From Lincoln Logs to Social Media (50th Year Anniversary)

Photo taken in my 20s

(This article was originally posted on my blog PNW Author. The essay is now 3 years old.) When I find myself starting a conversation with, “Back when we used typewriters…” I feel old.  I come from a generation who started out playing with Lincoln logs, Easy-Bake ovens and whose mothers made Shake & Bake chicken for dinner, that is, if we weren’t stuck with Hamburger Helper (yuck) or tuna casserole.

We watched reruns of “Bewitch” and then later graduated to “Charlie’s Angels” as preteens.  But turning 50 goes beyond pop culture icons or midlife crisis myths.  I don’t know many men my age wearing toupees or racing around in red sports cars.  The word out on the street is “50 is the new 30” and with the help of supplements, natural hair tints and a healthy vegan or raw foods diet, it’s possible to look 35 at 50.  The old cliche goes, if I had a dime for every time someone exclaimed, “You don’t look 49 or 50,” I could retire and live comfortably on the money by age 55.

You won’t find me wearing spinster’s black or lamenting that I wasted the first 50 years of my life.  People might ask, “Where’s the husband or how old are your children?” and I can only respond with a shrug. I had other things to do and other worlds to conquer, including dealing with a myriad of inner gremlins and a long bout with depression, in which the only way to emerge was to develop self-love.  My greatest accomplishment isn’t ten years as a professional musician, producing a compilation of Seattle bands that receives acclaim two decades later, or the completion of four novels and 4 screenplays.  No, my greatest accomplishment thus far is to love myself.

When we glance back at the origins of that journey we either cringe or experience goosebumps.  I recall two episodes of self-loathing at this time.  The first incident involved an art professor who took slides of each student and asked us to draw a self-portrait.  Easy enough, right? I experienced trauma doing this and I cried while I stared at my face enlarged.  I focused on faults and chastised myself for not resembling the super models in magazines or the movie stars on the big screen. What a painful experience! I despised the art professor during those moments and also when he showed the slide to the other art students, who thankfully were too busy critiquing their own faces, to critique mine.

Another incident happened in therapy.  A psychoanalyst told me to talk to an empty chair with my jacket draped around it, a conversation with myself.  I cried and resisted this exercise.  I felt so horrified having a dialogue with the part of me that constantly hurt.  After all, if I had landed in therapy then there was definitely something wrong with me and wonder if I couldn’t fix it.  This happened in my late 20s.  And during my late 20s, I spent my nights exorcising my inner gremlins on stage as a musical performer or a poet.  Sylvia Plath was my idol during those  years, if you can imagine.

I didn’t breeze through my 30s, but I grew in wisdom as I read every popular self-help book, enrolled in self-development workshops and wondered why the Dark Night of the Soul wouldn’t just disappear. In my imagination I walked El Camino with Paul Coelho, went on medicine women journeys with Lynn V. Andrews, and learned to talk with animal spirits.  I discovered shamanic journey work, but none of this work led me to developing self-love which goes along with self-empowerment.

I celebrated my 40th birthday in a public venue by hosting a poetry and music event dedicated to compassion and kindness.  Gathering with other artists gave me a boost and set me forth on the next part of my journey.  In my 40s, I relocated twice, returned to college at the age of 45 to learn new computer technology, I landed a contract job with a newspaper and then lost the job 14 months later.  But most important in the past five years, I confronted the frightened woman inside me and learned how to love her back to health.  And I’m not alone in this.  I hear women my age saying the same thing when they phone into spiritual radio shows or join live streams.  Our crisis doesn’t involve dumping the husband in favor of the college co-ed (no Mrs, Robinson here), but our crisis does involve questioning our liberation in a world that wishes to brainwash and enslave us.

Things I learned in the past year include, drinking an unsweetened smoothie is healthier than drinking fruit juice, that yoga, breathing and meditation takes years off, and that we don’t require to go gray like our baby boomer elders and can use natural hair tints that won’t give us brain tumors.  If we choose, we can unplug, and engage on a journey to self-discovery.  We can dress anyway we choose, even buying clothes in the young adult section or wearing natural fibers.  We can opt out of fake patriotism and stop playing games to fit in with a mad society.  With new supplements on the market to build collagen, we can avoid Botox or face lifts.  Finally, we have worldwide access to women our age so we can compare notes and share wisdom.

Why do we focus so heavily on physical appearance? Is this part of self-love or self-loathing? I know that kindness to ourselves means that we stop finding fault with our bodies as they age.  I know that it’s frightening to watch people age around me.  I know that I feel tempted to turn back the clock one or two decades, and if only I could bring the ones I lost back into the fold.

age 50
age 50

I’m fortunate to sit here typing this post on my 50th birthday.  I know at least two friends who never experienced this milestone.  The first friend died before her 18th birthday when she was injured in a car accident, two weeks prior to high school graduation.  The second friend died at 34 from heart failure, 2 weeks before her 35th birthday.  So on this rainy Sunday, I won’t lament the passing of years.  I’m darn lucky to have survived and I give myself permission to thrive this second half of my life.  And for all of you turning 50 this year, many happy returns.

