Ululation

It’s primal. It’s a release.

True confession: I have always envied women who could ululate. It’s that trilling, rippling shout that women are known to do in Africa, the Middle East, and Central and South Asia. It sounds like a heartfelt outpouring of emotion. It’s also done in the Basque and Galician regions of Spain. The Lakota in this country came to it as well. It is a sound that peoples in different parts of the world seem to have arrived at independently, so I think of it as very primal.

There are many different ululation “accents”, and people (women, mostly, by a wide margin) ululate for different reasons depending on the culture. It is the sound of celebration, of praise, and it’s done at weddings and graduations and concerts and even in church. It has also been used as a war whoop, and a sound of mourning. In ancient Greece it was sometimes the sound of fury. It’s also a way to draw attention.

Written references to ululation go as far back as 24th Century BC in Egypt. I always wanted to be a part of this amazing tradition, but I didn’t know how to ululate or who might teach me. Recently, I decided to check out Youtube, in the hope of finding an instructional video.

The first video I came across was one entitled, Learn to Ululate. Based on the title I thought that it held promise, until I watched it. It describes pointing your tongue to form the shape of a sausage, and then rapidly wiggling it from side to side. That video almost made me abandon all hope, because the side to side motion doesn’t come at all naturally to me, and I feared I’d never be able to produce the proper sound.

Fortunately, I then stumbled upon this video, called, simply, ULULATE 🙂. It demonstrated a kinder, gentler way of ululating, in my opinion, because the tongue moves up and down. Now you’re talking! I can do that!

Another component of ululating that I hadn’t anticipated was working up the courage to do so. I’m not one who generally calls attention to herself. I’m not one who blasts her feelings up to the cheap seats. And I absolutely hate making a fool of myself. So, even though I now basically understood the technique, it took me a bit to actually try it myself.

I decided to do so, for the first time, in the tower on my drawbridge. I figured that even if someone walking below heard me, they at least wouldn’t see me. So late one night, I tried it.

And a funny thing happened. It left me feeling emotionally drained, but in the best possible way. Maybe I should describe it as emotionally purged. It wasn’t the most sophisticated ululation in the world, not by a long shot. But it was a release. It made me feel powerful. It made me feel connected. I felt as though I had released bile from my stomach that I hadn’t even realized was there. It allowed me to blast joy into the wider world.

Clearly, this was going to take practice to perfect my sound, but now I was looking forward to it. Anyone walking across the bridge that night probably heard some interesting vocalizations. I wonder what they thought.

Since then, I’ve also practiced in my back yard, in hopes of getting the coyotes that live in the adjacent park to sing along. (No such luck, so far.) It’s probably a good thing that I don’t have any other neighbors close by.

The first (and so far only) person I’ve ululated around is Dear Husband. I had a few false starts because I was shy and blushing, but then I did it. I gave him fair warning. And still he pronounced it “startling.”  I’ll take startling. It’s a start!

I suspect that I’ll have limited opportunities to ululate. This is not the kind of sound you usually hear in quiet, staid Seattle. But it’s a sound whose time has come for us all. We women need to make more noise if we want to maintain any rights at all.

I love that this sound is mostly made by women, and quite often it is made in countries where the women are oppressed. It’s a powerful sound. It’s magical. It connects women to each other. It shows strength, confidence, and a depth of mutual understanding that men don’t realize that we’re capable of most of the time. It links us to the women of the past, present, and future. I’m proud to finally be a part of it.

So, I leave you with three gifts, dear reader. The first is a poem about ululation that I stumbled upon. I love the concept of sisters and aunts teaching ululation to the younger generation. That’s beautiful. Check the poem out here.

The second gift is this gorgeous video that gives you that sense of connection that ululation provides.

And the third? It’s a recording of my humble but triumphant attempt to ululate. I’m sure it will improve with time. It makes me feel vulnerable to share this, as if I’m cracking open my chest and exposing my heart to you. But it also makes me proud.

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The Great Tapestry

We are all connected.

Recently, I’ve discovered that several of my friends have connected in unexpected ways. It really makes me happy. In some cases, I have been the catalyst in these connections, and in others, the situation has been completely random. It makes me feel like we are all a part of a beautiful, colorful, complex tapestry.

