Sunday, October 31, 2010

I'm Down, But Don't Count Me Out

Hi, Boomers,
Nothing like getting sick, I mean really sick like in the worst pneumonia sick, like I mean the kind they call "whopping pneumonia, and "that's the worst right lung I've ever seen," to get one thinking: how the hell did I get this sucker?
Denial is one way I got sick. Over working is another way I got sick. Not resting between my yoga gigs is another way. Like not paying attention to my life and how it's going.
Okay, okay, I'm awake. I've sort of got it. I teach 27 classes of yoga Monday through Friday. On Friday, I consider myself resting with one or two classes at most and they are fun and one is tango. I always have my after the tango lessom margarita with my friend, John, and we discuss politics, the pros and cons of voting, and real estate. I'm his new real estate guru and I love having that friendship thing going on whereby I protect him (adore him) like there is nothing more important on the planet for me. The weekend is gravy: I dance and rest somewhat on the weekends.
Lately, however, incorporated into my regular work schedule is the planning and marketing and book signing for SIXTY, SEX, & TANGO, and trying to get some articles out of the PR person I hired, and flying to Vegas to see my grandchildren - now five - I got myself into a pickle, Olie, and I've got pneumonia to prove it. What'd ya think of that kettle of fish?
Not good. Last weekend in Vegas I ran around with both my son's growing families - to lunch with Jordan at his school, to Luc and Greyson for Shabbat lunch at their school, to family gatherings, taking care of two babies, and then a change of plans. Greyson got a kid's modeling agent and there was a photo shoot in LA. on Sunday I drove back to LA with son #2, wife and two kids crushed between two baby seats with the air condition blowing on me. What a life! The LA shoot went extremely well but I was "on call" for that hour and a half. A late stop off for a fabulous milkshake at "Million Dollar Milkshake" and I was home. Yep. There is a fplace called "Million Dollar Milkshake" in West Hollywood on Santa Monica Blvd. (plug for you guys)
There was no rest and the week began again. My muscles started to ache on Tuesday night and I thought I had the flu. All week, I delayed and delayed and put off and put off until I was huddled outside the doctors office on Saturday afternoon waiting for them to open emergency care. I couldn't stand up.
I was almost delirious and in severe pain as I walked into the doctor's waiting room. Of course, I had just driven back from an hour and a half session with my website designer in Long Beach of all places. I was sitting in Starbucks, where else, and freezing and sucking on some good tea and drinking water by the galleons and not quenching my thirst. I had been dehydrated for days. When I got into the doctor's office and was given a blood panel, it took twenty minutes to get the blood and I passed out sometime during the time arm #2 was being drained. The chest XRAY proved conclusive that I had whopping pneumonia. As in, "I'm going to whop your ass if you don't get a new attitude!"
"I need to put you in the hospital," Dr. Boui said. "A case this severe calls for complete bed rest, preferably in a hospital."
I immediately pictured myself in a hospital bed in a shared room with someone wheezing and grunting and millions of bacteria gathering around me to infect me with staff.
"I'm sorry," I said to the doctor. "That's not possible. I don't do hospitals." Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God, please never put me into a hospital.
"Then you must do nothing for four days," she replied with the upmost seriousness.
I almost laughed out loud but I knew this was serious. I had been a very bad girl and I must be punished, I thought, so I'll take my punishment like a soldier.
"Yes, I promise," I replied with my most serious actress face.
I was so relieved just to crawl out of the office and cross the street to CVS to get the antibiotics that I didn't even care of a car ran over me on San Vicente. I waited for the drug that would give me my old life back.
The pharmacy only had three pills left. I wanted to scream but instead I cried. I cried in CVS, not for the lousy service and the creepy store and the snot-nosed kids trying on their Halloween costumes, but because I wanted my fix.
"Come back on Monday afternoon and we'll get you the rest," the eternally sweet pharmacist said to me.
They gave me the three pills free because I was so pathetic and I walked feebly out of the store, thinking I was home free. But I wasn't free of anything, including my continued need to work and be productive and stay close to my family. In spite of having to rest, to go to bed at 7 pm and soak my sheets with sweat all night, I was so wishing that I was at my gala milonga Saturday night dancing with my adorable new Greek friend who had dressed up especially for me. God, I hate it when it works out that way.
I remind myself of a petulant adolescent who wants what she wants what she wants. It's not a good state to be in, but I am reflecting today as I blog that all hope for me may not be lost. This is a moment for reflection and for care. Om namah shivaya - translated to "I honor the divine within myself." I say this mantra every day but I evidently haven't understood it lately. So, I'm deciding to really take care of myself. I'm going to Curaco in December for a real rest.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bragging Rights

