Saturday, February 6, 2016

Seeing (and Saying): Essentials for ME (YOU) Being ME (YOU) In The World

I’ve had a hard week. There were times during it when I wished I could just leave my body and go elsewhere. 

I’ve done that OOBE (Out of Body Experience) shtick in days past so I know what it’s like. But it wasn’t so much that I wanted to find myself up on the ceiling looking down on my body, lying prone in my bed, as it was with my first OOBE. No this time I was more deliberately conscious that I just wished I could lift myself out of the stress and distress I was feeling. 

Not that I wanted to end up all the way on my ceiling! 

What started that whole stress cycle for me was that I ventured out this past week for one of my first outings into mainstream life since my cornea transplant

I’ve been so far removed from ordinary life this past month or so. When folks at a meeting I attended were planning their next get together date as being in March, I piped up to ask why they were going to be missing February.

Actually we were, right then and there, having the February meet up. That, of course, prompted people to tell me that I was the one who had missed a month (and more) from the calendar.

Well, for sure calendar and clock time have not been “my time” of late.

Oh well. At that meeting it hadn’t really mattered much.  Our agenda was about making a better world; thinking global, acting local. That’s a fairly timeless, boundary-less issue, especially in this day and age.

Once I had, at last, removed myself from the foray, after a day “in town” at meetings and doing errands, however, I was so overwhelmed with future shock, data overload contamination I didn’t know what to do. It seemed as if my generally serene, well-centered balance had left me, buried under by mainstream debris. Realistically, compared to the norm for most others, I had had a rather leisurely day, especially as it was comprised of fresh, healthy mountain air in the beginning, the middle and the end of it.

Apparently that hadn’t been enough for me. My norm is mountain living all day long!

But it wasn’t always that way. 

Before blindness I spent three or four days per week in my psychotherapy office in suburban Washington, D.C. and did just fine with it. But I have been purposefully leaving city life behind for a good part of the week now for close to thirty years.  And have found it to be so much more my nature to be constantly immersed in country ways.

My eight year sojourn into blindness and recovery from blindness (1998 – 2006) definitely tipped the scales for me to be as far away from “in town” and/or urban life as one can be in this day and time.

Now mountain living is so much a part of me that I have actually been known to take plastic baggies of the earth and leaves and other greenery surrounding my house with me to smell when I am away from home. 

Weird, you say? Home connected is my take!

My saving grace these day, however, or so it seems – is that I am beginning to be more vocal in publicly defining myself as a mountain woman -- and otherwise -- who comes to town only intermittently. 

I love being in my neighboring town, Frederick, Maryland, once I am there. But “it” isn’t quite ME – this “in town” life!

I love connecting and interacting with the many friends and associates I have made over the years; the community activities, restaurants and relaxed dining and cultural activities. And, the activities of New Horizons and myself, personally and professionally, that link me to this wonderful community.  

Still I am not an urbanite who visits the mountains (or oceans) now and then.  I am a true, 24/7 mountain woman; in monster snow, ice and rain storms, cutting wood with my own chain saw sometimes, without electricity or running water on occasion.

But it has been a long time coming, it seems, that I have grown more fully into being a true mountain woman, known here and there as the Wise Woman of Elk Mountain where I live on the border between Maryland and West Virginia. 

Take me home, Shenandoah!

Little by little now, my public voice is becoming stronger and more able to clearly and authentically define who I am;  a mountain woman who loves my “in town” community but yearns, always, for my home in the hills.  

(I find it curious on occasion to continue calling West Virginia “the mountain state” given that erosion and other ecological changes have reduced much in our mountain ranges to little more than hills. But no, no one is ever going to call West Virginia “the hill state,” you best believe!)

Today, having regained my serenity and balance once again, I leave you with the following thought --

Sometimes it seems that the motion of moving from chaos to community can be as much within oneself as it is without.  

And the learning to “see” (and say) whatever is true for oneself is a challenge that must be surmounted in order that one openly define oneself, as well as be truly connected to others.

This, it seems to me, is essential for ME (and YOU) being ME (and YOU) in the world; a rich and wonderful national treasure wherever you are!

Lessons and lessons and still more to learn.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Living In The Light, Kissed By An Angel

I think I must be far away from knowing this new me I am becoming. But as amazing as it felt this morning for me to awaken feeling bathed in, of all things, Light – this morning there it was!

I even felt myself embraced by an Angel that seemed, without doubt, to be my “Mom” (i.e. stepmother) who has been deceased for a few years now.

As I do not even believe in angels this was truly astounding!

