Sunday Sermon

And so it begins. The disconnect from an overly social world and the return to the deep work that has been simmering inside me since I was a precocious and lovely 11-year-old-girl. The first half of my life was spent old and the second shall be enjoyed young, free of baggage and the narratives of the past. The first was spent in machinations compelled by trauma and childhood. The second shall be borne of wisdom and presence. Creativity and stability are of the utmost importance now. Every moment, a fresh one, untainted by colors, tremors, or habits of before. I know now, after four decades of reading and running and repetition compulsion, that the only way to stop the insanity is to yank the reset button so hard that I only recognize the best parts of me in the mirror, and let them feed me. It’s time to melt the security belt from my thighs and belly. To clear the clog from my throat, unloose the dust from my pen, my paintbrush, and my illustrative toolbox. To feel one hundred percent healthy and alive at all times. To rekindle joy. To live, embodying those silvers that tantalize me now—of the sun, of nature, of music, of dance, of remembrance, and of potential. I contain all the agency to do this. To attain the place where the familiar womb of feeling bad is surpassed by the victorious roar of feeling good.

At the moment, I am a 44-year-old woman who weighs 214 pounds and have lived my life in a web of self-medication and addictions including food, sex, alcohol, and work. I have extensively researched the brain, healing modalities, neuroscience, and myriad other realms to try and understand why I am the way I am, and how one goes about trying to change years worth of hardwiring to become the person they really wish to be. As a reasonably intelligent person, I can grasp the pathology of me clearly, so I have nothing but empathy for all other people who struggle alongside with me in these regards. It is going to be a bitch to completely transform into my full potential so I’ve decided to keep a diary of my process and progress here for one year and see if I can reach my goals of being mentally, physically, and spiritually pure and healthy at the end of that time.

I have gone through bouts of wellness in my life, but something always comes along to pull me from the tracks. Yet today I have the knowledge about my triggers, my habits, and my self-sabotage, and a wide-open space of this blog that demands honesty. Regardless if anyone reads me, I am reading me, and this commitment to documentation is what I am hoping will keep me on the right road.

If your life has caused you to ask for an improved situation—no matter what it is—and you are no longer offering chronic thought-Vibrations that are opposite of your desire, your desire must come to you. But you cannot continue to keep alive within you Vibrational patterns of what you do not want and receive what you do want. That defies the Law of Attraction. – Abraham

My pseudonym here will be Presence Alithea, and like all of you, I am merely a fragment of energy from one source. Yet, also like you, I live in a world that celebrates the individual ego over any remembrance of this inherent connection. I am at what you would call “mid-life” and recognize that I have still have another half of my life to live. I have decided to become the absolute best person I can be and to reach my full earthly potential within all my remaining days. I have thought long and hard about this and have devised a new coda toward ultimate health and happiness on all levels. You see, I wish to live well past ninety, to use my life well, to communicate great things, and then to never come back.

CODE FOR ONE YEAR

  • Bikram yoga five times a week.
  • Walk 3 miles five times a week.
  • Do strength training and the hula hoop two hours per week.
  • Stick to around 1,500 calories a day of a primarily raw, vegetarian diet. When I splurge, make sure it counts, on something of quality and pleasure, and savor it for the treat it is.
  • Drink no more than 10 alcoholic drinks a week, and no more than 3 per night. Only drink when my boyfriend or I serve wine with dinner, or we go out to eat, or on weekends.
  • Take a full roster of etheriums from Mt. Shasta, collagen, sea and vegetable greens, bee pollen, and other superfoods daily to revitalize and fortify the adrenal system.
  • Work creatively at least four hours a day.
  • Make money writing about art and establish passive income design streams that promote joy, beauty, and other injections of good jujus toward humanity.
  • Sell my books and short stories.
  • Meditate daily.
  • Make art borne from the subconscious and a weeding of all lifelong journals throughout the year, then archive them.
  • Be honest at all times, and gracefully.
  • Make sure everything I say and do is meaningful, intended well, and necessary and is relevant to creativity, love, joy, quality friends, family, spirituality, stability, or health.
  • Visit nature as much as possible.
  • Stay off social media save for a quick check on loved ones on the weekend.
  • Create more than consume.
  • Make every minute matter and be careful not to fall into mindless distractions – there is no time to waste!
  • Don’t spend money on anything unnecessary. Don’t bring anything new into my life, but work to weed out and discard the possessions I currently own.

