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Living in Reality

This post has been a year in the making so it’s fitting it will be my last post of 2012 (probably). “Living in reality” has been the theme for me this year. There is so much I wanted to believe, so much I hoped for, that hasn’t come true. I’ve spent most of this year feeling heartbroken and sad because my fantasies came crashing down around my head. But that’s a good thing.

It’s a good thing because instead of being in denial, or waiting for the day xyz will happen, I’m addressing what’s here, now. Fantasy has been a huge part of my life. I used to get lost in my head dreaming about the future. It was my coping mechanism as a child and I needed it to survive. But now I’m an adult and it no longer serves me to fantasize because it means I miss out on all the good stuff that’s here before me. Living in reality means I’m no longer comparing what’s in front of me with the dream in my mind.

You might be perplexed reading this when my blog is called “Another World is Probable.” Isn’t my whole blog one big idealistic fantasy? No, it is not. My dreams for a new world may be somewhat of a fantasy but I see seeds of those dreams in the everyday world. There exists unconditional love and heroism in the here and now. I think of Victoria Soto who died while saving her students from a shooter. I think of the principal of Sandy Hook elementary school who also died trying to wrest the gun from the shooter. This is real life.

It’s tempting for sensitive souls and spiritualists to say, “Let’s pray about this and visualize a better world,” and have that be the end of it. I agree, let’s pray and visualize a better world, but let’s also do something. Let’s also invest in mental health care, let’s notice who’s around us and what they’re doing. Let’s listen to each other and take action when others are suffering. We can’t keep living in a fantasy about “the good ole days” or dreaming of the future when something a psychic predicted will come to pass. It doesn’t matter what life was like 50 years ago, or what it will be like 50 years ahead. What matters is reality. I’m not saying we should all start miring in the darkness, lamenting how awful things are. I’m suggesting we take stock of what’s before us and keep hoping for the best.

I would much rather acknowledge the good things in this world than fantasizing about something better. There are so many beautiful things in reality. People sacrificing their lives for someone else. Neighbors helping each other in time of need. Little children who squeal with delight when they see their favorite cup.

When I wrote about “children who squeal with delight when they see their favorite cup” I was thinking of this picture. So stinking cute!

I’m not sure what I’m driving at except that I see the wisdom of accepting things as they are while also trying to change the things we can. I think maybe Howard Zinn sums it up best:

“An optimist isn’t necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people behaved magnificently, this gives us energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”

But I think first and foremost this comes about by living in reality and seeing what’s here, now.

I dream of a world where we live in reality while also striving for something better. A world where we see the beauty of what is. A world where we celebrate our triumphs and lament our failures. A world where we live in the here and now while also seeing infinite possibilities for the future.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.


The Golden Rule for You Too

I didn't blog last week because I was terribly sick, nor the week before because I was in Chicago for work. My reasons for not doing so fit in with the theme of this post as well as the last one I wrote, "Radical Self-Care."

My best friend pointed out to me that I would never treat other people the way I've been treating myself (i.e. pushing too hard, being critical, etc.). It made me think of the golden rule, "Treat others as you'd like to be treated." In this case it's more of the reverse, "Treat yourself the way you treat others." I'm very good at being loving with the people in my life but I'm not so good at being loving toward myself. I don't beam love to myself the way I do to others. I don't pamper myself or treat myself the way I do my friends. It's not because I'm being malicious or punishing myself, it's because I really hadn't given it much thought until I came down with the "plague." (I actually don't know what illness I have. All I know is I'm SICK.)

A golden ruler! I couldn't resist this image.

The most important realization I had this week is there are many parts to me and they all want to be loved. I've been saying affirmations for years but they've been directed at the adult me and she's easy to love. She's bold and fun and smart and adventurous. It's easy to say, "I love you," in the mirror to her because I mean it. But as I've written about before, I have an inner child and she's the one who needs love the most. She is needy and clingy and never feels like there's enough love for her.

