From vanity to sanity

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I rise early but not always easily. The alarm sounds and I fight the urge to stay in bed while my sheets make their argument for “just 5 more minutes”.. .Their high thread count can be very persuasive. Peeling myself away from them is the first victory of each day. As I head for the bathroom my body sounds like a pachinko machine. My hips pop. My knees and ankles crack. I roll my eyes a lot first thing in the morning. That’s right, I wake up super sexy. Now in my mid thirties my body seems to have so much to say. She’s more high maintenance than ever and yes, I am glad that she communicates her needs so freely but, some of her techniques in doing so border on dramatic. I splash some water on my face and before I get distracted by emails and other b.s. I hit the mat. I try not to let my mind wander into the day ahead. The ever growing to do list, what gruesome nonsense our president may have tweeted while I was dreaming, my unresolved business with the IRS or why the hell my hair is doing that weird thing today. By the time my brain is making noise my body has hushed and become less awkward to navigate. I lay on the floor and pretend to be a locust. Then on my knees like a rabbit. Up and back, I am a camel. I teeter and balance like a stick. With intention and tit sweat my body becomes a bow aimed at the mirror..

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In the beginning of my yoga practice years ago I’ll admit it was simply an affectation. I was not stretching for nirvana or searching for peace of mind. More like Lester Burnham in American Beauty when he began jogging with his neighbors, I just wanted to look good naked. Luckily I ended up with a little of both. A journey that began as an exercise in vanity has brought me some bliss and offered up some sanity.

On the mat one day a wholly beneficial and better-late-than-fucking-never epiphany landed in my mind: I give my attention to so much shit that truly does not deserve it. And If you’re reading this I’d bet you my mother that the same is true of you. Daily I dump these completely unworthy thoughts like a bad date who treats the waiter like shit and eats more than their fair share of dessert. No one has time for that.

One thought/concern I leave on the mat every day is other people’s expectations of me.  We all know that society expects a lot of women. It’s exhausting. You gotta be beautiful, smiling (always), smart but not too smart (that can be intimidating). Mysterious, well mannered, captivating, accomplished, sexy, virginal, married, forever young, nurturing, a boss, approachable, perfect… These thoughts are toxic. I believe that years of attempting to be any number of these things at once is how I came to perfect the eye roll that I mentioned above.

Yoga is antivenom for all this inanity. It provides me with a healthy view of what I truly am and the power to stop considering whatever the hell I’m not. Because I am a lot. People have told me this plenty of times. What good news! I am more than enough and the same goes for you.

It’s been said that nirvana is where you are provided you don’t object to it.. So I will continue to fight the power, fight the patriarchy, fight fucking traffic. As for for nirvana I think it’s no coincidence that it sounds an awful lot like Shavasana. No objections here.

If you don’t practice but want to, you should check out local babe, Adriene Mishler. Since you probably read this on your phone I’d like to recommend her Yoga for Text Neck video.

See? I got your back! Namaste! 

Intruder

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Twice in the past week I’ve woken up to an intruder at my front door in the dead of night. Both times the sound of someone on the step casually trying the handle escalated quickly to the sound of someone throwing their weight aggressively against the door. There are several locks and even a chain but they didn’t help make me feel any more safe or any less naked in the moment. Thing is, the first night this happened it was a dream. I woke up inside of it and put on my sweatpants.  I walked to the door in the dark, avoiding the spot in the floor that squeaks. Unable to find a shirt on the way I covered my breasts with my hands. I squinted anxiously through the peephole and into a faceless man who was breaking like waves against the door. I felt like a hostage. Like he was holding me under water. His face distorted as I struggle to breathe. To remain calm.  We were no more than three to five inches apart. Only an old door between us. I wondered if I were a man would this kind of thing  even happen? Would I be standing there silently, covering my body in the dark with this nauseating fear racing around in my blood like battery acid. I felt weak and instantly woke up outside of it. Safe in my bed. In the silence. My eyes glued to the door. I was alone. The train horn blew a few seconds later and it made me jump. Pulling the sheets up over my shoulders I rolled my eyes back to sleep.

When it happened again last night I simply rolled over.  Wondering why I couldn’t have recurring dreams about riding Alexander Skarsgard like a reindeer  through a snowy forest in the midnight sun. As I cozied up to that idea I heard something crash outside my window. Again my blood went acidic and raced around my body, pulling all the fire alarms. I threw on my trusty sweatpants. Hands on tits I made my way to the door in the dark, avoiding the spot in the floor that squeaks. I held my breath when I got to the peephole. I wasn’t ready to see him though. What if I knew him? Would that be worse than not knowing him? What if I could just wake up again? As I remembered the train and hoped for the horn, he threw himself against the door and it bucked in my face. The chain jingled like pocket change and the distance between he and I suddenly felt measurable only by time. He was a blur. He yelled something I couldn’t make out. I said nothing. I went for my phone. I fucking hate it when someone does something that requires me to call the cops. I already didn’t want this man here. Calling more to the scene felt counter intuitive. I was pressing 1 for the second time when I heard him trying to get the screen off the window. The phone rings and I tell the woman on the phone where I lived and what’s going on. She asked if I was alone. She asked in the tone my mother uses to tell me how much she hates that I’m alone. It’s pity and I never need it. I should be safe by myself. In fact, I had been.

She stayed on the phone with me until the police arrived. They asked him a few questions and then cuffed him as he stood on my welcome mat. I stayed anonymously on the other side of the door with my heart climbing into my throat as if she hoped to get a look through the peephole too. I did see his face before they wrangled him to the car. He was new to me. A total stranger and a very drunk one at that. His eyes were pale blue. His face blister red. An early 30’s blonde with a haircut that probably looked a lot like the one his mother gave him in the second grade. Once he was gone I unlocked the door and went out on the step to talk to the officer. In the chaos I had located a shirt but not a bra and the officer looked at my tits 3 times while asking me If I knew the guy. We talked about how drunk my unwanted guest was as I picked up the plants he had knocked over. He tells me that if they can find out where he lives they’ll probably just take him home. I was stunned. I argued that if they took him home he would probably just wake up and not remember how he’d gotten there. What about public intox? Upon telling this story to a friend this morning he suggested I get a gun. How is that one response while another is to shrug it off and make sure the guy gets home safe?

In the end, I worry about our binge drinking culture and the shit behavior it breeds. I’m exhausted by another reminder that as a woman I have to play defense all the fucking time. I’m disappointed that I didn’t tell that cop to focus and write down what I was saying rather than staring at my tits. I’m a little creeped out that I dreamt about it before it came to be. However, I’m mega grateful that it played out how it did. I think I can save the orchid he crushed. I know I can keep remembering to lock the door before I go to bed.

Get on your knees and eat my banana bread...

In the early aughts I lived in a warehouse with a dozen other ne’er do wells in downtown Dallas. As the stories go the building had been a speakeasy back in the day and we did our best to keep the old bricks entertained with a roaming cast of characters and our efforts to get by, high and generally unemployed. My roommate and landlord kept herself flush with cash by renting space to all of us and working as a dominatrix. The room I shared with her was the dungeon, tall and dark, the dry wall painted to mimic cracked cinder blocks. I paid her $100 a month to live in an uncompromising cage slung in the top SE corner of the room. These were the only days in my life I have ever woken up behind bars. My corner of the world wasn’t tall enough to stand up in but my mattress fit on the floor just fine. I’d lay on the bed to get dressed so as to not hit my head on the old rafters. Her patrons made brief cameos in our room and had “middle management” or “let me file your taxes” written all over them.  Some days I would come home to find her and some woolly man sitting indian style on our bedroom floor, making sandcastles in bikinis. They’d smile up at me, sandy and pale then invite me to grab my suit and join them.. Other days I would find myself locked out of the dungeon in the hallway while she made some mystery man weep and moan on the other side of the door, her methods for which I never braved to ask. She had one client who was a house favorite. She called him “worm”. He paid her to clean up the place, in an apron and nothing more or that was the rumor anyway. He picked up the kitchen, did the floors, and scrubbed our toilets. I never saw him, only the shiny surfaces that suggested he had been around. I would imagine him licking our plates clean while she stood in the corner, scolding him in head to toe patent leather. Bless you, worm.. The thought still makes me shiver. 
 

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The rest of us threw parties downstairs once a month or so to scare up some cash. Charging five bucks at the door for a band and copious amounts of vomit inducing trashcan punch usually paid the bills. We didn’t need much. We lived off bong-rips, cheap booze and leftovers from the farmers market. Whatever they didn’t sell would be stacked up in crates by the dumpsters. Strawberries, green beans, squash, waning avocados.. As a group we bought a bag of rice that weighed about as much as I did at the time and paired well with whatever superfluous fortune the farmers had left behind.  We may have been young and poor but never hungry. Beyond steady meals of remnants and rice there was always a fresh loaf of banana bread. We slept late, shirking responsibility while the madam of the house would rise early, have a “smoga” (a pre-yoga cigarette), then she would kundalini for an hour. Once all her chakras had been aligned, her snake uncoiled, she’d whip up a batch of banana bread, like mom used to make. The smell would ride through the loft and up into my cage turning what was essentially a flop house for verdant riffraff into a cozy home. A simple recipe for dragging the needle back to zero. To this day when I make banana bread I think of her. Her fuzzy shaved head, her relentless quest for zen, her sandcastles and catherine wheel, the strange Johns..  She was forceful and soft, wild and wise. I miss that about her. 

So today  I’ll put on my bikini and preheat the oven to 325 degrees in the name of zen. In about 10 minutes my house will be dominated by the scent of sweet bananas and cinnamon. Once it cools I’ll have a bite and travel back in time to those days of being a free bird in a cage.  

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This recipe is simple. My old stand by recipe called for buttermilk which I did not have in the fridge and did not want to buy. I always end up wasting it. Knowing that Americans throw away 40% of their food, wasting anything is a god damn crime. You can make a mock buttermilk by adding lemon or apple cider vinegar to whatever kind of milk you may have on hand. I had macadamia nut milk so that’s the route I took. However, if fried chicken, chess pie or your grandmother’s ranch dressing recipe is in near the future then knock yourself out, get some buttermilk. I am a fan of texture so I added what I think of as “hippie furikake” on top. The mix changes based on whatever is in the pantry. Today I happened to have hemp hearts, poppy seeds, powdered peanut butter, cinnamon, maldon & sunflower seeds. You could add anything. It’s a lawless bread, really. Anything goes and everyone will eat it. 

WHAT YOU NEED:
3 R.I.P. bananas
8 Tablespoons butter or vegan alternative
¾ cup buttermilk OR yogurt OR Alternative milk + 1 Tablespoon apple cider vin
¼ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs (or egg replacer if you’d like to go vegan)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Hippie Furikake / Topping suggestions
Two teaspoons each :
hemp hearts, poppy seeds, powdered peanut butter, chia seeds, maldon, sunflower seeds, almond slivers, sesame seeds, nutritional yeast, pecans, flax seeds, wheat germ, cinnamon, pumpkin seeds.. and on and on. **Save what’s left and throw it in your next batch of pancake or waffle batter.**  

WHAT YOU DO: *preheat your oven to 325 F
Cream your butter and sugars
Beat and add your eggs. 
Mash your bananas and throw them in too along with the vanilla.
Whisk your flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. 
Once your wet mixture is fairly smooth start adding the dry stuff and alternate with your buttermilk. 
Grease a pan, pour the batter, top it off with your hearts desires..
Throw it in the oven for about an hour.

Pro Tip: Slice some up and make grilled banana bread and honey whipped cream cheese sandwiches for dessert or cheat day or when you’re just very stoned (if you’re into that sort of thing). 

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