Two dreams of the past two nights:

I have a new apartment and it’s tiny and it’s in a large building of halls like a hotel. Outside there are plenty of green spaces and common areas. I am excited about its small size, and even though it needs decorating help, I am looking forward to transforming it into my own. My best friend and her artist husband are there to help me move in and encourage me.

The economy of size thrills me, it means I will be able to focus more on my creative endeavors.

I am on a trip to another country where there are huge sand dunes to cross in order to get into concrete art galleries that host many types of work. I spend days doing this. Then back in my hometown, I agree to have lunch with an old boss who is struggling with her responsibilities at the art gallery I used to manage. She is younger than me in the dream and tired of her lot in life. Her husband is having an affair and she has no time for herself.

I leave her feeling grateful I removed myself from that same rat race, that drive toward money, those cold, calculating men. The same obstacles that may have been there for me in the past have now passed. My access to art is self-driven, self-made, borne on the ever shifting sands in the customization of me.

3.

This morning, a woman walked by on the sidewalk in front of the coffee shop, singing, “I am stressed out.” Singing.

Middle Aged White Woman in America

1.

Today began with Cairn and I sitting in a Jewish diner eating Reuben and brisket sandwiches while the old men sat at the deli counter with their coffee and knishes and our president on the television defending the latest domestic abuser in his speechwriting team. His tweet asked Americans to not jump to conclusions about all the men these days who are being charged with harassment and abuse claims. We live in a country where our greatest leader is a male chauvinist, who blindly defends those accused of sour deeds and other crimes against women, yet he is more prone to give them the benefit of the doubt than he is to perhaps believe the females. Our politicians and people in power have a long history of being bastards and liars so it shouldn’t surprise me. Only whereas others have been unveiled and revealed after coming into power, he was elected with the knowledge of being a noted rube. There is no connection to his presence on the screen, or as my leader, to my life. I know lots of men, including my own, who do not share these values toward women. We are a world at a rift with no visible signs of union.

2.

We spent the day hiking up a canyon by the sea, underneath a gorgeous crisp sky and a golden sun, trudging up hills. I haven’t walked in two months since the fires, worried about air quality, and it showed in the hardness of pulling my weight up hills. My body looks as if it has a flesh belt around the middle, and even though yoga has strengthened my ass and my legs, the liquor softness around my waist has become a burden. Cairn asked, “Where’s your yoga now?” as I huffed. Every woman on the trail was beautiful with horse mane hair and taut thighs. Then me, the middle-aged woman still striving to balance her body with her brain. By this time next year, I want to be a goddess. There were small dried up bushes along the path, the kind that lives in harsh cold winds and turns silver like antiquities. I am collecting photos of these specimens for a future art project in which I will draw grand homage to these survival plants. They glimmer beneath the sun and give me hope.

3.

We visited a Hindu temple on the way home where a congregation was praying before gaudy golden statues behind bars and notes asking the devoted to please not crack coconuts before the deity cages, or to light camphor.

4.