My inner child is shy and quiet and wants to disappear. She's scared of people, places, and things. My inner child is the one who needs my care and attention. The one who my affirmations need to be aimed at. Do I like to admit these things? No I do not, but I'm writing this post in case there are others out there like me who feel like they never get enough love and they don't understand why. The people who've been saying affirmations for years and are puzzled why they still get so anxious about relationships. The people who could say, "I love you" to themselves all day and not have it make a difference. Perhaps it's because the affirmations are not being directed at the right you.

I know, I know, affirmations are cheesy and sometimes feel ridiculous, so what's the point of saying them? I say them because I don't like feeling anxious. I don't like clinging to people or boarding the bus to crazy town. The external world is a projection of the internal one and I want both worlds to be awesome. I want to feel whole and complete and loved. I want to give myself the endless supply of love I so desperately crave so I don't keep turning to an unsustainable source. The love I want is infinite and no finite person will be able to meet my demand except for me. I am the only person who knows how I feel all the time so that's why I say affirmations, because I need them and because I want to feel at peace.   

To the parts of you and me that are "unlovable" and "unattractive." The parts that no one gets to see because they remain hidden. The parts that desperately want attention but so rarely get it. To you I say, "I love you SO much. I send you nothing but unconditional love and sweetness. You deserve to be loved as much as everyone else." I hope you'll join me in saying it too.

I dream of a world where we all love the parts of us that are deemed hard to love. A world where we treat ourselves the way we treat others. A world where we say affirmations to the parts that need them the most. A world brimming over with love for all of us. A world where we really understand what it means to live the golden rule.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.  


Radical Self-Care

Last week I decided very unexpectedly to leave San Francisco for a few months, much to my dismay. I mentioned in my last post I have maladaptive stress syndrome, which if I'm not careful could lead to chronic fatigue. It became very clear to me I need to take drastic measures to take care of myself. This is INCREDIBLY difficult because I don't typically prioritize self-care (obviously) and now I'm required to make a major change in order to heal myself.

Part of the issue for me about this is I don't want to stand out. I don't want to be the only person at the potluck who is eating spaghetti sauce without the spaghetti because I'm allergic to gluten. I don't want to be the person who is dancing at half-speed because going too fast feels draining. I don’t want to be the person who has to take a nap at 4 p.m. everyday but I am. I did all those things this weekend.

At this point I'm realizing it doesn't matter if I look stupid or people notice me or judge me. I have to take care of my physical body and make that a top priority. I can no longer afford to worry about other people because I have to worry about me. Sometimes you have to go against the flow in order to do that. And sometimes you have to do things you don't like in order to take care of yourself.

Screenshot from Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Sometimes you have to go against the flow.

As much as I want to stay in San Francisco right now I cannot. I need a quiet place to rest and relax. San Francisco is many things but it's not quiet or relaxing. Yes, I have so many friends and friends who are like family here. In fact, I'm writing this right now from the living room of beloved friends. I have to say goodbye to them for a while in order to take care of myself. I'm lucky in that I'm going to Washington, D.C. (where I'm going to stay) I've lived before so I already have an established community. I've wanted to go back and visit so this seems like as good a time as any.

It's sad for me to say goodbye but I know I have to for my self-care because sometimes radical measures are required.

I dream of a world where we prioritize our wellness. A world where we do what it requires to take care of ourselves. A world where we understand sometimes we have to do things we don't like, but in the end it's always worth it.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.


Say Yes to Intuition

I've been in the midst of a housing search once again so I've frantically checked craigslist looking for something suitable. I spoke to my dad the other day, describing to him an apartment and he said, "Rebekah, don't say yes impulsively."

"What do you mean? I said yes impulsively for my apartment on Post St. and that was great."
"But you also said yes to your other places and look how that worked out," he retorted.

I told him (and myself) I said yes despite my reservations and that's why my other places didn't work out. My intuition knew they weren't right for me but I said yes out of desperation.

An artistic rendering of intuition.

