the point isn’t getting my wish (though cool things have emerged from wishing), it’s learning about my relationship with wanting, accessing the qualities…
this is the 379th week of wishing, come play!
The thing about smog.
When I enter a smoggy city with thick congested polluted air (Fresno, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City), my whole body rebels, all my senses registering high alert.
Eyes watering, chest tight, I feel sleepy, irritable, impatient.
The lack of clarity especially feels restrictive, not like mist or fog that enhance a view even as they obscure, heightening beauty and mystery.
More like: my body and mind are not comfortable here.
Then after a few days, it becomes normal to breathe unpalatable air, I stop noticing that vague unsettling feeling, I adapt.
We can make an argument in either direction about whether that adaptability of human spirt is useful (sure), or whether it’s dangerous (that too), but the point is this:
The atmosphere we immerse in — what we we see, hear and breathe — becomes our normal, even if it is a crappy, depressing normal, even if it is an absolutely horrifying normal, and we even stop noticing that this is not an okay normal.
Air can stand as a metaphor here but also: air is not only a metaphor here.
Oxygen and circulation and environment, the stuff of vitality and life, this matters.
I was once in a relationship with someone sweet, thoughtful, generous, and loving. A buddhist who meditated and did yoga and brought me flowers, always a kind thought in his heart for everyone.
I noticed that his parents, while wonderfully warm and welcoming to me, had a habit of making snide gossipy remarks about people who weren’t around. They would sneak these in between nicer comments, in a maneuver I began to think of as The Sandwich.
“Oh we saw so-and-so, she’s the loveliest person, of course she’s really let herself go, she’s gained so much weight, she looks awful, but she’s so nice.” “Oh yes, so-and-so is very ambitious but not talented at all, really just wasting their time, but nicest person, really nice.”
And when my lover was around his parents, he’d unconsciously pick this up. Suddenly the guy who only had compassion for everyone was making these little negative critical sandwich judgments.
I understood he was just adapting to the normal that is the normal of how his family communicates. And I recognized that if I spent enough time with them, this could become my normal.
It bothered him that I wasn’t interested in hanging out with his family more often.
And the truth is, while I thoroughly reject the notion that loving someone means I need to spend any time at all with the people who raised that person, I really didn’t want to be around The Sandwich.
More than that, I didn’t want to see the loving-hearted person I cared about morph into someone who unconsciously cut other people down.
Okay, also I was aware that my only real motivation for showing up had become making sure I wouldn’t be the the subject of a mean snippy sandwich along the lines of “Oh, Havi is so great, but [ten flaws about Havi], but we love her so much!” Awesome.
No thank you to this toxic air, I don’t want to breathe that in, I don’t want this to ever seem normal to me.
I am currently sitting in a house in Los Angeles, way up in the hills with a gate and giant picture windows and a view as far as the eye can see. It’s not a particularly large house, and there isn’t anything interesting about it other than the view, but it’s worth well over a million dollars.
If you live in a place where houses cost millions of dollars, one of two things happens.
Either it seems normal to you to invest in a million dollar home, or it seems normal to you that home ownership is not remotely an option and it doesn’t even show up on your radar.
Million dollar homes do not coexist in the same world as my normal and so it is difficult for me to understand why someone who had one wouldn’t just sell it immediately, invest the money, and go retire right this second. Live in Mexico. Eat fish tacos. Write all day. Be happy.
That’s what I would do if someone gave me a million dollar home in LA.
But presumably if I stayed here long enough, probably not even that long, I would start to see this as an awesome desirable place to live. My normal would change course.
What is waste.
I try to live as close to a zero-plastic zero-waste life as I can, and yeah, sure, I make some conscious compromises here and there, but that’s my aim, the trajectory of how I want to live, something that is always in my sights.
And I would have told you that this is a very significant part of who I am, but then I went to Idaho for a month and oh wow, did that ever fall apart fast.
In Portland, everyone recycles and most people compost, it is relatively easy to acquire bulk food without plastic packaging, I may be considerably more fringe in my choices than most, but my lifestyle is not wildly at odds with the broader culture in the same way that it was in Idaho.
At first it felt unbearably painful to toss food scraps, or worse, glass. Once it’s in the earth, it’s in the earth forever, and it isn’t going to decompose. I agonized over each item in the bin, sending it off with a grieving heart and whispered apologies.
But after a few weeks this gradually downgraded to more of a small twinge, and I imagine that if I had stayed, my normal would shift more, even though I don’t want it to.