Hi, Boomers,
I was recently talking to a young mother about being a grandmother. I have five grandchildren at the moment, and I was telling her how sometimes unreal it all felt to have so many grandchildren, to love unconditionally so many children from my children. At that moment, I got all choked up and emotional.
I felt there had been no preparation for being a grandmother. Once my progeny left home, a declared all out freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom to do dumb things without children bearing down on me and co-opting my energy. It felt unbelievably liberating. It didn't feel unbearable - the empty nest and all of that. It didn't feel emotional disconnecting. No more meals to make, rules to make, beds to make, suitcases to pack and unpack, daily laundry to do, papers to write, prom dates to take pictures of, ski trips to pay for, cars to by, and the list goes on.
I am a parent who didn't feel depressed at sending my boys to college. I even encouraged the to choose a college back east. They went far away to meet new people and get new experiences and travel when then could do so. I saw them on the holidays or parent's day and finally graduation. Off to work, now, boys and get a good job, find a nice girl to marry.
And it stopped there. Stopped at find a nice girl and get married. Raising children was a memory, a dear memory sometimes and a nightmare memory other times. We've all been through it and we all know the drill.
Then one day, the oldest son, wants to get engaged. His intended is adorable, getting her PhD in psychology, stable, rather wonderful family, and all looks rosey for everyone. The wedding is large and beautiful, the parents are beyond happy, the guests are having a blast, and the honeymoon is a success.
And then one day two years later, my daughter-in-law is pregnant. And one day without warning, a baby boy appears and I am a grandmother. I don't know what to do, how to feel. Anxiety pervades my being and I am lost in another title. I thought I was done with titles. I was a wife and a mother and a significant other and those were enough titles. Sufficient! Basta! I wandered around being a grandmother for the first year. Just as I was getting the hang of it - diapering, feeding shifts, strolling, napping, crawling, talking the first steps, first words, building lego towers, dancing to music, picking up from pre-school - another grandchild is born. There were two grandsons now. I was going through it again. Different dynamic. Different little boy's personality. Same dance all over again. Lots of visits to Las Vegas to the family. Lots of flying. Lots more love and happiness and disconnect from grandmother title once I return home.
Son #2 gets finds his love, gets engaged, gets married in the meantime. Two years later, he has a boy. Now there are three. Are my arms big enough, strong enough? I still feel like I might not have the hang of being a grandmother. I'm single. My ex isn't the grandfatherly type and shows up every once in awhile. One day my oldest grandson asks me why Papa and I aren't living together. His idea of grandparents are that they live together in the same house. Papa and I do not live together, haven't so for decades.
Then another boy. And then several months ago, a girl. A girl! A real girl! Joy, joy! And I am in love with all of them and I finally find myself believing I am a grandmother.
I told the young girl that it sometimes felt surreal being a grandmother, but now mostly it feels real. Being a grandmother is another state of being. That's what I didn't get at the beginning of my grandmother journey. I'm operating on other cylinders as a grandmother. I'm not a mother. But I am responsible as a mother would be for the care and nurturing of my grandchildren when I am present with them. But then I am not there everyday so I have to be extra, extra conscious when I am with them. My job is to stay present with them in their real time and not worry about anything else.
My son said to me at breakfast this morning as we were about to drive to Los Angeles from Las Vegas for a photo shoot for his son because my grandson was signed by an agent to be a kid's model that if anything would happen to his wife and to him, I wouldn't be able to raise his kids.
"You wouldn't be able to do with other grandparents do," he said casually.
"You'd better believe I could take care of the kids!" I shot back. "I still have it in me to raise a few of my grandkids!"
"No, you wouldn't," he said.
"Yes, I would and don't you think otherwise," I proudly responded. "I still have the skills and fortitude to do it."
"Well, you are organized," he remembered.
And I'm still a mother lioness, I wanted to say, but stopped my protestations because I had made my point. My son wanted the reassurance that I would always be there to be a grandmother, and I believe I gave him every reassurance.
The photo shoot of his son went splendidly. It was amazing to watch a two and a half year old understand the camera. The photographer said he's get a lot of work with his look. He's the picture of all American apple pie with dreadlocks. Edgy, huh?
I've got bragging rights today.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Mind/Body Politic