Having that conversation with my dad I realized that's a big part of what this housing drama has been about — I feel desperate to find a place to live because I want to be settled and I say yes because everything looks good on paper and I'm letting my logical mind overpower my intuition. For instance, I booked a room on Airbnb.com and felt a little uneasy about the place. "Will it be quiet? Will I be able to sleep well?"

I read the reviews and everyone said they had a great night's sleep, the place was quiet and cozy, so despite my wariness I booked it. The studio apartment is in someone's garage so that means insulation between the floor and ceiling is practically nonexistent. That means I can hear when the owners upstairs cough, have conversations, and snore. It's no big deal for regular San Francisco tourists who aren't home much, but I'm not on vacation so I'm here all the time. I also fully admit the problem is me. I was diagnosed with maladaptive stress syndrome, which means my adrenal glands are super dysfunctional and explains all the symptoms I've been having for the past year.

The key point though is I knew there was something I wouldn't like about the place but because I was feeling desperate I ignored my inner guidance. It's easier for me to trust my gut about stuff like, "Walk down this street," or "Talk to this person," but a bajillion times harder when I'm desperate and fearful, when there's a looming deadline in front of me.

The lesson I'm learning (over and over again) this year is HAVE FAITH. Scared you won't find someplace to live and you have to be out by a certain date? Don't settle for the first thing that crosses your path, especially if you have misgivings about it. Trust that you will be provided for, that you are taken care of, and that all of your needs will be met. I'm not saying I'll immediately be able to say yes to intuition and no to fear when I'm desperate, but I am saying I recognize that's what I'm doing and I'm willing to change my behavior. That for today I will trust my internal guidance and say yes only if I mean it 100 percent.

I dream of a world where we trust our intuition even when it's scary. A world where we keep going with our internal guidance even if it sounds like the most horrible idea. A world where we stay in the ebb and flow of life knowing that it's important to turn up the volume on intuition and turn down the volume on the ego.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

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Backward Can be Forward

I can't believe I'm typing this but I'm seriously considering going back to Washington, D.C. for a little while. A friend of mine offered to let me stay in her house where she has a second bedroom and a basement for as long as I need. All of my stuff is in storage in SF and I'm having so much trouble finding a place to live, so it's an option.

One of the things holding me back is the idea I will be regressing or going backward. If you know me well or have been following this blog, you'll know I moved to San Francisco from Washington, D.C. To go back almost seems as if I'm regressing.

What I'm reminding myself of is going back to a place I lived before doesn't mean I'm traveling back in time or moving backward. A physical place is just that — a physical place. I am not the same person I was when I lived there and nor would my life look the same. Yes, it's clear I don't want to live in D.C. for a long period of time, but for a few months? Would that really be so bad?

This whole thing also brings up the notion of my plan versus my higher power's plan. To me, moving forward means never going back. It means once I've left a place it's in the dust, I'll never return. But my higher power/the Universe/whatever doesn’t see things in such a black and white way. Nor are things always so straightforward. Life moves in crazy circles and offshoots and k-turns and not the straightforward trajectory I think it does.

I guess I'm saying just because we go back to a place we've been before — either literally or figuratively — doesn't mean we're backsliding. It doesn't mean we're not growing as people, and it doesn't mean we're not right where we're supposed to be. Just because we didn't expect to be in that spot doesn't mean it's not a part of the process because sometimes going backward can really mean we're moving forward.

I dream of a world where we understand forward movement may look like we're backsliding sometimes. A world where we imbibe the idea sometimes it's necessary to return to somewhere we've been before. A world where we embrace change in all of its mysterious manifestations. A world where we understand backward can be forward.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable. 


Reparenting the Inner Child

When people talked to me about their "inner child" I would look at them quizzically. I didn't really know what they meant, possibly because my inner child has been very repressed, but also because now I’m an adult and there's enough distance between who I am now and who I was as a kid to distinguish the two.

It has become clear to me lately I've been letting my inner child run the show. I'm defining my inner child as the voice inside my head that likes to throw tantrums, that says, "NO!" the way only kids — or adults imitating kids — can, the voice that would have me shirk responsibility to play instead, and the voice that's really scared.

