Monday, August 23, 2010

A New Champion

A New Champion

An eventful morning during my run at the park: I met a new friend there.

As many of you know, I am friendly with many of the homeless folks who live at the park near my home in Los Angeles. Today there was a new gentleman. I call him "Russell" after Russell Crowe in Gladiator, because at our first meeting, he became a champion!



There is a pathway that weaves around the park at about .8 miles. I run that pathway between 3 and 6 times every day, depending upon my mood and time commitments.At the southern bend of the trail, I first saw Russell. He wore his hair like a Knight, short bangs cut straight across and around, but with slightly longer hair in back. It was dark dark brown with tints of grey, and he wore a full beard. His skin was dark and leathery from the southern California sun. But his eyes were bright, a deep, deep hazel, with a light that shone from behind them.



He saw me looking at him and looked right at me. I smiled a small smile as I ran toward him, the Trumpet Voluntary (The Prince of Denmark's March) played. "Russell" looked right at me, nodded, and nodded at the foe that stood between us (which, for me, I could see was a sprinkler watering the grounds, but who knew what it was for him.) He proceeded to MARCH RIGHT THROUGH THE SPRINKLER as I passed him.



I kept running.



As I curved around the southern bend the second time, his back was to me, but I saw him waiting in his long, dark green trench coat. As I approached him, Jeff Buckley singing in French in my IPod this time around, I saw Russell stiffen. In that way that I KNEW he was seeing some foe between us on the first approach, so I knew he sensed me sensing him as I approached him this time. I felt a fear and a quickening, and kept running.



After all, I don't know this fellow. Most of the homeless folks that live at the park by my house- at least the ones I have given food or talked to- are mentally ill. I don't know Russell yet. I don't know if he would even like me writing about him on FB yet, because, well, I've never asked any of my other folks if they'd mind or not. Anyway....



The third time round, which was to be my final round on this bright morning, he was waiting for me, at the same bend, standing tall and proud as any warrior in victory. He beamed when he saw me. He stood, his eyes in a wide V, rooting deep into the ground, two tree trunks joining in the center of his hero's chest, his hands at his hips in strength and courage. He looked right into my eyes, and I looked right into his. As I do for all people I see, I said a quick prayer for wholeness, healing, and peace. He smiled. I smiled. He nodded his head, a quick bow of recognition and motioned his right hand. "Let her pass."



As for every other moment of his life, i cannot say. But in this moment, he was clear and pure joy.



Amazing.



So, thanks, Russell!



You made my day.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

In Honor of ...

August 21st, 2010

In Honor of Scarlett


It’s been a while since I’ve blogged- I just finished a big ghost writing/ editing project for someone else and it took everything in me, in terms of writing time.

And in the meantime, so much has been happening! I’ve got a video coming out September 16th, I’ve got a novel coming out soon and a slew of great cabaret performances coming up… and meanwhile, life is beautiful here on my little street in my City of Angels! The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, my upstairs neighbor is still doing construction on his kitchen, (three years later, god bless my sweet lug of a Liverpoolian neighbor) and I am IN JOY.

For me, so much of blogging feels very much like I’m writing a letter to a dear, dear friend… and so I want to update you, dear friend, (I suppose, much like Anne Frank’s “Kitty”) but I also have something I want to ruminate about and through in this space.

Today is my niece’s 4th birthday. She is the apple of my eye, and my favorite little bean. And not just because she looks like the blonde baby version of me (ahaha!) (right down to her energy and drama.) (Which has mellowed out in me now that I’m a grown-up…) And I want very much for her to have joy, and peace, and presence, and the ability to be in life on life’s terms… and I want that because I DESPERATELY want her to AVOID the trials and tribulations I put myself and my family through as a teenager and during my early 20s. And… from which I pray every day to stay delivered from…. and with which I offer myself up to help others if they want it….

I know that life happens as it happens, whether we want it to or not, but at least, I am grateful that each generation gets, in some ways, smarter than the last. But we who have read books and history and watched the skies and heard the breeze through the trees… we know that, la plus ça change, la plus c’est la meme chose! Each generation is, in fact, smarter than the last, and each wave of technology brings new trials and new stupidities, and in the end, we are all equaled by nature.

So… what I ant to write about today is possibility in the face of such strange dangers.

