Rebecca Elia's Blog

All about Feminine Health, Healing, and Greece

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year’s Trans-solutions

This time, I’ve tossed New Year’s Resolutions out the window. Instead, I’m going to make New Year's Trans-solutions. Why? Because the usual resolutions, the usual solutions, just aren’t going to work in 2011. Our present time is defined by a multitude of changes and high stakes.

What’s called for? Transformation on all levels. These last two years have brought extensive and prolonged deconstruction. All around us, previously established structures are falling, and the ones that haven’t yet are ready to topple.

This isn’t just about letting go and moving on; this is about carefully rummaging through the rubble and recycling what we can in new and innovative ways. What is called for is restructuring. This requires creative solutions. Personally, resolutions don’t feel appropriate. They sound too permanent, unyielding, conservative, and conventional to be useful. They don’t feel appropriate on a global level, either.

Qualities that do feel appropriate, both personally and globally, are transmutation and transformation—so how about trans-solutions?

Definition? Solutions that are relevant, flexible, creative, transitional, and transformative. Solutions that can grow with us. Solutions that are, by their very nature, unconventional.

Wow! Do you feel the difference? When I hear the word resolution my gut and chest tighten. This word constricts. Perhaps this is because most New Year’s resolutions fail. In contrast, the (albeit, made-up) word trans-solution, carries expansive energy. Trans-solutions, by definition, cannot fail, because, in times of great change, they are essential to our survival. What trans-solutions lay in your 2011 path?

Let us know. I’m off to contemplate mine.

*Would you like to hear more about trans-solutions, resolutions and transformation in 2011?
I was Melanie DewBerry Jones' guest on her radio show, Everyday Spirituality, "Resolute THIS!" on Monday January 3, 2010 4pm PST. You may listen to part of it here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Without Cycles

I lucked out. I was headed to Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Book Tour for The Art of Non-Conformity, by myself, at night, in the traffic and the pouring rain. (Chris Guillebeau is an amazing soul. I’ve named him a Freedom Teacher of this generation. Check him out!) The usual twenty-minute trip took over an hour. And as I was madly wiping off the windshield steam (note to self: apply that anti-fog stuff that’s sitting in the back of the car) and had lost the ability to daydream (dangerous move, given the weather and traffic), I felt myself slipping into regret and, then, dragging myself out of it. Pep talk time. Chris will be amazing. He’s such an inspiration. It will be well-worth it. (…if you make it there alive…Go away, saboteur!).

I lucked out. Not because I made it there alive (although I am truly grateful), and not because Chris exceeded all expectations (he did), but because one of my dear friends, Marjory Mejia (@sacredflow), showed up. I saw a flash of her, in the darkly-lit room, and, then, as quickly as she appeared, she disappeared, and I thought I was hallucinating. You see, she had told me that she wouldn’t be able to make it, because she was attending a women’s conference. But there she was. When I expressed surprise, she answered, her hot Peruvian blood boiling, “I can’t believe what that doctor was telling us!” Say what? What doctor? She continued [paraphrased]: “At the conference. She was saying that it was okay for women to skip their periods, to not have any bleeding. Not just okay, but that it was preferable. She said there was a lower risk of ovarian cancer when women are on hormonal suppression. That’s ridiculous! Like we’re all supposed to not have periods!”

She was so upset I couldn’t get a word in. I nodded in agreement. Ah, yes, the predominant M.O. of our American society. Obtain study results that show a lower incidence of ovarian cancer (true, a deadly cancer, but, also true, an unlikely one), and healthcare professionals and individuals alike are more than willing to support the hormonal suppression of most women’s cycles. Evidently, this doctor’s talk about the benefits of contraception had morphed into a plug for hormonal-based contraceptives (such as birth control pills and the hormone-containing IUDs).

It was difficult for me to stay out of reactive mode. It wasn’t too long ago that I shared my friend’s heated reaction. In fact, in my talks, I often use our society’s willingness to override or suppress our menstrual cycles as an example of how out of balance the masculine and feminine have become. This strange position we hold seems even stranger after my frequent trips to Greece. Greek women are quite hesitant to place anything foreign in their bodies-- oral contraceptives, IUDs, tampons even! [To my healthcare colleagues: please do not conclude erroneously that I am against contraception. Quite the contrary. I wholly support contraceptive choice and feel they can be credited for empowering women and, equally important, conscious conception. I’ve seen far too many women with undesired pregnancies and motherhood.]

