merissanathangerson

Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Perils of Genius

In Career on November 29, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Dear Yenta,

I am 27 years old and am famous. My art is hugely successful and I am slowly feeling miserable despite. I feel enormous pressure to create more art of the same caliber and am terrified that people will know me as an artist with a sick case of beginner’s luck. I find it hard to be polite or kind and am generally frustrated with this trapped feeling.

-Stuck On Top

Dear Stuck On Top,

Oye. This is the dilemma that no one warns you about, the pain of success. There is a saying that goes, “If people are jealous of you, then you are doing something right.” I am guessing that people are not easy to navigate when you already sparkle so brightly.

A few questions come to mind. Do you love your artistic craft? Does it fuel your day, inspire you, make you feel more beautiful? While many of your friends are probably choosing husbands, you are going to have to get busy marrying your work. This means being sure you want to keep going, that you chose this field rather than it choosing you. There is no rule that one must commit to their genius.

On the other hand, though, that commitment part is the most fantastic and arduous element of your bright gift. It is as if you just passed through the honeymoon period and are now committed to this thing you are unsure you want to wed. Forget what everyone is saying about you. Shut down the tabloids. If you love making art, then get busy loving it. Your art will evolve, with highs and lows, and even if the public can’t be patient, you need to try.

If you love what you do, chances are with time it will again reveal beautiful results. Be diligent, perseverant, and learn to engage even when there is no return. Try not to get attached to the spotlight, to the glory of it all, and link in instead to the basic animalistic fever of artistic dedication. Also, remember that you and your art are separate, and nurturing yourself and learning to love yourself even when the world thinks you are failing will eventually provide a stronger base to your projects.

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Daddy, Don’t

In Parents on November 29, 2009 at 11:00 pm

Dear Yenta,

My father emailed me out of the blue saying, “I’ve booked a ticket.” Without a word of discussion about my holiday plans to spend Christmas with my Englishman’s family he tells me he’s flying over the pond. Having worlds collide (my father meeting my boyfriend’s mother) on one of the biggest holidays of the year would shoot my nerves to the moon. What do I tell my father?

In A Quandary,

Dear In A Quandary,

It is never too late to set boundaries with a pesky family member. Often when drawing limits for people, they lash out angry and afraid that you are rejecting them. Over time, the more limits drawn, the more they see that you are still there, still loving them, just in a capacity and fashion that works for you.

Can you tell your father no to this, explain that it is too much for you to share this time so unexpected? It is ok to be honest, explain that you yourself are meeting your man’s family for the first time, and that bringing your father along is not appropriate for this Christmas visit. Even if he is hurt, at least he will know a rule, “Call before you book your ticket.” He needs to know that you are a woman now, with a life of your own, which means knocking before entering.

To lessen the blow, make it clear that you do love him and do intend to see him by making plans in a way that works. For you. This way he sees that even though his impulsive behavior doesn’t yield the results he is looking for, there are other ways to your heart. It sounds like your Dad really loves you but might be afraid to be less intense about it, in fear that you might walk. Show him you love him and watch him learn not to squeeze his baby girl so tight.

Trouble Coming

In Sex on November 29, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Dear Yenta,

I still have not had an orgasm. I feel pressure mounting in my genitals, and then it always subsides. I have tried masturbating and have had sex with many men. I haven’t been in a serious relationship in a very long time, though. I am pretty sure there is something medically wrong with my hormones and want to get tested. What do you think?

-Without

Dear Without,

In my personal opinion an orgasm is always possible, it just might take some personal work to achieve. Doctors would be my very last resort. When obstruction occurs, it can be due to a number of physical and emotional factors. More women than you realize are sexually stunted in this very same way.

Here is a step by step plan:

1) Do an inventory of your mental self. Are you stressed? Were you raised to think sex was sinful? Do you have control issues? Were you sexually abused in your life? Were you in a traumatic situation where you lost physical control? Any number of these things could be distracting you from release. Sometimes our bodies tell us no as a signal that we need help or healing. Talk therapy or meditation could help, exploring the topic of letting go and what is so often terrifying about doing so.

