Let’s breathe fire and magic together!
That’s the rallying cry from Heather Havrilesky/Ask Polly in response to a woman who keeps dating guys who won’t commit to her. I have a lot of amazing friends and patients who complain about the same predicament, and I never know what to say. I know I’ve posted about Ask Polly before, but I can’t help that she’s a genius who inspires me to live my best life. This one goes out to all of us who wish to stop selling ourselves out in large and small ways.
Here’s an excerpt (it’s full of curse words so Grandma, don’t read this post, go here!):
I’ve had a realization lately that sometimes I’m drawn to people who seem a little MEH about me, and I’m really questioning THAT right now. I’m really noticing how much I enjoy getting stuck in the quicksand of other people’s indifference. And because lately I’ve been singing in the kitchen and dancing and noticing the bright, shiny impulses of my big fucking brain more than usual, I’m struck by how weird it is that I’ve chosen to chase people who are lukewarm about me, and I’ve also — often — chosen not to take big risks or break out of my comfort zone. I’ve chosen to live in a cave for much of my life.
I lived in a cave because at some point I decided it was wrong to be BIG and loud and arrogant and alive. I lived in a cave because I took my cues from the people who were ambivalent about me instead of taking my cues from the people who loved me like crazy. I lived in a cave because I handed out scoring sheets and asked everyone to score me and then I paid special attention to the NOT VERY SATISFIED CUSTOMERS and ignored the people who said, “We love the fuck out of you, five stars, keep up the good work!”
This is what I see in you, Too Many Questions. You have chosen the life of the cave dweller. Stop reading the tea leaves of indifferent male faces and get the fuck on with your life. I know you want love. Love will find you eventually, some time after you stop asking questions and start answering them. Stop asking indifferent st
Most acupuncturists/life coaches/yoga teachers/gurus/doctors/inspirationalists/secreters will tell you how to live a happy life, and how to manifest what you want. These folks are often excellent resources, and they mean well. Believe me, I’ve learned so much from so many of them. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that failing to be positive 100% of every day does not make you a bad person. One bad day (or month, or year, or decade) does not mean that you won’t meet your goals in life. A bad day is not indicative of your worth or lack of worth as a person. And maybe, just maybe, what you want in life isn’t the best thing for you.
Maybe the joy gleaned from directed, focused hard work is the best kind of joy outside of love. I’m not sure. I look to other people who are way smarter than me for guidance. But these topics are the ground beef (or tofu) in the life burrito. If we are lucky enough to have the time and space and resources to ponder these topics, they are worth considering.
Here’s an excerpt from New York Magazine advice column Ask Polly:
Very few people tell you anymore that those doubts in your head are part of the noise you hear when you’re alive, full stop. Very few people explain that success rarely happens quickly, and that even if it does, there are still lingering worries and bad days and hours and hours of tedious work involved. There aren’t many inspirational quotes about how discouragement will plague you as you work and that’s just how it feels to work at something difficult. There aren’t many memes reminding you that you won’t get everything you dream of — and that getting everything you dream of might not make you happy anyway, no matter what that constantly scrolling feed of highly curated “best lives” seems to imply.
Life is not a Mission. It’s a Journey.
It’s the end of August. It’s hot, people are exhausted and irritated. It’s the “Back to School” spirit of September. I am thirty-hmmmmmm years old, and my internal clock is still set to the rhythms of the school year. If only I could buy a scented candle that smells like Trapper Keepers and pencil shavings… I would probably…not buy it. Whatever they made it with couldn’t possibly be good for you. Then again, “Pumpkin Spice” is probably not much better for you. But I digress.
September is similar to New Year’s Eve and Ash Wednesday. The air is full of possibilities. I view it as an opportunity to re-evaluate life. What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong? What am I avoiding? Guilt over my shortcomings inevitably creeps in, reminding me of all that I’m not doing to improve my life, my relationships, my bank account. I can really let this take me into a neurotic death spiral.
