Seeking My Best Self

trying to make sense of my life – and lose some weight

Thoughts on the Eve of a New Year

glasses

Another year has passed. Of course, seasons and years are artificial constructs – they don’t truly exist, except in our minds. Still, they provide a way for us to divide the expanse of time into digestible chunks. At the end of this chunk we call 2015, I find myself reflecting back on a year of heartbreak and breakthrough.

The breakthrough began when I finally went to counseling. Yes. Me. I know I’ve ranted (for decades) about the voodoo that is psychology and huffed self-importantly as I denigrated the soft social ‘sciences’ (usually including the air quotes.) Dubious or not, I finally tired of repeating certain life patterns and found a competent counselor.

07atiyeh 48webOn my first visit, I did my best not to roll my eyes when she wanted to start with my childhood. Hello. I’m almost 60. How relevant could my childhood be? I’m WAY past blaming Mommy for my choices. Then I found myself blubbering like a baby as we discovered that my deep-seated abandonment complex came not from my husband’s suicide in 2002, not from my mother’s remarriage in 1961 (she spent two whole days alone with my step-dad before fetching me to share the rest of their honeymoon) but from my bio-dad’s abrupt departure when I was a toddler. It turns out, understanding origins really can help.

cherie bio pic 2016I learned that there isn’t a bad Cherie and a good Cherie. That the good Cherie isn’t the ‘real’ Cherie, but that I come as an entire package and until I learn to embrace my whole self, I can’t be happy. So I let bad Cherie out of the dungeon. I felt sorry for those around me, because bad Cherie – ahem, because I – can be snippy and abrupt, quick to let others know when they’ve tread on my toes, and impatient with rudeness and incompetence.

Imagine my surprise when a friend told me I’m actually easier to be around. “You’re more light-hearted,” he said. “You seem calmer, even in the midst of small crises.” He’s right. I do feel calmer. I’m glad to know my outside matches my inside.

My self-improvement crusade included losing fifteen pounds (ten to go), having a regular yoga practice, daily prayer/meditation, and regularly indulging hobbies, including playing my piano, guitars, and ukulele. I haven’t opened my clarinet case yet, and I’m sure my neighbors are grateful. I’m clearer on my life and on my goals. And at the very end of the year, I met someone. More on that (I hope) in posts to come.

My heartbreak is for our nation. Police treatment of people of color in our country has been beyond shameful – it looks a lot like deliberate genocide. The response of our court system to the police murders is even more horrifying. It appears they’ve totally misinterpreted the statement, “Justice is blind.”

grandkidsI fear for my grandchildren, who could be shot dead on a playground for playing with toys that white children may use with impunity. I fear for my son-in-law – a teacher, a tri-athlete – who runs daily. My daughter said she worries every time he goes out. She should. Apparently, no judge would prosecute the police officer who killed him for the crime of jogging while black, which means it’s open season on people of color.

grandma and gidu scanThe Syrian refugee crisis hits just as close to home, because my grandparents emigrated from Syria in the early years of last century. The rhetoric of some in our country toward the refugees scares me. Their concerns have nothing to do with national security, it’s merely an excuse to hate and to attack anyone who looks different from the white ‘norm’. I am outraged at those who dare use the name Christian while spouting such ignorance and hatred. I am frustrated because I don’t know what to do about it.

I don’t know what to do about ANY of it. The injustice. The bigotry. The deliberate choice to hate. What I do know is that I cannot respond with hatred. In the midst of it all, I am called to love. To embrace those who are hurting. To embrace those who do the hurting. To embrace myself. All of myself – the hurting and the hurter, because I am both. Our country is both. Hating will not lead to healing. We can only love ourselves into wholeness.

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Headed for Hawaii

DSCF2264“Cherie, I need your help!” A dear client – who now lives in Maui – called me last week. She had photography needs, which she planned to attempt herself. She wanted me to provide long-distance guidance.  Being the altruistic person that I am, I suggested an alternative. Why didn’t she just fly me over there to provide direct services, saving her time and frustration?  She was delighted with the idea, so tomorrow I take off for sunny Maui.

That’s wonderful, right? Except that I’m still 18 pounds overweight. I’m EMBARRASSED to be seen in scanty clothing, and besides, my summer clothes don’t fit.

Beware Cherie the beluga whale, flesh acquivering as she saunters over the sands! Avert your eyes, children dear, lest ye be scarred for life!

I know, I know. How idiotic can I be? But I have to admit, after my initial delight, that was my next reaction.

I assessed my current clothing options. I had a bathing suit. It was two decades old, but it was one-piece and black. With a pair of exercise shorts, I would feel…covered. I had plenty of tank tops. I had a nice skirt. All I really needed to round out the ensemble was a pair of shorts.

So, yesterday I went downtown. I have to tell you, even at ideal weight, clothing shopping ranks WAY DOWN on my list of pleasurable activities. I hate shopping. I’d rather be reading a book. (OK, that’s not fair. “I’d rather be reading a book” is a very difficult mark to best. It was the standard during my dating days, which explains why I had two-hundred-and-forty-seven first dates and only three second dates.)

