Monday, September 23, 2013

It Keeps You Running

I spent the endorphin-soaked 20 minute segment of my run yesterday solving the world's problems.  That's generally what I do, you see.  Or at the very least, I spend those super focused, rainbow-swirly moments internally ranting while nodding silently in agreement with all my own opinions.

The bummer is that inevitably what occurs at the 45 minute mark of my run- the part where I lurch through my backdoor sweaty and gasping for air after hurling myself through approximately 3.5 miles of space- is that all the answers dry up.

Endorphins, for me, apparently work like magic fairy dust.  Or PCP or something.

There's a part of me that wants desperately to record my brain while on these self-injected chemicals. And not so much to retain the content alone, but to retain the drive behind the content.  Because, I'm telling you, I could seriously do some pretty awesome and/or wacked out things if I was perpetually jacked up on these chemicals.  Like potentially write the next Broadway hit rock opera or run for political office.  And probably at the same time.  Because, when the chemicals are coarsing like wildfire through my veins-- I feel empowered.  I feel plugged in.  I feel hopeful and necessary, like my ideas are viable and possible.

Now obviously I've done a few significant things in my life on a more down-to-earth scale. I've birthed two children and am parenting them.  I've made some albums.  I've done charity work and fostered long term meaningful friendships.  I've consistently co-tended to a relatively successful marriage.

But all of these major cornerstones in my life took and do continue to take time.  Small increments of time and energy and attention- consistently.  Whereas, the endorphin rush feels like a totally different gas in the tank.

You know what I mean, right?  Even if you don't bring it on yourself through exercise, there are other ways.  The second cup of coffee, perhaps.  The third glass of wine.  The fourteenth day of consistent meditation.  That one unbelievably amazing yoga class.   Reaching the top of the mountain.  Jumping out of a plane.  There's so many ways.

And the fuel that you're suddenly sucking down is incredible.  It's like 100% Self Esteem in a can. Like revisiting- or re-creating perhaps- a time in your life where you were willing to suspend all the disbelief.  When, either because of ignorance or sheer joy, you actually believe in the possible, despite the existence of the highly improbable.

So- ok.  THAT was running through me for a time yesterday as I'M running through the slightly sea-soaked balmy Venetian air.  The innocence of believing in the possible.

And now I think it's necessary that I provide you with this image.  Because a small piece thereof is what came into my purview just as I was getting into the groove of my run at the .3 mile mark down Venice Blvd.  I pass a bus stop- and this is what I see plastered on the side:

To be very specific- the image I see on the bus stop window is the one in the upper right quadrant. The chick in the bikini with the phone- apparently shooting a selfie (which, as all you linguists out there probably ruefully know, was just included last month as an official word in the dictionary.)  And this image makes me sort of sigh in vague disgust.  Not because the whole Grand Theft Auto franchise itself has really pierced through my life yet in any meaningful way- though I do have a nine year old boy who adores all things video game...

It's just that this image and all it implies is so so tiresome to me.  Me - an aging, curmudgeonly, educated female who's been swimming around in her own sea of confusion about where she belongs in the world as a woman and as an artist for some time.

Now, there's nothing wrong with beautiful girls/women wearing bikinis.  And though it's really vacuous, I suppose there's nothing actually technically wrong with shooting a selfie or flashing the now completely meaningless "peace" sign at the same time alongside your "come fuck me" face.  (Yeah- yeah I know- it's a V for Five.  As in Grand Theft Auto Five, but I see the other implications.)

