My Blog Motto

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

~Rita Mae Brown

Friday, December 13, 2013

Soul's Choice

Why are we here? What is my life purpose? Does any of this matter? These are the kinds of questions that most mid-life people begin to ask ourselves After havng established a career, education, family and all the things young adults create for themselves there comes a point where we begin to question life's bigger picture.

There are people who say that we each come into this life with a pre chosen plan, a lesson plan more or less. Many of these people describe human beings as spiritual beings on a human journey, each soul desiring to experience the full range of human BE-ing. This is a handy answer for the conondrum of human suffering and cruelty. These difficulties don't really amount to much in the Big Picture, they tell us, other than to fulfill a souls desire, or curiosity for experience. Some people argue that Karma operates as a system of checks and balances, explaining our misfortues as "making up" for some sin or debauchery we may have committed in a past life. Others (and I lean more toward this philosophy) view the Karmic journey as an adventure where the soul samples from a variety of experience in order to better understand itself.

There is a certain amount of comfort in this perspective and most days I am willing to accept that this may be true, if not somewhat oversimplified and watered down to our bland and infantile human taste.

It is also believed that we each have otherworldly companions, spirit guides or guardian angels, who assist us as we navigate through life's journey. Just as we humans tend to anthromorphize our animal companions I wonder if we do the same for our multidimensional counterparts. Of course it makes them easier for us to imagine as they stand around in some pre incarnation planning session reviewing past lives and considering options for future incarnations, much like one might page through a housing brochure or one of those style magazines in the hair salon.

Imagine catalogs for occupation, physical appearance, potential parents and for what geographical location to be born into. Picture one discarnate soul peering over the shoulder of their student browsing the chosen handbook

"ooooh rural India..tsk, I dunno are you sure about that? I hear it can be a little rough over there, not much to eat you know. On the other hand the life expectancy is pretty low so you may not have to put up with it for too long, and they are an attractive race as a rule"

The question of free will comes to mind. Supposedly all of us spirits or souls or however you want to refer to us choose our circumstances willingly, but so we do so independently? Or do the oversoul overseers, over-oversouls, actually guide us along the way.

"Excuse me there, I can't help but noticing that your last 5 or 6 lifetimes have been spent in rather well to do circumstances with two lifetimes spent as a Rockefeller. You have had access to unlimited resources and somehow managed to escape both the bubonic plague and the influenza epidemic of the early 20th century. Might I recommend a stint as an unemployed single mother with a disabled child, you know just to balance things out a bit? Go for the complete experience?"

Personally I think that not having all the answers is part of the 'fun' of life, part of the plan. Questioning, dreaming and wondering is also part of the plan even if we aren't meant to find concrete answers, the thrill is in the chase, as they say. I can appreciate that, and I can appreciate not knowing how it all turns out. I'm not one of those people who skips to the end of a movie or a book...although I might like to have a chat with the author given a chance. That's why, next week, I'm having a session with a woman who channels akashic records, the otherworldly record of All That Is. Despite my open mindedness and willingness to explore life's mysteries using a variety of non traditional methods I am always a little bit skeptical. But I look forward to hearing what she has to say and if it resonates with my Truth. For me it really doesn't matter much whether I believe she does have access some vast mystical registrar of deeds and hall of records or if she simply is able to intuit what I need to hear. As long as it has meaning to me and can offer some guidance on my life's journey, I'm good with that.

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Life With Family

  The Universe or fate or whatever you want to call it has a funny way of taking the reins whenever I make plans. I'm not much of a planner; setting goals isn't something I normally do on my own. One could argue that more practice on my part might subdue the universes hi jinks, but that's my old school superstition talking, I think. Anyway, I recently came to a point where I realized I really need to do something to rectify my unstable financial status. I came up with a few ideas, plans to pay off some debt a little at a time, with the ultimate goal of bringing my bank account current so I can apply for some credit.
I was rather pleased with myself and my new-found sense of adult responsibility. I began to believe those positive affirmations we all hear ad nauseum. I am responsible, I am capable, I am lovable. A regular Stuart Smalley, oh yes.
My sunshiny radiance was short lived. The first sign of impending gloom came within 24 hours when my internet got suspended. I had paid the bill but failed to notice the 15 dollar a month rate increase. It helps to read your bills before you pay them I guess. Then no sooner than I had completed my indignant call to the internet provider I received a call from the electric company. It's that time of year where the moratorium on shut offs begins so they are out to settle up as many accounts as possible. I usually carry some balance until energy assistance comes through, but due to the brief but disruptive hissy fit in Congress such programs were put on hold for two weeks.
 I couldn't help but feel just a little demoralized. All of  a sudden I was in the midst of that gnawing feeling that no matter how well intentioned my plans I was doomed to struggle every day to keep my head above water. Not to mention the thought that if there were some sort of emergency I'd be screwed. Living on the edge wears away at you a little at a time like the proverbial drop of water on the stone. In addition to my often uphill battle with money I carry on in an equally challenging war with depression. Its always lurking just around the corner and financial worry feeds that beast very well.
Depression peeked it's head around the corner and began whispering it's usual litany of condemnation.
I am an adult, I should not only be able to support myself but should be able to help my adult children out if they need it too. But where do all these shoulds that Depression is so fond of come from? Who writes your script Mr Blusey Buzzkill?
For one thing they come from a different era. A time when jobs were plentiful and food was affordable. They also come from a culture that puts a somewhat narcissistic value on independence and individuality. John Wayne type stuff. The American way, ghosts of a culture that no longer exists. It's the privileged middle class white culture  (a thing of the past for most of us) that says every nuclear family has their own home and every individual has their own bedroom equipped with a tv, game system and whatever else they 'need'.  One thing my daughter learned by dating outside of her ethnicity is that many people commonly live with relatives. Nursing homes are a last resort and even daycare for children is provided by live in family. For those who have struggled family has been the glue that held them together, financially and emotionally. This same daughter, lives right across the street from me had an experience similar to mine, well laid plans for security that unexpectedly washed away from right under her feet. As we lamented our 'family curse' over coffee the inevitable and logical conclusion became clear. Her apartment is big enough for another person and if each of us cut our rent in half we could be left with some money after paying the pipers. We spend much of each day together anyway and I am my granddaughter's homework helper. We made the decision that I would move in with her. Or as she reassured me, we would move in together.
I'll admit I went through a couple of days of feeling defeated, feeling I had somehow screwed up my life as the whispers of impending depression continued to swirl around my head like gnats, persistent but useless. Ultimately I came to the conclusion that despite some mistakes I've made in the past, I really have done my best to stay respectfully afloat during the past few years of unemployment. Once that sense of shame faded I was able to see the benefits and joys of being a real part of a family again. All the things like meals together, story time at bedtime, move nights and even the chaos of disagreements are the fabric of family life and I have missed that these past few years. Empty nest is real folks, and for those who can afford to travel or develop exciting hobbies and interests maybe it doesn't feel quite so lonely, but I'm not one of those people right now. Having half the financial burden I've been carrying might allow me to enjoy some of those middle age benefits and I get to have the family part too. Best of both worlds.
So here I go into the next chapter, not a step back but forward and I am able to welcome  it with expectation and open arms.
Wish me luck.

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Monday, September 9, 2013

No Sounds of Silence

With my apologies to Simon and Garfunkel

Hello insomnia my old friend
It seems I've met you once again
There was a dream while I was sleeping
and the image is now fleeting
and the vision that was dancing in my brain
scant remains
but there's no sound
of silence
distant sirens scream and whine
the cops must be working overtime
and the drunkman in the alley still sings
of nonsense things
and there's no sound
of silence

 rise from bed and curse oh damn,
the kitchen clock reads 3 am
and the dog next door is barking at the bum
who only hums
and there's no sound
of silence

restlessly I pace the floor
and stub my toe against the door
and I struggle not to cry out in the night
it wouldn't be right
to break the silence that my neighbors must know
as they sleep, face in pillow

To my computer I will go
to seek out someone I know
perhaps from across the sea
another timezone it may be
a time where the sun shines in the day
far away
and I will find
no more silence

Alas the battery is uncharged
the distance now looms large
and the night sky is fading to the dawn
oh what went wrong
I only wanted

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Single, Widowed, Divorced Female Seeks Self

I tend to be one of those people who posses the innate ability to make other people feel good about
being single. I can effortlessly produce the rationale for utilizing time alone to truly know and appreciate ones self. I tell people, and I truly believe, that when the time is right the right person will appear and that until that time forcing the issue is likely to upset the delicate balance of the universe and result in a mismatch that is doomed to fail. On my moodier or my more manic days my advice may arrive more crudely packaged, swathed in darkly cynical humor but the general idea is the same: just don't sweat it-enjoy the present as it is-someday your prince will come and if not you'll be so busy enjoying the present moment you'll never notice. I don't just say this stuff to make people feel better, I really believe it.
It's so much easier to reassure someone else that to grace ones self with the same comfort.
Most times I am reasonably happy being single...although I must admit the word 'single' kind of makes me cringe. There's something about it that implies that it is a temporary condition, that one is either actively seeking a permanent partner or is out to get laid as frequently as possible. "Swinging singles", a dated phrase from my youth, is indelibly etched in my mind. Although I have to say when faced with the options on identification forms, it feels better to say that than it does to say 'divorced'. My divorce happened so long ago I feels like it shouldn't count, like there should be a statute of limitations. I've considered "widowed", the sympathy it would garner is tempting and it sounds far more intriguing than the other two, especially at my age, I would simply have to over look the fact that my husband passed away over a decade after our divorce so that's kind of a white lie as they say.  "Never married" is a nice option they sometimes offer. It carries an air of mystery....why would a woman of her age never have married and what kind of exciting free spirited life did she lead? hmmmm? But that would be more of an actual outright lie, not so white.
No matter how you slice it or what you name it I am indeed, unpartnered, single, divorced and in a way widowed (but not really) and all of a sudden it's starting to feel lonely. Maybe it was exciting for a while because it was different. After all I have been in some sort of relationship for most of my adult life. I tended to go rather quickly from one to the other and in some cases had that little overlap just to make sure I didn't have to wonder what to say on those information forms. Now, in the past decade or so, the stretches between relationships seem to grow longer, quieter, more comfortable. And in those stretches of time, my requirements to change that status become more refined. Over time they have 'refined' to the point of being almost absurd in their specificity as my life becomes more settled in routine and quirky habit less welcome to change or disruption. There are fewer points that are negotiable. The dog sleeps on the bed. The butter stays out on the counter. I'll pick up my underwear when I damn well feel like it and maybe I do want to be up at 3 am reading. On the other hand there are so many areas where I am extremely flexible and/ or easy maintenance. Never forget that you as the potentially partnered, are half the equation.
Just for fun I started a list of characteristics that I would want in a mate. This is a pretty common exercise in counseling or other self help type programs. Optimally the list then gets divided into negotiable and non negotiable traits at some point, but I figure why bother even messing round and including non negotiable in the first place right? Just cut to the chase. So anyway, I started my MANifesto, got about a dozen items into the list, realized I was describing myself and that's when I left off. Haven't touched it since. It's still there of course and like all good manifestos it probably should sit and stew in between additions so that's what it's doing now. At least until I can come up with some non physical i.e. obvious trait that would differentiate this person from myself. Otherwise I may be stuck being my own dream date. Maybe I'll just start filling in my own name in that space that says "spouse", it probably wouldn't be the worst fib on the form.

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Importance of Being Bradley

I'm feeling almost sick waiting on the verdict of the hearing. I don't write about politics or the news
very often on here. There's plenty of that to go around and more than enough opportunity to voice my opinions on such matters. For here, I tend to focus on the personal and that which is personal, yet shared, among my peers. But in my heart this case feels personal and it has since the story first broke, when I first saw that very young man being led in handcuffs to what would become a seemingly endless confinement to a tiny cell. I've spent time in a holding cell, about 48 hours, and it damn near drove me mad. I can't even fathom what two years in such a place would do to a person.
I know there are a lot of people who care and who do take it personally as well. This case and it's outcome will be a turning point in our country, just as the release of the Collateral Murder video was also a turning point. Those of us who know veterans and have heard their stories weren't terribly surprised by what we saw. Most vets will tell you these things, and worse, much worse, happen all the time. There was something that was disturbingly 'safe' about having that knowledge restricted to a select bit of the population. Like incest, you want to keep it hidden away and that first confession, no matter how healing it is, feels like having a layer of skin ripped off.
 I had a friend who was in Vietnam who told me about taking trophies, human ears, and wearing them strung around their necks like jewelry. War does that to people, it makes them do things you would never imagine them doing. This man was one of the kindest most caring people I knew and yet he had at one time sliced ears right off peoples heads. He told me that if someone was in the road when a truck of troops came along that person would be run over and left to die. It didn't matter if that person was a child or an elderly person, which they usually were. There were other things too that he wouldn't talk about but I can imagine.
Most people don't want to know these things. I don't want to know these things and yet I feel it's my duty to know them because I live in a country that perpetrates more war than any other. I want to know these things so that I never forget why I oppose war in any way possible, even if most of them don't feel very effective.
There's another layer to this story and it's even more personal. I have children about Bradley's age. I have always taught them principles of honesty and integrity. You know, do the right thing and you will be rewarded, at least if only with the knowledge and satisfaction that you took the high road. How can I tell them that now? How can I tell them to intervene if they see injustice if they see an innocent young man go to prison for life for doing just that? It's one thing to teach your kids that life isn't always fair but this goes far beyond unfair.
Obviously Bradley's parents taught him the same kinds of values, and now they have lost their son because no matter how this all turns out he will never be the same guy.But in the midst of all the grief and anguish I hope they will always be proud that their son changed this country forever in a way that needed to be changed. The scab has been ripped off, the flesh is still raw and now its up to us as a nation to decide how to heal the wounds of war and injustice.
© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Noisy Neighbors and Nocturnal Nusance

I am jarred awake, torn from the peaceful fog of slumber, by the sound of the back door slamming. Heavy boots pound up the stairs sounding like a petulant toddler stomping. Over my head boots drop to the floor in a way that sounds as if their owner had held them high over head before letting them succumb to gravity. Scenarios play through my mind. In one neighbor grins sadistically as he does this chuckling like Bond Villain. In another he watches like a simpleton, a strand of drool sliding from his dopey grin, as the shoe falls, marveling at the miracle that is gravity. Does he do that? I wonder, hold them up high and drop them? Why?
Now footsteps, not steps, stomps, hammer overhead back and forth back and forth. Who does that? walks back and forth through their apartment over and over again. We have been plagued with ants again this summer. My more generous self speculates that he might be exterminating the little pests, one sorry ant at a time. But again this is something small children do, not grown adults with tattoos and chest hair and girlfriends who screech like banshees during sex. Thankfully it sounds as though the banshee has not accompanied him home this evening. Maybe this is the cause for the petulance.
I have already complained, both to my neighbors and when that failed, to the landlord. To their credit, the neighbors no longer have late night parties, they no longer play loud music into the wee hours of the morning; music that drowns out, to them, the cries of "Bro open the door" that emanate from somewhere in the back patio. I am grateful for that, I really am and now I wonder am I asking too much of them? Am I being unrealistic to expect that someone simply walk up the stairs, that they close the door rather than slam it? I also remember than in my youth I was not always the quietest most ideal neighbor. A simpler interpretation of Karma might say I have it coming, to lie awake every night at bar time pondering the ethics of neighborliness.
Sometimes I plot revenge. Depending on my mood it can range from whimsical pranks to homicidal conspiracy. I decide against homicide figuring I might want to save that for a situation more worthy. The mind wanders down dark paths in the sleepless middle of the night. As I finally drift off to sleep I send silent prayers to the gods of ants hoping they will venture upstairs and invade his breakfast.

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Sunday, July 7, 2013


It was one of those "I don't want to do anything that requires thought" days. Those are the kind of days
as long as they're not divorced!
that cause me to keep a tv in the house. I'm not going to pretend to be one of those people who drapes themselves in the cloak of superiority as they declare "I don't watch television, it's corporate brainwashing" or whatever their reasons are, but as a matter of fact I don't watch a lot of t.v because frankly it is kind of corporate brainwashing. There are days, however, when you just want to tune out and tv is really good for that. When I do watch I tend to choose the classic tv channels, reviewing all the shows I watched as a kid. You know, just in case my brain didn't get sufficiently soaped the first time around.
I prefer watching the same shows that were comforting to me as a kid, which were not necessarily the ones that aired during that era. I realized I mostly watch reruns of reruns, shows that were already in reruns when I was a child. This is especially relevant when it concerns family themed programming. Since my early childhood was spent in the 60's the shows that appeal to me are the ones that aired in the 50's. "Lassie", "Leave it to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" were among my favorite family themed shows. These kinds of programs have often been criticized for portraying unrealistic images of the modern american family. They sure weren't representative of MY family, but that was part of the appeal. Some shows that aired later in the 60's and into the 70' made an effort to portray a more diverse family structure. The Brady Bunch was a blended family and The Partridge Family was headed by a single mother but those programs featured parents who were widowed, not divorced. In the late 60's having divorced parents singled me out as a minority among my peers and in a nonexistent demographic in T.V. land. One was more likely to have a Witch for a Mother or Martian for an Uncle than to live in a broken home as they were called in those days.  I resented the half assed effort to portray a non traditional family that didn't include the reality of divorce as a cause for the unique structure of that family, it felt like a kind of betrayal and a cowardly one at that.
In the days before "reality tv", an oxymoron if there ever was one, tv was meant to be different that real life. It was there as an escape, a break from reality, a little mental time out. This was before people spent the majority of their day staring at the tube. When kids spent more time playing outside or engaged in other activities like board games or role playing games. I feel like a crabby old lady as I write these words..."back in my day..." but I do believe that peoples relationship with tv was different back then. I was fortunate to have parents who encouraged other activities but also allowed for some indulgence. I learned that tv was a pleasure, like candy, to be consumed in moderation and not as as steady diet. That is why the indulgence of television seemed like it was meant to be sweet, fluff, junk food empty calories, the chocolate cake that June Cleaver presented every afternoon as her golly gee whiz boys burst into the sunny yellow kitchen after a long day of school.
© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Life's Work

What is the first question people typically ask when you first meet?
"What do you do for a living?"
For those of us who are not formally employed, running a business or in school that question can evoke some less than comfortable emotions. In our culture we are defined by our occupations almost more than by anything else we do. Even parenting, that vital consuming and essential role is not 'enough' in today's world. I have my own feelings about that but that's another topic for another day, and besides my children are grown so I can no longer claim Motherhood as my profession anyway.
It has been over two years since I have had a full time job and I've begun to adapt to this status. I have also learned some clever ways to respond to the big question, some of them are reasonably graceful. But before I was able to do this I needed to be okay with my status in my own heart and mind. Even now the level of being ok with it can fluctuate depending on other things that are effecting my mood and sense of self.
You would think that with unemployment rates holding steady over the past several years there would be less stigma surrounding unemployment and to a certain extent there is. What clearly is not acceptable to most people is the condition of being at peace with unemployment. The prevailing assumption is that if one is unemployed you must be desperately searching for work and quite possibly willing to accept any opportunity that is presented. The old "McDonalds is always hiring" mentality. As a matter of fact they are not always hiring, and even if I were willing to subject myself to the humiliation of working there they certainly aren't hiring grown women with Masters Degrees. McDonalds aside, I am frequently given well intentioned suggestions as to where a person with my employment history and qualifications can apply for work. Sometimes, if I feel up to it, I will let the person know that I have applied at each of the places they suggest...and I have. Sometimes these jobs require a State licence, most require a car and insurance (I have neither) and many of them have interviewed me but ultimately chose another candidate. I honestly did put in a good year of applying and interviewing after my last job ended. I even applied for hourly wage service sector jobs, finally omitting my hard earned education from my resume so I wouldn't be considered overqualified. Still no luck. While age discrimination is illegal, it's nearly impossible to prove. I read somewhere the other day that Social Security claims have risen by 20% among people between the ages of 50 and 60 since the economy crashed or fell or whatever it did. There are plenty of other statistics that point to the fact that people my age are not getting hired to fill the scarce jobs that are available.
When I finally had applied for every Social Work/Advocacy/Case Management position in town  and had nothing but a folder of rejection letters to show for it I decided I might as well take on the grueling yearlong medical treatment for a disease I've been carrying around for many years. During that process I was able to qualify for Social Security Disability and Medicare, just in the nick of time as my Unemployment was about to run out. So that kept me pretty busy for a year and since I looked and felt like death not quite warmed over no one bothered to ask if I was looking for work.
 Now after all this time I really am not all that fired up to go back to work 40 hours a week. I am, in fact, downright happy to be not working.
So what do I tell people when they ask me what I do? Admittedly I often do recount the years I spent as a Youth Advocate then later as a Domestic Violence Counselor. It was hard work and I deserve the credit. But what do I do now? I'll tell you.
I still help out people in crisis and frankly it's much more effective and rewarding without having to document and maintain statistics for every single step of the process.
I read and watch documentaries and I learn something new every day.
I care for my animal companions.
I spend time with my family.
I stop and smell the roses, literally, and the trees and the grass and the earth.
I meditate and dream.
I have gotten to know myself and I realize I actually rather like who I am.
I write stories and draw and practice arts and crafts if I feel like it.
I grow things and make things.
I am learning my family history.
I volunteer in the community and put energy and effort into social causes that I hope will help make the world a better place for future generations.
I thoroughly experience life in all it's beauty, dullness, excitement and unpredictability.
I appreciate every day I have been given even the crappy ones.
It's a pretty good job if you ask me and I even like my boss.

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


The notion that labels are restricting and limiting to our perception is really nothing new. What surprised me recently was to discover that this truth applies internally as well as socially. I have always hesitated to wear labels because I felt they would imbue an observer with preconceived notions and assumptions about who I am as a person. I did not realize however that I could do the same to myself.
I thought I had a pretty good handle on my self image at least within the confines of my own mind. I figured I could call myself any name in the book, in my own mind and it wouldn't matter because I knew better. Labels don't only apply to the self however, they also include relationships with others and describe how we relate to the environment around us. SO when I found myself referring, in my own mind, to an old friend  as an ex boyfriend (he is both and old friend and an ex) I realized I began responding emotionally with a much more limited range of behavior than I would if I had thought of him as an old friend. In fact applying that label restricted my thinking and awareness to that short period of time that we dated and eliminating the many years that we shared friendship. I realized I was holding back in a way that I wouldn't for a friend. I am pretty gregarious emotionally with friends but with exes, I am like most people a little more cautious about my reputation, I guess you'd call it.