At the same time I also felt myself awakening, filled somewhat with concerns about my next right steps for today and the weeks and months ahead.

Last year’s New Horizons’ Coffee House Conversations Project events, nine in all, was overall a gorgeous, gratifying, uplifting experience, over all. But only a first step on a path laden with challenges, fraught with obstacles, if a true exceptional community in our local, somewhat ordinary yet beyond ordinary community is an objective for New Horizons which, indeed, it is.

What to do next? What to do?

Not knowing, I decided to just be quiet a bit longer this morning and listen and see if my Angel would show up again for me today.

I’m still waiting but the door is open.  The mind is indeed capable of magic!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dying As A Blind Person

Of all the many threads of my “being” and “doing” that have surfaced for me in the process, so far, to which I pledged myself; taking a full year to heal from my recent cornea transplant, one, in particular, stands above all.

What it might mean for me to die as a “blind person” and be born again as “fully sighted.

The notion, as I discussed it, and, as you may recall, Oliver Sacks sugggested, in an article titled “To See And Not See” (The New Yorker, May 10, 1993) (based on an earlier article of Alberto Valvo (“Sight Restoration After Long Term Blindness: The Problems and Behavior Patterns of Visual Rehabilitation”), that –
“One must die as a blind person to be born again as a seeing person.”
…embraces my present challenge fully.

But how does one go about this exactly; dying as one who cannot see and, then, becoming one who can?

Identity is a tricky issue to come to terms with completely, under ordinary circumstances,. 

However, my situation is not ordinary. And, while I have only been blind intermittently other than my eight year sojourn into darkness (1998 – 2006), I have consistently lived under the cloud of threatened blindness since college.

Sometimes I read of other college-age young people needing to face up to the ordeal I have lived with now for decades. Their struggles are similar to my own. However, today they have resources, especially through the internet and advanced medical research and treatment, that were not available for me.

My prayer for them is that they will, not only survive the ordeal, which will, likely, be a lifetime of challenge with their keratoconus diagnosis. But that they will learn to live with it and thrive as others have done with similar conditions.  

I believe that overall I have done this in spite of my personal set of obstacles.  Trevor Thomas who I read of on the internet is another who has allowed his life to be an adventure in spite of blindness.

For me, on the other hand, is the added complication of an overlay of hysterical blindness. And, no way to ascertain, especially at this late date, which came first, hysterical blindness or keratoconus. My self-help, self-healing assessment is that the hysterical blindness was the precursor. Based on that viewpoint I am presently formulating my healing strategies.

But where to begin puzzles me at this stage of my maturity.

I thought I had answered the question, “Who am I,”  sufficiently, numerous times in the past. 

Philosophers and theologians have sought to discover the answer to this since time immemorial. As if it held, on its own, the single most important answer to the very essence of the existence of life

As a corollary I am asking myself , “Who am I to whom?”  To you? To me?

In how I feel inside? In how I behave? In the perspectives you hold of me?

Where is the truest me? Does it lie in one or the other of these; how and what I feel inside, how I behave or how you perceive me?

Obviously these questions are part and parcel of a long-term investigation. 

I will keep you apprised of my discoveries as they are uncovered.

My hope is that, with or without physical vision problems, my “insights” will enhance your clarifying how well you “see.”

Thursday, January 21, 2016

I’m Getting My Mojo!

Or is that Marjah

OMG, look what’s happening now! 

Now that I’ve made my pledge to myself to do all that I could, should or would by “naming” what I see and speaking truth to power, if I need, I think I might almost be in danger of behaving like an unbroken, bucking bronco, fresh out of the gate. 

OMG! My actions almost bordered on chaos-creating the other night.

To introduce the story,  it goes a little like this – 

It certainly seemed like I might be a chaos-creator the other night; a part of the problem, not the solution although I hadn’t consciously intended it to be that way.  

But my oh my, when we get into “naming” and speaking truth, almost anything can happen. 

 And this time it did! OMG.

The scene presented itself a few nights ago at a Martin Luther King Commemorative Dinner where I was so direct and forceful in my message delivery that I even had myself a bit worried.  

As it turned out the outcome appears to be almost magical, at least so far.

Dontch’a want to hear about it!  

Aren’t you even a little bit curious to find out how Anastasia walked her walk and ended up almost in a pile of s..t. On the other hand it just might  be the start of a wonderful transformation for all involved, even for a whole community, if....... 

We will just have to see how the next steps play out in the days, weeks and months ahead.

For starters, I’ll be talking about that scene on my –

Possible Society In Motion Radio Show tonight. 