What makes me sigh is that the whole package stinks.  It's the use--yet once again--of the image of a young, nearly naked gorgeous girl alongside images of fully-clad dudes sporting enormous machine guns and other automatic weapons.  As if those two contrasting images of  male power/violence and naked female weakness/vulnerability living beside each other are totally normal.  Well maybe because they are sadly ubiquitous in our culture-  powerful advertising tools.  These two contrasting images also seem to make up the essential energy that is this particular video game.  (Which, by the way, might be one of the top selling, most highly sought after games in all of home video gaming history. )

But, in my world - it's 2013.  Not 1958 or 1875 or 1312.   It's not even 445 BC.  In my world in 2013, we are moving ever so slightly toward a more wise, tolerant, kind, SMART society.  Where androgynous emblems are starting to take root and male and female live together in equality.  In my world we realize that women have much more power than just their sex appeal.  We value women for embodying the fundamental beginnings of all human life and culture.  And the nurturing element that sustains.  In my world, men who really understand sustainable power realize it's not about perpetrating fear. It's about supporting growth. In my world, men don't have to prove how strong or manly they are through violent acts.  They don't subjugate their heart-- the real center of power because power is about connection. They use their hearts alongside their brains and allow their hearts to make them present and vulnerable.  Then they become interested in discovering what the right choices are and how to make them in all the deeply grey areas life has to offer.

And now I've just passed mile marker 1.2.  And my inward wordy philosophical rant turns a bit angrier.

Because I realize My World is really still that-- just mine.  It's not the world I actually live in.  It's the fantasy world I like to think I inhabit.  Like Aaron Sorkin's "West Wing."  It's not a TV show about the ACTUAL White House.  Just the White House you wish were running the country.  Sure, there are handfuls of people living in the USA and elsewhere who likely would deeply align with me, but I do realize how sadly and actually in the minority I am.

So I get mad.  And my huffing and puffing becomes a little more measured and audibly louder.  Fuck these stupid men who grew up with no love and no respect for women because their mothers were beaten down and undervalued by their fathers.  A lot of whom grew up with no strong male role models because their role models abandoned them daily or just split entirely.  As did the generations before them.  Fuck these dudes who believe that running and splitting are what make men free and thereby living their birthright.  And that shooting and screaming and fighting and fucking and gambling and basically being destruction incarnate makes a man awesome.

Fuck all y'all insecure men, I inwardly shout, who are only comfortable with a beautiful woman if she's smaller and prettier and more timid than you.  Who appears to be not as bright or driven or steady as you.  And who then is basically yours for the taking- someone you can dominate.  Fuck y'all who keep messaging to our girls out there to become that kind of bikini-clad clone and to fight each other over the stupid stupid boys, because securing one of them is the only measure of her worth.  Fuck y'all who keep grinding our boys down to be so stupid and to value violence over compassion and brash impulse over thoughtful decision-making.

And the whole time I'm indulging in this strangely satisfying inward rant, fueled by that high octane endorphin rush....I'm remembering childbirth.  That's right- the births of my two kids.  I've been very lucky-- these two moments in my life are simultaneously the most violent and the most meaningful moments I've lived through.  And I suppose somehow, my furor over witnessing a sophomoric ad based on celebrating male gun-toting dominance over vacuous, naked femaleness seemed connected to these memories.

See, I chose to give birth to our daughter Josephine with no epidural.  I had not ever gone through childbirth before, and naively decided to adhere to my belief in the possible and went into the birthing room drug free.  To this day, I have a lot of respect for myself in retrospect.  Because fairly early in the process, I discovered that having a child is a very violent thing for me- filled with shakes and vomiting.  Constant pain - tormentous pain (not these contractions that come and go, as they were sold to me...), Moaning and screaming and fear of dying and then fear that my body would split in half and that I would NOT die, but have to keep enduring the biblical amounts of fear and pain.  That was in a nutshell my perfect-on-paper birth experience of our daughter back in 2002. Though she would eventually emerge 24 hours later whole and healthy, without trauma or damage, leaving me actually able to walk off the birthing table, her birth - sans epidural- was about the scariest thing I have ever been through in my life.

I suppose the only way I could re-up and get pregnant again was by hoping that it would not happen to me the same way the second time.  That maybe this time would be different.  I would be able to endure it having gone through it once before.  Well- it was different.  Half way through giving birth to our son, and realizing I was going to experience everything exactly the same tormentous way I had experienced it the first time- I yelled for that fucking needle.  Give.  Me.  The.  Epidural.  I begged and pleaded and sobbed and whispered.  And finally got it.

So I do now know how it feels to give birth in the 21st Century. With all the comforts that 20th Century western medicine has to offer.  But my first birth experience was definitely something more akin to cavemen times. And having gone through those births- having endured that kind of torture and fear and pain, I believe one thing very deeply.  Women are just stronger than men.  In some fundamental way- women are hardwired to withstand in a way that men are not.

So of course it makes sense that over the span of centuries and millennia, men have sought to balance that out.  They've sought on a broad scale arc to undermine their women alongside their own inner feminine facets.  Being a woman-- one who gives birth to humans-- is really really fucking amazing.  And nuts.  And primal and scary and freaky and gross and disgusting and beautiful.  And bloody, let's not forget.  But we women do it because we are wired to.  And so far, it appears to be the only way we humans keep on truckin, so to speak.

So men, for the most part, have reacted by dipping right down into their endless vats of testosterone  and found ways to feel badass.  Despite the fact that they are not the true original badasses, men now wear, govern, and own that mantle.  Men do the killing, for the most part.  Men do the planning of the killing.  Men fight.  Men wage war and develop weapons of destruction and men organize and attach value and put up fences and govern countries and run companies and plan coups and terrorist attacks.  Men write stories and make movies glorifying all this kind of behavior- making it appear infused with valor and courage and other essential elements of badassity.

But men are not the original badasses.  We women are.  And there's no amount of money or gold or pussy or drugs or territory or hold over religion or technology that can change that.  Because women are the ones designed to create and sustain humans.  And THAT is real power.

I'm tired of living in a male-dominated world where male-dominated attributes are so overly celebrated and perpetrated.  I'm weary of my own constant questioning of self which I think is partly due to my sex, but to be truthful- also very deeply rooted in my DNA.  (I am just drawn that way.)

As I run down Venice Blvd, one of the chief arteries in this little piece of LA I choose to call home, I am reminded of one of the many reasons I live here.  Say what you like about Venice, but we do have a penchant for questioning norms here.  And a tendency to celebrate the outside track.  The weirdos.  The freaks.  The ones who don't necessarily conform to the norms, but rather reject them - realizing many times they don't fit.  Some of us here are innovators.  Some are artists.  Some are complete dropouts.  Some are just passing through.  But the energy here is palpable- you are always allowed to attempt being who you are here even if it doesn't fit anywhere else.

I'm constantly trying to figure out how to feel like I'm truly inhabiting my self, my power, my human life so generously bestowed upon me by the universe.   I'm happy to live here in Venice because I feel at least like there's more hope for me and my children to, say, notice a billboard of an egregiously chauvinist and violent image and realize how wholly that doesn't fit into our family's concept of self, or of what humanity is capable of becoming.

I suppose hopped up on endorphins, for 20 minutes out of every two or three days or so, flying down Venice Blvd,  I can internally concoct myself as the next Martin Luther King Jr infused with direly important messages to the world.  As the next Cesar Chavez- ready to mobilize the troops for the greater good.  Or Gandhi- poised to soothe and fundamentally change behavior all at once.   An impassioned leader, poised to channel and deliver my true message- that women and men are equally necessary and powerful.  And that if we can truly internalize that reality-- we really can be great together.

And then the spell is broken.

I walk slowly down my back alley.  Chest heaving up and down. I approach my backdoor.  Turn off whatever 70's/80's band has been providing the high volume soundtrack to my internal ravings.  And realize I will write about this later on.  That the concepts and ideas that whirl themselves around my brain high on endorphin chemicals are so huge, they can't begin to be manifested in any immediate way in my life.  Nor can they be coalesced in one simple blog post.  But the conversation can at least be attended to in some small way.

And I suppose that's what keeps me strapping on my old New Balances three times a week and pointing myself toward the ocean and back.  That's what keeps me in the game of suspending the disbelief and embracing what I hope can be possible.

Yesterday, Grand Theft Auto V was on the menu.  And a subsequent journey into my own rage at popularized social inequality for the sexes as it relates to violence and power.  But really, I'll take whatever my endorphins are serving up- week after week.  It's a damn good fuel that sparks my wanting to believe in the improbable possibilities.

And that's what keeps this ol girl running.

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