My Blog Motto

"Good judgement comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgement"

~Rita Mae Brown

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holidays Attention Deficit Style

I don't know what it is with me and holidays but I have a set of patterns from which I cannot seem to break free. It goes a little like this.
About a month before a holiday I begin brainstorming, and what a storm it is! So many ideas for projects, thematic parties and events, gifts, baked good and entire menus of, usually thematic, dinners...oh it all sounds so good!
I do a little research, collect some materials...and then figure I have plenty of time to let the genius marinate.
Marinate for 2 weeks.
Madly work on projects/ideas, but at an unstable and inconsistent pace.
Now I have about 4 or 5 half finished (at best) projects and am confused as to how to proceed. I become depressed and despondent asking myself why I can't follow through on things. To prove myself right, I shelve all my projects.
A day or two before the actual holiday I snap into gear. This jolt is usually driven by guilt. Other people have begun doing nice things for myself and others and all I have is a bunch of barely half finished projects that I am sure won't be 'good enough' even if I did have time to complete them. Plus I am usually out of money or supplies.
Christmas money arrives from my Mom, I use this money to complete my supply list.
By now the holiday has arrived. I have a few gifts lined up and settle for a traditional dinner instead of whatever exotic themed fare I had envisioned. I feel guilty, but I remind myself that holidays are about Love and Togetherness.
I enjoy a day of Love and Togetherness, and some people get homemade coupons for gifts to be delivered some time in the near future.
I wait for my tax return and take everyone on a shopping spree.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I Am My Soul Mate

I have been single for a little over a year now. For me this is an accomplishment. I used to be one of those people who believed that without a partner I was incomplete. That kind of thinking has gotten me into a considerable amount of trouble over the years and has led to missed opportunities for personal and professional growth. It has only been in the last decade or so that I have overcome that belief and have enjoyed periods of singularity and yes, even celibacy.

2011 was a challenging year for my hard won sense of self sufficiency. I had been through two relationships within a year. The first ended when my partner relocated for employment. Actually it ended shortly after he relocated, as we did make a brief effort at the long distance relationship. It was a half hearted effort on both our parts I think, almost a gesture of politeness or respect for one another or of the very ideal of enduring love.

Once that ended, civilly, I decided for about the thousandth time that love was a lovely ideal but most likely not something that was destined for me. I had a lousy history with it and so did my parents, although to their credit they did both eventually find partners with whom they have managed to stay happily partnered for 30 years each. So the second relationship was not meant to be taken seriously, in my mind, but I ended up getting hurt in the process anyway. That relationship was short lived and quite dysfunctional and it took me by surprise. Surprise because it had all the elements of some of the relationships I had when I was younger and vulnerable. At the time I met this man I was vulnerable again, not because I had suddenly forgotten the painful lessons I have learned along the way but because I was not yet healed from the loss of a very sweet and comfortable relationship that had too recently ended. It was the proverbial 'rebound romance'. I hate falling for cliches even more than I hate the fact that they exist. Even if it's not true love, it never feels good to be taken advantage of and manipulated.

Once that little fiasco was out of the way I pretty much decided that was it I was done with all this relationship stuff. If I couldn't even manage to come out of a casual relationship unscathed it wasn't worth the effort. I've been comfortable with my decision so far. I loathe dating and the pressure of meeting someone new, trying to decide if they are worth the time and effort of getting to know them better and all that mess. I also rather enjoy living my life by my terms, on my schedule and in my own style.

But once in a while I miss the companionship of having someone around who is intimately a part of my daily life. I miss having that person that I can bounce ideas off, share my thoughts and feelings and just Be with. I miss the level of companionship that evolves over time, a settled and comfortable affinity where half the communication that occurs is nonverbal, because you know one another that well.

Maybe not everyone gets to have that, or keep it. Maybe it's a little bit fate and a little bit me. I really don't know.

Most likely this longing will pass and I'll go back to being perfectly content being just me. Usually what happens when I start thinking this way is this: somehow I must emit availability signals indicating that I am single and out of nowhere men start appearing in my life, showing interest in 'getting to know me better'. Then as soon as I get to know them even a little better I realize, or decide, that they are not the person for me. There are always one or two glaring qualities that I just know I could not possibly endure no matter how many other likable characteristics the person might have. Then as quickly and unconsciously as I dropped the shield of detachment I summon it back and become once again, invisible.

Regardless of whether it is me or fate I often wonder about the bit of wisdom that says only when you really love and accept yourself are you ready to love someone else. Eliminating the perceived need for a partner certainly reduces the chance of settling for someone who is not right for you, or even healthy for you, that much is true. But I think many of us have come to regard the 'love yourself' ideal as a kind of magic spell or lucky charm, believing that once we achieve that state balance will be restored to the Universe and we will be granted the wish of True Love.

But maybe the joke is on us, after all the years of trying to achieve that blissful state of self acceptance all the while secretly harboring the hope that we will unlock the magic to finding our soul mate, that we discover we really only needed ourselves after all.

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Neither Hermit nor Harlot

Sometimes I think about becoming a Hermit. Occasionally I try the title on for size. In reality I live in a very community oriented neighborhood within a reasonably well populated city. I shop at the corner store where everyone knows my name and I am on a conversational level of acquaintance with my neighbors. I have a few close friends and I interact with on a regular basis. I am far from the hermit lifestyle that I may dream of from time to time; a house in the woods, away from the noise and dirt of the city. I'm pretty certain I'm not ready to take that step just yet.
I say I'm a hermit sometimes, jokingly, because it feels that way relative to my younger years. In my 20's, 30's and even into my 40's I could barely be restrained within the four walls of my own  home. I loved going out to bars and parties and if I was in a clean and sober phase I was involved in parenting groups or other circles of like minded people. I thrived on human interaction. Most of my career was spent amidst the high energy and drama of a youth shelter where I was energized by the diverse and intense personalities and situations I navigated every day. I was the supreme multi tasker, moving seamlessly from a phone call with an angry parent, to comforting a hysterical teenager to mentoring idealistic college students, all within a span of several minutes. In my party years I danced, flirted, gossiped and drank into the wee hours of the night, sometimes into the following day. I couldn't get enough it seemed, there was so much life to be lived, people to meet and music to be experienced. The more I did, in either world, the more I craved. Human interaction was like a stimulant, energizing, joyous and addicting.
So what happened? Why is it that now even when given an opportunity to attend an event where I know I will most likely enjoy myself and meet people that I will find interesting and stimulating I find myself making excuses to stay home. Why do I prefer the company of my four legged roommates or my immediate family to anyone else? And how is it that the energy and motion of the city now feels like an irritant, a noisy distraction from the real me. Why is it that I who would have gone stir crazy without human contact after one day now dream of living deep in a woods where no one can find me unless by my choosing.
I have come to realize that the real Me was not always that outgoing bar hopping party girl. Nor was I the crisis intervening, multi tasking social worker.
The person I was as a child was quiet, shy and solitary. I was a dreamer, not a doer. When my family had parties, I generally tried to become invisible hoping no one would ensnare me in conversation. I spent hours alone in the yard building things out of bits and pieces left to me by nature. I conversed with animals and imagined their responses. I explored paths and empty buildings and I created stories in my mind of events that had happened in these places. I filled them with characters and events of days gone by and the places came alive in a universe of my creation. Real people were typically seen as a disruption in the pattern of world I was creating, unless they were another dreamer, the sort of person who would be a co-creator of the imaginary world.
There were reasons for my semi conscious choice to become the outgoing extroverted person I had been. Living through frequent changes in family structure as my parents divorced, repaired, split and repaired again required adjusting to new patterns of interaction and adapting to unfamiliar behavior and routine. Moving from state to state and changing schools was an opportunity to try on new character traits and to completely reinvent ones self, often at the expense of one's true self. It is normal to want to fit in especially in the pre teen and teenage years but when given a clean slate and a mysterious history one looks to peers and the environment for clues when creating a persona. For a thoughtful and sensitive child all the change and over-stimulation was exhausting and often painful. It finally became easier to do and to be than to think or feel. I had jumped on an express train to external reward and social acceptance and I left Jenny behind at one of the stops. I can see her, sitting alone on a bench nose buried in a book, completely unaware that the train had left the station hours ago.
Now I have returned to retrieve that girl, that dreamer, that reader of books, that quiet and peaceful child who was just a little too sensitive for the real world. I have armed her with the tools I found out there in the real world, so she wont be hurt so profoundly by the ugly things that happen there. I can honor and respect her desire to be left alone but when we need to venture out into the real world, we know how to maneuver through the small talk and chit chat of ordinary life. We know how to read the signals that tell us when to withdraw and when it's safe to move forward (of course we all have lapses in judgement, don't we?) We know how to protect ourSelf without running, without having to have the first word and the last. We know it's okay to be silent and observe when words would only bring confusion or distraction. I/we have merged the introvert and the extrovert into something that is manageable and reasonably well balanced. We have come to accept that being alone with our thoughts and feelings is a pretty nice place to be and that if we need to escape now and then, into a world of our own making, it is a method of survival in an unpredictable world.