And, most likely, again, in my new series of programs, “Conversations With Anastasia On The Art of Dialogue,” on my –

Monday, February 8 
11:30 a.m.
(Changes made due to monster snow storm amd clean up.)

I hope you can join us, Jack and myself on the Possible Society In Motion Radio Show, and my new on-air associate, Kim Beckett, for Anastasia The Storyteller.

Both shows are also available on podcast and each has a conference call forum that follows.

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Could, Would and Should -- Speaking Tangle

Maybe you will relate to this that I am offering at this juncture, maybe not. But here goes anyway though it feels really risky!

Author's note: After a rather sleepless night I decided this morning to take this article down, at least temporarily. It occured to me that in offering the following reflections I was, perhaps, inviting the general public into my private world to an extent that might harm me. 

However, after pulling the article back out into draft form I discovered that one of my loyal readers had been signfiicantly impacted by what I had written, leaving me a thoughtful and supportive comment. When I read the comment I realized that my main objective in writing this blog had been achieved in this instance. This site has always been about expressing myself to whomever, often as a storyteller, as my small contribution to helping make a better world.

Thus the reader's comment reminded me of words derrived from the Talmud, "To redeem one life is to redeem the world." With that in mind I am, once again, sharing the following reflections with the hope that my "risky behavior" here might just make a difference to someone else, somewhere.  If it does it would be lovely to know that.

P.S. If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of this post and its relevance to our chaotic world, I encourage you to view the movie of "Tommy, The Rock Opera" for a jolt related to how I "see" the subject matter below.

It was just this past week; barely three weeks after my seventh cornea transplant when it hit me like a lightning bolt striking a darkened room, that for most of the years of my dealing with the challenges of my eye disease, keratoconus, I have been overlooking the fact that I have actually been managing two overlapping eye problems, not just one!

Then it struck me even more pointedly that hysterical blindness might have actually always been the precipitating one behind the other, keratoconus. Having now considered this notion as a valid possibility, I find myself facing the age-old question of which came first; chicken or egg?

A question I will no more be able to definitively answer correctly than the egg-chicken query.  Thus I am stuck with making up my own mind on the subject, on my own, based almost solely on my estimations.

What to do? What to do, especially in terms of making this issue relevant to me now, at this stage of my game?

Nonetheless, as I prefer relative certainty rather than complete indecision in charting a path for myself, I decided to create a working hypothesis as I had been taught as a psychotherapy student for my “treatment plan” (me client, me healer) and see where it will take me.

(Fortunately, two people of significance have come onto my daily landscape to “be in this adventure with me.” They will be a great help in assisting me in clarifying my theory, the one I have elected to consider as the true source of my eye problems. Thank G-d for fellow travelers.)

Here is the theory I have chosen as the “one” for now. --
I was born with a biological predisposition for keratoconus (i.e. hereditary/genetic), set in motion and heightened, from day one of my life, by my emotional, psychological, spiritual sensitivity to certain, very specific stimuli. (More details on this later when I can get my words and thoughts together to share.)
Does this mean that a predilection always existed in me for developing keratoconus, based on factors other than biology, that might even be traceable back to past lives should they, in fact, exist in reality?

Today I am certainly willing to consider this. I have to be honest with you! All possibilities are being examined.  My well-being warrants the effort!

Oiy veh!

But how can I ever know the truth for certain? And what difference does it make anyway to ponder that which is unlikely to ever have proof? Certainly my doctor at Johns Hopkins will is likely to dismiss my "theory."So now what?

With my personal imperatives in mind, however, I have decided to move forth from here, at least for a time, acting “as if” I had answers. 

From this vantage point I intend to alter certain life perspectives that I have allowed myself to hold as truths since my initial keratoconus diagnosis as a junior in college, and will operate under the assumption that what has been showing up physically has to have had its roots in my emotions, psychology and spirituality, not the other way around.

Over are the days of my viewing keratoconus as hanging over my head like a rain cloud  completely as a medical problem. Now I will proceed as if my emotions, psychology, and spirituality hold the reins to my physicality and its healing. But what difference will that make?

And why hadn’t I considered this earlier? Why and how did I not allow the serious taking of this issue into account and instead ignored it when I might have known better, especially with my psychology background being as extensive as it is? 

Certainly the idea was important enough for reflection much earlier.

I have had so much evidence to support what I am now only newly embracing; a lifetime of clues minimized, it seems. What if this "theory" as truth has been there all along with me overlooking the obvious?  Would it have made a difference somehow in how I have managed my life?

What will my new approach reveal? I am opening my mind, my heart and, of course, my eyes to seeing what will be unearthed from the depths of my psyche on this issue.