Once home, I drank some bourbon and ate some salty chips and spent the afternoon on the couch with the stack of newspaper crosswords. Every once in a while, that thing that happens while drunk would occur, in which small snippets of truth pounded through my mind and I would struggle to capture snippets on the margins of the puzzles, alongside the page, and in my small red notebook. These fragments of thought I capture while drunk are everywhere – papers of glimpses of what’s underneath the drunk. A story I’ve been trying to write my whole life. In actuality, a story that struggles to come out when drunk. Only when I take myself out of my present do I grab these bits, these bits that spurt up not unlike vomit. I need to get up and under them, unearth them from their home within self-medication, find the courage to see them while straight. To blur the line between sober and inebriated so that the story can waver up and find a new place to be told from. Monday begins my new code – my new year of life in which I will be entirely uncomfortable without my favorite forms of assuage, and which I hope propels me into an altogether new personhood. The drunk no longer works, it just lays a thin veil over all I used to drink to forget—the jello body, the old wounds, the moments of fleeting happiness. From within it I see myself on the other side, or the moments of clarity once held, and in each glimpse, it is clear that I am over “there” waiting for myself to break through. It is no longer fun, nor therapeutic. It has no place anymore. I need to find the brilliance without it. I need to convince myself there is no reason to escape.

5.

We watched the Night of the Iguana. Tennessee William and his drunken, troubled people who fall freely into their deepest whims and cells of neurosis, have been lifelong favorites. I loved the movie and Ava Gardner’s character yet was bothered by the normality the movie lent to the young nymphet in the beginning who seduces Richard Burton. Like many old movies we watch these days, I find myself mad at the way women were treated, idolized, cast as vixens or idiots and rarely anything in between, yet the men were empowered to waddle in their flaws, their primal errors made manly. We are supposed to be living in this brave, free new world yet even our president is nothing more than a slave to his penis.

6.

I should be grateful for the fact that I am in a sex-free partnership, that companionship and communication and friendship rule the bond between Cairn and I. I asked for this many moons ago, in a list I wrote about what I wanted in a partner. I wrote that I wanted someone who is not obsessed with sex because I had already had enough sex for one lifetime. Sex to Cairn is just a messy ordeal, and too much work, for someone who doesn’t like to be touched. Masturbation is simply a stress reliever. Desire is just a moment of horniness over a novel pair of big tits. A distraction to be wanked away, but meaningless in the realm of true love. Sometimes I feel lucky. Sometimes I feel part of something that is broken. Most times I think that brokenness is okay because it allows me to live without jealousy, insecurity, and all the other conflicting emotions that come alongside. Sometimes I feel I am part of the wise because I have learned to compromise a part of my life that others have in lieu of feeling safe and stable. Safety and stability are more important to the map of my body that has been so priorly misused in the realm of desire.

7.

My editor wrote that my writing on Banksy was masterful and fun. I get to write about artists and art movements for a living in order to pay my bills so that I can focus my other time on my more creative endeavors. Being a writer is such a lonely experience, an experience of living constantly in the mind, of having an inner life more active than the outer.

8.

Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied. – Zadie Smith

Melt Down Mornings

My mother used to Facebook drunk at night, which is the contemporary equivalent of the drunk dial. In her footsteps, my sister drunk texts while sitting by herself outside her house on the patio, smoking cigs, polishing off a bottle of wine, listening to music from the 1970s that reminds her of our youth, and in the silence deciding it’s time to cry for help to whoever is currently at the top of her contact list in messenger on her phone. That typically means her best friend, her mother in law, and me. This morning I woke up to a note on my phone saying she felt like a complete failure for melting down again. She went off her pills for two weeks and now realizes she needs to go back on again.

This is all too common in our generation. We are a population of self-medication. My form is bourbon afternoons, Bukowski in bed, and the timidity that comes from someone (unlike my sister) who makes sure to lock down her typing fingers when said fog takes over. Everyone I know drinks too much wine at night. Everyone I know laughs about it through mutual cartoon memes on Facebook. Moms who drink, men who toke, Snoop Dogg is the validator of my peers who reach for escape from realities as easily as they reach for the toothbrush in the morning.

Okay, to be fair, it isn’t new. The forties dames had their gin. The fifties housewives had their speedy momma’s little helpers. The seventies and eighties had their cocaine and rice cake diets. The nineties was an amalgamation of all prior. Today, we are sanctioning more medicines (the legalization of pot, for one) into our illusions that fleeing from the present tense is the only way to cope. And to some it is. The only thing that frightens me is that no one seems to understand that perhaps we are all attempting to communally flee from our worlds as we know it, because our worlds as we know it have become a hotbed of consumerism (I need to have what they have), elitism (if I am not a celebrity, I am nothing), brandism (if I don’t have a carefully curated social medium systemry I don’t exist at all), fetishism (we have a slave to his dick as President of the United States), and disconnection (even though we have ten times more mediums to connect with each other than we ever did.) Where is the soul in all of this?