I find it fascinating how easily we, as a society, are willing to override the natural cycles of our bodies for the sake of convenience, that our everyday lives have become so out of balance (i.e., out of control) that this is our “best” alternative. I had this very same discussion with my acupuncturist many years ago, when he noticed, while taking my pulse, an imbalance in the energy related to my cycles. Then he remembered I was on the pill, and said “Oh, that’s right. You’re on the pill.” I was, understandably, alarmed that he could detect something out of balance because of the pill, and asked him if I should discontinue it. I will never forget his answer: “Because the situation you are in right now (residency) is so abnormal, your body on the pill is probably in a more natural state than off, so, no, I wouldn’t advise you discontinue them at this time.”

The cycles of our bodies and of our lives are so important that I am devoting an entire third of my book project to just this. Our current state is so out of whack that being on the pill can be more beneficial to our bodies than being off. This speaks to the conditions of our lives and the choices we make. True, being a health and wellness renegade isn’t easy. Everything conspires against us. Furthermore, using medications to treat an underlying imbalance is usually, at best, a secondary or tertiary cure. Often, it does not address the underlying cause. It’s like my childhood friend, an insulin-dependent diabetic, who used to increase her insulin dose to cover her triple dose of candy.

To make different choices from those dictated by the conventionally-structured world takes courage, or desperation, or both. This is where our conversation about overriding our cycles actually overlapped with the content of Chris Guillebeau’s talk.

Hmmm. Funny how that happens.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010: Year of the Moon –Year of Women

This is the time of year when we review 2010 and prepare for 2011.

Two thousand ten. There is so much that can be said.

It was a wild and crazy year. Massive change. Most of us were thrown out of our comfort zone, pushed to the edge.

Did you jump? Or did you get pushed off?

Those were the only two choices in 2010.

And we made it through to arrive at the total lunar eclipse on the winter solstice, an event last visible in North America in 1638! Monumental!

This eclipse sums up the year for me:

Magical. There is something awesome about a total lunar eclipse. It brings out the mystical in each of us. In times of great darkness magic appears.

Unexpected. Our weather forecast included clouds and rain. The irregular dance of the clouds revealed and concealed the progression of the shadowed moon. Minutes after the sky turned completely dark, the clouds suddenly parted, revealing a bright burnt-orange colored sphere. Our weather and our lives have become unpredictable. We are learning to expect the unexpected.

Earthly. Yes, earthly. The moon became the color of the red-orange earth, reminding us that this constantly changing orb is intricately connected to our earth and to us.

Feminine. We think of the moon as feminine, but, in fact, the ancients credited the moon with both feminine and masculine qualities. 2010 was a year in which women played more dominant roles, and the plight of women, world-wide, gained unprecedented attention. The seemingly opposite and cyclical properties of the moon remind us that bringing the feminine back into balance means bringing the masculine into balance as well.

Cyclical. This year, more than any year before it, we have become acutely aware of the cycles of life and death, how everything is connected. There is a time to expand and a time to contract. Unrestricted growth can no longer be supported at all cost. Dissolution and restructuring are a necessary part of growth.

Light. With great darkness comes great light. 2010 was a year of great darkness and of great light. Within the shadow, watch for the light.

Missed it? Watch it here:

Want more? You're not alone.
Here are some of my fav Lunar Eclipse/Winter Solstice posts:

Visionary  artist, writer, and feng shui consultant Marjory Mejia on her Sacred Flow site:  Winter Solstice and Rebirth 

Karen Sharp’s Sister Moon

Life and relationship coach, leader, writer and musician Kathy Loh: Winter Solstice Surrender - Into the Light

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Surviving the Financial Crisis: The New Pioneers

The Greek equivalent of making lemons out of lemonade

It seems late to be addressing our financial crisis, but I'm noticing a second reaction is when our fears can transmute into apathy, numbness, submerged anxiety or underlying depression. Many do not feel they can express their concerns any longer, simply because this has become old news. We're being told that we can never hope to achieve the standard of living most of us have grown accustomed to, that it will take years for our economy to recover, if, indeed, this is even possible. Most of us have lost a substantial portion, if not all, of our retirement accounts and savings. Many of us have become even more isolated, accompanied only by our fears. All of us have had to make enormous changes.

Some of you know that I recently returned from Greece. Their economic situation is bleak. Most families have at least one family member out of work. Many families do not contain a single working adult. Their situation is as bad, if not worse than our dire one in California, and, yet, their reactions differ from ours. I’m not quite sure what I expected to find, but, from the outside, life appeared to continue as usual. One midweek evening in Volos, I went out with friends. It took us awhile to find a taverna with an empty table. Our friend turned to me, waving at our first choice-- packed from end-to-end--and proclaimed, “Our financial crisis!”

