Questions in Timelessness

Squished into this phenomenal

Capsule of a flying vehicle,

Strangers and friends.

Forced together,

Watch out for the Corona virus!

Masks and gloves all around us.

Defiant

Flying often invokes a sense of timelessness,

Of free falling

Either into an unknown world of dreams

And hopes

Of holidays and time together

Of a new place

And new ideas

Or

Of going back into reality

Back into our mundane lives and routines.

All our distractions cover up,

Postpone the digging into issues

The contemplation

That timelessness offers.

Possibly until closer to our last breaths

So be it

Keep doing doing doing

In order to feel useful

To feel alive

To forget

And just be a part of the busy moving world

Our new digital world

Striving

Succeeding

Driving

Deciding

But the calm and space,

Of vacation,

Of time away,

Of beautiful white mountain tops

Meditative moments

Trudging through the depths

Of powder snow

Alone for miles

in the crisp winter air

And oh the deep, restful sleep.

Coming to the end of that

Invokes the questions:

“Where is home?”

“Why do I live where I do?”

“What keeps me there?”

“What would be different if I were elsewhere?

And of course,

“Who am I?”

“Is there a purpose to my life?”

Is there any answer to these age old, universal queries….?

Well certainly not a singular one

But alone and listless I do feel, at times

Even though anti-depressants do their thing,

It is within reason!

So the only way is to dig into these thoughts:

Possibly focus on doing what I do,

Mother, wife, and teacher

Better

Or

Create something new perhaps

A new dance

Or piece of writing.

Like this.

That seems to instantly wipe away my anguish

Just like a quick pick-me-up afternoon coffee

It leaves me with a sense of renewed energy

Of having achieved something.

It helps me feel like I am a part of the substrata

Of human existence,

That’s moving

Very fast

It makes me feel like I am contributing

Of course that’s all it is

An illusion, of being powerful,

Of being integrated,

Of succeeding

Yet I want the still moments,

The sitting

The perspective gained through travel

The moments of joyful togetherness

The sense of belonging.

It’s in a safe space that the anger has an outlet

In knowing that it’s a very personal thing,

A frustration

Where it is not warranted to turn the fire outwards

And so if by being held safely even in anger,

Once it metamorphoses into sadness

It can then be investigated

Sadness that I might be wasting away the years I have

That I might regret….

And that in turn reveals more clearly

What it is that I want to be involved in:

More being,

More sleeping,

Any mother of premature twins will prioritize sleep for the rest of their lives!

More reading.

Being focused enough not to read and re-read the page over and over is a relatively new blessing

And that too reveals what it is I want to expend my energy and time on

Family and true friends

Loving and love making,

Dancing and writing

Enjoying music and theatre

Cinema and

Togetherness

And the discovery of new worlds

Many are on my book shelf, right at my fingertips

In my own neighborhood,

and others are miles away

Beyond the stars and lifetimes away.

This all sounds ok for now,

Hopefully for the next few decades,

if that,

Of what’s left for me here.

Silver Dream and Strawberry Fields

To write is a way to clear things

From my mind, from my heart.

It is a way

To organize my ideas.

To let the feelings out.

To share and empathize with others

To show appreciation to this phenomenal life

I am living.

Oh it can be dark and heavy at times,

But there’s a silver lining,

And that for me

Is always clear in my writing.

Going down the Silver Dream today

Was challenging.

An understatement!

But in my defense,

It is long, narrow, and steep in parts,

Not for the faint of heart.

“Was it a black diamond?” my brother asked on the phone,

Assuming that it must be something of the sort

Considering my expressions and exclamations

Post run.

Alive in the cold,

Having a great big laugh,

Pushing limits even yet

Tumbling and falling,

Sore wrists and the fear of twisting knees.

But also, speed and parallel turns

Hip rotations and dodging traffic.

Instructors and equipment.

Young at heart.

Emotions were running high,

Adrenaline pumping.

“Only a green piste,” I laugh,

Throwing my head back.

But what majestic views,

White, soft, powder snow

Lining trees,

And entire mountain sides.

The air crisp,

Sound grounded and deeply calm,

Little kids jumping and dodging trees

Through the Strawberry Fields.

They stun, yet amuse me.

How alive. How fearless

Some seven year olds can be.

Our friendships are deepening,

Memories are being made

Etched into our hearts

And those of our children.

Another Gift

Last April I had a dream that I was pregnant.

I had never been pregnant naturally before.

My twins are IVF, and never had I been pregnant other than with them.