This year, and maybe every year going forward, I’m going to read this when I get bummed:
I keep reading about the stress levels rising in the college-bound in our society. There is a new article or study out every day now about how the counseling centers at Universities nationwide are overwhelmed with students with high levels of anxiety and severe and sometimes crippling symptoms of depression. About how our young adults are not prepared to cope with the stressors of the life they have to face.
I keep shouting into the hurricane force winds of College SAT Prep workshop flyers zipping past me , but most days I can’t even hear myself.
Why am I not ensuring that my own teenage daughter has every possible advantage in being successful in life, knowing what I know? Reading what I’m reading?
Because life is not a mission.
See, you can f*ck up a mission. But you can’t f*ck up an adventure.
Life is an adventure.
Anyone who tries to tell you different is a liar or is trying to sell you something.
Don’t believe me?
If you have to get from Point A to Point B in X amount of time with Y amount of usable resources to start with and Z amount of valuable resources left, otherwise you lose or everybody dies, that’s a mission.
That’s not life.
If you are going to get from Point A (which we know) to Point B (which is yet to be determined) in an unknown amount of time with an unknown amount of usable resources to start with and an unknown amount of valuable resources left, then you die (and so does everybody else): now that’s an adventure!
I’m not saying you go into an adventure without a good head on your shoulders. A few resources go a long way towards having an interesting and comfortable journey. A few qualities like honesty, curiosity, some humility, and a good work ethic come in handy. Asking for and being willing to receive help are also good.
And no one goes out on an adventure without at least some planning. You don’t go backpacking into the mountains without some preparations. But if you try to put something in your pack for every possible opportunity or disaster, pretty soon your pack will be so heavy you can’t carry it.
My main point is that there’s no one right way to have an adventure. You can’t fail to have an adventure…unless you just don’t go have one.
Go have one. Go have an adventure. Go have a great life.
So I’m technically a trained yoga teacher, but I am human, and I fell out of practice over the last few years. After moving to New Orleans, I was feeling a little overwhelmed with all the changes and I needed to find something to ground me. Enter Wild Lotus. I paid a thin $33 to have a month of unlimited yoga practice and I challenged myself to practice every day. I’m almost in my last week and so far, so good. My interest and appreciation for this practice has been reinvigorated. So on that note, check out a few ways that yoga can change your life for the better:
Alcohol, Insomnia, and Banana Tea. Sounds like a dare. Well, the Banana Tea was a dare. From my mom. She heard about it on Dr. Oz and, for Mother’s Day, requested that I be the family Guinea Pig and try it out. But first, an explanation.
I like to drink. I mean, most people do, especially here in New Orleans. I’m no stranger to a nightcap or two before bed. But when I turned 30, I began to notice that the final drink of the night was always the one that would wreck my sleep and erase my ability to wake up at 5 AM for my daily meditation. Turns out, there’s a great explanation for this effect – just ask WebMD!
A new review of 27 studies shows that alcohol does not improve sleep quality. According to the findings, alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply for a while, but it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
And the more you drink before bed, the more pronounced these effects. REM sleep happens about 90 minutes after we fall asleep. It’s the stage of sleep when people dream, and it’s thought to be restorative. Disruptions in REM sleep may cause daytime drowsiness, poor concentration, and rob you of needed ZZZs.
“Alcohol may seem to be helping you to sleep, as it helps induce sleep, but overall it is more disruptive to sleep, particularly in the second half of the night,” says researcher Irshaad Ebrahim. He is the medical director at The London Sleep Centre in the U.K. “Alcohol also suppresses breathing and can precipitate sleep apnea,” or pauses in breathing that happen throughout the night.
The more a person drinks before bed, the stronger the disruption. One to two standard drinks seem to have minimal effects on sleep, Ebrahim says.
