technology means i can get an instant notice on an app that my mri results are in.
and i can wade through the foreign language of Medicine enough to feel daunted. vindicated.
i knew something was bad wrong inside my left knee, the knee of my heart. i have aligned all my ways of knowing, these pictures are confirmation more than revelation.
there are a few words i understand – there is a tear at the root, and there is a difference in the meniscus i was born with. it’s always been different, perhaps always leading towards this moment of dysfunction.
it’s humbling to mostly not understand what i am reading, these big english words, all of which i want to use in scrabble, and otherwise want nothing to do with.
the data that something is torn and there’s a reason for my pain that can show up on a magnetized picture is also a relief. my pain is rarely so clear.
my knee is changing my outlook on life…
my heart has changed
chambers open inside chambers and i feel infinite
i need my whole self
i need my boundaries
i need my life’s work
i need my tenderness
the more i explore myself with eyes of love the more vastness i can comprehend
heart opening is a part of any other healing that my body needs
the knee bone is connected to the heart
no matter what the doctor says – she only thinks of me for fifteen minutes at a time
this sacred body is becoming my obsession
my damaged always-full moon
coming out of the dark
i have been a witch
now again now turning inwards
anyanwu, flesh on my tongue
learning to heal
with imagination and marrow and attention
i just needed a destination for this black magic
we know to find the joy at the torn root
we know to dance with fingers pointing north
we know our bodies are our inheritance
we turn our prayers
Sugar is snow. Sugar is drug. Sugar is statistically proven to strip me of my dignity and my health. And yet.
Sugar is laughter. Sugar is energy. Sugar is of nature, a perfect sweetness in the right balance.
I’m seeking balance again. I feel like I crawled out of the grief stricken battle ground of 2014 with chocolate smeared on my face, and weight that I’d lost the year before (arduously, hardest thing I ever do) returning so easily that I felt guilty for ever trying to leave it behind. I had the moment that I think all people of glorious size have: is this just how it’s supposed to be? Should I just stop fighting?
I adore my body. I spend a ridiculous amount of time walking around naked saying yes goddess octaviafridanina thank you for this body! And also too, I adore health. I love this body best when I feel like I can make intentional healthy choices that my body likes.
I’m also a bit of a hypochondriac (Oh shit is this celiacs? Diabetes? Whooping cough? Do I have a tape worm alien parasite? No? No? But how do you really know? Oh…health insurance? But I’m an artist. Hmm. But what if it’s…and so on) so healthy choices are my best way to avoid paranoid journeys through the haunted house of Web MD.
The best thing I’ve done for myself related to health, in terms of how I’ve felt, was a deep examination of my relationship to sugar. It’s in all the things I like, and it makes me mindless around food. I can order and consume a pizza with no presence whatsoever. When life gets tough, as it did last fall, I can sort of look up and find that somehow there’s an empty ice cream pint on the coffee table. Then my body and energy are all messy trying to remember who I am.
So I declare it here.
I am a Virgo creator in springtime.
I am a self loving human who smashes to-do lists and walks directly towards what I long for.
I imagine worlds and generate possibilities for a living.
I can do this!
So I’m doing another sugar shift starting today. I don’t frame it as a cleanse in my heart, because this is a long long process of unlearning sugar as comfort and rediscovering health. Something like 50 people are doing some version of it too on Facebook (let me know if you want in).
Some tips from last time, and for travel:
– know the possible meals I can have for the day, both what I create and what’s possible when eating out. Time travel to the hardest one and make a plan. Build up to trusting myself to hold the line in the moment.
– be a snack warrior. Have things in my bag that will actually get me through. For me that’s trail mix and tuna.
– decide my adaptations beforehand. Some folks are doing the cleanse with fruit, or with specific grains, or one glass of white wine in the evening. Again, decide what I need to get through it and then lock it in. It’s only 21 days.
– drink so much water. Big glass with fresh lemon in the morning and then keep the bottle in hand all day. When I think of food, drink some water before taking any other action. My skin will praise dance (after the initial toxin flush breakout which I will welcome as indications I’m actually doing it…and not pick at!).
– move my body. Whatever movement feels like a celebration in my body, I’ll do that. For some people it’s running. For me it’s dancing. I’m alive! Act like it.
Those are the main things I can think of as I begin again this humbling daunting necessary journey.
I’m doing this while book touring, so I need all your love and sweetness now. If you see me, you can ask about the cleanse, but mostly ask me how I am, tell me I’m glowing and give me a big hug.
I’m going to seek the pleasure in this experience. Blow me kisses.
so i am nearing the end of a 21 day sugar cleanse. it has been a completely transformational experience. i am at the end of day 18 now and really loving how it feels to have this much agency, and the growing trust i feel in myself that i can set and hold the boundaries i need for my health. i was inspired to do it by my sister, and along the way lots of other friends have joined in. i have also seen folks doing other cleanses, and it’s all incredibly inspiring. and it helps to have people in it with you sharing tips for success.
i wanted to share here some of the best guidance i have received and/or learned:
1. TELL EVERYONE. this came from autumn. i found it to be immensely true, particularly when traveling or when hitting walls where i felt like i couldn’t go on. landing some place and being greeted with, ‘i saw you’re doing a sugar cleanse! how inspiring – how does it feel/work?’ increases accountability ten fold. this also helps when you start to feel your feelings and don’t have sweets/bread/cheese/chocolate/whiskey/potatoes/insert-other-sugar-things-here to turn to. it helps when you can ask for patience and support for behaving like a dragon in a forest getting angry at the trees for being so green and sedentary and burning down everything in sight.
2. NOTICE ALL THE SWEETNESS IN YOUR LIFE. this came from jodie and was right on time. i started the cleanse surrounded by sick sweet babies and an eager sweet puppy dog, supported by my sweet and health oriented partner. i started noticing all the love that flows towards me, everywhere, and leaning in for more hugs, kisses, listening, contact. love multiplies, fills up, wins.
3. DON’T SUBSTITUTE. the goal is not to maintain the sweet tooth with, or shift the dependence to, artificial things. the absence of sugars and sweeteners has actually changed what i am able to taste and what i long for. that is where the freedom comes from – that i am not looking for the sugar in everything, but noticing the wide range of sweet and complex flavors in the whole and healthy foods i can consume.
4. PLAN OUT THE DAY. know where you will be eating, what options will be there for you, and if you need snacks. i have found that i need to eat something roughly every two hours on this cleanse, and the meals can be small, or super nutritious, or just snacks. (grind your own peanut butter (available now at most health oriented grocers) is indulgent decadent heaven. toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, mixed nuts (i liked pistachio/peanut/pecan/walnut), tomatoes sliced and drizzled with oil and sea salt, broccoli and cauliflower marinated in lemon – these are just a few of my favorite snacks.)
5. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. learned this from lynnee: products lie! or they just might be so familiar that you don’t even consider the sugar content – you have to look at the ingredients list and nutritional facts. things like sriracha, kombucha, wasabi seaweed snacks and most salad dressings have some sugar listed. ‘no carbs, no sugar’ is what you are looking for. there are a lot of trends out there now. sugar free, gluten free, raw, organic, vegan, natural. and in a capitalist nation a trend is an opportunity to sell something to people who want to be healthier but may not do due diligence. don’t get mad, get informed.
6. WATCH, FEEL, DON’T WEIGH. look at your body and face in the mirror before you start. take pictures. see what you can notice about the ways you change during the cleanse. don’t spend too much time on the scale, i would say not more than once a week, because during the cleanse you might notice an accelerated speed of weight loss, faster than is sustainable long term. it can become an unhealthy tendency. instead, notice how you look different to yourself. notice how you feel in motion, how your clothes and joints feel.
7. MOVE. your body will especially need sunlight, fresh air, and motion during this time. your body is a divine machine. you want to encourage your body to use the fuel you are giving it, to change how it processes. it helps so much if you move, dance, walk, get the machine going.
8. ENCOURAGE, DON’T EVANGELIZE. learned this one by being evangelized to before i reached this point. i have mostly been able to keep in mind what i’ve learned – inspiration works better than any implication that you know more about my health that i do. everyone comes to these kinds of transformations in their own time, relative to their own struggles. i never thought i could do this, but when the moment was ripe, i fell into it without resistance. my whole being is aligned with this life change.
9. TRANSFORM. i am actively learning this. this doesn’t feel like a temporary detox, it feels like getting clean from an addiction. don’t approach it as a short-term withholding of something you want. think of it as an intentional transformation. you are shape shifting yourself – deciding to shift your body’s main source of energy from sugar to fat. don’t go into it with an intention to get back to deep dish pizza on day 22. start it when you can imagine any sugar other than fruit as a rare thing.
10. WATER IS SACRED. and precious. and drinking outlandish amounts of it helps manage hunger, headaches, how toxins move out through the skin, and just how you feel in your water-based body. i’ve been making the effort to empty my water bottle before breakfast and after every other meal, as well as sipping in between. my whole system is functioning beautifully, i’m sleeping more deeply, and i just love how my skin feels as a result.
that’s all for now, i will update again once it’s done. and if you do this cleanse, i want to hear about it!
i mean nomad here in the sense of one who travels for food, or to make a living, and one who is home in the journey. i am noticing the things which help me stay healthy and grounded while spending the majority of my life traveling.
leave no trace behind – beyond joy.
…unless i find a place i want to return to. mark it with a pair of sweatpants or a beloved book.
then, let go of attachment to materials and plans. i am this journey.
remember the sacred space is inside – it is my body, and it is worn on my face.
that said, a little bag of items that feel grounding can’t hurt. currently mine holds a bunch of gifts including a tiny ganesha statue for removing obstacles, zen tarot cards, a stick of palo santo to clear bad energy when i am in a new space, and a print up of my favorite sutra, which i am making into a song to remember. i add my mala when they come off my wrists each night, like they are getting recharged.
the most important resource i carry is water. keep water carrier full and flowing. immerse myself in water wherever i find it, remember its all of one place, one system.
pack based on weather, such that i can layer up and down and still look fly. know exactly where along the journey i will clean my clothing. fabulous minimalism = happy style. very few people look cute with too much baggage.
the right piece of cloth can be blanket, scarf, coat, hair wrap, baby carrier and decoration. it should be beautiful.
learn practices to center and strengthen myself. practices to do anytime, anywhere. meditation, prayer, yoga, aikido, etc have all persisted for a reason.
gather up instances of kindness, always notice when a human is being with me.
cultivate compassion, there are so many mysteries.
eat what i am given enthusiastically, with gratitude. carry fruit to avoid desperation.
articulate what i need shamelessly, with self-love.
a walk tunes me into the pace of the place where i have landed.
delays are opportunities to create and reflect. or write. or meditate. or discover new music. or catch up with my loves angelina and beyonce. or chat with my many collaborators in the life. or call my mama.
and if in all of this i feel homesick, if i feel lost, if i am exhausted, ear plugs and a good book can still transport me wherever and whenever i need to go.
p.s. my homey leah wrote a piece on travel tips for folks who are chronically ill – check it here!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what is my best.
When I was young it was clearly laid out for me what the best was, there were prizes and gold stars and north stars and ways to measure: grades, parental smiles, degrees, solos. I can count my not-best moments (when I saw the failure coming and did not change course) from birth through college on one hand. Generally, I was ambitious because I thought that was good.
Then began a dance, a crumbling of drive, a dusting off of something essential which appeared like an inner resistance. I would achieve some honor, title, position, or acknowledgement and feel erased by it, instead of seen. That I was conforming to other people’s idea of the best, in a society which measured things in ways that didn’t resonate with me.
This has been slow, and its ongoing. It has meant rejecting or sidestepping degrees, money, and certain spotlights. I am beginning to tease out what feels right after years of just being able to sense what didn’t resonate. There are two aspects which are emerging, which work in tandem as a compass towards doing my best: love and dignity.
These two aspects work in a couple of ways – as I follow them, when I feel them in myself or sense them in others, they are leading me to the best life I’ve known. And tasting these feelings, I want more of them – I want to let love grow through me, and guide me. I want to stand in my dignity against all the odds.
If I ask, ‘Is love here?’ and/or ‘Am I in my dignity here?’, I can feel answers that help me move towards my truth and back away from future regrets. I still do things that might be morally questionable, all the time. But with intention, with the consideration of love and dignity being present, I am learning to trust myself to do my best.
Last week my friend dream posted a mini rant about the ways people judge each other’s work and passions. She was responding to general local critiques of folks who aren’t in the streets over the emergency manager in Detroit, among other things.
I was really moved by her words, probably in part because I haven’t been in the streets. To a large extent I see the EM as a distraction, pulling people away from their work to create a future for this city rooted in abundance and community, to fight for a symbol of power instead of continuing to learn how we generate and hold power in community.
But I care about a lot of the people impacted by, displaced by, and focused on resistance to the EM. I’ve been reflecting and writing and meditating and praying on the well-being of all the people I love here who are internalizing this period of Detroit’s history, taking it into their breaking hearts.
I also care about gender justice, which dream named as one of her core passions. And Assata. And the men in Guantanamo Bay. And the sexual health of black women and girls. And people impacted by terrorism and violence the world over. And Palestine. And the tar sands pipeline, environment, trans liberation, combating obesity and fat phobia, education and so many more things.
I want to do my best by these things.
I actually think most people want to do their best, to be good people and create a good society. But there are so many paths to do that good. Is it by being a body in the streets, or infiltrating the school system with radical content, or making new media, or creating more art, or opening cooperative businesses, or raising awareness on social media, or disrupting every city council meeting, or writing science fiction about new worlds, or, or, or?
How to choose? What is the best way?
What I have been exploring over the past few years is that the work I do best is that which I am most passionate about, work which encourages my health and well-being, affirms my power and the power of everyone else, and keeps me in a space of creativity and solutions.
I don’t think this is unique to me. In my heart I feel there are a thousand paths towards justice and liberation. Yes to all of those things, all of that work, all of those strategies. All of these issues need to evolve – which means they each need people who are most passionate about them, people who feel powerful in moving the work forward, who are healthy enough to do the work well, who are creating solutions.
This happens, for me, at the smallest scale. It has felt hard to explain, unimportant after some of the national and/or urgent work I have done in my life – where I felt special and smart and strategic and at the table. But I am beginning to really understand how political it is to do personal emergency management.
Detroit is one epicenter amongst many – we are in the midst of systems which are imploding. Systems which we – well I, and I suspect/hope many of you dear readers – know better than to want to save, because these are systems which rely on our oppression and inequality, on seeing each other as competition rather than family.
So we are working to remember and create new ways to manage our shared home together. And yet many of us are still in the elementary stage of learning how to manage our personal homes – our bodies and health, our relationships, our movement work, our hearts. Not to mention our actual homes and our finances.
I might be in pre-K.
In this chaotic state we try to create change in the world and find ourselves stretched, tired, demoralized, and unable to create the transformations we yearn for, though we feel the possibility within ourselves. But in the lack of knowing how to do things differently, too many of us still do our work from places of fear, obligation or anger. From no, instead of from yes.
I am sitting now with the question of what it means to do my best, as an adult in a world full of crisis and tragedy. I’ve written about cultivating joy as a weapon, as a frontline. And here I don’t mean a general upbeatness. I mean joy powerful enough to generate authentic resistance in the face of hopelessness. Joy that makes people want to create new worlds and new life together.
I think a first step in cultivating that joy is measuring my best based on how well I can manage my personal state. I was in an emergency state for a decade – my mental, emotional and physical health were deteriorating and I wasn’t even really aware of it except occasionally as a badge of honor to mark how dedicated I was to the work. I was, like many activists I love and respect, doing my best impression of eeyore-on-speed.
I am on the journey now of getting my health, spirit, heart and finances together, with the belief that the more grounded, joyful and dignified I am, the better I can live and lead. The more clearly I can apply my gifts and energy towards work I am passionate about, making the most of my miraculous and limited human capacity. Then, the more inviting my futures become. And the stronger my emergent strategies can be.
Because when it is time for us to manage it all – whatever we call it, our neighborhoods, our cities, our sovereign collaborative tribes – I want to be capable of the task, I want to be experienced, I want to be trustworthy. I want it to feel like love and dignity are there.
I suspect we won’t even get a real chance to manage it all until we have generated so much love and dignity and joy that our future is the irresistible one.
I see everything I am doing now as learning, as preparation. Now, and then, I want to do my best.
i just have to tell you all, because it’s SO amazing:
1. i left my computer at security when leaving town a few days ago*, and have been remarkably released by not having it around. my dreams are vivid and lucid, my ability to be present is vastly different, and my workaholic-virgo-oldest-perfectionist self is powerless against this challenge.
2. i dropped my phone in a pitcher of water.
3. i am now in a packed schedule running around oakland with none of my traditional tools for communicating, having to make plans that mean something and just laugh at myself as i continuously reach for tools i use to arrange and rearrange my life constantly.
but the beautiful thing is, it feels like a universe-imposed vacation in the midst of a lot of work. i am laughing, and feeling freed up and not at all freaking out.
in the absence of constant external stimulation, i can see that every message coming to me is about health, balance, well-being, rest, sustainability.
it is possible to live unsustainably in a period of stress, but it is also possible to have too many amazing things to attend, to be too excited by life, and i have been in that zone. my life is breathlessly exciting right now, with birth and rebirth as the functioning metaphor for everything. labor, miracle, labor, miracle – there is no difference, no separation.
so grounding myself, and pacing myself, because labor and miracles take time, you submit to it, you give in to what your body knows how to do, and to the knowledge of the baby or concept or political formation as it makes it’s way into the world.
tonight i am finding my way to water somehow – i have been thinking a LOT about water the past few days. the incomprehensible immensity of ocean, the shapeshifting co-existence of icebergs in water, the separation and reunion of water as it moves through the cycle from ocean to vapor to cloud to rain to lake/river/stream to ground water and back into ocean again…that is the life process, becoming individual and then moving back to the whole. that is the one-ness that presents itself as a multitude, or a season of monsoon, or an absence of drought.
these are the kind of things i think when i am in the world. i just wanted to share it with you. now i have to leave this portal…you too 🙂
* the computer is there, ilana checked on it, i will get it back, it’s fine.
i gathered up all the recipes i love and posted them on the blog. they are in the fantastic life section under the Eat Good part. as with most things i put into the world, these are not a sign of expertise, but of lived experience. there are likely better or more official ways to make all the foods i mention, but these are ways to just make some really yummy food.