalp, and entire body.
  5. Stay focused on the feeling of your entire circulatory system as it channels your lifeblood to your head and extremities. See if you can feel it moving through your organs as well.
  6. Perform some simple task-walking, making breakfast, making your bed – while continuing to feel your heartbeat and overall pulse. You’ll find the activity becomes strangely blissful.

Winter is a very internal season.  If you look inside yourself and see the chaos of snowdrifts obscuring your path and fallen trees creating obstacles, bless them.  This is part of your path, too, even if it just feels like a pain in the ass.  Even if it just feels like pain.

Yes, winter is difficult, with a cold that bites and a darkness that dampens.  But the plants make it through, and so can we.  On the sunshine we’ve stored and trust in the turn of the seasons.  We’ll get there, we’re getting there (and paradoxically, we are there).  Winter, with all of her biterness, is an essential part of our path.

Don’t despair if you’re despairing, if you lack direction, if you’ve been really still and itching to move but not sure where to go or when. Don’t judge yourself for any process that is taking place—it is only life flowing through you.  I repeat: there is life flowing through you!

Trust, breathe, and leap.  The net will appear.  It’s already there, inside of you.  Spring is coming, but right now, winter is here.  Bundle up and let her in.

 

With thanks to Ruby for teaching me about letting life flow, and great thanks for moon wisdom to Ari Moshe (sign up for his e-mail list to receive moon readings) and Meredith Murhpy.  And thanks to all of my other teachers, of which there are many.

Crisis by Numbers

When I moved back home from Hungary last fall, I was in a funny little place.  I was -less.  Pretty much any adjective or noun you could put in front of that suffix applied to me.  Jobless, carless, planless, listless.  It didn’t feel good, but it did make me feel better the day I remembered my age: 25.  Finally, I had justification for my wandering and wayfaring: the quarter-life crisis.  I told myself, “Do it up!  Have the biggest quarter-life crisis ever!  Because you only have until January 9th.”

If you have been reading (back when my blog’s home was Taking Off and Touching Down), you will know that yes, I did do it up.  Freak-outs?  Check, check and check.  A lot of these remain unwritten (you’re welcome), but just imagine some derivation of this Munch painting:

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On January 9th, I turned 26.  It was a beautiful birthday.  A solo kundalini yoga class, a conversation about the ups and downs of the universe when suddenly a power outage occurred, a beautiful vegan meal, and Eddie Izzard in LA.  So now I’m 26, and this isn’t to say that I am now -full and no longer -less, that I have crazy amounts of direction, but I did come to a realization.

While my quarter-life crisis may be over, my mid-life crisis?  It’s just around the corner.  So don’t mind me, over here, with occasional freak-outs and drastic hair-cuts.  I’m just preparing.

Nothing, Nada, Nincs or Funny Little Space

I haven’t written because I don’t know what to say.  I’m here, treading water maybe, or walking in place, or just duct-taped to the couch.  I might not be here at all.  Maybe I’m somewhere else.

There are small joys, sure, but neither the deep-sads or deep-joys ask to be written.

Or maybe they do but they’re too hard to write.  I’m too tired.  Too somewhere-else.  Too in-the-same-damned-place.

I guess the reason not to write is that part of me is waiting for a shiny plan to reveal, and I don’t have one.  Which is okay most of the time except for when I think about it.  This would be fine, good odds, for someone with a calmer mind; small pills melting metallic on a tongue, eyes glazed, butter brain.  But there’s a terrier in mine and the yips hurt something awful.  So, it’s all a mess, as usual, and as you can see.

At church the other day (I know, weird) an older woman in a red sweater met my gaze and asked, “Could you use a hug?” but it wasn’t a question.

I stuttered, and then said “Always,” which is the truth, but I felt hyper-aware of my smile, suddenly it was painted on and my cheeks cracked from the strain.

I wonder how long I will have to peel.  What to do about the chips and gunk that gather under the crescent moons of my fingernails.  How much I will keep swallowed, how long I will keep the key swallowed so I can’t open or release anything.

Maybe (not maybe, definitely) this is scrambled and not cohesive or threaded, but I have been away from this space for so long, in another funny little space instead, and I want to send something out into the universe.

I heard this quote the other day.  If you don’t transcend your trauma you will forever transmit it.

Beep.  Beep.  Beep.

Election, Afterglow, Love

I cried last night.  So many victories in U.S. politics.  Marriage equality in Maine, Michigan, Maryland, and Washington.  President Obama re-elected.  There are many things he supports that I don’t, but in my mind he is mostly a good and true leader and human being, doing the best he can with our (in my mind) pretty f’d system.  Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay senator (and a woman!) was elected.  Elizabeth Warren is still on the senate.  I know this is a good thing because my brilliant liberal friends rejoiced when it happened, but in all honesty I know little about her.  PBS and Planned Parenthood are safe from Mitt’s slimy paws.  Vaginas everywhere breathe satisfied sighs of relief.


from Barak Obama’s facebook page


In California, we had ballot measures I cared about (and understood!), such as repealing the death penalty (this failed, and I am the tiniest bit dumbfounded.  Maybe because I am not a fan of killing?  Maybe because many innocent people end up executed?), ramping up trafficking penalties (this passed, which I am not happy about.  Why?  Read this article.), funding for schools (prop 30, the better of two initiatives, passed!), and the labeling of GMO foods (failed).  

After the election, I was elated.  Obama in office, gay marriage accepted in several more states (this takes our count up to 11!), a gay lady in on the senate, and a surprisingly gracious concession speech from Romney.  


from HRC’s facebook page



This country, the subject of so many of my rants, made some big progress last night.

It’s something, but we have more to do.

Big corporations control our food (not to mention our farmers) and our tongues are too slow to ask where it’s coming from, what’s in it.  There are still 49 states without basic civil rights for many humans in our population.  We’re still engaged in wars, using too much oil, wasting so much of our food (if we can call much of what we eat “food”), and largely ignoring climate change and global warming. 

I want to be part of the solution.  I don’t want a life on the sidelines, armchair activism and apathy, charges to which I both plead guilty.  It’s not as though I am living a particularly terrible life, impacting our world in a negative way, but I want to contribute lovingly and passionately, live in this community of human beings and work toward positive change.  And yet.  Sometimes I stop and wonder.  How much of the earth is in our hands, how much of this world, so weary, rests on our shoulders?



from http://www.lunapresenceyoga.com



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Do you want to improve the world?
I don’t think it can be done.

The world is sacred.
It can’t be improved.
If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.

There is a time for being ahead,
a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion,
a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous,
a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe,
a time for being in danger.

The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
and resides at the center of the circle.


-Tao Te Ching

Is this the answer, or just some kind of copout?  What is the difference between acceptance and apathy, detachment and denial?

I might not have the answers to these questions, but a similar answer keeps coming up for me, and it has to do with (surprise, surprise) the heart.

from peaceflash’s facebook page

In these times of uncertainty and triumph (have there ever been any other times?), may all of our actions spring from that still-beating place.  May we all tend to our hearts and the earth—and easy on the roundup, please.  The seeds have been planted, they are our true nature, and these seeds need our careful cultivation.  May we sing to what we sow with a mind set on peace, and bloom in deep kindness.  May we be the instruments of this peace, marching ever onward and inward.  And may love, of all things, prevail.  Please.  Let us let this great love prevail.