The Defense & Annihilation Of Paula Deen

I believe Paula Deen is scared to death. Not from diabetes. She’s scared to death of her SELF. That public self she launched into a multi-million dollar brand, that grew from passion into the beast that’s overtaken her other self: the private, real-life one.

Faced with a choice – to come clean, take responsibility for her health, to own the role her public self had in creating the disease she now suffers from like, unfortunately, so many Americans – faced with this choice is facing the annihilation of her ego.

And by ego I refer not just to the prideful one, but also the Freudian one, the one that drives us, the one that’s referred to compassionately in Buddhism as Monkey Mind. THAT self is threatened with complete destruction, the self she pieced together over the course of a lifetime, born of family expectations and societal validation and the trappings of money and fame and the kind of insecurity we vainly attempt to balm with status symbols and false paths and idols.

The self that when threatened clings oh, so desperately to the very illusion that’s crumbling beneath. Holding on to the identity she and we, yes – we, perpetuated by watching her show and buying her products – the TV personality, celebrity chef, virtual friend to millions of viewers…Lord knows when we’re threatened we hold on FOR DEAR LIFE.

To look herself in the mirror, indeed, to engage with that small, inner voice, the one that speaks late at night in forlorn moments when we feel alone, confused, helpless against the onslaught of life’s injustices, the one who says, “I KNOW what I really am,” is to risk losing everything, to begin the process of watching her entire construct crash to the ground.

That risk seems too great for her. It seems too great for many of us when we’re in the grip of denial, so instead she’s sandbagging against the flood, trying like hell to hold on.

We feel betrayed, duped! We are indignant and outraged! And rightly so, for with power comes responsibility and although we dole out our reprimands unevenly, we want accountability from our heros, dammit.

After our outrage – at her choices and their implications to those who look to her for guidance and leadership (because as superficial as celebrity is, we still revere our basketball players, movie stars, and top chefs as great leaders to be emulated) – after our outrage subsides, let’s take a moment and contemplate the denial we ourselves have participated in – when our marriage failed and we weren’t ready to admit it yet, when a loved one passed away too soon, when we were fired from a job because we couldn’t recognize it was time to move on, or…just like Paula, when illness struck and we turned a blind eye to our own culpability.

No one is free from the reach of denial…and denial is just a way to duck the sting of regret…

When we had a chance to say I love you but stewed in resentment instead. When we could’ve maintained an exercise program, but gave it up because it was too inconvenient. When we chose french fries over salad, for the third time this week.

Have your feelings about Paula Deen. Be mad. Feel disappointed.

And let it go.

Then allow compassion to rise up and replace blame. Forgive her and ourselves for not doing the best we could. For sometimes choosing to hold on to the illusion because letting go of who we think we are scares the bejesus out of us.

Who would we be without the illusion? Without the identity we cling so tightly to?

But that’s the very thing we should do. Forgive and let go, because it’s never too late to start over and discover who we really are. Not at any age or any stage.

Remember, the harder the attack, the stronger the grip. So, let go and let healing begin. Not just for her, but for all the ways we halt our life force from flowing. Forgive ourselves for what we did to cause harm to ourselves and others and…

Let love heal us.

No Mere Spring Cleaning. It’s Exorcism.

photo

My arms are crossed in front of me, straitjacket-style.  I grasp the wrists of my chiropractor friend, H, as we position ourselves back-to-back, preparing for the second in a series of three adjustments.  Slowly we each lean forward, away from each other, and the clatter of wooden blocks sounds out as my vertebrae align.

“That was easy!” he says.  “You must really be ready to let go.”

You’re not kidding!  I’ve been tossing stuff out of the plane for miles – a good five years, I’d say. Someone once told me we carry our fears, symbolically, around with us, so I break out my map-reading skills and turn to the topography of my corporeal landscape.  While the runway has seen lift-off, there are still dammed up rivers, buckling frost heaves, and muscular peaks crying out to be climbed.  Taking flight requires the lightest load possible, and I’ve already let go  in substantial ways:  Goodwill, my real estate agent and the zoo that houses former boyfriends have all benefited from my housecleaning efforts.  Flying’s been a long time coming.  My whole life has been rife with falling/flying dreams and now that I’m finally airborne, cutting cords and gaining altitude, clarity emerges like a 747 coming out of the clouds.  But wouldn’t you know that the more I ditch, the more that pops up. It’s like I stashed multiple carry-ons under every single seat and now I’m on cleanup crew.  Someone please deploy the slide and toss a couple of beers my way!

https://offpeaklife.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/sleestaks.jpg?w=300This unfettering process isn’t confined to bone-cracking, closet-purging or journaling; yoga has also been integral. Pranayamic breathing  into joints and muscles bound tight like the foot of an 18th century Chinese woman highlights my avoidance tendencies and thankfully, their growing obsolescence.  Headlining as Houdini in many relationships, I mastered the art of unshackling (not in a good way) but what I fled from usually switchbacked and burrowed deep into commissural crannies, latching on like a stubborn Lyme-ridden deer tick.  In private session, I explain to my yoga instructor, Rachel, the quest to stop skipping over what I didn’t want to feel, and together we face the cave dwellers, those emotional Sleestacks hidden in my shoulders, hips, and spine.  Plank to Baby Cobra is near impossible without my shoulders wincing, so I rush the pose with no precision or grace.  Complete lack of presence.  But I know it’s possible if only I stop dodging the strain and flow through each micro moment.  It’s the anticipation of pain, more than the actual pain that freaks me out.

She guides me to hold each pose for more minutes than I think I can and breathe ever so deeply into the stretch. It’s not as hard as I imagine; time seems to slow and surprisingly, brings relief.  I exhale fully.  What I’ve stuffed into tight spaces loosens and – lo! – starts to dissipate.  Breathing room is redefined.  All this spaciousness created in pigeon, eagle, and other totemic asanas has superseded intellect and provided an escape hatch for ancient toxins.

photo manhole steam

My nemesis, anger – always a knotty one to metabolize – has been most toxic in dark and forgotten corners of my body, sabotaging with putrid, silent stealth.  Now that I’m hushing my mind, quieting my environment, and quelling stimuli,  I see the wreckage and teach my inner fires to warm more and inflame less.  Like receding winter snow, any sense of feeling wronged has nowhere left to cling and transforms the ground beneath.  Now when ire spikes, I let it sting.  Really feel the power surge, and breath.  Then I investigate and almost always when another is involved, I imagine what it must be like on the other side and compassion instantly washes over me.  It’s hard to stay angry at someone when you realize there is no ‘other.’  We’re all in this together, and besides, do any of us really know what the hell we’re doing anyway?

photo road sign squeeze meTry this:  grab a sock or a pen in your dominant hand.  Facing it down, squeeze.  Squeeze a little more.  Now squeeeeze with all your might.  And…………………drop it.

Which was easier?  The letting go, of course. Yes, I know, it’s easier to do when you’re ready, it’s the getting ready that’s difficult.  It’s taken me years.  It’s been gradual, uncomfortable, and replete with pitfalls and backsliding, but I’m traveling atmospherically these days and I hunger to go higher and faster, still.  So I’m dedicating this month to boot camp-level exorcism.  I’m calling upon all therapies – Feng Shui-ing, digestive sand-blasting, African drumming, sitting at the altar of Ganesh, marathon-training. April is spring cleaning month and I’m giving myself a psychic colonic.  Ready?  Set.  GO!

photo

Don’t Fight A Cold, Embrace It

I felt like Helena Bonham Carter‘s The Red Queen when I awoke this morning – head tripled in size, pale as a mime, yelling “off with their head!”  It would’ve been funny if I didn’t feel so under the weather.  Where did that saying come from anyway? As if there’s a hovering, dark cloud I’m crouching beneath…

Well, it seems that cloud has been ominously harboring an occasional cough, lurking…stalking…waiting for just the right moment… and now it’s invited some rascally friends over:  sneezey, wheezy, runny, and headache-y.  I feel like an Alka-Seltzer commercial, or one of the Seven Dwarves.

So what, you say?  It’s December.  But I’m not one of those who, when this time of year rolls around says “I always get sick when this time of year rolls around.”   In fact, I don’t get sick anymore, at least not in that bronchial infection-sore throat-winter blues kind of way.  Rather, since I purged the bad habits of my life, like smoking, drinking to excess, dating emotional vampires, and working 65 hours a week, I’ve been respiratorily fit.  I could make out with a phlegm-friendly, Keflex-popping, walking pneumonia patient and saunter away sniffle-free.  Luckily, my immune system is currently respecting my lack of health insurance, and for that, I am grateful.  So what’s with my Big Head Todd and the Monsters?

Well, apparently even a downsized life adjusts relative to its environment.  Less affects me more now.  I’m like the princess and the pea and DAMN that pea is a bruiser!  So what’s my strategy?  Don’t fight it, embrace it.  And stop with the fairy tale metaphors.

First thing, I hydrate incessantly – water, tea, cider, and no coffee, thankyouverymuch. There’s cups of Yogi tea and OJ in progress on practically every flat surface and I hope I don’t capsize, I’m sloshing around so much.

Second, I check my trusty Louise Hay mini-tome, Heal Your Body, hands down the most thumbed-through book on my shelf.  (Buy it.  Read it.  You’ll thank me later.)  According to the guru of metaphysical therapy, I’ve got too much going on;  I’m disordered.  Maine to Connecticut to Manhattan to Brooklyn back to Connecticut to upstate New York to Connecticut back to Maine.  What?!?

What I need is a break, both geographically and creatively – it’s not just my engine that’s been thrown full-throttle, but my imagination has been working overtime, too, hence my body’s message to climb back into bed…

and.

just.

stop.

Third, the hug:  a deep appreciation for my body’s wisdom, even though I mostly overlooked it ’til now.  If I didn’t hit the brakes, I’d be like Wile E. Coyote, splat up against the painted boulder.  Who wouldn’t choose a cuddle over a crash and burn?

Now the Rx:  supplements.  Airborne, Vitamin C, zinc… and just because Echinacea hasn’t run the FDA gauntlet successfully doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work.  Put that in your cauldron and stir it.  Can you say, at the very least, P-L-A-C-E-B-O?

Finally, I focus on all those beautiful, healthy parts of me.  Remember how your mom said if you kept making that face, it would stay that way?  She was right.  So I stop making that ugly, can’t-you-see-I-feel-like-crap face and begin marvelling at those new muscles I’m getting from yoga, and how strangely enough, my hair looks shiny and smooth today.

Wouldn’t ya know it?  I feel better already.

%d bloggers like this: