Saturday, March 9, 2019

Things That Keep Me up at Night

What if the reason we don't know where and if the universe has an end, (and we're nowhere remotely near the technology to travel against space and time fast enough to outpace an ever-expanding universe), is because we're not ready. Maybe whatever might animate reality knows how smart we are because we are made from it, and that inevitably, someday, we will find a way to reach the end of our universe, whether it's through outpacing, through a black hole, or the manipulation of space and time, who knows. But by then, our intellect better be evolved enough to handle it, because maybe at the end of our universe is another universe entirely. One that is better, one we have to be prepared to accept. Maybe there are many of these universes just bumping against each other like bubbles. Maybe our own universe needs to be as big as it is because we need lots of time to figure this shit out before busting from our own bubble of space into another.

I fear I've fallen down the existential physics rabbit hole.

I'm sharing this Ted Talk from a great scientific theorist's mind: The last part really blew my brains out.

Snapshot: We exist in a version of the universe that is full of chaos and mediocre outcomes. It is not perfect and complete, but it is not nothingness. It is somewhere in between all of that, which is the very thing that gives our existence, actions and experiences meaning, because from a place of flawed mediocrity we must either rise above or fall, we can do great things or horrible things-----therefore...meaning.

You should really listen to this guy. Maybe we don't know why the universe is here. But I can't help feeling like, by the end of this, he is suggesting that our version of reality is very purposeful.

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Unthinkable Gift of Life on Earth

So I have a few obsessions that I go through in stages. They typically include things like nature survival, human psychology and outer space.

Right now I'm on an outer space kick. I've been watching all about life on the ISS (International Space Station), the Earth from an astronaut's perspective, the functions and layout of the ISS, what happens to the human body in space, the vacuum of space, zero gravity, etc. I've had a bit of an obsession with anything about the big old universe since I was a little girl. I blame my grandfather because he started teaching me about the planets and the solar system at a young age so I can remember distinctly being really little and repeatedly asking him to talk to me about outer space. I guess I thought he must have known everything. I'm pretty sure he got tired of my questions just because he wasn't an astrophysicist so he was running out of answers.

The great thing about being an adult is that nobody gets tired of my questions now because when I have one (What does outer space smell/sound like? What happens when you're exposed to its vacuum? What happens if you bring a virus onto the ISS? How does viewing the Earth as a changing globe while moving 5 miles a second change your perspective about human existence?), I can just go to YouTube and watch video tutorials from the ISS or NASA or astrophysicists or astronomers and nobody will get tired of me.

I am constantly astounded by the whole concept of the universe. At first it used to make me feel small and insignificant to the point of creeping me out. But these days, looking at the Earth from the perspective of an astronaut, thanks to all those nifty videos they take from space, it puts me even more in awe of my own planet. These folks get to see every continent, every ocean, every storm system and anomaly happening on our blue Earth from broad, omniscient views. They have a deeper understanding of how all of the Earth's systems work together in beautiful symmetry to sustain life. And they come away with a global family philosophy because they aren't limited their whole lives to tiny patches of Earth in microscopic neighborhoods somewhere in Smallville, USA looking up at the sky until they die. They see the whole planet functioning at the same time and know that every geographical region depends on the other for survival in ways that our clueless, uneducated minds rarely learn. When I think of the near miraculous thing that is the existence of planet Earth, with all of its hemispheres cooperating in tandem in a million ways to sustain and promote life, it makes me feel joyfully moved that I ever got to exist here at all. And it makes me feel very protective of her.

As referenced above I mentioned I've been watching a lot of astronomy and earth science based programming from the experience of astronauts observations from space. All of this really drives home how we really shouldn't be screwing with the delicate balance of this place. One recently obtained bit of earth science knowledge blew my mind and really solidified this for me.