The way we define relationships or the meaning we ascribe to those relationships also changes over time. At a recent social event I witnesses two women, sworn enemies over a mutual attraction years ago, bonding with the familiarity that is bred by shared history. Time heals all wounds and it sure as hell puts things into perspective. Those unforgivable crimes of the heart we perpetrated in our youth eventually become nothing more than a brief chapter in the narrative of our life. Just as our Mothers assured us as we lamented about not having the right clothes or the latest hairstyle,"ten years from now you won't even remember what you were supposed to be wearing, much less care", the labels we assigned to our relationships, much like the ones we were supposed to have on the back pockets of our jeans, have faded from memory. What's left is what we wear now, in the present and if we can wear it well, with style and grace.

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Monday, May 20, 2013

Point of View or Point of You

“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

We interpret the world through the filter of our own experiences, prejudices, emotions and even our current mood. Given the latter factor our opinion or interpretation, is subject to change at any given time. What was tolerable one day may be the proverbial last straw on another day. Hopefully as we gather experience collecting tidbits of wisdom and useful knowledge along the way, our lens becomes wider and our opinions of the world become more welcoming and forgiving, less inclined to judgement or criticism. This is one of the benefits of getting older. While young people tend to think of themselves as open minded and 'liberal' they also tend to assume that older individuals are stuck in their ways, more inclined to judgement and inflexibility. If only they knew that for the most part the opposite is true. Yes, we are more secure in our convictions on matters that matter and our boundaries are clear were they need to be. We have constructed those beliefs and boundaries after years of trial and error and probably several mistakes along the way so if there appear to be areas of inflexibility they exist for a reason. Naturally there are exceptions to any rule of thumb but from what I can see the people who are rigid and harshly opinionated in their older years were much the same in their youth. It was that stubborn my 'way or the highway' reluctance to empathize that blocked the flow of incoming experience and wisdom that should be the highlight and grace of older age. Once a jerk always a jerk barring some life changing event that shatters the ego long enough to let in the light.

SO when I see people of any age rushing to judgement, hastily dismissive of ideas that don't fit in their world view, I wonder what insecurity it is that maintains that rigid point of view. I realize that this sounds a bit condescending so let me go on record as admitting that I have been extremely judgmental, reactionary and critical at times in my life when I was insecure and unhappy. It was only after learning to accept myself along with my flaws and imperfections that I was able to do the same for others. In fact I tended to be much more forgiving of others than of myself, so you can only imagine if I was looking down my nose at someone else the kind of criticism I put on myself.

It was in one of the lowest points in my life as I was taking stock of Things That Made Me Miserable I realized that my crappy attitude toward others was high on the list. This bitchiness, this tendency to gossip and bad mouth other people just didn't ever feel right. It wasn't a characteristic that I felt was inherently a part of Me, but was rather a bad habit that had emerged as a result of own my unhappiness. It was an attempt to cope with my disappointment with myself which quickly added to said disappointment rather than making me feel somehow 'better off' than those I criticized.

If I picked on someone who was in my opinion worse off than me, it was because I hoped it would distract from my shortcomings. This is a common phenomenon among alcoholics/addicts; there's always someone who drinks more or earlier in the day or diverts more money from their household budget or whatever scale you're using to measure and rationalize your own use.

If I tore apart someone who was doing better than me it was because I was envious but didn't dare admit it. It's preferable to paint success undesirable than as unattainable. 'Unattainable' admitted defeat and fear, fear that I would never be as well off, as educated, as pretty, as smart or as happy as that person seemed to be. Of course my appraisals of these peoples situations were likely to be inaccurate having been drawn on a small number of superficial observable factors. What did I really know about their lives, especially when I was pretty confused about my own life or my potential or even my own character?

Nowadays I still have flaws of course, we all do, but I am far more likely to admit it and to accept them as part of the ongoing process of living and learning. I am not defined by my mistakes and imperfections but rather by the way I choose to respond to them and the same goes for others. I am secure enough in my values and beliefs that I do not feel threatened by others that might differ from mine. Many things can be true at once and my truth is no less valid than someone else's even if they differ. It is when we can accept our imperfections forgive our mistakes and go with the flow that we are able do the same for others. Our point of You is our point of view.
© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Little Big Changes

I am not a goal setter, or a go getter. I rarely make plans and when I do I allow enough flexibility to wiggle my out if needed. Until recently I didn't have much concept of a future of any sort, not one that I could envision with any clarity or certainty anyway. When I make changes in my life it's not because I decide to do so. Changes happen in my life because of external circumstances or simply because it  feels like the time is right to make a change. I operate on intuition and heart rather than intellectual organization that's just my M.O. or to use the parlance of our times my O.S.
When I decided to quit smoking last month it was because I simply decided, no I felt, it was time to quit. Combined with the external circumstance that I was broke and I couldn't really afford to smoke that week, and if I was going to go a whole week without smoking then I figured I might as well keep running with it. That just made sense. If I had intellectually decided that I should quit smoking for health reasons for example, and set a date to do so, it never would have worked. I know that many of the popular methods for quitting work that way and for many people that works. Those are the kind of people who can plan things, organize tasks into achievable objectives that lead to long term goals. That is a good system for some people, but not for everyone. For me that kind of thinking would be a set up for failure, but that's okay! Really it is. And I'm not alone, there are many people like me who need to do things in our own way and at our own pace. We still get things done. We may not get them done in a predesignated time frame leaving behind a congruent linear paper trail that justifies and records our every step in the process, but that's okay too.
People like me just need to find non traditional ways to make a living and otherwise get by in a culture that increasingly values mechanistic linear thought and design. And we very often don't appear to be doing much since we don't produce documentation or concrete evidence of our progress. But guess what? that is okay too.
Anyway recently I have been feeling little big changes happening in my approach to life. Stopping smoking is probably the most observable and measurable achievement but the others are no less important. You may have noticed, or maybe not, that I haven't been blogging as much. That's because part of this process I'm going through is placing me in a frame of mind that is more reflective than productive. I am in a mood of keen observation which needs me to be more quiet. I'm listening to the world more than I am talking about it. I don't have much to say but I have so much to see, think and to feel. And I am finding myself more active not so much in a way that anyone would notice, but I am more actively engaged and present in what I choose to do. Quality over quantity is the name of the game right now.
I'm paying closer attention to my relationships with people (and dogs) in my life. I'm more attentive to the world around me especially my immediate environment. I'm enriching my mind and my imagination by reading voraciously and by watching documentaries about places and people that are unfamiliar to me. I can't explain how or why but I believe that all this is very important to my role in my family, my community and maybe in the Big Picture as well.
So if you wonder what I've been doing, I'm paying attention. I'm making Little Big changes. And I hope I'm developing a better more meaningful Me.

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I quit smoking and placated my Shadow.

I've done It several times before, which tells you that I didn't always stick to it. It was always something stressful that gave me the excuse to start again, a crisis, a new job, a new boyfriend (who smoked) all convenient invitations to fall back on a familiar means of coping. Like any other addiction true recovery is achieved when we have invested our energies in adopting other ways of coping with triggers. And once we have created those habits we must decide definitively that the old ways are no longer an option. There are some substances and behaviors that I have placed into the never an option category. These are the methods that for me carry so much risk with them that any perceived benefit is heavily outweighed. One of the risks that I have deemed unacceptable is the knowledge that I would not easily or willingly surrender the vice once I had picked it up. Some chemicals or situations are just that seductive and once their claws are embedded in your soul their removal is both terrifying and painful, as is there continued presence. Cocaine is probably the best example of such a substance, for me anyway. Dangerous relationships with unpredictable men is another. Once I go willingly into either of those traps I surrender more than my freedom, I surrender too much of my Self. There is some safety in knowing this about myself, knowing I will never allow myself to lose that much of Me again.
Smoking hasn't hit that level of classification yet. I don't know it it ever will. Indeed it doesn't carry the immediate dangers that the other two possess and maybe that's partly why. Another reason is I need to feel somewhat at least, in control of my choices. Right now I choose not to smoke and for many good reasons. I do have, in the back of my mind, the caveat that I could some day choose to smoke again if I wanted to. It's not something I dwell on but it's there in the shadows like a safety valve.
I don't know if most people in recovery do this, categorizing different substances or behaviors into levels of avoidance but do know some people who do. People who follow strict recovery programs tend to be more rigid in their self regulation, and that works foe many people. But what works for some does not work for all. There is no one size fits all for abstinence and recovery.
Substitution is another issue in the recovery process. Just as some heroin addicts will refuse to use methodone or suboxone to transition off opiates, some smokers see cold turkey as the only way to quit. I have been using nicotine gum to get me past the really bad cravings. I will move on to plain gum or candy as I eventually have removed the habitual part of smoking from my routine. As a cost I will have to undergo a little more withdrawal as I eliminate the gum from my daily routine. For me that's okay. Others would prefer to get it all over with at once and for them that's okay too.
One thing I do know, based on this experience with quitting and with all the others that came before is that changing a habit means parting with a little piece of Me. There is a part of me that is associated with smoking and there is another self image that is a non smoker. Naturally the Smoker is a reflection of my Shadow self and the non smoker is a more mature Wise Woman Self. I do strive to be that Wise Woman, but sometimes I have rather high expectations of her and that is something I have to keep in check. Wisdom does not equal perfection, but rather is a condition of knowing how to gracefully negotiate imperfection. In mastering this quality there is room for acknowledging and managing the Shadow in all her manifestations (because after all smoking is only one of her manifestations). I do acknowledge that I like the cocky, snarkey somewhat bitchy bit of me that likes to smoke. She just doesn't give a shit about what anyone else thinks, she's that kind of girl. She's sassy and spunky and she is a tough defense against the things that might hurt or make me feel vulnerable. We need those defenses sometimes. But we can also summon them in other ways. In fact I know in my heart that that which protects me from emotional harm does not need to sacrifice compassion in doing so. The non smoking Me can do that. The non smoking me is more compassionate because she cares about my health and she cares about my children and grandchildren and doesn't want them to learn from me that smoking is a way to cope with stress. In fact that Compassionate Wise Woman has been growing stronger within me ever since I quit using street drugs years ago. Smoking was part of the deal I'd offered my Shadow when I gave all that up. It was so easy to rationalize smoking because after all 'at least I'm not doing cocaine'. So that worked for a while. But now enough time has elapsed and I have become more comfortable with other wiser and more compassionate parts of myself that we can let go of this one more thing.
Please know that what I am explaining is my personal journey with all the parts of Me. It will be different for everyone. I do hope that no one reads this and comes away from it with the notion that I said that smokers cannot be compassionate or wise. I think most of you are more clever than that. I also know that there will be some people who this resonates with, people who relate to the different personalities or manifestations of personality that we all have within us. We all have our own inner crowd of characters and our own ways of communicating with them. It's how we solve our problems, how we make our decisions about what is right for us at any given point in our lives. If you don't consciously do this I highly recommend it. It can be fun. You can even give parts of you different names, make them into characters as you would if you were writing a story. Draw pictures of them if you are the type who likes to draw. Or if not you could even find pictures in magazines that might represent different faces of you. This kind of thing doesn't resonate with everyone and that's cool too. I just know for me it is something that has helped me make changes through most of my life...and I have made some pretty significant changes over the years, but I have always managed to keep my sense of Me, the sum of my parts, intact. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Am I In A Slump?

I have three drafts in my post queue and not one of them feels acceptable for publishing. In fact two of them don't even feel suitable for editing. For once in my life I have very little to say and although that feels like a slump as the title says, it's probably not a bad thing.
One thing I've learned over the years is to pay attention to my own cycles. The ebb and flow of energies represents the natural pace of being human. Just as nature has her cycles of germination, growth and harvest so do we. Sometimes we have a lot to say or energy and ideas to contribute but those energies and ideas have to come from some fertile ground. Any farmer knows that their fields must lie fallow periodically or the soil will become depleted. We human beings get pretty caught up in the cycle of production we are told we always have to be doing something, working on something or we are somehow not valuable. On one hand we cry out for a sense of meaning and belonging but we rarely slow down long enough to just Be.
There is a quote that tells us we are Human Beings not Human Doings and we like that notion, but how many of us would respond to the ubiquitous question 'what do you do?' with 'I am'. What kind of reaction would be get? I imagine someone waiting as if for a punch line for the rest of the statement to cut through the awkward silence that would follow. Insert rim-shot soundtrack here.
Life is a bit like a conversation, I think. We don't want to do all the talking. That makes for a pretty irritating interaction. Sometimes we need to listen. Sometimes we need to listen more than at other times. This is one of those times. I'm listening to my inner voice and that voice is telling me to listen to others. To observe, to take in and mull over, to process and to do it quietly. Maybe I'm on the verge of some great epiphany. Maybe I'm about to produce something wonderful, some lasting contribution to humankind. Maybe.
Or maybe I'm just a Human Being.

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Sunday, March 24, 2013

So Happy Together

In an effort to dispel the bluesy feeling I had all weekend I turned to one of my best weapons against My old friend who has seen me through dark days and lonely times. The most recent funk having been born of frustration with the cynicism, inertia and insensitivity I had been encountering of late could only be conquered by it's polar opposite; peace, love and freedom. I needed to reconnect with my inner flower child, the free spirited little girl who was lucky enough to grow up in a decade and an environment where the adults around me spent their days making music and art, wearing flowers in their hair and life was a seemingly endless party. Our house was frequently visited by people who had made pilgrimages to San Francisco and returned with tales of communal living, concerts in the park and some other experiences that, although I didn't quite understand at the time seemed to leave them feeling very complete and at peace with the world.
As with most music genres many of the popular songs are about love, or some close approximation anyway. As I went through the playlist of some of my early favorites and sang along I felt, for a brief moment, a fleeting sense of sadness that I have no one to sing these declarations of love and devotion to. But I realized that one person alone shared all the memories that accompanied these songs. One person knew all the secrets they evoked, which songs were matched with which crush, which break up, which life event. One person knows what song was playing when I lost my virginity (well okay, two but I have no idea where the other is or even if he's still alive). While songs croon of lifelong love, few of us are lucky enough to experience that ideal. There is only one person we spend our entire lives with...ourselves.
This is not the first time I've written about this topic. I had posted a blog about spending my first single Valentine's Day by being my own Valentine. And I probably have a few more out there. It is something that has taken me nearly a lifetime to truly grasp and a few more years to accept, that I am my best friend. Yeah it sounds cheesy but, trust me, I have enough dimensions to my personality to keep it interesting. So today as the music lifted me out of my gloom, pulled me off the couch to dance through my apartment waving my arms around like a damn fool and singing "so happy together..." I was singing to the only person in the room, the only person who knew the exact moves to the accompanying dance that I've been doing the same way for over 40 years. Me.

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Random Thoughts

Cats..they may just keep us sane

I'm in a bit of a writing slump lately, but never at a loss for something to chatter on about. Therefore this weeks blog will consist of some of the noisier chatter that's been going on in my mind this week.

People are upset that the new Pope isn't into gay rights or equality for women. Any man who is going to make his way up the ranks in the Catholic Church is not going to do so flaunting a Liberal Feminist agenda. Let's just be glad that he cares about the poor.

Positive Thinking does not mean that we don't have negative or worrisome thoughts. It's more about how we cope with them. In fact until we live in a world where everyone functions in a state of constant bliss and generosity, worrisome and 'negative' thoughts are a means to survival. If we never imagined anything bad happening to our children, how would we protect them from the events and people that might harm them? Don't beat yourself up for having 'bad thoughts', you are human. Don't think for a moment that this makes you a less spiritually evolved person. Authenticity is spiritual. Honor yourself, that's real spirituality.

