Stupid, Useless, Guilty! A Tribute.

My friend died.  I hadn’t seen her in awhile as we travel in different directions most of the time. She had spent much of the last years caring for her sick mother and sister a few hours away in Birmingham.

I took a too rare trip to my yoga home a few months ago and she was there.

“It’s been too long, how are you?”

“I just found out I have stage four cancer! Can you believe it?” She waved her hand over herself. “Me!”

She didn’t whisper as people with horrific news often do. She shouted it out as if to dispel it by force. We are all friends there after all.

She was astonished by the possibility of a clean life fostering that disease. She is a calm and capable and happy woman. She teaches restorative yoga and heals students with singing bowls. She is a painter, an artist who lives an artful life. Who lived an artful life.

She had digestive issues and found there was cancer there that had metastasized. She felt so fine I think she believed she would denounce that cancer and send it running. I believed that.

She suffered through chemotherapy, lost her hair, kept going to the studio and kept teaching her own classes. Her hair grew back. She had another art show.  She had departed from her signature work to something more formed, brighter and simpler. She offered a spread of the same favorite foods she always served. Other than the show being in her yoga studio rather than the usual gallery, all seemed status quo. She was lively, resplendent.  I thought she was mending.

A month or so went by that we didn’t cross paths again.

I got the news by a group mailing. At first it seemed untrue. Surely I would have known a different way. She and I had shared yoga time and painting time and healing time together. My bookmarks are all the birthday cards she made me over the years.

She had been on my mind daily as it’s the Jewish holidays and she is an observant Jew, one of my few Jewish friends who feel what I feel right now. This is a heavy holiday as it heralds a week of reflection and forgiveness. I can’t say why I felt it portend to something heavy with her but I did. She died on the Jewish New Year.

I chanted all I could remember of Yizkor, the Mourner’s Kaddish for the dead. Yizkor means remember. I lit a candle beside a wool basket she had made me filled with her signature painted sculptures.

I called a friend who was her student to tell him. He already knew.

I said, I don’t know what to do. I feel stupid and useless and guilty.

Chris, always a wise guy said, hey that’s a great hook for your business card.  

I was grateful for the laugh.

And the perspective.

I have the flu. I thought I was past it but a night of grief and memories left my lungs with lead weights and a brain sodden and spongy. I will blame my self deprecation on that.

I am not stupid or useless. And maybe I’m guilty of not living a life as full of potential as she did and as she saw in me. And maybe I was guilty of believing she would live and not sending her flowers or cards as I did my last friend that died in a similar way. I had a heads up with that friend that she was not for this world. I had heard Kaaren was challenged again but I knew she was still teaching and wrongly assumed she would go on.

It’s still hot in Nashville. There’s a dry breeze in the slowly dying trees that tells us things have changed despite the temperature.

I slowly walk my dogs on fully stretched leashes. The puppy is pulling me forward. The elderly dog holding me back. This feels like limbo and I note the irony of my observation.

So much more time is behind than before me. To move directionless is wasted time. It is a prison.

What could be crueler than to be a being conscious of your own inevitable demise? We are all on death row. We know the history of death. But all of nature screams keep moving and to scorn that is to scorn life itself.

When loved ones pass they leave us the gift of gratitude for each free breath. Yizkor also upholds that the soul gains additional merit if the memory of its, of her, good deeds spur loved ones to improve their ways.

Kaaren Hirschowitz Engel, you continue to inspire me as you always did. Though life ends, the legacy of you who nourished everyone you touched lives on with us.

May you rest in peace.

 

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Report from the Implosion. Blah, Blah, Blah.

Spiritual Exhaustion

Clouds tap Morse code on the skylights overhead.

 

There’s a message I don’t bother to decipher. I don’t really even look. Peripherally aware, I let it go.

 

Last night I brushed my teeth with hydro-cortisone cream and wondered why the toothpaste tasted so bad. It took a long moment to register. And then only because I noticed that something was different about my carefully curated basket beside the sink.  In a quick glance, a painting always on my wall kind of noticing, I recognized that something was off. I’d non-habitually thrown the only thing that relieves the endless bug bites of Tennessee summer next to the toothpaste instead of on the counter where it usually sits till autumn.

