self improvement, self love

IN THE MOMENT

I woke up at four am this past Monday morning and lounged in bed for what seemed like two hours only to discover that just thirty minutes had passed. Every day this week four am has been an unintended alarm so I indulge its inner ring and get up. Why not, may as well enjoy the quiet sound of the morning.

I put the coffee on and grabbed my pillow lowering myself to the floor for another round of While the Coffee Perks Meditation acknowledging myself with a brief mental clap for sticking with this practice. I started this over four months ago and have barely missed a day. The rewards from this are countless and though hard to define them with words, I am a much calmer and focused soul because of this. It makes me feel good and I want to feel good so I march forth.

As I sat cross legged on the floor and began breathing, the sounds of the rain storm and wind surrounded me. I haven’t heard a good thunderstorm in a while so when the electrifying bolts of lightning came along with the thunderous booms I breathed them in. How often does one get to be meditating and at the first breath in have thunder and lightning join you in the party? Wake up! They yelled. And I welcomed the reminder to pay attention. I am. More now than ever.

And it is a conscious daily choice I make to pay attention. In the luscious moment that is right now. Not tomorrow, not yesterday, but right now because really this is all any of us have. The older I get the more I realize that RIGHT NOW is all we ever have. We take time and tomorrow and next week and next month for granted. Or at least I have, all ingredients for fretting and worrying and anxious thinking that doesn’t serve me and my creative self well -ever. I am confident that many reading this today would agree, it seems like this is just one of our traits of being human. When I reflect back on anything in my past that I excessively worried about- like actually lost sleep over- it is virtually insignificant today. As I review these temporary struggles of yester year I realize the value in their lessons in the countless hours I wasted.

Finishing my deep contemplative breathing that is now part of my morning routine, I got myself set up on the couch for my other morning ritual, writing. Trying not to be persuaded by the calls of checking Facebook and email, I dive into my happy place that always keeps me locked into the NOW. I start thinking about the moments this past week that I lived in the actual moment. I am fully aware of the irony of this as living in the actual moment means not headed backwards, but for the purpose of drawing the examples to illustrate when IN THE MOMENT works for me, I must head there.

This past #noplanthursday, I am attempting to add to my list of IN THE MOMENT moments, has been an interesting experiment. Three Thursdays later, I have learned that I struggle with not making plans on purpose. I had to return books that I took out at my new favorite spot I discovered on my first attempt three Thursdays ago. The Redwood Library in Newport, RI founded in 1747 with this as part of its mission statement. Nothing in View but the Good of Mankind. Has an old fashioned ring to it, doesn’t it? This library isn’t just any old library, it is a subscription library and the oldest community library still occupying its original building in the United States. You need to have a separate library card for it and must sign up as a member which I promptly did. The Redwood Library is a magical space to sit and do nothing except read or write or sit and stare in silence. There are lectures and music events as well as special exhibits and I was lucky enough to catch one on Claggett Clocks. This may sound like a big yawner to some, but honestly, imagine walking into a dimly lit room with over forty grandfather style clocks made from as early as 1716, many working and ticking and gonging just as the noon hour hit. This is the thing about not planning anything and finding something without looking. Juicy for sure.

I have this list in my head of the places I have said I am going to get to. Like so many women I know who say, I’ve been meaning to get there, the museums, the walking trails, the kayak trips, the flower shows and the exhibits. Those endless lists of interesting things to do, but somehow the endless lists in our head prevail and the days go on as do the exhibits. What better days than getting to these then on these no plan Thursdays?

I walked there from my partner’s house to return the books after having lots of mindpseak trying to convince myself I didn’t need to leave the comfortable couch with my laptop. What is it about that mind speak saying NO instead of YES? Thankfully, though, the books I took out had to be returned on this very day so I had to get up and go. Books in hand, I made my way outside to a glorious day of sunshine and cool breeze, the ocean at my back and the sounds of nature as my private symphony. It was amazing how quickly I moved from the lists to the moment as soon as the first bird chirped at me.

The smooth and vibrant siren sound of the cardinal rewarded me on my walk. As they always do, causing me to look up and look for him. And her. Vibrant sharp shrills calling me, walking with me, following me the entire way to and from. Making me stop in my tracks with my two books in my arms and look up in search for their beauty. And there they were. Again and again. I was reminded of how happy I am to recognize their sounds so easily and to look up searching for them, eyes trying to follow their calls until they land on that familiar bright red spot in the bare oaks and maples with barely a bud on their branches in this early April. Rewarded by my simple walk to The Redwood Library on a beautiful afternoon just because I “forced” myself to follow my plan of wandering.

Our lives have come to the need to actually schedule a day of not planning and in this itself is actually a plan, but be that as it may, this no plan plan is important for this busy active chick. Cardinals, nature, books, writing and maybe topped off with a dish of Peppermint Stick ice cream reminding me again that the moment, this moment is the very best vacation spot.

Health, self love, Women

NOT DRINKING (TODAY)

We drinking chicks love our wine and our cocktails. We love our rituals of choosing the perfect bottle of Proseco knowing that the front porch on a warm summer eve calls us at 5pm for that first sip of sparking delight. What is it about that first sip, the tiny sparkly bubbles headed from your tongue to your throat that automatically cause a big happy sigh? Or a robust red on a cold winter night after a long day sitting by fire recapping the events from work or life with your partner?

For so many women I know, drinking and its box of rituals have been the norm. We talk about it, we plan around it , we gather together to imbibe with it. Cocktails take the edge off. Off of what? I don’t know because in my circle of acquaintances for the most part, the edge we speak of is life coming at us. Besides the inevitable twists and turns that make up what life is, our edges our pretty mild.

We, of course, have our struggles, but no one said life was supposed to be anything less. Struggles are what make us rebound, strengthen and stand taller. No one wants them, but for a majority of the pain give or take extreme situations, we usually can look back and say the struggle was worth it. With the exception of losing a child, or a person in your life who is far too young to die there aren’t extremes in the world I get to live that causes a pain so deep one can’t climb the mountain. But this is me. And most of my friends. We were raised resilient and we power on.

I have had my share of struggles and have had my share of wine. I have quit drinking on more than one occasion and one time I quit for a full seven years. This was one of my proudest accomplishments because it wiped all of the cobwebs from my foggy brain that I didn’t know what foggy and allowed me to think clearly about my future. Drinking puts a (pun intended) cork in the ability for me to flourish and make serious decisions. Drinking alcohol allows me to put off those decisions, keeping them at bay and removing the emotions that sometimes have to come with those decisions. But none of this is even in my radar at the time. I only have this wisdom when I cease and desist.

I was walking along looking for somebody, and then suddenly I wasn’t anymore. – Winnie the Pooh

You know when you have a plugged drain? But before it gets to the point when you have to call the plumber, you see that the water is taking more time to leave the sink and go down the drain? You let that happen for a few weeks hoping that it will miraculously just go down with a few plunges or some Draino. But we all know that this is highly unlikely. At some point the problem of the clogged drain will need to be solved or else you simply will not be able to use the sink. The residues of toothpaste and face cleanser will leave a circle of film in your sink and the need to clean it will become an almost daily grind because you didn’t take care of the clog when you first noticed it.