Hi, Boomers,
Watch out. I'm on a rant - of sorts.
But let's first start with the zen of yoga. Yoga is a spiritual practice that connects the mind and body through the breath. In Hatha Yoga - aka Vinyasa Yoga or Flow Yoga - every movement that a practioner takes on a yoga mat is accompanied by a breath, either an inhale or an exhale. In this manner, mind and body function as an organic whole. This is the zen of yoga.
Have you ever noticed that some people are not very adept at body movement or physical activity? The body is doing one thing - moving, shaking, eyes going every which way. The mind is essentially disconnected from the body. In other words, the mind cannot stop the body from its disassociated movements. It's plain and simple helter skelter. We always say in yoga: quiet eyes; quiet mind. When the the body is functioning on its own and the mind is going in another direction, we might notice that the person is clearly not present. Then what? There will be very little real communication and that's when the going gets very, very difficult.
My Jungian therapist once told me that when two people have a conversation there are really four people speaking. The Man: he is speaking from his anima (his female aspect) and from his animus (the male aspect). The Woman: she is speaking from her anima (her female aspect) and her animus (her male aspect). How complicated is that? No wonder conversation between the male and female is fraught with difficulty! Connect that concept to our national dialogue and it's no wonder than we have a nation at sixes and sevens.
So we've got people who have issues with mind/body connection and we have people who are speaking either more from their masculine or feminine side and there is miscommunication all over the place.
I'm not in favor of dismissing this situation with a clever bon mot, as in "it is what it is." Yes, it is what it is but unconscious communication this default system produces can be emotionally and psychologically damaging to a heathy mindset - to the body politic. Besides, it produces mounds of dysfunction in the form of lies and innuendos, self-deceit and egomaniacal behavior. I don't think politicians have ever heard the yogic phrase: Park your ego at the door.
The lack of a mind/body connection reminds me of America's Realpolitik at the present moment. The recession has brought out the very worst in people. As Maureen Dowd wrote in her op-ed piece in the New York Times, October 17, 2010, American's got a few too many mean girls extracting more than a pound of flesh from those "socialists" democrats as they campaign to become members of the legislative branch of government. "Man up, Harry Reid." It gives the term "mean girls" a new context.
As a result, our political landscape is subjecting itself to heaps of dysfunctional (unconscious) conversation among various individuals who represent particular groupings of like ideologies. They are much like talking heads. Their rants are is very disturbing. We are subjected to a wealth of opinions fabricated out of thin air and definitely not based on an intelligent understanding of economic facts and how these facts might play out in the future. Friday night I saw the head of the Tea Party from one of our states going "head to head" with a prize winning economic journalist from The Wall Street Journal. She couldn't be wrong on facts because she had committed them to memory and he obviously had no research behind his remarks because he, well, Neil Walker was just a journalist for The Wall Street Journal.
The spread of dis-information becomes emotionally pervasive and produces reactive and negative responses that, in turn, produces more of the same. No way to get off this treadmill. Closing the eyes won't help because you'll just fall off and get a huge black eye and a broken ankle.
Heaps of anger produces rage. And the rage is accompanied by irrational words that take the form of emotions; subsequently, the mind and the body become less and less connected. If one is full of rage, it's difficult to remember that the cataclysm began with the economy's collapse and Obama's election. And when things go bad, people demand a fall guy because none of the bad guys went to jail or paid any meaningful price for their crimes of greed. Greed upon greed... The name calling began in earnest on election day because for many hope was a word without meaning and a platitude without substance. And the real body politic fell away.
We boomers had our Cuban Missile crisis, our Vietnam, our Pentagon Papers, our Watergate, our Iranian hostage situation, our Iran Contra, and our skirmish in Grenada. We had plenty to be angry about in those decades, but our mind/body connection stayed relatively in tact.
Anger solves nothing, produces nothing but chaos. Then the mind descends into irrationality and paranoia. The empathic nature of man is nowhere to be found. And fools appear everywhere. There is gay bashing and witch hunting, as in "don't ask, don't tell," and bogeymen Madoffs, and Islamophobia, and identity disorder. All the while we are given the privilege of wearing guns at Starbucks and at political rallies and we bail out executives who lost our money and our homes while we suffer the results of deregulated financial institutions. And we are told in anger that we came out on the losing end. And it's always someone else's fault because we weren't paying attention to our government.
This economic recovery is agonizingly slow and no one has precise answers to make our future better. Those who are in positions to make decisions are sometimes as lost in their morass of facts and graphs and charts and sleepless nights and frustrating days as are ordinary citizens. Our nemesis is our need for instant gratification and the inability to see the macro - the larger picture of how to obtain a positive outcome to our economic malaise. The larger spiritual problem is that our minds and bodies do not act in consort. Until they unite in a compatible construct, we will stay in a state of suspended in unconsciousness instead in a state of grace.
I suggest the body politic take a pill and meditate.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Quote of the Day - October 13, 2010