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Smokey Seduction

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times.”

Mark Twain

I'm at that crossroads again, the same intersection that Mark Twain must have encountered if we are to believe his statement. It's a familiar and lonely place where Temptation hangs out on one corner, looking slick and sexy, always ready with an easy lie. Temptation in the personified image that exists in my mind, is always smoking.
On another corner of the crossroad is a mirror. It's not an ordinary mirror, but rather like a carnival mirror; one that is subject to distortion depending on the angle of the viewer.
Smoking becomes a part of one's self image over the years. If you're like me you have a variety of self images, like the reflections in tricky mirror there are times when one or another dominates the view.
When I visualize myself in most situations I see a person who is smoker, but it hasn't always been this way. There have been times I went for years without smoking and gradually that part of my self concept faded. I was able to imagine myself in any situation without smoking, and eventually the thought rarely even entered my mind. I had, at certain points in my life, shed the identity of a smoker. And yet, somehow when I least expected it the image would resurface. The thought of holding a cigarette in a certain way, a punctuation mark of non-verbal communication. An image of exhaling smoke thoughtfully as if expelling a repressed secret.
Maybe it was the effect of all the movies I'd watched during my formative years glued to the television mentally absorbing lessons in subtlety of the adult dance of the unspoken message. In those old movies, the black and whites, people smoked constantly and the way they smoked held clues to the character and the motivation of the person on screen.
Smoking could be sexy and seductive, or brash and sassy. Sometimes it was devious, sinister and calculating. Or it can be rude and aggressive. And a cigarette can be the perfect accompaniment to despair especially in a duet with a tumbler of whiskey. Serenading misery and heartbreak on the silver screen, the dance of the seven veils as performed by a twisting wisp of smoke accompanied by the jingle jangle of crisp ice tapping the walls of a crystal glass. No finer burlesque for the anguish of a broken heart.
All  are faded clips of the story of my life, the drama, the comedy the romance, the rebel Without a Cause and the Detective with a Vengeance  The Sultry Seductress and the Sassy Schoolgirl. Even the Cruel and Manipulative Anti-Heroine. They are all in there, cigarette in hand, inhaling deeply as if challenging the oxygen to a game of Russian roulette.
© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Monday, November 12, 2012

I Became a "Dog Person" and Learned to Love the Pack

Now autumn eases into middle age, after a minor mid-life crisis flaunting around some balmy weather reminiscent of youthful spring. Nightfall comes early and the evenings are cozy indoors. The sofa is piled with blankets and my four legged roommates are more cuddly than they have been in a while. All during summer they preferred the cool wood floors sprawled out like bear rugs you see in movies.
When the time comes for the evening walk it already feels well past bedtime and it's no small feat to convince myself to put on the coat, boots, gloves and everything else I wrap up in to protect my arthritic joints from the chilly air.
But tonight as we stepped out into the cold and darkness there was something new- snow! Not a full on snowfall, but just a few swirling flakes highlighted by the streetlamps as they swirled and danced like little impish ballerinas. The dogs were straining against their harnesses, lunging forward as if driven by instinct to run. The bigger dog, Misty, is half Siberian Husky and quite at home in a snowfall. I wonder if there is a calling within her to run, to pull a sled as is her duty bound by centuries of breeding, something she can't quite understand and yet can't escape.
Funny though how pack behavior trumps breeding as her sidekick, Bear, mimics her stride. Funny because Bear is about the furthest thing from a Husky one could imagine. He's what my Mom would call a 'mop dog', one of those small mixed breed, shaggy haired, adorably awkward, misfit kind of dogs.
Now that my kids are grown I have become one of those women I used to chuckle about who fills her empty nest with pets. I talk to them, rearrange my schedule around theirs, take them with me nearly everywhere I go and yes, I even dress them up on occasion. They are my family, my buddies, my pack. In the rare occasions I ever visualized a future self through the eyes of youth, I didn't imagine that once my children were grown I would fill the time and space of my home with dogs. I was really more of a 'cat person' and my visions of future self usually involved travel, a place somewhere higher up on the career ladder and limitless personal freedom. Dogs limit one's freedom in a way that cats don't. They need babysitters. They need walks and playtime. They need to be watched so they don't eat things that are disgusting or potentially lethal. They require a certain amount of consistency and commitment which are not characteristics that come easily to me. Maybe that's why they are good for me. They hold me accountable for a certain amount of routine, exercise and responsibility. They remind me that I am needed. And when the daily news and the worlds problems whisper messages of despair and defeat in my ear they remind me of the raw simplicity of  Nature. They remind me that there are beings in the world that are eternally innocent, fiercely devoted and who are driven by voiceless call to something far more powerful and magical than anything I can find to fret about. They are a link to the natural world in an urban lifestyle. They keep me grounded when my mind threatens to carry me away from the here and now. They force me outdoors when I would otherwise surrender to laziness and apathy.
So although I never would have pictured myself with two dogs suddenly I can't picture myself without them, not the first time I've been surprised by a change of heart but one of the more pleasant chapters in the story of finding my way to Me.

As an end note I'd like to add that both of my dogs are rescue dogs. One was found at a shelter, awaiting euthanasia the other was intercepted before she made it to shelter. I take every opportunity I can to encourage potential dog owners to educate themselves about the daily care and training of dogs before deciding to bring one into your home. They do require attention, consistency and daily maintenance ( including picking up poop!) Different breeds have different needs and temperaments and it's best to do a little research to see which will best fit your lifestyle and personality. (I am partial to mutts myself)
If you do decide to bring a dog into your family please, please, please adopt! There are so many animals in shelters or foster homes who need permanent homes. Purebreds are appealing in many ways and there are caring ethical breeders out there but why bring more dogs into the world simply for profit when so many animals are left to die? Contrary to some opinions that there must be something 'wrong' with an animal that caused it to end up in a shelter, it is most often human error or misfortune that landed them there.
I have found Petfinder,, to be a good clearinghouse of information, including on training and care of animals, breed characteristics, health care/concerns and resources for adoption.
Peace and Happy Tails (sorry I couldn't resist!)

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Monday, October 29, 2012

Epiphany Me-More on Spiritual Awakenning

In the process of personal growth or development or even 'getting well' many of us have looked beyond traditional religions for guidance. Last time I shared my thoughts on the spiritual climate of our times I tossed around some of the pros and cons, as I see them, of the larger group of seekers collectively referred to as New Age (although many do reject the term) Much of what is labeled New Age Spirituality is blend of psychological techniques and a patchwork of spiritual practices, often those that are borrowed from a non-white culture but adapted to fit western culture. These combinations of practice and wisdom can, in many cases, provide fertile earth for true enlightenment. The messages and teachings in their westernized formula often to overlook one crucial detail, that is that within our culture there exists myriad sub-cultures whose lives don't fit the tidy portrait of the American Ideal.

Historically, our American culture of Pragmatic Pull-Yourself-Up-By-Your-Bootstraps has done little to encourage self exploration and understanding, much less self forgiveness. The offering of spiritual comfort within our culture has consisted of organized religions with relatively simple solutions. These answers emanated from an external source which was translated by a usually male representative. It is only relatively recently that individuals have been encouraged to seek within to find answers to deep philosophical and spiritual questions. Women in recovery and on the path to healing are often shrouded in years of guilt over the mistakes we've made. If we reach out to an alternative source of spiritual guidance we need a welcoming hand that understands the role that feelings like Guilt and Shame have played in our perception of redemption. We can be told over and over that we deserve happiness, love or prosperity, but until we forgive ourselves that tiny voice inside will continue to whisper that maybe we don't.

The journey to understand ones self is different for each seeker and the path one follows is not linear but rather tends to cycle back on itself as we revisit old issues within the context of a different terrain and strengthened by new skills and understanding. Many of life's problems don't disappear we just learn how to navigate the territory in a way that is more adaptive and safe than in previous attempts.

As a counselor I always felt that my work was more an art than a science although certainly a mix of the two. The same applies to the path of the spiritual seeker. We evolve safely by respecting our own timing and unique quirks. It hardly seems possible to find comfort with one's place in the Universe if we haven't even become comfortable in our own bodies. It can be cruel to ask of someone to part with their Ego when we have only just barely begun to know her. Those of us who surrendered our Selves to a drug, a relationship or any lifestyle that restrained our true expression of self, are fully aware that the journey back to the self is a long road. We also know the path some frightening twists and turns and that the temptation to avoid raw, authentic self discovery is as seductive as it always had been.

Probably the most potentially frightening bend in the road is that we will actually like ourselves. And once we like someone we expect nothing but the best for them so that's a pretty scary notion.

On a more mundane level the same could be said for letting go of our ideas about prosperity...welcoming prosperity in our lives. Are you freaking kidding me? Do you know what kind of a relationship most of us have had with money in the past? We have spent our rent money on other things than rent, risking (and sometimes falling into) homelessness. Chances are good we've been stolen from, taken advantage of, had our belongings broken by an angry or jealous partner, we've had to sell personal belongings to pay the rent (or worse). Money hasn't exactly been associated with consistency or comfort. Along with liking ourselves, now we are expected to accept the frightening prospect of admitting we deserve something nice, or that it will last.

Last week I wrote a mini blog called "Redefining Prosperity" This was a sort of self imposed homework assignment. I have decided that prosperity and abundance are not bad words, it was my definition and perception of the words that was twisted.

My perception is always developing, hopefully toward a place that is more clear, forgiving and comfortable with Me. For me that is the Big Spiritual Awakening.

"And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without."~from The Charge of The Goddess, by Doreen Valiente
Retrieved from Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Defining Prosperity

Prosperity is not a bad word. Nor is it what we are told to believe it is, regardless of our ethical or moral beliefs about prosperity.
Prosperity can be a thriving environment, a healthy physical body, a clear mind. It can be the wealth of friendships, loved ones, family, pets. Prosperity can be good food and nutrition, access to a lifestyle that maintains a healthy mind and body. A prosperous lifestyle heals the earth, nurtures relationships and practices respect for living beings. Prosperity can be the joy that is born of the company of another. Prosperity is the sense of satisfaction and pride in knowing you have contributed something to the well being of the planet or another person.
Prosperity is Joy, and it is Love and Respect and Well Being.
It is not a plastic card, or a green piece of paper or a material item that was purchased in order to boost one's status. It is not external thing that will fill a void, but rahter it is the courage to look within the void and to find your own Truth beyond the darkness.
© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Awareness Months?

Domestic Violence awareness month shares it's month with Breast Cancer and Disability awareness. Naturally for Domestic Violence, it has to fight to be heard.
Nothing against Breast Cancer Awareness mind you, but do you find it interesting as I do, that the most popular cancer, much like the most popular girl in school, is associated with that All American favorite: breasts?
And isn't it natural in the high school pecking order of things that seems to endure throughout our lifetimes, that Disability rights is probably the least observed awareness topic in the already overcrowded month?
Aside from February which is relegated to Black History Month and April which is Sexual Assault and Child Abuse prevention month (another shared month) there are 8 additional months in which to ask that people "be aware" of a disturbing and/or tragic social problem.
I know that here are other less well known awareness campaigns out there. In fact Hepatitis C may, depending upon who you ask, have 2 months of its own. One of them might be November  and the other might be May. But who really knows? I am a Hepatitis survivor and I'm not even sure.
Who gets to decide these things anyway? Did December come awfully close to becoming Jesus awareness month? Or would they have chosen April instead, choosing sacrificial death as commercially preferential to virgin birth?
I don't suppose one could convince football players to wear black and blue gloves in honor of domestic violence awareness. Or to roll out on the field in wheelchairs to promote sensitivity to individuals with disabilities.
Just sayin'
© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Monday, October 15, 2012

New Moon Musings

There is one thing I'd like to be clear about, for all my readers of either blog, the opinions in my blogs are my opinions they present themselves in various stages of transformation and as such they are influenced by my thoughts, feelings, intuition, reactions to my environment and unique personal history. My thoughts are subjective and I do not claim them to be Facts. I do not believe that My Way is the Right way or the only way, except as it applies to Me. My thoughts are My Truth and my interpretation of reality, or at least a reasonable attempt to interpret reality. We all have our own unique perception of reality and that is a beautiful truth.
I am in many ways probably one of the most open minded people you will read. That does not mean I do not form very strong opinions about certain things. For the most part I also know when to keep my opinions to myself.
I have immense respect for people who are not afraid to be and admit who they really are inside. Honesty is one of the most significant virtues of humankind. It is quite simple really once you get the hang of it and yet there are so many people who are terrified to show their true selves. I feel sad for these people.
I realize I may sound as though I'm holding myself up as some pillar of morality. I am not. Honesty is one trait I have managed to cultivate over many years of practice and therapy. There are many other admirable traits I have not yet mastered, mostly because I am lazy.
I just felt the need to put this out there to my friends and readers. Today is New Moon and I like to start each new moon out on a good foot.
Happy New Moon everyone!

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Straddling the Grid

Living off the gird. It's a phrase we hear these days usually used by those of us who disaffected by our loss of privacy, increased dependence upon a system that threatens to consume itself it it's hunger for resources and the overwhelming imbalance of power in the hands of those few who control, and abuse those resources. It is called a Utopian Ideal by some critics, a aging hippie pipe dream, pretty but unrealistic.
The motivations for life off the grid are as varied as the individuals who envision the dream. Some are based in political ideology mostly of the libertarian or anarchist sort. Some are motivated by a spiritual drive to create a way of life that is in Harmony with Source. Some are the dreams of environmentalists who, understanding that our current way of life portends certain disaster, strive to preserve and heal what is left of the abundance and beauty of this planet, our home. And then there are simply eccentric, die hard non-conformists who refuse to live by another man's rules. The roots of my dreams tap into each of these foundations with stronger hold on the spiritual and environmental source along with a healthy dose of eccentric non-conformity. I am still grounded enough in pragmatic reality to acknowledge that there are elements of the current system that I need or want at least for now.
That is why I straddle the grid, one foot grounded in the resources that keep me alive, healthy and in contact with community and the other in a world that lives by my own rules, creates resource out of surplus and strives to give back to the planet that has sustained and nurtured me and my kin.
This is the birth of a project and soon to be video series that is the brainchild of my children and myself. We have decided to create a "family documentary", maybe to be kept within the family as a kind of scrapbook, or maybe we will decide to share it with others, we haven't decided yet. Either way it will be a journal of our experience as we navigate life on our terms and perhaps we will learn something about ourselves and our priorities as we review the process. Maybe we will discover even more efficient and productive strategies for moving even further away from the grid, or maybe we will realize we are just fine the way we are.
We have learned that it is possible to live happily while forgoing many of the conveniences that many Americans take for granted. We have discovered that time well spent as a family is far more valuable than the toys and luxuries that can be bought only by sacrificing the majority of one's waking hours to an job separated from home and family. My children don't remember what presents they got for most holidays, what they do remember is the fun they had with each other and their parents. They don't remember that when they were toddlers we struggled to pay the bills, but they do remember the other children they played, fought and bonded with as I provided home day care so I could make ends meet while staying home with my family. When their father took a job as an apartment manager so they could afford rent, they don't remember feeling poor, they remember how fun it was to help Dad vacuum the hallways. As adults they have chosen careers not for prestige and wealth but for the fulfillment of their own passions and talents, as did their father and I.
And every one of us has the common sense and kindness to help others in need, whether it means sharing what we have materially or offering emotional support and care. We appreciate what we do have and we don't expect more. We are not off the grid, we pay rent, utilities and we work. We have medical needs that require insurance, which we can't afford so we do use state insurance ..which we pay for in sales tax. If not for two preexisting conditions which require daily medication we would probably take our chances with natural remedies and sensible health care, but it is what it is. For the little we do avail ourselves of there is so much more that we do not take. None of us owns a car, none of us uses microwave ovens or for that matter most appliances found in most modern homes. We recycle our trash, we donate the clothes we outgrow and we repair the ones that tear. When we need new clothes we usually shop at Goodwill or other resale stores. We take less in resources from the planet than the average American and yet we hear people complain about the small amount of "entitlements" we use in order to meet basic life saving needs. I think it's a pretty fair trade when you consider the respect we give to the greatest life sustainer of all, the Earth and her resources. If my children were to be paid a fair wage for the work they do, one that increased in proportion to the rising costs of necessities like food and housing, and if the cost of health care was not wildly out of proportion we wouldn't need the "entitlements".
So our life, not so different or special, is a life just left of the grid where so many cling in comfort and or desperation to the illusion of safety and normalcy. I am so incredibly grateful that I don't feel the need to have designer clothes a new car every year or a home in the suburbs to feel complete, or 'safe'. I'm glad that I don't own a single credit card or have a mortgage. I am grateful that I can find joy in quite simple pleasures that can be found while taking a walk in the park or playing with my grandchildren. If I am considered eccentric or odd by a culture that is literally dying to maintain a standard of living that is an insult to the majority of the rest of the world, then I will wear those labels with pride.
© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

On a Foggy Halloween in Another Century

October. Halloween preparations. Ghosts. Spooky things. This is hands down, one of my favorite times of year. I thrive in the cool crisp air, tempered by the mid sky sun. My senses unearth memories of childhood; the smell of  jumping into piles of leaves, the crunching sound of the leaves as they clung in my hair. The sight of a pale horizon falling beneath a darkening sky, an early star in the non-time of twilight. Darkness arrived early teasing us with the promise of excitement and danger while we clung to the final frenzied moments of play before The Moms called us inside.
These are the Friendly Ghosts, like Fairy Godmothers whispering sweet stories of a time when the world was ours and freedom was palpable.
We were a tightly knit little group of Wild Children assembled by chance, by geography and parental friendships. We were bonded by the subculture we created within the shared spaces of each others homes, backyards, alleyways and other favored meeting places. We had backyard fort, a garage fort, a lookout point (the garage roof) and numerous trees whose limbs held us like strong arms lifting us high into another world where we were certain we were undetected by adult eyes. We rode our bikes for hours on end and if someones bike broke or had a flat we rode two or three to a bike. The sting ray, a classic mark of coolness at the time, could seat two on the banana seat while a smaller kid perched on the handlebars.
Trick or treating took place at night, in the dark on Halloween  We used pillowcases for candy bags. Our costumes were homemade, a collection of dress up clothes, someones castoffs, thrift store finds and sometimes my Moms art supplies.
One year, perhaps my favorite memory, we dressed as the Peanuts gang. We all rather fit a Peanuts archetype in our own way and my best friend even had a white dog with a brown splotch on her back making her a passable Snoopy. Our Moms helped us make paper mache masks, big round Peanuts heads, by layering the paper mache over inflated balloons  One the paper mache dried, you pop the baloon and adjust eye holes and breathing/candy eating holes. After drying they were painted to look like whatever character we had chosen. My little brother, being a rather philosophical child who was also permanently attached to a security blanket was a natural Linus I, being the oldest and with an interest in psychiatry was Lucy (I'm petty sure there was also a bossiness factor involved)
That particular Halloween night was enveloped in a fog so thick it gathered on our masks while our breath condensed inside threatening to transform us into the incredible melting zombie gang...or in our case, Peanut Butter. It was difficult to see through the tiny eye holes and  if you were lucky enough to keep the dome of a mask balanced in a position that kept the eye holes in place, the dense fog blanketed most landmarks.
We knew the neighborhood like the back of our hand and we found our way by following well traveled routes, occasionally helping one another adjust our paper mache globe and guided by some innate  kid survival sixth sense.The younger kids whined occasionally and were afraid of certain houses, the ones that most fascinated us older kids, but there was no problem another dose of chocolate or caramel concoction couldn't pacify and we ran, stumbled, laughed and shrieked long into the night.
By the time we returned home we were sticky with candy and paper mache and our pillowcases were fully weighted with enough treats to last for weeks. We triumphantly retreated to the biggest bedroom, dumped out our treasures and began the negotiation and trade process.We bargained and bickered as we watched classic monster movies on the tiny, snowy screened black and white t.v. our all American alter egos now cast aside, eyes blank, melting, bits of frayed newspaper peeking out from under peeling paint, the Wild Children conducted business, over indulged in candy and finally fell asleep in a heap bathed in the dim flickering light of the Mummy Returns.
© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Here be Dragons, the Uncharted Waters of Spiritual Discovery

In our land of freedom to worship as we choose, there are almost unlimited paths available to explore our quest for spiritual meaning (even if there are those who would like to change that).  We also live in the land of opportunity, i.e. free market profit motivated capitalism, and inevitably the path to enlightenment will sometimes intersect with the road to riches. Of course this only happens because those who construct the roads design them this way. This particular brand of urban planning is one of the most heinous and damaging cross sections of ideals I can imagine. Sadly it seems to be everywhere these days; challenging times create conditions which awaken a hunger and longing for both spiritual guidance and economic security.
I was raised well enough to have been taught the lesson that some things simply do not belong in the same lunch basket; religion and politics...and spirituality and profit. Yet the more we hunger the less we discernment we apply when attempting to fill the void. Every so often a new practice comes into vogue, usually one that is not originally part and parcel of the white middle class culture that attempts to embrace it. We are drawn to the promise and allure of spiritual fulfillment, a greater sense of meaning, and bored or unfulfilled by the traditions of our youth we look outside of the existing culture hoping to discover some novel approach that will hold the key to happiness. And lucky for us in this land of opportunity there is no shortage of willing teachers, guides and gurus to help us along our journey. And since we are accustomed to pay for service in our culture we practically expect to pay for the gift. Unfortunately many of us are unaware, as we reach out to spiritual guides and into our pockets, that not only money but our own life force or energy may be the price we pay for 'enlightenment and awakening'. If we jump into a path without proper investigation and research we are vulnerable and defenseless, possibly prone to injury or psychic damage.
Many of these programs or movements borrow (and I use that term loosely) from ancient traditions that have been cultivated, preserved, perfected and carried on through generations of indigenous culture. Many of the practices now being packaged and sold in easy step by step westernized instructions are watered down versions of intensely intimate and spiritual relationships formed between devoted practitioners and mentors. These practices require years of dedication to study, sacrifice (self sacrifice not the other kind) and consistent adherence to patterns of living. There is good reason for the time, effort and responsibility that is demanded of the seeker and that is that dealing with the unseen worlds is frankly not what you would call a walk in the park. These worlds are unseen for a reason...we humans are only beginning to be able to grasp the magnificence of the infinite dimensional realities and the beings who inhabit them. Of course there have always been those who have either been gifted from birth or who have acquired the ability to relate to the unseen but they are unique and represent a very small section of the general population. It is an insult to those who have spent their entire lives aligned in dedication and daily practice to attempt to replicate their experience in a week long seminar within the comfort and luxury of a multimillion dollar resort or hotel.
In regard to 'borrowing' the practices of other cultures, I think there are ways to do this respectfully. Many teachers have offered their knowledge, regardless of race or cultural background. There are after all probably more similarities than differences among most spiritual practice and belief and there have been cross cultural merging of tradition for centuries. There is nothing wrong with sampling teachings of many different paths, in fact I think it's probably the best way (along with meditation and honest self examination) to discover what teachings resonate most harmoniously with our unique character, values and personality. But for those who go off to a weekend workshop and return home as a proclaimed shaman or Wise one I have serious concerns. I can only hope that they will, in one way or another, come to discover that wisdom cannot be bought and it cannot be hurried.
Now we are hearing that based on ancient prophecies, astrological alignments and the teachings of the Wise, that we as Human Beings are entering a stage in our development in which we are ready to begin opening to many of the great Mysteries. I do believe this, but I also think that we need to remember that development is a process and like any other process it happens on natures time, not on Ego time. Think about the parents who try to force their children into walking, talking or toilet training before the baby is developmentally able. The results are usually disastrous. Either the entire family becomes frustrated and angry, the child often develops feelings of inferiority and a sense of not being good enough and ultimately the kid is not going to learn until they are able. The conscientious and respectful parent, the child centered parent, offers guidance and support along the way, giving the child the confidence and tools she needs to be able to take those steps, or pee on the pot, when she is ready. And so it must be with us, as we develop our spiritual understanding, that we do so with loving support and careful attention to our process.  In order to become fully enlightened and evolved we must clear out old energies and patterns that are no longer productive...this process can be painful. Old issues resurface in order to get our attention, to remind us of what is no longer healthy (or maybe never was). Some of us have more difficult lessons than others.
If you are finding this time is not all peaches and cream, don't's all part of the big messy wondrous process that is life. Mundane life is messy and we carry a lot of that stuff with us into our inner journey. If you are struggling please know you do not have to go it alone. If your chosen teacher is worth their salt, they will offer support and understanding. They will allow you to progress at a rate that is safe for you. If not it may be time to start shopping for a new guide. There are online resources for people experiencing spiritual crisis and although you may have to search through a good many "snake oil salesmen" as they used to say in the old days, there are plenty of ethical and compassionate mentors and guides out there.
A good place to start is The Spiritual Emergence Network, they have been around for decades and I personally know individuals who have worked and studied with some of the original founders. If you can't find what you are needing here you will be given appropriate referrals.
I am also available for consultation or even just as a compassionate ear if need be. My own spiritual travels have led me along many paths and there is nothing that will shock or alarm me. Please don't hesitate to message me if you need an ear or some advice. And of course, all correspondence will be confidential and free of charge. If there is interest, I am considering starting a new feature highlighting spiritual awakening as a regular blog, so I do welcome and appreciate your honest feedback.
May your journey be blessed, adventurous and true to your soul and may you discover the beauty and wisdom that dwells within!
© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Many Moons, Many Moods

I've gone a bit of time without posting here...there are times I feel I have so much to say and other times that are more reflective. The ebb and flow of life plays itself out in my moods like the phases of the moon, sometimes outspoken and shining, sometimes withdrawing into the smallest crescent hiding in the dark. But don't let the common association of the word dark with something dreadful or foreboding. The dark places are silent and peaceful, in the darkness we look within as we cannot see outward. I often follow the phases of the moon as a guide to setting my intentions as where to focus my energies, building and creating as she waxes, thinking, processing and resting as she wanes. I listen to my own inner rhythms as well. Sometimes it is my mind that guides me, either bursting with chatter or sometimes resting, tending to listen rather than create output. Other times it's my body that speaks to me, filled with energy, needing to roam or to dance and at other times tired, achy, begging for rest and long sleepy nights filled with dreams. And then there's my spirit or intuition if you will, tugging at my gut with a message either active or passive, energetic or tranquil.

So far so good, right? Well lest you think I've got it all together, I will tell you there are times when each voice is carrying it's own tune and the mind, body and spirit are clashing in a strange cacophony of paradoxical impulses. These are the times I am "frozen", these are the times I need desperately to find a way to give all those voices a way to be heard, so their messages can be synthesized into some sort of coherent meaning.

A few years back when the discord was especially troublesome my doctor suggested a mild anti depressant/anti anxiety medication. I was going through pretty 'challenging' time, we will say, so I relented and figured I'd give it a try. The first couple of days were kind of euphoric, everything shone a little brighter, my energy level was high but not manic and I felt great. It was a bit like cocaine, without the dreadful crash. Naturally I thought 'hey I could get to like this'.

Over the next couple of days all the chatter in my head stopped, it just shut the hell up. It was a little strange, but liberating. You know what it's like to be incessantly nagged when there's no one else in the room?

Unfortunately that nice shiny euphoria faded after a few days, otherwise this stuff would have street value and would be frowned upon by the medical community. Too bad about all that. Everything kind of stabilized and I went on with my life, messy as it was at the time.

This is how anti-depressants are supposed to be used, unless of course you suffer from chronic and severe depression which makes you unable to function...(that's my disclaimer in case anyone decides to rail on me for causing someone to disregard medical advice). Once my life became more stable and after many hours, weeks, months of counseling, mediation, yoga, journaling and other self help routines I decided I missed my moods.

Here comes another quick disclaimer DO NOT STOP TAKING SSRIs COLD TURKEY. No, no, no. You will be convinced you are stark raving mad and unable to exist without them. But seriously, follow your doctors instructions for scaling down your dose and weaning yourself off them. Since they don't do anything fun once you've been taking them for a while, like inducing euphoria, this won't be difficult. Also make sure you've done something else, counseling, group therapy, mediation, clearing your environment of people who make you crazy, whatever you need to do to make your life belong to you and not to the internal and external influences that made you resort to medication in the first place.

I've been off my anti depressants for about 6 months now. I survived the loss of my Dad and a few other rough times all with my feelings intact. I feel things now. Of course it's not all happy fun time, but life is not about being happy all the time. Sometimes I indulge my sad days by withdrawing, shutting off the phone and drowning in sorrow. I find that if I let myself feel crappy the crappy feelings eventually pass. I also feel joy much more intensely than I did while on anti-depressants and I appreciate every moment of it that graces my day. When I was on the SSRIs my moods were more even keel but they were also blunted, muted and not quite organic feeling, if that makes sense. Emotions are, and should be, visceral and gritty. Emotions are the catalyst for action and creation. Emotions are what makes us who we are, dynamic changing beings. We are part of the Earth and are designed to live in sync with her cycles.

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Friday, August 17, 2012

Customer Service Thugs

I am one of those people who spends a lot of time on the internet. I'm old enough to have genuine appreciation for the convenience and wonder of endless information and entertainment, and I'm young enough to not be intimidated by it all. In my life it is my tv, my music, my news source and to a certain degree my social network.

And now it's gone! Obviously not completely gone, one can always find somewhere to plop down with their laptop and for a cost of a cup of coffee grab some free wi-fi time. And there is still my phone, another technological miracle to those of us who grew up with network tv and land lines telephones. So it's not really all that bad, is it?

And yet I feel like an junkie who hasn't set up that next fix, I'm ok for now but I'm waiting for the dreaded jones to set in and it's a scary kind of anticipation. Like many addicts, I'm maintaining with the denial fueled bravado that says "I don't really need it" and "I can go without it, I just choose not to".

When I was arguing with the customer service representative from my internet provider I was quite certain that I did not need the junk she was peddling. After all, I manage to stay away from the hard stuff they're always pushing, the Cable tv with primo channels. They were offering me a taste even as I had been wheeling and dealing for a delayed payment plan ("just front me til the 21st..") In spite of my refusal to try the hard stuff the last rep was agreeable to my offer...sure well take your payment in 2 weeks. Somehow she left out the part about cutting me off cold turkey. Maybe she took a bathroom break during that part in training that says an overdue bill can't be extended beyond 7 days. Maybe it was the end of her shift and she just didn't really care anymore, we've all been there at one point or another. Whatever was going on all I know is I felt pretty betrayed and naturally I rebelled by asserting I didn't need their damn fix anyway. Now the monkey on my back is getting restless.

But no worries, like any good drug dealer, they'll be waiting. See, they won't close my account until I pay the bill. And she actually told me, rather smugly, that I would have hard time getting service anywhere else if I had an outstanding bill. Really.

So now I'm threatened with some kind of isp blacklist if I cancel my service while owing money? Now before we get ahead of ourselves, let me clarify one thing. I never, at any point indicated that I had no intention of paying the bill. Yet it was assumed by this individual that I was going to drop their service, unpaid, and go off to find another 'dealer' for my fix. In response to this perceived evil plan this rep comes across with some old time Hollywood mob type of veiled threat..(think in Joe Pesci's voice) "you're gonna have a real hard time getting service.."

It's really difficult to take these people seriously.

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Making a Living, Making a Life

This stage in my life, being unemployed, my children grown and living on their own has been something of an adjustment. I did, not so long ago, ask the Universe to grant me the time and opportunity to take care of some unfinished recovery business. The one day I said it and really meant it (I was in a therapy session) I was relieved of my employment duties within an hour. It was as if some quirky fairy godmother had suddenly appeared in a cloud of purple glitter, waved her sparkly wand and transformed my world. Remember Fractured Fairy Tales from the Rocky and Bullwinkle show? After all anyone who knows me wouldn't expect something of the Sleeping Beauty variety. In fact my Prince Charming decided to ride off into the sunset while I was napping, and his White Steed was a Mazda with a dragging tailpipe, his Kingdom a studio apartment on the lower East side...

But nevertheless my wish had been granted and I took the time to remedy some health problems, get some therapy and dip in and out of my spiritual journey. I have time to read, write and even do a little art. I have a lot of time to search my soul and ponder the next path as I head into the Golden Years. I spend a lot of time in conversation with the voices in my head (oh come on, we all have them!)

If it weren't for writing, drawing, music all the creative arts I'm not sure where those voices would all go. Eventually they would create so much discord I would reach out for some external stimulus to either keep them quiet or distracted.

Some of us have more chatter and discord within us, than the average person. Or maybe we are simply more sensitive to the demands of our mind, body and spirit. We are the ones who hit the extreme highs and lows of life and who feel the effects most deeply. Being cut from this eccentric cloth is what makes difficult to conform to the patterns society lays out for us. Working 9 to 5 Monday through Friday and other rigid schedules seems nearly impossible at times. Following step by step rules when we know we can take a non linear path and reach the same conclusion or destination feels restrictive and even boring. This is what makes us who we are, Women with a Past, women who don't conform, rebels and rogues.

So what do we do with our free spirit minds? And what do we do for work? Bear in mind that I am defining work not simply as a means to provide an income, but as that which gives our lives purpose and meaning. It is our contribution to society and our legacy.

That's the tricky part. I think that many of us who have gotten into 'trouble" of one sort or another have gotten there only because we have been forced into structures and patterns that are contrary to our nature. And rather than adapting the structure of task, like work for example, we try to force ourselves into this unnatural flow. We can only do this for so long before something has to give. We might act out and rebel against the rules or structure, we might tell our boss exactly what part of the human anatomy he most resembles and what item should be inserted into said part. Or we might self medicate in order to keep up with the patters, using stimulants to get us through the days when we just don't have the energy and ambition to carry on, or sedation to slow down to the pace that linear thought drags us along while we know we could complete the task far more efficiently and quickly if only we didn't have to follow their rules. And the guilt and self loathing cried out to be medicated too....just a few drinks after work will stop all those nagging voices, right? Or maybe a romantic partner will convince us that we have something worthwhile to offer, if only between out legs...the media does a great job convincing us that being attractive is a sufficient measure of value. Sometimes we give up, falling into depression and self blame, hating ourselves for not being "normal".

Think of all these emotional and psychological acrobatics we perform, at great expense to our own well being and sanity, just to accommodate normalcy. Think of how many of us have eventually, at some point in our lives, reached the tipping point where our coping mechanisms no longer worked and we slipped, slid and slammed into the inevitable rock bottom from which we emerged shaken to our core, but reborn. Like the day my fairy godmother appeared.

Once we get over trying to fit in (oh the joys of getting older and falling into self acceptance) we realize that we don't have to force out feet into the tiny Cinderella glass slipper that society has handed us. Suddenly it dawns on us that we have been awfully clever and resourceful in our attempts to be normal; we have developed and entire skill set built on survival and resiliency We discover that there are ways to make this whole responsibility thing work out, and there are ways to do this while also honoring our authentic self.

Some of us women may be branded as "disabled" in praise of our quirkiness. Depending on experience and the particular brand of eccentricity that led us into our personal journey there may be residual damage, whether physical, psychological or emotional that qualifies us for economic support for this badge of dishonor. We may continue to work the number of hours that are allowed and we may be entitled to protections and accommodation in the workplace Even then, if we do qualify as 'disabled' the few privileges that accompany that label are hard won; there can be a heavy price to pay for the simple luxury of flexible work hours or extra days working from home. Discrimination is illegal and it's also damn near impossible to prove. The real discrimination, the hushed whispers of co-workers, the resentful glares as you leave work early all take their toll. Meanwhile we are left wondering, again, if there isn't just something more we could do if we tried just a little harder to fit the mold couldn't we just get by? After all is it really a disability just to be different? Frankly my answer is a resounding "no" but for some women it has been the one thing that has made it possible to secure and maintain regular employment, and to that I say more power to them.

Some of us a blessed with skills and talents that have a market value; or we find a way to obtain the training needed to acquire those skills. If we're very lucky and very clever we manage to start up a business of our own, working from home or perhaps in partnership with others who appreciate our uniqueness. In many ways the internet has been a lifesaver, or a career saver, for those of us who don't fit the typical employment profile. By learning to be resourceful, creative and, yes, stubborn we are able to integrate our life experience into real work.

Some of us have mellowed with age to the point that we can count on being able to be present, at least physically for enough hours a week to hold a job of some sort. Some of us have careers that once abandoned can now be salvaged. I know several women who have swallowed their pride and returned to their careers, even if it meant starting on a lower rung on the ladder they were happy to be back doing what they love.

Unfortunately with the economy in the wretched shape it has been and appears that it will remain, many of these options are slipping away. And as we get older, the chances of being hired decrease with each year that passes. Again, age discrimination is illegal, but virtually impossible to prove.

I've been making it a point to talk to women in their 40's and 50's, women with a past, and learning how they get by these days. Getting by isn't just financial because work, ideally, is more than just a paycheck. It is what gives meaning and purpose to our lives. It is how we express who we are and the means by which we share our unique gifts with the world. It is our contribution to the whole.

I have often thought that rather than working 40 or 50 hours a week consistently until some bureaucrat deems us to be of retirement age (which seems to be getting older and older every year or so) it would make much more sense to create a work environment that is conducive to easing out of the job market, while also enabling older and wiser employees to utilize our life experience and wisdom as a contribution to the workplace. On the job Mentoring offers hands on training and support for younger people just entering the workplace. How many managers or supervisors really have the time to spend one on one with their employees? Resolving interpersonal conflicts, coaching a green employee through the uncertainty and new career jitters can save businesses time and money by preventing workplace discord and discontent. 

Professional consultation in one's areas of expertise can be an efficient means of bringing any industry up to speed on specialized issues of concern. Who better to consult and educate a team of sales personnel for example, on those awkward topics like sexual harassment or alcohol and drug abuse than those of us who have survived these challenges.

Some Women have created successful careers for themselves doing just that. We need more opportunities and, of course, funding helps; but even where there isn't funding now, can we advocate for ourselves and each other to be given the opportunity to share our knowledge and experience?

I think there are ways to do this...and with varying levels of commitment I have been brainstorming and researching possibilities. I would love to hear some feedback, ideas, success stories from anyone who has a similar vision. Together we can change our role in society; we can speak up and show them what we've got. We can create our own value and take our rightful place as Elders.

As Women with a Past we have so much to offer. We have experienced the highs and lows at the most extreme. We have made mistakes and we have fallen and we have risen from the ashes with the fire of survival in our hearts. How do you use your fire to light the earth?

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Friday, July 6, 2012

Note About Name Change

Hi All,
Some time ago a friend of mine advised me that the title subheading "for Women With a Past" was perhaps unprofessional sounding...that it might turn off some potential readers. I'm not sure why, but I followed the advice and made a minor change.
It has never felt right. Nor do I have any evidence that it changed my readership one way or another. In fact when I think of my intended audience, it's likely that the original title would be more appealing. So with my apologies for my inconsistency and wishy washy-ness I am changing the header back to it's original form...for all of Women with a past who aren't ashamed to admit it.
Peace, Love and Unity to all
Jenny Nanakoosa Hazard

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

In the Streets of My Mind

I am on a climate imposed retreat. I'm not a huge fan of extreme weather which is not a good quality for someone who lives in Wisconsin of all places. I'm sure someplace like Costa Rica would be much more to my liking, but it is what it is. For the past several days as the temperatures have ranged just below or at 100 degrees I've found myself spending the vast majority of my days and nights sprawled on my couch/bed staring at the computer screen. This is causing a couple of problems. One, I am accustomed to walking, a lot. I don't have a car and public transportation is nice when you need it but it's generally simpler and more healthy to go on foot. So I'm feeling sluggish and alternately, antsy from my lack of exercise.
The other problem is boredom, a boredom that causes me to spend hours a day wandering around the crazy hedge maze of my own mind. Like all hedge mazes this can be fun until you hit the moment of panic when you turn the corner only to realize you have seen this place before and good Goddess how do I get out!?  The 12 step groups have a saying ( they have a lot of sayings) about not spending too much time in your head because it's a bad neighborhood, or something to that effect. I'm not a big fan of the 12 step groups for several reasons, and that statement is probably one of their more dangerous messages.
SO let's think about that for a moment, both on a micro, or personal level and on a macro, or more global, level.
Stay out of the bad neighborhood. Pretend it doesn't exist. Latch on to some external message that will tell you what to think and what to do and all will be well.
Well, you have a good chunk of our society's problems summed up right there in the possibly well meaning, but dreadfully misguided, advice.
If 'it' is a 'bad neighborhood' and is already suffering from neglect and mismanagement is walking away from it going to solve the problem? Of course not! And it doesn't matter if we're talking about your mind or your neighborhood because they both are in fact your environment, your home.
Being the Aquarian Community Advocate I am I've decided to clean up the 'hood. If I stumble upon some garbage along the mind maze, I look it over. Where did it come from? Is it useful? Recycling is more than just reusing, it asks us to take the trash and reformulate it into something serviceable.
And how about those vacant lots in there? The hotter it gets, and the  more depleted I feel the more I tend to stumble upon these spaces....the duh spaces. How about planting some seeds? I've started taking some notes, ideas for projects, future blog posts another written project I have in the works. Hey maybe a piece of that garbage over there has a place in that memoir project.
And when all else fails and the place is such a mess, get out the broom sweep it all away and practice some meditation. Like a candlelight vigil or a community gathering that follows a neighborhood clean up lets bring a little Peace into the neighborhood.
Translate it either way, in your mind or in your hood, but whatever you do, please don't be afraid to go there.

