Thirty-one
thezhen
This may or may not be my last post in the space. I have not decided yet. If so, there will be a fresh, new landscape to occupy instead. If not, I will be an occasional poster who mostly uses LJ to lurk.

In New Zealand, it is the 7th, which makes me another year older. I've been wrapped in a blanket, staring at the oriental rug in the living room. There is a mixture of happiness and strangeness here. There is a part of me that belongs and a part that feels left behind.

The first real night back, we drank too much and headed up to the peninsula trail, a walk along a ridge that overlooks Evan's Bay and the fantastic adjacent jutting rocks. The indigo water was calm and the hills were speckled with the glittering gold of house lights. At a large house nearby a group of young guys sang intoxicated songs in Maori on the balcony, and they embraced one another and laughed. From where we stood, there was a blast of peacefulness and positive energy from all directions. I was home.

There is also the other home, and in the future there may be others still. First there is exploration, then there is integration. Then, if we are lucky, there is the experience of meaning, purpose, and peace. Then, when the tide of bliss rolls in and washes out in a new direction, we've got to stay true and simply follow it--even if its pull makes little or no sense at the time.

I don't know much. But I do know that I have had the experiences I've had, seen the things I've seen, and met the people I've met because I have faithfully followed the pull. It is a pull that has torn me from everything familiar, everyone I love, and it has caused immense turmoil to that part of me that belongs in Florida with my family. But it has also been the catalyst for a life that I am quite amazed with--a life rich with novelty, love and beauty.

Man am I thankful to be here today, in good spirits, in good health, with a loving partner and two families on opposite sides of the earth who love me. How lucky! How lucky we all are to co-exist in virtual space and interact and share information so easily. So I will take advantage of this to say: live the life you want, follow your bliss, and fill yourself with love and responsibility.

Also: turning thirty-one feels pretty good right now.

Integration
thezhen
I want to integrate--
the spirit with the material
the conscious with the unconscious
bliss with doom
angel snuggle pups with demon mummy cats!
thereisasphereoflightthatjustwon'tleavemydreams
is that it?
is that the space where
everything is nothing
and inside is outside
and the demiurge is the true father?
fuckmeintheheaddeadson
that salvation promised,
is it in integration?
is it drifting in the ocean,
where I might spear it, sear it,
and smear it with gratitude?
Oh integration! I need you!
for if a brain were just a brain
why wouldn't it be content
with just being a brain?

Standing
thezhen
As I write this post I am standing. It's day 1 of using my brand new "standing workstation". I've got my lap top sitting on some sort of textured foam board lap-thingy, which is on top of a sturdy box, on top of the biggest illustrated coffee table Bible ever printed. Yea, it's ghetto, but it will due for now since it's stable.

I've noticed a lull in energy lately (almost always in the afternoon). I started reminiscing over those 9 hour days at the National Library where the only time I sat down was for 30 minutes during lunch. Then, quite eerily, I had a dream that I set up a standing workstation. A faceless man in this dream told me: Things flow readily when you are standing. I assume he meant writing or computer work in general. Anyway, it's certainly worth trying in waking life.

Luckily, I have a bomb-ass easel that I never really use--so I can now attempt to paint standing up. I wonder if I can knit standing up too(?).

For now, my aim is to spend at least half of the work day standing up. And once I've done my daily walking and weight lifting routine, I'll see about getting off my feet. It's pretty ridiculous though, when you start to realize how much of your day/evening is spent either sitting or lounging.

Here's to another lifestyle experiment!

The Love of a Rat
thezhen
During my last year at New College, I had an 84 year-old mentor, a Hungarian born archaeologist who happened to live in Sarasota. He was the only foreigner in the world with permission to lead excavations in China. At first, he was someone I interviewed for my thesis. But a connection formed, and soon I was making a video documentary about his life.

In his early adulthood, he'd been taken as a war prisoner by the Russians and thrown into a labor camp for several years. He told me how fellow prisoners dropped off like flies. They were all starving and being worked to death. For the last few years of his imprisonment, he was locked in a filthy, isolated cell. He had no contact with anyone.

Amazed by this, I asked him how he kept his sanity while everyone else around him was losing theirs. He told me that one day in his cell, he noticed a rat. At first the rat paid no attention to him, but he talked to it. It wasn't long before he was able to touch and handle the rat. He said that the rat provided him with a companionship that was so vital, it gave him the will to live. The rat helped him believe that there was enough good in the world to keep on living. Eventually, he was released from the Russian gulag and he immigrated to the States, where he taught himself English and paid his way through university by digging graves alongside illegal Mexican immigrants. He told me this was one of the happiest times of his life, because he was free.

Of course, at the time, I was incredibly inspired by his story. But it didn't really affect me to the point where it totally changed my perspective.

I believe that now, it has finally sunk in. Despite the random bad luck and problems that have been thrown at us over the last year, I'm not at all upset or worried.

And I'm not worried because life is good, and worth living. The good experiences far outweigh the bad, and for me they always have. If a man on the brink of death can find value in life and in people due to bonding with a rat--then I can too. And if I can, then that means most other people can too.

And yes, there is an incredible amount of injustice in the world, and I struggle with the notions of good and evil as much as anyone does I suppose. But If a man who survived both war and imprisonment can see mankind as inherently good, then why shouldn't I? I don't have to suffer the horrible things he did in order to learn what he did. In fact, no one does. He learned this from a rat, and I learned it from him.

Thankful
thezhen
Time for a totally expected holiday-themed post.

While I try my best to reflect on the things I am thankful for year round, it always hits hardest this time of year, especially when I'm in Florida and surrounded by family. Here are just a few:

-Good health, and my drive to maintain it
-The love and support of my family, close friends, and partner
-My wise, compassionate, hilarious, talented and totally banging-hot husband
-Having choices, no matter how difficult they can be to make
-Basic comforts
-Moments of joy and mindfulness
-People who put others before themselves
-Creativity and productivity, and those who strive to create and inspire
-Having at least two beautiful places to call home!
-Opportunities to gain insight and new perspective

It's easy to get swept away by all of this holiday stuff--cleaning, decorating, cooking, baking, entertaining people you don't ordinarily see. So I'm keeping in mind that things won't be so hot for everyone this year. It's a time for celebrating the great things in our lives, but it's also a time to help others. Time to donate food, money, toys, and time if we can.

Enjoy this life! Stay thankful.

Meditating on Not Being Such a Horrible Bitch
thezhen
Some pairings are toxic. No matter how long you hang in there, the poison between you and the other doesn't really go away. It festers and bubbles and eventually brings out the absolute worst in you. And it likely brings out the worst in the other person too. It's mutual.

Self-induced drama, ceaseless complaining, and constant lashing out for attention are things I generally cannot tolerate. But when you care about a person on the whole, when there's history, you can put a lot of disgusting behaviors behind you. After all, we're human, and we all have disgusting behaviors. Especially me!

The toxic pairing I've been "off and on" involved in for the last seven years has made me feel especially disgusting. At times it lowers me to the lowest of all lows, and I say things that are truly offensive. I turn emotionally to stone and can no longer see any reason for the relationship to continue. So I cut it off. Horrible words are exchanged, and it's over.

But then later on...it starts back again. It's nice and friendly at first, but eventually something happens, and it descends into the same toxic mess it was before.

I may not like the behaviors of this particular person, but eventually, I can always see past them and shrug it off.

What makes this time different, is that I am not accepting what this relationship does to my behaviors. I don't want to be mean. I don't want to feel like I am pushed to say brutally cold things. I don't want to be such a horrible bitch.

And since this particular relationship is the only one in my life that makes me feel this way and that this particular person is the only person in my life I ever really feel negative toward, then I suppose putting the whole thing behind me for good is a decent place to start.

There are so many things I will never have control of. But taking part in a severely dysfunctional relationship is one thing I do have control over. So I choose: Done.

Oh So Glad to be Back (and other stuff)
thezhen
Man, was it fantastic to get home just in time for Halloween. It was my first American Halloween since 2007, and it was pretty ace. Makes me sad to think that NZ just doesn't care for the holiday at all. I had heaps of fun. We did Halloween Horror Nights over the weekend and spent the actual 31st carving pumpkins and watching scary movies :)

Pumpkin!

In other news: November. Yeah, just two months to finish all of the stuff I planned on finishing while staying in Florida, and it's probably too much. Which is why I spent a good chunk of today plotting and planning and allocating time to tasks before it becomes an unbearable mess that completely crushes me.

I won't be participating in NaNoWriMo this month, but I'm taking an example from all those fabulous writing folks by really pushing myself to get a certain amount of work done every single day--just as they do with their word counts. And at the end of the month, when they all have a novel to be proud of, I will hopefully be holding a launch party for our first line of official ESL products.

Godspeed to my friends who are working their asses off to shape the lives they truly want to live.

Prisoner in Paradise
thezhen
I´ve never been trapped in a foreign country before. It´s a surreal feeling--one moment, teetering on the edge of madness and despair, the next moment, stretched out in the sun sipping on beer or coffee.

For many days, we endured what I guess could be called cabin-fever. It goes pitch black in the rainforest at about 5:15 pm. In Playa Chiquita, there are few street lamps, and no lights at all in the dark trails that lead back to the tiny Caribbean houses fools like me prefer over fancy schmancy resorts (but people in fancy schmancy resorts don´t get their rooms broken into and their reinforced steel safes ripped from the walls). So once you´ve hit the beach a few times and cooked three meals for the day, there is nothing to do but sit and listen the cacophony of crickets and howler monkeys in complete darkness.

Now that we are in San Jose, I feel better. It still gets dark at an ungodly early hour, but cities don´t sleep. The reels of barbed wire sitting along the fence, the security cameras, and the iron bars on the windows and doors probably contribute to my feeling better too. Funny, when we first arrived here, that stuff made me feel uneasy. Now I understand. People here aren´t always violent, but they do feel justified in taking what does not belong to them.

Ours is a waiting game. Waiting for the NZ passports office in London to issue a new magical pass to Roland that will allow him to both leave this country and enter mine.

Be careful what you wish for--time is both a luxury and a sentence to be carried out.

No Noise, Please
thezhen
I crave quiet. I need to be away from TVs blaring useless news, the hum of the air conditioners and computers, the daily squabble, the shrill ring of the telephone.

A week from now, Roland and I will be on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, in a small town called Playa Chiquita. Do I expect to get a vacation free of noise? No, not completely. But I expect to get a break away from American culture, which can be both stimulating and dull at the same time (does that even make sense?).

The truth is, there is no real quiet on the outside. One must learn to develop "inner" quiet. I wish I were better at it.

I am incredibly grateful to have these 2 weeks away--to finally take time to celebrate my relationship with Roland in a beautiful place. Just the two of us--no work, no responsibilities. Just us being us.

Should I find quiet on the way, I will gladly welcome it and enjoy it as long as it lasts.

(no subject)
thezhen
In that other time--that other life
comes coal smoke to choke the spirit of lone wolf.
13 million soul-less souls burn
13 million fires; see the repercussions
sweep clear across the filthy sky, dear?
And can you imagine a little boy or girl
perched at the high rise balcony--
(gazing at the place where that great warrior
sent arrows soaring to the sun)
and wishing upon a star, wondering who we really are?
I can't imagine it!
Not with all that thick, black death up there,
holding back the pulsating energy of the universe.
And arrows into the sun! What sun? Who ever saw it
in that place,
in that other time--that other life?
Boy am I glad to have stepped into the parallel
existence of what is now to escape what was then.
But if I stop to think about it, I am compelled to
mourn for the shards of my lost shadow
still standing at that balcony,
in that kitchen, in that high rise apartment,
looking out at that silly metal space dome,
praying for rays of light that could not penetrate
the soul-less soul of that place.

?

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