Here is my first discovery!
I may have always, even back centuries (Could it be? Could it be?) not been unable to see what I see but became so threatened by trusting what my eyes and my higher vision have shown me that my inner turmoil was about speaking, especially truth to power. Thus, in effect, I muzzled myself, passively creating a non-reality for myself based on ...what?
Should I have, could I have, would I have, risked, up against the threat of grave dangers, sharing that which I perceived from a limited view of the world? When I knew that others might, potentially, react against my view; enough so that my spoken words might endanger my safety?  

Was blinding myself, thus a safer option? An option I hid my authentic self behind? And all I could muster to see me through the peril I anticipated? (Such as a witch being burned at a stake might do?)

I am going to pursue my investigation of this idea as I strengthen, day-by-day, my intentions, backed up by new actions to speak truth to power everywhere I deem it necessary and/or appropriate; albeit in a timely fashion and diplomatically to the best of my ability.

Perhaps now is the hour for all lies, denial and discounting; the three prongs of human functioning that foster non-reality thinking and behaving in this world, to pass away, not only mine but from each and everyone of us. As a friend remarked, not long ago, the worldwide web has brought us to a place where lying and deceit can no longer hide.

If so, maybe there was no earlier time for my liberation until now. It was what it was but it doesn’t need to continue!

So – my immediate task will be to keep examining, on a regular basis, the “could, the “would” and the “should” of my saying what I see. But it sure feels scary to me – along with the new found freedom I am already experiencing – and – some unexpected fun!

I’ll let you know how it goes with hopes you, too, are getting better and better at speaking truth to power in health-affirming ways. We can learn together.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

No Excuse For Abuse

The day I lost my eyesight, Friday, Labor Day weekend, 1998, I did so on the way to the recording of a two part radio interview that I did on the Dark Side of Bill Clinton and the state of our American politics. Once again, a president’s lying, especially about BIG stuff (as in Monica Lewinsky) was incredibly disturbing to me. And my way of handling the upset was about to turn my life upside down, again. (My first BIG upset of this nature had been about Watergate and Richard Nixon. That one altered the course of my life ever since.)

If I am able to obtain permission to use the audio, it might make a worthy contribution in today’s political climate, at least in terms of historical perspectives, for this blog site and, possibly, our Possible Society In Motion Radio Show.  Obviously, the Dark Side is alive and well in the American political scene.

Who is calling the kettle black?
You decide.

Permissions and history aside, however, today I am reminded of that two-part interview that, no doubt, set off one more hysterical blindness episode for me as it definitely ushered  in my eight year blindness era (1999 – 2006). I’ve  never doubted for a minute that what I discussed on that radio show, broadcast on WFMD radio, was the trigger for what happened to my eyes that day.  

You must listen to it to hear and begin to see the tie in that existed for me of the lying of the President of the United States, Bill Clinton this time, and another hysterical blindness episode.

My point today, however, is not about blindness, mine or anyone else’s. It is rather the issue of abuse; another issue close to my heart and soul. As the Esquire Rage Quiz demonstrated to me, although I am, according to the quiz, less angry than 50% of other Americans, I do have my forays into that state; once a week being about the norm for my getting triggered by the onslaught of s…t slinging – and – other yukky stuff that that is served up to us as news these days. 

This week, my hot button trigger is Donald Trump’s attacks on the Clintons, Bill in particular, for his past history of male sexual aggression inflicted on women, consensually or otherwise; actions that are inexcusable in my value system -- and -- past history I do hope.

Over the years I have done more than my fair share of trying to make my perspectives on such activities large rather than minimizing these gross indiscretions – and – the enabling of that which I firmly believed Hillary did. Still I do hold that Trump’s offensive attacks of both Clintons at this time are way out of line!

Can’t someone please shut him up?

Corollary question: Can American politics only be handled from a position of slander, or is there possibly some other way we might more favorably endorse?  (Actually Hillary’s dignity and diplomacy throughout her campaign in light of this climate truly has invited my admiration.)

I offer these thoughts, not in any way intending to let Bill Clinton off the hook, or Hillary either, for that matter. However, I believe we all must clean up our integrity GAME in this country. In fact, aiding this objective is one of the prime motivators of most that I do, professionally. 

So clean it up, Clintons, is definitely near the top of the list of political priorities in my book!

But who is going to make it clear to the leading Republican candidate, along with all the other Republican candidates that confronting abuse by being ABUSIVE as does Donald Trump is really dirty pool.  And nationally and internationally embarrassing I might add!