 

Ask the people who know me best what comes to mind about my mind and they will tell you I don’t miss a thing. Is it stress or age or exhaustion or depression or what? I’m missing.

 

I turned on the news yesterday morning to hear the Sunday news shows. I’ve been eating a daily breakfast and dinner of world crisis and crazy election shit sandwiches. I watch like I’ll be tested. I watch like something more shocking can occur. I watch like it matters that I know.

 

I switched from one station to the next to get a taste of the offerings. I would say I was paying attention if not my fullest attention as I was making coffee and feeding dogs and putting away dishes washed the night before. But all I heard was blah, blah blah.

 

I steeled myself to the television. What was happening? Is this what they call ADHD? Why can’t I pay attention!! I turned up the volume but I could not make out the words.

 

I could blame it on a Nashville party weekend and there was that but gears don’t slip that far unless they’re totally stripped. Seems I am totally stripped.

 

I haven’t posted much about this election. I have my reasons. But I have written scores. I looked back over some musings today.

 

The phenomena of a reality T.V. figure appropriating the highest branch in the Republican family tree is shocking. How did he do it? He understood an electorate’s doubt in itself and this life. He understood how to slither between the broken shards of people’s uncertainty. Can a guy that sure be wrong? They’re mesmerized by the gold crown on his self anointed head.

 

 

Politicians speak with confidence. We’re used to ignoring them. Trump got our attention with a confidence that didn’t jive with his adolescent insecurity. He fascinates us by calling admirers wonderful and detractors nah -nah names. He reduces the gravitas of President with a combination of juvenile delinquent and Mafia Don while his fans cheer him on. While a person of conscience would have exhausted himself, Trump fueled by the disease of winning can’t stop. While anyone else would have been buried under so much awfulness, Trump’s supporters are enthralled.

Trump RNC

Perhaps they see themselves in him or want to. Maybe it feels good to let all the trappings of civilization get trod under boots thick with the mud you want to roll in. Have we been too tightly wrapped? Are we longing to be overcome and helpless? Do we lack faith in ourselves or just that much faith in the system?

 

The name Clinton no longer has the ring of progressive intelligence. It is besmirched with the wanderings of a sex addict and the hint of lawlessness regrettably tinged with boring that describes the long suffering wife. Still, there is a history there of good deed doings that Trump lacks entirely. It’s something to cling to like a leaky raft. She lacks the history of stomping on the little guy. That’s a clear difference.

Hillary

There is an ongoing history of persuasive leaders and vulnerable followers whether victims of government or kidnappers or even yoga teachers. Not all leaders are the same. Some are idealized and elevated without seeking that status. Some purposefully reach for power. Those work to convince us they know more than we do. Whether different personalities end up in the same muck given the same circumstances or character trumps circumstance is an individual thing. But power is hypnotizing. Ask Frodo.

 

More fascinating is the nature of the follower. My brain almost refuses to dwell on the topic. I want to reduce it to the word douche bag. I want to reduce all annoyances to douche bag right now. But it’s not so simple. We are one body of exhausted people who feel powerless. We are tired of struggling to keep our heads above the quicksand. We’re dying to let go. Not all of that is our fault.

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We are Salesmen

It’s a new day.  So I open e-mail even though I don’t want to because that’s what responsible people do. I’m being sold. I’m braced for the assault. Buy this, think this, try this, help this, read this. If I put this rant on my site I am selling. If I put it on social media, I am marketing. Anyone with a Facebook account is a salesman.

 

This export/import business of social media sucks a lot of time. That’s why I see some friends less unless I make the effort. Some are lost in the bazaar. They are exporting and importing, trading with friends and strangers from solitary seats. It’s a fluid life without scheduled time so these things tend to run all over the day and night. The nature of man is to ingest and eliminate and so maybe this is a natural extension but me, I have indigestion.

 

I worked for a couple of yoga studios after I left mine. The yoga scene had shifted to what would be known as modern yoga though that had happened about a hundred years ago.

 

I was told it was my responsibility to promote my classes on social media. The only reason I’d gone to a studio was to avoid self promotion. It didn’t work out. Though I am a gregarious hostess, I am more a recluse than a joiner when it comes to strangers. I am not comfortable with a disingenuous life. The act of reaching out to strangers through a black hole befuddles me. On the other hand, I have no problem presenting my work as a resume to the world. Websites seem a logical solution.

