Pyramid Lake, Nevada

Pyramid Lake, Nevada

As it happened, the flossing lecture was delivered at the same moment that my lovely hygienist decided to run the motor that powered the grinder that was scaling eight months of debris from my less than pearly whites. So I never heard it.

I didn’t need to. After the final polish and rinse she told me a few other things about the state of my gums that made me hang up my attitude. And since I don’t want to be known as ‘Mimm the Toothless Yoga Teacher’ I decided ’tis the season to take action.

So this year, in negotiation with the Big Man in a Red Suit, I received my presents early: a new Sonicare Toothbrush, a Waterpic Flosser and a 12-pack of extra-soft toilet roll (what can I say – I was at Target and it was on sale.)

I’ll let you know in June if my diligence pays off.

Moving on to other things.

Five years ago I was in an unfortunate living situation. After dating a man for a few months and then choosing friendship over romance, we decided to help one another out by moving in together. My instincts told me it was a bad idea but I did not listen. A person’s instincts aren’t always right, are they? Besides, I wanted to help out a friend.

We moved into one of those beautiful but hermetically sealed apartment buildings. The kind where you never see nor hear your neighbors unless you happen to check mail at the same time. Even then, your eyes won’t meet and a mumbled “hello” is all you might get.

The problem with this situation was that the man – my new roommate – was a troubled bully. He used words, mostly.  He thought it was funny to say, “When you write your ‘to-do’ list don’t forget to put ‘be stupid’ at the top.”  Sometimes he threw things.  Once and only once – as the situation was moving toward a resolution – he threw me. 

Within a few weeks it was clear I’d made a horrible mistake. According to him I was now an ugly, fat c*nt. I would amount to nothing. I would never write. I would never paint. I didn’t have what it took. I was a failure.

Why didn’t I leave? Why don’t we leave? Part of me thought I could fix him or convince him that nothing he said was true. Part of me wanted to win him over. And part of me was terrified. I began to believe everything he said. Still, after two years, somehow I found the strength and resilience to understand that if I wanted to live I had to go. I began to make my plans.

I didn’t tell him I had found a new apartment because I knew something bad would happen. I was right. For the next few weeks, until I received the call that told me my studio was ready, I stayed at work or in my room. As soon as I could, I was gone.

Since 2009 I’ve created the new and improved ‘Mimm.2’. My heart no longer pounds a panic alarm when I see him (we live in the same town). While I have no intention of interacting with him ever again, I feel sorry for his situation – for the darkness that prevents his heart from seeing any light in the world.

But I am not to blame. I was never to blame. He was an angry soul long before our paths crossed.

Where I failed was not listening to the voice inside that told me to walk away the moment we met. I didn’t listen to the voice telling me “you deserve more than this.”

I’m guilty of not taking better care of myself. My whole self.

And so – in 2013 I resolve to take better care of my teeth. And my heart.

ps…Sheesh!  This was NOT what I intended to write as part of my Daily Twenty Minutes or Two Hundred Words Holiday Challenge…it was GOING to be about the lack of sound in a hermetically sealed 28-unit apartment complex compared to the tiny, six-unit building where I live now. I have a new upstairs neighbor with a heavy foot fall, a loud voice and an even louder girlfriend….thank goodness they don’t have cable!

40 minutes/685 words/about 20 minutes of revision

Dental floss 日本語: フロス使用例

I’m having my teeth cleaned today. I’ve only just woken and haven’t checked news reports but last I heard Australia was unscathed. So I figure I might as well enter the holidays with clean teeth.

While I like having clean, shiny teeth, I don’t enjoy visiting the dentist. Who does? They mean well – dentists – but the anticipation of learning how I’ll atone for my toothly sins gives me nervous stomach. One look in my mouth and my dentist knows every bit of mischief my teeth and gums have been up to since my last cleaning in April. She just knows. Every cup of coffee, every glass of red wine. Every cube of ice I’ve cracked with my molars, every pistachio shell broken with my canines. Every hair pin pried opened with my incisors.

She’ll know, of course, that my flossing is on the more random side. At the last visit she even knew that in the rare moment that I did floss I was using wimpy waxed flossing tape designed for the flossing challenged and not a brawny, blood drawing, gum tenderizing cable of rope thick enough to moor a small dinghy.

Big deal. So I don’t like to floss. I’m also not a fan of the lecture about flossing the hygienist will deliver when I’m at my most vulnerable: trapped in a chair with a bright light aimed directly toward my gaping mouth which at that moment is so filled with cold metal tools and warm wiggling fingers that I’m unable to say, “Please don’t give me the lecture about flossing. I know. I don’t floss regularly. I know. Consider it a lifestyle choice.”

I’ll leave the office forty-five minutes later with a new toothbrush – soft to protect my delicate gums and with a petite bristle head as to not crowd what my dentist said was a small mouth. I have a small frame (with a hefty amount of flesh supporting it). Small frame – small jaw. Small jaw – small mouth. Who knew?

On the way out the hygienist will slip me a cute little sample sized box of dental floss. Mint flavored. I’ll even promise to use it. Because despite my reluctance I understand the importance of flossing. Really. I do.

When I arrive home I’ll admire my pearly whites in the mirror and consider sipping red wine through a straw. I’ll tuck the new toothbrush into the overnight bag I use when I’m house sitting and set the dental floss on the table by my bed.

“Every night.” I promise myself. I promise.

405 words/20 minutes and maybe another ten minutes of quick revision

English: Bird on a Persimmon Tree. A Nuthatch ...

They arrived in a plastic bag. Five orange orbs hard as rocks.

“They’re from my tree. Aren’t they beautiful?”

They were beautiful. They are beautiful. Persimmons are beautiful.

And the most painful test of patience known to humankind.

Six weeks later and the five persimmons on my kitchen counter are settling in just fine. One or two yield slightly to my fingers. The others refuse to show any indication that they intend to ripen anytime this year. Or this century.

Still, if I can just hold on a few more weeks. If I can wait until January. Oh! What a treat I’ll have!

But I never do.

I am a woman of limited patience.

And I know that in a few days – in a weak moment on Sunday afternoon – I’ll cradle each persimmon and gently press. I’ll fool myself into believing they’ve given in to the decay that calls them and their beautiful fruit has turned into a sweet, gooey pudding. I’ll choose the one that I know – I just know – is ready, and I’ll slice its top off.

One look indicates that now is not the time. That my patience failed me again. But I’ll refuse to admit that this was a bad idea. I’ll take a spoon and scoop a bit of reluctant persimmon flesh into the spoon’s bowl. As it heads toward my mouth I plead to the Goddess of Goodness for the taste of sugar.

Anyone who has ever eaten a persimmon too early knows what happens next.

Instead of sweetness, my mouth puckers. The saliva that could help me complete the process of mastication has disappeared. Drawn up and away. It’s not sour, nor bitter. Just vile. I spit the fruit from my mouth.

Another year. Another wasted persimmon. Another tragic gastronomical moment. Because if I had waited, I would have tasted bliss. The effects of an unripe persimmon on the mouth’s mucosa are despicable. But a ripe persimmon? It’s like tasting heaven.

As I clean up the mess I promise myself and the four remaining persimmons that I will wait. I will wait. Because some things are worth waiting for.

And then it occurs to me. Persimmons are late bloomers. Just like me.

374 words, 15 minutes, very limited revision

Sloth in the Amazon

“You have no discipline.”

I laughed at the suggestion. Me? No discipline? Say what??

I was visiting the same friend with whom I’ve shared meals with over the past few months. It was an offhanded comment, tossed out to me as I bundled up for the drive home.

But it sat with me, the comment. Right there in the passenger seat. It noodled its way into my brain, burrowed through my grey matter, interrupted a few dreams and is now, here it is again:

My Morning Vexation.

Seriously. Me? Undisciplined?

Our intention was to follow Benjamin Franklin’s sage advice: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man (or in this case – little ol’ me) healthy, wealthy and wise.”