Although there are rational discussions to be had in the gun control argument, the people who would engage in these conversations are largely ignored by the media. We are also drowned out by the polarizing extremists on social media and in personal conversations. This is unfortunate because in a complex and diverse society the most practical solutions will be those that evolve from rational thought, not extremist reaction.

War is an ugly shameful enterprise that Americans have become immune to because it has always existed in some form in our history. Remember all those movies that came out in the post Vietnam era, like Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now? They can be difficult to watch, which is precisely why people should watch them. We need to be reminded of the true cost of war, not the cost in dollars, mind you, but the human cost.

Too drunk to say no also means you're too drunk to say yes. The young men in the Steubenville rape case have been handled with kid gloves through this entire process. If any good has come of this situation it is that it has shed some light on just how absurd the rationalizations and excuses for rape sound in print and in the media. Because they are reality.

Sometimes life feels overwhelming. We all feel this way from time to time. Give yourself a break. Indulge in something silly, something fun. This is why the internet is full of cats. Cats appeal to us because of their cool self indulgent nature. Take a lesson from a cat today.

That's it for this week. I hope I can regain some focus and start blogging more consistently again soon, but in the meantime, I'm taking my own advice and am lightening up on myself.

Peace, Love and Cats!

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Boob Tube

I swear I'm not one of those pious and condescending people who boasts about not watching television. You know the type, I'm sure. These people practically nullify the merits of a untelevised household with their sheer arrogance and intellectual snobbery. I did however, go for nearly a year without having a tv in my house. Not because I'm morally or intellectually superior but because I didn't have the funds to buy one and it really wasn't that important to me (or I would have managed a way to afford one) In that year I watched plenty of tv but on my computer and therefore was able to be selective with my viewing. I was also, for the most part, able to avoid the bombardment of advertising that is seen on network tv.

Recently one of my daughters gave me her old set, a pre-digital model which involved needing a converter box, another hand me down. Then about 2 weeks ago my computer had an unfortunate meeting of minds with a cup of hot chocolate. There I was, no netflix, no X-files reruns, no YouTube jackassery, so I turned on the tube.

Within an hour of reengaging myself with my old friend I was convinced I needed to run down to Victoria's Secret and buy a new bra. By the next day I was squinting in the mirror at my wrinkles and uneven skin tone. By day 3 I realized that if this relationship were to continue I was going to have to mute the ads or change the channel when they appeared. Since staring at a muted screen is rather boring, I quickly rediscovered the senseless joy of channel surfing, the champion sport of the attentionally deficit.

This is when you know you have a problem; when you're not watching with intent and purpose but are beginning to 'turn', like a zombie or old milk. Having acknowledged I had a problem I immediately set out to find a handy source of rationalization to accommodate my viewing pleasure. This is when I discovered the retro channel. Ah, childhood memories. I Love Lucy, The Rifleman, Gunsmoke and Dragnet. Wait, Dragnet? Did I like that show even then? Heck no, but I remember it was always good for a few laughs when nothing else was on. And let me tell you, it still is.

Aside from the hipster ironic television enjoyment I discovered there is some pretty decent programming available, on PBS of course...any snob will tell you that. But seriously since network tv went digital and has had to compete with cable they have upped the ante on many of the public tv stations from travel shows to arts and crafts to documentaries.

Now I'm back online and able to be more discriminating in my viewing choices I'm not giving up my tv time. Like all pastimes it can be productive, mediocre or just plain unhealthy but as long as we can maintain some perspective and discrimination we're okay. Just skip the ads.

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Thursday, February 14, 2013

From Acceptance to Love-Your Relationship With You's a good thing, no? It's one of those goals we all strive for as we travel the path to maturity and well being. I was thinking about the term and decided something didn't quite feel complete. Being a word nerd I looked up the dictionary definition and here it is:


1.the act of taking or receiving something offered.
2.favorable reception; approval; favor.
3.the act of assenting or believing: acceptance of a theory.
4.the fact or state of being accepted or acceptable.

I don't know about you but this sounds a little less than enthusiastic. Not much passion or joy is implied here is there? Kind of like a 'I'll take what I can get' feel to it. There is clearly a sense of something being at least okay, tolerable. I think we can admit that accepting something, or someone, as being okay is indeed better than revulsion dislike or hatred.That is why acceptance is the first step we take as we learn to heal. We have to move past defeat, guilt and/or self loathing to the next phase which is to acknowledge that we are okay.

But it shouldn't end there. I think that for some of us, for me anyway, we kind of become contented in the acceptance stage. Maybe we start to take ourselves for granted as someone we can live with, or tolerate...but come on can't we do better for ourselves than that?

Think about it this way, if someone you care about very much introduced you to their new partner and the partner said "oh I can accept them" would you think the relationship had a snowballs chance in hell of evolving into a lasting and devoted relationship? Probably not. Wouldn't you likely find yourself thinking that your loved one could 'do better than that'? We hope and expect that our loved ones will be loved and respected in the way we believe they deserve, and we expect that love and respect to come from someone else.

When you think about it who on earth do we have the only guaranteed lasting relationship with? Ourselves! From cradle to grave there is one human being you will wake up with, get through the day with, rely on to make all the decisions and suffer or enjoy the's you.

We think of a relationship as something that involves two or more people, but in reality we have a relationship with ourselves. Most of our daily survival needs, eating, dressing, bathing, etc. are self administered (as long as we are physically able) Our personal thoughts are conversations with our self. We have private jokes that only we understand. We even have conflict; sometimes. Quite often our mind, heart and body are not on the same page and we must negotiate a compromise. Each persons perspective or perception is so unique that there we truly do have our own version of any story in our history.

We spend so much time and energy in our lifetimes examining and perfecting our relationships with other people, but how often do we even consciously acknowledge the relationship with ourselves, much less actually put any thought or effort into that relationship.

In this this most vital relationship that is essential to our survival why is it so difficult to actually feel Love? It sounds corny and maybe even a little weird, I know. When we hear the term 'self love' most of us probably think of masturbation..We think of self love with a lower case 'l', not of self Love.

So let's think a bit about ideal love and partnership. What would we expect in terms of how we would want to be treated and how we would treat another. What do you have to offer to your lifetime companion?
© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Saturday, February 9, 2013

What Did You Say?

In the words of my Grandma and Grandmas everywhere, "there is a time and a place for everything".

I'll admit that a while back our society had become a little over zealous with political correctness, almost to the point of absurdity. I think that's beginning to level out, leaving behind a healthy awareness of how we use words to describe other people and their life circumstances.

I will also admit that I do possess a rather dark sense of humor and will sometimes say things that would seem shocking, insensitive and in generally poor taste to the average person. In fact, I say things that even I consider to be in poor taste but when I do it is within context and with people who understand my sense of humor. There are some jokes that are reserved for a select few friends and family who 'get it'. They know me well enough to know that the humor is way of buffering a subject or incident that is probably incredibly painful. They know that I have come to a point where I can no longer feel the raw truth and need a way out or I will become overwhelmed with despair or worse, anger. Social Workers, Medical professionals, police officers and others who work with the darkest, most depraved examples of the human condition all understand this phenomena. So do most survivors. In a way we have license to use this brand of humor, much in the same way that lesbians can call themselves dykes, or blacks can say 'nigga' (although there is some disagreement on the use of those terms within those communities)

There are some words and phrases I see thrown around rather frequently that seem to take hold as quick and easy multi-use reactions. Some of them are just lazy, some are irritating and others can be outright hurtful. But because they are so ubiquitous and so handy we use them without giving much thought to their meaning or origin. Here are a few of the most frequent and offensive examples.

"I got raped by the IRS"~ No you did not. Rape is one of the most traumatic experiences a person can endure. Paying taxes does not even come close.

"Don't drink the kool-aid"~ Maybe you're too young to remember Jonestown. Maybe you don't even know that's the origin of that expression. It was one of the most horrific mass murder/suicides in history. Look it up.

"Are you crazy/ O.C.D/ dyslexic?"~ Maybe I am. Maybe someone close to me is. It's something that people have to cope with every single day of their lives, making adjustments and accommodations just to function. It sucks.

"They must be on crack"~ I'm pretty open about my drug history and I will tell you that of all the drugs I've toyed with crack is the most devastating. If there is such a thing as Evil, it is crack.

I'm not trying to censor anyone and I repeat I have a pretty grimy sense of humor myself but I do think that when we throw around statements like this we need to be aware of what it is we are referring to. Words do have power and people have secrets that they choose to keep personal and private. It is estimated that 1 in 4 women has been a victim of some degree of sexual assault. The chances are you know someone who has been raped, even if you don't know it, so when you decide to complain about your taxes (or anything else) think about your choice of words. You never know who you might be hurting. Thank You.

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Brain Freeze and Mental Heath Part II

I did it to myself again...I froze my brain. And not by walking in the cold Wisconsin winter weather either. Nope. What I did was write an impassioned post expressing my concerns about the public perception of mental illness, and then I ended by saying that I had so much more to say on the topic that I was going to write a follow up post. I even had the chutzpah to call the last post #1, implying that I would soon create a brilliant and equally impassioned sequel. I was so riled up, so certain that I had much more to say about this urgent and socially relevant topic that there was no way I could possibly get all that information and opinion in one singular post. I was on a mission!

Two weeks later I have two unfinished and unfocused drafts and I feel like I have painted myself into a corner. I have developed an acute performance anxiety that strikes only when I dare to commit myself to following through on...anything. After all these years I should know myself better.

Of course one could argue that challenging one's demons is probably a noble gesture, or that it's good practice that may lead to changing one's self defeating patterns. The latter is probably true, but so is forgiving ourselves when we don't quite succeed.

I don't know what it is about committing to something, anything, that has this power to completely slam me into a deadlock. I do have a couple of theories.

One is fear of failure. If I say I'm going to do something then people will have some sort of expectation attached to that promise. I will have no way of knowing what that expectation involves and therefore will be doomed to let someone down (this is my irrational thinking, mind you..not what I really believe)

Two, a promise infers a kind of deadline which translates in my mind to the realm of "should" which is a close cousin to the notion of authority, which automatically causes me to recoil. Is this a giant leap off the track of logical thought? Don't ask me, it's how my brain works, it's all I know. But all this circular thinking does bring me conveniently back to my original intent, to talk about mental health diagnoses.

My crazy train of thought and belief could easily be labeled as Attention Deficit Disorder, or Oppositional Defiant Disorder or maybe even some level of Social Anxiety. But when it comes right down to it I'm not all that different than most people I know. When they are honest about their thoughts and feelings many people describe similar traits. Some people manage them more effectively. Some people have a kind of kill switch that easily overrides these worries and the resistance that they feel. Other people are more introverted and would be terrified of sharing personal thoughts and feelings all over the internet. But you know what, that's okay. We are all okay. For the most part none of these worrisome little thought patterns hurts anyone, not at this level anyway.

The bottom line is that there is great diversity in human thought, emotion and consciousness and I'm pretty sure we evolved that way for a reason. It brings with it a diversity of talent and capability for life's essential tasks; different tasks require different abilities and specialized ways of interacting with out environment. But it seems that as we move into a predominately service oriented society and as more industries adopt a hierarchical corporate model of structure and management the limits of acceptable behavior and cognitive processing are becoming narrowed, more specific, more controlled. Creative thinking, so called 'distracted thinking' and questioning authority has no place in this world. So what do we do? Rather than making adjustments in the workplace to accommodate the diversity, we attempt to fit people into a model that does not fit. And if it doesn't work out, then it's our fault for not fitting in. And because we love to have reasons and explanations for things that don't work out the way we want, we look for a cause of the problem. We assess and diagnose and label them as somehow deficient.

Of course we also like solutions too, and the easier and faster the better. So we have pills for that. We also like profit in this culture, and oh boy is there profit to be made from those pills! Now everybody's happy, right?

Wrong. I was taking an ssri (anti-depressant) for a couple of years. Granted when I first started taking it I was in the midst of more major life crises than most people would experience in a decade, they just all kind of piled up at one time. The medication did help me get through a very difficult time and I am grateful for that. It also, I noticed, made me a very focused and docile employee. Hmmm, interesting side effect. This made me wonder if the popularity and frequent recommendation for use of these medications isn't somehow linked to that quality. Now I know this borders on sounding a bit paranoid, a bit like maybe I read "Brave New World" one too many times, but is it such a stretch really? Think about all the school age children in overcrowded understaffed classrooms, all with needs of their own, who are given amphetamines or other Attention Deficit medication because they are more focused, i.e. less disruptive to the class and easier to manage.

Do I think there is some evil plan to turn us all into a nation of compliant well behaved automatons? I certainly hope not. But regardless of whether this is some master plan at social engineering or merely an unintended consequence of an attempt to make life easier the potential outcome is the same. Creativity is stifled, diversity and unique traits are eliminated and, most frightening, peoples health is put at risk. This is especially true for youth who, when medicated through the most significant social and emotional stages of life, miss the opportunity to learn how to self regulate and manage challenging emotions and social situations.

Finally, because I know it will come up at some point, I will say that there are indeed situations where medication can be life saving. For people with schizophrenia and other psychoses it can make the difference between living in a bizarre world where there is no line between the reality we perceive and the often terrifying reality they experience or being reasonably functional . Even then, the side effects of these medications are often horrible and many of them take a toll on major organs like the nervous system kidneys and liver. I think that we owe it to humanity and to the individuals who experience these terrifying and disabling conditions to continue to research and explore other treatments and ways of managing daily life, because all too often it is medication and only medication that is offered as the means to manage their lives.

And for the rest of us who are all unique individuals designed for some purpose in this life I truly hope that we can begin to embrace our qualities, our differences and our quirks and that we are able to utilize them as we co create a world where we are all valued and useful. I truly believe that is the master plan.

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Friday, January 18, 2013

How Mental Illness Became the Boogeyman-Part 1

Buried deep within the discourse on gun violence and gun control is a much more insidious mechanism of control that is being injected into the mass consciousness. It is presented with the same fear inducing 'professional' research and statistical slight if hand that drives a vulnerable population to the brink of becoming a torch wielding angry mob of outraged citizenry feverishly targeting the scapegoat du jour in an attempt to preserve safety and freedom for all. Even more frightening is that the engineers of this design for social control are making enormous profits by offering the magic bullet that will keep us all safe from this threat to modern society and safety.

See it is not the guns that are the problem, we are now being told, but rather it is the Mentally Ill individuals who misuse this great and glorious symbol of freedom and liberty. These crazy people are ruining the second amendment for all the rest of us. How dare they? Obviously we as a nation would be just peachy keen with our semi automatic weapons, if only these mentally deranged people would just take their meds or better yet just go away somewhere and leave us alone to play target practice or hunt bears or whatever fun and freedom loving activities it is that people do with military style weaponry.

Of course no one in their right mind would argue that someone who is delusional, psychotic and completely out of touch with reality should be given any weapon of any kind. That would be dangerous. Never mind the fact that people with these diagnoses are far more likely to harm themselves than others. But then again there are some people who do not meet the diagnostic criteria, people who mesh quite well within the fabric of 'normal' society who are also potentially quite dangerous. The difference being these people are not dissociated from reality, in fact many of them are quite masterful at manipulating reality in such a way that they appear to be responsible and likable folks.They know enough to hide their prejudices and hatred so as not to appear to be a threat to the safety of society. Many of them probably belong to the NRA. Or Congress. Either way it is unlikely that these people have sought out mental health counseling or have been subjected to involuntary psychological screening, we may never know, right?

