In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"



I suffer from insomnia, always have. My brain either does not shut down at night or does not stay shut. It is not a constant condition but revisits often enough to make me miserable.

The usual cycle begins when I divert, even slightly, from my regular sleep and awakening time. For instance, if I work a night shift on one job and then teach an early class at the other, I lose sleep. By the time I settle down to sleep, it’s late and my optimal 7 hours of sleep is down to 6 or fewer. And too little sleep one night does not result in a guaranteed better night the next. In fact, the opposite is usually true. I get over-tired, making sleep impossible when I am wide awake from having gone through too many tired hours.

Ordinarily, I fight insomnia with sufficient exercise, healthy diet and strict sleep times. Sometimes months pass without a bout. But lately–the last two years lately–I am not able to avoid it even with careful attention.

I am not one to medicate. Yes, I like a glass of wine with dinner and a cold IPA after a long week, but pharmaceuticals I avoid. Most sleep aids leave me with a hangover and homeopathic remedies have not proven successful for me to date. And every one knows alcohol disrupts sleep when the effects wear off during the night.

A friend donated “medicinal” marijuana to me for the cause a while ago, which helped me sleep during some of those insomnia episodes. After high school, pot stopped being fun since it only made me fall asleep, a condition I wanted to avoid most of my life. But now, that is just what the doctor ordered–literally.

I visited a pot doctor and a dispensary today to get a “recommendation” and “medicine.” It was rather surreal to this old girl who has not purchased pot since 1977. I had heard about the different varietals and experienced the potency surge–like pot on steroids–but I was amazed at the various applications, combinations and methods to use this plant once purchased simply as a dime bag for ten dollars that yielded either good stuff or bad.

The dispensers at the dispensary were quite informed and professional, affording me samples and sniff tests to entice my discerning nose to the subtleties in aromas. And though I sniffed and nodded, I had to confess to total ignorance.

“Just give me something that will make me sleep–the entire night–and still allow me to teach a 7:20 a.m. class as a human not a zombie, ” I requested. After all, this was the purpose, the reason for this trip and experiment for a cure or at least relief.

“Girl Scout Cookies,” she replied, and I went home with my Rx bag of enough medicine to last me for the next one hundred bouts of insomnia or my lifetime, whichever comes first.

I must say, the number of tweaks to whatever you eat, smoke or apply is mind boggling. There is something for whatever ails you, and not merely back pain, insomnia, stomach ache, anxiety, depression and soreness. There’s even a recommended varietal for writer’s block (or was a I sold a bill of goods?).

You can spray cannibis oil on affected areas of muscle pain or rub in ointment if preferred. You can eat candies, cookies or marshmallow puffs, according to the literature I perused while at the “shop.” You can quarter, halve or pop a whole cookie in your mouth depending on your tolerance for THC, cannabinoids or late night sugar snacking.

According to my doctor, the edibles are best for sleeping through the night but not the heavy bodied indica types that leave residual hangovers (though all of them can in the wrong dose). Hybrids seem best. But timing is everything with those, not so good with an unpredictable work schedule or late night shifts. Who has the extra two hours to wait or gumption to eat pot at work? Not me.

We’ve come a long a way from pot brownies, I guess.

Curious about why California, the earliest leader of pot legalization, is late on the bandwagon behind Colorado, Washington and Oregon (D.C., maybe too), I researched and found politics, money and petty bickering between purists and pragmatists, both vying for the initiative that will finally win the day after failed attempts in 2010 and prior. As it stands, the 2016 initiative, California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which is finally down to only one initiative–so far–is still gathering solidification and blessings from grandfather NORML and political power ReformCA, two big backers of pot legalization.

Hopefully, sensible law will win the day, one that de-criminalizes marijuana use completely, not in some half-assed mock health law, though I am not knocking the compassionate care legislation that gave real patients medical marijuana relief. I suspect some of my fellow office visitors at the doc’s today just wanted to recreate, and so played the sick card. The farce should end.

As for me, I’m playing the guinea pig and research subject (this whole experiment is merely for research purposes and a good story, right?). Stay tuned for updates.


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She Like Me


I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think interior decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves –  Anna Quindlen

Over jack fruit tacos, fresh chips and salsa and pumpkin bisque, she repeats the urgency to me. “At my age, I feel I should be on some path. I thought I had one, but now I don’t know what to do.”

She is 20. Her eyes glimmer the sea’s green under the sun.

“Maybe you’re already on your path,” I offer. “Searching and yearning is a path you return to periodically throughout your life, I suspect, judging from my own. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”

She dips a chip, swivels and scoops the salsa to her mouth, chewing and thinking.

“No one gets how interesting it is that the same Aussie passes by the same spot outside the store each time I work.” 

She’s off on a new topic, obviously. 