Copyright (I think) is Natalia Phenice.

I've realized all (or most, anyway) of my issues about safety stem from my inner child, and with good reason. I know I've been very blasé about this, how I often mention it in passing, but both of my maternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors. Let's have that sink in a bit. My grandpa was in a concentration camp, narrowly escaping death numerous times, often because of someone else's whim. When the Russians liberated his camp, he was so emaciated he could barely stand. My grandma lived in hiding for years. She was in a ghetto and then hid in a farmer's cellar who kicked her out once she had no more money to bribe him with.

My grandparents were attacked and persecuted for being who they were — Jewish. After the war their fears didn't disappear and in fact were passed down. My mom still gets nervous about telling people she's Jewish or that she does yoga and meditation. She has that lingering fear that she will be harmed for just being her. And I? I carry that fear with me too because of my childhood.

I've said this so many times people are probably tired of hearing it, but I grew up someplace where the KKK was active. These people burned crosses in the yards of other Jews. Many of the townsfolk where bigoted and racist, trying to kill the black student that went to our high school. I didn't realize how deeply this affected my psyche, but it did. I was scared to be myself, to let people really know me because I've been afraid they will hurt me. Physically I mean. It's not just the Jewish thing, it's the vegetarian thing too. Kids at school used to tease my brother mercilessly about what he ate — they even threw bologna at him as a "joke."

Notice I've mentioned family members but nothing specifically about me. That's because I was always shielded. Through the grace of God or I don't know what, I have never come to harm for being myself. (OK, so I was bullied a teeny bit in middle school for like two weeks but after one trip to the guidance counselor that was resolved and now we're friends on facebook.) I have never been hurt in that way but my inner child is so scared that I will be. It's gotten so out of control I have trouble sleeping at night. That is, until recently when I realized I've been letting my inner child call the shots.

I've had to tell little Rebekah it's safe to be her. And I've had to remind myself my grandparents were survivors. They survived and even thrived — my grandpa started his own business selling clothes in Manhattan. I'm also a survivor, I'm a thriver, and it's time to employ my logical mind. It's time to be an adult and look at the evidence. Hell, there was a break in and I wasn't home and none of my stuff was taken. I'd call that being pretty darn protected and safe. In the spirit of reparenting my little darling, I gather her up, let her cry, and ask her to remember while the world may look scary, she's safe and I've got her.

I dream of a world where we all take care of our inner children. A world where we reparent our inner kids if necessary. A world where we love and approve of ourselves and a world where we know we are safe, loved, and protected because we are here. We made it.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.     


Seeing Through the Eyes of Love

I'm reading Doreen Virtue's Solomon's Angels and the main character is speaking to Archangel Michael and he says:

"Every moment around the world, there are thousands of examples of love," Michael said to me. "You are watching it in action right now, which is the most powerful demonstration of the Divine energies. The more you notice and practice love in action, the more you will enjoy the dynamic flow of your life." — Doreen Virtue. Solomon's Angels: A Novel (pp. 178-179). Kindle Edition.


Last night as I read that sentence I put the book down (or my computer as it were) and thought about all the instances of love in my life. And I don't mean how my parents love me or how pets love me. I started to see all my life circumstances through eyes of love so they can be healed. It's been very challenging for me to let go of the bitterness in my heart about the events of this past year, and last night I started to crack that façade and start seeing through the eyes of love instead.

Seeing through the eyes of love!

I left my beloved apartment on Post Street so I could be safe. I moved into a sublet in the Mission district so I could meet M, who is my human local connection to Judaism (such as it is). Because as much as I don't understand it, I have a deep love for some of the practices and I enjoy celebrating the Jewish New Year. And I wouldn't have met him if I hadn't left Post Street.

I am so very, very appreciative of how all this drama with my housing has led me to become closer to my community. How I bonded with K while painting my room in the Mission. How I got much closer to S and L because I didn't ever want to be home. How I was able to spend time with A and his wife. I don't think any of that would have happened if I'd been in my bubble on Post Street hibernating. I guess that's also what this has been about. Coming out of my shell and being more in the world. My friend B says higher power sends me places. She may be right because I've certainly been sent out in the world!

