Sunday, August 29, 2004

I attended the sesshin/day of zen yesterday at the N.O. Zen Temple. 12 hours of meditation, light housekeeping (called "samu" or work meditation), and socializing. There was a rule of silence, but everybody ignored that after the second zazen session ended. Anyhow, it was good for my brain. I found myself trying to force my mind to repeat past meditation experiences. I've read that it doesn't work that way, and it doesn't. Also, in Soto Zen, one is supposed to approach meditation with no expectations, what they call "mushotoku mind." It was frustrating. I was able to just focus on breathing and posture during the third and final zazen session, and it went better. I even requested the kyosoku (a stick that is used to whack the recipient along a particular acupuncture meridian). I didn't have any spectacular enlightenment experience, or even a minor catharsis, but my mind was calm and clear at the end. All in all, a worthwhile experience. The NOZT does these day-long things every month. I'll probably make a couple of them per year; any more than that would be too much.

Friday, August 27, 2004

As most of you know, I am a lawyer by trade.  Most of the attorneys where I work are women, many of whom proudly call themselves feminists.  Most, but not all of them, have a sense of humor.  So this morning I go to the snack machine and see "Hooters Hot Wings" on display.  We men will get a good laugh out of that one.

I had a dream last night that was both hilarious and poignant. I was sitting in a dorm room with Howard Stern. We were seated at a dinette table, from whence Howard was broadcasting his radio show. Guess the FCC made him go underground. I was Howard's producer/sidekick, and I was laughing at all of his crude comments.

DW walked into the room with YS, and told me that YS had been talking at school. YS came over to me and started talking to me like it was no big deal. When I asked him why he had never spoken before, he said that he just didn't know what we expected from him. I, of course, burst into tears of joy. Howard Stern announced on the air that my YS was talking and that it was a miracle.

I haven't listened to Howard Stern in years.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

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Sunday, August 22, 2004

Interesting two-part dream last night. It may have been two separate dreams, I don't know. Anyhow, I'm hiking uphill in the Naomi Peak Wilderness Area above Cache Valley, Utah. I've been there a few times by myself in the summer. This time, however, my in-laws are urging me to keep climbing. Also, there is no snow anywhere in sight, unlike every other time I've been up there. Instead, there are beautiful, colorful Alpine trees and flowers in full bloom.

In part two, I'm atop a very long waterslide in Charleston, South Carolina. It's not a typical waterslide, however. Instead, it's a metal slide much like you'd find in a public park, and it's only wide enough for one person. As I get to the top (I'm almost there when the dream starts), I think I'm going to be sliding into the Atlantic Ocean. Instead, I see a fast-moving river at the end, a couple of miles down. I give some advice to a person who has never done this slide before (evidently I have gone before), then that person disappears from the dream. I start sliding very fast, then see a woman and a child in front of me, with a Nissan automobile in front of them. I slow way down and take the kid in my lap. The car is almost stopped, but it is moving along slowly. The dream ends there, before I get to the river.

this is an audio post - click to play

Friday, August 20, 2004

I have been invited to attend the 44th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo of the Society of Toxicology.  I'm not making this up -- I pulled the invitation out of my box late yesterday.  According to the dictionary, toxicology is "a science that deals with poisons and their effect and with the problems involved (as clinical, industrial, or legal)."  That's all yours truly knows about toxicology, other than what Professor Snape taught his students in the Harry Potter books.

Here's the fun part -- the meeting will be held in New Orleans, March 6-10, 2005, and the Society is issuing a call for abstracts.  With so many smart people reading this, we should be able to design a bogus abstract to submit, then to present in front of "6,000 scientists from industry, academia, and government."  Anybody have any ideas?

Thursday, August 19, 2004

I've been stressed-out all week long. Yesterday was the worst -- I really felt like I was jumping out of my skin. A couple of weeks ago, YS's frequent tantruming made me start fearing that he might need to be placed at the St. Mary's school whenever his number comes up there. Today, I got a call saying that they just had a placement and that the next slot will be his. So now I'm stressing out again, though the extra dose of Lexapro I took this afternoon is helping a lot. My therapist thinks that much of my desire to have the kids at home is more about me than it is about them. There might be something to that, but I did call bullshit on him a couple of times today. I do wonder, however, whether my handwringing over the prospect of YS going there is a) guilt over deciding to place OS there; b) overcompensating for something I may secretly feel is inevitable. This whole thing sucks; it really does.

To quote Mel Brooks, "it's good to be the king."

Yesterday, on the way back from jogging, I saw a very powerful person in the basement where I park. The VIP pulled in with his entourage and parked. Everybody got out of the car, and one of them used her key-card to summon a nearby elevator from an upper floor. The VIP -- actually, a very nice person -- was annoyed that the elevator wasn't there. One of the other people pointed out that the arrow above the elevator was "pointing down." "Pointing down doesn't mean coming down," said the VIP, and the group started walking to an elevator clear across the garage. I don't know what happened next, because I high-tailed it to the changing room. It sure would be nice to have enough clout to be annoyed about an elevator not being ready and waiting for me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I got my special-edition, two-disc, widescreen version of GoodFellas in the mail today. Now that DW is asleep and I've gotten rid of bad karma with a nice little session of zazen, I really should go watch some people get whacked with extreme prejudice.


Sunday, August 15, 2004

I've written so much about my younger son's behavioral problems that I feel compelled to write about yesterday. A. was a perfect little guy yesterday. We went to the Burger King playland, the John Slidell park, and the Slidell Community Playground next to the train depot yesterday. A. had a blast, and whenever he was ready to leave he took me by the hand and led me to the car. Just now we let in the cat from next door, and A. was gentle and nice to him. We may go to the beach later on today, I don't know.