It became easier to make compromises for the sake of “convenience”, and slowly, without noticing, I had become part of the broader culture, making choices that normally (that is, in my previous normal) I would never have considered, like purchasing a drink in a to-go cup, or using a paper napkin instead of the cloth one in my bag.
My entire perception of what seems wasteful and unacceptable shifted in rural Idaho. It still bothered me to see people use plastic cups (and straws!) to drink water instead of a glass, but it became a normal kind of bothersome, something that just is, something you don’t need to think about.
Many years ago when I was a smoker, I had this idea in my mind that I didn’t smoke very much, but this was really only because I was a bartender in south Tel Aviv and spent my days and nights in the company with people who smoked pretty much constantly.
Most of the regulars smoked four packs a day, lighting one cigarette from the next, the hardest part of my job was keeping all the ashtrays emptied.
Oh, and trying to keep the place from burning down. We had constant trash can fires because they would leave a smoldering butt in a pile of pistachio shells and wander off to the bathroom with a new cigarette.
And so, because I smoked so much less than the clientele or any of my co-workers or my lover, I was able to believe that I wasn’t much of a smoker at all.
Out with friends, I’d smoke one cigarette for every three or four that everyone else did, so clearly I wasn’t smoking that much, right?
Then one day I was out with Alona, the manager at the other bar where I worked, and we ran into Gili, my best friend’s girlfriend. She said, ohmygod I can’t believe how much you guys smoke, and I was in shock, because obviously I smoke way less than Alona, so why would you even put us in the same category.
My normal was so skewed that I couldn’t see how [a lot] and [even more] could look the same from the outside.
An amusing reversal of this happened later that day at Gili’s apartment, when it became clear there was a huge disparity between my normal for smoking pot (a couple times a year maybe?) versus the normal of all of her other friends (all day every day), which meant that her normal (just in the evenings) seemed moderate to her and wildly excessive to me.
But really, what is normal. Or: what about when normal is unacceptable.
This week we learned that sexually assaulting women is Donald Trump’s normal, as is his expectation to encounter zero consequences for being a rapey predator who terrorizes women.
I read a thoughtful piece about that called What Trump’s brag reveals about this election and our culture, which, among other things, references an interesting study that concluded some types of harassment are so common as to become normal, in which case women may come to perceive them as ‘bothersome’ as opposed to scary and threatening.
The idea is that women essentially build immunity to unacceptable behavior, as you would to a virus, in order to be able to function at our jobs.
This resonates truth for me. A friend and I, recently discussing our university days, were shocked by how many awful incidents of harassment we had experienced, but more shocked by how little they had registered at the time, because other harassment was so much more egregious.
Just one example, once I was late to a professor’s office hours and came running in to plop down on a chair. He looked at my chest and said, “Do that again, I like it when they bounce like that.”
So gross. And yet I honestly didn’t even consider that harassment because harassment in my mind, back then, was more like all the times another professor put his hand on my friend’s thigh.
I didn’t recognize his words as belonging to the same continuum of predatory people in positions of power testing the waters of what we would put up with, pressing up against boundaries (and sometimes pressing up against our bodies).
Wildly inappropriate things happened to me over and over but I stopped registering them as inappropriate because they were so common, and also seemingly so minor, at least in comparison to the more egregious stuff happening all around me.
Car-free and carefree.
I’m nearly forty and have never owned a car.
This is a highly unusual state of affairs here in North America, but guess what, I’ve never needed one.
In fact, the one common feature of the various places I’ve lived both abroad and in the states is ease of walkability (is that a word?), places where cars are unnecessary and there is nowhere to park them anyway, so why bother.
Right now I’m in Los Angeles where not owning a car is something people cannot grasp, you might as well say that you don’t brush your teeth or that you don’t own underwear, because not owning a car is so shocking and horrifying that people wring their hands at the thought of it.
They also think a ten minute walk is extremely unreasonable, even though the weather is more conducive to walking than anywhere else I’ve lived, i.e. places where a ten minute walk barely even counts as walking. I know this about LA, and still it surprises me each time I visit.
But if I lived here, I would probably become someone who drives to the cafe that is not even half a mile away, and that’s why I don’t live here. I don’t want that to be my new normal.
I will say it again.
WHAT WE SEE, HEAR AND BREATHE BECOMES OUR NORMAL, even if it is a shitty, depressing, horrifying normal.
And if we stop noticing the incongruence, the disharmonious state of being surrounded by values or behavior that does not support how we want to live, then we agree to a certain degree of toxicity, and it becomes increasingly more difficult to take care of ourselves.