It starts with the diatom blooms that we see in the ocean from space, (Google an image if you aren't familiar, because you should be)... they create our oxygen. When they die, they fall like snow to the ocean floor and build up without ceasing. They rise and rise over millions of years until the ocean dries up and becomes desert. All of that desert sand is diatom shells. All of that desert was once sea bed. And the processes of how the Earth is fertilized and our breathable air comes to be are all intricately and perfectly linked. When giant dust storms kick up in African desert regions, they carry the sand, or diatom shells, over to the Amazon rainforest. It scatters onto the forest as a powerful fertilizer that keeps it growing. Then, the forest with all its oxygen and moisture creates a massive river of nutrient rich clouds that rain down onto our oceans, which feed the diatoms, which in turn make our oxygen. Diatoms in our oceans keep us alive. The diatoms are also fed by icebergs, which are rich in the nutrients that nourish them as well. When an iceberg breaks and falls into the sea, it feeds diatoms. Then, those diatoms eventually run out of food and die. And the cycle continues age after age after age. There is enough oxygen created in the Amazon rainforest to fuel the humans on Earth many times over. does not. There are so many other life forms in the rainforest itself that they take every bit of it. All of the insects, the animals, the birds, they use up all of the oxygen the rainforest produces. So, while we may believe that the Amazon rainforest is the lungs of the Earth, and we are right, the reason for this is a lot different than we realize. We survive because of healthy oceans. If the Amazon rainforest is the lungs of the Earth, the ocean is our blood. And diatoms need the ocean and icebergs to do their thing. And they need the rainforest as well. And the rainforest needs the diatoms. And the desert. And we need ALL of that to work in order to keep breathing. Everything is connected. Everything has a purpose. Even if you don't understand it.

"It's astounding how all the systems down there must work together in order for us to breathe." - Mae Jemison, astronaut.

World astronomers have already figured out how to revive Mars. They would create a magnetic field blocking the harmful sunrays that wiped out the more earth-like atmosphere of Mars from billions of years ago. This would raise the temperature of the presently red planet, melting its perpetual deep freeze and creating oceans, leading to the ability to plant trees that absorb carbon dioxide and expel oxygen and as a consequence, within a few thousand years, science believes it could turn Mars into Earth 2.0. You could walk right onto the surface of Mars and breathe the air. An interesting concept. You have to be really dedicated to long-term lofty scientific goals to make that happen. I'm all for miraculous accomplishments. And it's not that I don't believe it's totally possible, but I really hope we decide to put that much expense, technology and effort into saving our own planet from turning into Mars 2.0 FIRST.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Blog on Purpose

Detours aren't mistakes. I don't believe massive misjudgments and awful situations are either. And I can't tell you how much gratitude I have for the ability to feel this way. Life can throw some curveballs that make you lose heart. Luckily, that often seems to create an even stronger faith down the line.

When I was younger, I was blindly and stubbornly positive. I've mentioned this plenty of times, and my old blog posts more than evidence that. I adamently looked for the meaning and higher purpose in everything. And I honestly think that I wasn't too far off base in doing so. The thing is, I don't believe I'd adopted those practices for all the right reasons. In short, I'm pretty certain I was trying to cope with life's uncertainties, changes and crises by fiercely insisting that, not only was everything always fine and good and going to be okay, but rather, that I was fine. I was good. I was GREAT no matter what. Grief couldn't wreck me. Loss couldn't either. I couldn't be taken down. And I think that last part is where I missed the mark.

Even though I'd had a tough upbringing, even though I was in a lot of transition by age thirty, I still hadn't experienced enough of the particular brands of loss and pain that would completely break my resolve, burn me to the ground and cull beauty from ashes. I wasn't ready to let go of the protections I'd learned to surround myself with in order to face a scary world. But life keeps happening, and if you take chances, it'll happen hard and scary enough that the pain will get you eventually. Agony will find you. You can and will be broken. But the amazing thing is that the real miracles happen in the dark. The incubations and transformations come with unease, with wounds. You earn your badges there. And then life rebirths you in a screaming, bloody, powerful way, one that insists upon its desire to see you back on your journey.