Throw in some copious amounts of childhood trauma (as in my case, sexual abuse), bad parents (in my case drug and alcoholism), and the very real evidence that is rising to the surface today that resilience is harder than ever if you’ve lived your whole life as damaged goods prone toward repetition compulsion because you are constantly seeking that nurturing love that America, your parents, and/or society never gave your dopamine pre-frontal cortex reward systems, and you are relatively screwed.

No wonder we all drink to forget. No wonder we all take pills and then get freaked out that we have to. I long to be an organic structure, as simple as a plant, armed with the DNA to just go forward and live, and flow. I also wish there was a reset button but there isn’t.

So I will continue to field midnight texts from my sister, hide my afternoon drinking from everyone in the world except those I talk to anonymously here, laugh when my mom friends tell me they are now micro-dosing on LSD or marijuana brownies before dropping their children off at school, and pine for the days when we might be comfortable again living in our skin. But in order to do that, we need a petrie dish (aka world) that is amenable.

Pure Heart

Today is Valentine’s Day, a day we don’t celebrate in our household because my partner Cairn and I try to make every day worthy of love. We don’t go out on this day, nor do we buy things for each other. Like Christmas or birthdays, it is just another commercially-motivated day to spend money, uselessly. We went out last night, however, like we do once a week, and had phenomenal Italian food instead, followed by Fernet Branca and expensive bourbon on the couch. Nonetheless, inspired by our recent viewing of the movie Marjorie Prime in which holograms of dead loved ones come back to assuage the living who miss them, I did end up penning an email to Cairn this morning from my perch at the coffee shop in the rain. I pretended like he was dead and told him all the things I would say to his holograph so that he might get to know who he’d been while alive and be able to most accurately depict him. Then I sent a crying Avatar of myself to my closest family members via text with the words, “I Love You” as if our bonds were drenched in sadness — a Freudian slip because our roots definitely are.

After writing for hours about Japanese Uyiko-e art and smoking an endless array of half cigarettes (two or three puffs so I can pretend I am not a smoker, I am quitting tomorrow, I promise), I became enthralled again at the way the Japanese have always viewed sex and pleasure. In the Edo period, under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate’s military regime, a group of “pleasure centers” cropped up around Japan where entertaining the senses was encouraged and a peaceful life of leisure prescribed for those in the upper hierarchies including the warriors. Kabuki theater, sumo wrestling, and poetic, subservient geishas, and teahouse mistresses reigned to tantalize every sensual yen. Courtesans in licensed bordellos were also abundant. The art of uyiko-e prints started largely to document this time and these activities and fell under numerous genres of “floating ink pictures on screens and scrolls” such as those that portrayed sex, those that portrayed beautiful people, those that portrayed animals, landscape, and nature, and others. The sex ones intrigued me, because of their gracefulness, their de-eroticization of the natural body, and their seeming admittance that sex was something to be respected as separate from the normal course of one’s existence, not tangled up into love and relationship in the impossible ways of a humanity constantly seeking integration. The primal and the practical may co-exist but they will never marry. All these years later, I still find this respect for the separateness of sex in Japanese culture. Most recently while viewing the film Love Hotel which centers upon one of many such hotels in Osaka where people seeking titillation and private time away from their lives can escape. Monogamous couples and pairs who have been married for years go to act naughty for an evening, watching erotic films or role-playing in toy-equipped rooms. Others, those seeking trysts, or just the opportunity to act out a fantasy for an evening, discover that chance. The fact that these buildings exist for exactly this purpose is wonderful, it provides a pocket of permission, and the recognition, again, that sex is something that should be viewed as separate, almost like a hobby we enjoy or a place we love to visit. I am also reminded of an episode of Girls, in which Shoshanna moves to Tokyo and in one outing with a group of men, one of which she is particularly attracted to, they attend a sex club where the boys are willingly spanked for fun. This is all done together, as another regular event not unlike a rave, house party, or dinner on the town with friends. Then, while watching a show about the hostess industry in Japan, I see the evolution from the old tea house geishas to a contemporary version where men go to let off steam and listen to the coo of a nice woman’s voice who expects nothing of him. I learn that there are also places cropping up like this for women.