Obviously there are any number of things we just can’t change and it’s certainly not fun or healthy to be in constant rage state about the rigged game, tilting at all the windmills, incensed about the things that are not okay, because god knows there is no shortage of them.
I am talking about something different: a conscious relationship with the air we breathe, noticing which aspects of our environment support us and which do not, figuring out where we can tinker with things a little.
Or a lot.
What do we do about air? Or: what can we do about air?
Cultivating awareness comes first, as it always does: What am I noticing about my normal and how it changes or shifts in different situations? What assumptions am I making about normal, what has become normal to me but is not actually okay for me?
Then the next piece is bringing attention to desire: What is my true yes? What would be 120% yes? What do I really want?
Next I look at what is working versus what isn’t, without judgment. What needs to change when it comes to the air I breathe? Where in my life do I already insist on metaphorical clean air? Or actual clean air, as the case may be.
And then I can look at my options. What changes or adjustments can I make, even in tiny but symbolic or otherwise significant-to-me ways? Because, even if I am dealing with various limitations and/or perceptions of limitations, there is always something that can be messed with to add spaciousness.
And then we keep practicing. Noticing. Checking in. Where am I and where is my yes? What have I begun accepting as normal and okay that I am actually super not okay with?
(A small example)
Last week at a dance thing, I hung out with couples, something I never do, and specifically straight married couples.
At some point one of the wives said something about how she gets her husband to tell other men to leave her alone if they are being too forward on the dance floor, and that I need to get a man to do that for me, and I only barely twitched.
That almost imperceptible mini-twitch was a sign for me. Or really, not the twitch but how barely noticeable it was. That was the sign for me that my normal had shifted, because normal for me is a full-body visceral reaction of no no no what are you saying what unsovereign shit is this.
My normal normal reaction, as a independent woman who is content and happy in her solo life and passionate about freedom, would be something like this:
I appreciate the kind suggestion, and I am fully capable of standing up for myself and setting my own boundaries. And, should I determine that I require someone else’s support in that, it shouldn’t have to be the person I’m sleeping with, it should be anyone who cares about human decency. I deserve to be treated with respect BECAUSE I AM A HUMAN BEING, not because I “have a man” or anyone else who perceives that I “belong” to them and it’s their job it is to protect me.
But instead my reaction was more of a laugh-shrug because we have different perspectives. At some point the air around me had stopped seeming wildly suspect, and had become more like a mild irritation.
I realized I needed an immediate change of air, because this for me is actually grab your oxygen mask before you pass out levels of complacency with regard to the entire sexist coupled primarily-hetero rigged game culture that I have zero desire to take part in.
What is my wish here?
Of course part of my wish is that the culture will change, and, more specifically, that the work of self-fluency (everything we do here) will support the changing of culture.
But mainly this is a wish about how I interact with [air], it is a wish about awareness and agency, being conscious about both my choices and my compromises.
It is a wish about focus and intention. I want to be as present as possible with how I breathe, not just in posture or dance or a yoga pose but in all forms of what surrounds me.
I want to be someone who insists on making conscious choices about what air I am willing to breathe. [When I can, where I can, as I can. Safety First, always, and of course sometimes change needs to be cautious and incremental and that’s okay, we don’t need to force anything.]
More than anything, this wish is a continuation of my previous wish about Delicious Space. I want to choose Delicious Space, I want to choose to be in a gem state (a state of glow, light, reflection and refraction), whether or not I am in The Gem State (Idaho).
This is a wish about a new normal, about intention and love and outrageous wild improbable new levels of self-acceptance, may that become my new normal.
This is the month of Centering, with the superpower of Delicious Space, and my return to center is directly related to the choices I make related to what I breathe, how I breathe, what is acceptable or tolerable in my space, and what needs to change.
last week’s wishes
last-week-me wished a wish called delicious space, and it brought me both to a very delicious space (my friend’s apartment), and delicious headspace, and the realizations that I am working with/through now, so that was a very good wish that went deep.
invitation: come play with me…
you are invited to share this post and to share many !!!!!! about what is here,
or share appreciation or anything sparked for you while reading
safe space for creative exploration asks us to let go of care-taking and advice-giving
wishes are never late because whenever you wish is the right time for wishing
we remember that people vary and my wishes don’t have to be yours, each process is unique, and this is a good thing
here’s how we meet each other’s wishes: with great kindness and appreciation and awe, whispering (and sometimes shouting) oh, wow what beautiful wishes