Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cuts Both Ways

Tiddleywinks baby, the human imagination is a two-edged sword. If it’s sharp enough, it can cut your life to shreds, too dull and you’ll bore yourself to death. In fact, I believe many ailments and illments can be credited to the imagination. Not just the famous one, hypochondria, which is medically defined as “imaginary ill health,” but to a host of sneakier symptoms as well.

Let’s not panic here folks, I know the sensations are real. The pain is tangible, the throb palpable, I’m just tossing an idea into the ring that perhaps our imagination has more power and control over our lives than we realize…(I wish I could play really scary, ominous music right here to underscore my point).

If wishes were fishes I could ride a horse - wait a minute, how does that Grandfatherly wisdom go? Since I’m wishing a lot right now, I wish I could tell this next story and not make myself look like such a dork. Last week, I bared my soul to you about baring my soul to the seminar group. It all had a happy ending. I left Sunday evening full of hope and spring renewal, having lowered my shield to bond with 50 new people.

In our take-home packets, we were given a list of everybody’s names and contact information and encouraged to stay connected. Peace, love and Kumbaya, Batman, the facilitator did not need to encourage me, for I was ready, willing and able to reach out. I was free, Hallelujah!

When I arrived back at the homestead Sunday evening at the conclusion of the four day intensive, I checked my emails. Something resembling an hour had passed since the group said goodbye, so I really didn’t expect to hear from anybody that soon.

Companion and I took a walk in the waning sun and a neighbor inquired what on earth we’d been up to as we looked “so happy, content, tuned-in and appearing to have more than beans for dinner.” We graciously smiled and thanked her, oohed and aahed over her multi-colored tulips and were invited to participate in a spontaneous celebration of watering with her inaugural rain barrel collection. Eco-friendly, living green, you know, sustainability.

Well, we thought, this experience is already paying off as a neighbor can clearly see how energized we are and we giggled inwardly as a pot of beans simmered on the stove for our supper.

After a deep and sensual night’s sleep, we awoke refreshed and excited to start our day. I checked the emails. When names from the seminar failed to fill our “in box,” I told myself it was too early to hear from anybody and that most of the participants had to return to the “real world” and get straight back to work.

We nurtured ourselves all that day, basking in the afterglow, and on Tuesday, when I still hadn’t heard from anybody, I shrugged it off and reminded myself that many of them lived in other towns and probably hadn’t even made it home yet.

Wednesday, I had to soothe myself a little more. Work, kids, laundry, playing catch-up… I listed a few tasks that might prevent me from contacting new people right away.

By Thursday, the more mature aspect of my personality asked why I hadn’t reached out to anybody yet? After all, I have no children, no corporate job, no mountains of laundry or travel to recoup from. “Because I want them to contact me first,” replied the stubborn, bruised squishy part. “That will make it more special and meaningful.”

The developed voice prodded me further, coaxing me to step an inch out of my discomfort zone, “But if everybody felt that way, nobody would stay connected.” Seeing the value in that logic I agreed, “Fine! I’ll do it.”

In a mood swinging between petulant and insightful, I hunted and gathered 50 cards. One participant had expressed a latent dream to be a rock star, so I found a card that, can you believe this, had rock star boots on the cover? Another wore a lot of faux animal print, so I found a card with a border of leopard print around its edges. I recalled little details about each person and bought stickers that applied. Another woman who had emerged from her cocoon to become a butterfly, well, you get the idea.

Together, with Companion, we divvied up the cards and wrote a note to each person. Then we walked to the Post Office, purchased stamps (50 X .42 = $21.00 just in case you’re curious), and mailed them. That evening, I received my first call from someone in the group. No, she had not had time to receive our card; she took the initiative and I was happy for it.


Her first question. She asked if I was on Facebook and excitedly told me how she had connected with a bunch of people from the seminar already. Frown. A puff of grey smoke out my ears, sagging shoulders.

Continuing to check the stupid computer, I had to wait until the next Monday to receive our first “thanks for the card” email. In the header, I noticed a bunch of other names listed from our group. A few more notes trickled in and the same thing - I could tell that many people had already written to each other via the internet and not only was I not a part of that, but only a few people responded to our hand-written, decorated and personally licked stamped cards.