I met one friend through my grief support group. Eventually, we became Facebook friends. That’s how we discovered that we have a mutual Facebook friend, who also happens to be the cousin of one of my closest friends in Florida. These two Facebook friends work together. I know very few people in this city, so the odds of my knowing two coworkers, who I met in random, distinct ways, is pretty amazing.

I also met my husband through that same grief support group. It’s a group that I wouldn’t have known about if it weren’t for the fact that two other friends, separately, during the same time period, recommended that I attend. So they both take credit for my marriage.

I met Bob through my Drawbridge Lovers Facebook group. I met Linda through my View from a Drawbridge Facebook group. One day Linda asked me how I knew Bob. Awesome coincidence: they’re on the brink of getting married. I’m thrilled to be a vicarious witness to that love story, which is happening in another state, to two people I’ve never met face to face, but respect very highly.

I introduced another dear friend who is in Canada to someone who is in Kentucky, and they’ve been in a supportive, happy, internet relationship for about a decade now. More power to them.

I met two other people in the exact same week about 12 years ago, and they’ve also been together ever since. (Not that I had anything to do with that, but it is a delightful synchronicity.)

I met one friend through a story telling group that I used to attend. She became the editor of my first book. I met another friend through that same group, but on a different day. She was actually just passing through town, and lives on the other side of the continent. She wrote the introduction to my first book. And it turns out that now the two of them work for the same organization, which the first friend wouldn’t have known about if it hadn’t been for my introducing her to the second friend. What a mazel!

I also have a friend in Argentina who introduced me to a friend in Georgia, who I had the opportunity to hear in concert in Florida. So even borders cannot prevent connections. Borders, in fact, are artificial constructs.

I guess my point is that we’re all threads in the great tapestry of the universe. Whether we are the warp or the weft, the long or the short, the coarse or the smooth, we all play our part. We may not even know we are connected, but somehow, rest assured, we are.

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The Letting Go

When my mother died, I hung on to this bottle of deodorant she had given me until long after it had been used up. Because she gave it to me. I think I got it into my head that getting rid of that bottle would be like losing my connection with her. I just couldn’t do it. Not at that point.

I have other things that belonged to my mother, of course. Jewelry. Family heirlooms of one kind or another. Photographs. These things make sense. But an empty deodorant bottle? Come on, now.

Then, four years ago, my boyfriend died quite unexpectedly. Since we weren’t legally married, I was left with very little of his to cling to. Once again, I had a bottle of deodorant. This wasn’t a gift to me. But it had belonged to him. It smelled like him. Again, I held onto it for years.

Finally, several weeks ago, almost without thinking about it, I reached into my medicine cabinet with my eyes closed and threw that sucker out. Just like that. Just like I had eventually done with my mother’s bottle. It was time. My life is moving on.

And guess what? The world kept right on spinning. The sky didn’t crack open. My connection is every bit as strong. My memories are intact. All continued to be right with the world. And now I have more room in my medicine cabinet.

It’s okay to let go of things. Things aren’t people. Things only have an emotional charge if you give one to them. Yes, hold onto those photos and heirlooms. They are part of a family legacy. But don’t cling to someone else’s clutter. Make room in your life for your life.

No pressure, though. You’ll know when and if it’s time to let go. Only you can decide that.

Since the deodorant disposal (not because of it), my life seems to be progressing at a rapid pace, and I love the direction in which it’s going. So just the other day I decided it was time to let more go. It was time to scatter the last of Chuck’s ashes.

The fact that I even have any in the first place is a pure miracle. Some of his relatives felt I didn’t deserve any after “living in sin” with him for four years. Others, though, who knew how much we loved each other, liberated some and slipped a tiny bottle of them into my purse. So I had this tiny bottle, and have cherished it ever since. But it was time to set Chuck, and myself, free.

Where would I do this, though? He’d never even been to Seattle. He’d have had a love/hate relationship with it. I think he’d have loved it this time of year, but not in the winter. I think he’d have loved the many things there are to do, but not the politics.

He’d have loved the water and mountain view at my work. So that’s where I decided to do it. When I got there, though, it occurred to me that the only window that actually opens out over the water is the one in the bathroom.

You had to know Chuck. But trust me, he’d have appreciated that irony. He’d have thought it was freakin’ hilarious. So, after depositing a tiny bit of him in a perfume locket that I have (where he’s encountering my mother for the first time), I held the bottle in my hands and opened the window.