I like to be honest about my life experience, my dealings with eating disorders, addiction, depression, and more importantly, my recovery and my growth, because I’m proud of my commitment to health, and because there is nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to the communion of human experience. We all have our issues. And I figure, if I can help even one person have faith in the possibility of health, and the release of suffering, then my life is not in VAIN!

God forbid my life should be in vain, but then again, I’ve already given my-SELF the gift of faith. Because I am LIVING PROOF that LIFE is possible, whether that means self-love, self-esteem, overcoming illness and disease, any of it. All of it. I want to help anyone who asks, as best I can…. whether you’re my homeless friend who hangs out at the Fairfax Library, my songwriting student I’m mentoring, or just some stranger off in some strange corner of the universe, reading this on your laptop…. So. I write this for you, and I write this for me, and I write this for Scarlett, and I write this for all the girls that were in my rehab for eating disorders, depression and suicide- wherever all of you are! I love you, and I hope whether you’re in heaven or on earth, in the earth or on top of the world… I hope you found peace. I hope you find peace. And I know: You Are Peace.

COMMERCIAL BREAK: “As I walk along, I wonder, a-what went wrong with our love, a love that was so strong…” Del Shannon flipped on, randomly, on my iPod, just now. This song was one of my Dad’s favorites growing up. He loved all his “oldies.” And I used to sing this song and a feeling would grow in me that was so deep and sorrowful… ah, drama. Leave it to the Piscean child to hook into the misery of the world and then offer that at the potluck (haha!) (I laugh because I know now, it isn’t real. Someone go back and tell 8 year old me that!)

So what spurned this blog, in addition to my little niecey’s birthday?

This article my mother sent me:

http://www.twincities.com/ci_15759298?source=email&nclick_check=1

She was beautiful, outgoing and too young to die.
That's what friends of Arianna Tatum, 20, said as they gathered on the White Bear Avenue bridge over Interstate 94 in St. Paul on Thursday.
Tatum, of St. Paul, reportedly kicked off her sandals, crawled over a fence on the overpass and leapt onto the eastbound side of the interstate Wednesday afternoon, said Lt. Eric Roeske, Minnesota State Patrol spokesman.
Three or four passing vehicles struck Tatum about 2:25 p.m. Wednesday, the State Patrol said. She died at the scene.
"It's very tragic, very devastating, very unexpected," said Jackie Steele, Tatum's aunt. "Arianna was very well-loved by her family, and whenever she would go through different things, she would call someone and

Family and friends of Arianna Tatum have left balloons, flowers, stuffed animals and notes on the White Bear Avenue overpass where she jumped to her death. (Mara Gottfried | Pioneer Press)
talk. So for her to get to the point when she didn't talk to any of us, I don't know."
Family and friends left stuffed animals, flowers, balloons and notes on the overpass.
"She would do anything for her friends," said Janeen Roy, who met Tatum in ninth grade at Como Park Senior High School. "She was generous, had a big heart and could sing like an angel."
Tatum's mother, who could not be reached for comment, wrote on her Facebook page that she had lost her first-born daughter, "my best friend, my world. If you are hurting TELL SOMEONE & LET THEM HELP."

My mother loves to send me these kinds of emails, and I always respond with emails that say: Prayers sent, and I’m great.

Why? Because I was this girl.

Let’s pray for this girl, and teach everyone we know, all our Ophelias, all our Erins, to take responsibility for telling the truth and giving commitment to joy.

Double lives, man, they’ll kill you. Literally. Okay, so I’m not saying this girl led a double life. I couldn’t presume to know her version of the Ophelia story (I’m referring to that book, “Reviving Ophelia,” that came out around the 90s, in the ebb and tide of other issues I lived through during the 90s, the generation of Grunge, of Kurt and Courtney, of waifs and Sassy, of Lilith Fair… and THAT is a reference to, of course, Hamlet’s Ophelia, who kills herself over the loss of love and support from not only her love, Hamlet, but from her father and her brother….) (and on and on. Lack of belief in herself, no place in the world, no ability to tell the truth of life.)

But I know my version. And I was her then… and so I have a feeling about things, such as I do… that she felt so ashamed of her secrets (and they may have been as grand or as miniscule as any others, but to her, they were obviously overwhelming.) I never met this girl specifically, but I have met her again and again and I pray for the day when THIS tragic ending… ends….