Quote of the day:

'Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she'll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she'll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart.
She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her. So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit.'

Pasionately Passionate

Hi, Boomers,
I spent the weekend dancing tango in Portland. I love the city of Portland. And I love dancing in that city. The combination is unusually pleasing. Portland is an old and new city. Even as it gentrifies it has an older charm. And it was raining over the weekend. It was a sweet and even rain, bordering on romantic. I felt warm and cherished by its consistency. In my tango world, the city favors the young. And Portland is crazy about tango. It is one of the best cities to dance in within the United States.
When I go away for the weekend to dance tango in other cities, I always meet up with my old friends and often meet new people. It has been interesting to me that most people who dance tango are very bright individuals. Conversation isn't always about tango, although it dominates the interest scale. I'm fascinated by what people do in the professional world. There are ER doctors, lawyers, ex-state troopers, engineers, dentists, environmental consultants, CFO's, accountants, astro physicists, musicians, computer scientists, web designers, massage therapists, nurses, and every other profession you can imagine.
There are not many yoga teachers, but dancing tango is a moving meditation and so it fits well with my profession. Tango is about breathing through the music and the movements and staying absolutely present - in the moment full of consciousness. And it's somewhat addictive emitting adrenalin and serotonin and dopamine into the body's system often causing exhaustion at the end of the evening.
Dancing tango often overtakes a person's brain functions as it promotes the repetition of its musical rhythms and familiar dance movements. It is often good to sit back and take breaks because a milonga can last all night - at the minimum four hours.
What did I get myself in to sixteen years ago? I've been all over the western world dancing tango, to Buenos Aires about thirteen times, to Denver, and New York, and Santa Fe, and San Diego, San Francisco, Albuquerque, and there are plans for more places to visit and dance. I understand that the dancing and music are my passions and I understand that tango is also part of my social life. And I also realize that I am one fortunate lady who just happened to wander in to a tango show in 1987 and found myself enchanted.
It's good to have a passion. And, yes, the passion has to be in balance with life. Not easy sometimes, but it's mentally and emotionally healthy to let all the light into our souls and live as richly as possible.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can