I see with eyes of love this lack of sleep and physical problems because the truth is they've been out of whack for years and because I'm melodramatic, it takes something really huge to get my attention and force me to change, and now I am.

I'm grateful for the apartment I just moved out of because it showed me it's really important to have good neighbors. How I can't tolerate living somewhere with lower or negative energy. And how it's important for me to not settle for anything. To always, always follow what makes my heart sing and not give into my fears no matter the circumstances.

I'm also grateful for that apartment I just left because it's led me here, and this is such a sweet setup. No rent, a pool, gorgeous Arizona, and gift cards for food as well as gas and use of the car. All my needs are met in abundance. I had to go through hell to get here but I think it was worth it.

I'm even grateful for the break in a few months ago because my need to feel safe/protect others and worry about their safety has been a lingering issue. I'm grateful it happened so the issue could finally be healed as I realize I'm not responsible for anyone else.

I'm seeing all of these situations with a much broader perspective. I'm seeing them as a perhaps a loving higher power would. And because I am, it all becomes easier to deal with. I can see the good in the bad and understand there is love behind it all.

I dream of a world where we all see with the eyes of love. A world where we find the benefit in all the things we go through, even the "bad" stuff. A world where we truly believe everything happens for a reason in our best interest. A world where we notice all the love and thus amplify it.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable. 

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Bring Out the Inner Warrior

I think it's fair to say I've been in a heightened state of fear and anxiety for roughly the past year. I startle at every noise. I check that the doors and windows are locked multiple times before retiring at night. When I'm sleeping in a house by myself I race to the window every time I hear a thump (a tree branch) or a creak (the house settling). I'm doing my best to mitigate the problem — biofeedback, acupuncture, etc. but ultimately fear is taking over.

I spoke with my life coach several days ago (yes, I have one) and cried on the phone about how I want to sleep at night and I don't want to be dependent on the presence of someone else to feel safe. He asked me, "When was the last time you felt safe?" Despite its pitfalls, I felt safe in my previous apartment because it was such a pain in the ass to get to. No one would go through the trouble of breaking in, but even then I still had some fear. I surprised myself by telling him the last time I felt truly safe was when I did kung fu regularly. I remember walking down the street feeling unafraid and in my body, knowing and trusting I could handle myself should something arise. In the past year I've lost that. I've felt powerless and helpless and like a victim.

This week I started doing kung fu again. I wish I could say it was a magic pill and all of a sudden I feel loads better, but that's not true. I can say I feel progressively better because I'm bringing out my inner warrior.

When I think of "warrior" I usually picture some ripped guy ready to use his fists or weapons to protect himself and his loved ones from some impending danger. I do NOT think of a 5'6" Jewish woman who waxes eloquent about spirituality and love for all. Here's the thing — my image of a warrior is warped. A warrior is not a bloodthirsty dude ready to kill whoever steps in his way. A warrior is someone who faces their fears. Someone who does what needs to be done. Someone who has strength of character and a backbone. Someone who will fight and protect if necessary but isn't constantly ready to engage in knuckle bashing.

I bring this up because we all have an inner warrior. It's the part of ourselves that's strong and capable and focused. The part of ourselves that's disciplined and keeps taking the next right action and then the next. The inner warrior is the piece of us that is courageous and provides security. My inner warrior has been lying dormant for far too long. Instead of jumping like a scaredy cat, feeling like a victim, afraid of my own shadow, it's time to pull up the strength within me, to take back my power, and become an active participant in the world once more.

I dream of a world where we call upon our inner warrior when it's most prudent for us. A world where we engage with battles to set our world right again. A world where we stand up for ourselves, a world where we access our inner strength. A world where we bring out our inner warriors.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable. 


Do Nothing

If you've met me in person (or even if you haven't, actually) you know I'm like a frantic "little engine that could." I-think-I-can-I-think-I-can do any and all projects until my poor little engine starts short circuiting. So much so that even the hum of a refrigerator gets on my nerves.