I've talked about my decision to pursue screenwriting. This is largely because of a renewed sense of purpose, or destiny. I wrote that I'd always wanted to be involved in the creative arts and entertainment industry since I was tiny. And that's a fact. But as I prayed, consulted wise teachers and went deeper within, I understood somewhat better that it was not a desire to perform that compelled me. In fact, I've had the opposite issue most of my life. I was given gifts, but was deeply uncomfortable with both the concept of a spotlight and the idea of "performing". I wanted to express, to share emotions and love through music and words, but I didn't want to be inauthentic. I didn't want to pretend. I didn't want to "perform" and had a fear of truly being "seen". What I've actually craved for all these years is the manifestation of the visions in my heart and my head come to life, whether it's through books, screenplays, singing, acting, public speaking or any other means available. I've felt the benefit and utter transformative miracle of these offerings from other talented souls who have helped bring mine back to life when it was time. And this fact really compels me. I crave and appreciate being on the spectator's side of inspiration. I believe inspiration is a beautiful offering to give another human being, a lifesaving one, and when someone tells just the right tale, sings the right lyrics, hits the right notes or speaks the right mantra to move my spirit into courageous action, there is no better gift. I thank God for people who pour the overflowing heart and soul of themselves into these things to share with the world. Such acts of utter, brave vulnerability feed our spirits.

In my gut, right deep down where my instincts kick and yell for attention, my body has felt it---the call to do such things, to use a depth of emotion and expressiveness in helping to heal people and bring them hope again. If I am doing this with my life, no matter what form it takes, I am in league with my purpose. I have known it since birth. I've felt it with such insistence and passion that nothing I've ever tried to settle for in its stead has ever been right.

I was more on the direct course for a while. When I wrote The Light Series my heart felt full. I was expressing a world and ideas. It was a start, but it was only a start. And then all the proverbial shit happened. Lots and lots of life. It gave me layers. It gave me grit. It gave me anger and grief and shock. All of these were treasures in disguise, because if you wish to express human experiences properly, you need to be acquainted with them fully, and I guess I had no choice but to experience some more.

I've regained a renewed positivity. In spite of anything dark that may have temporarily crept into my life to test my spirit and perhaps try and break it, the opposite has happened. I've found in myself a more realistic optimist, one based in clarity and renewed, strengthened faith. I'm in possession of an arsenal now that I'd never touched before. I am not so naive. I love myself fiercely and refuse to accept others' darkness into my soul. I better recognize and trust my instincts. I trust God, as well.

Several years ago, just after my brother died, I wrote a song called "Sun Still Shines". I really enjoyed writing the song, but it felt odd at the time. I almost had trouble completely relating to the message, like it was written for someone else---or written for a me that I hadn't become yet. When I listened to the song again recently, it all felt relatable. The words made sense for my life now, and I half wonder if I was writing that song for future me and didn't know it. There's a part that says, "I guess the trick is to stay tender, even as the callous grows, from battle cries, and last goodbyes, I realize I still believe in times of gladness... died a hundred times escaping from the madness."

There's a part of most of us that has always known, at the very least, what our lives were not supposed to feel like. If we're lucky, that helps lead us in the direction of what they are. And if we're even luckier, we feel that surge of need, the need to follow our instinctive calling. Stay on that road if you're inspired, or find your way back to it. Start today, if you can.

So many observations of the dying conducted by psychologists and hospice nurses seem to reveal the same end-of-life regrets: What would my life have been if only. "If only", as author Brene Brown says, "I'd shown up for my own life." If only's are tragically preventable regrets. Fear of failure or fear of success, fear of vulnerability, really, is the only thing standing in our way of destiny. I believe that when we are born with such strong-held feelings, these are divine. These are planted into our souls, and life has our back in seeing them fulfilled. Every failure, every epic downturn, only adds to the depth of our character and the credible relatability of our stories.  So don't let your dreams die with you. Fight for them with excitement--success or failure. They are your entire reason for being here, after all, and your greatest source of joy.

I'll leave you with this magnificent piece of writing from Brene Brown's Manifesto:

"We are the authors of our lives. We write our own daring endings.
We craft love from heartbreak, Compassion from shame, Grace from disappointment, Courage from failure.

Showing up is our power.

Story is our way home. Truth is our song. We are the brave and brokenhearted. We are rising strong."