I was a bit worried after I went jogging yesterday. I didn't go all that far, and I was breathing way harder than usual. Jogging has been difficult recently, but nothing like yesterday. DW was worried that I was going to have a heart attack or something. Things settled down very quickly, but I'm taking this as a warning sign to get serious about what I eat.

Friday, August 13, 2004

I went to zazen at the Zen Temple this morning, from 6:30-8:00. It was way more interesting than on Sunday. I stared at the wall and noticed my thoughts jumping around like a car radio set on scan mode by a crazed driver. Okay, I've got too much garbage on my mind and I need to get rid of it and focus on what's most important. The resident there corrected me a few times and explained some things better than the teacher did on Sunday. At one point, I slipped into a semi-altered state of mind, something that resulted in deep, heavy breathing. I could hear what was going on and pay attention to it, but my mind was completely relaxed. Suddenly I heard the resident saying that breathing during zazen should not be loud and violent but quiet, peaceful, and natural. I corrected my breathing and from that point on was able to focus on posture and breathing, letting other thoughts just float in and out. It was great. My head was totally relaxed the rest of the day, which made going home early even better.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

This Sunday morning was a little different than most. I drove into the city today for an introduction-to-Zen class and not to take my kids to look for freight trains. Because I needed to be out before A. awoke, I headed to the funky old Bywater neighborhood and arrived around 6:45 a.m. for my 8:00 class. Bywater is quite a mix of people -- hippies, contemoporary bohemians, upper middle-class gay/lesbian couples, blue-collar black families, and active-duty Naval personnel. Strangely, perhaps, suburban me felt very comfy in the funky neighborhood coffeehouse, where I sat down and started making my always-A/R to-do list for the week. Rather incongruous, now that I think about it.

Yesterday saw A., my ailing sister, and I head up to Alexandria, LA, to visit T. We fetched T., then made our ritual trip to the nearest McDonalds. A. ran in and started climbing, fully shod. T. sat down and ate French fries. I removed his shoes as he ate. Sure enough, the shoe nazi appeared and walked through the playland, checking every kid in sight for shoes. She even bent down to look under tables to ensure that all of the kids were unshodden. Fortunately, A. was deep inside the intricate maze of plastic tubes and slides and could not been seen with his felonious footwear. Unfortunately, A. became overloaded and completely freaked out inside the climbing tower. We had to leave immediately. My sister followed with T., and was more upset by the way some of the other diners looked at us than she was by A.'s obvious neurological/psychological issues. She kept on about how those people looked at us, so I just said "fuck 'em. You develop a thick skin pretty quickly." We then went to Target, where the kids behaved very well. We then made a spur-of-the-moment trip to my aunt and uncle's house 15 or 20 miles from Alexandria. A. & T. went straight upstairs to the playroom that my relatives keep for their own grandkids. The boys had a great time up there, so I stayed there about an hour or so longer than I had anticipated when we decided to go there. On the way home, A. discovered that Lea's pie store has a kids' play area in back. He attempted to steal some of the toys, and our struggle over that ended in another tantrum that ended when we got to Burger King.

The Zen course this morning was fascinating. Of course I've been sitting all wrong, but that didn't surprise me. We had a quick class, then helped set up for the lunch we would have after the actual Zen session. Once the session started, we sat facing the wall for half an hour; did walking mediation for 10 minutes, then sat for another half an hour. You're supposed to focus only on your posture and your breath; if you do that, the mental aspects of zazen are supposed to take care of themselves. Physiologically, proper posture alters the bloodflow to different parts of the brain, allowing underused parts to get worked out. Anyway, keeping the position was difficult for me, so it was good to have a disciplinarian in the room to straighten me out. It was all very Japanese, with lots of bowing, incense, and lying prostrate. We also did some chanting, in Japanese, that was designed to teach us proper breathing technique. Afterwards, we had a great lunch that a resident student at the facility prepared for us. The lunch included pepperoni slices and wine, two things I had thought were off-limits. I guess they aren't at this dojo. I can't go there for zazen terribly often, but I do plan to make it there several times a year anyway.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

I just spoke with my 7-year-old son on the phone. It was our usual conversation:

T: Hello.

R: Hi, T

T: Dad-dy!

R: Have you got a notebook?

T: Book.

R: Do you watch Thomas?

T: Thomas.

R: And Blue's Clues?

T: Blue. Clues.

I then did a monologue about his favorite shows. He didn't respond, but he didn't push the phone away either, which is what he does when he's tired of listening. It was sweet to hear his voice; I hope he feels the same way about my nasaly twang.

Monday, August 02, 2004

I had an exasperating tug-of-war with my therapist this morning. I started off talking about having some sadness on Saturday over my younger son’s long-term prospects and how it would feel like total and complete failure were certain things to happen. My therapist started to push me a little and I said "I don’t want to go there." He continued pushing me. I told him again that I didn’t want to go there.

My therapist said that what was going on was a tug-of-war, with him trying to get me to articulate feelings and me shutting him down. He had been reviewing his notes on me, and he noticed a clear pattern of minimizing, rationalizing, compartmentalizing, and cutting off discussion of, strong emotion and the subconscious. That tendency was apparent even to me at the dream-interpretation group last week. I had been able to move the discussions to a more comfortable, intellectual plain in the past, but not today. He tweaked me a little by telling me I say I "don’t want to go there," then pointing out that I keep going back, which means that I do want to go there. Just before I left, I told the therapist that I usually felt agitated leaving his office. He told me that I need to bring that up and talk about it.

I hate it when people won’t allow themselves to be outmaneuvered.