Now that I'm in Arizona I've had to change my "I think I can" motto to, "I think I won't." It is so very hard to convince myself to do nothing. To rest. To relax. To lie on a pool flotation device and dabble my fingers in the water. I'd much rather be swimming laps or responding to e-mails or doing something productive. My little workaholic is horrified at the idea of spending an entire month lounging around and resting. What value is there in resting? What am I accomplishing by resting? There are no awards given for it. No gold stars, no praise.

I floated on one of these today.

I mention all this not to throw a pity party but because this is seriously imbalanced. Rest is just as important as work. (I have to admit a part of my brain just said, "Yeah right.") Without rest my body, my brain, my life all start to deteriorate. And I'm not just talking about getting eight hours a sleep each night. I mean taking time out to do nothing. Having a day where I don't leave the house and don't accomplish anything of merit.

When I rest it says, "I matter. I'm worth taking care of." When I throw myself into activity after activity it sends the message other people are more important than me. World issues are more important than me. But they're not. I'm not of use to anyone as I am right now — so dysfunctional I startle at every low, deep noise. So tired even after being awake for four hours I want a nap. I'm not blaming or chastising myself. This is the way it's been but I am making a conscious decision to change all that. I made a decision to put my health first the minute I said, "Sure, I'll housesit in Arizona."

There is value in doing nothing. There are three aspects to life: work, rest, and play. Neither should overpower any of the others because if they do life will become unmanageable. I'd rather not keep going down this road, thank you. Instead, I vow to do nothing.

I dream of a world where we all find balance between work, rest, and play. A world where we value each aspect equally. A world where we understand all elements work together. A world where we sometimes commit to doing nothing.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

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Goodbye for a While

Tonight is my last night in California for a month. I know that doesn’t seem like much but considering I don't have a place of my own to come back to, it is. I'm saying goodbye to a state I've called home for the past 4.5 years. It feels like more than a vacation because I'm really and truly blowing in the wind. When someone asks for me an address I have to think about it — do I give them the address of the place I'm housesitting? Do I use my parents' address? Do I use my former apartment because that's the last place I lived?

This evening I sat in my friends' backyard in San Jose all by my lonesome. They went out of town unexpectedly so I again find myself housesitting. Watching the sun turn the mountains in the distance burnt sienna, my heart broke a little. I don't know where I'm living in November and quite possibly it won't be here.

San Jose Sunset

A close approximation of what I saw tonight.

Yes, I'm being a bit maudlin, but this is what it means to say goodbye. To close a chapter and start something new. My friend went to a financial conference recently and one of her takeaways was, "Don't forget you're asking a whole lot when you ask someone to change." I think the same is true of ourselves as well. Even though I grow and change ceaselessly, that doesn't mean it gets any easier.

Here is what I know. It's difficult to say goodbye, even for a short while, but it's so we can welcome in something better. I realize I'm talking specifically about moving out of California and becoming a gypsy, but I think the same applies to anything we say goodbye to: a romantic partner, a job, a lifestyle, an addiction. Painful feelings will come up, we may want to say, "I changed my mind! I'll keep things the way they are!" but we cannot. One of the things I've learned in the past year is life can become so uncomfortable it forces us to change. I never had any intention of reliving my Just a Girl from Kansas experience but here I am, housesitting and living out of my suitcase once again.

Do I have anything profound to say? No. Mostly I'm sad. Sad to be leaving behind a state I love and a community I love for the great unknown. But I'm doing it anyway. Because I know I need to. I know I need this time to rest and rejuvenate. To start writing again. To get my body in working order. To heal parts of myself that are crying out for attention. And that means I have to say goodbye to California for a while.

I dream of a world where we say goodbye to things that no longer serve us. A world where we change because we know it's in our best interest. A world where we embrace the big question marks and trust we're doing the right thing even if it makes us sad. A world where we know we have to say goodbye for a while in order to say hello to something new.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.  

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