What's in the gallery?

We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

What's in the gallery?

We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

Recipes for times of free fall

malabi pudding with pomegranate syrup and shreddedcoconut in a tiny glass jar

Image: A large pic of a tiny pudding (malabi), a vanilla rosewater pudding with pomegranate syrup and shredded coconut, in a mini glass jar


Entry / pre-

This is a very long piece, 8400 words last I checked, four times what I usually write, no way to write less.

Wanted to let you know in case you needed to prep some extra comfort for the time/space/experience of reading, in whatever form that looks like for you, snacks and a refreshing beverage, a more comfy way to sit, I don’t know.

And I wanted to add that, yet again, things are tumultuous out there in the world, and seemingly accelerated at the same time, so: lighting a candle to welcome whatever hope-glimmers may come, may they arrive swiftly. ❤️

Recipes for Times of Free Fall

What is in my brain right now

I am having more trouble than usual holding onto a thread of attention. Long Covid has turned my ADHD up to eleven, and I cannot maintain a thought, remember where said thought was going, or even where I was going, and I mean this in the most literal way.

I repeat everything I am doing to myself out loud so I don’t forget.

“Come on, babe. We are walking into the next room to fold the laundry, here’s the plan, we will fold the laundry, then put it away, you can do this, I believe in you, where are we going? To fold the laundry!”

One brief brisk lap later

And then, much like my cousin’s pea-brained dobermans who will meet you, decide you’re okay (after having been informed and sternly reminded that you are family), but then immediately forget that they already know you after having done one (1) brief brisk lap around the kitchen island, I too forget, again, what I meant to do.

Joshua’s dogs: A STRANGER! IN OUR MIDST! DEVOUR THE STRANGER!
Joshua: No, you know Havi!
Dogs: Oh right, yes, okay, we do know Havi
Dogs, after one lap around the kitchen island: WHO IS THIS INTRUDER!!!! HOW DARE!!!

True story, I did not find this amusing or relatable at the time, and yet, now I am these dogs, anything at all can erase whatever small progress has been made towards the forgotten-goal.

All that to say that today’s piece of writing has been kicking around in my head for a while now, and I lost the thread so many different times, and find myself now with only a confusing tangle of clues.

Contents

So, I have made a list (which reads like an accidental poem) of what I wanted to write about, or am reasonably sure I wanted to write about when I was writing this in my head, aka the pre-write, and, who knows, maybe I will write about any or all of those things, we will see…

The contents of my brain right now

Let’s turn them into a table (of contents!)…

On Vibrancy / To Vibrancy
In Times of free-fall
Recipes for self-soothing
Refreshing (double meaning)
Pomegranate juice
Into the kitchen and into the cauldron
The Greenest Green
Beige (which sounds like the opposite of green but it is not)
To life (which also tastes green? it tastes like green!)
Ringing and also Ringing In (the ice cream truck in my head)
To Life To Life, L’chaim

Free-fall

Just about everyone I know is free-falling right now, in free-fall, a state of.

Not yet landing. Still falling. Motion: continuous. In the ongoing-ness of a wild ride. Or at least, immersed in these perceptions of This is a free fall. Immersed in this experience of Excuse me, this plummeting is not what I signed up for actually…

The ongoing-ness of the wild ride

Ride is possibly too neutral of a word, this specifically feels like a descent. A tumultuous downward motion-experience that is an undoing.

And not just an undoing, but an undoing into the unknown.

Some of these people I know are also going through absolutely heart-wrenching personal tragedies. And sometimes the tragedies are the pre-free-fall, the impetus, while sometimes the loss and the sensations of falling are just happening at the same time. What do you do?

What do you do when you are in a free-fall

What do you do when you are in a free-fall?

One of them asked me that. To be clear, I am also in a free-fall, of a different flavor.

Sometimes I really like the way text doesn’t give information in the form of intonation. You have no idea what octave anything is in. There’s something playful in that to me, if one can be playful while free-falling, I am not sure, but it’s what I’ve got in the moment.

A question is offered to me, devoid of tone, and I can read it in a variety of ways. It could be [what do you do in a free-fall] or [what do you do in a free-fall]. Or, possibly, what do you do in a free-fall?????

We have options. I like options.

Recipes

You know when you go to look up a recipe online and there’s a whole prelude about the person’s childhood, their last vacation, a weird dream they had, and/or the history of plums?

I think though sometimes they give you a link where you can skip all that and jump to the actual recipe, and I had this panicked moment just now like, wait, should I be doing that with my posts and link to the parts where I offer an actual technique???

(Panic because I don’t know how and don’t have energy, and who knows if I will get to techniques today, who knows how many times I will lose the thread?)

But then I laughed because oh wait, why am I worrying about this non-issue, this isn’t even a cooking blog, people come here for the complicated winding backstory, not to mention the parenthetical asides within parenthetical asides that I believe are a feature, not a bug, of adhd storytelling. If there are recipes to be found here, the recipes are just a bonus.

I will not apologize. This is not even a cooking blog! Haha, okay, babe, let’s keep going.

Except when it is

Yeah, okay, I don’t know, this online space been many things to many people over the years (and I am waving to people who have been reading my words here since 2008, possibly some of you were getting my newsletter all the way back in 2005), so maybe it kind of is a cooking blog.

Certainly many actual recipes have been posted over the years, and certainly self-fluency techniques are like recipes, in that you can take the heart or essence of what they are about, and substitute your own ingredients. Use what you have, work with what you have, start where you are.

The Recipe to a recipe (yes, this is backstory)

The reason, I’m told, that food blogs do The Winding Backstory thing, is that recipes, even the ones we ourselves have invented and believe in our hearts and kitchens to be the most unique, are not.

Someone else came up with the exact same way to make a pie that you did, and the only way to be able to claim a recipe as yours is to add something that someone else couldn’t; what makes your recipe proprietary is the story-telling.

Which I don’t feel the need to do here, but I like stories, and especially when I don’t know where they are going, I like to be surprised.

Anyway, I am convinced that the reason people are so reactive to this phenomenon goes beyond just a case of being hangry while looking up recipes, or impatient to get to the steps. I think it’s the dissonance.

Something about the story that is set out before the recipe is not ringing true. I don’t mean that the story itself is untrue, just that something about the filler-ness of it sets off a quiet alarm of [hmmm something is disharmonious], if that makes sense.

I have a story about pomegranate juice (it is not a filler story)

I have a story about pomegranate juice that is related (in my tastebuds and my sense memory) to a recipe-recipe, and related (in the way my mind calls up a web of interconnections) to what might be my most-reached-for personal recipe for what I do while in a free-fall.

It is also, I think, a story about what free-fall reminds me of.

And about the elements that live inside the opposite of free-fall for me.

(We Do Grounding Things, Pleasure Is a Grounding Thing, Anything Can Be A Ritual & Rituals Are Healing, Right Here Right Now, Acknowledgment & Legitimacy, for starters…)

Mr Magoo

Many, many years ago, I was a yoga teacher at, among other places, a studio in a suburb north of Tel Aviv. My boss: an ambitious person whose grandiose plans often involved a complicated web of lies.

And, with the astonishing Mr Magoo levels of luck that narcissists seem to mysteriously access, he was never found out in any meaningful way, that I know of. Or people knew but there were no consequences. You know how this works. You are familiar with the phenomenon of men in positions of power.

Though of course we can hold out hope — and light a candle, for a hilarious well-timed downfall that does or does not (this part is optional, in his case) lead to some genuine remorse, stranger things do happen.

(And if we’re all falling already anyway, why shouldn’t we get to enjoy the rare pleasure of watching a well-timed crash here and there…?)

Well well if it isn’t the President

This is a small example, but it is also the funniest example: What would you do if you wanted to be the head of the Israeli yoga teacher association but it wasn’t going to happen? Well, this guy invented his own association with a similar name, and appointed himself president of that one, which didn’t exist.

He then made business cards to that effect, and took them to conferences in the United States and Europe, where he invited world-famous yoga teachers to come to Israel for weekend workshops, introducing himself as the president of something that sounded like it might plausibly be a thing.

Possibly he called it a federation instead of an association but even the name was basically a copycat, though, again, this association-federation was, much like the Fake Band of the Week — just one guy.

And, impossibly, it worked.

He pulled it off and soon was bringing in bigger names (and because of this, sometimes bigger crowds) than the actual yoga teachers association which did exist, and in fact existed for this very purpose.

Accidental tour guide

Sidebar to say that I was the only teacher at this particular studio with very fluent English, and the only one whose first language wasn’t Russian (classes were in Hebrew).

Between that and being able to get by in German, I often was the liaison for these visiting guest teachers.

And that combined with being the only one who lived in Tel Aviv was how I ended up in the role of a tour guide one afternoon, tasked with showing [world famous yoga teacher] the best of the city in a brief amount of time.

I figured if we only had couple hours, might as well experience something beyond the beach and the Bauhaus balconies. This situation called for fresh pomegranate juice.

If you know, you know

Besides, in addition to being one of the sensory wonders of the world, pomegranate juice also lands squarely in the category of the most [this is what you do here if you’re in the know] things.

Zigzag your way to a tiny stand in a corner of the market that looks like a it might not be a stand at all, maybe it’s just a guy sitting on a bucket by a table, prepare to have your mind blown.

Ahhh, nothing in world like the freshest fresh pomegranate juice from the grumpiest old man alive who seemingly both loved and hated the art of pomegranate juicing, who might curse at you if he spoke to you at all, hameyvin yavin*, I lived for this.

If you know, you know

Ah the daily calculus of death

But then, as we were weaving haphazardly through the alleyways at the edge of the market, heading directly towards chaos, it occurred to me that possibly people who don’t live in Tel Aviv aren’t inured to devastation in the same way, maybe not familiar with the daily Russian roulette of running errands in dangerous places.

Could be they don’t have the same risk tolerance, I’d never been to Santa Monica and couldn’t compare.

Did I have a moral obligation (and either way, was it a good idea or not), to inform him that suicide bombings in the market were a thing, and that we were making the opposite of smart life choices, those being to avoid crowded places and steer clear of obvious target areas…

The famous yoga teacher was acerbic, funny, a true wild card, delightfully unexpected. Very much a lover of life, and I mean that both in a contemplative yoga teacher way and in a full-speed-ahead hedonist way.

Clearly the only correct approach was to level with him.

All in

“Soooooooo, here’s the thing,” I said. “Small-ish chance we could die. Small-ish to medium. We probably won’t die. We’ll do this fast. In and out. But if we do die, as long as we drink the juice first, it won’t be too big of a tragedy, totally worth it, assuming we get the juice. Of course if it happens before we get the juice, then that’s a disaster.”

I wasn’t sure if he’d get, or be able to appreciate, the extremely on-brand Tel Aviv humor but he did.

“I’m all in. Sounds like great juice! What do we have to lose, other than everything you just mentioned?”

The equilibrium of juice

I always got pomegranate juice from the same guy; his juice was sorcery. Actually I was half convinced there was some secret law of nature at work here, as if the potency powers of this juice existed in a delicate equilibrium, in some inversely proportionate way, with the sourness of his mood.

I warned the famous yoga teacher that this juice-acquiring venture involved not only a small to medium risk of explosion but also a very temperamental man with a machete. He seemed fine with this.

The pomegranate-juice maker glared at us. Coins were handed over and placed on a low table. He said nothing and reached into his box of fresh pomegranates, then matter-of-factly took vengeance upon them with his terrifying knife. Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

He squeezed out cups full to the brim with liquid rubies, and waited, arms crossed, knife in hand, for us to taste.

Nectar of rubies

To taste and exhale that very specific full-body-joy exhale, to smile that lost-in-pomegranate smile.

This juice just glowed, there’s no other way to describe it. Like it was made of sweetness and light, and also the opposite of both of those. It was rich, complex and thrilling. A sensory catalyst for tingliness.

Nectar of the gemstone gods. Sensational, in all meanings of the word.

Holy shit, said the visiting famous yoga teacher.
I know. There’s nothing like it.

Vibrancy

I think a lot about this fresh pomegranate juice in a small cup that I used to somewhat regularly chance death for because it was just that good, how it tasted. Almost as if the word VIBRANCY were a taste.

As if ALIVE were a taste. As if IN THIS MOMENT I AM JOYFUL ABOUT BEING ALIVE were a flavor, in the way that sour or sweet exist as taste sensation. Can pleasure in aliveness be allotted its own special space on the tongue.

Replicate, Reconstitute, Recapture, Reconstruct, Re-conjure

I also think a lot about how I am always trying to bring back the essence of that. To replicate.

In the kitchen, in my movement practice, in sweet and in sour or terrifying times, while free-falling, while clawing my way out of the narrow places.

From the depths of the depths, how can I source that dopamine surge of VIBRANCY again. Forever seeking the sensation of that first sip of pomegranate essence, nectar of rubies, alive, alive, alive.

A very specific sensation that reminds me that yes, I want this, I do want this, I want to be here now.

The pleasure (this pleasure) is all mine

Like, oh wow, what an honor to be alive, honestly an honor to even get to play, an honor to taste refreshing aliveness like this.

I don’t always feel like this, I often don’t, but this is in many ways what I am trying to replicate or reconstruct. To invite it back from wherever it is hiding. To throw it a party when it returns.

THE RETURN OF THE DOPAMINE. Hello, sweet friend, how I have missed you and missed missing you.

That’s it, really, at its essence. I’m just a wandering desert sorceress, a retired assassin with amnesia, in search of tiny tastes, these sweet momentary reminders.

Grounded sensation, grounded pleasure. Yes please to life.

Alive

We made it out alive.

I made it out alive.

From the many terrible things that happened to me both in that job and in my many years in the city.