“Or that the old dude with the baggy pants and dead cigar, who sits on the bench watching people go by is not creepy, just lonely. No one finds interesting the same things I do. No one even notices the same things I do. They just look at me blankly, like ‘I don’t get it.'”

Maybe she is not onto another topic after all, I think, and say to her, “You have the eyes and notice of a writer. Perhaps you should write.”

I smile inside at the thought–of her writing, of her at 20, and of her as my daughter. Her terrible beauty in striving splashes coolly recollected imagery over me of the shadow passion of a younger woman, far less stunning but more deeply driven. I too wanted to know my path back then, a college student looking for purpose and love and hating both, the need for either. I too was unable to see the road under my feet for my eyes focused farther down the way.

I mindlessly bring a chip to my lips and the crunching disrupts my musing. Watching her animated face, her lively expression full of open mouth laughter and wide eyed indignity at the passing observations, wishes and gripes she tosses out over half eaten tacos, I marvel at this bundle of gesticulations and well-spun tales of friends becoming strangers and strangers turned friends, this woman of my making with well-chosen words to help me see.

I see me and not me in her at 20. I only hope I was as engaging and fascinating a lunch date as she.


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Hold hands in equanimity,

knuckles to knee, soft palm up,

elbows east and west to the sea,

or thumbs poised right angle to

index, cupping the joint round.

Lotus springs from the dead

but loving breath warms limb, 

left foot rising over right over

left again, balance in the being

synced forth in a becoming to

the rhythmic beam’s third eye.

Hold hands, heart with mind,

hear the calm of 10,000 years

in lungfuls of uncharted time.  

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bench waiting

The hours waiting…

waiting on the bench

cement and puke mold

bench, after finger-ink-


while I witnessed her,

shoe-less, bra-less, 

patch-toothy grin like sin,

cheap dye and tat job,

resisting and they, bitch

cops, pushers, shovers,

kicking the shit out of her,

who was out of her mind,

uncontrolled, and they,


clubs and punches, her

forced with her head 

shoved down by gloved 

fists, face between her

legs, until subdued,

no breath, so violent, so

much violence, shouting,

berating, beating, negating, 

every bit of it, all of it,

dystopian, institutional,

blues and grays, painted

cement walls, filthy dinge

cages and cages, and the

continual influx of human

fodder, walking lines, room

to room, to room to room,

walking lines, room walking

lines, walking–no room 

for poor players out, no 

way out, no way, not for the

poor paying prison prices.




cause and effect

Though once a huge fan, I have become disenchanted with cause and effect. Formerly hailed as counterpart of or precondition to logic, itself some powerful amulet to ward off irrational emotion since the Age of Reason, cause and effect aka reasons or origins, somehow dissolve into explanations and/or excuses, thereby de-motivating change.

For example, my struggles with anger, judgment and mind-chatter, seem endless. Now, I certainly can and have traced the origins of each of those behaviors as inherent or learned. My father flips into uncontrollable, body shaking, nerve-wracked rage on a hair trigger. His primary feature, besides negative, might be dubbed anger. Whereas my mother never was prone to anger–as much. But she was awfully judgmental, and over the border of cautious into the territory of suspicious. She was quick witted, the product of an agile mind, but also quick to judge. She carried pre-conceived notions and prejudices: “That long-haired boy is dirty,” she once complained to me, though I knew intimately well that he showered–with soap and shampoo–daily. 

The mind chatter may be inherited or environmentally induced or unique to me, though I seriously doubt it. Mind chatter is nearly everyone’s 21st century (and much, much longer) problem. But analysing roots to my own traits and those of my husband, children, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins and parents is a favorite pasttime in the post-Freudian/Jung era. My family loves to do it. However, tracing origins does little to eradicate unwanted behaviors and knee-jerk reactions. In fact, the comfort, even downright smug confidence, in the careful analysis of reasons–for me anyhow–thwarts efforts to eliminate unthinking behavior by believing the job half completed.

No doubt changing behavior, especially ingrained thinking patterns and involuntary reactions, is enormously difficult for most. It is for me. Most emotional reactions go unrecorded, unthought of. My litany in the driver’s seat on any given day is one such example. An hour of yoga in the morning concentrating on and then achieving a connectedness with the universe, its inhabitants and all that exists flies out the car window a half hour later in the 15 minute, muttering-filled drive to school: “What are you some kind of a moron?” I might ask aloud to the car swerving into my lane ahead of me, without a mite’s notice. The violence of that question, that mindset, goes completely undetected mostly. Maybe not undetected, but completely unrestrained in the uttering. 