Did you know that life actually begins at 50?

 

 

Glittering Guns–Violence & Adrenaline High in the US

DSCN2331During late September of 1986, I arrived at a theater class in Saint Catharines, Ontario. I wore a fringe leather jacket and ripped Levis. Since I had boarded the wrong bus, I arrived a half-hour late for class. I felt self-conscious arriving at my first class in a foreign country where I didn’t know anyone. And the first thing the students said after the professor announced that I was an American exchange student was, “Where is your gun?”

True enough, the US has had (as long as I’ve been alive) an obsession with guns and violence. And the Canadian students who questioned me preferred watching the news out of Buffalo, New York as opposed to Toronto because it was more exciting with the latest shooting or other crimes south of the border. I just felt embarrassed by the violence in the news and I avoided watching the news from either country.

Fast forward to the summer of 1991 when I was in London hanging out with musicians in a club. Again, the topic of American guns and violence came up with the Londoners grilling me about the topic. They asked if all Americans had guns when they knew well that we did not all have guns. And many English people preferred American TV shows (cops and criminals) to their own television shows.

I remember going to a jam session in London where the two musicians watched episodes of Starsky and Hutch while I sat in the background trying to write a melody to a song they gave me on tape. True, I had grown up watching cop shows but by the time I was performing music, I had stopped watching violent shows because I had lost interests in them in favor of spiritual pursuits.

And today, as another tragedy involving guns appears in the US media (with replays to induce adrenaline rushes in viewers), I question why more Americans aren’t researching post-trauma and how this condition is the cause root of violent crimes, addictions, etc along with the poisons we call food, the electric magnetic energy we expose ourselves to constantly, heavy metals in vaccines, and so on.

And the answer that comes to me is that violence in the news sells too. It sells big pharma drugs; it sells insurance. It sells products to make us feel numb or high so we don’t have to face the real demon which is our own shadow. People say they want peace and then they sit in front of a computer or TV set absorbing the violence in the media. They either numb or pump up their energy with the substance of their choice while few people are dealing with their triggers for post-trauma. And don’t we all suffer from this condition by now? Why aren’t we taking PTSD more seriously?

Because if we did take it more seriously, we would not send more soldiers to war. We would banish violence from movies and TV shows. We would research the real effects of GMO foods, air pollution, electromagnetic energy, and come clean with experiments done on the human race by HAARP, Monsanto, big pharma, etc…We’re smart enough to do this but where is the will to come clean? When will we dig our heads out of denial and admit that our hearts have been shattered and require mending?

I tell you now it doesn’t matter how many yoga poses you learn at a retreat or the number of hours you find yourself in meditation. You can sing mantras for weeks on end and say your affirmations in front of a mirror each morning, but until we deal with the trauma that lies at the root of each of us and as a collective, we will not experience world peace–I guarantee it.

I thought I only needed to take a spiritual approach to everything and ascend over this madness in the world until I realized that I’m part of the madness. We all are. It is our egos that separates us from the perpetuators of crimes and yet these so-called criminals are projections of our own darkness even if we’re not the ones who pulled the trigger or ignited the bomb. We still played a part in our denial, our silence, and our inability to question the media, Hollywood, big pharma and every other component in our convenient lives that poison the well of humanity. And this includes our choice of words and communication styles with the people we’re supposed to love.

We can label people criminals and toss shame their way. We can toss people into prison or send them to the electric chair and that won’t heal the violence in the world. In fact, it will only perpetuate this morphogenetic field that is filled with genocide and other atrocities of our ancestors that is in each of your DNA. None of us gets off the hook. None of us are saints. And even the saints had dark ancestors if you know what I mean.

I’m not going to sit in front of a television set and trigger trauma. I refuse to watch violent images on constant replay nor will I tune into those videos on YouTube. I simply don’t want to see it. And I’m not going to punish myself with violent images. I don’t get high on that sort of thing even if others, less conscious do.

For my own country, I recommend free therapy for every individual living in the US that focuses on healing trauma in whatever form it shows up. I recommend more funding go towards neurological and brain research, including alternative modalities that heal neuropathways in the brain. I recommend ending all wars today and to stop sending people to countries to protect poppy fields (heroin) or oil or other addictive substances. And I recommend we get real with ourselves and each other and stop pretending like we don’t know what’s going on.

I’ve spoken with people on the bus from various walks of life and from various educational backgrounds (people with little education to people with post-doctorate degrees), and people know what’s going on in the world. But all this talk isn’t solving the problem even if some bonding occurs, even from the heart to heart.

So, today, I want you to take a deep breath and get centered. Then ask yourself how you contribute to both violence and peace on the planet. Then come up with a next step to heal your part of it. I’ll do the same. Thank you.