 

So What’s in a Name?

It was the late 1900’s and an entrepreneurial client had bought a website company for a hobby. He wanted to build a website and insisted it be mine and demanded I create a name for my company which was only me and gave me a computer to boot despite my protests. I didn’t give a crap about a name so I picked Active Yoga since I was teaching a physically powerful class and I figured it gave the right impression and of course it started with the letter A so that had to be a plus in the now defunct phone book. It seemed like a lame name but there were no other yoga sites as far as I knew. Yoga people didn’t have websites so it didn’t matter what I called it. Famous last clueless thoughts…

 

That website was a day-glow mess and now my “brand” was out on the new world wide net so I enlisted the young web designer husband of one of my ballerina students to give me a professional make-over. I wanted something that read like a book. He wanted flash and sizzle. We argued. I told him my students wouldn’t even know how to engage a technical site. He told me, “Your students are stupid!”

 

I told him I wanted it to be a resume of my experience. He told me, “No one gives a shit about content. You will be the only one who will ever read it!” I told him that was fine.

Active Yoga_Inverse 450

In 2000 I added the domain name Rebel Yoga since that had become the unofficial title the students had given me but it was unusable in the South considering the Civil War and all. It was later the moniker of a couple of excellent yoga saleswomen from the East and fourteen years later I dumped it for a grand.

 

Active Yoga went through one more incarnation a few years ago so I could manage it myself. I leave it there for posterity though I’m told to add content every week to drive traffic. Driving traffic is a passionless activity for me so I don’t bother. Where a website was once marketing, it is now dead as a tome filed in the tombs of the library’s basement if you don’t sell it regularly.

 

Now we use our names for titles because we are our own brand. It makes perfect sense and why didn’t I think of this sooner? Every yoga teacher certainly alters the yoga they learned as it’s alchemized by individual perception. Of course my yoga is Hilary Lindsay Yoga. Why had I wished to presume anonymity when I was posting a website? I should have just shouted my name but then in those days before we became voyeurs, people valued privacy. Now I am HilaryLindsayYoga.com but it comes up as Active Yoga because like my husband’s last name, it has become me.

 

Look at the biggest salesman of all, Donald Trump! He has his name on everything and if it has his name you have an impression of it whether it’s clothes or meat or a tower or a golf course.

Trump

Despite the image of Trump, sales are not a bad thing.  How else would we know what is out there?  I’ve been sold so many things that improve my life and I’m grateful.

 

On the other hand, social media imitates a third world open market with hawkers trying to get each others attention. Like you, I am often bored, suspicious and exhausted by it. Like you, I am lucky when a good salesman catches my eye and fortunate when I recognize a fraud. What we ingest we must digest. That’s what I have to say about shopping and buying. We are all in sales unless we can live solitary lives not dependent on others. We pick what we can assimilate. No need to apologize unless you think you are the one who can change the nature of our economy to something better but don’t try.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wonderful and Terrible

I teach yoga to the veterans and when they don’t show up I hang out in what stands for their lobby given the coffee maker and odd array of stained chairs.

I chitchat with the mostly old guys who come to Operation Stand Down for companionship and shelter.

 

A radiant sky turns black. Gale force winds swiftly strain branches and rain ricochets to the sky from the murky pavement in waves. A roomful of heads turn.

Wire rimmed granny glasses and a head of brown curls frame the face of an ageless fellow with an unwavering grin. He regards the storm and me.

“It’s wonderful and terrible! “

 I concur.

“I want to get out in it”, he says.

I agree though neither of us makes a move toward the blitz.

 

And then it’s over as quickly as it began.

I’m left with the joyful resonance of wonderful and terrible.

 

Our unavoidable political process

My youngest son

The yoga business

The animals that eat and get eaten

We people that love and hurt and hurt each other

Abundance and the fear of loss

Poverty and the hope of redemption

The rush tinged with terror

A placid pond with vicious mosquitoes

The lightning bolt in a purple sky

The earth’s thirst quenched and the choking flood.

 

From my singular position to the macrocosm I suddenly realize it’s all the same.