But I always have been an early riser. I love mornings. I’m one of those people lucky enough to be able to jump out of bed ready to start the day. For the past year, on most days, I’ve been waking between 6:30 and 7:00 AM. When I was working on the manuscript gathering dust in my storage locker I made it to the desk by 5:00 AM. So what if want to hit the snooze button a time or two? I’ve paid my dues.

Nope. My friend insists the day should begin at 6:00 AM, seven days a week. I, on the other hand, believe there ought to be allowances for days when our work schedules keep us busy until the early evening. For me, that’s today.

So when I seemed non-committal about rolling out of bed in time to put the Rice n’ Shine on before sunrise I became an undisciplined sloth. He was teasing (and for the record, never called me a sloth – that’s my doing), but clearly I must believe there’s some truth in his pronouncement or else it wouldn’t be nagging me so.

After all, where’s the meditation practice I promised myself? Why is my manuscript in a storage locker instead of Amazon’s bestseller charts and climbing? What about those ten pounds I’ve allowed to settle around my bottom half over the past two years? The pounds I lovingly call “writer’s ass” but are more likely a consequence of mid-life hormones running amok because I don’t have the self-control to say “no” to the occasional salted caramel (or evening bowl of ice cream). Finally – what about the medals for all the marathons I’ve run? Where are they? Well – there would be a few if the marathons I ran weren’t all in my head.

(Excuse me while I grab an ice pack. Do I know how to beat myself up for a fantasy life unlived or what?)

The truth is this: I do the best I can. There are days I shine. There are days I could live better. There are days I fail. We dream, we set goals, we make resolutions. And sometimes we have to set the dreams aside for a while, change the goals, abandon the resolutions. It’s not because we lack discipline or focus or drive or ambition. It’s because life happens. Sometimes life lifts us and we scale great heights with ease. And sometimes it grabs us by the…well – it grabs us by the you know what.

But here is another truth: Impermanence.  Moments pass.  Circumstances change. Happiness will turn to sadness just as surely as sorrow will turn to joy.

So maybe it’s not about demonstrating exemplary discipline after all. Maybe life is about living. Sleeping when you need to sleep, dancing when the mood strikes, eating with good health in mind but never forgetting to eat a few bowls of ice cream and some salted caramels along the way.

 617 words, 25 minutes and a few minutes of revision.

Rice n' Shine with goat milk, toasted coconut flakes and banana...yummy!

Rice n’ Shine with goat milk, toasted coconut flakes and banana…yummy!

Over the past few months I discovered the joy of having sit down meals shared with a friend. Let’s face it. Meals taken in a cramped studio apartment aren’t ideal. Until I found two TV tables at a garage sale “Dinner at Mimm’s” meant one of us at my desk and the other with a plate of food balanced on their lap.

But I digress.

On our road to attempted good health (gluten free, organic, limited GMOs) my friend and I began to shop for our groceries together. Rather than split the bounty we kept everything at his house. His was the bigger kitchen – it even had counter space AND space for a table and four chairs.

And that’s why my alarm has been pulling me away from dreamland at 5:30 AM. If I want breakfast I need to make the three-mile journey down the road and up the hill to his house. Crazy? Maybe. I’ll confess: at first it was torture. But when I decided that I could sleep in sweats and a tee-shirt rather than my Nick & Nora Monkey Pajamas rolling out of bed and behind the wheel of my CRV became much easier.

Add a dollop of yogurt, a drizzle of honey and a few blueberries....

Add a dollop of yogurt, a drizzle of honey and a few blueberries….

Lunch and dinner meant coordinating strange schedules. But we managed. It was worth it. Preparing food, sharing meals and even sharing clean up with an open heart and mindful attitude is lovely. It temporarily changes the pace of life and offers us a chance to savor each moment and each morsel.

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Fresh pressed juice featuring beet root, carrot and ginger. A ruby glass of goodness!

My friend and I don’t always get along. We’re like family that way. But sitting down and slowing down to share home-cooked meals has been one of the highlights of this year. I kid you not.