Thanks for hearing me out, now I feel a bit more motivated than before to see if I can’t get permission to air that earlier interview of mine for your listening pleasure. It is way far from archaic.  And, I think you would really appreciate hearing it, especially now that you know me a bit better.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Speaking Truth To Power – And – The Healing of That Which Afflicts My Eyesight

As I began to take my first steps toward my hoped for full recovery from the blindness of my right eye, I began, simultaneously, a one year journey of conscious healing. During this period I would allow myself to refine and direct my already well-defined practices of meditation, contemplation and reflection. What I would add to these would be an enhanced, consistent mindfulness regarding certain key issues; my emotions, psychological patterns and spirituality, that I hold to be critically interwoven with my physical well-being.

I have kertaconus, an apparent hereditary-based eye disease that causes a diseased cornea to develop into a cone shape rather than retaining its normal, healthy curve. I also have had numerous, intermittent episodes of hysterical blindness, also known as conversion episodes, a certain type of stress reaction followed by severe attacks of diminished eye sight. 

To date I can identify about a dozen or more of these episodes over my lifetime; each one following a particular pattern. Some of these have been documented at Johns Hopkins world-renowned Wilmer Eye Institute, dating back as far as 1978. The episodes are, each one, in and of itself, uniquely worthy of in-depth discussion, but I will reserve that for a later time, if appropriate.

I know that my recent experience on the operating table, undergoing my seventh cornea transplant, merits my wholly embracing the physical healing I am presently undergoing. I also have come to realize that this event, wherein the cornea of a newly deceased person is now alive and well in my body, is also truly deserving of my paying attention to the accompanying emotional, psychological and spiritual healing I am now going through, accompanying the physical.

I have been living with threatened blindness from keratoconus since I was a junior in college. My eye problems have been routinely and effectively managed since by top ophthalmologists.  I, also, since I was eight years old, been living under mortal threat, if I dared to “see” what my mentally ill mother did not want me to see.  Initially the threat was inflicted on me in real time. Eventually I continued to be defenseless to that which was still embedded in my psyche; images and feelings, that could, when triggered, derail my best attempts to bypass them.

The challenge to surmounting these terrorizations has often been truly death-defying.  And, as it has turned out, over time, I became the only known “expert” I could find to address this aspect of my vision problems. Being a trained psychotherapist, I think I have done an admirable job of being both patient and healer for this aspect of my eyesight afflictions.  Now I am ready for the “advanced” course of this healing. Thus in the year ahead, as I heal, body-mind and spirit, from a lifetime of threats to my eyesight as well as my life and my VISION  I am going to be even more proactive on this issue than ever before.

Alberto Valvo, a noted opthomologist, in his book, "Sight restoration after long-term blindness: the problems and behavior patterns of visual rehabilitation," quotes, as follows, from a (rarely) recovering blind patient --  

"One must die as a sighted person to be bom again as a blind person."
Prominent neurologist, Oliver Sacks, draws on this statement in his article, "TO SEE AND NOT SEE" expanding upon the original comment with his own version -- 
“...and the opposite is equally true: one must die as a blind person to be born again as a seeing person.”
I have encountered both of these transitions in my lifetime; dying as a sighted person to be born again as one who is blind and that of dying as a blind person to be born again as one who is sighted. Of the two, it is the latter; dying as a blind person and being born again as one who sees, that I have found the more difficult.

With that in mind, as I now proceed on my healing journey, with “a wonderful new cornea,” as my ophthalmologist, Dr. John Gottsch, told me repeatedly before, during and after my recent surgery – I am now intent on completing the latter transition, moving from non-seeing identity to being a fully seeing person to the best of my ability, with an expanded agenda.

Speaking truth to power, increasingly, is going to be a key part my healing journey. This, as it turns out, is one of the most restorative paths I could take; abuse of the power over me as a small child by my mother brought on my hysterical blindness, I feel certain. I was instructed “not to see” what I see. Today I choose to see everything I can!  And, I will choose to speak more and more of what I "SEE" (as nicely as I can). But speak I will!

Taking back my full, G-d given powers will be my release, I believe.  

I am hoping you will also join me in this health giving undertaking upon which I am now embarking, as I know, even if you cannot yet “see” it, that none of us humans fully escapes “not seeing” sometimes. We all have blind spots. And we very much need one another to help us through the Darkness to find the brightest Light.

So please come along with me on an adventure to “awe” that only truth, yours, mine and ours, collectively, can produce.  If nothing else, we can all use a good dose of practicing speaking truth to power. And listening to it, sometimes, to help adjust ourselves on occasion.

With gratitude,