It was SO depressing. I started at Ross Dress for Less (newly opened, their signs have defaced the elegant brick buildings of the downtown mall. Shows what money can buy. It’s the only explanation for these cheap, plastic white and blue billboard-size monstrosities. Note: the same downtown governing board had a hissy fit few years ago when a small business tinted their windows too dark, because THAT didn’t conform with the aesthetics of their downtown vision) and then visited Kohl’s. Everything I tried on confirmed my fears – watch out for Cherie the Beluga Whale!

I went to Nordstrom. No, I wasn’t going to pay $112 for clothing I hoped would be too large by May. At Macy’s, I finally found shorts that didn’t cause my muffin top to expand as though it were being baked at high altitude. I liked them well enough to wear them out of the store, even though the saleswoman looked critically at me and asked, “Did you try a smaller size?”

No. Leave me alone. I feel comfortable. I feel attractive. I feel, for a change, like I’m not being squeezed in two.

Hawaii, here I come!

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Travel Light, Travel Far

I’ve finished my first adulthood, and I’m ready for the second. You see, I think the years from our mid-twenties to our mid-fifties are just a practice round, where we learn the game, become familiar with the equipment and master the rules. After that we’re ready to play like pros, now that we have the maturity and experience necessary to really smack the ball.

Why, then, does society act as if later life are the years of decline rather than ascendancy? Why are we encouraged to become cautious RIGHT when we should be fearless? I really like what Anne Morrow Lindbergh has to say about mid-life. In her book, Gift from the Sea, she says,

“The signs that presage <second adulthood> are so similar, it seems to me, to those in early adolescence: discontent, restlessness, doubt, despair, longing. But now these are interpreted falsely as signs of decay.”

In other words, the exact same symptoms that we understand as signals of growth the first time around, we misinterpret as decline and impending death the next. Instead of looking forward to our second awakening, we run from it, choosing to become static displays rather than seeing how far we can fly.

My motto for this second era is: travel light, travel far. It’s the time to declutter, to empty my home (and my mind) of that which is useless or merely ornamental.  I don’t need possessions or arcane knowledge to prove my worth. Besides, at best they are the measure of a past self, not the person in the present mirror.

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Dream Curling

Some people have a dream that consumes them, one that brings life-long contentment upon its fulfillment. Me, I’m a serial dreamer. As soon as one is achieved, a new one takes its place. I’ve never had the satisfaction of *arriving* – for me, it’s always about the journey and the joys (and frustrations) therein.

A year ago, we moved to Portland. Correction: we moved to Milwaukie. Which is NOT Portland. (How can a city that abuts Portland manage to be so conservative and hicksville? To the fourteen people in town who have a liberal leaning – I’m not talking about you. I love you.)

tali 16wk

Taliesin this morning
sixteen weeks

But we lived close enough to Stumptown to enjoy its vibrance and weirdness. Close enough for it to whisper in our sleep at night…”you need a dog…” (Portland is dog-town USA, if you didn’t know. And not everyone there feeds their dog a vegan diet.)

Portland is not one big gritty lump of city – it’s a amalgamation of neighborhoods, each with its own wine bar, pubs, dress boutique, and chachki shops. A place where everybody knows your name.

Except that, even after a year, no one knew mine. I never found my stomping grounds. Never developed a ‘Norm!’ relationship with a pub – though I tried, I really did. The only place where we were greeted with neighborly warmth was St. John’s, located at the OTHER end of Portland, too far to travel for a nightly brewski and shout-out.

We explored the area around my studio – both locations: first the inner SE Buckman neighborhood, and then the west side in John’s Landing. We talked about moving to one of those locations. Maybe there we would find our peeps?

But my dreams carve their own paths, and they rarely coincide with my imaginings. It’s like curling. Some of us are throwers and some are sweepers. Throwers heave their dreams like stones onto the ice and run along behind to see where they come to rest. Sweepers run in front, carefully grooming the path to help the stone land right where they intend.

Truth is, we need to do a bit of both. If we don’t throw, but merely sweep, the dream is as immobile as a rock. But if we throw without brooming, our dreams can veer wildly off-course, crashing and tumbling, coming to an abrupt halt far short of any goal. Me, I like to toss as hard as I can, and do just a bit of sweeping.

It means I need to maintain a fluidity of heart, mind and soul as the dreams slide and move in ways I don’t anticipate. I prefer it that way. I’m the girl who never peeks in advance at her Christmas presents, because I like the surprise.

So, this week, we moved. Not to a Portland neighborhood – in fact, we moved over an hour in the opposite direction. We’re living on an 8-acre farm outside of Salem. WHAT????!!!! you may think. Yeah, me too. How did I wind up here?

Well, the little town nearby, Monmouth, is a college town, and its developed a really groovy little downtown. A wine bar. Pubs. Coffee shops. Dress shops.

And I walked into the BiMart, which I haven’t visited for at least five years, and the checker said, “You’ve changed your hair since I last saw you.”

Norm!

I guess I’m home. For now.

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