“The immediate and short-term impact of alcohol is to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, and this effect on the first half of sleep may be partly the reason some people with insomnia use alcohol as a sleep aid,” Ebrahim says. “However, this is offset by having more disrupted sleep in the second half of the night.”
Alcohol tricks people into thinking they are getting better sleep, says Scott Krakower, DO. He is an addiction specialist at North Shore-LIJ in Mineola, N.Y. “People who drink alcohol often think their sleep is improved, but it is not.”
REM is the more mentally restorative type of sleep, says Michael Breus, PhD, a sleep specialist in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Alcohol is not an appropriate sleep aid. If you rely on alcohol to fall asleep, recognize that you have a greater likelihood to sleepwalk, sleep talk, and have problems with your memory.”
Some tips to improve sleep habits include:
Bananas are rich in potassium and magnesium, but what most people do not know is that the banana peel has, even more, potassium and magnesium than the banana itself…Potassium and magnesium are beneficial for the nervous system and are great for relaxing the muscles. In fact, magnesium is the most important mineral for muscle relaxation and can reduce muscle cramps along with other aches and pains.
When you are stressed, guess which mineral is depleted from the body first? You guessed it! Magnesium. You need magnesium to cope with stress, allowing you to relax and fall asleep.
Cinnamon is great because it is one of the best ways to balance blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels are balanced, your hormones can function in a way that allows for better sleep. If your blood sugar levels are off, then you may have energy at night, or be tired during the day.
David Wolfe taught me how to make it. Basically, cut the ends off a clean organic banana, boil it whole in a small pot of purified or spring water for at least 10 minutes, add cinnamon (or boil with a cinnamon stick) and stevia, then enjoy. I’ve only tried it twice, but I think it helps.
Here’s the fearless Gadget Trish with a video about it…
Here’s one of my favorite songs. It’s by Brian Eno, a man I have loved for many years. If you’ve been to see me for a treatment, there’s a good chance you mellowed out on my table to some of his ambient work. He’s had a pretty flawless career (well, except for that Coldplay album – but a check is a check). He’s a genius. In 1975 he developed a deck of cards called Oblique Strategies, meant to help blocked artists have creative breakthroughs. If you are feeling blocked, you draw a card out of the deck and it says something like, “Use an Old Idea,” or “What Would Your Closest Friend Do?” or “Try Faking It!” or “Add More Cowbell.” I may have made up the last one, but you get the point. It’s geared towards musicians, but it’s great for entrepreneurs as well. If I’m having a problem working through something, it’s at least good for a laugh, which relaxes me and helps me move through a problem with more ease.
“Golden Milk? Is this a thing? WTF?”
My best friend in San Francisco asked me that recently, and I had to admit that I’d never heard of it. But a quick google search led me to my favorite natural health blogs – Wellness Mama and Dr. Mercola and Betchy Crocker (whose photo I stole for this) – and they are all on the Golden Milk train for health, wellness, and hangovers. Read on!
If you are too lazy/busy to make this, you can always ask your doctor about taking this fabulous supplement instead.
From Wellness Mama:
Turmeric is a root that has been used for thousands of years by many cultures for its potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
I love it for cooking in foods like curries and as an herbal remedy. Especially this time of year, turmeric is a staple at our home for avoiding illness and keeping our immune systems strong.
Turmeric is especially known for its benefits to digestion, immune function, liver health and even possible protection from cancer.
Curcumin (turmeric) may stop the action of a liver enzyme that activates environmental toxins into carcinogenic forms, and may be especially useful in deactivating the carcinogens in cigarette smoke and chewing tobacco. Turmeric in the diet increases the production of enzymes that digest fats and sugars, and stop cholesterol from forming gallstones. Turmeric prevents the release of histamine in the stomach, quelling nervous stomach and counteracting food allergies and it fights gum inflammation by halting the action of a gene that creates irritant chemicals. Without the irritation, bacteria cannot find a place to grow, and the absence of bacteria reduces both bad breath and gingivitis.