That’s really all I want to say about that for now. Here now.

Current.

I live in New Mexico now. I love New Mexico.

New Mexico feels good to me, good for me. The food and the sky and the way I feel when I’m there, and no one asks me to explain how I evaded army service, though of course I will tell you, if you want.

Let’s be honest though. No one here is inured to devastation either.

This country (the United States) is violent, oppressive, terrifying and heartbreaking in other terrible ways, I certainly don’t expect to be spared from loss here either, and, to be clear, I remain appalled by and deeply ashamed of both my countries. I want better for them, and mostly I want better from them.

It is unbearably painful to read about Uvalde, about Buffalo, the endless mass shootings, the Supreme Court, the massive fires devastating New Mexico, and still some days I find myself unable to stop refreshing for updates.

Fire

New Mexico is on fire right now.

The two biggest fires in New Mexico history are both happening at the same time, and one of them, the Black Fire, is near me. A few miles from the marker that tells me I am just about home.

Between these two fires, so much forest land has been consumed that put together the burnt lands are the size of the state of Rhode Island.

There is a ready, set, go evacuation system in place. For a moment there, my sweet mini-house that I call The Sailboat was in READY, now it’s in SET. I do not like SET. Set is the thing that happens before a free-fall.

SET is more stressful than GO, in some ways. SET is knowing and dreading while also not-knowing and still dreading. I am not enjoying SET.

Mainly I am remembering all the many times I have been in SET, and everything that happened after.

Time to hit the road

People keep saying maybe it’s time to leave, and obviously I already left.

The smoke was way too much for hsp me (extremely high sensory processing sensitivity, among other sensitivities) long before other people were reacting to it. The weather app finally updated the air quality as “hazardous” yesterday. No kidding. I could have told you that a week ago.

The worry was too much too, and not having signal out there where I’m semi off-grid means no way to even know when SET becomes GO, so I self-selected an early-go in the interest of Safety First.

Thankfully, I am extremely fortunate to have some good safe house options “next door” in Arizona, a few hours away. I bolted and have been overdosing on updates, reports, reports on the updates and updates about the reports.

Safety First

Safety First and choosing towards life. To life.

Which now I’m second-guessing (the part about early evacuation, not the part about choosing towards life, I am still choosing towards life, every day) because everything I love is in that tiny trailer.

So yes, I want to rush back and rescue things except I don’t have the energy (understatement), and am not inclined to set myself into motion towards the thing I had to flee from. Ahahahaha, yes. This of course is about not just fires.

And again this part abut how I seemingly can’t stop. I can’t stop refreshing for updates.

Refreshing has more than one meaning

Refreshing is what I am doing right now, compulsively, on my phone. Refreshing the evacuation map. Refreshing search engine searches.

Refreshing to see if there is more news about the danger. Gotta get a taste of that fresh, fresh news.

But refreshing is also the opposite of that. Refreshing is a cool breeze, the sweetness of rain, the miracle of juice fresh from a just-thwacked pomegranate, juice like liquid rubies.

Refreshing is summertime pleasures. Refreshments are desserts piled high on trays.

Made fresh

Refreshing is the act of something being made fresh again? That doesn’t make sense, if it wasn’t fresh, how can it become fresh? And yet, here we are, refreshed and refreshened (I am not sure if that one is a word but I want it to be a word).

I am refreshing the updates. But also: seeking tastes and sensations that refresh me, that are refreshing.

That yoga studio I worked at was in a place, formerly a town, now a suburb of the city, and its name means FRESHNESS. Refreshingness? To reflexively refresh, you refresh yourself.

The name didn’t fit the town other than in a very aspirational way, but that is true of a lot of places.

Ringing

Is tinnitus another Long Covid thing?

I always had spells of ringing in my ears but now it’s all the time, I can’t always tell the difference between the timer going off and the ICE CREAM TRUCK living inside my head.

Lost my train of thought, again. Long Covid, ADHD and concussion brain are fighting it out, in the ring.

I am thinking about things ringing true. About ringing clarity. About bells and how they clear space, but also sound the alarm.

The internet says yes, this is definitely another Long Covid thing, that’s fun.

To circle and encircle

A stone skipped into the water results in a reverberation of circles: a ringing of rings.

The circles are ringing the stone, we are ringing ourselves. (But not wringing, that is different).

Ringing into clarity is the opposite of a free-fall, it might even press pause on a free fall, ringing as a redirect.

A refreshing reframing: maybe nothing was falling to begin with. Maybe we just zoomed in or out too far and too fast, we lost perspective. Maybe we are more steady than we think. Maybe.

And a ring is something you seek in fairy tales and stories. A ring can be a MacGuffin, or it can be the treasure. I am free-falling, but there is a ring of protection, a circle of safety, a team on the ground. To life.

I pretty much never tell people what to do here

You may have noticed.

That’s because People Vary, and at different times we need different things.

But it’s also because there is nothing to be gained from me having the answers. Which, to be clear, I don’t.

Of course I only have my answers. And even if I did have someone else’s answers (I don’t believe I do), there is no benefit to anyone if I agree to step into the role of the giver-of-answers. That’s the opposite of self-fluency.

That leads to guru culture, which is unappealing to me in all ways, but especially because of this: when we put people-with-answers on pedestals, we forget how to access or trust inner knowing and hard-earned wisdom.

The opposite of having the answers

I want the opposite of that, which for me means playing, experimenting, documenting my experiments, modeling how I practice. Yes to sharing techniques, approaches and idea sparks, and a no (for me) when it comes to instructing, and a big no to any form of This Is The One Right Way.

I am not interested in being the answer-haver or the answer-giver or the person at the front of the room.

Instead I want to keep engaging in the ongoing process of self-tending, self-cherishing and seeking out (or being receptive to) the clues and questions that feel compelling to me in a given moment.

Ideally, modeling that process makes it easier for other people to be playful and intentional in their own process, whatever that looks like. We are all running our experiments and dealing with our own challenges, being alive and in a body is not a piece of cake.

Interruptions of sweetness

Though wow, not gonna lie, and people vary, so this might not ring true for you, but for me sometimes Solved By Cake is truly a great solution, or an intentional interruption to a free-fall.

We interrupt this message to bring you a moment of sweetness.

A recipe for self soothing (part zero, the pre-step)

Anyway, all that to say the same thing to you that I said to the beloved person who was free-falling:

I know that you are a conscious, capable, wise person who already has some hard-earned A+ self-tethering skills (in the positive sense of that), so I would say go with what you know works.

Aka the principle of Whatever Fucking Works.

Whether that’s writing your way back to yourself, because journaling is what works for you, or rolling around on the floor because rolling is what is needed. Moving or not moving or having a good cry, or taking yourself to a place where you will be gifted with a symbolic (or possibly literal) change of perspective, if that’s an option. I am a big fan of whatever works.

We all have some Known Things that help. Maybe some are off limits because they aren’t available right now, and maybe some are off-limits because we have learned they don’t actually help. We can revise the list. It’s okay. New list is good too. Let’s just start naming them. Here’s one of my favorites.

A recipe for self soothing (1)

This is where I start.

My personal most helpful for me thing to do in a free fall situation is sounding sounds in the form of humming, and here’s the key to the whole thing:

The humming happens with my thumbs pressing my ears shut and index/middle fingers pressing center of forehead, sometimes referred to as the third eye, if that helps you feel into the location.

You hum your hum, with ears shut and fingers touching in.

It kind of mimics being underwater (in a good way), it reminds me of how I feel in a float tank. Like something has hummed me into quiet, almost as if, if you can imagine this, you are humming your way into being your own self-contained singing bowl.

No matter how distressed I am, doing this helps me access a state that I like to call 10% More At Peace.

10% More At Peace

The great thing about 10% More At Peace is that the effects are fractal.

Also, there’s always another X percent, which is both kind of freeing and also shows me what to do next.

I can hum myself this way into another ten percent more relaxed, ten percent more functional, ten percent more at ease. Things are already different. Even if I am still distressed and distraught, still very much not at peace and not at ease, that ten percent shift actually makes a big difference.

And I can keep going, onward, let’s see if we can yawn and hum our way into the next ten percent, or the next indicated step (rolling, crying, writing, whatever is indicated)…

A Recipe for Self Soothing (3)

Lighting a candle (imaginary or not), or lighting incense (imaginary or not) for this free-fall, for a simple elegant solution, for comforts, for miracles, for whatever is needed.

I am lighting incense in Arizona for the safety of my home in New Mexico, for everyone who is hurting, for justice and a great righting and rewriting.

Rituals help. Monsters of self-criticism say this is isn’t useful counsel, that a ritual only a starting point, but so what? Starting points are great.

A Recipe for Self Soothing (4)

I like the intentional practice of making something delicious in a specific way.

Whether that something is the thing itself (making something to eat) or the plating (taking what is and making it beautiful, luscious and enticing).

We Do Grounding Things

I am practicing a lot of We Do Grounding Things, between the fires, the news and everyone I know being in a crisis that is also a tragedy that is also a free-fall. At least. Sometimes it’s also ten crises in a trench coat.

Anyway, I made salsa. Because salsa is a grounding thing.

(The food and not the dance, though dance is also a grounding thing but I can’t talk about that because I miss dance so much that I cannot bear to even think about it, I will cry, so we are talking about food instead.)

Of the earth

But first my radish greens were about to wilt so I made a pesto with them, tossing in parsley, spinach, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, and a garlic chili lemon oil I made last week, with cumin and aleppo pepper.

This was not a recipe and very much Use What You Have, and it ended up being exactly what I needed.

This pesto was rich, peppery and very much OF THE EARTH, which was the sensation I was craving.

Then I thought about making a spicy pineapple salsa, or possibly zhug which is the Yemenite spicy sauce of my dreams, but ended up making tomatillo salsa, because of Use What You Have. ANYWAY, SALSA.

Time for a new sensation

Here’s how I change the topic these days: ANYWAY SALSA

Gotta go, making something grounding and delicious. I am craving sensation. Stirrable spoonable spreadable sensations.

ANWYAY, SALSA!

A clue

This, from Alyssa Harad, on Twitter:

“Another friend with very serious Long Covid alerted me to the fact that it often takes a long time to move from ‘I have a problem, let’s fix it’ to ‘whoops I have changed, this is my new identity now’, and until people make the shift they’re often in isolation.”

This was a clue for me not only about Long Covid but about a variety of current circumstances, and I think it might also be a general clue for any tumultuous life situations, so if this is also a clue for you, here you go.

Anyway, Salsa

It’s not a clue I particularly like, it’s a clue I appreciate (and I also appreciate Alyssa).

Absolutely I am not enjoying coming to terms with the notion that I may just not recover energy or brain power, that each day might be for one small thing, if that, and given that I am very much on my own, I have been rethinking and recalibrating every aspect of how I live in order to survive.

Still, I’d rather work with what is. I am not relinquishing hope for surprise miracles, and not deciding what is impossible or possible (because how can I know), just staying with the be here now of it, and figuring out my next move based on the knowns of whoops I have changed, this is my new identity now.

ANYWAY SALSA.

Green

The tomatillo salsa I am making is a recipe from the Taste of Tucson cookbook by Jackie Alpers. This is a beloved cookbook that also tells the story of how Jackie, NJG (Nice Jewish Girl) from Cincinnati (a place I adore) ended up in Tucson (a place I also adore!) and how this place changed her, how her tastes changed as she immersed in Sonoran cuisine, reinventing her life and kitchen.

I live for the way she describes food.

Can green be a flavor? That is how Jackie describes this salsa, and that is why I wanted to make it, because that is what I am craving, the taste of GREEN, served with a spicy rice recipe she includes, with the following description:

“This rice is like summer in Tucson — dependably hot, greener than you might expect, and full of complexities that must be experienced to be appreciated.”

Yes please to all that. This sensory experience of GREEN as color and flavor, heat that is breathtaking, complex and craveable. And yes, you can depend on it. I want exactly this. I crave exactly this.

I want to want and crave again. The Return of the Dopamine. Calling this into my cauldron.

Hopscotch

Is that the word I want?

I am on a food budget that some people might describe as severe, and trying to make it playful, a game. In the way that a haiku or a sonnet is based on restriction but the restriction informs the creativity.

Part of the game involves batching recipes in such a way they hopscotch one to the next, the radish greens become pesto, which along with the radishes goes into sandwiches and into salad.

The leftover garlic from my chili-lemon-garlic oil gets blended with the leftover yogurt for a spicy dressing for rice and salad. The rest of the yogurt becomes labneh, the whey from the labneh is used to make a savory breakfast loaf in place of buttermilk. It’s an elaborate game of timing.

I am always thinking three days ahead, scheming ways to turn what might look like not much into a feast of plenty and beauty, thinking about A Kingdom of Making Do, which I also refer to as Estuary It.*

*anagram for austerity, a truly depressing word, but estuaries are about flowing and movement and giving it to the water, Estuary It reminds me that I am playing a game.

Blessings of good fortune

I feel incredibly lucky, because the last time I was in a similar situation, the circumstances were more dire and also at that time I did not have access to a kitchen, or anywhere to store food, so my creativity had to be a hundred times more creative.

That was not a game. That was just trauma.

But right now I am hopscotching, and feeling very, very lucky. I like kitchen time. I like We Do Grounding Things.

I like tasting something and feeling the aliveness of the enlivening, feeling how the peppery richness of a radish green pesto is connecting me to the earth, the luscious pomegranate syrup I made for malabi takes me back to feeling high on pomegranate aliveness as we exited the market. Thwack!

What is the opposite of a tangle

My least favorite thing (okay, top thirty) is being misunderstood, and misunderstood in such a way that the misunderstanding becomes so tangled that I am unable to undo the tangle no matter how much I over-explain, and wow do I over-explain. This might be an autism thing.