At once and always

 

This is the beautiful wonder-filled life we were handed

This is the one we were born to love

To want to get out in it no matter its nature, is ours.

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Nowhere Man

I’m awake which sucks because it’s almost dawn and if I slept it was fitfully. Frustrated, I hurl myself out of bed, poetry writing itself in my head.

 

Writing words that no one will read

Painting pictures that no one will see.

Huh.

I take stock of my thoughts. Plainly I’ve got work to do.

 

I am way overtired. We’d been to a party of dear friends. We party like it’s a job interview that we will kill. We celebrate with abandon which despite our lovely lives is not our lot.

 

It’s too early and even for a morning after I know I will suffer too much. I make a play for sleep again and it comes though an hour later my new pup wakes me with a muscular swipe at my face. I roll out of bed and throw on my robe as a song starts playing in my head.

He’s a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land…. Oh you’ve got to be kidding.

 

In the 70’s Lennon told Rolling Stone Magazine how he conceived The Beatles song Nowhere Man. “I was just going through this paranoia trying to write something and nothing would come out so I just lay down and tried to not write and then this came out, the whole thing came out in one gulp.”

 

I get that and thank you John for helping me to believe I may be more like you than just the lazy creative free procrastinator I  imagine myself right now.

 

And then there’s the nagging realization that most beautiful creations will go unnoticed. They come from souls who no one will know. But that doesn’t mean they’re nobody.

 

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Revolution 2016 is Not an Election but a Reckoning

It began with the presidential blow job that finished Bill Clinton at the hands of a mercenary court of jesters who didn’t realize they were hanging the image of America along with Clinton’s presidential dick.

 

In came boy George and old man Cheney. Time to change the guard. The Dems were dirty. We don’t condone that in Yankee Doodle.

 

People like to assign blame. Who did it is initially more important than why it got done or how it happened. We want to punish someone and give vent to our anger. Eastern psychopaths assigned blame to the U.S. infidels. We got attention with the sex scandal  topping up our other depravity like greediness, ungodliness and world domination. It was a good time to vent.

 

Cheney and the boy roused Yankee Doodle and we went to war with the guy we could quickly blame even though it was the wrong guy and the wrong blame and meanwhile wages forgot to get raised with the cost of living.  People starved for many things because things cost money and kids can be too much trouble to raise when you’re depressed with an empty pit in your belly and then those kids were angry and forget school because why bother and our decline grew.

 

What better time to elect a sort of Black president with a message of hope and change? So we did.

Euro street art in downtown Nashville

There was the onslaught of technology. No one could keep up. We weren’t prepared to know the work we needed to learn. We weren’t prepared for the onslaught of depression and divisiveness now come to the surface as we shouted in each others faces by one venue or another non-stop. No stop. Ever.

In the land of opportunity we were all that! Everybody strutting for the camera. Declarative sentences only.

 

But we can’t support ourselves and our infrastructure can’t support us either. Reality is shifting like the ice caps under polar bear paws. Blame the politicians. Blame the rich. Blame the other guys. It’s not our fault is our mantra and to some degree it is not.

 

There is a wormhole and Toy Story’s army of creepy toys crawls out of the slime and onto the stage to become the Republican hopefuls.

 

When Fiorina dropped off Cruz’s carni soapbox like a hung corpse cut loose and pulled down by a blood thirsty mob it was clear we had gone through the looking glass. Nothing could be more telling since Madame Defarge’s satisfied knitting at carnage’s front row even if it was only my imagination.

 

I’ve had my eye on Trump since The Apprentice which I watched with the same grim fascination I watch all corruption of humanity. He was no better than the guy running dog fights for profit. His M.O. was to turn members of the team against each other. You watch him now like I did then. Shock and horror. Better to see it coming than let it surprise you, I say.

 

And Hillary is a wonder to me. How she ever went out in public after the public shaming of her marriage is beyond me but then I guess that’s why she feels so comfortable with Anthony Weiner’s still wife. People say she’s power hungry and who isn’t? Don’t you want to feel powerful? She’s been dreaming of glory since she was a little girl who wanted to be an astronaut. That’s a bigger desire for power than I certainly have. I just want to control my own life which is never going to happen to me or anyone else. But I don’t fault her for it. If you ask me she has the largest measure of self control I’ve ever seen unless that’s just for the public.