The pain was soooo deep. Fine, if I’d been hidden away beneath my armor and nobody responded, eat a dookey. But for heaven’s sake, I revealed myself. People stood in the lobby afterwards, waiting in line to talk to ME! They held my hands, asked if we could stay in touch, asked if we could get together afterwards, told me they thought I would be a fun person to hang out with, ETCETERA fricking Etcetera.

I had been on a natural high. If I had revealed myself that much and they liked me, a la Sally Fields, really liked me, then why were they not following up on ideas that they had introduced? It sucks big smelly rotten hairy toad eggs to throw down one’s shield and then be rejected. Why do you suppose I crafted my armor in the first place, huh? Rejection hurts. Duh.

As Brande Roderick (a blonde playboy bunny on Celebrity Apprentice) said in defense of using her beauty over her brains, she “forgooed.” I’m still laughing as I type this. You don’t need to know the end of that sentence or get caught up in the goofy speculation whether I actually watch the show to appreciate the spectacular use of the American language. Is “forgooed” the past tense of foregone?

I was waxing about rejection. Was that the foregone conclusion, the only outcome? Well, I forgooed it as such. What else could it be?

Complaining and forgooing to Sister, she asked me an excellent question that stopped me in my tracks. How many people did I actually want to spend time with from that group? As my word count on this week’s entry climbs higher, I must condense the conversation to its essential point. I observed a radical gap between what I truly desired and what my imagination said I should have.

One day, an acquaintance of mine was lamenting over the phone that she was so popular she was forced to turn down social invitations and although she was sorry, we would have to postpone our date to fit more people in. I’m glad we were not in person, because as she droned on, I used several creative facial and hand gestures to quietly express my distaste for her demeanor and approach. I felt ookey after our conversation and a little sour toward the reshuffling. And here’s the weird part. Even though I mocked her to Companion, telling him I was just toooo popular to dine with him that evening, something inside me wanted to be like her. What the-?

I suddenly wanted to be popular enough to have more social engagements than I could handle. If she was, then I needed to be. (I warned you I was going to come out of this looking Dorky!).

Sister’s question forced me to look at what I really preferred instead of some imaginary goal to keep up with the Smith-Joneses. I realized that my imagination had cleverly set up a requirement that all 50 people must contact me to prove that I had truly been a success. In reality, I liked several enough to stay connected, but what on earth would I do if 50 new people suddenly expected something from me???

I laughed with Sister, telling her that I had already received a few cards in the mail and some more emails and had been invited to various places with the people I really liked. I hadn’t been focusing on the ones that clicked, but instead, pouting over the ones who hadn’t reached out.

Last Saturday, a couple more people stopped by our booth at the Market to say hello, and, not being able to help myself, I asked (trying to assume an air of casual inquiry), “So have you heard from all the people in our group yet?” They laughed and said No, that they had heard from one or two, but had been so involved with getting back to work, dealing with loss and whatsuch that they hadn’t been able to think about anything else but what was on their plates.

I recalled other bits of information. Not everybody who attended the seminar was there for personal enlightenment. Some were barely hanging on, some were going through nasty divorces, some had lost children, some were having major health crises, and some were just plain lost, looking for a lifeline out of the depression.

Not everybody attended with their partner. Not everybody had a partner. One woman was homeless, carless and jobless. Not everybody was happy with their lives and simply looking for a tune-up. Some were trying to stay sober.

I understand why it’s called a punch line, because the lesson punched me in the gut. Question: If I am blessed with so much, why am I allowing my imagination to dictate an order to collect responses from people as proof that I’m valid? Some of these folks don’t have the ink to stamp their own papers, so why did I set up a fail-fail system where I need to get something from people who don’t have it to give? What kind of pathology is that?

If the pattern of writing this blog stays true to form, I expect I’ll discover an answer this week. Uh-oh, do I need to fasten my seatbelt?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Raw and Exposed

Last week, I bragged on Kimmm, and this week I’m considering tooting. My own horn, of course, but not until I’ve taken the opportunity to beat myself up a wee bitty beforehand. Evens things out, don’t you see. Oh don’t act so shocked, most of us subscribe to the belief that “we’re a piece of crap that the entire Universe revolves around.”

My philosophy has been, since I’m made out of butt-dust (“We are but dust” Psalms 103:14), I might as well decorate it and call it art. So I’ve gone through life trying to camouflage the stank by throwing glitter, rhinestones, jewelry, flowers and big hair at it.

If my life up ‘til now was a 45 record, with a song on each side, the title of my personal soundtrack would be, Hiding in Plain Sight.

The first song I play over and over, apparently to induce hypnotic boredom, is my basic premise, the source of issue and pain. The music is jazz discordant, played in a minor key, off tune, with a drunken bass player and a whacked out drummer (i.e. no rhythm to speak of).

The lyrics are hideously repetitive: “There is something fundamentally wrong with me and I know you can see it.” Yep, that’s pretty much the whole song. Oh, the words vary slightly with the ever evolving tune, depending on the situation, but you get the gist.

The flip-side of my personal 45 is a sweet, up-tempo melody, with a shake-your-booty gospel choir in parts, a sliver or two of accordion tango drama, and an underlying smokiness of Middle Eastern belly dance. It’s invitational. Inspiring. Uplifting and mysterious.

In my head, the message plays out in a soulful, yet pop starry way: “I am a creative, bright spot in a dark world and I want to share my spark with you. Why can’t you see it?”

Let’s boil it down and make a reduction sauce out of this: “I can dance the Path of Beauty, No, I’m a doody, no, I’m a princess, no I’m Gomer’s pile, no, I’ve got potential, no I’m Winnie’s Pooh.”

Waaaaaaa, somebody make it stop!

I called God’s Minion (I love having her direct line). Sure enough, she was supine again, luxuriating in her fancy bed. (She looooves this bed, remember?) I told her that I had recently become aware of these two messages playing in my head and it was driving me bonkers.

In her slow Southern style, well, actually, in her quick witted Southern charm (sorry, Black Velvet), she unpinned the tail on the donkey and removed my blindfold. “Girl, you got to stop playing those records. It’s like you got a sign on your back. Worse even, you got bleed over.”

Uh-oh, I’ve got bleed over? Sounds bad. Is there a cream or a poultice for that? I often feel like I have tender spots, where things have scabbed over, and then I emotionally pick at them until they bleed again. Like that?

The bleed over, as it turns out, is the obnoxious, annoying place where my two songs collide - that uncomfortable space between stations where static and stray notes rule the airwaves.

“Your job is to fine tune your station to the best song you can and the other, junky one will fade away. When you play the whiney, ‘something’s wrong with me’ track, you draw people who are a match to that low vibrational tune.

“When you flip it over and play your happier song, then livelier people show up who want to hear more, but as they draw near, they encounter your bleed over and static. It’s very confusing. You’re sending mixed messages and offering conflicting energy. The sad, off-tune people don’t want to hear your perky song and people rooted in well-being don’t want to hear your funk.”


It was with this mental construct, my two songs blasting in Dolby stereo (okay, I don’t know what that means exactly but it sounds audio-ish, right?), that I said YES to a four day seminar immediately upon our return from Japan. You’re right, I’ve already mentioned this fact, but there’s more to say about it.

New chapter title: Just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me.
Ha, prior to my four days of education saturation, I would have phrased it, “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you,” but I’m learning to take personal responsibility.

I waltzed into the seminar, confident there was something wrong with me and that everybody could see it. This fact did not make me happy. Au contraire, it has been making me Miz-er-a-bull. I was primed for a change.

The tipping point for me was when a woman dared to speak her truth. In a moment I shall never forget, she took the floor and admitted that although her whole life was about empowering women (her work, her education, her passion and interest), whenever she saw a woman that she thought was beautiful, well-dressed, poised and appearing in possession of herself, it made her feel sooooo bad that she would purposely pick and probe until she discovered a weakness and find a way to bring that woman down.

Now, I didn’t think she was speaking about me, but I have spent years cultivating the skill of throwing glamour and fashion on a foundation of dung (yeah baby, it’s called art) and I knew with certainty, her statement held a key for me.

Later, when it was my turn to speak, I admitted my vulnerability and told the room full of people how I believed there was something wrong with me. It was a profound moment. One person raised her hand and said that when I first walked into the room and saw me, she felt like I was so self-assured that I didn’t need anything.

The facilitator addressed the audience and asked how many other people had felt the same way about me. Almost every hand in the place shot up. What?! To condense the experience, the feedback I received was that people perceived no vulnerability and in fact, had felt quite inadequate standing next to me. I was really, really shocked. How could this be? I mean, my flaws are so obvious.

Then the woman who had spoken first came up to me privately and said that I was the person in the room she’d been talking about. I could hardly decipher her words. Her mouth was moving, but how did people’s perception of me conflict so wildly with the belief in my head?

Through this intense seminar, I learned that hiding behind my armor was the thing “wrong with me.” My shield was on auto-pilot and I suited up like a warrior just to go outside. My chilly demeanor immediately triggered other people’s protection and my interactions have often been barrier-to-barrier rather than heart-to-heart. A line in John Mayer’s Say rang true for me, “Walking like a one man army, fightin’ with the shadows in your head…”

Standing in front of the group, I dared to let down my shield. In that instant, so did everyone else. To witness fifty human beings collectively lowering their guards to reveal themselves to me as I stood there emotionally naked was magic. I have never experienced anything like it. I mean, I saw people, humans, maybe for the first time, instead of werewolves.

Like a duck imprinting on its mother, I felt connected to these first humans on planet earth. I was seeing, really seeing them and I couldn’t believe how beautiful they were. It made me a little sad for all the time I’ve spent sequestered in a cocoon of wounds, protective gauze and counterfeit jewels, too afraid to reveal myself and in turn, making other people too afraid to reveal themselves.
Breathing easier, I showed up at the Saturday Market, determined to keep my heart open. Sitting in the booth, I overheard two vendors talking. I wasn’t exactly eavesdropping, but I distinctly heard them say my name.

“What did you guys say?” I asked, sticking my head into their booth.

“I said everybody’s got stuff to deal with, except maybe you. Seems like your stuff is good, that you’ve been working for the last few years to get your mind in a good place, I admire that.”

Okay. I almost fell off my chair into the fountain. The very day I decide to stay open, I receive an unsolicited opinion from a person I had no idea was paying any attention in my direction one way or the other, much less that her perception would be that “I didn’t have stuff.”

After hearing the other people in the seminar group admit how lonely and inadequate they felt, I could let go of my ragged premise, my worn-out song and now I get to work on my new lyrics. I told you I was going to toot. Now, what rhymes with “stupendous?”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hats Off

Calendar wise, the Eugene Saturday Market opened this year on April 4th, but I was busy getting my wings, so our official first day was April 11th. I floated on air throughout the entire day, reuniting with friends, selling our wares, sharing hugs, sipping coffee and exchanging tiddly bits. Not exactly gossip, as that would be about other folks behind their backs, but more juicy bits of drama from the dark days of winter to the light of spring. Oh, another way of saying it would be “playing catch up” or having a good chin wag.

The one that sent me into bottle shock was Kimmmm’s news. My spell checker is having a fit and I’m telling it, yes, her name does contain a lot of mmmmm’s. How many precisely, I’m not sure, but quite a few. Alphabet conjugation aside, her news sent me reeling, kinda like I’d been kicked in the goolies. She delivered it with such panache and style, too. Kimmmm began with a fashion quandary and demurely asked, “What should I wear to meet Prince Charles?” Huh? What?

Bob’s your uncle, me mate is off to London Town to bear witness while her husband is recognized by the Royal family for his humanitarian work. Crikey Moses, I was chuffed to bits for her. Sounds like I was cheesed off, huh? Nope, it means I was really pleased.

After I got the lowdown and felt all squidgy (soft), I bumped into a friend, Bo Peep, I hadn’t seen for donkey’s years. “Guess what?” I said, all sixes and sevens. “Have you heard Kimmm’s going to meet Prince Charles?” I filled her in on the details, including the one where Kimmmm celebrated with London street revelers on his 30th Birthday in 1978. It had been a teenage fantasy of hers to meet the dishy Prince and now 30 years later, she gets to do it.