And by this, I mean every single aspect of what I just said.

Obviously the worst form of being misunderstood is when someone misunderstands you in such a way that shows that they think you are a terrible person.

But all forms of wow no that was not what I meant, how do I convey the meaning.

Beige

Anyway, here is a memory that I emerged while I was making malabi, and then again when I was thinking about how the green of the pesto and how much I love that Jackie describes the tomatillo salsa as CAN GREEN BE A FLAVOR?

I was a little kid and in the way of the world of little kids, Tiny Me was asked what’s your favorite color.

Tiny Me told the truth: our favorite color was beige, and everyone laughed.

Quiet vibrancy

It took me a long time (years and years) to realize that of course we were talking past each other, this was, of course, like so many other things, a misunderstanding.

And really the problem was that I, being a small child, did not possess a richness of vocabulary to describe what I meant, and they, being neurotypical, didn’t have a richness of sensation to draw from.

So I am guessing they were picturing a bland beige, like a hotel carpet, while I was experiencing a rich, creamy, textured, buttery beige, something wholly delicious. A color to immerse in, a color so soothing that it could tabula-rasa away all the overload.

The beige I meant was calming, infused with its own golden glow, possessing a quiet potency, you only notice it when you know how to notice it. If you get it you get it.

Malabi

Malabi is from Yemenite Jewish cooking, a vanilla-rosewater pudding, and you pour pomegranate syrup on top. The syrup forms a gorgeous deep red layer and it holds itself, which is part of the aesthetic joy of this dish. Then it is topped with pomegranate seeds, or my favorite version, shredded coconut.

The last time I made malabi it reminded me of my lost love, the color beige. I’d run out of granulated sugar and subbed light brown sugar, and worried the final product wouldn’t deliver on my third favorite thing about malabi, the first favorite thing being that I love malabi, the second favorite thing the way the syrup balances on the pudding, and then mixes itself in when you dig in with a spoon.

My third favorite thing is the contrast between the white pudding, the magenta-colored syrup, and the topping, but the malabi made with light brown sugar turned out to be an even better color, almost the color that I was unable to describe all those years ago to the children laughing at me.

Anyway, sometimes VIBRANCY can be quiet.

Vibrancy can be quiet

It’s not always the punch of spicy heat — though I adore spicy, and spicy can punch me as much as it wants, I’ll keep eating that spicy rice that makes me think of Tucson-in-108-degree heat and smile.

And it’s not always the ecstatic bliss of fresh pomegranate juice thwack thwack thwack that makes you think, yes, that was worth risking it all.

Sometimes vibrancy can be restoring myself to myself, reclining on the floor, thumbs in my ears, fingertips of index and middle fingers pressed to the center of my forehead, humming until I feel like I make sense again.

This is canon now

Sometimes the humming turns into some good rolling around which turns into pretending to be a bobcat which turns into more familiar movements that I have picked up from favorite teachers over the years, and I had the thought the other day while doing exactly this that yoga is stimming, actually.

And that probably lots of yoga teachers and other movement instructors are autistic, because a movement class is literally a place where it’s socially acceptable and encouraged to roll around on the floor and do repetitive self-soothing movements, and you get to INFO-DUMP ENTHUSIASTICALLY about a variety of your special interests.

Interests like physiology, anatomy, biomechanics, proprioception, self-awareness, pattern-mapping, compassion, playfulness, People Vary, literally all my favorite topics, would you like to hear the good word about yawning and why I think it’s so important?!

Say yes please. I HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY ABOUT IT.

Being myself is therapy (it’s not, but also it is)

There is a teacher in Tucson whose motto is Yoga Is Therapy, and I don’t necessarily disagree with that (I mean, okay, yes, I would argue that therapy and therapeutic are not the same thing, and also I extremely know what this person means, so I am not really going to argue it…)

Anyway, all parenthetical asides aside, maybe my personal version of that phrase is something like Movement Practice Is Inherently Autistic As Fuck Actually And I Love It, and is it a phrase or is it a battle cry

Anyway, the thought that all the yoga, feldenkrais, other movement classes I have been taking since oh 1996 or so have been secretly a mission in the autistic pursuits of stimming, info-absorbing and joyfully info-dumping made me laugh delightedly.

I got up and ate malabi with a tiny spoon and felt better about everything.

Tiny Spoon Malabi is therapy and also a form of ANYWAY SALSA.

Recipes are poetry to me

Recipes are poetry to me.

And maybe that sounds as nonsensical as X Is Therapy, but I actually mean this in the sense that I need to edit them three thousand times, and in the sense that they can bring me to a heightened state of curiosity and emotion.

A poem is also a recipe.

Or: Sometimes a poem is a recipe.

Sometimes

I am thinking about Cameron Awkward-Rich: Meditations In An Emergency

That is a poem and a recipe to me, it just happens to not be about food.

I also reach for a poem in the same way that I reach for recipes: when I need to calm the fuck down, or to be inspired in some way, or shocked into feeling something, or reminded of a grounding truth, a grounding pleasure.

Or just be reminded that other people also feel chaotic and dispersed, overwhelmed and undone, and sometimes they have to go write something and sometimes they have to go cook something.

A beautiful recipe

This Sandra Lim poem on Endings

Endings
The story has two endings.
It has one ending
and then another.
Do you hear me?
I do not have the heart
to edit the other out.

This poem helps me in the same way that reading a hundred recipes helps me.

I can’t explain it, it just helps to know that someone else is thinking about X —- let X = grief, loss and sorrow, let X = pesto, let X = pomegranates — as intensely as I am. Thwack. Thwack Thwack Thwack.

Notes, missions, things that are not in opposition

I leave all my notes in my recipes, so that each one is 90% notations about trial and error, the winding path of how I arrived at my most up-to-date working hypotheses re the ultimate pleasure-joy version of the dish.

Devoted to my one wish, the Return of the Dopamine.

The poet knows that grief is not linear, the recipe-writer knows that there is an order, there are pre-steps to the steps, and also that each time you make something it is new and evolving.

Poetry and recipe writing are not in conflict, their missions intertwine for me, even if on the surface it seems like [non-linear] and [follow the steps] are in opposition.

Pomegranates

I never made pomegranate juice when I lived in the dome in southeastern Arizona. They grew on my property, and I’d talk to them sometimes, to the pomegranates.

Maybe I didn’t try because I knew it could not live up to my sense memory of thwack thwack thwack liquid rubies in a small cup. I knew it couldn’t be like that, and I didn’t want not-that.

That’s also why [a lot of things in my life actually].

I also did not make prickly pear juice or prickly pear jam, even though I was on five acres of prickly pear. At the time it sounded labor intensive and messy, but now that my brain is broken and I am looking for meditative repetitive therapeutic things to do (Prickly Pear Syrup Making Is Therapy ™️), I could kind of go for that, oh well.

Blessings upon the mission (of doing literally anything that helps)

I am definitely not going to tell you that cooking is therapy, and not just because People Vary, and also not just because I differentiate between therapy and therapeutic. Which I do.

(And, to be clear, I am in favor of both of them, therapy & therapeutic pursuits, providing you can find someone good for the former. Though honestly, the benefit of the latter might be the way it doesn’t involve wading through a bunch of garbage in search of a gem.)

I maintain that therapy is great, if you can afford it and find the right person which are too big ifs, but worth it if you can. As you know, I still see my therapist from the mid-90s, in my head, so there’s that.

And therapeutic is a blessing, absolutely, yes, find as many things in this category as possible, or one thing in this category that really does it for you, and go to town. Blessings upon this mission.

Blessings upon the healing things. Whatever fucking works, whatever helps. I support it.

Kitchen time

Either way, cooking and food-prep are therapeutic for me in these times of trauma and fires and *gestures at everything, and I have been dealing with things by chopping. Thwack.

Decorating and plating are also like cooking, and like poetry. Creative space. Recipe-making is very therapeutic for me.

Yesterday I wanted to make more malabi, but didn’t have rosewater, and it occurred to me that what I actually wanted from the malabi was not so much the nostalgia of malabi, but that luscious CONTRAST in colors and flavors.

So I made an anise chai pudding (in the exact right shade of true beige), and a coffee-cardamom syrup that I mixed with cinnamon syrup, and served it with an obscene amount of shredded coconut, and it did the thing I wanted it to do…

I got to feel like a culinary genius for a moment and I got to taste Vibrancy, the Return of the Dopamine, and I got to run a tiny very delicious experiment that had no downsides.

Grace

I was talking to a friend who is really going through it about how we are both experiencing cooking as a saving grace in a difficult time.

We talked about how cooking is truly such a sneaky form of deep healing and most people don’t give it enough weight or credit.

She pointed out that it’s the one thing holding everything else together, the one thing you know you are going to do each day.

For me it’s also about [okay, yes, this takes time but it’s worth it] which is kind of a metaphor for the grieving / healing / recovery process itself, and all the hard things.

There is a time for stirring and a time to refrain from stirring

We talked about how it is Be Here Now, it is step by step, you do this one thing and you do the next thing and you know what comes after that. So in that sense it is very much not like loss and grieving, but it is grounding.

It is a sensory experience that comes with an accomplishment. There is a lot of repetition. You just keep chopping, you just keep stirring. Or now is the time that you need to not stir even though you are tempted.

(Jackie Alpers says, re beans, to just leave them covered and not stir, apparently stirring is the sign of an unsure cook, which makes them feel insecure, I love this, it feels like a rabbinic midrash.)

To every thing there is a season (and also a seasoning).

And the eating is also grounding. Taste, sensation, here now.

Up the lusciousness

Mainly I am just trying to UP THE LUSCIOUSNESS QUOTIENT so that no matter how hard or scary a given day is, no matter how intense the free-fall, at least I ate one thing that was like oh fuck yes, if this experience is brought to me by being alive, then aliveness is so good, this is what I want, these moments of taste, sensation, being of the earth.

And when I can’t achieve that, oh well, we are coping, we are doing our best, tomorrow is a new day, onward towards vibrancy.

A really good yawn and then several more, calming breaths, 10% more at peace, and VIBRANCY.

Just add vibrancy

I bought a small container of pomegranate juice and turned it into simple syrup (elevated with lemon zest), and used it to make malabi which you can see in the picture at the top. I made it in tiny jars, because tiny jars are adorable, and because everything tastes better with a tiny spoon, that’s just science.

So much of the mission of The Return of the Dopamine is about what enhances, what adds vibrancy, and tiny delicious puddings are a step in the right direction for me. If you want the recipe, I can post it sometime.

Mainly I am thinking about how else can I add vibrancy, what else can I infuse (in the kitchen, in my movement practice, while driving, while free-falling) with vibrancy?

To life. To health. To vibrancy.

To toasting with tiny pudding, and celebrating small moments of lusciousness, richness and life-thrummingly delicious flavor where we can find them.

Come play with me, I love company

You are welcome to play with any of the concepts here in any way you like.

You can brainstorm experiments, practices or rituals you would like to play with whether for your own times of free-fall, or for whatever you are going through, People Vary.

And as always, you’re invited to share anything sparked for you while reading, themes you’re playing with, or add any wishes into the pot, into the healing zone, as a friend of mine said, who knows, the power of the collective is no small thing, and companionship is healing.

A request

If you received clues or perspective or just want to send appreciation, I could use some miracles right now with my various emergency situations.

I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, and it all helps with fixing what needs fixing.

Or you can buy a copy of the my Monster Manual & Coloring Book if you don’t have it!

And if those aren’t options, you can light a candle for support or light one in your mind, share one of my posts with people, tell people about this work, that all helps, and I appreciate it so much. ❤️

xo
Havi

It Solves Itself

porthole view

Image: Blurred sunset views from the porthole


A note / brief acknowledgment / entry / pre-

Here in the United States things are extra tumultuous at the moment, we knew in November of 2016 that many rights and provisions were precarious, about to become more so, or already on their way out; and now we are experiencing an especially painful week, after so many painful weeks.

I have no wisdom to contribute, and do not wish to add to the Many Takes, so that is not what I’m writing about here. Just wanted to acknowledge the energy weight of it all, from the swirl of tumult to the extremely reasonable Big Fear to the many forces of chaos at play.

Wishing for a better world. Wishing extra safety, sanctuary & steadiness superpowers to all uterus-havers out there. Lighting a candle for whatever hope-glimmers may come, may they come swiftly, here’s to the glimmering. ❤️

It Solves Itself

At sea

I stayed in Tucson longer than anticipated. Eventually my poor sweet car got patched up, thanks to the superpower of I know a guy who knows a guy, and with enormous appreciation to everyone who gave money to Barrington’s Fund to cover the emergency.

And I myself filled up on a much-needed dose of sweetness-fuel in the form of a quiet peaceful evening catching up with someone I care about tremendously.

Somehow the combination of these accumulated bits of magic and support generated enough oomph to send me on my long sojourn into the wilds, back to the sailboat.

The sailboat that is not a sailboat

The sailboat is not technically a sailboat, it’s my 150sq ft tiny house trailer in rural New Mexico, but it feels like a sailboat, and when I am in it (or on it), listening to the winds beating against the metal awning, I feel as though I am on the waves.

It is boat-like, in its cozy compactness, in the way it moves and breathes.

Even though, like me, the sailboat is in need of some patching up, it is my haven.

Not lost, just at sea

I can watch the junipers moving in the wind too. I peek through the portholes, gazing at the clouds as they passage across the bluest sky, and I am at sea. In a good way.

Not lost, not cast-about or cast-away, just: at sea.

A gentle floating adventure for the most part. Sometimes it’s a quiet, peaceful coasting, other times I find myself resolutely battening down the hatches in great awe of the mighty winds, but still I cherish sailboat time.