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Embracing Your Truth Means Crying in the Dark

Tonight I did something that's pretty hard for me to do.

I cried alone.

I know some people can ONLY cry when they're on their own, but for some reason, that's always been a difficult thing for me to do, because the weight of whatever I'm feeling often seems too big to handle by myself.

But I've been talking to God so much lately, seeking a greater guidance and wisdom and strength, and tonight was no different, with me out on the patio late, when everyone else is sleeping.

I brought my phone with me this time, which I never normally do, so that I could listen to some meditative music. I heard a song with a children's choir in the back and thought, that sounds beautiful, I'd like more. So off to Youtube I went, seeking children's choir music.

As I scrolled through video options, I passed "Pie Jesu", a beautiful hymn I am all too familiar with after a childhood singing for a Catholic Church as both a soloist and choir member.

I immediately got a feeling in my gut of pain and dread and scrolled past the video fast, my inner voice saying, "Noooo".

Then I stopped, and I had a little conversation with myself.
"Why not?"
"Because when you even THINK about that song, you remember singing it with John Peter, and it will wreck you."

John Peter is...was? my little brother. He died in 2012. We had sung that piece together in duet when I was only a teenager and he a small boy with an angelic voice. To this day I couldn't handle hearing the song performed that way.

Then I listened to a different voice. One that seemed to be coming from a self-parenting perspective.

"I think we need to do things differently now. You can't hide from how you feel. Just because the emotion is scary, doesn't mean you shouldn't feel it. I think your fear means that you need to have this experience."

So, with trepidation and suspecting what would come, I clicked play and set my phone down and sat in the dark. As the boy started singing, just like I'd feared, I relived hearing John's voice, seeing the shy, gentle, completely unassuming look on his face as he sang, innocently going along with what was asked of him, singing a song in front of so many people. It should have scared my brother, who was full of fears and anxiety, but for some reason, he just stood there and sang in perfect harmony with me, no reservations or arguments.

I'll never forget joining voices with that little boy, standing side by side, and praying in music with our best voices.

I admittedly cried a lot....for a while after that song ended. Because the song did exactly what I was afraid it would, pulling memories into view and forcing me to deal with them at a really inconvenient time. And what was so inconvenient about it, you ask? Well....that whole alone thing, you know? No distractions. Scary stuff.

I thought about the day of his funeral, when I'd have to go and see his body, and how sick that made me feel. How much the week leading up to the inevitable twisted my guts into sickness and dread. I had to carry the weight of losing someone who was essentially my little boy by myself. The family I'd been raised with was a zero comfort, zero compassion group of people, and that required I somehow hold myself together on my own in the midst of horrific chaos.

I had barely cried that week, surrounded by relations. Because I didn't have that luxury. So I kept the horror inside, and all the dread of it held me down like a heavy weight, keeping me from flying apart, manifesting in repeated instances of sickness, an inability to even look at food. I could scarcely do more than sip from a bottle of water.

The day of his viewing, we got to the funeral home late. The women in my family may not be tardy to their own funerals, but their loved problem.

As we gathered in the outer vestibule, I couldn't bring myself to go into the viewing room. There was a table in one of the sitting rooms off to the side with a poster covered in messages and pictures of John. I tried to look at it but couldn't do that either. There were little funeral cards with his picture, and a prayer. Every single moment that passed, my mind said it couldn't have been real, and yet it was.

I waited and waited, procrastinating to leave where I was, everyone else filtering in before me. My Uncle came to check on me, I said I'd be in when I could. My mom, ever brash and childlike, said, "Aren't you going in to see your brother?"
"I will when I'm ready," I said, trying not to throw up. This was the ultimate and worst. My brother was dead and his body was laying in the other room and I didn't know how the hell I was going to do this.

I eventually left a side room and stood in the front vestibule again, alone, staring into the center of the viewing room where I couldn't see him yet. I was giving myself the world's most horrific pep talk. I still remember it. You don't forget that kinda stuff. So I talked to him.
"How am I gonna do this, John? I don't know HOW I'm gonna do this. I need you to be with me. I need you to help me have strength."

