• Well-being

    The Greater Good

    People are getting really angry at younger people for ignoring the social distancing and self quarantine recommendations and just thinking, well I’m not going to die so who cares. Older people keep saying they need to do this for the greater good. Well, the younger generation has been saying we need better environmental regulations and better opportunities and a social safety net for the greater good. They’ve been saying we need universal healthcare, campaign financing reform, and more inclusivity for the greater good. And they’ve been ignored by the old people in power. Now the old people in power are telling the millennials, you need to do this for the greater good and millennials are saying, you don’t listen to us, so we’re not listening to you.

    I’m forty-two and part of this weird half generation made up of people born from 1976 to 1982. I’m not a millennial, but I’m not Gen X either. Our older siblings are Gen X, but our younger siblings are millennials. I tend to straddle the two and can see things from both sides. In some aspects I’m more millennial and in other aspects I’m more older Gen X pre-technology, dinosaur days. I graduated from college in 2000. In the first 20 years of my adult working life there has been the dot com bust, 9/11, war in Afghanistan, war in Iraq, the 2008 crash, Republicans blocking everything Obama tried to do, Russians hacking the 2016 election, Trump as president dismantling the government, and now the coronavirus. I understand the millennials’ anger. 

    Do I think it’s selfish that the younger people are ignoring the recommendations and putting other people at risk? Yes. Do I think it’s selfish that the older people are not doing more to help younger people have the same opportunities they had? Yes. I also know we all create our own lives regardless of the circumstances. 

    I find it ironic that the old people, specifically old white men, who have been telling millennials trying to create progressive change to basically, “Fuck off. You’re on your own. We’re not going to change,” are now insisting that millennials do their part and work together for the good of the whole, so that a bunch of old people don’t die. Baby Boomers have been broadcasting their message for decades:  I’m in power, I don’t have to change. Basically if you’re in power, you can do whatever you want. And young people have been watching and are now following their example. They have the power now and can do whatever they want. I don’t think this kind of revenge thinking is the balanced, loving response, but I understand it. You don’t create a better life by lowering yourself to someone else’s level, but anger is much better than hopeless. The key is to keep moving up the scale to compassion and love. 

    We all create our lives with the thoughts and emotions we put out into the world. We all choose when to die. Whether you commit suicide or get hit by a bus or die from a disease, you are choosing when you die. If I step back and be the observer and think of this as Source, in a law of attraction kind of way, I know it’s all working out. We’ve been asking for change and this pandemic is ushering in a lot of change very rapidly. 

    This is the first virus that doesn’t attack young people, who are more fluid and open to change. The old resistant ones are dying and the young ones are going to move into positions of power. The shift may not have unfolded how we thought it would, but this is part of the big change we’ve been asking for. I’m not saying just let all the old people die. We need to pull together and help one another, which is precisely what younger people have been saying for years, and what I’ve been saying since I was a younger person. We need to help everybody. We need to be inclusive. Everybody needs to participate and help the whole population for the greater good. We need a social safety net. We need universal healthcare for everyone. Old people have universal healthcare. It’s called Medicare. Young people are just asking for that same basic human right. 

    COVID-19 is going to change the entire landscape. Everyone is still in it right now and panicking and dealing with the shock and fear. Luckily (or unluckily), I’ve been dealing with fear, depression and anxiety for years, and I have a foundation now, so I haven’t gone too much out of balance so far. I’m looking down the road and all the possible outcomes from this, and I’m trying to think of the positives, because there are going to be a lot of negatives before this tragedy is over. What is going to end up being for the greater good?

    We’ve been asking for change. We’ve been asking for the healing of the earth. Well, this shutdown of the entire world is giving the earth a bit of a reprieve. The air quality above China has gone up dramatically. A lot of new technology is going to be developed because of this. Our election this fall could look a lot different if a good portion of the older, conservative voters are no longer alive to vote. I cringe even saying that because of how callous it sounds, but again we all choose when we die, and you better believe that political analysts are already thinking it.