Like I said, I was her. When I was her age… rather, a bit younger…. 20 was, well, like her, at 20 I was in the middle of my fuck-its, but I was still SORT of trying to hold it together, kind of. Old habits die hard. But in high school? I was, on the outside, kind of. … perfect. I mean, I hate to use that word because I’m not trying to say I was. I was soooooo far from. And we all know perfect is an unattainable concept. It’ll keep you distracted and chasing as long as you believe it exists. But I was all those good girl things: first in my class, musically gifted, published in journals for my poetry and short stories at the age of 16, awarded scholarships to every college I applied to… I was lean and healthy (so I PRETENDED) and BLAH BLAH BLAH ON AND ON AND ON. Just call me the Little Miss Goody Two Shoes CLICHÉ, ‘cause I was!

But I was also leading this double life full of dating older men, having eating disorders, and later, other addictions, you know. The whole deal.

And I kept it all to myself. I think I started telling people…. my sister… a trusted girlfriend who kept my secrets for me…. until there were so many secrets I stopped knowing what, if anything, I could talk about, and so I stopped talking….

And then I did the next cliché. I got the fuck-its. Real bad. All this keeping it together. All this pressure. All this “gotta get somewhere” “can’t screw up” “can’t lose my man” “can’t talk about my man” “now there’s two men” “can’t gain weight” “can’t eat” “can’t not eat” “must write great American novel by age 21” “college is really in the way of my fucking novel writing” “can’t eat this package of Fig Newtons and go sing opera here at semi-prestigious but not too prestigious so as to not piss off my peers and family music school” “can’t not eat this package of Fig Newtwons” “oh shit I just went from anorexic to bulimic in a heartbeat” “well there goes my singing career” “can’t be perfect? I’m worthless, might as well die” thoughts just got the better of me.

Thank god for drama, really. Because I have friends and clients who let those thought patterns go on for years and years and years. But I was lucky. I got out and went to massage school and forged my own path. I took the road less taken and got real public about my life so that I could get real healthy. Whew!

Hahahahaha! It only took me ten (or fifteen!) (depending on how far back we want to look) more years, eight therapists, a bad-ass boyfriend who taught me how to have TOO much fun, moving around 27 times back and forth across the globe, a few more dramas in the love department, several trips to India, (just call me Liz Gilbert) (THANK GOD FOR HER!!!!), some health wake up calls, a few embarrassing nights in a bar with a guy I really liked, a teacher who wouldn’t put up with my bullshit, and a deep love for my sister, my niece, and my other niece, a series of profound spiritual/ mystical/ love/ god awakenings… a commitment to meditation, health, sobriety, and love…... And here I am!

Whew! Let’s hope I’m committed to health tomorrow afternoon, too, because, well, double lives are EXHAUSTING.

But what about that Ariana? It’s no coincidence to me that the lead character in one of my plays, based on me, “My Life as a Phone Psychic,” is named Arianna. (Yup, that’s the novel coming out soon.) “Arianna Moore,” from my play, is a pretty obvious nom for Erin Muir. What about our dear friend to the world, Ariana Tatum, only 20 years, loved by all who knew her? All, that is, but for herself? Why couldn’t she have made it, too?

I am so grateful I made it. And I want desperately for her family to know that I almost didn’t. And not just once or twice but many, many times. MANY nights I almost didn’t make it, and you know what? If I hadn’t made it? It would never have been the fault of my mother and father, or my aunts and extended family, or my friends and teachers who loved me. It was no one person’s fault with Ariana (even hers, because she was doing the VERY best she could.) I made it through to the other side,for now and in this moment, because of course, life happens…. But for her family, and for families struggling with the same stories, I want you to know, YOU CAN MAKE IT. And for Ariana’s family, I want you to know, IT WASN’T YOUR FAULT.

But what can we do now?

What we MUST do. We have to try and help the Erins and the Arianas.

WE HAVE TO START TELLING THE TRUTH.

Why did it take me so long to get help, and to believe and trust that help?

Partially, because we do not yet live in a culture that encourages telling “the” “our” “my” “truth.” I grew up in a culture where we- girls, boys, just people in general- were/ are supposed to be successful, and do what we’re supposed to do, and look a certain way, and behave a certain way, and if we have problems, we’re not (STILL!) supposed to have them. Problems are embarrassing. Problems are shoved under the rug. OR then you get to be like me, or like “Girl, Interrupted,” and then you’re the crazy girl.