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An Eerie Silence

A few years back I had been experiencing brief and unexplained periods of what I initially identified as "depression". I had been, no doubt, influenced by our society's misguided perception of emotional response, And I'm not just referring to the segment of society that is blindly parroting the medical "advice" doled out by prescription happy shrinks. There are some other experts", more benign and well intended, spiritual in their approach; the feel good, Law of Attraction, New agey folks. Not only influenced, but perhaps misdirected?
I won't bother myself, or my readers, to speculate upon their intentions and it's unrealistic to attempt to cloak an entire group of people with one definitive blanket even if I were to try. What I am able to speak to is my internal processes and reactions to the messages I hear again and again from both schools of thought.
The most clear, and harmful implication is fairly consistent- a full range of emotion is somehow undesirable.
Anxiety and Stress are probably two of the most often maligned emotions and yet they are as common as any other, especially in our society that forces us to live in systems that are generally at odds with Human rhythms and patterns of survival. Some of us, due to life circumstances, "poor" choices or other influences learned to function on a high level of stress at an early age. We become accustomed to stress and anxiety to the point that it becomes the driving force by which we get up each day and do the things we are expected to do. To a certain degree, this can be okay. some of us a wired for a little more high voltage than others. Some of us adapt our wiring to accommodate a chaotic childhood or a series of challenging life events. I am one of those people. But as I've grown older and a little wiser, I have come to understand the benefits of a more quiet mind and a peaceful existence. You would think this would be a fabulous breakthrough of enlightenment and joy, right? Wrong. Just like any unused muscle or tendon will rebel at physical therapy, crying out in pain as our brain tells us "this can't possibly be right. This quack has no idea what they are doing!" so it goes for our emotions. Unfamiliar movement is uncomfortable, even if it is what best for our all over health and well being.
So as I have found myself being able to relax, to be calm and content I also found myself in unfamiliar, and therefore uncomfortable, territory. Without stress or anxiety I felt unmotivated, directionless and even tired. I concluded that I must be depressed, after all it read like the checklist. Do you feel a sudden loss of interest in activities? A lack of sex drive? Oh dear! Depression!!!
Only on further introspection I realized I was missing a key component of depression, I was not unhappy, weepy or miserable, I was simply frozen, lost and uncertain of what to do with this incredibly boring sense of calm. I had found what I had been looking for now I just needed to figure out what to do with it. Which was at first basically nothing. I simply had to let it Be. By letting it Be and allowing myself to sit with it, it began to become more familiar and more comfortable. Even though busy bees of thought made several attempts to invade my new found place of peace, I reminded myself that if I didn't swat at them they wouldn't sting. They would become bored with my boring little life and fly away.
And so I've learned over the years to be okay with Calm, to resist the urge to call it something else, like depression, because doing that was giving it a name that would demonize it and would mean it needed to be eliminated from my psyche (oh our minds can be so tricky sometimes!) The sad thing is, if I had decided that I was indeed depressed, I would have been prescribed drugs that would have interfered with my own process of working through the stretching and mental exercise that brought me to this point of acceptance and understanding. Feelings are feelings and they are all okay. They all serve a purpose. When we have limited our selection of preferred feelings, it takes some practice to work with the new ones. We just need to try them on for size, see how they fit, walk around in them for a while and break them in like a new pair of shoes.

Note: As I was in the midst of writing this post, I was given a link to another post my my friend Kat. It was nothing less than Divine synchronicity that she shared her story at this time. Great Women's minds think alike!! Here is the link, read and enjoy!!!

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Question of Commitment

Courtesy of the Graphics Fairy
In some not so recent years the pop culture discussion on the battle of the sexes and relationships was obsessed with the general unwillingness of the average male to commit.  Phrases like "the peter pan syndrome" were all part of this Urban Legend that in the world of dating and romance women were far more interested in finding a mate for life whereas men, it seemed, were primarily concerned with the excitement of the chase and proving their sexual prowess by bedding as many women as possible.
As old fashioned as these notions sound, it would seem they have persisted into the 21st century. Or at least it would seem so to anyone who relies on popular magazines, romantic comedies and pop psychology as a source of reliable information.
I'm not one of those people and frankly I don't even know many of those people well enough to discern whether or not they believe this rubbish. I am a bit curious though. Having grown up in the 60's I watched my Mother and her peers challenge the notion that a Woman attending college was not simply trying to gain the fabled "Mrs. degree", but was instead actually endeavoring to cultivate a career.
As a side note for those of you not familiar with the term "Mrs Degree", it implied that a woman could better herself by attending college, generally gaining a degree in Liberal Arts, with the end result of becoming cultured and well read enough to be considered proper marrying material for a man of intelligence and power. Being armed with a fair amount of interesting but generally useless knowledge would enable a woman to maintain reasonably intelligent conversation the the cocktail parties she would throw for her husband and his colleagues. She and other housewives of similar class and background could commiserate about 18th century literature as they prepared hors d'ourves and desserts and dutifully attended to their spouses whims and desires. Hell, maybe they could even form a book club and talk about their vaginas if they were really liberated. Ultimately however, the supreme goal was to land a husband who was able to provide a steady income, healthy children and a few nice material goods to enhance the suburban ranch house.
But anyway, back to the future or the present. I recently had one of those moments of self realization in which I discovered that I, myself, am commitment phobic. As this thunderbolt of insight struck I was prompted to mentally review my past relationships (the fact that there have been many should indicate that this so called epiphany was nothing more than neglected territory) This was not so much an"ah-ha" moment, as it was a "well duh" moment. I realized that with a few exceptions (mostly in my younger more idealistic years) I generally tended to go with the flow in my relationships as opposed to actually planning some sort of future. I did actually get married, once, and that was because I was pregnant and despite my initial instinct to hop a Greyhound and raise my child alone I felt the father had a right to know that his supposedly non-fertile sperm had indeed swum it's way home and into the heart of one of my more willing ova. I told him because I felt it was the Right Thing to Do. I also figured he'd be the one to bail on the situation and therefore save me the bus fare and trouble of relocating. My ability to predict my mates reaction, as usual, proved ineffective. He asked me to marry him and against my better judgement and after considerable internal debate and rationalization I agreed. The idea actually kind of grew on me and I sincerely did want a nice stable normal life for my child. Problem was daddy seed belonged to one of the most unstable and less than normal people I've ever met (which was, of course what attracted him to me in the first place)
My second most valiant attempt at a relationship with the possibility of some sort of future, possibly an entire lifetime together, was with the father of my younger two children. We actually planned our pregnancy and he had picked up the role of father to my first born where biological dad had pretty seriously fumbled the ball. In fact he fouled out of the entire game.
My relationship with Dad number two was for the most part the closest I ever came to a sustainable, healthy and long term relationship. We discussed the idea of marriage, again he was more into the idea than I was, and quickly dismissed it as unnecessary, too costly and too complicated as it would involve awkward meetings of blended alcoholic families on both sides.
It lasted about 7 years until I admittedly, sabotaged the whole thing.
To this day I can't explain, even to myself, why I was hell bent on destructing the life we had. Most of the time I was pretty happy. To this day I often recount those years as the best years of my life. The Earth Mother Years.
I don't know why I walked away. There are some things about my choice that I do regret in a way. My children certainly would have suffered less. I would most likely be far more economically stable. A lot of things would have turned out differently. But they didn't.
So here I am now, 53 years old, single and pretty happy with that status for the most part. I can't help but wonder if I will be this way forever. Is this it? If I do find that 'right person' will I finally decide to make a commitment, to stay?
I'm more mature, a little more wise and much less restless. Would that make a difference?
I'm not actively looking to have these questions answered. I don't believe that people find their perfect partner by actively looking for them. It happens or it doesn't.
 Either way I think I'll be okay, and I do have that MS degree to fall back on.