Turmeric Tea or Golden Milk is a great way to get the benefits of Turmeric daily. I love drinking this before bed as it aids relaxation and helps boost the immune system while sleeping.
The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that it is safe to cook with Turmeric while pregnant and nursing but that turmeric supplements should not be taken without a doctor’s advice. Since this tea contains Turmeric, consult with a doctor or midwife before consuming this if you are pregnant, nursing or have a medical condition.
Turmeric Tea Golden Milk Recipe
2 cups of milk or homemade coconut milk (or conventional coconut or almond or hazelnut milk)
1 teaspoon Turmeric
½ teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon raw honey or maple syrup or Stevia to taste
Pinch of black pepper (increases absorption)
Tiny piece of fresh, peeled ginger root or ¼ tsp ginger powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender until smooth.
Pour into a small sauce pan and heat for 3-5 minutes over medium heat until hot but not boiling.
Here’s a great article a patient shared with me recently. I think it does a fantastic job of describing the skepticism around and the “magic” of acupuncture. Also I want to meet her acupuncturist who also worked in film and television for years!
When I was younger, I frequently met people who evangelized for universal LSD consumption. A wider perspective, the acid-eaters tried to explain. A benevolent system. They always seemed half-dead to me, some part of them already partaking in the next world, turned away even as they stared into my face and tried to explain. I once watched one of them almost overdose on laughing gas, leering, muttering nastily at my head, his face blue as day. It was indecent, his romance with death. It should have been private. They all just seemed as if they’d willingly trade life for what might be nothing. They seemed infected by the same unexamined certainty as the religious and the insane, mistaking it for some greater ontological understanding.
And then one day I thought I should visit the acupuncturist on Hyperion Avenue. I’d driven past it every day for months. I don’t remember why it suddenly seemed like a good idea. I mean, I remember generally. I was troubled. Things were going wrong. I could produce no reason for it. I thought I might be carrying a backlog of sadness, that it had begun to corrode my life from the inside.
Because I have chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, an autoimmune disorder affecting the peripheral nerves, I’ve had so many venipunctures that the crooks of my elbows are pitted with scars. They look about the same as the scars of my friend who shot heroin for seven years. I’ve had four central lines in my subclavian vein, two on each side. One end tunneled under the skin and then fed into the vein; the other end flopped around on the surface. One of them stayed in for a year. I did six months of the flushing and dressing changes for the line myself. I’ve watched my blood go in and out, lost count of the gallons of other people’s plasma I’ve used, dirtied with autoantibodies, bled back out. I’ve given myself dozens of shots in my legs. All of which is to say that I wasn’t afraid of needles.
I was, however, afraid that I might lose my grip on reality and go delicately insane, right there on the table. My nightmares were already bad enough. I preferred to keep my inner terror invisible and unknown. I respected fear, didn’t need to transcend it, but mine was distributed oddly. There were certain things I was an ace at — I’m still a first-rate hospital patient — but it had been six years since I’d driven on a freeway. I was taking pills to get out of bed and more pills to get back in. Small, daily things were becoming impossible.
Probably the decision took place in some barely knowable part of my reasoning mind; once made, I found it easy to find the number of the place online and then drive there, park, go inside, take in the obligatory dribbling fountain and pamphlets about tinctures and powders. The acupuncturist was white, white-haired, beaming, intelligent. I went into a little room. The sheets were softer than any I’d ever felt. Eight hundred thread count? Nine hundred? Is that even a thing? It was like lying on the underside of a giant cat.
Pulses were taken; my tongue was observed. Apparently, my liver chi was trapped, which was getting the organ hot and burning up my heart energy. I didn’t care about the words. I just wanted to keep hoping this person would be able to help me. He had worked in the film industry for years and years, and started studying acupuncture when he was 40. Forty! You could start something at 40; I was 40 then. It was a revelation. I planted my face into the headrest.
Lying there, prone, holding in my flesh a number of those little pins you can’t quite feel, I caught the glimmer of an understanding that the slight concentration of energy in and around my body at that moment could just barely be distinguished from the rest of the universe. I began to understand that what I called my self was physically delimited not by my body but by a concentration of energy in and around it. I tried to determine how far out into the air it reached. Four inches? I couldn’t sense a boundary. It haloed me and faded into the surrounding space.
I began to understand that there was no such thing as death, if death meant the absolute end of something that once existed and no longer did. Imagine instead a gradual dissipation of the energy once concentrated in the general shape of the living entity. A person. A tree. A fruit on the tree. Pick the fruit and the energy stays in the center of it for some time. I’m already partaking in death along with everything else that ever lived and that lives now.
All of this flooded into my understanding in about 10 seconds. I was tingling. I was more permeable than I once thought. Bones and meat and blood, but now, also, the air. The energy all around. Once the needles were removed, I felt high for days.
Since then, I don’t think I’ve changed much. The vocabulary of the acid-eaters still makes me cringe, particularly when I hear myself using it. This is the burden of the cynic. If your cynicism disappears, even for a moment, you are dismissed by fellow cynics; worse, you court self-disdain.
Which is the real world, the world of doubt and disbelief or the world of unbelievable free-flowing magic? Or is it a steady oscillation between the two?
It has been more than a year, and I still feel better.
My friend Miriam (of WaterWorksLA – check it out!) recently took me to one of her favorite spots in New Orleans in her brick-red pickup named Idgie Threadgoode. Wow. It’s a fantastic, quiet spot to rest and regroup. We lit (or tried to light – we forgot matches!) some candles for a few friends and basked in the warm March air.
St. Roch, or St. Rocco, is a Catholic saint and confessor specially invoked against plagues and pestilence. He is also the patron saint of dogs and falsely accused people.
The Greater New Orleans website describes the origin of the cemetery and chapel:
At the height of the yellow fever epidemic of 1867, a German priest named Rev. Peter Leonard Thevis arrived in New Orleans. Faced with the severity of the yellow fever epidemic, he turned to God invoking the intercession of St. Roch, the patron of good health. He promised that if no one in his parish should die from the fever, he would erect a chapel in honor of the Saint. Amazingly, not one member of Holy Trinity died from yellow fever, either in the epidemic of 1867 or 1878.
In thanks, Rev. Thevis’s conviction was to build not only a chapel as a shrine to St. Roch, but also a mortuary chapel in a last resting place for members of his flock. The cemetery was called the Campo Santo (resting place of the dead). Rev. Thevis traveled to Europe to study the architecture and construction of many beautiful shrines and chapels before building the chapel. The chapel, completed in 1876, was considered a beautiful example of Gothic architecture.
People came to the shrine in large numbers to ask St. Roch for help in cases of affliction, disease and deformities. At one time, the celebration of All Saints Day attracted thousands of people to the Shrine seeking guidance and help for themselves and others in distress. A small room on the side of the chapel holds a number of offerings left by visitors to the chapel. The tradition was to leave accouterments of the illness or disability (including, in the past, eyeballs, crutches, and false limbs!) in gratitude for recovery.
Another New Orleans tradition related to St Roch that took place for many years is that on Good Friday young girls made a pilgrimage to St. Roch’s chapel because of a local legend, which promised a husband before the year was out to the maiden who said a prayer and left a small sum at each of nine churches. It was considered doubly lucky if St. Roch’s chapel was the end of the pilgrimage.
The neighborhood got its current name in 1867 with the dedication of the St. Roch shrine and cemetery. St. Roch Chapel and Cemetery are a very important part of the history of the St. Roch neighborhood. At the height of the yellow fever epidemic of 1867, a German priest named Rev. Peter Leonard Thevis arrived in New Orleans. Faced with the severity of the yellow fever epidemic, he turned to God invoking the intercession of St. Roch, the patron of good health.