2) How do you feel about your body? Do you feel fat? Hairy? Stalky? Ugly? Too much? Too little? Are you too loud? Too sweaty? One time at a bar in Panama a Canadian woman took my aside and asked if I had ever made love to myself, “like really made love to yourself?” This connection to self and body is the key to enjoying sex with another, and if you can’t let go alone, can’t love your thighs or breasts or vagina without a partner, then chances are you won’t be able to with them either. Make love to yourself. Kiss your arm. Stare at your genitals, tell all those things that you think are “too” something that they are just right. Cultivating a healthy sex life is something that for many needs to be built, like a yoga practice, over years of observation and commitment.

3) Trust. Do you trust yourself? Do you trust your partner? If you aren’t in serious relationships, who is making love to your body? Do you feel safe with them? Sexy with them? Respected by them? This deeper emotional comfort may be key to orgasms for many women. Others need things like a moving train or a public restroom and a stranger. But in your case, it sounds like you need love, trust, and safety: key ingredients to a wild sex life full of orgasmic release.

4) Keep at it. Leave the bedroom locked and make self-love a priority for a few months. Forget the orgasm, explore the folds of your labia, the underside of your clitoris, the edges of your aeriola. You need to become calm in your own body, enter your own form, learn to love pleasure without release. Find your G-spot, play with your rear, check in with armpits and elbows. Make love to your body as if a spiritual practice and see where this leads you. If, over time, you start to feel safer in your skin, you might allow it to erupt and take charge in its own explosive orgasmic way.

Woe Is Me

In Mental Health on November 29, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Dear Yenta,

This year everything went right, and then everything went wrong. I don’t completely understand how or why I fell apart, but I did. I quickly went to a psychiatrist and have been medicated ever since. My life got back on track but little things feel different. I am doing well compared to before, but I wonder, is there another way I could have patched myself back together?

-Fragmented

Dear Fragmented,

Depression, my friend, sucks. There’s no two ways around that. But the causes and implications of a meltdown are complicated and individual-based. In some cases, medication is the best option because a life, or lives are at stake. It is important to weigh your own situation, your own tools. Can this dark period be navigated without the safety net of medication?

And then there are branches to the therapy tree. Are you someone who is strong and needs to know everything? Or are you strong, but not with feelings, and need to gloss this experience? There are so many options in medicine, healing and growth, that it can be easier to shut off, shut down, and keep going.

A few ideas for the brave self-healer:

1) Meditate and Therapeute

Sitting in silence and unfolding your mind can be the most effective way to cure a million ailments. Do you have Tourette’s? Anxiety? Depression? Can you not sit still, not control your thoughts; do you feel feverish with energy?

Meditation is not an easy road, not the choice for the weak of heart, but once an individual chooses this path and gets over the hard part, the rewards are innumerable. Basic meditation begs that you be present and notice your thoughts, notice your world. It is like a game of slow intimate connection with the self. One monk I know has no fear because he trusts his mind and body because he knows them so well.

Therapy and meditation combined are an incredible option. As your meditation reveals the workings, and sometimes hidden traumas of your mind, then you can reference a talk therapist for support and help working out the bigger issues. This is good therapy because it is self-controlled. The power dynamic in a therapist’s office can be off-putting, whereas here you are able to chart your own healing. Better yet, meditating is free and always available. For a free meditation instruction go to http://www.shambhala.org for a center in your city.

2) Shamans, Witches and the like

Depending on your nationality or cultural history, tapping into your roots could be an excellent way to cope with your misery. Hindu, Tibetan, Muslim, Jewish, Indian, Hmong and other healing systems differ and often are related to the beliefs you were raised with. Or, for some, the beliefs you choose to adapt. Medication can shut down important life-experiencing pieces of each individual, whereas finding someone who might better understands the intricacies of your experience could be more suitable to your needs.

One important part of calming the mind is connected to knowing the self, and the selves that paved the way to your own. Checking in with your cultural past may be chock full of answers, or may very well lead you back to the psychiatrist with the Prozac. Trusting this less rational system yields different results for everyone, but never leaves you bored.

3) And finally….your body.