I imagined my brother's arm around me, making a joke about how I needed to go in there and be with those crazy people and be tough. I imagined that arm on my shoulder the whole, long walk down that funeral hallway. Right into the room where his body was laid out.

It was the most frightening, agonizing, and alone moment of my life. It took more courage and faith to do than anything I had ever, and maybe WILL ever do, walking into that room. My brother dying was literally the worst case scenario. I had told God once, whatever you do, do NOT let anything happen to my brother or sister. That was the forbidden. I had laid down the law. God saw differently.

So toward my little brother I went. Toward the culmination of the love I felt and the destructiveness of our family through the years, ending in my brother's death at 25.

Somehow, I had always known this would happen. I had feared for him, but knowing and accepting are two different things. And what my spirit knew, my heart couldn't bear. So, even now, five plus years later....hell, especially now, after I've gone through a new kind of hell and the rapid self growth that often results from pain...I am more broken open than I used to be. I can see the strength I had and the grace through a nightmare, and I can be proud of myself for that, but also willing to love and accept and nurture my own emotions first instead of last. To protect my needs--which often involves feeling things that I dread--and defending my right to them. Because sometimes people won't be there to share your tears. Or worse, they'll use them against you. So YOU have to be there. You have to be there for your own self. Show up for your own heart. You can't just bury pain until a "safer" moment. You should be the safest place for your own heart. I needed to be strong enough to love myself through any pain. Not just shove it down.

I guess that means I'll be crying alone sometimes. Which is okay. It's part of the journey, and I'm grateful.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Everyday Phoenix Project Podcast

I’ve been wanting to do a podcast for a while, but I couldn’t figure out what kind and what nature. I just knew that it felt like something I should be doing and it needed to be a project that felt like it was spreading some good.

I’ve spent a lot of time rediscovering who I am and reclaiming my purpose lately and in that process of clarity I recognized that one of the creative ventures I feel compelled toward is a podcast that gives voice to the remarkable people whose stories normally wouldn’t be heard. 

The first podcast is estimated to release in September, 2018. It’s called the Everyday Phoenix Project. Here’s a little teaser.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

To the Void

As an author I'm big on social media. I work in marketing so these platforms are a daily necessity whether I like it or not. I'm someone who gets connected deeply - to networks and platforms - to people and places.

But, sometimes, in order to reset your own internal systems, which may have become corrupted by life's malware and cookies until we're ready to go all blue screen of death, we have to disconnect. Reset to factory settings and see how our machine runs then. And that's freaking hard.

Disconnecting from computers, from people or places or things that keep us down, whatever they are, often becomes necessary for the spirit not to drown. Drawing away from the cloud of confusion or negativity, those things that make us lose our own hearts, identities, sometimes even our sanity, is not a new human experience. We all have to do it from time to time, whether by force or by choice. Or both.

In all that obsessive connection, when we've too long held our breath under water, we can end up ignoring the solitary, organic world, the grass under our feet and the wind on our faces, our own hearts. From our tight clouds of non-perspective, we often lose ourselves. We lose our emotional well-being, and then, of course, there's unhappiness and pain. Being too connected to a microcosm and disconnecting from our own bodies and needs plus the larger world around us creates a nasty bubble effect, constricting our minds and our breath.

These days we can become so focused on a much smaller life in our heads, a vast but limited world. We get sidetracked easily by things that feel satisfying in a more strangling way. We fall into them and balance disappears. We create dense woods of our own unwitting creation. Then, when we pop our heads out of the trees for long enough, and if we dare to step outside them entirely, we have to relearn who we are all over again. This re-emerging from a kind of mental blindness is commonly called The Void...and I've known this state of transition from one place to another very intimately. It's a deeply uncomfortable, even gut-wrenching place to be. Ironically, when we disconnect from distractions, from comfortable emotional traps, from things that cause us pain or limit our lives, it can often feel completely awful. At first, anyway.