“Chuck,” I said, “I love you. I think you know that my life has become magical and wonderful again, and it’s time to let you go. I truly believe you’re happy for me. I’ll miss you. I’ve still got pictures and memories, and you’ll always have a piece of my heart. But I’m still alive, and it’s time to live again. It’s time to embrace the joy of the here and the now and the future. I know you get that. You probably get it more than most people do. So here goes. Safe journey.”

And as I scattered the ashes, a sudden gust of wind blew some of them back into my face. The bathroom and I were now covered in Chuck. I laughed as I cried, because he’d have laughed. I could hear him in my mind, that wonderful, infectious, breathless, delighted chuckle of his.

And it was good.

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Earthing

One of the best things about the advent of spring is that I find more and more opportunities to walk barefoot. I love the feeling of grass under my feet and sand between my toes. I love feeling connected to the planet, especially after long months of raw, bitter, wet, isolating cold.

In particular, I love the grass out west. It’s soft and smooth, like the grass of my Connecticut childhood. In the South, one is forced to live with St. Augustine grass, which is actually lumpy and painful to walk on. That, and you have to watch out for fire ants and snakes and scorpions and hostile plant life. It’s not the same experience at all. (But I do miss walking on Southern beaches! Warm sand, not painful rocks!)

But walking barefoot, or “earthing”, is now being scientifically studied. It comes as no surprise to me that people are discovering that there are actual health benefits to the practice. I know I feel calmer and happier and much more centered when I’m barefoot.

According to this article, scientists are discovering that earthing improves sleep, reduces inflammation, and increases antioxidants. It has something to do with having direct contact with the electrons that the planet produces. It also reduces stress, regulates glucose and heartbeat, and increases immunity. According to this article, walking barefoot also helps loosen tense muscles, relieves headaches, reduces menstrual cramps, and boosts energy levels.

Whether or not these studies stand up to further investigation, I just know, instinctively, that I feel better when I can feel the earth beneath my feet. After all, we evolved to live upon it. Our very existence depends on it. We are meant to be connected to it. I find it sad that our idea of “progress” is removing us more and more from the natural world.

So get out there and wiggle your toes!

Barefoot-walking

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On Having an Impact

On the day I wrote this, I was told by one friend that he learned about Kiva.org because of me, and that he and his daughter have been making microloans through them ever since. Another friend chimed in and said it was the same for her. This gave me a lump in my throat, because it means that I played a small part in improving the lives of people in other parts of the world without even realizing it. And some day those people whose lives have improved will go on to improve other people’s lives, and so on, and so on. In its own quiet way, it’s immortality. We are all so interconnected in ways we don’t even realize. It’s miraculous when you think about it. What a gift!

And then, less than an hour later, I was contacted by Mariah, one of my favorite readers, who told me that not only has she read my book, but she also printed out the blog post that I wrote about her several months back, and it hangs on her wall. Okay. Happy tears. Somewhere in South Carolina hangs one of my blog posts. Wow. Just… wow.

Learning that I’ve had an impact on people means so much to me. It’s more precious than gold. It tells me that my life is worth living, and that all the challenges and all the potholes in my path have been worthwhile. It’s validation. It’s uplifting.

If someone in your life has had a positive impact on you, dear reader, I strongly encourage you to tell them so. They may not realize it. And hearing it, I guarantee, will have a positive impact upon them.

See? It’s easier than you think.

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Anchorage

No, not the city in Alaska. The word. A place to drop anchor. Most people long for this. Now that I’m a homeowner again, I kind of feel like I’ve finally found such a place. It’s wonderful. It’s a huge relief. As a matter of fact, for the first time in my life, I look forward to coming home, I feel safe here, and I am a part of a community. I’ve had maybe one or two of those things before, but never all three simultaneously. I’m 52, and this is a first. And I like it. A lot.

But anchorage is one of those amazing words that brings up conflicting emotions in me, depending upon the context. I hate to see people who are trapped in their lives. There’s nothing worse than doing a job that you hate because you feel as though you have no choice. It’s awful to stay in a relationship simply because you’re afraid to be alone. (Been there. Done that.) It’s heartbreaking to see someone stay someplace simply because it’s all he or she has ever known.

I know several people who have limited themselves in one way or another, and it makes me very sad. To me it looks like wasted potential. I want the most for the people I love. My expectations for them are high. It makes me crazy when I know people are capable of more than they are allowing themselves to achieve. I want everyone to go to college and travel and take risks. But a lot of people don’t do these things. Their fears hang on their necks like… anchors.

And now’s when I have to remind myself that everyone is allowed to live their own life. If you are content living in the place where you were born, and never expanding your horizons or learning anything new or being exposed to other cultures, then it’s really none of my business. You can and will make your own choices, including making no choices at all.

Is your anchor a connection or a hindrance? I’ll let you determine your own anchorage, as you have every right to do. Meanwhile, I’ll try to scream into my pillow as quietly as I possibly can.

Anchor

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Continuity

I read something recently that I found very comforting. The same sunrise/sunset has been circling the globe for millions of years. Mind officially blown.

I love the idea that my sunset is someone else’s sunrise. It gives me a sense of connection with the wider world. It links me to all of time, past, present and future.

I also enjoy the perspective this gives me. The thing that is causing me stress and anxiety today is a mere blip on the sun’s radar. Talk about not sweating the small stuff! Here I am, one tiny little person, in one tiny little point in time, worrying about one tiny little thing.

It also makes change seem trivial. That multi-million year sunrise has looked different every single day, for every single person, and it will look different again tomorrow. And yet it still keeps on keeping on.

Despite our mortality, despite the havoc we wreak, on a larger scale there is stability and continuity. Life will go on, in some form or fashion, somewhere, some time. We are each just one thread in a vast, complex tapestry.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

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Mind, Body, Spirit

Human beings are complex organisms. That’s a given. And in our fast-paced modern world, it’s easy to neglect oneself. If “you” are just one more thing to add to a mile-long to-do list, it’s understandable if you don’t quite get to that particular item every day.

But putting yourself on the back burner is something you do at your own peril. If you don’t take care of yourself, all the other things you want to do will quickly become impossible. There’s nothing more frustrating than discovering that you’ve brought calamity upon yourself through your own habit of basic neglect.

At the beginning of your day, ask yourself what you plan to do for your mind, body, and spirit. And at the end of the day, evaluate how well you did in reaching these goals. At first it may feel strange, but it will quickly become a habit.

Your mind needs feeding just like your body does. Never stop learning. Find the answers to your questions. Read. Try to discover something new every single day.

Your body needs to be nurtured for it to properly function. Exercise. Eat right. Do not neglect your health.

Of all the members of this grand triumvirate, spirit is probably the most often neglected. If religion or spirituality makes you uncomfortable, think of it as your inner being. What did you do today to bring yourself joy? What makes you feel at peace, or connected to the wider world? Have you allowed yourself to be creative lately? Here lies your reason for being. Take care of it.

Take care of you.

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Licking My Wounds

Recently I met the cousin of a friend, and he’s amazing. We seemed to have a lot in common. Our politics are in line, and that’s really important to me. He’s around my age. He has an energy that he puts out that makes me feel really comfortable. Even better, he doesn’t live that far from me, and he’s also good looking, which never hurts.

After talking to him a few times, I decided I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by. Even though it’s against my Southern upbringing, I decided to stick my neck out from my safe little shell and make the first move. I texted him and said I really enjoyed talking to him. Would he like to meet for dinner tomorrow?

He responded that he had something doing tomorrow, but maybe we could do so on another day. I thought, “Okay, that’s understandable. It was short notice.”  “Another day” certainly sounded encouraging. I knew we’d be crossing paths briefly the next day, so I thought we could make plans then. I found myself happily humming in anticipation the whole next morning.

When he showed up, I couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off my face. Until I realized that he wasn’t reciprocating. In fact, he was formal, tense, and left so quickly you’d think his butt was on fire. Message received.

Okay, so apparently he’s just not into me. It happens. In fact it has been happening a lot to me in the past year. God, it hurts like hell, but unfortunately I’m starting to get used to it. I’m starting to expect it. Frankly, I’m sick of it.

But why the mixed signals? That is monumentally effed up, if you ask me. He could have easily said, “Thanks so much. I am flattered, but I have a girlfriend.” I wouldn’t have known the difference, and my ego would have remained intact. Would that have been so hard?

Then I heard the rest of the story from my friend. He’s in the middle of a divorce, and apparently his wife did something pretty awful. He’s probably a bit gun shy.

That makes sense. I’ve never been known for my stellar timing. But the sad thing is that even if he did feel the connection that I did, now he won’t ever get in touch when he’s reached the point where he’s ready, because I’m sure he’ll think that after blowing me off, that bridge has been burned.

Part of me thinks that I dodged a bullet. I am a little too emotionally fragile myself these days to be someone’s transitional woman. But part of me wishes that I could say to him, “You have no idea, yet, how messed up the dating world is for our age group, and just how many crazies are out there. Eventually you’ll find out. When you do, I hope you’ll try with me again. If I’m still available, you might just discover that I am worth the effort. Because I thought you were.”

But there’s always a chance that my first assumption was the right one. He wasn’t interested. No doubt his wife was thinner, prettier. He hasn’t been in the 50-something dating world long enough to lower his standards to a real person. Yet. I guess I’ll never know.

It is a good lesson to be reminded that not everyone has the same priorities or agenda that I do. I tend to forget that sometimes, to my everlasting regret. But meanwhile, I freakin’ give up. No more first moves for me. Waaaaay too painful. Honestly, I don’t know how men do it.

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Virtual Reality Tank Guy

I love the virtual world of Second Life. If you are feeling lonely, it’s a great place to meet people, make friends, find romance, have fun and pursue interests in art/music/religion/culture even if you can’t or won’t leave the comfort of your own home. I hate it when it’s referred to as a game, because you may be using an avatar that looks like a cartoon, but there are real people with feelings behind those avatars. You’re not there to earn points or prizes or virtual power or rise to a higher level. You’re there to socialize with other people.

In a wheelchair? In Second Life you can dance! Agoraphobic? In Second Life you can explore Paris or outer space, anxiety-free! Want to own a mansion and sit on your veranda overlooking the ocean with good friends? All you need is a laptop.

One thing that Second Life has taught me, though, is that a lot of people are living lives of quiet desperation. I’ve met hundreds and hundreds of people in there who are unhappily married or unhappily single, and come in to Second Life because they’re desperately lonely. It’s been so long since someone has touched them with even the slightest bit of affection that they’re willing to settle for virtual touch, virtual companionship. Is this healthy? That’s a topic for another blog entry. But it’s a fact.

I have to admit that I am one of those people. When I first came into Second Life more than 6 years ago, I was trapped in a depressing and loveless relationship, one in which I was never touched, never heard, never understood. I was so lonely it was actually physically painful.

I’m a lot more jaded in that virtual world than I once was. I’ve seen it all. I’ve pretty much done it all. I have an inventory full of virtual t-shirts to prove it. I’ve made good friends and established myself in the virtual art world, so my Second Life is fairly stable, and I’m therefore less apt to suffer fools gladly. But in the beginning I was much more tolerant and open and patient and understanding of people’s needs to connect.

That’s how I met a guy who called himself Aeon. In hindsight I suspect he was a very young and extremely lonely guy who was just trying to impress me. He claimed he was somewhere on the west coast, in the military, wearing some virtual reality suit and floating in a sensory deprivation tank, doing experiments for the federal government. Yeah, right. Whatever works for you, I suppose. I just accepted him as another lonely person trying his best to reach out, and we would dance for hours on end. Sometimes you just need to be held, you know? We would dance our way through my graveyard shift, night after night. I hope he derived as much comfort from that as I did.

Eventually, though, he strained my ability to suspend disbelief to the breaking point. One day he said one of his coworkers, a female, was going to test out the suit, and she would be talking to me through his avatar. Okay. The only problem with that is when “she” started talking to me, she made the exact same spelling errors that he did. I had no doubt that this was the same person. And then “she” proceeded to tell me that she was in love with Aeon, and that I needed to back off or she would hurt him. That’s when I knew this guy was a) wanting to move on, and b) a lot more disturbed than I was capable of dealing with. I quickly exited stage right. In spite of that, I hope that where ever he is now he’s found happiness. And therapy.

Everyone has their own reality. Everyone wants to connect. Fortunately most of us don’t need a sensory deprivation tank to do it.

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[Image credit: vrealities.com]