And then I judge myself for lack of control, criticizing myself–Miss Yoga–for the irony and absurdity, for its impeding progress to judge and anger less and focus on chatter-free presence more. Now, I might lapse into congratulating myself for a clever analysis of the causes for such “bad” behavior, like lack of sleep, lack of yoga, lack of control, lack of you name it, when that happens. Knowing and admitting my weaknesses is half the battle, right? That is the psychological lore anyhow.

But that comfort in doing half the work–incorrect math–is illusory, justificatory, rationalization. Enormous effort effects change, enables me–or anyone–to cease automatic behaviors acquired before consciousness. First, the mind chatter must quiet, reduced by half at least, so as to hear, see and smell immediate surroundings of the moment. Quieter still, to “listen” to emotional reactions as they occur or watch them arise. And then neutral observation may have a chance once the way is paved–stillness–to regard the workings of the mind and body. If I can watch the anger gather me up in the car (or anywhere I perceive my efforts thwarted or my path blocked), note it and think of it without judgment, I might short-circuit the cyclic occurrence, the connection between driving and anger severed–one street of one drive at a time. Baby steps. 

The requisite discipline overwhelms me just the thought of it, sometimes. I am too tired to separate myself out like that most days. But at least I know I have this problem and how to fix it, right? Wrong. Cause and effect unconsciously, silently and insidiously strikes just like that.

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Costa Rica

That trip, a peculiar humid mixture of venality–yoga and sexting–changed my life. I left some part of my former self in Costa Rica. I felt amputated, as if a piece of me was missing when I returned. This haunting continued for many months afterward, a sensation like I never left the Carribbean, where I spent four days detoxing the poisons of a lifetime of accumulated dissonance: misdirected dives into careers and relationships that formed an image I believed I was–not who I was.

On the fifth day, I descended from the jungle bungalow where I lay hammocked asleep with a book on my lap, recovering from four yoga classes a day: sun rise, late morning, late afternoon and late evening. Only on that day, my fiftieth birthday, after a morning yoga session spent weeping to the chant inside my head: “Where have you been? Where are you going?” did I go to the tiny boat village to dine at a local restaurant and wade in the clear waters of a native beach. Only then did I join the rest of the sea hut world layered along the shore, leaving behind the longing lover living in my phone, the headphones of seclusion, and the drowning jungle chorus of howling monkeys, cicadas and neon frog-lets.

 The colors of the rain forest in phosphorescence glittering on the wings of giant blue butterflies or on the backs of lightning flash lizards delighted me as much as the colors of flesh, lips, hips and hair of lovemaking in my imagination.  On a life-shift trip, I turned around.

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Quote of the Day

I really have no idea what that means, but after reading this wonderfully packaged quotation by someone I know not, I considered that my day actually did struggle with me for control.

I awoke at 4 a.m. with a total of four hours sleep, after which I suffered in bed awaiting daylight. When I finally surrendered to the day, I went off to teach my 7:20 a.m. class only to discover I left the pile of essays I corrected til midnight the night before, on my dresser. The absurdity of that condition annoyed me but did not throw me into despair as it might have on any other day. Notable.

After my husband graciously agreed to deliver the papers to me, all seemed to be righted again, like tipping the corner of a crooked picture. My two cups of coffee were sustaining my teaching mind, and class went fairly well considering it was an unusual day of mostly grammar lessons. That is not what occurs on any other day of the semester. I preside over a writing class full of students assumed to be competent writers (assumed, anyhow).

But then I went home to write an article with a three hour deadline that was already on extension. My tired brain could not muster up the 1500 words in three hours, and I was about to miss the deadline or ask for yet another extension when I realized I had already missed the deadline 12 hours before. Oh shit! But wait, the missed deadline was somehow overlooked as my project was not automatically terminated as it would be on this site. Oh shit! okay.

So I asked for another extension, not actually caring whether I got it or not, pretty zen about it, and made my way to the DMV appointment to replace my lost license, expecting at least a couple hour wait. No sweat, since I had yet another batch of essays to correct for the next morning’s class with me. Amazingly, however, I filled out my application for my license, handed it to the gentleman behind the government issue desk, who promptly handed me a number I glanced at just as I heard that same number called to window 21. Wtf? Could it be? I completed my entire transaction in less than 9 minutes, a first in my five and a half decades. 

Then I worked my third job of the day, dreading the drudgery of holding up on my feet on four hours’ sleep until 11 p.m., ending a 19 hour day. But a surprise impromptu training session arose, and time swallowed up my shift with me none the wiser, even as I glanced at my phone every half hour waiting for it to be over.

Days are like that occasionally, pushing and pulling me along with fortunate and unfortunate events, or good turns from bad ones back into bad, then good again. Kind of like today. And all the while, I took it all pretty well, rather evenly, notable in itself. 

I think the above quote by the person about whom I am not curious enough to Google, should read, “Sometimes the day runs you and you run the day too.”