Image courtesy of the fabulous Graphics Fairy
© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Eternal Teenager Strikes Again

When I first started blogging a friend advised me to have plenty of "back up blogs" for the times I was too busy, or unmotivated to blog. Like most intelligent and sensible advice, I made a mental note, filed under "good ideas" and then forgot about it. And like many of the files in that category I look back and wonder why I didn't take the advice.
I'm not angry with myself over the reams of unfollowed tips for better living, but I am a bit mystified by my absolute refusal to learn from my own mistakes. My therapist has dubbed me the Eternal Teenager in reference to my unyeilding position of Individuation and Hard Headed Self Determination. While I naturally wear this title as a Badge of Honor there is another part of me, more Parental in nature, that sometimes shakes her head in wonder.
How can you be so f@#king stubborn...use your goddamn head
This is how my Dad and his family would talk to each other but don't be alarmed, it was all in good Humor and Love. And it was also with the full understanding that we all operate under the same adolescent modality of Doing it my Way.
Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time has seen me experiment with different strategies. Dedicating myself to specific post days, trying for quantity rather than quality by posting brief daily musings, trying to follow themes or regular pre-planned topics, stuff like that. If I were doing this professionally I'd be out of a job, or maybe I'd be more motivated to pick a format and stick with it, who knows.
What I do know is this-I started this blog because there are a lot of Women out there who, like me, are Eternal Teenagers who, in spite of our lack of commitment or ability to follow life's rules have a lot of Wisdom, Humor and some pretty good stories. Being a little off one's rocker creates great opportunities for picking up a little wit and wisdom along the way, we all know that. Most of us are comfortable with that. But every once in a while we wonder,
why can't I do things in a nice orderly fashion like everyone else which may lead us to wonder if we are alone on this crazy patchwork trail of adventure we call life.
Sometimes my best and brightest purpose can be to remind my Sisters who won't or can't follow the rules that we are not alone, we are not "bad" we are just Unique, Independent and Creative. In a world of sheep, it just might be the Black Sheep that stands out and dares to evade the Wolf.
You can't cage a Free Spirit.
Peace and Love,
Jenny Nanakoosa

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Ow of Anger

Having your nearly grown kid be angry with you is one of the more gut wrenching experiences anyone can handle. Not just because they are our children and therefore we hope and expect that they will love us unconditionally, but because they so it so damn well. There was a quote by an actor that went something like this "your mother knows how to push your buttons; after all she was the one who installed them". Brilliant...and true. But the uncanny skill for knowing just what buttons to push and with the most effective timing and frequency is not limited to parental instinct. Children know this secret too.
Chances are when your kid is angry with you it comes out over something really petty, but the true nature or root of the anger is probably something you did or didn't do way back at some point in their childhood. You feel guilty about these things and they know it, so they pick on the most symbolic representation of the original hurt, something that appears benign and petty but is loaded with intent, and they hurl it at you full force.
In some circles this is known as passive aggressive behavior. In plain truth it's self preservation. It's "I'm angry/sad/hurt because of something you did but I'm afraid to bring it out into the light where we all have to see and feel it. Instead I will nit pick you about a minor and safe irritation so I can feel in control of the situation and you will feel bad, but not too bad."
So as opposed to the hypothetical Mom who installed the buttons, the kid has the users manual for the buttons. It is entirely possible that grandparents provide their grandchildren with these instructions in some sort of secret coming of age ceremony.
Right now my son is angry. He has a right and plenty of reasons to be angry, with me, his father and his stepmother. Now is not the time for me to attempt to resolve the battle with whatever demons he is facing. That time will come after he has acted out, carried around a chip on his shoulder and done whatever else he needs to do to acknowledge his anger.
Insofar as my response, do I take it personally? Hell yes. It is personal. As I said he has reasons to be angry, even if many of those reasons and events are over a decade old. Because it is personal, I need to deal with it personally.  ("It" being the feelings of guilt and remorse that have been triggered by his actions.)  The feelings were there already and even though I have "dealt" with them in therapy, with the support of friends and loved ones and in my own growth, they don't ever go away completely. His anger was the catalyst for an internal combustion of old feelings that now demand revisiting. Each time we do revisit these feelings, we see them from a new perspective. Hopefully each time we take them out dust them off and look them over, our perspective is clearer and our vision is stronger. Our ability to cope grows with our wisdom and it becomes a little easier face the fact that we have been less than perfect parents, friends, wives, sisters...whatever role we missed our cue in playing while we were otherwise distracted by our own problems, maybe getting revenge on our own parents at the time. Taking the time to sort these things out, individually, is essential to being able to resolve our differences  If we don't take the time to get our Egos out of the way then we are just applying emotional band-aids and postponing the real work of healing.

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Medication Conundrum

It's not news that a shocking number of Americans are being treated with anti-depressants. Nor is it news that these drugs are often prescribed for "problems" that may or may not involve actual depression whether directly or indirectly. And I'm sure it's also no surprise that I myself have fallen into that ever increasing statistical range of individuals who are being "treated' with anti-depressant meds. In my usual Aquarian perspective there is no right or wrong definitive response to this phenomenon. There are however, questions that need to be asked and information that must be considered in order to effectively utilize critical thinking processes when deciding whether or not to use medications.
I was taking a fairly common and frequently used SSRI for nearly 3 years. Now I am not. Before I continue, let me make clear that I did not abruptly end my relationship with this drug. In fact I took a good six months to slowly wean myself off. And to use the common and sensible disclaimer "I am not a physician and therefore cannot give medical advice". I am an individual who has experienced the pros and cons of anti-depressant meds and can share my personal story of my experience with them.

I started taking them at a point in time where I was experiencing what is commonly referred to as "situational depression and anxiety". It was a time in my life when pretty much anything that could go wrong did. A real shit hits the fan chapter that left me feeling powerless, anxious, panicky, extremely depressed, angry and hopeless. I also had a lot on my plate that needed to be attended to because even when life pulls the rug our from under you, the rest of the world keeps right on going and there are situations that require you to pick yoursle up off that slippery floor and forge ahead.
At that time, the medication was helpful. I found it easier to focus as the constant anxious chatter in my ind was silenced. The nightmares I had been experiencing, triggered by trauma, pretty much disappeared. My energy levels were more stable. i was able to cope with the challenges life had tossed at me and managed to finish my degree and apply my energy to looking for employment.
Now three years later my life has stabilized and I realized I have time time and the knowledge to cope with mood swings or depression as it comes and goes. I presented the idea to my psychiatrist who, although a nice enough man, really doesn't know me all that well. The typical "med follow up" visit lats about 5 or 10 minutes and consists of a predictable series of routine questions "are you able to maintain safety?" (i.e. are you  gonna kill yourself), "how is your appetite" (are you gonna starve yourself?) and "how are you sleeping? ( do you need more pills?) When I asked about possibly getting off antidepressants his suggestion was, since I had previously experienced "depressive episodes" it was advisable to take the meds for the rest of my life as a "preventative measure".
Wait a hot minute. The rest of my life? Just in case?
Not a lot is understood about SSRIs. In fact doctors and pharmacological companies admit that they're not really even sure how they work. They've only been around for a few decades so there haven't been sufficient longitudinal studies the assess the long term effects on the mind and body. I seems logical and, just in case the logic of a former drug abuser can't pass the validity test, there have been scientific studies that suggest that the longer a person takes SSRIs or other psych meds the less likely that persons brain is to stabilize it's own production of "happy chemicals". In other words the patient becomes 'dependent' on these drugs.
I know what's next...and I've used this argument myself. "if you were diabetic you'd take insulin, what's the difference?"
The difference is diabetes is not over-diagnosed. Diabetes is not something that can arise out of a situation crisis only to dissipate once the crisis has passed. Diabetes is detected by a blood test, easily defined. Depression/anxiety are diagnosed subjectively using criteria that nearly everyone experiences at some point or to some degree. Although depression in it's most severe forms can be debilitating and can lead to devastating results like drug abuse, self harm, violence or suicide, it's important to distinguish the level of depression and the risk attached. Nearly everyone experiences some level of depression at some point in their life. Sadness and grieving are normal reactions to stressful or crisis events. The use of prescribed medication is one option out of many that can be used to cope with these events. It's not news that the numbers of people who are prescribed antidepressants has skyrocketed. Its not news that the pharmaceutical companies are making billions of dollars on these medications. For a person like me, who questions authority on a regular basis all these facts make the decision even more complicated. Am I just being defiant and rebellious? Or am I right in my assessment that people like me don't need a lifetime of medication to live a happy life?
Let me repeat that I took this process very slowly. Being the kind of person I am I initially attempted to stop quickly, weaning down by half a dose per week. Not a good idea. I experienced a kind of vertigo every time I turned my head, racing thoughts, and anxiety; it was as bad as quitting any street drug.  I changed my plan to allow myself an entire month to adjust to each decreased dose. In the final month I had tapered down to the lowest dose every other day then every 3 days. It's been about 2 months since I took my last half a pill.
I've been paying close attention to my moods and thinking patterns since stopping the medication. I keep a journal which helps me to objectively review changes or patterns. So far this is what I've observed.
I'm not really any more or less depressed or moody. My dreams are more lucid and clear, both the good ones and the nightmares. My ability to think and act creatively has improved. I occasionally have a sex drive (anti-depressants are notorious for putting a damper on that). My anxiety may have increased a bit, but I am actively practicing relaxation techniques to help manage that.
For the most part, I don't feel much different. The most significant improvement is my creativity. The most significant drawback is the nightmares.
As I said, this is my experience and I'm sharing as a means of providing one perspective for anyone who may be on meds, considering meds or coming off meds or anyone who simply has an interest in one persons experience. If you end up on medication to help with a situational depression I encourage you to do some research, talk to people who have had similar experiences. You have the right to make an informed choice.

Here are a couple of resources that address the problems that can be associated with discontinuing SSRIs and there are many more stories available.
© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard