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I was thinking about how much I love Pema Chodron, David Whyte, Buddhadarma magazine, anything India or Hindu or yoga related, my energy healing school… why don’t I just join a religious order someday?

I can’t speak for someday. I may hit a yoga retreat or an ashram or visit a Christian religious order just to clean up or get new clarity. I want to visit (almost) every place of worship with every loved one who will invite me, from the Hindu temple with Vidya for puja back to Christchurch in Rugby or Epiphany with my mom. Maybe I’ll take the Art of Living course for my birthday.Maybe I’ll go back to work for some difficult, bureaucratic, profitless agency that lets me help people and stresses me with the hardships of our clientele and staff.

But I could not just walk away permanently. I realized that I love this world, and that is why the answer is no. Spiritual practice must not be something that just sits off to the side waiting for an acceptable time. It is where the rubber hits the road– when someone pisses me off, when I am afraid, when I am celebrating, when there is injustice, mendacity, thoughtlessness, hurt, waste, pain, violence whether in words between family or warfare between nations– that tests what I believe and what I am growing to be.

My Tassajara would be a bed and breakfast where travelers can find family meals from my own garden and welcome and comfort. My 29 Palms is the beach at my Mom and Dad and Grammy’s house, Kim’s back patio looking out over the little lake, or Station Camp in Big South Fork, until such time as we can afford that second home in West Virginia near Granny’s house. I find so much to be grateful for each day, I just have to remember to see it and be grateful.

I don’t need a retreat. I need to be mindful. I can find a walking meditation counting flowers as cars roar by on the smelly city street that is the way to and from my child’s school. I know wine shrinks your brain but ‘this is the blood shed for thee’, and I love to taste it and cook with it. I can find a meditative joy in cooking mindfully, trying to nourish my family with healthy food, swimming upstream against the food industry. I can find a meditation in cleaning and organizing and FitTV. There is so much music to enjoy on YouTube or alternative radio or someday when we have a babysitter again in clubs.

I have about ten vocations… for one of them I might learn Buddhist counseling methods– just read a wonderful article about that in Buddhadarma magazine. I’d love to do that with a fat helping of Jungian study in San Francisco and Kabbalah from the School of Healing Arts in Nashville. I don’t have answers any more than anyone else does… and the answers are right within us, within our values and hopes and need and dreams. And this is our life, our kingdom come.

I love this world. Some parts of it hurt– people do nasty crappy things here in LA, as I know they do everywhere (though maybe not quite so often or willingly!). I think about losses and griefs. I screw up, judge, feel anxious, get irritated. I struggle with giving up unhealthy behaviors– all legal, but not healthy. Travel has forced me over and over again to reframe in a way that has been hard but good for me. How I handle these is constant opportunity for meditation without abandoning daily life. Spirituality can be a retreat, an abandonment of real life… I will never retreat. Meet me right here.

In that spirit, with my usual dedication to reverence and irreverence, here’s one of my theme songs. Stop right here if you don’t like ugly words.

The Bill O’Reilly Dance Remix used to give me a much needed laugh and relief from tension when I was working at the library. Okay, we don’t live in Darfur or anything, but outside of that… simple daily things were so hard I cannot describe it. F* it! I can’t do it! What a joy to have Bill express how I felt so eloquently every single day. I laughed my head off no matter how many times I watched it.

Now the video still gives me great joy– Kim R. just posted it on her fb page this morning and I’ve watched it about five times already and will probably watch it five more. But now the line that speaks to me is F* it! We’ll do it live!

Doing it live…


I haven’t thought much about this– the minefield we walk between simply nurturing our bodies and souls and taking pride in our own unique loveliness and style regardless of size age or anything else– and a self-loathing that makes us think we’re ugly unless all of our artifices are in place and our miserable self denial is complete–  since high school.

The exception is that I get really, really pissed when women say ‘I’m so fat.’ That’s only because I’m a rabid feminist and I am SO SICK of guys (and, sadly, other women) who judge women on first look– I’d do her, or pretty face, great personality, too bad she’s fat, or oh MAN is she fat!’ (You know who you are).  I’m not anti anorexia, cocaine, amphetamines or cigarettes as weightloss methods, at least not at the appropriate time/life stage. (I’ll save that for another post).

But A. Someone else’s body is NOT your damn business. and B. Sure, we all need to exercise and eat right. We’re a nation privileged to be eating ourselves to death, and the emotional psychological and spiritual issues surrounding that make my heart ache.

But it really pisses me off when women say ‘I’m so fat’ and don’t see  how beautiful they are JUST AS THEY ARE.  The ability to see how beautiful you are just as you are comes from the same emotional and psychological region as the strength to take better care of oneself, eating right and exercising and enjoying instead of loathing one’s body, sadly. And so it’s a vicious cycle. The only other place meaningful change comes from, sadly, is self loathing, and if you reject that or your eyes just never get opened, you’re just screwed.


With regard to all this, I was in a blissful place. I was a little overweight but still a couple pounds below obese (a couple pounds is EVERYTHING, believe me), the US average size 12-14. I had the best (hair) dye job in the world, black with a few white stripes– and often I wore black eyeliner and mascara cause I’m aging gothpunkabillly.

But just as often especially after I had my little one makeup went by the wayside. Most of my girlfriends never wore makeup. We’re all hippie mommies. I have one friend who’s a stunner even though her kids wear her out, whether she wears makeup or not (all of us know who she is except, probably, she herself), but she worked at department store makeup counters for a while and knows what she’s doing, so she doesn’t count.