A sea change

My moods shifted too, once I got here.

The anxiety vanished, while the Great Lethargy changed form, from the molasses-slow unable to care about anything, unable to want to care about anything that characterized much of my time in Tucson to something much more simple: a bone tired exhaustion.

A sea change. Suddenly not lethargic or in a malaise, in fact surprisingly peaceful, just deeply tired, so very tired. Unable to contemplate doing.

I climbed into bed at 5pm and alternately read and gazed out the window for two hours, slept deeply for eleven and a half hours, dreaming of other times and places.

Three days and three nights

Woke up: slow bobcat stretches, meditation, 34×17 undulating abridged sun salutations that I like to call sundulations. Breakfast, wash dishes, straight back to bed to nap all afternoon.

Then a warm sponge-bath because I still have no hot water and can’t shower.

Red grapefruit juice in a wine glass. Ten minutes rolling feet on a ball, twenty minutes on the small wooden balance board, watching the juniper trees. Back to bed to read cookbooks.

I did exactly this and nothing else for three days and three nights.

Exceptions

I will add that my morning rituals, while definitely markedly more sleepy, subdued and effortful than usual, otherwise seemed to be mostly untouched by the Great Tired, as if I’d been granted an exception by the exhaustion gods, for sanity purposes.

A recess, of sorts. An allotted time for movement, the rest of the time for bed.

Monster Variations, in G

While it was mostly refreshingly peaceful to do nothing, offline, away from the world, surrounded by nature, a blessed break from the anxiety, no city noises and nothing to disturb my view, obviously it wasn’t all peaceful.

While I was relieved to have emerged from depression-fog, sleeping this much and having no energy (for anything other than my morning rituals) with no explanation was a new mystery to me.

The lovely relief was met with every possible monster-story doom-scenario running through my head competing to explain the depth of my exhaustion.

From all variations of “clearly something is terribly wrong with you” worry-stories to “you are missing your chance to do spring cleaning, catch up on projects and get any work done” stress-stories.

Except I couldn’t do anything but rest, and so I didn’t.

You are here (you are still here)

A wise friend used to say that the greatest blessing and greatest detractor of living in a body is that, from the perspective of the body, it is always and only RIGHT NOW.

And, from the perspective of the body, right now is indistinguishable from forever.

For better and for worse. On the plus side, you get the gift of presence: an opportunity to ground into body wisdom in every moment, to sink into felt sense. The grounded reassuring You Are Here on the map.

Right here, right now. The body can tell me everything about how it is experiencing this exact moment, if I can get quiet enough to listen, if I can not-judge, and just respect the information.

A puppy, basically

And the flip side of that of course is that a body is kind of like a dog friend, or a toddler. Just no sense of how time works.

No matter how patiently I try to explain, my sweet bewildered puppy of a body simply cannot understand that [unpleasant sensation X] or [uncomfortable emotion Y] will not be how we feel forever.

As far as my body is concerned, this moment is forever. There’s literally nothing else.

Luckily we have body-mind, and the mind part does understand logic, time and pattern-mapping. We can extrapolate from past experience and memory. We can redirect our thoughts or reframe them, and we can play as many rounds as we want of what is true and what is also true

What is true and what is also true?

What is true: I am this tired right now.
What’s also true: There is no reason to assume that I will be this tired forever. We are running an experiment, we are letting this tiredness play out, making room for deep rest.

What is true: I am noticing fear that Nothing Will Change.
Also true: Sure, that’s because my body lives in Right Now, where of course nothing is changing because I am experiencing this moment as my entire reality. We can stay expansive, pay attention to bigger patterns. And: we have options. If nothing changes, we will shift the parameters of the experiment.

What is true: I am feeling worried that I will always be this tired.
Also true: Everything changes. There are many likely contributing factors for cumulative exhaustion, including the great amount of stress I have been under. Observing the pattern changes the pattern. We can be active participants in the healing process, and also let ourselves catch up on rest.

And It Solves Itself

This is one power phrase that I sometimes add to my morning sundulations.

I do these in sets of seventeen: following my mental compass of qualities first clockwise, and then counter-clockwise, repeating north again at the top.

North. Northeast. East. Southeast. South. Southwest. West. Northwest. North. And then all the way back to North.

Each compass point has a quality I wish for or aspire to, and each set introduces a new quality. For example, the twenty-first set is about being Formidable, and North is always Fierce, so my twenty-first compass begins and ends with I am Fierce & Formidable, Formidable & Fierce.

And the power phrase gets added to everything, no matter how the phrase wishes to configure itself.

I stay fierce, I become more formidable, It Solves Itself. My formidable fierceness solves itself.

What is the magic in And It Solves Itself

The superpower of And It Solves Itself is about Do Less To Get More.

It is about I am wishing the wish and stepping away.

It is about What if this does not require my input.

Which means it is very much about trust, intuition, play, and patience, which to me is also a form of play.

Aka the waiting game, the long game, the this is my game game.

What is being solved when we add And It Solves Itself

I don’t know, and that’s why I’m adding it. Because it’s not a thing I can know until it happens.

It Solves Itself is solving for x when you have no idea what x is.

It is solving for x while putting every possible version of maybe-this-is-x into the pot.

It is asking for a solution that does not involve more than the ask, because you don’t know what the next steps are, and so asking is what is left. Maybe the ask will reveal the steps, or one next indicated step.

And if it doesn’t, then hey, at least you asked.

Faith

Asking for And It Solves Itself is, for me, very much a declaration of faith.

To ask means: I am willing to be surprised. And it means: I am willing to do what needs doing, once I know what that is.

More than anything it means: I am willing to bravely stop trying to “do”, “solve” and “fix”, instead I will do nothing, other than wait for new information to come to light.

Napping as a form of It Solves Itself

Can I allow my long afternoon sailboat naps to offer their own solution? To be their own solution?

Can I sleep into And It Solves Itself.

Can it solve itself deliciously, beneath the surface, in the not-doing?

I love remembering that a solution is also a body of water, and guess what else is a body of water, A BODY IS A BODY OF WATER. My body is a body of water, both in that I am literally mostly water, and also a dreamy piscean water sign who feels big feelings and loves to float.

Can this deep rest that I crave be a salt-water solution? An immersion, dissolution, possibly a flowing, whatever it needs to be.

What else solves itself or can solve itself or can be a form of solving itself

Bobcat stretching as a form of it solves itself.

Recipe-reading as a form of it solves itself.

Food prep as a form of it selves itself.

Shifting

On the fourth day, I finally had the energy to drive to the nearest supermarket (an hour away, considerations regarding groceries is kind of a production when you live out in the wilds) and pick up a few things. Then went right back to sleep.

The fifth day, I made it all the way to town.

I felt strange, something was off, but couldn’t tell how much of that was my week of hibernation and how much was Something Else, something external, or maybe just being in proximity to people again.

Dust and wind

Dust was blowing up and around everywhere, an ominous sky. I felt a familiar anxiety-thrum that I associate with barometric pressure changes in the desert.

Checked the weather app to confirm, yes, a severe warning out for High Winds.

The app advised not going anywhere, which wasn’t an option, and staying away from trees, except I have to head through national forest if I want to return to the sailboat.

The question became: what is more foolish? I could risk falling branches and high chance of forest fire to get back to the sailboat where I won’t have enough signal to check on the weather or call for help if I need it, that would definitely be foolish.

Or I could drive through a dangerous dust storm to Arizona where in theory I would be able to get access to wifi, assuming I could get there in one piece.

Through hell and high winds

Should I stay or should I go. I chose GO, and I am not sure why.

Wow, babe, this might be the worst decision you’ve ever made!”, I whispered to myself encouragingly, crossing the continental divide in the whipping dust-winds, watching a pickup truck with a trailer veer wildly across the lines on the hill ahead.

But then I remembered I’ve done way more foolish and ill-advised things in this life, so I named them, as many as I could think of, as I white-knuckled my way through the dust storm.

Tumbleweeds were flying across the road. The wind was making sounds I’d never heard before. Hours passed, the sky shifted. Eventually the dust storm calmed, or maybe I just left its path.

It solved itself

I made it to Tucson and still wasn’t sure I’d made the right choice, until I received word that a fire had broken out not even a couple miles from my sailboat.

Had I turned around, I would have driven directly into a fire. Or, had I somehow made it to the sailboat before the fires I would have been in the smoke and the terror of it all, no way to contact anyone or figure out the best next move.

Turns out sleeping for a week in order to gather enough energy to drive through a dust storm was possibly the smartest thing I’ve ever done, ever. Maybe it was pre-recovery. Didn’t even think of that.

Like aftercare but when you don’t yet know you need it. Haha except I always need it, so there’s that…

What’s the important question

Was I pre-recovering so I could do this drive to safety?

Maybe yes, maybe no, that can’t be the important question. It’s done, it happened. I’m okay, and, miraculously, so is the sailboat. It took several days of tense waiting but the fires have been contained.

Alright, so what’s the important question? Let’s find out.

Other things on my mind

Things are solving themselves on the physical (in the hard) and solving themselves behind the scenes (in the soft).

Often it feels as though they are doing the opposite of solving themselves, which is why this is a faith-based practice.

I think about how the biggest and most mysterious mysteries of my life in 2020 and 2021 have entirely resolved themselves, even though they felt entirely impossible and out of reach.

Is it possible that today’s Impossible Impossibles too will resolve themselves, that the current storms will ride themselves out?

I mean, I don’t know. I hope so. We will see. They will or they won’t. Still, it’s a good reminder for me to hope, to hold fast to the hope-glimmers, maybe I had a glimpse and lost it, maybe the skies will clear again.

Returning (or not) to practice (or not)

Meanwhile I have entirely lost interest in my physical practice again, so possibly I need new rituals, or maybe returning to what was lost is its own secret op, or who knows, maybe this is just one of the many mysteries that is still in a process of self-resolving.

One aspect might be that I don’t have a way to listen to music, which is its own conundrum. I have to motivate myself in new ways that don’t involve a spontaneous dance party.

Can I put this into the pot with my ongoing wish of And It Solves Itself, and let it solve itself?

What is appealing? What or where is the new spark?

Exhausted Desert Assassin ISO A New Spark

Maybe part of riding things out includes the many forms that can take.

Sometimes I ride them out but sometimes I sleep them out, stretch-out them out, nap them out, horchata them out…

Yes that is interesting, can I cook my way out of a storm? Can I delicious my way through a scary moment, an unsure process?

Yes, maybe DELICIOUS is my missing verb, even though I know it is not meant to be particularly verb-like. Sorry, I need it to be one right now! Maybe I am in search of a new verb and a new spark…

Can I pleasure my way through this tension and make the experience something new? Yes please, I wish to delicious my way through…

The Worry Report

Waiting for news and updates on the fire was its own form of exhaustion. I couldn’t tell if I was worn out from the stressful drive, or from waiting to hear any word. It was difficult to distract myself.

I waited for clues. The wifi stopped working. I waited some more.

Good news, my friends, the fire has been pretty much contained so now I can stop panicking about that, and return to our regularly scheduled program of The Usual Worries! Tune in at 5 for The Worry Report!

Maybe that’s why I wasn’t able to do my morning practice of being a bobcat. Maybe that’s why all I can do is pace anxiously.

Maybe I am anxious-pacing as a new form of napping. Do X and It Solves Itself. Or, even better, do not do X, and let it solve itself.

Okay, so if anything can be X, then what would I like to be doing while It Solves Itself?

Solving, yet again, for X

Just like with The Horchata Proxy, I have to go where the spark is, wherever the deliciousness might be.

Which, like everything else, is a moving target. Everything is changing, all the time. What is delicious, for me, in this moment. What is appealing? Where is the pull?

I have some plums from my friend’s tree. What do I want to do with plums?

A writer’s “block” block

I dislike this phrase (“writers block”) because it is so unnecessarily stressful and blame-filled. And also because it is anchored in a false reality where the creative process needs to happen ASAP, which is not even something I believe in.

I believe in things taking the time they take. I believe in seeds beneath the surface.

Applause for the seeds, they are doing their seed thing, and I am not going to rush them, I am only going to celebrate their existence, celebrate nourishment, celebrate hope-glimmers, and keep loving the ground.

And also, yes, I did run into a block, in the form of someone else’s expectations, which happen to be expectations I am uninterested in meeting. And since then I can’t seem to want to sit down to say anything, or uncover anything. Okay, so that’s where we’re at.

Compassion for this. Acknowledgment & legitimacy for this. I am going to keep loving my patch of earth and whispering to the seeds.

What do we know about this?

Ah yes, the best way to unblock a block is to either do something unexpected and be contrarian, or do something completely expected just in an unexpected way, or to throw caution to the wind and do something very expected, do thing that always works, okay, maybe with a twist.

And so I took myself on a treasure hunt, to see if it would solve itself.

Treasure hunt treasures

My treasure hunt was revealing, which is the main quality I want from a treasure hunt.

I visited my saguaro friends and talked to them about my troubles. Called my wise uncle in Oregon. When he answered the phone, I said HELLO OREGON. He said HELLO MONTANA, even though I am not in Montana. Svevo understands how assassins operate. I finally felt ready to make horchata.

Then I made chocolate horchata banana bread, in the most unlikely way possible, substituting every single ingredient other than chocolate, bananas and horchata, which itself was a substitute for oat milk. It turned out outrageously delicious.

Did you know that banana bread anagrams to Bandana Bear? Neither did I. How adorable is that.

Anyway, here’s to my favorite superpower of all time: Solved By Cake.

Remembering, again

I remembered the practice of Deliciousness as Sorcery, Deliciousness as Ritual, Deliciousness as Medicine.