“That Kimmm is the bee’s knees,” I extolled. “She may be one of the best manifesters I know.”

Bo Peep was intrigued. “How so?” she asked.

What surprised me next, is that I didn’t jump into all the material goods that come to her as if by magic (although they do), nor describe any cracking procedures she follows along the Law of Attraction path. Instead I began to tick off a few of her qualities.

“Kimmm’s very accepting of people and situations. Her offence-meter seems to be turned down low and she allows people to be themselves without needing to control the outcome. Besides being beautiful and brill, she simply doesn’t spend the energy being brassed off all the time.”

Believe me, this woman has a career where being offended could be her full time job. Right then, I grocked how aerodynamically she glides through this world, without all the drag and clutter on her being. She avoids the aggro and therefore does not gather resistance on her way to what she wants.

Ah-ha moment. When I spend my energy and time in a beastly and barmy mood, poised and ready to be offended by what other people do and say, or especially by what they don’t do or say, I am creating a shambolic atmosphere for my rockets of desire. Bollocks! How are they supposed to land when I am in chaos, offering resistance at the same time I launch my requests?

Last June, during Royal Ascot, when the Brit elite don fancy hats and watch horseracing on Ascot Heath in the historic county of Berkshire, England, Kimmmm sent me amusing photos of posh women in their outrageous millinery. For several days in a row her emails included hats. I sashayed into her office toward the end of that week and noticed several round boxes stacked by her desk. “What’re those?” I nosied.

Horses for courses, if Kimmmm didn’t ceremoniously uncover the mystery boxes one by one to reveal heavenly chapeaus in luxurious textures and colors. “Where’d ya get those ace toppers?” I squealed.

“Oh,” she said casually, with a shrug in her voice, “So-and-So was cleaning out her closet and decided I might like to have them.”

Bite your arm off, Kimmm had just spent several days enjoying Royal Ascot pageantry, and voila! smart hats to rival the horsey diva’s arrived at her office step. Her clarity plus enjoyment equaled a friend daft with envy. Ooops, did I just write that out loud? I meant to say, her clarity plus enjoyment equaled a bunch of fabulous new hats, Easy Peasy, with no real effort or struggle on her part.

‘ello? Sometimes I’m just gormless. While I whinge and complain, struggle and resist, she’s over there looking jammy and twee. I sound like the little boy who didn’t want to do his math homework. “If you could whine every five minutes, how many things could you whine about in an hour and a half?”

“Eighteen.” Sheesh.

Deepak Chopra suggests that we “slip into the gap.” Umm, I don’t know what that means. Is he a paid spokesman for the apparel retail chain and I’m supposed to find happiness and contentment by wearing what everybody else is told to wear? You know the commercial, “Everybody in stripes.” Codswallup.

Upon further investigation, Mr. Chopra (I wonder if close pals call him “Dee” for short?), describes the gap as “the silent space between thoughts.” Hoo boy, I don’t have any of those. The thoughts in my head take up all the space and more. Sometimes it would be handy to use one of those innovative PODS storage units, where the company delivers a weather proof container and I could get rid of my excess thoughts and then “slip into the gap.” I’m certain there’s a healthier route to clearing out the mental clutter, but that’s what I came up with today.

So with a head full of crowded thoughts, I have created an alternative definition of the G.A.P. -- a life of Gratitude, Abundance and Purpose. Maybe if I’d offer more thanks and ta, I could be like the customer on Saturday who answered my, “How are you?” with “I’m doing really, really great, but don’t worry, I’ll get better.”

And as Vickie Getchell says about her guardian angel, “Her wings are broken, but her tennis shoes are smokin’.”

Cheerio my cheeky monkeys!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wings 'n' Things

Last week I had just re-entered the atmosphere of PST (Pacific Standard Time) and pondered if there was much difference between PST and PTS (post-traumatic stress disorder)? The day I returned home in 1983 was probably the most traumatic event of my life to date, and everything that came after sprang from that moment, so you can understand if I might be a little twitchy upon landing.