Disconnecting from whatever limits our hearts requires getting to the point of ferocious self-parenting, of disciplined choices where we have to fight our own fear to combat limitations and connections that constrict. Jumping into that dark disconnection from the old and expanding to the new takes massive loads of courage and faith. We want the woods that are familiar. We even want the angry bears and the poisonous nettles and the cold, stressful nights because the sense of emptiness that comes with a trek into The Void is a new kind of agony. We like our smaller, familiar sufferings. We remember that the sun felt great in the woods...sometimes. All that green we were drowning in was intoxicating... sometimes. But The Void offers all of that plus the rest of our lives.

Disconnecting hurts. It's a merciless growing pain. And it's entirely self-inflicted and self-sustained. On purpose of all things. The Void feels like crap. There's no way around it. And it takes ginormous dedication not to turn around and grope for a rope in the dark that would tie us to things that no longer serve us

Disconnecting is a commitment to ourselves to connect again, in a bigger, stronger, wiser, healthier way, with the rest of the world.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 - A Vicious Teacher

A lot of us would consider 2016 to be one of the worst years in memorable history. We've seen questionable election practices, questionable characters take power in shaping the new face of our government, war and turmoil and suffering all across the world in record numbers, and many iconic losses of beloved figures.

But I can't help noticing how these tribulations seem reflective of what is happening in a lot of our lives on a smaller, more personal scale. We have unemployment, debt, depression, anxiety, wars raging within our own worlds, major losses of loved ones, security and our senses of self...for so many people, 2016 has been one hell of a tumultuous year. And I cannot discount myself from that number. No matter how much I might wish I could. But the truth is, in retrospect, I don't think I would.

2016 has been hell for me. I'm not going to lie. I have struggled with some pretty hefty emotional pain, ridiculously stressful situations and violent adjustments to the way I have always functioned as a human being. If it could have gone wrong, if it could have ripped me open, it did.

When I really examine its effects,  2016 has rendered the impossible. It has managed to do something that no other year could accomplish for me - not even with the loss of my beloved little brother in 2012. And for those who know me, you'd think that would have done it. But no. The fact is, 2016 utterly broke me. Or maybe I should say it broke "Me"... as in the me that I was. The more invulnerable, less authentic me. The one ruled by fear masked in pride.

The one who, in all her years, had never really experienced being in love. Not really. The one who, in all her years, had never really, trustingly given in to her own passion. The "Me" who had never felt so low as to succumb to the admission of her own humanity, her mortal flaws and her deep need for others. The one who could never ask for help. The one who feared for the roof over her head.  Before 2016, I was fortified by a costume wall. I thought I was open, I thought I was real, and I was - with and for the needs of others. But as for my own? That took the efforts of a powerful and raging year that followed on the heels of the pain come before it. It took a mighty, fiery angel of misery to make me cry out for help.

2016 has exposed me to the point of no return. It's transformative in all its terrible glory, the way it has shaped - or maybe just forcibly uncovered me from under "Me". When I'm sad, I cry. I do that a lot in fact. And when I am angry, I show it. When I need to be held - I ask. And when I am jealous, and insecure, and afraid - I show those as well. Because 2016 has forced me to feel these things in great measure. It's ripped open my skin and tipped out my insides. And some things, once they are out, can never go back in. Some guts will always be exposed. There are a few beloved souls I trust to really see my heart now in all of its bleeding, beating imperfection. I need people. 2016 has broken my spirit enough that I can no longer get by the same way. It has presented me with villains and saviors one in the same. It has presented me with the raw, the real, and the undiluted me. And it is frightening, SO frightening. It requires giving up control, it requires vulnerable trust. Its rewards are risky and awful and shocking and beautiful.

If 2016 hadn't taken away every means of hiding it, I would still be encasing my truest humanity in a suit of armor. But then I wouldn't have been loved. Not the way I needed to feel it. And I wouldn't have met the me that I'm not always so crazy about. The real me. I wouldn't have met her so I could make peace with her. And ask her forgiveness for hiding her away so long.

In all dark and painful things they say there is a gift beyond measure. I think I'm just starting to unravel mine. So thanks, 2016. You merciless bastard. I am wrecked, I am uncovered, and I am changed.