And I remembered the practice of hope-glimmers, and being a finder-thereof.

Anyway, I am glad that May is here, a time for newness, renewal, recalibrations, and a great flowering. At least here in Tucson where all the palo verde trees are blooming at once, blanketing the desert in yellow.

What’s working?

Hope sparks. One thing at a time. Wishes into the pot. Timers. Stretching like a bobcat. Staying attuned to all possible examples of oh look, It Solved Itself.

Even when I am unable to trust the process, the process is still processing, what if this is solving itself?

And something about…not a positive spin exactly, that’s not what I mean, what do I mean, let me find you an example…

An example which I hope will also make you laugh, it made me laugh

Okay, for example, I was feeling so frustrated about how I don’t have wifi at the sailboat, and now I also don’t have it at any of my Tucson safe houses, and my phone is basically broken, it works to send texts (as long as I don’t need the space bar, or the letters A, S or W), but not much else.

And now I have to find a way to get this online…

But then during my Monday Meeting, I was talking to The Sleek Assassin, and they said something about how maybe my sorcery is so powerful that wifi can’t co-exist around me, and I laughed so hard.

Is it true? Who can say! Is it hilarious? Absolutely. So now I’m finding the treasure in being offline, and honestly, it’s kind of a good time for it.

Wishing wishes

I am wishing us ease of ease, joyful recalibrations, sweet emerging, loving the ground, useful flowerings, surprise good news, delicious as a verb, new forms of comfort, and/or whatever we need most.

Hope-glimmers everywhere. Glimmering glimmering glimmering. I wish to get better at glimmering as a verb, and at noticing the glimmer.

Adding the superpowers of It Solves Itself, The Impossibles Are Shifting, Miracles Abound.

Maybe I will post this at the library, maybe from a friend’s patio. It will solve itself, however it solves itself.

May it be so or something even better. Hello, new month, new experiments, new wishes, flowers everywhere.

Come play with me, I love company

You are welcome to play with any of the concepts here in any way you like.

You can brainstorm appealing experiments or explorations for May, you can join me in being very excited about horchata banana bread, I will take pics if I get a working camera option again.

And as always, you’re invited to share anything sparked for you while reading, themes you’re playing with, or add any wishes into the pot, into the healing zone, as a friend of mine said, who knows, the power of the collective is no small thing, and companionship is healing.

A request

If you received clues or perspective or just want to send appreciation, I could use some miracles right now with my emergency situations.

I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, and it all helps with fixing what needs fixing.

Or buy a copy of the my Monster Manual & Coloring Book if you don’t have it!

And if those aren’t options, you can light a candle for support or light one in your mind, share one of my posts with people, tell people about this work, that all helps, and I appreciate it so much. ❤️

xo
Havi

The Horchata Proxy

labneh and wafflomelet

Image: My ongoing experiment in plating food, today it’s labneh & a wafflomelet. Also this piece is 5k words so I figured we could use snacks…


The Horchata Proxy

Rock paper scissors

Last week I wrote about the Ongoing Lethargy, and we played a useful round of what’s true & what’s also true with the monsters of What’s The Point & It’s All Hopeless whose favorite story is that nothing is interesting or appealing.

They love that story, and all its variations, including: nothing helps, nothing can help, and why even bother trying.

Gotta say the hopelessness has been winning a lot lately in the ongoing rock-scissors-paper game in my head.

The other two players are melancholy and anxiety, so it’s not really fun when anyone wins, but I do kind of appreciate the break from anxiety. At least this way I get more sleep.

Who’s playing

I don’t love rock paper scissors, as a game. It’s stressful and boring at the same time, just like my list of things.

So I have been trying to focus on different games entirely, different forms of play.

Actually I have been trying to get the band back together (enthusiasm on drums, inspiration on bass, maybe hope will show up too at some point), see if they’re interested in making some music or at least some noise.

Jam session.

The rule of “Follow the spark that is”

Last time we clarified that my ongoing story about Nothing Is Interesting was not entirely true.

While I remain deep in a state of INOWANNA vis a vis my list, there is in fact something very interesting to me actually, and that is making horchata.

Or, more specifically, the process of obsessively reading a thousand recipes, making way too many notes, compiling the specific methods and ingredients which feel the most resonant to me, and eventually pulling these pieces together to form a baseline recipe I want to experiment with. And of course a bonus list of variations I want to play with once I am happy with my baseline.

This is where my spark of interest is to be found, and I am a strong believer in Follow The Spark That Is, both because the spark is the spark, and also because the spark can serve as an excellent proxy.

What is a proxy

A proxy is a way we can utilize hyperfocus while elegantly side-stepping any potential stuck elements attached to the project you’re actually working on, or the problem you’re actually trying to solve.

Using a proxy allows me to follow the enthusiasm sparks and explore whatever rabbit holes might be calling to me.

And, because the point of the proxy is to take a detour, we also get to bypass the boring cultural rules in play that call this “avoidance”, or worse, that P-word word that rhymes with “flow-plastication”; it’s not any of that.

I’m just taking the scenic route. On purpose. That’s where the clues are.

How to proxy

I have written about this method here before, but if you want a short version of the basics:

When nothing is working, follow any enthusiasm sparks or focus on an entirely made-up project. Literally anything. Sometimes I frame this as an occupation, and sometimes as a secret mission or cover story, for example, “I’m a horchata researcher”. And go from there.

If you wish, you can always make a list of the questions you are actually trying to resolve and throw them into the pot, but the most important step is then to forget about them.

My best counsel

Here’s the best wisdom I have:

Don’t focus on any of the real stuff while engaging with the proxy, don’t bother trying to look for connections or seeing how you can make it make sense, or how it applies. You can do all that later.
Though probably you won’t even have to.

It’s the deep dive into the Something Else that we are going for. It’s the let’s see where this goes of it all.

Let’s see where it goes.

The Horchata Proxy

I have spent a week investigating horchata (not making it yet, my blender is in my trailer, and also I’m still in research mode which is the exciting part for me), so here is some of my learning from The Horchata Proxy…

History & geography

I think I’ve just been instinctually thinking of horchata as Mexican because I am in the southwestern United States, an hour from the border with Mexico, we drink it here at taquerías, so it lives in my mind with Mexican food.

Turns out horchata originated in Valencia, Spain, and there it was made from barley instead of rice. Who knew! Not me. This is why I love a good rabbit hole.

Horchata has traveled. It has seen some stuff. It has been on grand adventures, and everywhere it ends up, it changes…

The grand adventures of horchata

The Moors added almonds and tiger nuts (which are tubors, not nuts, and rich in magnesium). And, interestingly, there are drinks all over the middle east that sort of mimic horchata, more on this in a bit.

Anyway, Spaniards brought it to the new world where it is generally made with rice. In Venezuela, they add sesame seeds, in El Salvador, horchata is made with morro seeds, and in Puerto Rico they add coconut and rum.

Upgrades everywhere. How’s that for a superpower.

I’m going with the rice variation, steeped in cinnamon, so keeping to the Mexican version that far, though not taking the path of condensed milk.

Philosophy, of course

There seem to be three methods generally speaking.

Some people want you to soak the rice in water, then add cinnamon sticks and bonus spices before blending. Some people blend then soak. And some people soak the rice first with the spices.

You will probably not be surprised to know that I am for the latter method. IMMERSION IN FLAVOR. That’s what I want. There’s also the two hours in hot water method versus the overnight soaking cool water method.

Some people add toasted almonds or hazelnuts, some people add cacao nibs, there’s some room to play but cinnamon is the one you can’t omit. Or at least that is the rule I am taking from this.

Not everyone strains. I am decidedly pro-straining. Some people are twice-strainers, blessed be the twice-strainers. We will see how I feel about second-strain in practice when I get there.

Let’s not even get started on the makhloket between the rice-washers and the non-washers, the non-washers say you need the extra starch for that horchata-ey essence. The rice-washers: 👀

Makhloket

Okay, I said I wasn’t getting started but proxy work is all about the valuable digression, so let’s digress.

In Judaism, makhloket, a conflict or a dispute, is a highly valued practice, a positive, not a negative.

Disagreeing (respectfully) is part of the process of study, you could even say it’s a devotional practice itself, and we keep records of all these disagreements among the rabbis, because being Jewish is extremely not about “this is the one right way, we found it”, and it is extremely about these loving, passionate, ongoing arguments and conversations, with ourselves and with the text, from generation to generation.

There is a phrase makhloket l’shem shamayim, a disagreement in the name of heaven, or a conflict for the sake of heaven, which is sometimes described as an argument of principle, something bigger than arguing to make a point. It’s more like disagreeing together in order to get somewhere, the intellectual challenge is as valued as the shared truth-seeking. You debate things because you care.

This makes me think of Sherlock in Elementary, a show I am conflicted about but he keeps coming up in this proxy experiment, and here he is again. He argues against himself as he works things out, and he’ll argue with anyone else too, but usually for good.

Anyway, for now I just want to say that there is much makhloket around how to make horchata, all the questions around what is “authentic”, what is delicious and what is right, and I enjoyed reading a variety of opinions, I enjoyed feeling a strong yes whenever one approach zinged for me, whether I knew why or not.

More history, geography, linguistics, you name it

So it turns out there is a Saudi drink, one I’m sure also exists elsewhere in the region, called Gahwat Loz with the same makeup as horchata, just with a middle eastern spin. You use rice water, blanched almonds and milk, all common horchata ingredients, except then you add cardamom and orange blossom water.

Gahwa is a pronunciation of Kahwa (coffee), and Loz is almond or nut, so the name is basically Nut Coffee. Loz actually comes from Aramaic, and if you are a Hebrew speaker, then you say it more like Luz, and if you speak modern Hebrew, you probably think of it as a hazelnut before you’d think almond.

Side note to the side note!

Side note that in Arabic, a nut is jawz, and in Hebrew it is egoz, for example jawz al kaju is the egoz known as a cashew.

You can not-always but very often switch out a hard G in Hebrew for a J in arabic, or if the word you want has a J in Arabic, try a G-sound in Hebrew. For example, najar in Arabic is a carpenter, nagar in Hebrew.

Hebrew and Arabic work almost in tandem kind of like Spanish and Italian, or German and Dutch, in that they are not the same but they’re also not not the same, or: they are so close that if you know one and know a bit about how languages work and have the ability to be patient and curious, you can generally figure things out.

(I am not an Arabic speaker, right now I have maybe three thousand words that I am figuring out how to smoosh together, but: working on it.)

Words!

So yes, the story that I am not excited about anything was in fact a lie. I am excited about WORDS! Words, vocabulary, etymology, connections, the process of learning, and delicious drinks.

That’s at least six things I care about! The story about Everything Is Blah remains a lie, but an interesting one, given that I am so invested in believing it. More likely, I’m just trying to stay numb enough to not feel how scary it all is.

So let’s play with words and with deliciousness. What happens if we make horchata with pistachio? Fistuk in Hebrew, Fustok in Arabic, le pistache in French…

A drink of

In Syria and Lebanon, they make this drink with rose water and a pinch of salt, and there they call it Sharab Al Loz, almond drink or nut drink, and it’s a celebratory, serve in a champagne glass kind of drink, as I understand.

I also learned the hilarious etymological detail that what we call a shrub in English, a vinegar-fermented macerated fruit drink often served with sparkling water, actually derives from the Arabic word Sharab, literally a drink.

Which means at some point, the following conversation had to have happened…

Non-Arabic-speaking person: What is this drink we are drinking? What do you call it?
Arabic-speaker: It’s a SHARAB. We’re drinking a drink.
Non-Arabic-speaker: Oh, it’s a shrub? What kind of shrub?
Arabic speaker: Um, grapefruit?

And that is how we ended up with shrubs, incidentally the drink I obsessed over last spring in pretty much exactly the way I am obsessing over horchata now. A Seasonal Obsession. How’s that for a good clue?

Variations upon variations

Anyway, needless to say I will be trying all of these variations.

I am also now wondering if Sahlab, one of my favorite middle eastern desserts that is sometimes a pudding and sometimes a drink, made with orchid flower flour, sachlav if you’re a Hebrew speaker, is itself a version of horchata, or could horchata have originally been a variation on Sahlab???

Okay, so wait, what’s the etymology of horchata then?

This is actually such a winding rabbit hole that I’m not even going to try to sum up, and instead will direct you to this fascinating and delicious atlas obscura article, let me just cover the most exciting bits.

The roots (haha, tuber pun!) go back to ancient Rome, and a medical elixir made from barley.

The word itself derives from the Latin hordeum (barley) and then you have hordeata (a drink made with barley). In Latin, the H was pronounced, in Spanish it is dropped, more on this if you’re interested, yes there’s a sub-reddit for Latin questions and yes, I loved it..

The short version is horchata means [a drink made with barley] that is not necessarily made with barley at all.

With or without

Here is my favorite line from the Atlas Obscura piece:

In northern Mexico, there’s a version still made with barley called horchata de cebada: literally “a drink made with barley of barley.”

So if it’s made with barley, it’s a drink made with barley of barley, and if it’s not made with barley, it’s a drink made with barley. Etymologically speaking.

But let’s get back to the part I am most excited about. Elixirs.

To come into the world for healing

Horchata was originally a medicinal elixir.

Horchata is for healing.

And right now, I am healing (ongoing), existing inside of Concussion Life and Long Covid Life, lethargy-depression-brain-fog life.

Healing and in the healing. Healing and obsessing over horchata.

Linguistic deep-diving too then becomes part of the healing experiment. Words are medicinal to me.

Sweet & medicinal / healing sweetness

So we have something that came into the world to be a healing, and I am in search of healing, and, who knows, maybe we all come into the world for healing (to be of healing, to experience healing, in service to healing), or maybe we don’t.

But for sure we get to experience pleasure while we are alive and embodied, and I absolutely believe in the healing powers of pleasure. So let’s make a delicious potion and imbibe its healing essence.

This is basically the opposite of a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down, the medicine itself is a pleasure, and pleasure is the medicine. A potion.

Potion-making by necessity involves an extended simmering

Horchata is a potion, a shrub (sharab) is a potion.

I am the Sorceress on a Sailboat, of course I am fascinated by potions.

Potions, potency, vitality, aliveness.

And I am proxying, depositing my various problems, mysteries and dilemmas into the pot, and what is the pot if not itself a cauldron, a designated vessel for transformation…

This must be why I like to let the ingredients soak together overnight, instead of blending first. It just feels more magical that way.

Sometimes, often, things need to simmer for longer than we think. This might be the hard part. It is for me.

The many mysteries, the beautiful clues

So where are we at for clues?

I know that I am EXCITED about seasonal menus, and April as entry for the summer drinks.

Even as I dread the big heat waves to come, I am excited to make my rosemary grapefruit shrub, and of course limonana — sort of a minty lemonade slushee, a play on words, limonada being lemonade, but made with nana, mint in Hebrew, el nae’neh in Arabic.

And of course I am excited for all the popsicles but especially to recreate the chai popsicles which got me through concussion summer last year when it was 111 degrees (44 Celsius) and the world was wavy lines.

So we have clues about being in season, and something to look forward to, repetition and ritual.

Repetition and ritual, Feasts of the small gods.

Clues about magic, and word-magic, and letting things be in process for as long as they are in process.

In process (like a potion)

Yes. That feels important.

Right now I am not enjoying waiting because my brain doesn’t work, and I get frustrated, but horchata tells me that waiting is part of the recipe, and the recipe is a potion, so the waiting is part of the magic.

And also that I don’t need to wait as long as I think.

Waiting is part of the magic. Patience is the long game. And: I won’t have to be as patient as I’m afraid I will, the waiting is not forever, the waiting is what is indicated right now.

Wait, I have an even bigger clue.

Somehow one of these recipe rabbit holes had me researching cajeta de casera recipes, and I learned something that is absolutely blowing my mind.

Cajeta is kind of like a Mexican caramel sauce. I was looking for alternative sweeteners, and didn’t think I could make it because most versions use cow’s milk which my body doesn’t like, but that’s where the de casera comes in, there’s a goat milk version that is very intriguing.

Anyway, here is the most amazing clue of all time!

How do you know when your cajeta is done or when to stop cooking it? You pause it at al punto de cajeta. The point at which it becomes cajeta is when you stop trying to make cajeta.

Al punto de cajeta!

A thing is done at the point at which it is done, or when it becomes itself!

You make cajeta and it’s not cajeta yet so you keep making it until it reaches the point of being itself…

Al punto de cajeta!

I might be even more obsessed with this than I am with horchata.

A clue about everything?

This is a clue about anything? Or possibly everything?

It’s so simple, and also so complex. Elegant.

This also makes me think of Hebrew and Arabic, how they are so similar and so different, and the biggest way in which they are both similar and different at the same time is they both prize elegance over all other qualities.

Except the way you achieve elegance in Hebrew is by being as concise as possible, arrow-to-the-heart-of-the-point, and the way you achieve elegance in Arabic is with embellishment and flourishes. Same goal, different method.

Like making horchata actually.

Truly al punto de cajeta is like the ur-clue, a clue that leads to seemingly endless clues.

Okay but also

One digression among many possible digressions: al punto de cajeta made me think about gender identity, something that has been both unraveling and reconfiguring for me in pandemic life, possibly because I spend all my time with myself.

I am reasonably sure I am Havi-gendered. As my wise and talented friend Sarah put it so perfectly, I have no idea what what Shania Twain meant re “I feel like a woman”, so nonbinary feels more right than not…

Though is that word big enough, hmmm, maybe really all I know about my gender is that I am reasonably sure I am mostly not a he, whatever that means, except for those times when I am, whatever that means, again, so really all I can do with gender identity is be patient as I arrive at the point of being a Havi embodied, which is now, and also ongoing.

Always arriving, newly arriving. Steadily in arrival state.

Flux

Sometimes I am the femme-iest assassin, like Villanelle in Killing Eve, femme in a way that is deeply intimidating. Like Villanelle says, I was trained to be devastating. My gender is Devastating Assassin.

I think, in terms of gender presentation, my punto de cajeta is sort of a cowboy version of a nonbinary Jessica Rabbit, but again, everything is changing.

Identity is messy, dynamic, in flux, like everything else, so I just have to keep living and be alive, and let things simmer until some sort of al punto de cajeta, I’ll know when I know, I’ll get there when I get there, I am myself when I am myself which is both now and elusive.

Nothing to do but make horchata and sweeten the experience.

State! Of! Being!

Back to Elementary, the show I am conflicted about but also I am conflicted about so many things.

[Warning if you have not seen it that this show is extremely fatphobic and casually antisemitic among its other detractions, also pretty gruesome and of course pro-cop, and yet somehow despite its flaws, I still find it very compelling. See also: Lucy Liu!]

Anyway, here is an absolutely incredible quote that is also a clue, from Sherlock, who did not wish to attend a meeting and receive his one year sobriety chip: “It is absurd to measure sobriety in units of TIME, it is a state of BEING, you are either in it or not.”

State of being.

You are or you’re not, and in some cases you can change at any time, reasons are bullshit, etc, the end.

This phrase might need a few rounds of What’s True & What’s Also True, which I would especially recommend if you don’t like it. You don’t have to like it, and it doesn’t have to be your clue, but sometimes it is interesting when we feel reactive about something. I absolutely felt reactive about it, and I feel reactive about the entire show but also I am still watching…

State of being a Havi, for example

I am a Havi. I have brain damage.

Time will help or it won’t, or it will but not as much as I want, or it will help more than I think it will, though maybe not enough for me to notice.

What’s true and what’s also true? I am a Havi who has brain damage and I’m still really fucking smart.

Also, I am a writer even when I am not writing, a dancer when I am not dancing, a sorceress making delicious healing potions whether I am actually doing this or sorting through ten thousand recipes and thinking about it.

Horchata is a drink of barley even when there is no barley in it.

Horchata is horchata, its essence remains horchata.

Essential

Can I trust that my Havi-essence, the suchness of Havi, persists and perseveres, glows its glow even when I cannot feel it, even when seemingly everything is broken, even when I forget to ask, is everything in fact broken or is that another monster story…

My Havi-ness is still there, even when lethargy takes over, or the hopelessness wins rock paper scissors an illogical number of times in a row. I am still here.

We begin again and keep beginning again

I learned via Jessica Dore, tarot reader, about theologian Catherine Keller, who posits that there are no fresh starts, just endless beginning-agains: “We begin again, or not at all.”

We are addicts, we are injured, we are re-beginning, recovering, healing and becoming (cajeta, or more ourselves).

This also brings to mind something my teacher Esther Gokhale says about how forgetting is an integral part of learning, we forget-and-remember, we forget to remember. Without the forgetting, we wouldn’t get the remembering, which is where we learn how to be embodied.

I have reached the point of being X, and so here we are. Al punto de cajeta. I forget and remember, and re-embody myself.

To forget and remember, and re-embody myself

Yes. I am reconfigured, re-inhabiting, rebuilding, renovating the imaginary guest house again…

What else can I think of in these terms of always-beginning-again, except not in a depressing Sysiphean way.

Beginning again as a renewed choosing towards myself, and that is always a triumph.

Keep going until you see the gate

My mechanic is a very country mechanic.

I don’t know his last name or the name of his business or the address of his shop. I just drive the country road until I get there. There’s no sign. You go until you are there. I don’t think he knows my last name either.

Last week I went to see him because packrats built a nest on top of my engine and ate a bunch of important wires, and also my poor Star Car was making a sound that did not sound like a good sound.

Neutral

I haven’t gotten around to dealing with the enormous crack in my windshield, because of reasons that range from no executive function to an estimate I got in Tucson that made me gasp and then cry. But mainly just not feeling it, no energy, can’t move.

A lot of people would frame this as “avoidance”, or, even worse, they might use the hated P-word that rhymes with flow-plasticating; a cruel, judgmental and unnecessary word that assigns a negative value to Not Doing, something which can just as easily be neutral and is in fact often good.

But guess what, all those people would be wrong, because it ended up being excellent news that I hadn’t been able to force myself to deal with that particular stressful thing on the list of stressful things.

The superpower of I know a guy who knows a guy

Turns out my country mechanic knows a guy in Nogales who can do it for half the price of the Tucson estimate.

Solved by not doing anything. Solved by not trying to solve it.

Solved by the superpower of IT SOLVES ITSELF.

Resolving instead of solving

One of the reasons I vigorously reject 97% of suggestions for people with ADHD is that these suggestions prioritize doing things at any cost above what they should actually be prioritizing (process, flow, witchiness, excitement, side quests).

People idolize the culture of Get It Done so hard they miss out on the good stuff, like Connections Everywhere, or making room for things to solve themselves while we obsess over a new interest.

And yes, for better and/or for worse, we do live in that culture, and sometimes, frustratingly, things do need to get done in the time they need to get done. But quite often they get done better in their own time. You have to kind of let them al punto de cajeta themselves.

Put the projects and mysteries in the cauldron with some quality ingredients and let them go through that process of becoming.

Blend when it’s time to blend, strain when it’s time to strain. So much of the magic is about not rushing it.

Things resolve themselves sometimes

Things resolve themselves, beautifully even, sometimes.

Sure, not always. Sometimes we need to take an action step or break into the mainframe (my favorite technique for doing a thing that needs doing, more on that next time, or soon).

Quite often though, when we remove the judgment and the stories about “avoidance”, it turns out that the not-doing was neutral or positive, and we were wise to wait it out and tend to the cauldron.

This piece simply did not want to be written until it did, and nothing was gained by stressing over my inability to make words do things.

The wisest thing I did this week was let myself read every horchata recipe that appealed to me, follow every rabbit hole, even the ones that seemed entirely off-topic. The least helpful thing I did this week was try to make myself write which just resulted in ongoing panic episodes about my brain fog.

The winding path

Off-topic is where the magic is, the path that takes you away from the trail might in fact be the trail that the original trail wanted to show you to begin with…

I wish for less worship of neurotypical goals, and more appreciation for the winding path.

I wish to be less frantic in my attempts at solving Perceived Problems X and Y, and devote more attention to allowing them to resolve. Elegant simple solutions, you are invited to the horchata party, you are invited to bless the cauldron.

More, and then less

There was more I wanted to say here, but my arms have stopped working, which is always a sign that I have been pushing myself when that is not the answer. So I will add three small realizations and call it.

Realization about what The Horchata Ops are about

Emerging from depression, recommitting to season-centric living, trusting myself, slowing down, Do Less To Get More, keep calling on the powers of It Solves Itself, keep playing where the energy is.

Elegant simple solutions, come in, come in.

Realization about April

Had an obvious realization the other morning about the April-ness of my April depression, that is to say that my April Sluggish Melancholy Blues are actually probably specifically about April.

Last April I spent counting down the days until second 2nd vaccine (april 28), a limbo period of trying to hold on and stay well enough just a little longer, believing or hoping things would be different once I crossed that threshold.

Now this feels like an anniversary of the great betrayal of [vaccines kept me alive but they weren’t the answer], things are less awful but not less-awful-enough.

And the previous year, April 2020 was when I was free-falling into depression realizing things were only going to get worse and worse with no end in sight. So okay, April is hard. We can add that to the calendar of feelings.

Realization about why I seemingly only care about recipes

A conversation with a wise friend helped me see that my obsession with [Delicious Food, Beautifully Plated] as the one thing I am able to get excited about is related to Nihilistic Optimism, aka the only approach left when everything is terrible and each month brings new doom.

What can you do when the bad news keeps multiplying, and you are determined not to hide from it by ignoring it and not to hide from it in some kind of zen “baby that’s how it is” way, but also you can’t be in it or you will lose your mind. You make horchata, or at least I do.

As my friend said, “Yes, everything is meaningless, let’s plate food!”

I laughed and that helped.

What’s next?

I am going to keep making horchata until it is unbelievably delicious, until it ruins all other experiences because now they need to level up to horchata magic, until I reach some sort of al punto de cajeta of Optimistic Nihilism, until I am fully committed to the Small Joys.

Can we drink to that?

The elegance of compact simplicity. The elegance of elaborate flourishes. A sweetness to weep over. A sweetness of embodiment. Following the yes sparks with no agenda, other than permission to pursue deliciousness.

Come play with me, I love company

You are welcome to play with any of the concepts here in any way you like.

You can brainstorm appealing topics that might end up as your own proxy explorations, you can find things to be excited about, you can join me in being excited about horchata (I will share pics once I make it, promise!).

And as always, you’re invited to share anything sparked for you while reading, or add any wishes into the pot, into the healing zone, as a friend of mine said, who knows, the power of the collective is no small thing, and companionship is healing.

A request

If you received clues or perspective or just want to send appreciation, I could use some miracles right now with my emergency situation that has now been compounded with new situations.

I am accepting support (with joy & gratitudea) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, and it all helps with fixing what needs fixing.

Or buy a copy of the my Monster Manual & Coloring Book if you don’t have it!

And if those aren’t options, you can light a candle for support or light one in your mind, share one of my posts with people, tell people about this work, that all helps, and I appreciate it so much. ❤️

xo
Havi

What do we do when the Great Lethargy Strikes Again?

What do we do when the Great Lethargy Strikes Again?

This week was sluggish for me, everything extra-heavy (not just me, apparently also key particles), and I had no energy for anything.

It was frustrating, because I also perceive a great deal of urgency to solve all the various dilemmas that are asking to be solved. And also, that was the reality I was working with, nothing but lethargy, and no clues to be found.

So I wanted to very briefly cover a self-fluency approach that I consider a fundamental, always useful and especially so when your brain can’t do much.

I’m sure you’ve read about this concept if you’ve been hanging out here over the years, I call it “in the hard and in the soft”, we can work on things in the hard and we can work on them in the soft, ideally we do both.

Advanced practice: both at the same time!

Hard / Soft

For our purposes…

The Hard = that which is tangible, palpable, quantifiable, can be seen or perceived, described in a way that most people would understand.

The Soft is everything else. Everything on the mental-emotional side, and the energy of things, the spiritual end of the spectrum. We can’t touch or see the things in the Soft, and yet doing the work in The Soft still helps.

And: Whether what’s going on in The Soft makes sense to me or not, I am not always able to describe it in a way that other people understand, but that’s okay, they don’t need to.

Examples

When I approach sluggishness and lethargy in The Hard, I’m thinking about things like “Wow, I did not realize that it’s 95 degrees (that’s 35 degrees celsius) today, I bet that’s taking more of a toll on me than I think it is.”

Or, “Hmmm, have I been getting enough iron?” And of course, “Is it possible that a shower would help here?”

When I approach sluggishness and lethargy in The Soft, I’m thinking more about even more invisible impacts on my mood and energy level…

“Oh right, early April is often a challenging time for me, and the first heat wave too. This could be stirring up some memories from Then that are held in my body. Oh right, here are some other things going on in the background that are likely influencing my mood and energy levels.”

How we practice

Whenever I make a list of Contributing Factors / Known Elements of what could be impacting me, I name them in The Soft as well as in The Hard.

And I do the same when generating a list of what might help.

I will share bits of my lists with you, keep in mind that these are mine, your mileage may vary. The factors that impact you and techniques that support you don’t have to mirror mine. People Vary.

The important thing here is not what makes anyone’s list, rather what works for you.

In other words, my suggestions aren’t necessarily suggestions for you, they’re suggestions for me; you can put what works for you on your list, and if you aren’t sure yet, then you get to run some experiments, test hypotheses, figure out what earns a place on your list…

In The Hard: Known things that sometimes help when I’m feeling sluggish

Have I been hydrating (probably not), and is there a way to make hydrating more appealing? Sparkling water with ocotillo tincture? What if I write myself a note and tape it to my water glass? Current note says: SORCERY!

Have I been forgetting to take vitamins? Specifically vitamin B, vitamin D and iron. These, for me, are the Usual Suspects.

And I know that I do not eat enough because of JAZZ HANDS ****anxiety!!!**** JAZZ HANDS, so I can always use a reminder that feeding myself is a vital choosing-towards-life op, what can I do to care for myself in service of nourishment & dopamine…

What else!

Can I find movement that is fun (three minute dance party!)

Can I find movement that is needed (neck stretches, relaxing the jaw, relaxing the jaw again, rolling around on the floor)

Is there too much stuff in my field of vision? This is a big one for me. I can get really overwhelmed really fast when there is too much to look at.

Have I been outdoors / nature-adjacent? If it’s too hot, is there somewhere nearby to drive to and commune with tree friends or cactus friends, and have a beautiful expanse of horizon? Can I get going early enough to go walk the labyrinth before the heat kicks in…?

What else!

My friend H has a default rule of “when nothing is working, shave legs & paint nails”.
My friend K wisely gets under a weighted blanket as fast as possible.
My friend R washes dishes.
My friend M does a non-zero number of jumps (jump jump!)

Maybe none of these do it for you, and maybe they are clues or starting points. Sometimes it helps to know what is no in order to get a spark about maybe-yes.

In The Soft: Known things that sometimes help when I’m feeling sluggish

Ahhhh.

In the soft, we practice Acknowledgment & Legitimacy (naming what is what is happening, noticing how I feel about it, reminding myself that it’s okay that I feel this way, and no, I don’t have to like it).

In the soft, we investigate: what are the Known Elements at play here? What are some of the very legitimate contributing factors?

We looked at the temperature, but what about the invisible stuff, is there some big wilding happening with the astrology, have I spent time online encountering energy crud and emotional potholes…?

In the soft, we ask what’s true and what’s also true? In the soft, we wonder what we need to say no to or what boundaries may have collapsed and need to be shored up. In the soft, we return other people’s projections about us, we release what is not ours into the magical elevator shaft…

What else is going on for me?

In the soft we ask, What else is going on for me? For example, what would I bring up to my imaginary-therapist, oh right possibly I am exhausted because of narcissists & manipulators pushing boundaries.

What else is going on for me?

Oh right, loneliness, oh right the eternal disconnect, I am trying to survive in a pandemic but yesterday 100,000 people liked a tweet that took place in an airport bar. YIKES to airport bars. Yikes to pretending this isn’t happening.

Process (an example)

I did some journaling on the story of [I am not excited about anything, I don’t care about anything, everything is very blah], and discovered that while it is partially true, it is also not entirely true.

The part that is true is a sort of energy-level allergy to my current location, and several iguanas (things I don’t want to do) that need to be liberated from my life.

The part that is interesting is that there are actually several things I’m excited about that I haven’t let myself feel excited about, because they don’t seem to support my current mission of Solve All The Problems, which is kind of crucial right now.

What am I excited about even though I convinced myself I have zero enthusiasm

Okay it turns out, I get interested again when I think about the idea of making delicious seasonal recipes that can be a ritual of celebrating the seasons, like hell yes it’s April and we’re making horchata!!!!

Ooh, and I also like reading ten thousand different recipes, then coming up with my own version of [a something], especially if I can make it for someone I care about.

And as you know, I am geeking out on inventing new ways to celebrate made-up holidays.

And I enjoy thinking about vengeance ops, aka becoming an even more intimidating cowthey (or: nonbinary desert sorceress/assassin), this is also related to my secret op of luscious self-treasuring at Life Ruiningly Good levels.

So, I thought I had no interest in anything, and it turns out I do have interest in things, I just haven’t been giving myself any permission to access these passion-sparks because I am overwhelmed by my long list of Solve This Urgent Scary Problem.

What’s the point though (my self-criticism monsters ask)

Does it solve anything to know these sparks are there? Maybe, maybe not. Who cares!

The point is, I learned that my believable-sounding story was at best only partially true, not the full truth at all. The point is, I was reminded of much bigger truth-facets.

For example, integrating my vengeance-loving lusciousness-seeking cowboy-hat-wearing nonbinary vixen self is not separate from the mission I think is the mission.

And, if excitement-sparks exist, I might as well use them. So let’s make some life-ruiningly delicious horchata with what’s already in the pantry.

It’s a starting point, where there was none before.

If I follow the spark, a next indicated step will be there. Or I will return to playing in The Hard and in The Soft until I find one.

Worthy of a brief mention

Ahhh, the phenomenon of [things that help more than I think they will but not as much as I want them to], it’s such a thing.

So I just want to mention that this exists!

And it’s okay, I still keep things in this category on my list because a) they still help, and b) their support is cumulative.

Maybe today a shower is not the magic I needed it to be, and it still helped more than not doing it, maybe the same will be true for five minutes of stretching. It all helps a little, and quite often it helps much more than I think it will.

We try things, we take notes, we switch up the experiment and try again.

Can you combine techniques in The Hard and in The Soft

OF COURSE, absolutely, that’s the best way, if you can do it.

For example, I might do legs up the wall (in the hard), and name all the things that are going on for me or run a monster negotiation in the soft.

Summing up before I run out of steam

Working (and playing!) in The Hard and in The Soft is not so much a technique as a way of discerning what techniques are available to you in the moment.

Even better, everything we do in The Hard or in The Soft is going to impact the other side, and making sure we get a little of both is a way we can remember the hidden richness of options.

If something works, add it to the Book of You!

We keep practicing acknowledgment and legitimacy with the various Perceptions of Stuck (fake band of the week?), and we make room to feel what we’re feeling, and we poke around a bit to find out if it’s the whole story, and we do things that help.

If they don’t help, we give ourselves a trillion sparklepoints and have a party for being brave and trying something, and we try something else.

Also we make room for the idea that This Didn’t Help At All could be a monster story, and who knows, the thing we thought wasn’t helping enough might actually be shifting things in the background, under the surface, in the soft where we can’t feel the results yet…

And we praise ourselves, applause & sparklepoints all around

Good job planting seeds. Good job trying anything at all.

Good job going back to bed if that was the right answer (or the only available option). It all counts.

Thanks for doing it for the collective, I applaud and appreciate everything we try.

Come play with me, I love company

You are welcome to play with this concept in any way you like. If you have also been feeling the Sluggish and/or finding that key particle overly relatable, let me know. Slug Club!

You are welcome to brainstorm in the category of [things that might be affecting my mood/energy] in the hard and in the soft, and/or brainstorm [things that might help] in the hard and the soft…

You are also as always invited to share anything sparked for you while reading, or add any wishes into the pot, into the healing zone, as a friend of mine said, who knows, the power of the collective is no small thing, and companionship is healing.

A request

If you received clues or perspective or just want to send appreciation, I could use some miracles right now with my emergency situation that has now been compounded with new situations.

I am accepting support (with joy & gratitudea) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, and it all helps with fixing what needs fixing.

Or buy a copy of the my Monster Manual & Coloring Book if you don’t have it!

And if those aren’t options, you can light a candle for support or light one in your mind, share one of my posts with people, tell people about this work, that all helps, and I appreciate it so much. ❤️

xo
Havi

A Swimming Story

lake view

Image: View of a favorite lake in New Mexico where I have never once gone swimming, blue-green water, surrounded by juniper and piñon, I am asking the water to lend its powers of free movement, clarity, and something that is both open and contained.


A Chat With The Vicar

I was catching up with the Vicar, who was getting ready for a date.

Me: What do we know about this one?
The Vicar: Not much. She doesn’t know how to swim.
Me: Huh. Okay, so not Jewish, presumably. It’s one of the few parental instructions in the talmud, you gotta teach your kids to swim.
The Vicar: Noted.
Me: God I hope there’s a good story. I am craving a good story.
The Vicar: Me too! I’ll report back.

There’s always a story

There was no story though. Just a person who had never learned to swim. A neutral piece of non-information. Or at least there wasn’t a story that wanted to be shared. Which is fine, no one owes anyone their stories, and also, there has to be a story, whether it gets told or not.

Me: Okay, I mean, there’s always a story.
The Vicar: For you, there is always a story. If you’re a storyteller, you’ll find a story.
Me: I’m sure I could come up with ten different stories related to swimming, and I don’t even remember the last time I went swimming. Do I even like swimming? Maybe I will use this as a morning writing prompt…
The Vicar: I await a story!
Me: There’s always a story…

Alive, and proving it

Every day I try for some writing time, usually in the morning.

It’s something I do to remind myself that my brain does in fact still work, that I am still, somehow, creative, playful, spark-filled, alive, even if covid and concussions have compounded my adhd to a point that I am mostly entirely unfocused, lost somewhere deep in the brain fog, blanking out on absolutely everything.

Prior to two concussions and long covid, my adhd was more like, wow I do not ever know where my keys are, with a side of piscean day-dreaminess. Sure, I was a mess, but, you know, Manic Pixie Dream Mess!

Now it’s more like, hmmm what happened to the last three hours, I couldn’t tell you.

Was I staring into space, was I pacing aimlessly, was I trying over and over again to start literally any task and then forgetting? Who can say, it’s gone.

Anyway, if I write for half an hour or so, then at the end of the day, I can say that I definitely did that.

Small Rebellions

Sometimes I have a topic on my mind, a direction for what I want to write about, more often I skip stones, or grasp around for clues until I find one that can start me off.

True confession that is probably extremely unsurprising to you: I can be pretty reactive when it comes to writing prompts. It’s the great conundrum of rebellious by nature.

For about ten seconds, I imagine I want someone to tell me what to write about, but the second I see a writing prompt, I’m like, “Oh yeah?! Screw you, who asked you, you don’t get to tell me what to do, you’re not the boss of me!”

Which is of course entirely unfair to the generous writing-prompt offerers of the world, who are just trying to be kind and helpful.

However, the positive side of Rebellious Mode is the way I can find myself suddenly excited to explore rabbit holes as a middle finger to a writing prompt, or if I think whatever is on my mind is off-topic and not to the point. We love off-topic and not to the point! Hell yes, we’ve lost the thread!

Anyway, the Vicar didn’t have a story for me and I wanted one, so I had to come up with one myself. A story about swimming. A swimming story. What is my swimming story? What is my swimming story?

Memories

I got as far as What as my swimming story, when it dawned on me that I have already written a swimming story. Almost sure of it.

Was it about the summer I made myself swim across the lake each week to prove a point, even though I hated the clammy sensation of the seaweed, the way it tried to take me captive? And if we’re being honest, I didn’t enjoy any part of that weekly crossing other than the grim satisfaction of having completed it. Was that the story?

No, something else. Something from before, possibly even something that had contributed to becoming the version of me who needed to do miserable things to prove a point.

Then of course I was worried I wouldn’t find it, because who knows where anything is. But I found it almost immediately.

All I had to do was input the word “swimming” into my notes to discover, to my amazement, that I’d written an entire essay about swimming, all the way back in August of 2020, never to revisit it, just wrote and erased it from memory, until now.

August 2020

Six months into the first year of pandemic. I had just downsized to 150sq ft, semi-off-grid, in rural New Mexico, and I couldn’t sleep because the metal trailer bed made popping sounds, like the exhaust backfiring on a car. This is how 3am became my writing hour for a while.

A whole piece about swimming, a couple thousand words, that I wrote, and promptly forgot, which is how it was never shared it with you. Who knew? Definitely not me! But also I did know, I must have known.

Anyway, thanks to the Vicar’s mysterious date with the not-a-story non-story, here it is…

And here’s to the mysterious and reassuring superpowers of All Timing Right Timing, as well as It All Works Out, and especially There’s A Story When You Need One.

Lighting a candle and raising my glass of water to all of that.

A 3am appointment

A fun part of pandemic life, maybe the most fun, is how I am just awake most days from 3-5am for no apparent reason.

The witching hour demands I let it run its course, and, having learned that I cannot coax sleep into returning to me during this nightly gap, I go to therapy then.

My therapist doesn’t mind these unconventional hours, and while there are many advantages to holding therapy appointments in my head, the flexible timing is really the strong selling point for me.

Meirav

Meirav was my therapist twenty-five years ago in Tel Aviv. She was, and remains, extraordinarily wise, deeply compassionate, dangerously insightful and so very quick.

No one else has been able to keep up (with her or with me) since, and so all other attempts at therapy have been profoundly unhelpful, for me.

Fortunately, since I know exactly what Meirav would say in any given situation, I can just show up at appointments with her, in my head, and I do.

Sometimes we even do what I call shower therapy, who needs a fifty minute hour, I’m hopping into the shower anyway, so we talk things out, short and sweet. Love shower therapy. 10/10.

Quiet

In other words, you could say that I haven’t been in therapy in nearly a quarter of a century but you could also say I’ve been in therapy regularly for all these years, and those are both true statements.

We’re both pretty quiet at 3am so she just gives me that look, and says, Nu, sapri li, ma kore, ma over lach b’rosh b’shaah kazot? Tell me, what’s going on, what is passing through your mind at this time of night?

And so I tell her.

The summer

When I was eight or possibly nine years old, my parents sent me to a month of sleepaway summer camp somewhere in the midwest. A wooden cabin with a bunch of other kids, woods of winding pathways, a lake, a large dining hall with picnic style tables and giant jugs of milk that they would dye in bright colors with food coloring for reasons unknown, but it was the 80s, orange milk, why not.

I don’t remember much else about it.

They had a required swim test the first day or one of the first days, to determine how well we could swim, on the basis of which you‘d be allowed in different roped off areas of the lake during swim time.

Into the water

Young me had taken swimming lessons, and liked water and the beach, I think it is safe to say this young self did not like tests.

Obviously in retrospect Small Havi was a highly sensitive and spectrum-ey child who should have been getting extra support in all things because the world was confusing and overwhelming for her, and she existed in a state of constant sensory overload, but no one knew about those things then.

Anyway, I can’t give you a reading on what this very small child’s mental-emotional state might have been about this test, I actually don’t remember anything at all before we got to the middle of the lake.

On the boat

They rowed us out into the middle of the lake in small boats, three kids and a counselor or two in each boat. I definitely did not understand what was happening.

And then we stopped, and they said we had to jump from the boat into the water, one at a time.

Jump in or be thrown in.

Those were the choices. We weren’t wearing life jackets. The water was dark and cold. No one had explained to me what was happening.

Just: taken to the middle of the lake and forced to jump.

Pass/fail

If you could swim, you passed the test. If you panicked, and believe me, tiny-me PANICKED, they waited a little too long to see if you were going to figure it out and then I don’t remember, maybe they threw a life jacket, maybe someone came in after you. I don’t know.

Did someone dive in and pull me out? Did I catch a life jacket, maybe. It’s a blurry memory, a blurry moment.

I can’t even tell you if I jumped or they threw me in.

Sink or swim. I guess in theory, the fear is supposed to motivate you to swim? Hahahaha, fear as motivation, imagine that. It didn’t work on me, and never has once.

Learning

All I learned was that I was very much on my own.

It was made clear in that moment that, not for the first time, grownups were not safe or dependable, and I had to just get through the month somehow.

And when I revisit this story, what I see is that we live in a culture that loves the notion of fear as motivation, and in my mind it remains a manipulative form of torture that is also wildly ineffective.

Did I know how to swim?

I think I did, my parents had taken the talmudic instruction to heart, and I’d been taking lessons for quite a while. Probably by that point I was a reasonably okay swimmer, but swimming in a pool is different than being forced to walk the plank.

Okay, there was no plank, this is not a pirate movie. But I think we can agree that “jump or we throw you” is a trauma, even if you are not a very small eight year old.

The verdict was that I did not know how to swim, but it wasn’t a particularly effective method of testing.

Cold

I remember the cold shock of the betrayal and the water, my absolute terror, the darkness beneath the water, I remember swallowing water and forgetting everything I had ever known about swimming.

I remember that I didn’t like swimming after that, and didn’t care that they put me in the remedial group that was only allowed in the shallow entry to the lake. I didn’t want to go to the lake at all, an hour of lake time (every day?), and it passed, summer passed.

Over the next summers I was sent to three new different camps, all of which — and I say this now with great incredulity but it is true, were infinitely more traumatizing than that first one, and so that awful summer was forgotten.

Submerged

Submerged, says Meirav, about small me and about the memory. Uh huh, I agree.

You want to rescue her, Meirav says, and it’s true, I do.

Meirav always wants to go below, into what is underneath, to explore and cast light.

Safety First

But working with Meirav is also how I came to understand the approach of Safety First. We can use story, play, language and metaphor to approach whatever we are approaching, to create a sanctuary at the edge.

Meirav never demands of me that I jump in to the waters of memory. It’s why we work so well together.

We layer on kindness, and then layer on more kindness.

Layering on kindness towards myself is one way to rewrite and repattern, and so we rescue tiny me again and again.

Rescue

Rescue can take many different forms.

Sometimes I show up in a situation from then as the wise loving adult from now, the adult I can be now, the one I needed someone else to be for me then.

Sometimes this adult is very calm, stable, centered, showing up and immediately asserting order and authority, lovingly but without room for argument.

Absolutely not, this adult says sternly. Under no circumstances are you asking small children to jump out of a boat as a swim test, this is actual child abuse and completely unacceptable. You will turn this boat around and deliver these children to safety, and you will apologize to them for scaring them with a mean joke. It was a joke, right? That’s how we’re playing this. You will tell them that they were never going to have to jump, are we clear?

Angel

Sometimes this adult is an avenging angel.

WHAT THE FUCK, I scream, in my angel-fury, my 3am pain, THIS IS A SMALL CHILD, what are you doing to this poor child, how dare you ask a child to make this choice, what cruel nonsense is this?!?!?!?

The counselors dive into the water to escape me, so afraid of my anger and the lightning from my fingertips, they are helpless and petrified in the face of my rage, and it occurs to me that they too are essentially children. They don’t know what they’re doing either.

Who put eighteen year olds in charge and had them devise the world’s most sadistic swim test?

Rescue for everyone. Safety for everyone. But mainly for me.

Safe rooms

As you know, I love a good sanctuary, a safe room, or a safe house, one of my favorite forms of Very Interior Design.

The safe house that eight year old me wants has a large pool in it, with kind and loving adult selves on duty as lifeguards, nothing bad will ever happen to her. Small me is protected.

There are skylights and fluffy towels, a hot shower with a blue and white tiled floor, zero frogs in the shower and no mosquitos, nothing like summer camp at all.

There is a tire swing and no time limit.

Small me naps in a giant four poster bed with sheer cream colored curtains, and is watched over by the bobcat, the Fierce Protector.

Well provisioned

I instruct these guardian selves to make sure Small Me can have all the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches upon awakening, made the way that Nancy, my childhood bestie’s mother, used to make them, on thick hand-sliced bread with a generous layer of butter.

And a tall glass of milk to drink, because this is still Michigan in the 80s, but the milk will be white, no confusing food coloring, and there should be tall jugs of fresh water.

Flowers everywhere. This kid likes flowers. No one to criticize her. This child’s love language is unconditional acceptance, and I want her to have so much of it that she can begin to trust it.

New day new mission

I make chai for myself in a black ceramic mug and watch over my young self until she falls asleep, and I cry because I love her so much and I just want her to be safe forever, and I am so angry that no one was there to help her.

And I pretend that my mug says world’s best self-parenting parent, because this makes me laugh.

I don’t know that I’d make a particularly good parent in real life, I’m sure I would do the job to the best of my ability if I had to, probably also reluctantly and with some resentment. It’s just not a job I want.

Be that as it may, I am proud of my hard-earned, trauma-honed self-parenting skills: I self-parent the fuck out of myself and my small selves, and this, much like the kind of parenting that is more visible in our world, is a thankless unpaid full-time job that is also very much a labor of love.

Good rescuing, babe. We can rescue and re-rescue, as many times as needed.

Rescue and a warm drink. New day, new rescue mission. We’ve got this.

Wanting

Meirav asks what I want, and what I want is for her to do the thing she always does and confirm that this experience was in fact very traumatic and awful.

Meirav: You know what I think. This is an extremely horrifying experience. You didn’t deserve any of this. You were ambushed and you disassociated, a very reasonable reaction to trauma. What do you think?

Me: Yeah no, the whole thing in retrospect is shocking and abhorrent, and made so much worse by everyone acting like this was normal and not child abuse? The bewilderment of suspecting something was wrong but everyone acting like it was fine, so it didn’t occur to me I could opt out.

I don’t even think I told my parents about it? I don’t think we were allowed to make contact other than via letters.

It didn’t occur to me to find a way to say hey this is abusive and dangerous, come and get me. Also, to be clear, they absolutely would not have come to get me.

So that’s another thing, they were strongly anti-rescue as a matter of principle, and regularly left me stranded in far worse situations, but also: I didn’t know how to ask.

Out

Meirav: Let’s talking about OPTING OUT, that feels relevant, that’s a theme. You’re good at that now, aren’t you?

Me: Okay, holy shit, yeah, okay the thing where I know now as an adult there is always an Opt Out option available for me, but I didn’t know about it then, and it didn’t occur to me because it couldn’t have!

Like, how could a child say, “This is an unacceptable choice and I refuse to make it. You can just mark me down as a non-swimmer, that’s fine with me, I will opt out of lake time, thanks, we’re done here.”

I didn’t have the vocabulary, but, more importantly, I didn’t even have the concept of opting out.

And because I didn’t know there was such a thing as a way out, as far as my this young self could determine, there were two choices and they were both bad, the end.

Self-hurling as a way of life

Meirav: So this is about your former mentor, right? This is about believing you were safe and protected, cherished and held in love, and then all that disappeared and you were forced very suddenly and without warning to hurl yourself into the cold waters.

You were given a choice that wasn’t a choice, and all choices ended up with you in the water because you didn’t know how to fight back or you weren’t willing to, because of how much you loved him. That’s why you’re thinking of this now. Because you are trying to summon the courage to write about [the dance that was and isn’t], and it feels too overwhelming to start.

Fuck. Why is Meirav always right?

She’s always right. That’s exactly what this pre-dawn memory is about.

(It’s also about my divorce, another self-hurling, and the most painful breakup.)

Where do we go from here, the eternal question

What do I know about swimming? Self-powered movement.

The activity of propelling oneself through water using the limbs.

What am I propelling myself through now? Recovery, pandemic life, trailer life, the various mysteries and challenges, the process of integrating new incoming selves.

What else about swimming? Swimmingly is what you say when things are going well. Splendid! It’s all going swimmingly!

That’s less about self-propelling, which sounds laborious, and more about ease, grace, floating, the practice holds you.

The practice holds you

This is why I write, dance, do abbreviated sun salutations, roll around on the floor, hold therapy sessions in my head, these are all forms of you show up to the practice, and the practice holds you.

Even if I forget, or lose the thread, or get lost, it’s always there for me when I return.

Resurfacing and re-emergence, recovery, new and better

A swimming story is also like swimming your way through a story, let’s allow the story to resurface.

Let’s let this story come up for air.

Look how this brave story crosses an entire lake all by itself, story as passage, and as a small triumph.

We recovered the story, we are in recovery, we wrap up in a warm blanket and get cozy under the covers, in the interplay of uncovering, recovering, covering, all in service of creating sanctuary.

There’s a story here too

I put A Swimming Story into the anagram generator, and it anagrams to Orating My Swims, which is kind of amazing.

Also, here are some of my favorite word-clues hiding inside that phrase:

Roaming. Aiming. Organism. Wins. Margins. Smart. Warm. Gyration. Sayings. Swayings. Gymnast. Iris. Misty. Twangy. Toys. Wings.

I bet someone could write a great story from any of those words, never mind the combinations, so you are welcome to use any of them as a (pun not intended but cracking me up all the same) jumping off point for any writing or exploring of your own.

Come play with me, I love company

You are welcome to play with any of this in any way you like.

You are also as always invited to share anything sparked for you while reading, or add any wishes into the pot, into the healing zone, as a friend recently said, who knows, the power of the collective is no small thing, and companionship is healing.

And if you wish to make safe rooms for past versions of you, have at it. Or if you have a swimming story or a not-a-swimming story, or are excited about any of these new words that emerged, it’s all welcome.

Thank you for keeping me company, and for this space where submerged stories can resurface safely, sanctuary is no small thing, and we all could use more of it.

A request

If you received clues or perspective or just want to send appreciation, I could definitely use some miracles right now with my emergency situation that has now been compounded with new situations.

I will happily accept support in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, and it all helps with fixing what needs fixing.

And if you can’t support in that way, you can light a candle for support or light one in your mind, share one of my posts with people, tell people about this work, it all helps, and I appreciate it so much. ❤️

xo
Havi

The Fluent Self