I was looking for signs and omens. The first one came as soon as we claimed our luggage. Sister, who kindly volunteered to pick us up from the airport, locked her keys in the car so we had to wait outside while her husband took time off from work and drove to the outskirts of the city to offer his key. Hmmm, what is it I’m being “locked out of?” Yes, it was the car, but I’m talking metaphorically. I was hypersensitive to the meaning behind everything.

We finally made it back to our sweet home and the first thing I did was say hello to my kitty, who was not moving and could barely lift his head. This was not normal, so while checking him out, I saw the blood smeared all over the white pillow case. NOT OKAY! Turns out he had been in a fight that morning and his adrenalin bravado had fooled the kind housesitter, so while she bid him adieu, he smiled, waved back and then collapsed into a furry heap upon the bed until we found him a few hours later.

Locked out and a bloody fight. Dang! Both in the first few minutes of being home. What did this portend?

Next, I had all kinds of expectations. Expectations that people would actually be interested in our trip to Japan and ask questions, like, “did you get to see everybody that you wanted to?” or “What did you eat, where did you go, what did you see?”

Mother-in-law, when she called to see if we were home safe, played the offensive. “I’ll allow you to show me one, maybe two pictures.” Wow.

Other people immediately launched into everything that had happened in their worlds during the two weeks we were gone, without a single question cast in our direction. I heard about shopping lists and weather updates and blow-by-blow conversations betwixt them and people I didn’t even know.

One girlfriend, after two hours of non-stop conversation about her job, kids and boyfriend, said, “Oh yeah, did you have a good trip?” I told her yes and asked if there was anything in particular she was interested in? “No,” she said, “I just wanted to know if you had a good time.”

While receiving calls from family members, I heard recycled stories. “I know I’ve already told you this, but so and so said such and such…” Um, hello? We’ve just traveled 10,000 miles and 25 years into history for a very deep, personal healing journey and nobody has a single question??? Does this trip not compare to the bargain you found on paper towels and the pizza you eat every Tuesday night??

I’m not suggesting that I should have had all the talking time and wouldn’t be interested in hearing about how they changed garbage day from Monday to Thursday, but I am saying that I had expectations that somebody would have expressed interest in what occurred during the fourteen day pilgrimage.

And then there was the very large expectation that whatever ailed me would be cured by this return to my heartland. Much of it was, but there were leftovers. Now what? I was locked out, had a bloody cat on my hands, and those closest to me were acting as if nothing had changed for me. Not exactly the re-entry I was looking for. Much like I’ve whined here, I complained to Chakra Girl. She advised well.

“You’ve gone to Japan. You’ve seen who you’ve needed to see. Anything that is still unresolved is up to you. There’s nobody left out there who can fix it but you. And (this was really painful to hear), why do you need for people to ask you about your trip? Why are you waiting for an invitation? Seems like if there was anything interesting to share, you’d be so excited about it you’d just spit it out instead of waiting politely for anyone to stop thinking about their own selves and ask you.

“I’m afraid most people are totally self-absorbed and have a television show playing in their heads with them as the star and you come along expecting them to switch channels and plug into your show. They don’t want to, just as you don’t really want to switch from your Japan channel to the paper towel channel.”


Changing conversations from Chakra Girl to GlowGirl (yes, they are two different people), she told us about this amazing four day intensive personal work seminar that she had just attended and uttered the magic words – they were currently offering a “two for one” special. I’d heard about this event for years and was interested in going, but the affordability for Companion and I made the difference.

Believing (or wishing) the dates to be in the sometime near future, I was surprised the seminar was scheduled three days hence. In a jetlag hangover, we registered and showed up on time. I walked through the doors of this mysterious process with my own television channel playing in my head and the left-over things that ailed me in the pocket of my heart.

Over the next four days I was able look at what plagued me and in Chakra Girl’s words, “It was up to me to fix it,” and guess what? I did! I’d like to thank GlowGirl for extending the invitation in the first place, to Chakra Girl and God’s Minion for their flexibility in rearranging schedules so that we could attend, and to the participants for creating a safe and loving place to do the work.

The moment we stepped off the plane, we were locked out, but then we were given a key which is opening many doors. My precious cat, resting on a bloody pillow, mirrored the bruised and battered condition of my heart which was healed. The expectation of others transformed into what I could do for myself. Now that’s what I call a good entry.

I flew on a plane to get me to Japan, but upon my return, I found my wings. Fitting, for as Kobi Yamada once said, “Sometimes you just have to take the leap, and build your wings on the way down.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Land of the Rising Belly

Eeeeeee- I’m home from Japan and laughing at myself. One, I was worried about how this trip would pan out. Two, I had no idea they thought I was fat. Three, I couldn’t stop eating this time, either. Four, I got stuck on a toilet, and Five, I thought this trip would cure all that ails me.

The first trip in 1983 was so vivid I was concerned how this one in 2009 might compare. Well, let’s just say that notion was short-lived, about as effective as trying to relive a memory from long ago while strapped into a dizzying ride at the fair and being twirled and spinned into an altered state. Ha! Not a problem -- too busy trying to avoid throwing up cotton candy, elephant ears and chili dogs. Or in this case, red bean and custard waffles, oyster flavored potato chips and green- tea Kit Kat bars.

I’ve already touched on the fact that every single person who saw me again after a quarter of a century commented that I was “no longer fat.” Even the grandfather of a friend who met me once mentioned the moon face I used to have. Yes, I know I gained 40 pounds while I was living there, but as I lost it State-side, it never occurred to me that their lasting impression of me was that of a baby Buddha.

In the intervening years, I’ve tried to watch what I eat, and even while traveling to the Mecca of decadent desserts, bread and cheese (France), I’ve managed to avoid overindulging and kept most of the pounds off by miles of walking.

But as soon as I was fingerprinted and allowed entry into The Land of the Rising Sun, the trigger switch for eating-everything-in-sight was flipped on and locked in its upright position. I think it’s something they do to foreign nationals while we’re staring into the lens of the Interpol camera or fumbling with our passports, custom declaration papers and luggage, all bleary eyed and stunned from the squished cattle quarters in the airplane and recycled air.

Hey, I’m all for living green, but I do not love the word “recycle” and “breathing air” in the same sentence. And I think Japan’s new moniker should be “Land of the Rising Belly.” On our way home, while landing in San Fransisco, I was pulled out of line and ordered to be body searched. They offered a private room, but whooo boy, how do I say, Hell No without sounding like a potty mouth? As long as it was an invitation, I declined. Whatever they were going to do to me, I wanted it done publicly.

Thank God they didn’t do a cavity search because I haven’t been to the dentist in a very long time. I was miffed and slightly offended to be chosen for the big pat down as they seemed particularly interested in what I might be hiding under my blouse. Guess what folks, it was my belly! My protruding, clogged, plugged, filled to the gills with sticky white rice belly. After they felt me all over, they determined I was just fat. Oi!

But as I write this, it occurs to me they might have done me a favor. No, I don’t consider that flirting. I’m now suspecting that security could tell my eating trigger was on full tilt boogie and pulled me out of line to turn it back off. So, thank you, because now I’m not as inspired to eat everything in sight here in Homeland.

As I sat here with GlowGirl last night, (Pssst, she has a new nickname, “Crazy Bean Lady,”) sipping cherry blossom tea and nibbling on green tea cookies, she’s also been to JapanLand and knew precisely what I was talking about and we launched into fits and giggles over all the snacks and treats beautifully packaged in happy, appetite pleasing colors, wrapped and decorated with come hither ribbons and we drooled over Royal Milk Tea, Pokari Sweat, Kibidango (millet cakes sprinkled lightly with powdered soy bean), Manju (a traditional Japanese sweet filled with azuki bean paste), and chips made out of every conceivable and several inconceivable flavors.

Then there was the cabbage-muscat juice and the bamboo.

On a tour of Kyoto during the last stop (Kiyomizu Temple), we encountered a four alarm traffic jam. Well, I don’t really know how traffic jams are measured, but this one was a bouchon deluxe. Instead of sitting for the hour or two that was estimated, the “best bus driver in Kyoto” decided to take us up a narrow road on a steep hill. Scary. But our tour guide, bless her heart, was not expecting the added delay and had to repeat her memorized material. Her English is better than my Japanese could ever be, but that did not stop her nasal microphoned voice to eventually irritate me a little, especially since every word ended on a heavily accented vowel.

That last phrase would sound something like this… “every-YA wor-DA ended-A on-NA heavily-A accented-DA vowel-LA. Yipes!

I bet you forgot I was talking about bamboo. Before I sidetracked myself, I was saying that our vowel-heavy tour guide was repeating her material because the drive was taking longer than expected. She was talking about spring time edibles (see? more food references) when she landed on bamboo. Voila! A subject that I never knew could take up so much time. She milked that baby for blocks. Different ways it could be cooked, sliced, diced and quartered-DA.

Companion, who had been gobsmacked by the beauty and splendor of Kyoto, the ancient temples and shrines with their cherry blossom promises, had been quiet and mellow up to this point, but apparently the combination of the steep impromptu bus route, the loud microphone and the woman’s obvious passion for bamboo provided him with some inspiration.

Quietly, so as not to be rude (we were seated near the back of the bus), Companion, in a slow, Southern drawl a la Forest Gump, began naming his own twist on bamboo. “Refried bamboo, bamboo puddin’, scrambled bamboo, bamboo grits, hard-boiled bamboo, bamboo gumbo, …” Not fair for him to make me laugh like that.

The Japanese are not an outwardly affectionate culture, you know, all touchy-feely in public, but I learned a little secret. They have invented amazing machines to do some of the touching for them. Take our friend’s massage chair. We’ve sat in some before, or so we thought, with a little ball that goes ‘round and ‘round the shoulder blades, so I was expecting the usual when I was invited to sit down in the Takabochi 4000 Mach 9.

What I was not expecting was for it to lay down flat with me in it and for mechanized clamps to grab my ankles. I was strapped into this baby like I was going to receive a lethal injection. Not relaxing so far. Then the deceptive arm rests opened up and swallowed me from wrist to arm pit. Next, all the whirling massage parts were activated and vibrating things were running up and down my spine, my legs therapeutically jiggled, the blood pulsing to my head which was angled down below my shoulders. All that was missing was Hannibal Lecter’s hockey mask.

Then our hostess said, “Enough of you, time for him now.” She managed to untangle me from its grip and had me out and Companion in before either one of us could catch our breath. Japanese efficiency. While he was being “relaxed,” she motioned for me to follow her. She opened a door and the centerpiece of the small room was the most luxurious toilet I have ever seen. “Shhh…watch this,” and pushed me toward the Imperial throne. As I approached, the lid miraculously raised itself. Apparently a man should never have to lift a finger. I was in awe. I wanted to be a man in Japan.

Pointing to some fancy buttons on the wall, she told me to try it on my “magic spot.” With that little instruction, she left me alone and shut the door. The timing was right, as we had been sipping lots of tea and snacking on chocolate dipped strawberries (in honor of White Day, when men give women chocolate), so I overcame my shyness and decided to see what the mystique of the bidet world was all about. Whooo is about all I can say here.

It was surprisingly invigorating, and then I was done. But the water kept on jetting. I looked at the Starship Enterprise panel on the wall next to me, hesitated as my rosebud was continually watered and started pushing buttons. It wouldn’t stop. In fact, I think I renewed its subscription. I called out to Friend, no answer. I yelled a little louder, no one came to my rescue. I tried standing, but the fountain of youth was determined and the vicinity was getting wet. I quickly sat back down. We were heading out for dinner and who wants the telltale waterjet stream up the back of a bidet novice? Heeeeelp!

I sat there for what felt like a looooong time. Eventually the tank ran out of liquid, so I was finally free. Between the chair and the benjo, I got quite the lovin’.

As for curing what ails me, the trip did wonders in the healing department, but I imagined it would erase the pain of some other things, too, which at this point, it has not. But I remain optimistic. As bits and pieces of me are collected and the healthier tissue occupies more space, the broken bits can be collected too, and with some gratitude, offered up as well.