Guess what? I’m not crazy. Oh, sure, I’m a bit different. I mean, I’m from small town Minnesota, a town full of lovely folks for whom, I’m sure, I’m a bit, “different.” I know I am, because growing up, I was told so. I don’t mind and I don’t blame. And guess what? Everywhere I have gone and everywhere I go, I’m… “different.” Here in Los Angeles, in Dusseldorf, Germany, in Naples, Florida…. even in New York City…. even in San Francisco…. among the weirdoes, the bohemians, the artists, the punks… I’m still different. Because we ALL are. And that’s our BEAUTY. And we’re all the freaking same. And that’s our beauty. You and me! Me and Ariana! Me and Liz Gilbert.

And as for all of that? I’m actually, in my very grateful and humble opinion, very very healthy. I love and respect myself, and when I find out I haven’t been (loving or respecting myself, whether with chocolate or working too much or etc), because I still have my cycles and circles of non-belief, of dis-ease, then I ASAP go back to love and peace and balance. And ask for help.

Intellectually we understand this. But to LIVE and BREATHE this and be okay with it?

That’s next.

To help all the Erins out there, and all the Opehlias, and all the girls I was in rehab with in between college and massage school in my early 20s:

WE HAVE TO START EMBRACING ALL OF LIFE.

Really.

AND THAT MEANS US AND ME AND YOU AND MYSELF AND YOURSELF AND THEM AND THOSE PEOPLE OVER THERE AND ALL OF IT because…. we’re life, too. They’re life, too.

Oh, I go on, and I go on.

And the sad violin plays and suddenly it’s a fiddle and then it’s joyful and then we’re dancing until were laughing and crying all at the same time and life. is.

And that’s it. Life. Is. Life is life is life is. If you’re reading this, you’re one of the eggs that made it. You’ve succeeded. You are.

You are you are you are!

So….

In honor of Ariana Tatum….

Part three of my little “I want to live” manifesto it:

LOSE YOUR FEAR

Not easy to do, but then again, it is, if you keep breathing.

I can only imagine how much harder it must have been for young Ariana than it was for me. To me, our culture seems to have gotten more fear-based while getting even more success-presentation oriented. Womanhood is, in shadows and silks and corners and hints, FINALLY re-beginning to become exalted, but there is so much un-healthy, un-likely- un-truthful presentation of life going on in this universe right now. Expectations will kill ya. Goals are a joke, The world is not safe. Never has been.

As for what is real… or at least here? You know what is? You are. If you are reading this? You’re here and you’re heart is beating and so joy is possible. I vote for THAT candidate.

I don’t know. I really don’t. But I love. I love deeply. And I have learned, and am learning… to feel my feelings, to let them pass through me… not to be swallowed up by fear or lies or masks or problems… to be human and to be proud of it… to embrace my womanhood…. to love men and women for who they are… to be available to healing…. and on. And on. I go on.

And as for Eliot’s mermaids…. I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each….and when I pulled back and saw the reflection in the water, one of those mermaids was me… I was calling to my lost heart…. and now, I get the gift of me.

Today, will you please find an Ariana, or an Erin- if it’s you- if it’s your sister- if it’s your homeless friend- and just offer him or her the biggest gift you can- your heart- as a reflection of their heart? All you need to do is send a text message or a little voicemail saying hi. No proselytizing, no preaching… just hi.

That’s what saved me. Hell, honestly, that’s what saves me. I could wax melancholic on life and write sad songs and I will again and I will have hard times and I will survive and I will thrive. I don’t know what love means, but I know what love means. What you can’t get from this blog is that the first time I wrote that, I was also pointing to my head, and the second time, I was pointing to my heart. Soul is. Love is. God/ nature/ divine mother/ my heart/ whatever you wanna call it is fine with me/ deep love from the cosmos… God keeps saying “hi” to me, in any way I can hear it. Sometimes, when I was lost in the idea of drowning in my grief, it was a phone call from my mother, and sometimes it was a note from an old friend… and sometimes, when minding my own business, the “hi” is a magical coincidence like Del Shannon’s song coming on just as I began writing this, and in general, in life, sometimes it’s cancer and sometimes it’s losing a job and sometimes it’s winning the lottery.

God keeps whispering to us. Listen.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Here In Life's Bloom

Here In Life's Bloom

Waves roll in, we learn the language of the sea.
Night sky falls, we learn the language of the stars.

Let me gaze upon you and learn to sing in the language of your dreams.
In your eyes there is a light-

quick!
Find in me your sanctuary as I find in you my heart.





by Erin Elizabeth Muir