And that’s why I better get my rear in gear. It’s ten minutes past six. If I don’t face this frosty morning soon I’m going to miss breakfast!

310 words, 14 minutes this morning and a bit of evening revision

 

DSC_0025 (2)_2This time of year I have some spare hours on my hands. Moments that I usually squander. Minutes that I typically spend sitting in my fat green chair pondering what great works I can accomplish. And then, before I know it, the next year has begun and it’s back to work.

I agree. It’s nice to simply be still. Stillness has plenty going for it. But to be frank, I have plenty of stillness in my life. I mean – I’m a yoga teacher. I spend a good part of each and every day sitting in stillness. Practicing stillness. Encouraging others to find stillness.

I don’t need stillness. I need action.

So maybe this year I won’t squander these days between Thanksgiving and the New Year. The days when clients visit family and quarterly classes take a break. Starting now.

At the beginning of the year I stopped writing. The same way I stopped creating visual art. “It’s all right,” I told myself. “I don’t need to write for others – writing for myself is enough.” And, in truth, it should be enough. Spilled words falling from the heart with truth and courage should be all any one writer might hope for. It should satisfy.

Except I had plans. Ideas. Intentions.

And instead of allowing the words I needed to write fall from my heart, I allowed my intentions to fall by the wayside.

But it seems the universe has other plans.

I was resigned to the situation. Reasonably content. Who was I to think I had any talent? And at this time in my life isn’t ambition as tacky as me trying to pull off a leather mini-skirt?

But in the past month I’ve been approached twice by two different and disparate organizations and asked to write 1,000 words. Asked to spill.

Initially I didn’t believe I had it in me anymore. Until I sat down and tried.

Those moments that don’t just gently nudge a dozing spirit but smack it in the face with a wet trout are pretty powerful. I remembered what I had planned to do four years ago. I gave myself five years.

I have twelve months left.

But I need to get back into shape. I need to work a part of my brain that, quite frankly, I’ve allowed to atrophy.

So, in these spacious weeks the universe gifts me this time of year I’m going exercise. Twenty minutes or two hundred words – which ever comes first – each morning before anything else. It’s a Julia Cameron-esque attempt at waking up my writing muscle. Tuning in to that faint creative buzz that I know I have buried somewhere deep in my cerebral cortex.

Wish me luck.

 453 words written in fourteen minutes. I used the remaining six minutes for revision.

 

 

My intention, when I sat down, was to write a post for the other blog, Practically Twisted.  That’s a lie.  My intention, when I sat down, was to meditate.  Neither happened.  This happened instead:  I sat on the floor and opened my laptop.  I began to write in paragraphs. It didn’t work.  I kept pulling words away; skimming stuff from the surface.  I boiled it all down to gold and ash.

I’m never going to call myself a poet.  But sometimes a deeper meaning is found with fewer words.

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Gold and Ash

Our spirits know this.

We share every moment.

We touch. Embrace.

We endure.

We cry for the child ten thousand miles away and throw hateful glances at our neighbor.

We know this.

We know days that shine with clarity.

We know days that drop us to our knees.

Life is joy and hope and anticipation.

Life is wonder and terrible fear.

My life is the breath of meditation.

It is chaos.

My life is gold and ash.

IMG_1756It’s difficult to believe that just two weeks and a few days ago I was standing under the pre-dawn stars of the Southern Hemisphere.

We parked on the shoulder of a narrow road along with a hundred other cars in Queensland, Australia. We had left Palm Cove at 1:00 AM on our way to Palmer Lake and a guaranteed clear view of the sky. Five solar physicists and me. My Big Bang Moment. We stopped two hours later, some distance from our destination, when the cars, cameras and folks huddled with sleeping bags wrapped around their shoulders told us we’d driven far enough.

Stepping out of the van we allowed our eyes to grow accustomed to the dark and then looked up. The Milky Way stretched to each horizon and the Large Magellanic Cloud was a sparkling smudge above the hills to our right. We marveled and pointed and giggled until our craned necks grew too tired to take in any more of the thousands of fairy lights above us. We needed to sleep. The main event was hours away.

I was the first to wake. My rustling stirred the others. The stars were gone and the sky was silver blue. But that would change. The sun hadn’t yet broken over the rim of the earth to fill the air with brilliant gold.

We stretched, stumbled off the last bits of sleep and found our cameras. A few low clouds would prevent us from seeing first contact. That was all right. The clouds could have first contact. Everything else was ours.

The moon took its time. We waited patiently. Some poured coffee, others chatted with new neighbors. We were all strangers and all friends with a single, pure intention – to witness a rare and beautiful chance of nature. To see the moon block the light of the sun. To be awed.

IMG_1776As totality approached our collective restlessness settled. The light changed, the temperature dropped. The air felt different on our skin.

When the sun turned to a thin blazing sliver of fire we stopped talking, turned our bodies toward the celestial spectacle and instinctively drew a silent, sacred space around the moment.

The sun disappeared. One voice behind me whispered, “there it is.” Another, a cowboy’s whoop of delight from a hundred yards down the road, was quickly muffled. This wasn’t the time for whoops and cheers. Minutes before we were a giddy group of fellow travelers but no longer. Now we were one spirit in communion with something so big and so wondrous no words or photographs or dances or paintings exist that can describe it.

We took our protective glasses off and stood with totality for two minutes. Venus stood with us, a hand width away from the moon’s black silhouette now framed by the aura of the sun’s white corona. The experience was primal. Grounding. It laid us bare and filled the world with one pure, singular tone.

The flash of stunning white light signaling the end of totality is burned into my memory as surely as it has laid down scar tissue on the back of my eyes. Our glasses back on, we watched the bully sun begin to push the moon out of the way. But the sacred spell was broken. We gathered for souvenir photographs, enjoyed the fidelity of a stranger’s telescope, climbed into the family van and became our new selves.

Our Shadow might be thought of as the part of our Self buried alive. Not acknowledged. Ignored. She teases us in our dreams. We tell ourselves stories about her. We think we know her. But as long as we avoid her how could we? Yes, we’ve seen glimpses of our Shadow but in reality we’ve never seen her face-to-face.

Until we meet our Shadows we are only half-truths.

 

A shock like thunder and thick silence of a still heart

Perspective shifts and what we reached for yesterday has this morning lost all meaning

Our white fisted grip holding tight to urgent matters loosens and spills slips square letter tiles between the fingers

What ever it was that meant so much tore so hard ripped apart is now forgotten

Too late.

Life breathes through us in the falling leaves and rolling waves

Through the stillness of a silenced heart.

This past July, a few days after her 57th birthday, my sister suffered a heart attack and died. She was diabetic and had pseudotumor cerebri, a condition that placed pressure on her optic nerve. She was legally blind. Maggie lived alone with her beloved dog in a small apartment on the east coast. She was a strong, independent and cantankerous woman who did not have time for individuals who held opinions different to her own. Married and divorced three times and estranged from her mother and sister (I last spoke to her in 2007), Margaret died alone. She left a note on her refrigerator that said, “If anything happens to me leave my body to science.” Her dog was re-homed. There was no funeral or memorial service.

When I arrived at her apartment I was stunned to discover a life packed away in cardboard boxes. A box of old bedroom slippers. A box of wigs. A box of Beanie Babies kept for too long. I found lists of men’s names in her beautiful Palmer penmanship. Clothes wrapped in disintegrating black bags that I remember from high school. Earrings that I longed for when I was twelve.

There is one framed photograph thrown in the back of the closet. A photograph of my mother, my sister and me the last time we were together at Christmas in 1980. We’re in my mom’s trailer, the same one she lives in now. And I’ve set the timer on my old Pentax. Mom’s sitting down, her hair still dyed brassy red. My sister stands behind her in fake fur with a freshly lit Virginia Slims in her right hand. I’m in jeans, baggy sweater and big glasses that make me look like Velma from Scooby Doo.

I have a copy of that same photograph in my family album.