    Hopefully, this will make everyone realize we are all in this together. Not just with COVID-19, but with climate change, the world economy, and healthcare and other social problems. There can’t be older vs. younger, rich vs. poor, us vs. them. We need new ideas, and we need people with experience. We need open minds and people with the knowledge of how things have been done in the past. I think the most important thing that is going to come out of this is that we will have a renewed interest in connecting with people and connecting with our true self, and that will always be for the greater good.

  • Well-being

    Social Distancing

    I’ve seen a number of people commenting online about how hard it is to stay home all the time in order to create the social distancing recommended to slow the spread of the coronavirus. I’ve never understood why people who can work from anywhere go to a noisy, busy coffee shop so they can concentrate on their work. People like that think it’s completely abnormal to be alone and are actually freaked out by the thought of being by themselves. 

    What is seen as an inconvenience to social people is an everyday reality to introverts and people with mental and emotional problems. I belong to both categories. Sometimes there are days I don’t talk to a single person. I’ve been this way my whole life, so it really isn’t that big a deal to me. I’m used to being alone. Even when I’m around people I tend to not really connect or participate. I do wish I had a few more people in my life, but truly I would not want a huge, boisterous group of family and friends, especially not considering what most people have to put up with in order to stay in or maintain the balance of the group. 

    Cultures revolve around socializing, so people feel cut off when they’re not physically with other people, but I think a lot of people give up themselves or compromise their own integrity with themselves so that they fit into the group or are accepted by the family or community. Religion, culture, family, society all put rules and restrictions in place and if you don’t follow those rules, you run the risk of being excluded or ostracized. In many times in history, if you left the community, you could very well die on your own, so people have this deep seated primal fear that if they are alone, they are at serious survival risk. I still have that to a certain extent; I think everyone does, but I spent so much time trying to find myself and extricate myself from depression, that I have zero desire to join a community that’s going to take me down that road again. I’d rather be alone. 

    I want people in my life who want me to be my true self, not to conform. I have only one person I talk to on a regular basis, and she is the very best friend anyone could ever have. We know each other inside out, have been through the good, the bad and the very ugly together. Nothing is private or off limits. We call each other on ALL our stuff and never go into reaction to each other or if we do, we say, “I’m in reaction to you. Please help me through this.” I say we, but I think it’s probably at least 60/40 with my stuff and I’m being generous. But you know what, she loves me anyway. We can be ourselves with zero judgement from the other. So when I say I want more people in my life, I mean more people like her. There’s nothing wrong with having friends you socialize with, acquaintances or colleagues you go to dinner with, but take this time of semi-quarantine to reassess the people in your life. If you don’t feel good when you’re with them, it may be time to let them go. Learn to sit with yourself, by yourself with no phone, no internet, no tv and get comfortable being with the amazing human being inside you. 

  • Well-being

    Potential

    Potential has been on my mind the last week. I’ve been watching The Mind of a Chef and reading Grape, Olive, PigPasta, Pane, Vino; and Rice, Noodle, Fish, some of the projects Anthony Bourdain was doing in the years before his death.  I just keep thinking of all the potential he had, the projects he could have produced for decades, even if he didn’t star in them.  In The Mind of a Chef and the books, he didn’t have a lot of direct input; he was a producer and narrator, and he could have continued in that vein for years to come, if only he’d gotten a handle on his mental health.  Instead he committed suicided with so much future potential unrealized.  

    I’ve been trying to keep that in mind for myself.  Because while I haven’t had the career or financial success that he had, there is still potential.  A lot of potential based on the contrast I’ve lived.  I have so much in my vibrational escrow that would start to pop in rich and fabulous ways if I could just line up with it.  I feel like I have gotten a handle on my mental health.  I feel like the things that would trigger me to go back into depression or become suicidal again just aren’t there anymore, because I have a daily practice that re-centers and rebalances me.  I KNOW that no matter what happens, what kind of huge obstacle or success or life-changing event, if I just sit and meditate and exercise every day, I can get back on track.  It may look a little ugly for a while in how I handle things or process the changes in my life, but I feel like I can get through anything, even huge success.  