I can’t imagine what she laid on Bill back when. Yeah I can.

 

Bernie is an old hippie with vision. Or visions.  I am too.  Good food, the love of a family who can be present for you, financial stability, a life that has a place for all of us and a good education is the beginning of mine.

 

I’d like to hear him say we should have respect for everything living on this earth. I would like to hear him refute Trumps’ charges that America will be great again when we bring back dinosaurs. I mean non-technology jobs. I’d like him to say we can be the janitorial meek for the gilded palaces of the rich when we inherit the earth and maybe a factory job. He won’t say that though because he’s not jaded like me. Sarcasm is a weak man’s weapon. But he could say that Mexicans aren’t taking our jobs because we are eliminating our own jobs as society shifts. Robots will farm and do construction soon enough so we can have more time to abuse the prescription drugs that are the only things being handed out freely to everyone.

 

Now that shameless is on the table and no one feels the cringe like the first cringe when Mexicans were declared rapists, the G.O.P.  Zombies are climbing out of their shallow graves to form alliances hoping to stand again in the spotlight no matter that it’s meant for someone else. Even someone appalling. Even someone who trashed them and their loved ones. Unlike their vampire brethren, they live on the light.

 

Who will be the next leader of the free world?  It’s down to an indomitable woman, an old hippie or a celebrity businessman. We don’t agree on the answer but we are mostly at the end of one rope. Let’s hope we don’t use it to hang ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Voice of Civilization

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During the last election, a voice analyst on public radio discussed what one might glean from the voices of John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton.

 

She said that Hillary was unlikable and perceived as whiny when she raised her voice because as a woman, she is the “voice of civilization” and no one likes to hear the voice of civilization sound peeved. She explained that the voice of civilization tells you to take a shower, take your vitamins and make your bed. She said that we can take it when a man raises his voice because it’s acceptable but the voice that maintains order in the home must be sweet. A woman sounds trashy, while a man sounds, well, manly.

 

There have been more than a few times in my life when a man has shouted, “don’t yell at me” when I’ve raised my voice just enough to be emphatic and if I’ve been foolish enough to insist in a firm voice that I am not yelling, I’ve been shouted back at by someone who doesn’t seem to notice the irony.

 

I’m wondering who was trying to fool us when they made a commercial for some antidepressant with a woman doing the voice-over in a reassuring, confident, voice of civilization kind of trustworthy way. She’s letting me know I might be depressed even if I don’t think so and that I can get a pill that will keep the depression away. She’s a siren luring sailors to a drowning death, cooing like Snow White to her seven dwarfs, convincing me to take the pill which can cause me to kill myself or have a stroke or destroy my liver or cause tremors and nausea. Those things don’t even sound dangerous when she describes them like she’s sharing her secrets for immortality.

6472337-surrealist-artwork-of-a-woman-wearing-a-dress-which-becomes-the-ocean

 

Is this the tone a woman must take to be heard as she campaigns against men for the presidency? Shall she manipulate her tone to be a voice that we can hear without being reactive?

 

The answer is yes for some of the public and my advice for Hillary Clinton as she campaigns in 2016 is to put on the veil of illusion that is not much different from any other political manipulation that we are so aware of because it will allow her to even the playing field as a woman. Give them the voice of civilization as men perceive it. That would be a masterful political stroke. That is the strongest voice there is and this is a year of the master game.

 

You have only to take a page from Donald Trump’s playbook to see how simple it is to manipulate people when you give them what they think they want. I do not imagine he would break bread with most of the crowd he has amassed. He is not one of them but they have missed that being so caught up in his relentless performance.

 

If this election points out anything it is that people are frightened. Period. Give them the cool hand on the scorched forehead, Senator. Let the vehicle of civilization lure them, lull them into your lap.

 

Trump’s wife and beloved daughter know that. He told the rabid crowd in Arizona yesterday that they both urged him to act presidential. Listen to your women, Trump. They are the voices trying to civilize you.

 

Author’s note: This post was revised from a post I wrote in 2008 railing against drug sales on television which I found doubly heinous when done with a woman’s voice over.  This is not a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump but a point of view on the differences of the sexes.

 

 

 

 

 

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