The language that is being used to describe the kind of people who should be prohibited from owning weapons is disturbingly vague. The exact type and level of screening, who would administer said screening and the criteria for disqualification of gun ownership seems to be one of those minor details that congress will get around to ironing out at a later date. Or maybe it was ironed out but the state department spokespeople and the media have just decided that those details weren't newsworthy. It was mentioned however that there will be recommendations to reform the standards of client therapist privacy and HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations that will encourage mental health care providers to report incidences or situations where safety may be a concern. But again, the specific criteria the factors that are to be considered when determining if a client is potentially dangerous, or simply not ok to own a weapon, are absent from any report or public statement as far as I can tell. (Please if anyone has found specifics do forward them to me and anyone else who has expressed concern about this.) I have some very serious concerns about this, not because I am a huge fan of guns (I'm not) but I also believe that we need to protect our rights and until otherwise stated, we as US citizens to have the right to keep and bear arms. More than that I am concerned that those rights be equal and accessible to all citizens.

Those of you are familiar with the Wacky World of Mental Health Practice may see where I am going with this. Thanks to managed health care systems and insurance company regulations, anyone who is seeking mental health treatment must be given a diagnosis. Anyone. So if I am stressed about my employment situation for example, as many people in today's economy are and rightly so, I will most likely be labeled as having anxiety or perhaps mild depression, or an adjustment disorder. These labels pathologize the beliefs and emotions which within context, are actually a pretty normal reactions to a stressful environment. Furthermore taken out of context and interpreted by someone who is unfamiliar with the definitions and criteria of the DSM-IV I may look like an unstable tinderbox of irrational emotion, read to explode at any given minute. Will this alone be sufficient 'evidence' to deny me a handgun permit?

Of even more grave concern is the example of survivors of domestic or sexual violence. Many of us would meet the standards to qualify for labels like "depression", "anxiety disorder" of even PTSD. Again, if we are being actively threatened by an abuser is our response pathological or is it a typical reaction to a potential danger? Will the determination of such diagnoses prohibit us from owning a weapon with which to protect ourselves and our loved ones from an abuser? The most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is immediately after leaving the abuser. It is also the time when most victims seek out support and counseling and are therefore most likely to be hit with a diagnosis.

Again I do want to restate my personal belief that there are many other ways to defend ones self, and most of them are less likely to be taken from us and used against us; but I would not deny a survivor the right to have a weapon if that's what they feel they need to be safe and they are properly trained to use the weapon in a way that is responsible. The question is will the people making the decisions to grant permits do the same?

The next, and final concern I will address is the danger of painting "the Mentally Ill" with a broad brush, throwing us all into some category of unpredictable, potentially dangerous criminals. The DSM-IV regardless of what you or I believe about its validity or appropriateness is the Bible of diagnosis. It is the mental health providers most commonly used tool. It contains thousands of diagnoses and several categories of disorders. Pretty much any single human being could be given a diagnosis using this tool. It is designed that way on purpose Remember the thing about needing a diagnosis to get any kind of counseling? The vast majority of diagnosis describe relatively harmless and very common behaviors. But does the average American realize this? Do they even care? And even those who do know better can easily manipulate the information provided in a clients case summary to paint a very different picture than was originally intended. Don't think for a minute that it doesn't happen on a regular basis. And worse yet, now that the media has created a heavy fog of fear and sensationalism around the "Mentally Ill", I for one am bracing myself for a whole new attack on personal freedom and civil liberties. I really hope I'm wrong, but don't say I didn't warn you.

For more information om the DSM-IV:

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Another Little Talk With Myself

I was looking through Pintrest at some craft rooms just to get some ideas. I was struck with the beauty and efficiency of the spaces that various crafty people have designed and organized as their workspace.
I was also struck with something else, something that I thought I had left behind in one of the several therapy sessions I've been through. Envy. And Envy rarely shows up with out her good friend Self Defeat. There they were suddenly, unwelcome, whispering in my ear. "Why can't you do that? you know why? Cause you are not an organized person. You never follow through on anything. Oh and even if you did, you can't afford a nice antique shelving unit like that. Where are you going to get the money for all that stuff." an so on and so forth.
Seriously I can imagine them like the creepy twins from The Shining. Staring at me with blank, no mocking, eyes telling me what I can't do. Fortunately for me I have learned how to fight back against the bullying that happens in my own mind. I realize that these mean little girls are simply ghosts of an unhappy child who didn't always have the fashionable clothes and the newest fad item that all the other kids had in school. They felt worthless because of it, but only because they were little girls and they didn't know any better. Like most misbehaving children they were really hurting inside and just needed someone to set boundaries and to let them know that they are loved.
So the Adult Jenny did just that. Yes I have conversations with myself, it's therapeutic.
And if you don't believe me just ask that sassy little girl in the corner.

Image retrieved from
© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Monday, January 14, 2013

Your Words of Wisdom

Words of wisdom are recorded and passed on through generations for a good reason. They are well, wisdom. They are messages from those who have have drawn conclusions about matters that concern us a human beings through experience and observation . Some people have an artists way with words and they are blessed with the ability to string them together in such a way that powerful messages are encapsulated in a quick phrase or one liner. I admire people who have this gift. I have been known to come up a few brilliant quips myself on a lucky day when my brain is sharp or maybe on those occasions my consciousness is just a little more open, providing a clear channel for what one might call my higher self or oversoul. I'm not alone in this. I think every single human being has at one point or another been gifted with one of those moments of brilliance where Truth suddenly takes form in one's mind and the words of wisdom flow effortlessly as if released by the opening of a dam. Not everyone thinks to take note of these rare moments, not everyone carries s notebook and pen just in case they are suddenly struck with the Enlightened Moment. And more frequently people don't always believe that what they have to say is all that important. Which is sad because they may often be mistaken.
The individuals whose words are recorded and preserved for future generations are typically those who, for whatever reason, people are listening to already. Their mastery of language or some other art form is probably what got them their place in the spotlight to begin with. Great philosophers, spiritual leaders, writers and poets and sometimes those who are famous for other reasons are the ones who are most likely to have their words captured and preserved like rare and valuable objects.  Due to the mystique of  fame and the idol worship that accompanies it there are some cherished quotes that aren't really even all that brilliant, or witty or even original and yet they endure because of their association with the source. On the other hand there are indeed some words that so completely encapsulate the human condition and universal experience that they strike a chord deep within. These are the words of wisdom that  resonate so clearly us that we feel a bond with the person who crafted the phrase, even if the words were spoken centuries earlier. These words, phrases, poems, lyrics, whatever form they take are cultural gems that are worth remembering and repeating. But anything worth repeating is also most effective if measured and used sparingly within context and with care. They deserve to be treated with respect and tenderness that one would afford to any other work of art.
Another problem with the easy reach of a clever quote is the temptation to use another's words, even if appropriate to the situation, to create a surrogate interaction. When we look outside ourselves and our own hearts and minds we rob ourselves of the opportunity to create something original. When we don't formulate our own answers we shut off the part of our brain that is essential to critical thought. We sell ourselves short by not drawing on experience and lessons we have learned to share that story that is unique to us as individuals with individual life experience. The loss then is not exclusively our own for we also deny others the gift we have that may enrich their lives as well.
Each one of us has a history, a tapestry of events that is assembled using the pattern of our unique perception. For the most part we are not taught this simple concept, but instead turn to "experts" for advice and inspiration. But we all have stories, we all have had experiences that have pushed us to our limit and have taught us precious lessons. We all have Words of Wisdom within. They have come to us through our struggles, mistakes, joys and triumphs.  I will leave you with this thought; who other than you is the author of your life? And who better than you can tell the tale?

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard