NaPoWriMo: Day 7…Oi oi…

(Of course, I am still behind, but here is my entry for today!  The formatting is far from correct, but I am having a bit of difficulty with WP today. Poem is still a work in progress…)

 

Via Ostiense

There’s only one park bench

when you turn that corner

from that train station,

reading ROMA OSTIA LIDO,

announcing first where you are—

where you might be;

 

when you turn your back

on that displaced pyramid

of scaffolding, half-cleaned,

butted up against that

cemetery filled with those

people who didn’t belong—

at least to the Vatican;

 

when you can see a bookstand,

covered by used books and rags,

all bounded up by ropes, propped

up by planks of wood to form

a makeshift table—it’s guarded

by an old man and his would-be

customers or companions;

 

when can you smell a wall of graffiti,

stained by urine, new and old,

smell cigarettes strewn to create

a mosaic with leftover vomit

from the night before the night

before the night before that,

and smell the people passing by

who never glance even one eye

at either bench or stand—

it’s always like that.

 

Once the lights of night become

only stars, you learn to fear its dark

corners, unless you’re a tourist or

young or careless or drunk or

drugged or any combination

that might make you feel safe

when it’s late in the city, or perhaps

you’ve already learned that lesson—

perhaps you’re in the midst of it?

No one sits or lays on that bench—

except that man with the scraggly hair,

 

sadly wild eyes, tattered clothing,

swollen feet, darken face but not Black,

smelling of yesterday and the day before that,

smelling of all that’s missing: a home, family,

friends—still, he’s got his cigarettes, half-smoked

by strangers, collected in a cup mixed in

with coins and no lighter.

NaPoWriMo: Day 5…Who knows…

Scongelare*

Doli agreed with me about the pleasure,

though twisted,  to be found in action-less love,

through the act of loving, not taking measure,

not caring why or how it came to be, of

 

not knowing when or where it will go, loving

simply because there is no other choice but

to love, disregarding old boundaries, trusting

the depth of time to heal any old wounds, cut

 

through the bitterness that hardens our hearts

every time we love and then lose ourselves

in that loving, that careless tossing of parts,

that ultimate destruction of self that delves

 

too deeply within us, rooting us to

the bitterness of having said  “I love you.”

 

 

(Scongelare means to figuratively unfreeze, or literally defrost)

 

All of these…controlled by me

ImageI’ve decided to return to actively practicing a lovingkindness meditation as I recognize that I had allowed feelings of fear, anger, and sadness to overwhelm me and veer me away from my path.

I allowed these feelings to rack my body with pain, my heart with dis-ease, my mind with worry, and my soul with turmoil.

It is truly hard to move forward while walking backwards.

If we keep our view always to that which is behind us, or always to that which we have around us, or always to that which we have ahead of us…I am not sure that we can truly be able to live mindfully or peaceable.

Instead I believe that mindfulness and peaceability comes from reminding ourselves of the following:

We may look behind to remind ourselves of the lessons we have learned. We may look around us to understand where those lessons have brought us. We may look ahead to understand what lessons we must choose to learn to arrive where we choose to be.

In essence, there is no need to despair neither our past, our present, or our future if we each remember that…

Who or what I am.
Who or what I will be.
Who or what I was recently.
All of these…controlled by me.

-db

A New Poem: The girl with the light eyes said,

The girl with the light eyes said,

The girl with the light eyes said,
“I would never have the courage
to marry another woman.”
She’s staring at me in awe,
though I don’t know why;
her light eyes even lighter
after she speaks and then waits,
enduring the space of silence
between us,
though I don’t know why;
I’m a lesbian, I love women.
I’m a lesbian who sleeps with men
every now and again
or so it seems in 15-year increments;
who is curious about others’ disbeliefs
sometimes distorting the face

from uninteresting,
from mediocrity,
from youthfulness,
from gullibility
marring the face
of commonplace society

of man plus woman,
of white against black,
of old envying young,
of bigotry and misogyny.

Still I am a lesbian, I love women,
could love all women,
prefer the company of women,
would live and die for a woman,
would give all I have for a woman,
because I am a woman and am worthy
of being loved by women,
of being able to commit myself to one woman
for the rest of my life.
*
Words that pass absently through mind.
It’s a library where we're standing
by a copy machine and I am photocopying
in entirety a book that I have no option but to read
like the face of this girl standing before me
and my face becomes distorted as I search
for mockery or untruths—
“Why not?”

-db

A New Poem: The Streets of Trastevere are Haunted…

I've begun to write again...
--
Crossing Ponte Sisto to Trastevere, 2.20.11
Crossing Ponte Sisto to Trastevere, 2.20.11
The Streets of Trastevere are Haunted

I spend a lot of time walking.
I’ve got no particular place to go,
but still I walk

pass the people who look
nothing like me,
pass the ones who speak
languages foreign to me,
pass the crippled homeless man
on that bridge, Ponte Sisto;

the one I cross too often,
the one that was built by prostitution,
the one where I see people
who look…

like me,
with shades of dark, naturally,
but darkened even more
by prolonged time spent
under the sun, selling

knock-off wares to tourists,
who barely care
and are feeling superior
(even though they would never admit it);

shades so dark that both sclera and teeth
appear whiter than the white
of those to whom they try to sell
tokens of meaninglessness,

and so my senses always become flooded
by the decay of living wastefully,

because I desire neither to feel nor to think
beyond the moment’s necessities,
because I desire neither the weight
of possessions nor being possessed
by life-long acquisition;

still it’s always like that,
that we are made to experience,
 either directly or vicariously,
 the things we reject:

these darkened men who
always stare and speak at me,
the homeless man who
always smiles and bows to me,
the self-inflated tourists who
always see and brush pass me

as I walk, step by broken step,
on cobblestones that hurt
my already broken feet
and engrave in my already broken soul
the fact that I’m living again somewhere

that doesn’t belong to me,
that is beyond anything
that I should’ve experienced:
this city and its history.

The streets of Trastevere are haunted.
And I’ve got nowhere but there to go,
passing by broken English speakers
offering this and that,
“Vivo qua” I say,
and again acknowledge to myself
that it’s already been three years
of vacuous time

that I’ve yet to fill with memories
of these streets,
of these people,
who spend everything:
time, money, bodies, minds,
and souls to achieve
the memories I refuse to acquire.

*

In the autumn the streets are owned
by starlings and umbrellas,
and evening becomes a time to fear,
with sounds like too many squeaking mice
to match the rats that run under feet,
down by the Tiber,
or up along the streets,
in the depth of the subway system,

where I heard that someone,
who didn’t belong here,
had their body tossed;
but they didn’t look like me,
probably they smiled and thought
the best of the world around them,
even of these haunted streets.

-db

Secrets…Being a therapist…Why I blog…

INSANITY copy

INSANITY copy (Photo credit: Inspiredhomefitness)

The other day my sister, Michelle, posted the following to my Facebook page:

“Why are you skinny people doing this to yourselves??? I thought insanity was designed for overweight individuals???”

As you might imagine, the “insanity” to which she referred is the Insanity Workout exercise program by Beachbody and led by Shaun T.  Nine days ago, I decided to take the 8 week challenge and have been reporting my progress to friends and family via Facebook.  I am happy to say that I have completed each day thus far and intend to continue so doing.

Now, back to my sister’s comment.

You see, she is right.  I am not overweight and thus it would seem that I would have no just cause to take on such a workout program.  Right?

FIBROMYALGIA

FIBROMYALGIA (Photo credit: *SHESHELL*)

Wrong.

I decided to take on the Insanity Challenge, because I wanted to prove two points to myself:

  1. 1. I can achieve a high level of fitness as a person with fibromyalgia; and
  2. 2. I can take care of my body as I choose to without fearing input from others.

——

A world of secrets…

Back in 2008 when I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, my body had been changing rapidly.  As I wrote in my recent posts, I had gain a significant amount of weight in only a couple of years.  You see, before I started graduate school, I worked as a personal trainer and fitness instructor from 2002 to 2004. That period of my life was one in which I experienced a high boost to my body image.  I was strong and healthy.

My weight then was higher than what it is now, but it was never a concern to me.  My major concerns:  strength and endurance.  And if there is one thing that I have lamented greatly since having fibromyalgia was the loss of my physical strength and endurance.

With my weight gain came real health concerns, such as being warned about my blood pressure and having some other health issues being labeled as “due to excess weight.”

"If you had 5 minutes...,"  collage with magazine and cardstock by Diedré M. Blake, (2010)

“If you had 5 minutes…,” collage with magazine and cardstock by Diedré M. Blake, (2010)

It was frustrating to find myself in that state and feeling that I couldn’t do anything physically about it…like exercise in the way that I had in the past.  I was too tired.  I felt too much pain.  There was a bigger issue though…

Work.  

As many of you know, I am an art therapist and counselor.  I specialize in the treatment of eating disorders.  This area of specialization developed from my second year internship and subsequent job.   So, why would working within this area create a problem for me?  Simply this…

How does a therapist embark upon a health improvement that would mean significant weight loss while reinforcing to her clients that their desire to lose weight was unhealthy?

For a long time, I did not have an answer.  I worked in a place where there were strict rules on how food could be discussed and what foods could be eaten.  Discussion of weight loss, weight loss programs, and diets was forbidden.  This is not to say that these rules were always followed.

The reality was that a majority of the staff was female, White and American; and the fact is that a majority of White American females struggle with body image and disordered eating.   This is not to say that women of colour are immuned to such an experience.  So, as the saying goes, don’t get it twisted.     

—–

 

Being a therapist…

Also, there seems to be a very strange expectation, i.e. that all Black women are happy with being overweight.  I write this because of various experiences I had while trying to manage my weight issues.  The most memorable of these was an experience I had with an older White female nutritionist who worked at a local hospital.

I was given a referral to visit this nutritionist because both myself and my doctor believed that it would be good for me to have professional advice on how to safely and slowly lose my excess weight through diet, since exercise was proving difficult for me.  At that time I was about 50 pounds overweight.

I sat with the lady and stated my reasons for coming to see her.  From her lips came the following response:

“But you’re Black!  Why would you want to lose weight?  Aren’t all Black women a bit fatter that everyone else?  Aren’t you people use to being like that?”

Now, some may believe that I am exaggerating…but I kid you not.  Those were her  exact words that are engraved upon my heart and mind.  I was in disbelief.

There I was seeking help to lose the weight that was causing me severe health problems…and there was that lady telling me that I didn’t need to lose the weight because of my skin colour.  Huh?

——

So, I realized that I had to do it on my own.  I decided to take matters into my own hands as I wrote in my previous post.   The thing was that at work, although I had explained to some that I was planning to lose weight, there was apparently discomfort that I had made such a choice.

Moreover, I did not discuss just how much weight I intended to lose, because that was no one else’s business except for me and my doctor.  Looking back, perhaps it would have been better if I had simply stated a number, even though I did not have a number in mind.

The world in which I worked during that time became closed.  I watched as people stared at me with curious and suspicious eyes.  I listened as people made side comments about me.  I answered as people kept asking me, “haven’t you lost enough now?” or “why are you still losing weight?”

And then there were the painful rumours regarding eating disorders and even my sexuality.  It was a truly discouraging time.  I often felt alone; and between having fibromyalgia and being the only Black clinician on staff as well as the only art therapist, I often felt misunderstood.

My studio space became a place of refuge during the last year of my weight loss.  I watched as people, who were once willing to speak with me or were friendly with me, stop interacting with me.  And, in all honesty, the decision to move to Italy came at the right time as who I had been no longer was.  The new person did not fit in with my old world.

So, why have I written about this or about anything else?

Because it was time.  Especially as a counselor specializing in eating disorders.  You see, even counselors are human. 😉  Even we struggle with our bodies, including food concerns, weight and body image.

It is a strange paradox about the world of psychology.  As a counselor you are expected to help others in overcoming their problems.  At the same time, however, it is seemingly frowned upon by peers if you have problems of your own.

This Cold Hard Floor: II, watercolour and ink painting by Diedré M. Blake, 2006

This Cold Hard Floor: II, watercolour and ink painting by Diedré M. Blake, 2006

There is a reason why…

research has looked into the suicidal tendencies of psychologists (counselors/therapists/social workers, etc.).

There is a reason why….

some of us feel that there is a need to be invincible.  That there is a need to hide what hurts us, to hide our struggles, to hide our true selves.  We walk about attempting to be the tabula rasa (blank slate) for everyone, including our peers…and it just doesn’t work.

There is a reason why…

many of us, who were once bright and shining candles, finally burnout.

There is always a reason why…

I write about this, as well as the previous blog post, to write the truth about a topic for which I held tremendous fear: my weight loss.

I write because I believe that it is the job a therapist to be human and to show his or her client that there is always a path to be found out of the difficulties of life, not just via book lessons but through setting the example by how we live our own lives and how we take care of ourselves.

Until Next Time,

D.

The Next Step…

True life.

True life. (Photo credit: axiomphotog)

Some time ago, I wrote a post regarding a professor who asked me to do creative writing about my experience of having fibromyalgia (FMS).   It is true that I have written poetry that deals with the subject, and even began a somewhat semi-autobiographical novel some years ago.   Still, I remain uncertain of retaking such paths.  Instead I am now considering what it would be like to write about my process of change, i.e. change towards improving my life.

The reality of living with FMS can be one that is punctuated by a series of losses:  continuous loss of health, loss of self-perception, loss of self-esteem, loss of employment, loss of status, loss of friends, loss of family, loss of supports, etc.  The list could go on ad infinitum.

On a weekly basis, I take time to research the latest developments in the treatment of fibromyalgia.  Typically, the titles are filled with words such as “fight,” “battle,” or “war.”  Of course, I understand the desire to motivate those who are living with FMS by using such words.  Who amongst those of us with FMS, hasn’t felt as though fibromyalgia were waging war against our bodies, our minds, or even our very souls?

27/365: fractured reality/grace under pain

27/365: fractured reality/grace under pain (Photo credit: Samie Harding)

Still, why fight against?  Why scream a battle cry?  Why wage war?  For what purpose?  Our bodies are the spaces in which we exist daily.  Why should we be in conflict with it?

Mother Teresa said, “I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me.”  I am in agreement.

I choose never to be anti-fibromyalgia.  I choose, instead, to be at peace with fibromyalgia.  It is a part of who I am.  It is living within my body.  Thus, embracing, rather than rejecting it, is the obvious choice for me.  It is a matter of shifting one’s mindset.

So, what is this next step?  Beyond having shifted my mindset, I have decided to take the step that I have been utterly avoiding for a multitude of reasons.  I have decided to become vegan and live gluten-free (I am already vegetarian).  As some may know, animal bi-products as well as yeast and gluten can provoke digestive problems, especially for people with IBS, which many people with FMS experience.

End of Summer Still Life

End of Summer Still Life (Photo credit: mystuart)

Moreover, I am letting go of other foods that can create disharmony within me, such as nightshade fruits and vegetables that aggravate pain:  tomatoes, potatoes (not sweet potatoes), eggplant, and sweet and spicy peppers–yes, I know I am living in Italy. 🙂

Will this be challenging?  Perhaps.  Is it the right time?  Absolutely.

At the start of this post, I wrote that fibromyalgia can be about loss.  Well, that was my mindset about taking this next step.  I was focused on losing.

In my mind, all that I could see was that I would be losing, once again, more foods that I love (in this case:  milk, bread, and the above-mentioned fruits and vegetables).  Furthermore, the thought of having to “lose” certain foods felt too much like “dieting,” of which I am not a fan, i.e. unless absolutely necessary for medical reasons.

I could not see the gain.  I could not see the invitation for living a peaceful life with my body, and thus with fibromyalgia.

Yes, it is true that FMS can push one to leave behind old and unhealthy patterns, even places and people.  Yet still, it causes us to arrive at a new understanding of ourselves, learning and using new and healthier patterns, experiencing new internal and external places, and meet new people who can support us as we make our journey.

vegan food pyramid adapted from recommendation...

vegan food pyramid adapted from recommendations made in “A new food guide for North American vegetarians” (2003) from the American Dietetic Association (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am excited to have taken this next step, and am doing so with the help of The Vegan Society that offers a mentor for 30 days (The Vegan Pledge).  The next thirty days begin my journey towards a new way of eating and living.  Over those days, I will update as I can, including places in Rome and in the U.S. that are vegan and gluten-free friendly.

Cheer me on, as well as yourself and others, on taking another step towards living peaceably with FMS!

And remember what Mahatma Gandhi said,

“A  man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.”

Thus, think positively about living with FMS.  There is much to be gained!

Until Next Time,

D.

P. S. I will be adding an Italian version of this post as well.