This is what drinking is like for me. I come from a family of alcoholics as so many of us do because drinking is just so much damn fun. It is so much easier to pour a glass of gorgeous Brunello instead of sitting on a mat and meditating. Life is short, right? Enjoy the wine. Fuck all these self imposed rules and regulations, right? Just eat the cookie and drink the frickin wine, right? Well not so fast, though I have a lot of friends who can just have one glass of wine and sip it slowly, this is not my gig. I wish it were. My grandfather has two glasses of red every single night at five pm. Without fail. And he is 101. Some people can just have the wine and call it a day. For me, I have the wine and I want more wine. Then the next day I want it again. And the ritual turns into a self talk garble and each day I get foggier and less clear about my purpose. The cobwebs re-enter at a slow barely noticeable pace until one day a few weeks in, I just don’t feel good. I feel imbalanced and emotionally unsteady. I find myself questioning my core. I never do this when I am not drinking alcohol. So I decided the day after my son’s 21st birthday, that I would apply the one day at a time mantra to giving up drinking today. My friends say, “are you drinking or not drinking?” Instead of the black and white yes or no, locking me into the corner,  I say instead, “I am not drinking today.”

Because this is true. Today is all I know. And what I know is that when I don’t drink alcohol I feel a sense of inner power and direction that allows me to get the creative juice ideas headed in the right direction at the speed of light. With no detours and dead ends. I feel good, great, better when I don’t drink. So I am not drinking today. And as life comes at me and the universe tells its story to me the way it is supposed to I come across the article yesterday about this “movement,” this new “thing” called elective sobriety because God forbid everything doesn’t have a branding possibility. Women are consciously not drinking alcohol and cutesy names are popping up all over the place. Mocktails. Soberinstagram. Sobercurious hashtags and websites and pop up gatherings are apparently now a trend. Because in our world we live in, everything seems to need to be something. But in this case, I wholeheartedly agree. Why do we feel the need to escape from our luscious brilliant selves? As Glinda the Good Witch said, “You’ve always had the power, my dear.”

The more we connect with our own true selves and learn who those selves really are, we march forth rather than stay stuck. Sometimes staying is stuck is necessary as it is part of the discovery process, but drinking for me keeps me there. Keeps my foot in the quicksand and the other foot trying to run ahead.

So for today anyway, I make my own mocktails, drink my hot tea by the fire and figure out ways to enjoy the festivities of holidays and gatherings without feeling the need to mute the edge. Because when my edge is sharp, it makes cutting a tomato way easier than trying to use a dull blade. I like the sharpness the gift of not drinking gives me. This alone is what makes the day be the next one and the one after that. So for today, I try again because I have always had the power.


This is the article I read that prompted this writing today. Great post. Thank you @Virginia Sole-Smith

https://elemental.medium.com/the-rise-of-elective-sobriety-8989550afbcb

life lessons

WE BELONG TOGETHER


“Weeeee Belong Together!” Ricki Lee Jones belted out from the fancy stereo in my silly yet stunning car I recently leased. I was headed to Connecticut on a very early morning this past week -so early that it was still dark out. The light mist caused me to use the windshield wipers and the defroster because April hasn’t gotten the memo yet that it is in fact Spring, not winter.

This was no game of chicken, you were aiming at your best friend,” she sang slowly to get to that luscious build up to the chorus of “Weeeee Belong Together!” She seemed to be in the seat next to me singing her brilliant prose. I feel like we grew up together as she was always one of my favorite female vocalists all of these years later.

And just like that I was seventeen. Driving in my beloved 63 VW bug, my first car purchase. Eighteen hundred dollars and I bought it without even test driving it. No parent along with me to help me with my purchase or to even guide me in whether it was a good idea to drive to the house of the owners with a pocket full of cash. My two dear friends, John and Andy were my chaperones. I was afraid to drive the car by myself for its first run so I made Andy drive it back for me. And now that I think of it, I don’t even think I asked my father who I was living with, kind of, if I could purchase it. This seems so unbelievable to me now that I reflect back, but that car was an introduction to life for me. So maybe it wasn’t a bad thing that my father who really didn’t have a clue on how to parent anyway wasn’t micromanaging this very helpful life experience.

And just like that, I was propelled back to 1982. My Christian Dior pale pink vintage gloved hands were on the steering wheel in the lightly drizzling nighttime. This time though Ricki Lee Jones was belting out “We Belong Together” from her new album, Pirates, on the cassette player I had installed as any respectable seventeen year old teenager with her first car would have. Pirates was the album after her first one with her famous song, Chuck E.’s in Love.

Windows fogging because for anyone who has a history with any Volkwagon bugs, Halfbacks, Hatchbacks or Vanagaons would know, the heat never worked and if it did it was full throttle on or off, no in between. A defroster would be the little fans you would have to buy at stores like Benny’s to attach to the dashboard hoping this would help you see out of the tiny windshield. I can still hear the puttering bubbling sounds of my beloved 63 Volkswagon driven on a very quiet North Rd in Jamestown, RI headed to my boyfriend’s house in the evening.

And it was one of those moments. One of those magical moments when everything worked. The car, the music, the weather, the smells, the sounds. And my life.

At seventeen for a brief moment in time, there was nothing better than that particular moment and I remember it like it was this moment. A perfect time travel back to that time as I made my way almost forty years later to Connecticut on a rainy Monday morning. I could almost smell it. I don’t know what made that moment so special for me, but the distinct memory of it has always stayed with me comforting me like the soft blanket you had when you were a little girl that you had to have to fall asleep easily.

Music can do this, sensory awareness, sounds, smells, tastes all can make it easy to time travel. As I reflect back on to that evening, I think it was my first experience of completely living in the present moment. Though I didn’t realize this at the time, I am sure that this was what made that particular evening so special to me all of these years later.

Ahhh that often unattainable PRESENT MOMENT we know we are all supposed to be striving for. Right? Oprah says it. Every guest she has on her Super Sunday says it. Deepak Chopra says this, Wayne Dyer used to say it before he left us. Eckhart Tolle says it. Podcasts, blogs everywhere I turn screaming the importance of LIVING IN THE PRESENT! Another task we are supposed to be striving for and improving on and checking off our lists.

What I know for myself to be true is that when I do manage to carve out just a few moments in the day to make an attempt to take on this call, I feel better. Way less anxious, worried, concerned and stressed. Consciously striving for this is no easy task in our busy lives especially as caregivers, business owners, parents and just humans. Living in the present is a practice– not a one and done check it off my list and move on to the next life goal on my quest for perpetual zen status.

Living in the Present is not compartmentalized into some neat little box ‘over there.’

It is about living in the moment while the moment is occurring. Using driving as a metaphor for this since this piece today features my 63 VW Bug, there are those moments in time when I am driving from point a to point b and when I get to my destination I have almost no memory of how I got there. Some call it absent minded driving, I like to call it driving while thinking too much.

When I was married to Dave, he wasn’t much of a talker and I was. I liked talking about feelings and working on improving but this wasn’t his way of marriage. Often times when I wanted to talk about something, he would go quiet and say, “I’m thinking!” And I would sigh with frustration and think “What is there to think about?” If I would bring the conversation up again at a later time, he would say, “Alayne, you think too much.”

This drove me bat shit crazy, but often in hindsight there was some wisdom in this. I do think too much at times though it serves me well many of these times, there are many times it does not. Being present is being here. Being nowhere and NOW HERE. All I know is that as I get older my goal is to feel good. When I am in the moment, I feel good. When I am fretting and worrying about the past and the future both of which I have no control over, I do not feel good and this is not good. For my health, for my mental and physical state. And for my ability to lead my team and be a great mom and a better human, I must choose to feel good as often as possible.

Perhaps this recent trip down memory lane with Ricki Lee in the passenger seat was a reminder of this. Goodness knows that I must be constantly reminded that I have choices in how I think and what I think. We all do. Our minds are powerful allies when we choose to use them for the good they offer.

Today is my second #noplanthursday so I am off to remember that WE BELONG TOGETHER is a great phrase for me and my present self. Together again.

this isn’t my exact car, but it looked almost like this one except mine was way more perfect.

life lessons

A RISING STAR

I started a second career this past month. Well rather an extension of a long glorious career in the business of beauty I get to lovingly call my career. This second endeavor is as a certified business coach for a company called Strategies. I have written a little about this new experience and like anything new, it has my attention. This is no small feat because for the many friends in my inner circle, they could likely attest to my short attention span. I am filled with one hit wonder ideas on a daily basis, lucky if one percent of them come to fruition.

I have a small barn in the back of my house, some people call it a she-shed. My ideas usually find their way into the barn as the centerpiece. Learning to make chocolate babka, I now want every person I know to experience the delight of this on their tongues, my co-conspirator in all barn ideas, Morgan, kindly and patiently rolls her eyes — and says, “Are we opening the Babka Barn?” Macaroni and cheese? Yes. The mac and cheese barn.

Then there is the Breathing Barn because now I am meditating every day so of course everyone needs to have this experience. Let’s move this to the barn! I haven’t even mentioned the typewriters, but of course that would be a perfect fit in the barn along with the writing barn and the art barn and the visionboard barn. See where I am going? Ideas flow at the speed of light in this entrepreneurial brain of mine. God forbid I have an idea and just keep it to myself, taking my own bath in its essence. Why I need to share every single experience with the world is beyond me, but I accept it as one of my personal core drivers. And as my grandfather says often, “Be that as it may.” And so it is. Never ends. One can see why I need to actively attempt a no plan Thursday. And my struggle with this idea too is that I want to make it a thing. I exhaust myself and likely people around me. Who cares though, I seize time like there isn’t any and it will likely be this way till the day I die.

I am taking this new career path as seriously as most people would when they start a new job. Reading the company manual from cover to cover, studying the material I need to inform myself with so I can pass my knowledge to someone needing to improve their business model and systems and going on the private Facebook accounts and making my comments to other like minded business owners. I may be a bit of an out of the box bohemian when it comes to life, but in working for another company, I respect their rules and regs and try to follow their suggestions for full throttle participation. Overachiever? Maybe. But more now that I am a grown up and much less inclined to do it to impress anyone other than my own work ethic and joy I get from this new experience of ‘employee.’ It is a major and joyous paradigm shift and frankly one I have the luxury of really wanting rather than really needing, A nice position to be in for sure.

This learning brings me back, though to the struggle with the overflowing social media and technology I have had for some time so much so that I — pre-Strategies- was on my merry way back to real paper address books and appointment calendars. This went out the window as soon as I had my first training week since everything is technology. Appointment making, scheduling, calendars, webinars, training, group texts, group emails- all technology. So I jumped back in and figured it would be a great addition to my knowledge base and here I am. If you can’t beat them, join them, I suppose. Kind of, but with caution and trepidation this time around. Back on Facebook daily posting questions about business to the thousands of people who are friends in this private group.

This is now a morning habit along with my while the coffee perks meditation and writing habit and I have surprisingly enjoyed this experience. Maybe because it has a beginning and an end. I only allow myself about twenty minutes to post the question and make my comments to others, then I am off Facebook. I didn’t put it back on my phone and this helps me not become addicted to checking the replies, likes, stars, hearts and whatever other symbols Facebook has created to turn humanity into Pavlov’s dogs.

Yesterday when I was making my post for the day, I noticed that I had a star next to my name. I scrolled through the other names and didn’t see any stars next to anyone else’s names. So I clicked on my name to learn that Facebook in all of its wisdom declared me “A RISING STAR.” Some algorithm has decided that my posts and the comments that follow make me worthy of this new symbol. I wasn’t asked if I wanted this next to my name, I guess Facebook just assumes that every user wants outward star recognition. They didn’t seem to think that before their label, I may have already thought I was a star, they also didn’t think that maybe a star next to my name would make me think of other stars next to people that don’t have such a positive vibe, like those yellow stars Jewish people were forced to wear to identify them. Maybe this is a stretch, but I have just read Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris after reading The Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly and yellow stars and labeling are fresh in my mind.

a poignant read

With anti-Semitism on the rise as close as eight miles away in Fall River, Mass the defiling of gravestones with appalling anti-Semitic phrases and symbols, I am thinking that less labeling is probably a better business strategy. Especially for a provocative and bold lovely bad ass Jewish chick like myself. Some people may be rolling their eyes at this assessment of this star next to my name on Facebook, and maybe it is an overreach, but the labeling of people without their consent or choice gives me the willies. Maybe I have watched too much Handmaid’s Tale, or have read too many books to keep what happened to so many Jews, Romas, gay men and women, disabled and anyone else who didn’t look or fit the part declared by a madman. This was less than eighty years ago and there are still people from this time in history who lived through it to talk about it. Less and less which is why I voraciously read and recommend books that take me back there. As sad and painful as it may be from the comfort of my heated house, packed refrigerator, Mercedes in my driveway and safe and comfortable life I lead, I refuse to take this life I lead for granted.

I am struck by the ease of which we have become used to accepting these little types of recognition as normal. And I don’t want to believe that any of these seemingly innocent Facebook recognitions could be laying the groundwork for some sinister plan, but the Holocaust didn’t happen in a blast. It was a slow and steady stream of propaganda and commentary. It was humankind never thinking that a mind could think the way the crazy man with a mustache and hatred in his heart who I refuse to name in my piece today could imagine. Little dribbles of hatred and labeling of anyone who was the OTHER.

So Facebook, Apple, Google, and all of the other big techs out there we have slowly let infiltrate our life, please think about your power and stop trying to tell me who I am and who I should be by labeling me with a star. I already know who I am and I have already risen.

life lessons

THE WAKEUP CALL

Don’t look at the clock, I thought to myself. How long had I been sleeping? It seemed like if I did look at the clock it would be early. Not early like four am, but early like bad early. But I was awake. So I did what I normally do when this happens, I review my previous day. Food intake, movement, etc and could only come up with that I gave myself a full day off and sat on the couch by the warmth of the fire doing what I love. Writing, reading and more writing. I didn’t even really get up to move and my food intake was perfectly fine, no sugar or drink so I couldn’t really blame this. But then I realized that the early morning wakeup was my call to action and it had nothing to do with yesterday.

I finally looked at the clock. Worse than I thought. 2:14. Holy early. This is even early for me, but there is a surge happening in my body that is commanding creativity in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time. The feeling that is leading me down the path of flow and connection with what I am supposed to be doing. When this happens, the three am wakeup call becomes my friend. I need to get up and get writing and realize that this is the power time for my creatvity, when thoughts and ideas come at the speed of light. If I don’t get up and get writing, I will lie there thinking about the ideas, thinking that I will remember them. This has happened to me in the past and when I do finally fall asleep, I wake up with barely a thread of memory from those luscious thoughts just a few hours earlier.

Creative purpose. When I am on point, there is no stopping the flow. All of the support comes at me like a meteor. I meet the right people at the right time, I find classes or hear podcasts that support whatever ideas I am working on. The list goes on and when I am in tune, all of the people places and things show up like I asked for it. Universal flow.  Say for example you decide you want to learn to play an instrument, like the piano, maybe this is something you have always wanted to do, but never had the time. So you think the thought, then like magic, you are at a party and start talking to someone. You ask him, “What do you do?” He responds, “I teach piano.”  Or you are perusing the newspaper and happen to land on an ad that says “PIANO LESSONS AVAILABLE, TAKING NEW AND BEGINNER STUDENTS.” You may ignore this thinking this is just a freak coincidence, so you take that seemingly small voice nagging at you and store it away in that old dusty suitcase in the attic where it sits- for awhile anyway. But then you hear a beautiful concerto on a Sunday morning or you see a sign at a coffee shop that says, “FREE PIANO, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS PICK IT UP, GREAT CONDITION,” Reminding you to go pull that suitcase down from the attic and make the time to full- fill you. The laundry will wait, the bills can be paid tomorrow. When was the last time you allowed a creative force into your heart, that could take you away from the blither of your mindchatter and allow getting lost in something else for awhile?

This is what I am talking about. As always when I listen to my soul’s desires, the right books, articles and podcasts land in my radar. So last week on another three am wakeup call that I didn’t heed, I instead scrolled through some podcast episodes and landed on one that changed my mindset. It was about reisistance and how resistance is the unique messaging power that communicates the force to be reckoned with in something creative you are supposed to be doing. I am attaching it to this writing today because it really helped remind me to listen to that voice that seems to whisper but really is shouting your direction if you would only open yourself up to the YES instead of the BUT.

Podcasts by far are one of the easiest ways to educate your mind on almost any possible thought out there and this is just one of many that have inspired me. Whether right before I go to bed, or a drive in the car, when I am working out or just a random listen, there is so much out there to source if you want to change your thinking and attract more goodness into your life.

Listen to Steven Pressfield: Unlock Your Creative Genius from Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations in Podcasts. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/oprahs-supersoul-conversations/id1264843400?mt=2&i=1000427290930

Wherever I am at in my life, what I know is that each step, the ones in the deepest darkest parts of the forest and the ones where the sun is so bright it hurts my eyes, I am always divinely taken care of and that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I also know that I can’t rush things, but I can give them a little nudge. And if I am still not paying attention, the three am wakeup calls surely get my attention.

 

motherhood

LETTING HIM GO

In therapy there is a term used to describe the healthy separation between people, especially a parent and a child. Differentiation is the word that says you did a good job, you have a healthy separation from each other and basically the nest can be disassembled and rebuilt differently. Like that hilarious commercial when the son goes off to college and the parents tearfully bid goodbye then run into the house to turn the kid’s bedroom into a Jacuzzi bathroom. Differentiation allows the natural separation to be normal, tearful yes, but a healthy one.

There are lots of little steps leading up to the true and finite land of differentiation and all of them lay the groundwork, (hands in prayer position here) for the final move out to their own apartment or house at some later time. But differentiation is more than a physical change of scenery, it is psychological and human too. It is the proverbial disconnect of needing to parent, to mother and allow your child to parent himself. Leaving him for the first time at day care, putting him on the school bus to kindergarten, teaching him to swim and letting him go into the ocean for his first time while you watch from the shoreline, the first day of middle school and high school, hugging them after their first broken heart, being there at their first strike out at a playoff game. The list goes on and on and they all build off of each other each time gaining momentum and strength for later. Later. When the emotional bond between you shifts and though you love each other immensely, you don’t need each other for survival, physical or emotional. You can still have the most open and connected heart, but you are ok with yourself enough to separate and fly, free and healthy. Free from issues of abandonment or over parenting that may find you in therapy later on struggling with your own relationships. Differentiation says I love you, you love me but we are not so intertwined in each other’s lives that we either can’t separate or we can’t wait to separate. It is the more neutral in the middle of it, the sweet spot of the hard worked results of parenting well, or as well as you thought at the time.

I understood this concept only recently as both a daughter and a partner. It has taken me all of these years to truly comprehend the true definition of its power and once I recognized the true sense of differentiation, I welcomed it into the life of my son and me wholeheartedly. He has actually taught me differentiation by his own sense of self. Another unexpected gift of being a mother and a parent for the last twenty one years. Differentiation is also the ability to be able to disagree without that volcanic surge causing a behavior that in retrospect certainly serves no one. I would also call this choosing not to take the bait. The bait being when a family member says something to get a response out of you, usually one that causes that previous mentioned surge. My son and I haven’t had that experience and I don’t anticipate it; I would say we have a pretty healthy mother son relationship, but I won’t really know this until he navigates his own relationship in the future. Relationships are the unique viewfinders we get to look through to see what our parent child relationships were really made of.

In anticipation of my son’s trip to Israel last week, he had to get to NYC the day before as he was going to meet a friend. He is a mature twenty-one and this was as simple as getting on a train and heading south where his friend agreed to meet him and escort him back to his house in Queens. As I write this from the position of After, it is a no brainer. For some reason though, I was filled with anxiety, stress, worry and no matter how much meditation and self talk I did, my heart would not stop racing and the anxious thoughts would not settle. Where was this coming from? I finally realized that I had two very definitive travel experiences involving NYC and when I traced back to the exact moments of those, I was able to at least give some credence to my angst. This had nothing to do with his own experience, it was my stuff from my past that was informing this present moment. Wild.

When I was twenty three I went to Paris by myself for a month, flying over with someone I worked with where we would stay together for three days and then part ways. I had a blast and learned so much about myself in this experience. This was before credit cards for twenty year olds, before cell phones, before Google maps. Just me and Rick Steves’ book on Paris for 10.00 a day or something like that. When I came home I had a hundred dollars in my pocket and the flight was late. I took a bus from JFK to Penn station and realized there were no trains that late and I had no way to get back to Rhode Island. Penn Station in 1989 was frightening and there was no way I should have been near the place at 11:30 pm looking like a vulnerable young woman. Some man came up to me and offered to help me with my bags and in my stupor, I agreed as I made my way to the taxi stand to fortunately go to a friend’s house who when I called on the payphone answered and told me to come there immediately. When the taxi driver saw this man with my bag, he began yelling at him that he was ruining tourism and that he was trying to take advantage of me which promptly forced me back into a quick wake up. What an idiot I was. But at the same time, I felt like there was some higher force looking out for me. I safely got to my friend’s apartment and all was well.

The second experience was much later. I was headed to NYC on the train from Providence to attend a training seminar and I was to arrive for a 10:00 am class on a Tuesday on Park Avenue. Excited to be in New York I vowed to myself that I would visit more often as it was such a short train ride. I remember the day and date well. It was September 4, 2001 exactly one week before September 11th at exactly the same time I arrived at Penn Station. I was struck by the random dates and times we land someplace or don’t. I hadn’t been to New York for at least five years and there I was exactly one week by pure chance earlier then the worst terrorist event of my lifetime. All of this showed up to the table unannounced, long tucked away with cobwebs in the attic as I helped my son get ready for his trip. This is amazing to me as it proves to me that traumatic events never leave us and make their reappearances like a well planned surprise party.

My son and I made it to the train station with him not rolling his eyes even. I kept telling him that my nervousness had nothing to do with my trust in his ability to navigate and he reminded me that he has lots of outside US travel experience. The irony was that I was not even the least anxious about him going to Israel. An area the size of New Jersey surrounded by countries that hate them, it was that New York thing. This is why I knew my worry was not about Michael. It was my stuff and I had to go deep in the vault to be able to say a normal goodbye to him as I brought him to the train station last Sunday. I hugged him and kissed him more than he would have liked but he allowed it. No I didn’t go into the train station with him and wait, this was as much about him leaving as it was about me letting him leave, more differentiation steps for the likely final one of him really leaving at some point in time. All normal. All healthy. All the way it is supposed to be between a parent and a child when you get it right. I got in my car after saying my final goodbye and sobbed my eyes out like I had just put him on the kindergarten bus for the first time. I know now that the tears were the final release of the grief I must have felt in those unique experiences. He made it safely to his friend’s and is in Israel now having what I suspect is the time of his life. Just how it should be. AMEN.

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Health, life lessons, Women

SUGAR AND WINE AND SHOPPING

 

Milestones, traumatic events, celebrations, births, deaths and everything in between. This is what the closing of one year and the opening of the next gives to me, the unique opportunity to reflect back and look ahead. I like the neatness of the New Year. The cleaning of the house so to speak. Cleaning cabinets, closets, drawers as the outside clean and cleaning out my body as the inside one. Anyone who has read any of my writings has likely been able to surmise that the indulgence of sugar, wine and shopping are my perpetual nemesis.

“Are you drinking, or not drinking these days?” I can hear my friend and workout partner, Morgan, ask me as regularly as if she were asking me what I did last weekend. She knows that if I say yes, this means on. Again. On the wine, on the sugar, on the bread like an ant on a freshly dropped piece of coffee cake. With a sense of wild abandonment that keeps all my friends guessing at what could possibly be wrong or right with this complex organ in my head called alayne’s brain, I move back and forth, zig zagging from complete mental clarity to a Zenith console of static depending where I fall on the spectrum.

I so wish I was the person who could just do everything in moderation, like my grandmother Isabelle belted out on more than one occasion as she watched my on again off again with nutrition. If I did drugs, I would be an addict, definitely. I like the escapism of the first bite of a homemade chocolate chip cookie, soft warm morsels sliding into my stomach. I love the automatic and immediate ease that my blood feels when I have the first sip of a beautiful glass of red on a cold night by the fire. There is a vein calming that takes me away on a vacation without leaving the couch when I am eating sugar, drinking wine or shopping. Buying 28 typewriters like the world was coming to an end this past year would be an indication that I am trying to distract myself from dealing with myself on some level. The question at the moment though that I finally ask is what am I trying to distract myself from? And why on earth would sugar, shopping and wine be the distraction?

I finally came to the realization through my practice of while the coffee perks meditation that I have been one hundred percent focused on for the past month. Every single day no matter what, while the coffee is perking, to the mat, sitting down cross-legged, palms upwards resting on my legs and settling this busy head of mine. Connecting with my heart, my breath, my blood, organs and whatever else is in perpetual high gear unless I am sleeping. Leaving judgment, criticism, and the barking brain at the door along with my shoes. While the coffee perks meditation, without asking, has provided many answers to my non-questions. This is the thing about meditation and mindfulness, just breathing in the moment and using the moment to bring me back when my mind wanders has been enough. This simple quieting has been an asset and I didn’t realize its full power; I had expected something magic to happen, but it has been more just learning to be still. I have found through this that now is the uniqueness and the now part of the experiment is getting more intense each day I get better at this exercise.

While I am busy trying to quiet my mind, the snap crackle and pops of my mind start going off like fireworks, the what ifs, the what was’, the thoughts and ideas. This is definitely why people don’t meditate. That simmering pot of a brain is not used to taking a big chill. It has to be trained to do so. It is painful and uncomfortable when you sit down uncomfortably on a mat to the expectation that this is going to be some happy time. But it passes, the breath kicks in, the heart slows, the mind eventually calms and I am getting better at remembering to find my breath more often when my mind starts crackling. It turns out the crackling thoughts are the gifts of all of this quiet. It is these very thoughts that offer glimpses into the whys of my life.

Why do I feel the need to escape and numb on occasion? Is it possible to just lean into them and not beat myself up like an abusive relationship judging, scolding and feeling bad? It is not just a piece of cake or one glass of wine or one or two typewriters. I wish it were that simple. What I do know from this morning mindful ritual is that this trifecta is deeply connected to the way my mother and I interacted. When things get rough, let’s go shopping, lets have a glass of wine, lets eat some delicious chocolate cookies. This was her way of showing love, like so many other families, food especially is deeply connected to that bond between hearts. For the first time in my life, I am not blaming her, I am understanding her and this feels healing. I like healing feelings; they certainly serve my health more than the opposite, anger, resentment, and frustration.

It should come as no surprise that the more these three facets of this love triangle I was raised with allow me to numb out and distract from whatever feelings, complex or simple, those very feelings lay dormant, in a waiting position. They do not go away. They stay right where I left them, simmering at a low, barely noticeable heat until I make the concerted effort to cease the easy way out. Then those very feelings that have been lying in wait unbeknownst to this unsuspecting chick start boiling up and over. This is the interesting challenge with feelings. One must go through them, like grief, there is no avoiding the pain, there is no stepping around the center hoping to avoid the crack, the crack in fact is where the juice is and where the lessons are.

When I decide to actively walk through instead of stepping aside, I am always rewarded. The reward is not always fun like winning the lottery or getting the first place prize in a contest, at least not during the walk through. This is when it is easier to just avoid the pain and head back to the fridge or to ebay for another happy purchase of a shiny bright red typewriter. My morning ritual is teaching me to be okay with the pain because the pain is not permanent or life threatening. It is just pain. Each time I consciously choose to cultivate my inner quiet with mindfulness, it has become easier for me to settle down into the now of knowing that this too shall pass.

As I embark on my New Year’s resolutions that I don’t need to bore anyone with, I want to learn the roots of my behaviors and try to change them. When I am not drinking or eating sugar, I feel powerful and centered beyond measure. It is like what Wayne Dyer once said in a lecture he gave about his choice of being sober. That his work with his divine connection is inhibited by outside distractions, and to be able to wholly do his work that he was called to do, the connection could not be a rusty one. That always stuck with me as I know this to be true for my personality. It is so much easier to step off the path on to the sugar train because it is immediate gratification. But sugar makes my brain wacked, I have practiced my own human experiment for over twenty years with what happens to me when I am eating sugar. Fun at first, but a few days later, I sink to a low that is not healthy causing me to have thoughts of doom and gloom that is not normally how I roll.

I have had a lot of trauma, but because of my resilience I put on a brave face and march forth often at an emotional price. As I move into my fifty fourth year on this planet headed towards a two year anniversary of hopefully being cancer free, I know that the best way for me to celebrate is to try again, to get back on the horse and lean in to my pains and former crisis.’ There is a rawness and vulnerability to exposing my core to the storms, naked, free. This new year I hope to see what consistency feels like for a change. We only get one chance at this life and all of the good and bad lessons can only be overcome when I tackle them literally head on, learn from them, and feel the power I know each and every one is there to teach.

So Happy New Year To Me and To You. I am happy I get another chance to make it right. Let’s see if I can make it the first week and I hope this inspires you to try out the while the coffee perk meditation. See you on the mat and at the gym. (You know who you are).

Ps. I have decided to add posts on WordPress as I begin to start writing my book. Please follow me here if you are interested. www.alaynewhite.wordpress.com

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A HAPPY ENDING

A HAPPY ENDING

The cabinet, the dark almost black filigreed mahogany one shaped like a quadrangle, is that what those symbols were called in geometry class? You know part octogan, part square, where the front was more narrow than the back but it was kind of rectangularish? The cabinet with the maroon velvet inside that smelled like smoke and scotch and had an unlocked key hole with the key resting inside it because no one would have thought any fifteen year old girl would be headed there to exchange the clear liquid in the vodka bottles with water hoping no one would notice. No one did notice actually and this kind of disappointed her since as she reflected back, it was only attention and parenting she actually longed for. Though, at the time, no one could tell her this. But that story is for another story. Later.

This liquor cabinet began its life at my great grandfather Joe’s house and the memory of it goes back to when I was as young as four and I lived with him along with my young parents. The cabinet held its strong position in the corner of the living room along with all of the old china that my great grandmother had amassed before she died. This liquor cabinet was small, not holding more than about eight or nine bottles and probably had a decanter and a tray on top of it, The decanters, and I am making this up here, seemed like they would have had those gold plates anchored by chains like necklaces that said in cursivy, lets get down to business words, — scotch, brandy, whiskey. When my great grandfather died, my father became the keeper of the cabinet and it traveled with us to the house on Woodlawn St, in Fall River, MA, then the house on Emerson Rd. in Jamestown, then off to the house on Narragansett Ave. also in Jamestown. It went along with my father when he decided that marriage to Ann, my mother, his wife was not a long term plan. The old cabinet finally landed back in my own familiar territory when being a child of Ann was also not a long term plan for a fifteen year old girl dealing with her own sadness. On Pemberton Ave. Also in Jamestown. The house that Dave rented while he figured out what he was supposed to do with a troubled but highly creative young daughter who absolutely could not live with her emotionally unstable mother dealing with her own sadness. There was a lot of moving in short spaces, always on to the next possible place and space that would create a feeling of grounded security.

That cabinet stayed with my father for another four moves finally leaving me when I decided that I would be better living with my boyfriend at 17 then living with my father. David, my father, allowed this and as I write this it sounds ludicrous especially when I consider that the liquor cabinet’s residence took precedence over David’s 17 year old daughter. Me. The irony does not go unnoticed as the theme of liquor does in fact make for the main character in this story in an invisible sort of way, hidden in the cabinet, traveling in and out of my life and my parent’s lives throughout my entire childhood well into my adulthood, my marriage, my divorce, countless alanon meetings, 7 years of sobriety in between and here I am. Standing, comfortable for the most part with my own relationship with Pinot. Sort of.

I always wanted that liquor cabinet though. I am a collector of all things grandparents and my father always said I could have it. I didn’t so much want it for its status as a liquor cabinet, or any monetary value, but more as a treasure that found its way through three generations of Jewish men, I wanted to be the torch bearer to pass it on to my son so I could say that this has been in the family for four generations and now it is yours, the fifth generation. So after my father died, I asked my stepmother for it and I found out that it had not made its way to my father’s last stop, his condo in Fall River, but had landed somewhere at the factory, my grandfather’s former textile mill where all things no longer wanted in your home lay to rest. The factory had the potential of being a warehouse for all things our family no longer found useful in their homes, but couldn’t bare to get rid of. It was here that the bar had been sitting all of this time and my father never let me in on the secret, never gave me the chance to take the bar from its potential demise.

“Oh, the bar? Your father put that somewhere in the factory.” My stepmother said with such a blasé tone. “What?! What the fuck! I wanted to scream. Was there nothing of sentimental value my father could actually pass on to his only surviving child? Was it too much to ask to just get one fucking thing from the old man? The bar would be nowhere to be found because the factory was sold to his previous partner and they didn’t end well. I tried anyway, but no luck, no bar. I resigned myself to the notion that like my father, like my marriage, like the alcoholism that was an integral and interesting part of my childhood, it was gone. And it was ok. There was nothing to cry about because this was just a thing. I had my memories of this piece of furniture enough that its own departure was in itself a symbolic end to a life well lived. I actually had a happy childhood despite my constant reflections on the theme of alcohol that ran through it like the way the first sip of vodka at the end of a long day feels as it travels into your veins.

What is a happy ending anyway? Is it when I am lying on my death bed ready to take my last breath and just when my family says, “This is it, she’s is leaving us,” I pop my eyes open and shout out, “Yes! It was a great life!” And then just like that, I make my dramatic exit. Death comes and takes me away and my family sighs with a mix of joy and relief.

Rewind. No. Definitely not. That is not a happy ending. A happy ending is not a book end to the beginning. A happy ending is using the liquor cabinet as a metaphor for loss and life and fractured families as a reminder for how far I have self propelled because I have consciously chosen happiness. To be happy, not to end happy. To rejoice and to be sad and to see where the winding and wild travails take me.

You are probably hoping that this brief story ends with the liquor cabinet finding its way to my home; maybe I was at the yard sale in my old neighborhood and like a shiny beam of light, there it sat, dusty and worn, scuffed bellowing out to me, I have waited for you and you have arrived! But this is not how this story ends. This story doesn’t end because I am not over. The cabinet and its contents are gone because for me I have chosen to stop bringing the suitcase filled with the past to my table. I have emptied its contents so that conversations can start anew, with no baggage, a fresh start. And after almost three years of my mother not speaking to me and me allowing this, she finally called me to say hello. And it was kind of normal and nice, we dipped our toes into the cool water and took a brief drink. It had been a long strange trip. But in the end it was happy and I would say that it was a beginning. And this doesn’t need a liquor cabinet.

happy indeed
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A ‘SMART’ SCALE

A ‘SMART’ SCALE

“What is that?” I asked Michael, my partner, the love of my life, the man I share my stories, hopes and dreams with. I had looked down on the floor of his living room to see this perfectly flat square thin contraption sitting there. Waiting. Calling me. I had a feeling it was a scale, but I just had to ask, because normally scales find their homes in bathrooms on the floor next to the sinks and toilets and this modern looking shiny black square was by the front door, looking kind of like it was headed to the rubbish bins on trash day. (She said with her hands in prayer position.)

“We’ll need to put your info in the app for it,” he said excitedly, like I was actually going to stand on this contraption and allow it to record not only my weight, but my body fat, bone mass, protein and a list of other physical attributes I didn’t know I was supposed to be recording. He moved like a lynx to his phone to open up the app that connects with the scale. Apparently I am supposed to stand on this and allow it to do whatever it does and it takes all of this information and submits it through Bluetooth to the app that Michael has downloaded on his phone. It is here that he, with a twinkle in his, eye told me he could set up my own account on his app. Then like he had just discovered one of life’s great mysteries, he opened up the app to reveal his entire health profile including of course his weight without even a brief pause. I love this about most men I know. Weight is not a thing. 198 he said. 198 on a man who is a little over six feet that is mostly made up of stunning runners legs I only hope to obtain in my next life if we get to choose.

This man knows me better than anyone. He knows the insides of me, my fears, my angst, my dreams, my strengths and my weaknesses. He knows my schedule, how I think, almost, so when he said this so matter of factly like this was even going to be a remote possibility I laughed aloud. “That is so funny, Michael. No, I am not putting my information on your app. Do you even know me?” Insert laugh, chuckle, snicker here. I detected the tiniest tone of wound in his voice, “I was just showing you how it worked, you could probably put the app on your phone and do it,” he said so sweetly with patient empathy. Insert another small laugh here. That will not be happening. I hate the scale. I hate the number. I hate what the whole thing invokes in me and almost every woman I know. It is a downer. If the number is higher than I thought, I am depressed. If it is lower than I thought, it validates that what I am doing is in fact working and I feel like I will never be able to have a glass of wine or a piece of my friends delicious cheesecake again. Or it says, “That’s all? I have been following food plan number five thousand and I didn’t lose ten pounds in a week?” Completely ludicrous. Insane. Self defeating. Every single opposite of how I live my life in my fun and alayne’s brain world. That scale though, it gets to me. I allow it to get to me and I don’t know how to change the pattern, the belief. It has layers and years of layers dating back to my grandmother’s own issues with weight. I try to self talk my way through the brain fuck that is the topic of weight. Yes I am alive, I am healthy. I am fit. I am strong. All of that. But that pesky scale gets the better of me so I choose NO. I will not get on a scale that records a plethora of information. I will not put myself in the vulnerable position of wirelessly communicating my health to my partner’s phone and then likely transmits the information to Big Tech so they can have their way with my health data in however they choose.

We so carelessly hit the “I agree” button because they damn well know that we are not going to read the document they force us to sign for the access to the app in the first place and who knows it the data that is being recorded is even correct. I compare it to the variety of mirrors I have found myself staring back at myself. Some, like the one at Jackie’s Loft is like a magic mirror. No matter what I try on, I look amazing, svelte even. I think it is a thinning mirror. God forbid I should think that this reflection staring back is how I really look. Michael has one of these in his closet too. I can look at myself in a variety of outifts and the reflection staring back is one of a thinner version of how I think I really look, but I’ll take it. The bizarre aspect of the mirrors and the scales are that what if the lower number and the thinner mirror is actually the way I am? What if the scale that says the higher number or the mirror that adds so breadth to my hips (because it never adds to my upper half, a part of my body even before breast reconstruction was satisfying to me) what if it is that one that is wrong? All of this sounds crazy and completely fucked up, but it is part of my gene pool and who I am. Someone that no matter how much I try to meditate the negative thoughts away, it is like they are intrinsic to my femaleness. Arg. I think of the AA phrase Progress Not Perfection. Yes I totally understand that this world of advertising and catalogues coming at us does not help the cause of body delight. Even the thinnest healthiest women I know, you know the ones that can throw on a pair of leggings and tennis shoes, throw their hair up in a messy blonde ponytail seemingly without a glance in the mirror on the outside, have their own weight and body image demons. This I know because I have open conversations with women every day of my life and have for the last almost thirty years in the beauty business. I am not sure if the scale will ever be my friend. My beautiful Dr. Wiggins always says, “Alayne, you look great, the scale is just a number.” I know what she is really saying is “Alayne, Give yourself a fucking break.”

I am trying. Really. Every day. But in my opinion if the scale were truly a “smart” scale as it self proclaims, you would step up onto the two feet outlined for yours to fit into and it would talk back. It would say, “This number is only a number so today I give you a free pass. Go for a walk, smell the earth, look up, smile at a stranger and breathe deeply. Be grateful that today, again, like yesterday, you got to wake up and have the luxury of stepping on to this scale today. There is no number today, so enjoy your day and stop all this unnecessary fretting. You are alive. This is your day. Today. Enjoy it.

yeah, right.
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GIRLS AND SEX

GIRLS AND SEX

I stood there at the counter that separated generations. I was in sixth grade and there it was, behind the counter in the Hands Off, you need to get permission from your parents section in the Jamestown Library in 1977. At least this is how I remembered the book, Girls and Sex sitting uncomfortably and somewhat illicitly next to its companion, Boys and Sex. The much older than me librarian standing in front of me with the key to my future of understanding what was going on in this body of mine. I am guessing that I was an unusual child mirroring her back as I somewhat uncomfortably asked her for the book that looked like it would sizzle in my fingers if I had been allowed to get my hands on it. Of course this would not be happening, the sexual revolution of the sixties and the sexual promiscuity of the seventies hadn’t translated to the librarians of The Jamestown Public Library. The Jamestown Public Library located on the island of Jamestown in Rhode Island that had a population of three thousand year rounders if we were lucky was in no way going to contribute to the sexual questions of a curious and highly sexualized twelve year old girl who had just recently moved to the island. I would have to get permission from my parents to take this book out, I remember the librarian saying probably with a bit of a tsk tsk eye roll. The fact that I even had the courage to ask about this book should tell the reader something about my sexual curiosity that had found its way into my body like a concord jet flying overhead on a quiet spring Sunday morning with your windows open for the first time. I had no idea what was going on in my body, but what I did know was that there in front of me was a book that could answer my questions so I wouldn’t have to humiliate myself by asking my mother. Girls and Sex is how I remember the book. This is not the current and modern Girls and Sex book written by the hip and fabulous writer, Peggy Orenstein. When I tried to find the original book on Google, some really disgusting videos came up that made me want to throw my phone in a hazmat suit, so I am not sure what had happened to these books so I looked them up in a more grown up better place, the Ocean State Library website. Voila, there it was like an old fashioned beam of light, just like I remembered it right next to Boys and Sex, both books written by Wardell B. Pomeroy. He was born in 1913 and I was surprised to learn that he was a co -author with the famous Alfred Kinsey. That book may have been so helpful. However, I wouldn’t know because in my second courageous act, (after the first one of drumming up the courage to ask the librarian for the book), I went home and asked my mother if she would take the book out for me. I would have thought that my mother who was only thirty two when I was twelve, would have only been too happy to relinquish the dreaded sex discussion to a book rather than a face to face. She did in fact take the book out for a quick perusal and promptly said a firm No, that I was too young. And just like that, my curiosity (and bravery if I do say so myself) went down under, silent, never to come out again except in the woods behind the school with Robbie H. where we could both satisfy our interests with each other’s sexual curiosity. I navigated my own questions in the basement dances at the local churches dancing close to the equally eager boys, sweaty and pheromone ladened in a way that took our young breath away. But I was a girl and girls weren’t supposed to be feeling, thinking, acting like that. That being sexually curious, sexually charged and energized and actually open to the idea of sexuality was actually something that was a natural feeling loaded with mixed feelings that we girls would find ourselves grappling with for years ahead.

this is a later version of the book, Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy. This did not look like the book I wanted in 1977, the book I wanted was a mono deep red hardcover or something with no images as risque as this one.

I am not talking of intercourse or oral sex, that wasn’t even in my radar. (But thank you Bill Clinton for forcing me to have it in my parental radar when my son was born in 1997 having to watch endless television about cigars, semen and blowjobs). I am speaking of that old fashioned “petting,” as I have come to find out was one of the words used to describe some of the ideas in Wardell Pomeroy’s book. Instead of learning and ultimately validating that the feelings I was having from a legitimate book were normal and healthy, I had to learn from Judy Blume in her many books that weaved sexuality in and out in her themes right under the noses of our mothers who had seemed to turn conservative and June Cleaver on the subject.

Much to many of my friends horrors I began having discussions about sexuality with my son over card games as early as third grade. My thought was that my husband at the time surely wasn’t going to be having the talk and rather than make it a before and after in one awkward conversation, I would make the assumption that my son would be having these same feelings as early as I did and if I broached the subject earlier than his hormones, it wouldn’t be a “thing” but rather a natural part of normal maturity. Who knows if this decision was correct? Who knows if my son will be in therapy as he finds himself navigating his own grown up relationships with his mother’s voice chirping in his head. Eeee gads, but I had the mindset that discussion normalizes sexuality rather than surrounding it with all kinds of taboo and out of touch feelings.

These days, the notion of having to ask a librarian for permission to take out a book called Girls and Sex is like a Saturday Night Live skit. My memory seems as clear as a bell that these books were behind the counter, but I can’t imagine this now. These days, I am not sure that kids even read anymore. Our children who have a phone at their fingertips as a sixth digit on their hand have access to A-Z sex in videos and porn that make our own wonders and personal ideas about sex spin. Long gone are the days when a conversation about sex could spin from we parents caught in the act by our kids accidentally walking in on us or hearing us to realize that yes, their parents do in fact Do It. Kids today get all of their information unfiltered on the live sex shows that appear from an accidental google search with the word sex in the title. Sex is no longer left to our own personal journeys of undiscovered territory lead by our hormones and that first kiss of adolescence.

I am so happy I am past the point of having to think about these discussions with my son and instead get to focus on my own personal discoveries in the aging process. Fake boobs, body changing at the speed of light no matter how much I work out, waning and waxing interest, that pesky topic of vaginal dryness that makes for a buzz kill in the bedroom, a committed relationship that is not a married one, but a living apart together one and the simple fact that I am getting older as is my partner. Sex is everywhere, media for sure, the appalling songs that are in the buds of childrens’ head phones pumping disrespectful commentary about sexual expectations especially the female kind into their ears, innocent google searches, but also in the mating calls of birds and crickets right outside our doors and yet the open conversations about it are still in many ways locked away in our closets. Not for me though, I like talking about the ebbs and flows of sexuality and desire. My partner and I have introspective conversations about needs and wants making sure that this part of our own relationship moves in a growth pattern so we stay on the same page like all other aspects of a grown up partnership. Sex is a natural part of life and the more we can have these conversations with each other and our own children, the healthier their own outlooks on their bodies and what is going on with them will be.

If you are not comfortable talking about sex with your kids, figure it out, because if they don’t hear about healthy sex from you, the school bus and their iPhones will be their teachers. Start early because when they get to the age when their sexual interest is peaked, there is no way they will allow any form of conversation that has the word sex in it. I think we inadvertently teach our daughters that sex is a tool to be used as a manipulator by our mixed messages of being a “good girl” compared to what the definition of a “good boy’ means. For those of us fortunate to have a healthy outlook on sex and all of its attributes, I am grateful for the personal discoveries I made on my own, but I know feelings of inadequacy and shame could have been avoided if the topic had been talked about in an easier way with my mother rather than left to my own devices. Of course it is easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, I guess someone would have to ask my son if he thinks this was a good idea or if I ruined his entire adolescence by my openness.

What I do know about sex is it evolves right alongside with me. There is no on or off button, but just somewhere in between. Sex, as I grow, grows with me like a warm companion in the hand holding on the couch while we watch a movie by the fire. I love the experience of maturity and sex is no longer a validator for love, attractiveness and interest. This has been liberating because I think with the wisdom of retrospect I used sex as a tool, a weapon even at times to gauge my own perception of a healthy solid connection. I am gratified by the release of this idea that never served me well and surely is not part of who I am now. Another lesson for sure when the cape came off right along with my breasts and I head towards my mid fifties.

this is the book I would recommend if you asked me. This is not the one I coveted in 1977 because back then, it was not written yet.