Since I am currently writing a novel about desire, all of this intrigues me. I have no doubt that there are bad underlinings to some of these outlets, and that abuse, harassment, and violence is just as apparent in the industries as is apparent in any industry revolving around the peddling of fantasy and flesh. What I am in thrall of is they way the Japanese culture has unapologetically placed an understanding of their sensuality front and center, so as to be less daunted by it like we Americans are — so puritanically detached from the real, primal, truths of desire that we criminalize prostitution, besmirch porn, decry any honest dialogue between men and women about the equally rife eroticism every human being inherently holds, in lieu of pretending that we are striving to find progressive, alternative ways in which one man and one woman can become an enlightened New Age package of an integrated triangle of which sex, love, and authentic partnership have found the perfect way to communicate, and cooperate, and become one living full circle that superiorly goes beyond any lesser specimens of humanity. I don’t think we are meant to be that package, quite honestly, and have far more admiration for those who see human beings for the things that they are. After living with Pollyanna glasses for nearly 40 years, and being ultimately confused in the process of believing in this heightened sense of higher being that I might possibly obtain with bucket loads of hard work, endless conversations, and laborious analyses, I am currently refrained to settling for the fact that sex and love are not bosom buddies–they can play in the same playbox together but they are entirely different animals. To take a step over to China for a moment: the Buddhists have it going on when they say that anything that feeds the pleasure of the ego is an example of human suffering and that anything motivated by the desire to serve from a pure heart is the antithesis of human suffering. That is sex versus love in its most distilled essence.

Speaking of sex, I am reading Erica Jong again. I first read Fear of Flying in my late teens while married to a very abusive man. Her tales of a Zipless Fuck thrilled me and kept me writing. Inside I was the same person as she was. Outside I was trapped in this thing I couldn’t escape. Reading writers like her, and staying true to my own voice within, was one of the prods of eventual escape for me. You can burn my body, but nobody can burn my writing down. I will fight to the death for my right to write. This time Erica and I are much older, she more than me with a wide-mouthed, white-toothed grin on the back cover of her Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life, and as usual her honesty impresses me. On the front is her youthful self, ready for that Zipless Fuck, reminding us that at one time we wanted her, so don’t go red in the face when you realize she still wants the same sense of freedom in fucking, even if now tampered by wisdom and age. I also revisited her in my early thirties, read Fear of Fifty, which I remember nothing of and should’ve saved till now when at 44, I probably would have appreciated it more.

In any case, on this day of wine of roses for most people, I will stick with my love of the literary and end with Jong’s “Twenty-One Rules for Writers”:
1. Have faith–not cynicism.
2. Dare to dream.
3. Take your mind off publication.
4. Write for joy.
5. Get the reader to turn the page.
6. Forget politics (let your real politics shine through).
7. Forget intellect.
8. Forget ego.
9. Be a beginner.
10. Accept challenge.
11. Don’t think your mind needs altering.
12. Don’t expect approval for telling the truth.
13. Use everything.
14. Remember that writing is dangerous if it’s any good.
15. Let sex (the body, the physical world) in!
16. Forget critics.
17. Tell your truth, not the world’s.
18. Remember to be earthbound.
19. Remember to be wild!
20. Write for the child (in yourself and others).
21. There are no rules.

As I write this now, Cairn is outside, placing a fat brined turkey onto the grill. Toddlers play in the neighbor’s backyard. Jazz infuses the second story floor of our home. These are my contemporary motifs of love.