Don’t get me wrong; they are hurting. Most of my friends are experiencing extreme difficulties…so how is it that their mood was generally better, that they were the most generous, ever, to me? I remember seeing an article, earlier this year, in a major U.S. news publication commenting on how little the Athenian nightlife reflected their economic depression. One possible conclusion is that of escapism and denial, but it was clear to me that this is not the case.

When I returned to the U.S., friends and acquaintances greeted me with the usual comments: “How lucky you are!” “So great that you have the freedom to do this.” “Wow! I’ve never taken a six week vacation in my life, let alone each year!” When those same folks realized that I haven’t held a salaried position for over two years, they became silent and didn’t know how to respond.

This led me to reflect not only on the differences in our resources (Greece vs. U.S.) but also in our choices. I remembered this again, recently, when I met the mother of a local TV show host. Her mom--now in her 70’s—lost her husband many years ago and single-handedly raised five children, who now have ten children of their own. All her children are well-educated and successful . She was a hard-working mother, who, in her words “did what needed to be done without thinking about it.” She reminded me of my mother.

I realized, for some, the adjustment is so great they don’t even know where to start, but much of it boils down to choices. And most of us will not make the hard choices until we’re pushed into corners—deep, dark, lonely, crowded corners.

I may have not been surrounded by mentors to help me negotiate medical training or start a business, but I do have a mother who modeled choice. On my parents’ two-teacher income, my mother of three children found a way—a way to build a summer cabin in the mountains where we all spent three months each year, a way to feed us, clothe us, and pay for our university educations, a way for us all to learn how to snow ski (on brand new equipment purchased at a pre-season sale… When the check-out clerk rang up clothes and equipment for a family of five—a whopping $600 sale—he said to my mom “Your family must love to ski!” I’ll never forget his expression when she answered, “Yes, we will, after we’ve had our first lessons.”), a way to obtain her PhD--in her 50’s--while working a regular job, a way for us all to travel to Europe together for the summer (exchanging homes and cars with a family in France), and the piece de resistance, a way to buy a home in the most expensive area of our city when most women her age would be scaling down for retirement. One of my mom’s happiest moments is reflected in a newspaper article on her wall. It shows our entire family during graduation week. Why? Because four of us graduated earning five degrees within one week of each other.

How did she accomplish this? Hard work and choices. We shopped at discount stores; we bought used cars; Mom cooked, rather than dining out. Did we compromise on the things that were important? No. We lived in a nice home. My entire family loves to cook—mom prepared gourmet meals (Coquille St. Jacques served in half shells and Dobos Torte), and don’t forget the higher degrees from great schools, skiing at our mountain home, and European travel.

I made different choices than she did, but I learned from Mom that I had choices. I chose to structure my life the way I desired, knowing full well it would set me apart from most physicians (so much so, that I’d be harassed by the IRS for not making enough money!). Given limited financial resources, I chose how best to use them, given that “resources” spanned more than finances. Many other elements contribute to the richness of my life.

Enter: the Greeks. I realized, my family shares with the Greeks a strong sense of community and shared resources. Neither is common in the U.S., and so we struggle. Most Greeks live in houses tiny by our standards. Most live on a small percentage of our budgets. Most work many more hours than we do, but also spend many more hours in the company of family and friends. Most have few material possessions. Many have experienced hard economic times and have previously lived under a dictatorship. I believe all of these differences give them strength to persevere. Having the support of family, not just emotionally but physically, provides power where we are weak. Are there disadvantages of sharing a family home or living in small quarters? Of course; however, in times of hardship or need (pregnancy, newborn, young children, one-parent households, job loss, illness, family deaths), they have a built-in support system that most of us lack.

We can use this information to our advantage. Most of us are having to make tough choices…what stays, what goes…but it’s also a time of creative restructuring—and I’m not going Pollyanna on you. It’s time to ask the tough questions, like “What is most essential to me?” “What are the most important aspects of my life?” “How do I want to live my life?” “Where and with whom will I create family and community?” “What do I want for me and my loved ones?” “What am I willing to give up?” “What do I want to create?”

It may not feel like it right now, but the advantage we do have over the Greeks (and most other nations in our world) is our freedom of thought and opportunity to create anew. With established structures and modes of thinking crumbling all around us, it’s time to get real and find creative solutions--and, when we do, to share our solutions with each other.

We are the new generation of pioneers. It’s time.