    It’s ironic that when I say I can get through anything, I’m thinking and bracing for something horrible to happen to me, some trauma or drama.  I’m reminded of the Marianne Williamson quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.” We’re all so scared of huge success.  Is it going to change me?  Yes, but it could be for the better.  Am I going to lose my family and friends?  Maybe, though you can align with new people who will love and support you as you are now.  The potential is in all of us.  There are opportunities and experiences that are ready to come into your life.  We just need to allow the Universe to bring them in.  

    This is what I’ve been working on the last couple of years.  Not DOING anything.  I feel like I should be taking action and doing things and working toward my goals.  If you are not in alignment, you will make very little progress.  You’ll be like a hamster on a wheel.  If you are in alignement with Source, your soul, your inner being, magic will happen.  Everything will fall into place.  You will randomly meet someone in the grocery store who will open a door for your project.  It’s not about sending out a thousand emails, fishing to get a bite from anyone.  You want the right someone.  That results from being the right someone for yourself.  Being centered and confident and acknowledging your awesomeness without having the huge payoff.  You are successful, you are beautiful, you are amazing just as you are right now.  You don’t need the job, the relationship, the money to prove it.  You are an incredible human being just by being you.  Knowing that, being that, will unlock all your potential.  

  • Well-being

    Depression 101

    I always say I’m a jack of all trades, master of none.  If I’m having a good day, I think it’s awesome that I know a little bit about everything, that I can do just about anything well, maybe not exceptionally, but competently.  If I’m having a bad day, I think that’s great and all, but no one hires the person who’s OK at a bunch of things.  You hire the expert and I’m not an expert at anything.  Except I am.  I’m an expert at depression.  And I really wish I weren’t.  I don’t want to make a career out of depression.  I want to leave it behind me, but I have to admit that living with it since I was five pretty much makes me an expert, though I have no official expertise other than my own experience.  In the thirty-seven years since, I’ve learned ways to cope, ways of surviving but not really coping, gone down numerous dead ends on my quest to healing, and sought out just about every alternative option known to man.  

    Western medicine and psychology were the first stage for me, but after the initial slight improvement, they were pretty much worthless to me.  If anti-depressants and therapy work for you, do it.  Use anything you can find that helps you return to your natural well-being.  It did nothing for me and I know that there are others like me out there thinking there has got to be a better way.  I think that’s why I’m still here—thinking that there must be something else that I just haven’t tried yet.  Otherwise, I would have committed suicide long ago.  

    I tried just about every alternative therapy I could find from reiki to massage to acupuncture to energy work and everything in between. Many things helped, but I was never able to really turn the corner until I went to Peru for ayahuasca ceremonies. Now, there are clinical studies on the use of hallucinogenics for treating alcohol and drug addiction and depression, but in 2006, it was something only to be found in National Geographic Adventure magazine, which is where I read an article about a women who went to Peru and healed her depression with ayahuasca.  At that point, it was literally do or die time because I needed a solution or I was going to kill myself.  I was done.  But because I was done, I was also able to let go of the resistance enough for a solution to come through.  It was an incredibly extreme solution, but it was the only thing that helped me.  I came back after doing ayahuasca feeling like there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  I knew I still had a lot of work to do, but there was hope again.  It turned out to be a lot longer road than I anticipated, but I finally felt like I was on the right path.  

    Ayahuasca is illegal in the US.  It’s worth looking into what’s right for you.  When the options available in our healthcare system aren’t working for you, you need to think outside the box.  We’ve been taught that these types of drugs are morally wrong, but OxyContin was not only legal but advertised as non-addictive until millions of people became drug addicts because of it.  What feels right to you?  What do you need to return to your well-being?  Don’t rely on doctors who don’t know and don’t have all the information to be your sole source of guidance.  Learn to rely on your own guidance.  Your body knows what it needs.  Your inner being will guide you if you listen.  That’s what this is all about.  Learning how to hear that guidance and then listening to your connection to Source energy and following that guidance.  Only you know what’s best for you.  

    Here’s what I know now that I’m mostly out the other side of depression.  I say mostly because you’re never “cured” and never have to think about it again.  For me it’s daily maintenance.  Maybe there will come a day when I’m just happily living my life but right now it’s WORK.  You can’t go to the gym every day for a month and then say, OK I don’t need to exercise anymore, I’ll be in shape for the rest of my life. You have to be consistent and your mental health is the same as your physical health.  What you put in is what you get out.

    My mental health is dependent on my physical health and vice versa. You need to take care of yourself mind, heart, body and soul. That means moving my body, getting out in nature, eating properly and meditating every single day.  For me that’s going for a walk or hike, doing yoga, meditating twice a day and eating lots of vegetables and whole foods. 

    As I walk you through what I do on a daily basis, a lot of you reading this will think, are you kidding me?  I don’t have time for that.  I understand, but I’m single, with no kids, and a mostly anti-social introvert, so I basically have no life and have a lot of time on my hands.  I’m working on opening up to more relationships, but in the meantime, it means I have a lot of time to focus on myself.  Not doing everything I do on a daily basis means I fall back into the black pit of despair pretty quickly.  It sucks some days because I think my entire day is taken up just trying to maintain the basic foundation of mental health.  But the alternative is darkness and suicide, and I know I don’t want to go back there.  So when someone tells me I don’t have time for that, I think I don’t have an option.  It has to be a priority for me or else I’m barely even alive and I’m certainly not thriving.  

    Your well-being needs to be a priority to you.  You don’t have anything to give until you take care of yourself. You and your well-being need to come before your kids, your spouse, your job, and that’s really tough for people to do.  We’ve been told that’s selfish, but if you’re empty, you don’t have anything to give and you’re teaching your kids and everyone around you that they need to put everyone else first, even if it means completely undermining their own health.  That’s not the message we want to give and it’s not what we want to see repeated in the next generation.

    So here’s my day.

    3 mile walk
    15 minutes yoga.
    45 minutes exercise (squats, lunges, handstand, jump rope, core, etc. depending on the day)
    25 minutes meditation
    Get ready for the rest of my day
    Walk to work setting my intention for the day as I walk. 
    Be conscious of when I’m going out of alignment and try to right myself immediately.
    Walk home, mentally making the transition so I don’t take any of my work problems home with me
    Get home and do 20 minutes exercise (The extra exercise is partly because I’m working on strengthening certain areas and partly it’s because I just need to move or I go stir crazy with anxiety.)
    Another 25 minutes meditation before going to bed
    Sleep meditation to fall asleep (25 minute meditationand then 1 hr of music)
    Get up tomorrow and repeat.

    Recommendations:

    • Follow the candida diet (no sugar, no dairy, etc.), gluten free, vegan diet, all organic if you can.  Eliminate processed foods, alcohol and caffeine. Do this for 6 months minimum and then start adding things back in slowly so you can assess which ones affect you adversely. 
    • No smoking or drugs, not even marijuana, which a lot of people use for the anxiety that so often accompanies depression.  Marijuana mimics my depression, but makes me incapable of dealing with the issues that come up because I’m high.  That makes me more anxious underneath even though the surface is numbed by the drug.  Learn to deal with your emotions without any pharmaceuticals.  That said, do whatever you need to do in the short term to take care of yourself. I went to Peru to take something similar to LSD, so I’m the last person to pass judgment. Just ask yourself, is it for your health or to escape your life?
    • Exercise outside in nature for at least 20 minutes a day—every day no matter what.  It can be a nice easy walk, just move you body.  Studies have show that a 20 minute walk has the same effect as taking an anti-depressant, just without the side effects.
    • Meditate.  I started with guided meditations because I had so much trouble quieting my mind.  I kept saying mediation where you quiet your mind and eliminate thought just didn’t work for me.  The truth was I was too lazy and too scared to deal with what would come up when I did quiet my constant chatter.  I only saw real movement when I put in the time to find that true connection to my inner being.  There were times when I only got to half a second of feeling good and the rest of the 25 minutes was my mind going every which way.  Then it became a full second, then a couple of seconds.  I’m not going to lie, I was severely frustrated that I’d been meditating for six months and the most I could come up with was a couple of seconds of silence, but I kept telling myself that that was more than I had had before and I knew the other way lead to misery, so at least I was on the right track.
    • Massage. I used to think getting a massage was a luxury and one I couldn’t afford, and it is out of reach for a lot of people, but if you can get a monthly (or weekly) massage, do it.  For me it’s maintenance.  I have a lot of anxiety and it gets knotted up in my muscles.  The stress release, not to mention the lymphatic drain and overall benefit to my physical and mental well-being, are worth the money.  


    If you’re thinking no way, I’m not doing that, what if I told you this would turn around your whole life?  Would you do it?  If the answer is still no, then you need to ask yourself why you’re saying you want to heal but are turning down valid options.  It’s a process.  It’s been over the course of years that I’ve figured out what works for me.  It’s going to be different for you. Take what works and leave the rest, but if you’re in resistance, then you’re avoiding and just saying it doesn’t feel right for me.  Some things are presented to me that just don’t resonate with me. Other people rave about them, but they just don’t work for me. Journaling is a good example. I can feel I have some resistance to it, so I do need to look at that, but mostly it just puts me in my head when I’m trying everything to get out of my head. There’s something about writing things down that engages my left brain and instantly I’m in my Virgo list making brain. Check in with yourself and learn to distinguish between resistance and resonance. It’s ok if something isn’t for you, just make sure you’re not saying no from a place of fear. 

    I still have bad days, sometimes really bad days, but I always know I can bring myself back into alignment and balance. That’s such a huge gift. I know I have a rock solid foundation that can’t be shaken by anything. No matter what life throws at me, I know if I sit and meditate I will get to my happy place. It may not be today or even tomorrow, but I know that within a couple of days at most I will regain my well-being. Don’t let anyone make you believe that having a mental illness makes you weak. Every single day that you reach for joy and happiness makes you strong and beautiful. 

  • Nature

    Zuma Canyon

    November 2019 Zuma Canyon Sunset over Malibu.

    Fire in nature is cleansing and beneficial but the landscape has to be destroyed before the benefits can be attained. I tried to keep that in mind as I went hiking in early August in Zuma Canyon for the first time since the fires in Malibu last fall. I wrote down my thoughts at the time but I never published them, probably because I was trying to be more optimistic than I was. It was disheartening to see the devastation to this beautiful area. I returned to Zuma just before Thanksgiving and was able to gain a better perspective and to see how much new growth there was. In August I thought it would take 5-10 years for the area to recover, but less than four months later, I’m thinking that in another 2-3 years, everything but the trees will be back to normal. That’s pretty amazing that nature can regrow an entire landscape in just four years. It gives me hope for other areas that humans have destroyed. If we just let nature be, we don’t need to fix anything. 

    Zuma Canyon has always been one of my favorite hikes in LA—a 10 mile loop up and down the mountains through native chaparral with an incredible amount of biodiversity, which you really only see in the spring when everything blooms and you realize how many plants are dormant for most of the year.  Tall bushes and shrubs cover the hillsides with shorter plants packed in underneath. At least they used to.  To say I was shocked by the destruction is an understatement. As I drove up Busch Drive, I passed empty lot after empty lot, the only thing left being the cement foundations and a couple of charred gates.  Only a couple of houses escaped the fire.  As of November, some people have started to rebuild, though other lots remain vacant. 

    August 2019 Zuma Canyon There used to be a house here.
    August 2019 Zuma Canyon Busch Drive
    August 2019 Zuma Canyon The house is gone but you can see the empty swimming pool on the left.
    November 2019. Busch Drive, Malibu. Starting to rebuild.

    The only plants growing were ones that had cropped up since the fire, mostly non-native grass.  All that was left of the ten foot tall shrubs were charred stalks.  I usually do the hike in the afternoon because then most of the hike is in the shade.  Unfortunately, that’s no longer true. There’s no shade anywhere because nothing is over three feet tall.  

    August 2019 Zuma Canyon
    November 2019 Zuma Canyon
    November 2019 Zuma Canyon The light green in the foreground is native sage.

    The trees in the creek bed have tons of tiny shoots coming out of their trunks, but the branches are all dead.  Usually when a fire goes through, the older, more established trees escape with just some charred bark, but this fire burned so hot that it left all but the hardiest trees in ashes.

    March 2016 Zuma Canyon
    August 2019 Zuma Canyon
    August 2019 Zuma Canyon Burned area in the foreground with the intact neighborhood behind it.
    August 2019 Zuma Canyon Burned area in front, untouched neighborhood and the ocean in the back.
    August 2019 Zuma Canyon
    August 2019 Zuma Canyon Creek bed at the bottom of the canyon with a few trees still alive.

    In the last four months, everything has doubled in size, which is amazing because we just got the first rain of the season. All the growth has been fueled by dew and mist from the ocean air, which I find just incredible. Most everything is still under two feet tall, but there were a couple of shrubs that were in the 5-6 foot range. 

    November 2015 Zuma Canyon The bushes are so high they cover up the bottom of the picture.
    November 2019 Zuma Canyon These are about 18” high.
    November 2019 Zuma Canyon New growth starting to obscure the charred remains.


    There were a couple of lizards at the trailhead, but otherwise I did not encounter a single animal outside of insects and birds.  I met a local woman whose house luckily escaped the fire and she said a week after the fire, the trail was littered with animal carcasses and the only place you can find rabbits and snakes are in the neighborhoods that didn’t burn.  If this is true of all the areas the fire hit, it’s going to be a long time before animal life is going to return to the deepest areas.  By November, deer had returned to one section of the interior, miles from the trailhead, but the only other life I saw were a couple of lizards near the trailheads. 

    August 2019 Zuma Canyon This used to be thick brush you couldn’t even see through. Now you can walk through it.
    August 2019 Zuma Canyon The only shrub in the entire canyon that survived the fire.
    August 2019 Zuma Canyon All that’s left of the horse watering trough.
    August 2019 Zuma Canyon Monkeyflower
    August 2019 Zuma Canyon
    November 2019 Zuma Canyon


    That said, I was really happy to see all the new growth.  Nature is always in a cycle of rebirth and the landscape will recover, though it’ll be years before it will look like it did a year ago.  All the native flowers have come back and they were still blooming in August, which is really unusual.  

    August 2019 Zuma Canyon Mariposa lilies blooming
    August 2019 Zuma Canyon Monkeyflower everywhere.

    Tons of orange monkeyflower, some fireweed, and most heartening to see, swaths of mariposa lilies. Mariposas are one of my favorites, but I think they may end up getting choked out by the rest of the chaparral or maybe I just don’t see them in the density of the hillside.  This time, I saw them everywhere; all along the way, there were vines of white flowers.  Tons of mariposa lilies were still blooming in November, with many buds ready to bloom. I’ve never seen that. 

    August 2019 Zuma Canyon The white spots are all mariposa lilies.
    November 2019 Zuma Canyon Mariposa lilies in bloom.
    November 2019 Zuma Canyon Mariposa lilies blooming in the middle of the trail.
    November 2019 Zuma Canyon Unfortunately the poison oak recovered quickly.


    Since every plant had been burned to the ground, the normal variations in height weren’t on the mountainsides.  It was really beautiful to see the elegant shape of the mountains without all the bushes and shrubs.  Such gorgeous lines.

    August 2019 Zuma Canyon Beautiful lines on the mountains.
    November 2015 Zuma Canyon
    August 2019 Zuma Canyon
    November 2019 Zuma Canyon


    I kept having to remind myself that the absence of animals and vegetation wasn’t a bad thing, which is also an important reminder in life.  You can either lament the things that have come to an end or see the rebirth and growth and embrace the beauty that is unfolding.