Hi, Boomers,
It's been a surreal week. I haven't been able to blog because my mind of all over the place. I started my full yoga schedule this week at UCLA, adding my classes at the Wooden Center - 2 classes back to back totaling close to three hours more yoga teaching twice a week. Since these classes are held at the end of an already long day, I limp home, try to eat, review emails and go to bed to read and fall asleep instantly.
Monday I had my book signing at the Village Bookstore in the Palisades. I rehearsed my reading all weekend and then on Monday morning, I decided I wanted to read something else from my book. I was sitting in my car rehearsing between classes and never did figure out how I was going to pull it off. And who was going to attend and what the response would be. I sat in my car before going into the bookstore reviewing my reading and finally closed the book and gave it up to the universe.
Over thirty people showed up and those wonderful men and women were full of love and support. It was a completely fun evening. Some bought books, some had books already and everyone was chattering away. I saw old friends - really old friends from my past. There are important people to me and I felt completely blessed. And my new friends and supporters were also milling around and meeting and greeting everyone. Two of my new friends were so very helpful to me: David videoed me for You Tube and Marina, my adorable, brilliant new friend put the clips up on my Facebook page. And my oldest friend from college showed up and I hadn't seen him in decades. We were the essence of Berkeley in the 60's. That was the biggest treat of all. We went for drinks afterward and talked non stop. It was a profound moment when we remembered our being together with the law school gang and my ex husband the day Kennedy was shot.
I know I've said it before but I never had any expectations about writing SIXTY, SEX, & TANGO. I was just expressing an honest tale about getting older, living well in my sixties, forging new relationships, having new experiences, and seeing what comes up.
I have never been much of a career planner. Things kind of just happened to me. I am never afraid to go where I have not been. I'm not resistant to many things in life, including falling in love, even if those I have fallen in love with aren't great mates for me. I don't have a lot of fears or anxieties, except maybe about not having money to live. But that has kind of worked out for me, too, although I never made much - just enough.
I'm also feeling better about being single lately. I used to fret and worry about finding that man who would embrace me. Yet, I'm just find I'm just embracing myself and dancing as fast as I can.
I'm off to Portland to dance tango tomorrow. It's one of my very favorite places to go to dance tango. I meet up with old friends and meet new ones. I hear tango music for 2 days straight and never tire of the joy I find in being part of a very unique community of men and women who are passionate about what is also my true passion.
Life's been crazy but it's been a good week. I have gratitude for all my blessings.


Friday, October 1, 2010

It's About the Ordinary

Hi, Boomers,

Yesterday, one of my yoga students causally said:, "Hey, Joan, I was riding the bus the other day and I saw someone reading your book." '
I hardly knew what to say, so I blurted out a medium scream of delight. I immediately understood the unexpected, the surprise and almost shock of that moment. I will cherish that moment for a very long time.
Today, there was another extraordinary moment. I was sitting with my best friend, John after our Friday tango lesson as we drank our margaritas and listening to him tell me that I just had to continue to write. He thought my book was full of important life issues that I could expound about in other books and he hoped that I would continue my writing journey. I was watching him talk to me, looking at his lips, and trying to understand why he felt so committed to my writing. "Darling, you just don't know what you have here."
It is very true that I haven't yet understood what SIXTY, SEX, & TANGO, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer means in the long run of my life. I'm too busy worrying about my reading and signing event on Monday. I keep thinking how I'll trip up on the words, whether I can keep the rhythm going throughout the reading, how the audience will react. I don't really know what I have wrought with this book. I haven't had time to make an assessment or to distance myself from events unfolding.
This moment of launching my book feels surreal. What continues to feel real, however, is the ordinary, the daily activities - my yoga teaching, preparing for my book signing and reading in Corte Madera (northern California) on Nov. 14, which will be a kick off for my 50th high school reunion and all the beautiful moments I am sharing with old classmates who have become so very dear to me. I saw several yoga students outside the Wooden Center this afternoon who told me how happy they were because my level 2/3 class at 4:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays was going to begin next week. They were smiling and happy and so was I. The ordinary. 'And every class I teach is a joy.
There was pure joy sitting with John at our favorite Mexican cantina recapping our tango lesson and reveling in our friendship - a very old and respectful and loving coupling that will endure for a lifetime. And I await with excitement the moment when I will talk to my grandsons tomorrow morning while they eat breakfast before their soccer games and then I will find find out after the games what transpired. I love Saturdays.
The ordinary brings us joy; the extraordinary brings surprises. And its the balance we strive for.