I don’t think I knew it, but I was always searching… and then I found her.

She didn’t know I found her. Heck, I didn’t know I found her.

I met this exotically beautiful new friend and as I got to know her a little at a time– lots, and lots of black, skulls, sense of style, joy each year as Halloween comes back around and we can actually wear the clothes we wear all year without people looking at us funny, punk bands and financial struggle all through the 80’s and 90’s (financial struggle for me too, and how!), waited til older to have babies and marry just like me, good liberal from generations back just like me.

But she had something I didn’t.

My mother, my grandmothers– classy dames who don’t go out of the house without moisturizer, a little puff of powder, a little something around the eyes and a bit of lipstick at minimum. I wanted to be like that. I really did. But I wasn’t.  I just couldn’t.

But this new friend?

Well let me put it this way.

She had her second C section a couple of years ago. Before she went in, she told her husband she would have a pedicure OR ELSE. I mean, her toes were going to be exposed for everyone to see in the OR, right? Come ON!

Then, post C, she suddenly found herself being rushed to the OR a second time, her husband and mother shooed away as they worked frantically on her to keep her from suddenly bleeding to death. If the bleeding weren’t enough, she was nearly scared to death, too. I talked to her not long after, and she was deeply frightened and a little pissed off.

A few hours later, another friend of ours stopped in to see her and the baby and wish them well. M said, I walked in and she was curling her eyelashes.

She nearly bled to death a few hours ago. And now she was curling her eyelashes.

This was a defining moment for me. The words beautiful and tough took on new meaning for me simultaneously, and if I didn’t already think she was the bees knees, this would have pushed me over the edge.

I asked my friend’s permission before writing this. She said, well hell, if you’re going to die, don’t you want to look good all laid out?

And me?  I was newly vegan and using little on my face besides some sort of expensive pure oil– grapeseed oil. Sesame oil. It was cleanser and moisturizer in one, face and body. The only spots that got soap were my armpits and, well, possible (as our grannies used to say, wash as far as possible, and then wash possible). I wore no sunscreen, EVER. I consider myself to be of a dark skinned heritage that just doesn’t need it. I refused to wear or buy makeup until I had the time to research vegan and cruelty free options, and I never seemed to have the time. So I went without.

But the knowledge nagged at me… something was missing.

To be continued…

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First, look at your toenails and think about how your dry tired and aching feet could REALLY use a soak and a scrub and a rub. For weeks.

Finally, even though most areas of your life that require maintenance are going to shit and this is probably a pretty low priority, and even though you really don’t have much time to get ready for work and you certainly don’t have time to enjoy pampering yourself,  Day 1: FINALLY drag out the pumice thingy and the heel to toe lotion and quickly quickly rub them soft and pink again before a rushed morning shower. Toenails still look like hell.

Day 2: Your five year old is in the bathtub so you sit down on the toilet lid and scrub away the old polish and clean/trim your toenails.

Toenails still look like hell, but they are clean and bare.

Day 3:

Even though most areas of your life that require maintenance are going to shit and this is probably a pretty low priority, and even though you really don’t have enough time to get ready for work, sit on the side of the tub, spray your toenails with the bleach solution you use to clean the bathrooms, and push the cuticles back before your shower.

Toenails still look like hell, but now they are really, really clean.

Day 4:

Even though most areas of your life that require maintenance are going to shit and this is probably a pretty low priority, and even though you really don’t have enough time to get ready for work, take one minute to throw on two thick fast sloppy coats of an extremely cheap but WONDERFUL shade of poisonous almost-brown purple that you actually bought for your kid, who loves purple.  Polish probably contains pthalates, which are very poisonous and are present in almost everything but especially cosmetics and self care products. Do not go look it up to see if this brand contains pthalates.

One of the most wonderful beauty secrets anyone ever gave me was– oh I always just slop my polish on, good and thick. I don’t worry about getting outside my nails. It will wear off your skin in a day, or immediately in a warm bath, but will stay beautiful on your nails for a good long time.

So, actually polishing the nails is not the time consuming part. It’s the trimming, cleaning, cuticling, rubbing, pumicing that is prohibitive. What possessed me to do it a little at a time, especially when everything else is a huge mess too and this should be a pretty low priority, I’ll never know.

Think for about fifteen painful seconds about how it sucks to have to move on from cool friendships like that one.  Forget the pain almost immediately because you REALLY have to leave for work.

Go ahead and wear open-toed shoes, even though WONDERFUL shade of poisonous almost-brown pthalate purple is all over your toes not just your toenails. Intermittently through the day– while still parked after dropping the babies at kindergarten, while sitting on the toilet at work, while blogging about the five day pedicure– scrape at the extra polish with your fingernail.

The extra polish is almost gone now, and shame on anyone if they notice, anyway, what are they doing looking at my toes?

Toenails now look pretty darn good.

I am emotionally exhausted beyond any exhaustion in recent memory, my house is a mess, I absolutely cannot get caught up at the office and my desk is such a snowdrift I can’t even use my computer mouse, I long to just have some unstructured quiet time. I feel like such a loser in other areas of my life (just a state of mind, I know, I’ll pull myself out when I get some rest)– but I can’t tell you how much satisfaction it gives me to see my poisonous pthalate purple toenails peeking out of my open toed shoes today, especially if I look at them right before or right after I look at my new purple purse.

I’m going to feel even better when all that adorable purple Gymboree arrives so my baby and her mommy can match.

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