So it seemed completely unrealistic,

especially considering we were not at all trying or hoping for a third child.

And besides, a dream is a dream!

I wrote to some school friends, jokingly brought up how I was eating uncontrollably

and exhausted, saying I must be depressed. And funnily enough, I did mention the dream to them.

A good friend half-jokingly said I must be pregnant. He asked if I had checked or not.

How I could be pregnant was beyond me.

But strangely enough, I checked, once, and then again.

Pregnant and pregnant. The result was conclusive.

There was confusion in my mind, doubt in my ability to manage a baby 10 years after the premature twins. I was exhausted enough.

But then, I realized what a gift I had just been given. I started to look at it differently. I was happy. The kids were overjoyed. They were elated.

I refuse to keep such things secret anymore, so I told my family and many of my friends.

How I didn’t think my dream was a premonition or a warning I don’t know! How obvious it was though that I was pregnant, because there was already nausea within the first few weeks, in retrospect, is always ridiculous.

Then things turned.

I was falling apart,

most notably, my physical health.

I was vomiting day and night,

exhausted beyond anything I’d ever experienced,

and then I was finally hospitalized for dehydration.

There was a fleeting moment where it felt

as though it was down to my life or that of this new life. I didn’t have the courage to make such a decision. I didn’t think I had to.

Eventually, it was made for me.

“There’s no heartbeat,” we were told at the 12 week check up.

I have this interesting way, which is quite natural for humans in the face of adversity I believe, to become extremely matter of fact when there is anything urgent, stressful, or devastating to manage.

So, I did what I had to do with little emotion expressed.

As we do naturally, we do what we have to and then allow the emotions to come through later. But in the past, I always had the tendency to suppress feeling and avoid looking at anything not only during but also after the situation.

But this time, I allowed myself to feel whatever it was I would.

The loss of that unborn baby ripped me apart.

The memory, the pain, still comes in waves.

How often it is, that the story of the miscarriage is suppressed.

Even in this day. It is hidden because of shame, or because it’s not important enough to mention, perhaps.

.

Why is it that we are told not to share with others, that we are pregnant until the three month mark? Is it because it’s shameful to have a miscarriage?

I actually felt supported by my friends and family while going through mine. And the number of women who opened up to me about their own miscarriage stories made me realize just how prevalent, how painful, and important it is to discuss and support others who are going through one.

My feelings after, were all over the place.

After the physical health was back under checks, it was the mental health that needed following up on.

Oh there was relief, there was pain, and grief

All intertwined,

In the shame, the guilt, and the blame,

All interspersed,

Between healing walks along the beach, tears rolling down.

Uncontrollable resentment, bringing me and others around me down.

The never ending internal chattering.

Story after story.

Repeated.

Over and over.

For no one but myself.

One outlet.

The magnificent view of the sea, sitting at the beach, being in the pool,

Water became a healing tool.

It came naturally.

I was drawn to the water.

I couldn’t live a day without it.

The loss of that baby, it was a sacrifice, made for me.

Another gift.

To live on,

A few more years, during which time,

I am to live my best life possible,

to feel joy

to try new things,

In this life,

I live.

Faster Reaction Times

“Don’t let this illness define you,” I’ve been told.

“Your poetry, your dance, your art, all reflect aspects of your mental health issues. Why don’t you write about something else, lighten up?!” I’m told. All in good faith.

Surprised, I didn’t think I wrote about my mental health at all in the last couple of years. I didn’t think my performance was about it…

Possibly it is that others see all I do through that lense, or that I am accepting it, and reflect it through what I do and get involved in, subconsciously.

How important it is to accept where I am, what I need to manage day to day, and to feel validated

When there are clear enough changes in mood, possibly because of a change in the balance of my medication, stress, fatigue, and just having read an honest, open, memoir by a prominent psychiatrist who studies mood disorders and is herself manic depressive, I feel how important it is to educate myself, to know how to manage, to know when to reach out for help, when to make sure I am sleeping enough, when to allow for rest and when to push through the listless lethargy and get on my mat, go for a run, or dance.

“This looks like bipolar disorder, mixed episodes. Can be managed, but you have to be and stay on your meds for a while,” said the psychiatrist in Paris a few months ago, echoing what another psychiatrist in London had told me, regarding the diagnosis, a few years ago. But at that time we were going between a couple of possible diagnoses, a couple of illnesses, but this last year has more or less clarified things a bit more for me.

The relationship with the medication has been an interesting one. There was the initial rejection because of a complete denial of its need as well as my averse attitude to any sort of medication, then the acceptance, followed by the desire to wean off it because the side effects started to express themselves in the form of weight gain, and so on. Now there’s a new acceptance of its value and my need for it.

Without the medicine, I see changes. More and more quickly. The lows commence, the energy just isn’t the same, little things become a drag. Days become “one activity a day”, kind of days, (spoon theory), but that isn’t possible because the kids have to get to school, and eat, and get to activities, and the studio has to run, and the classes have to get taught. So the fatigue sets in.

And then there’s the hypomanic periods where no task is too big, creative juices are flowing, productive hours are just much longer because sleep, well sleep….there isn’t much need for it. These moments, I miss. There has been a grief of a loss of an old me, that I was used to, that I am coming to terms with. Part of what the desire to wean off the meds was about.

When sleep is not consistently enough,

self-medication begins.

Two coffees become three and then quickly four.

A few glasses of wine with friends one evening can leave me dragging around in an extended hangover, for a few days. And then it’s back to more coffee during the day, disturbed sleep….

But, the spirals I’ve experienced when off the meds, the initial full blown manic paranoid psychotic break, then twice last year the beginnings of psychoses, were all too scary for me from the memory of the first one, and too much of a burden for those closest to me.

Memories of love and madness, shame and guilt surface. Fear of the repercussions for the kids, both, for what genes they have inherited,and of seeing their mother sedated, and hospitalized, of seeing her in the midst of a total break from reality, of throwing their belongings out of a moving car in a frenzy, of trusting no one, of being by her side in an airplane while she was sedated and in a stretcher.

They are so sweet, so sensitive, so innocent,

they were traumatized by that experience.

The fears of losing their mother so real, of seeing their father at a loss and in pain so real,fear that penetrates deep into their hearts and minds.

The shame is real, heavy, and dark, of the behaviors and situations I have sometimes wound up in, or put myself in, situations that lack clear judgement, even just common sense, in moments of hypomania, and mania, over many years, that my husband knows I carry. Never has he shamed me for them.

My closest teenage friend is the only person, at least to my face, who had ever said to me that I was moody! My family always had to manage it. I never thought anything of it. Never listened, never absorbed the honest words, the keen observation, as more than just normal.

I’ve always been blessed to have true friends and family, always a strong, compassionate, support network. And now with my doctor and therapist there’s an added layer. Also knowing what I now know is empowering. And I will keep on trying to understand better. In fact that’s always been something that interested me, most profoundly, to understand who I am and what I am doing.

I can manage the shaky moments more quickly. There is a safety net, that I am trusting more and more and it means I am less scared to fall. I am seeing that now the stumbles along the way are less damaging. I see the rock that’s out of place, the uneven surface, from a distance. The reaction time is reducing.

The signs of the highs and lows are becoming more evident for me, being able to catch subtle changes and watch them, and react faster and faster to bring them back into relative balance before they go too far into the mania or the dark, or as it seems with me, both at the same time.

The medicine helps. Therapy helps. My people help. My exercise routines, practices of asana and breath work help. Writing helps. Dancing helps.

So maybe it is that I express some of this through my creative work, even if I’m not specifically talking about it. It’s an outlet for what’s inside me and what’s going on. It’s part of my story to share.

k

Nothing Less

A stranger stares back at me

Dark rings highlight hollow eyes

Dry hair thin,

Grey and split

Fleshy rolls spill,

Out of the old wardrobe

Tired skin sags,

Rough and loose,

Being dragged along,

On a noose

Every day,

New wrinkles are drawn in

By some magical being

Playing a mischievous game

A reminder of what is precious

To not live in shame

A reminder

That things change

That now at this age

We move into a new range

A new understanding

Even a few quick steps

are met with breathlessness

Eventually that’s all there is,

That one last breath

Nothing less

Happy New Year 2020

The 2010’s has been for me, a decade of rearing my children:

Of little sleep, of running after them as toddlers, of driving them to and from school, of negotiating homework and activities.

It marks a full decade living in Asia, from the New Years celebrations in Hong Kong after the birth of our babies, then back to Chengdu, and then on to our little island of Koh Samui.

2020 marks 2 decades of our couple, our partnership growing in depth and understanding, one that trusts that love is at the core of it all. Both of us developing our own independence all the while knowing we have each other to lean on.

We’ve been challenged by my mental health instabilities, by Maher’s second stroke, by some mistakes with friendships, and the transition of moving from managing babies and little kids to what seem to be more independent ones.

The interesting work with the children is just beginning – the discussions, the possible challenges of the years leading to more boundary pushing, to rebellion, girlfriends and boyfriends, and experimenting.

We’ve visited many beautiful places in the world, spent memorable times with family and friends, and developed a home and meaningful friendships in Thailand.

The next decade is going to focus on keeping our health both physical and mental in balance, that of ours as we age, and of our children’s mental and emotional well-being as they dive deeper into the internet, gaming, videos, and virtual worlds we live in.

There will be focus on our couple, and on us as individuals pursuing our own projects and health goals.

There will be travel and discovery of new lands and people near and far.

There will be the magic of delving into stories, of writing, dancing, the focus of creating, the joy and pride in seeing our sports complex grow, function, and flourish.

There will be more alone time for us as a couple, and as a family, escapes, adventures, more personal successes and certainly some failures too.

And whether or not any of the above happens there will be be madness, dreams, surprise, and love.

And I wish the same for you.

To My Zambian Friends

It is a self imposed exile I live

I magically hide

And protect myself

From feelings of deep love,

Of memories gone by,

How do I say goodbye

To this land and its people

That I know and love deeply:

The white toothy smiles

The majestic trees

Lining endless skies,

The powerful energy in the red roads

Dividing the thick bush

Making way for us,

Humans,

As we spread puffs of fairy dust

There is an immediate,

deep knowing

The moment we step foot on this land,

All the while being an outsider;

So I write, I share with you

My friends who know,

Who feel the same way

You are the ones who carry

The same Zambian heart,

Some of us

have had the opportunity to leave,

And some to even come back and share,

We’ve explored and encountered

The world and it’s people,

Its different ideas and ways,

Varied ways of life,

Freedoms of self expression

that we don’t always

have the privilege of living openly here,

So here we are today

As we continue our lives,

Scattered,

yet connected by our love

All of us growing older,

Together facing the natural course

of the impermanence of our stories

Tattoos and Red Hair

To change something,

To step out of the comfort zone;

as simple as a change in hair style,

hair color,

or to get that piercing,

or even that tattoo.

Albeit, oftentimes impulsively

Because that voice,

That of the well meaning parent, the teacher,

The coach

That voice that controls,

That asks to conform,

That feels comfort in saying NO,

Will pop up in our heads if action isn’t taken immediately

Why the need for a change

of identity?

Enjoying the double take from

strangers perhaps?

To curb a boredom that sets in from routine?

Yes it might only be a little, sometimes even invisible change in physical, outward appearance,

Yet it is a transition

It has the the power to impact internally,

It is an expression of individuality

A kind of “teenage” rebellion perhaps.

It’s about having freedom

Over our own bodies

Sometimes it takes the obedient child

A whole lifetime to move past that little voice.

And then another,

To become less reactive,

To become more authentic

Expressing the self

Peacefully,

At ease with the tattoos and red hair!

The Bird and her Guide

With a thud, the little bird fell.

The glass remained intact.

The bird was stunned.

He approached her with all his compassion,

Wrapped her in a soft, beige towel

And held her close to his softly beating heart.

He stayed that way for a few minutes as she came to;

Alive.

She, unaware of what was going on,

squirmed around.

He, instinctively loosened his grip

Spreading his pink fingers apart just a little bit.

She moved one wing,

then the other

She seemed to be testing her abilities.

He, the true guide, gave her more room

Enough for her to express herself

but not too much

Not to scare her of her own freedom.

He navigated the space with her

gradually moving her to a more open area.

He gave her a little lift

And off she flew,

Confident

Loving herself

Free and Grateful

“Wounded Bird” by Tatiana Nega

Minecraft Intrigues Me

Some conversation while walking in the national park in Penang yesterday:

We see bamboo

Rahul: Mum, in Minecraft it’s so easy to grow bamboo!

Me, laughing: In real life too!

R: You know there’s a new Minecraft, very expensive, that uses google maps and you can build wherever you go.

Me: Really?! Wow, that’s amazing.

R : Come on Leila, hurry up.

Me: There’s no hurry, we have no where else to be. Meditate Rahul!

R, really frustrated: Meditating is the worst thing on earth!

R: You know now in Minecraft there are about 12-16 trees. Before there was only oak.

———————–

At a restaurant today:

L: Mum, do you get undrunk if you drink tea?

R: No, milk can make you undrunk.

Me: Ah come on you guys, milk doesn’t work.

L: That’s in Minecraft Rahul!

R: Yeah, and you have to milk the cow to get milk.

Me: Do people get drunk in Minecraft??!!!!!

L: It’s more like magical potions….