So many people get depressed without evaluating simple things. Did someone die? Did you move somewhere new and it is too loud? Is someone violating your personal space? Are you no longer in love? Are you realizing something about your past? Any number of external factors could be causing your misery.

But the body is the locus of all distress. Whether it started in the mind or in the stomach, you need to treat your nausea. Make a checklist: have you been exercising? What are you eating? Too much caffeine? Lots of mac n cheese? Not enough veggies and fruits? Are you getting protein? Are you smoking too much? Has your weed habit taken over?

Taking a quick inventory, returning to your food pyramid from kindergarten, this can at the very least make these wild new emotions of misery more manageable. And sleep. My uncle says some people should sleep for a whole year to cure their depression. Do you need to sleep?

A community acupuncture clinic or acupuncture school, just $20 a pop, could help a) teach you about self-care and b) calm your nerves. Also, massage is an amazing way to support your body and spirit while navigating whatever it is that is mentally ailing you. This doesn’t have to be expensive; most cities have a massage school with a clinic where massage by trained professionals ranges from free to $40 on a sliding scale.

Remember that America is not big on feeling the harder feelings, and that crying, mourning, releasing…this can often cure a broken heart. Support from any of these options, or from friends, a long bath, a walk in the woods, any kind of support serves you as you try to stabilize your mind. E-mail me if you have more questions.

Wedding, Squared

In Marriage on November 29, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Dear Yenta,

Mr. X, recently proposed to me. Mr. X, soon after the engagement, started freaking out about marriage and commitment. I cut him slack because he has a lot of emotional baggage, but it was torture for me. Meanwhile, an ex-boyfriend from my teenage years confessed his love for me, also proposing. Now I am torn between Mr. X and Mr. Y. Both would make amazing fathers and I want babies soon. I can’t decide between them and am afraid of losing whichever I turn down.

-Torn

Dear Torn,

When a man gets on one knee and proposes marriage he is saying, or should be saying, a few things. He is saying he is mature, ready to commit himself to another. He is saying he is formed as a person, willing to hold up his end of a relationship in order to be yours forever. If, days after kneeling before you, he freaks out and makes this freak out your problem, chances are he isn’t holding up his end of the emotional bargain.

For marriage, two whole people should meet mid-way, unify, and create a life together of balance suitable, in your case, for raising children. This sounds strict, or idealistic, but we only live once and only choose once, supposedly, for marriage. Why not set the standard high and live a life in accordance with this high bar?

You know in your heart if X or Y is your match, better than any friend, family member or random online column could tell you. Or neither is your match, which is always an option. In choosing a husband you don’t have to settle, ever. This is your one life, your one partner. Are you sticking with Mr. X because you are afraid to hurt him? Afraid to leave the comfort of those five years? Or because you truly love him and want him to be the person who represents half of you forever?

And Mr. Y, have you kissed him? Is there chemistry? Will you feel braver or bolder with X or Y on your arm? With which man will you feel exquisite when you walk into a crowded room? Which man makes you feel more proud of your own identity when seen through his eyes? And which man do you truly believe in? Who will hold you when you are mourning, comfort you when you are birthing, and who would you want to comfort through equally challenging life hurdles?

This is not about a Vera Wang dress and a bow on a cake, this is not about right now or feeling less or more guilty, this is a decision about how much joy, beauty, and happiness you want to leak into your life. If Mr. X failed you after asking you to commit to him forever, what does that predict might follow down the road? Beware of potholes that turn into manholes, and don’t be afraid of the possibility of happily ever after. This prospect is often more terrifying than the prospect of a failed marriage and requires bravery and self-love to embrace.

Santa Fe Art Institute

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2009 at 8:58 pm

I am on writing residency for November and December, ’09 at the Santa Fe Art Insitute in New Mexico. Other artists and writers on residency include Jeesoo Lee, Pinar Yolacan, Karl Cronin, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, and Scott Bailey. Among the 12 residents this month we span the following countries in root and origin: Brazil, Turkey, Korea, Poland, Taiwan, Greece, and the USA.

The Human Trafficking Project

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2009 at 6:48 am

A site dedicated to raising awareness of modern day slavery and exploring innovative solutions to stop it.

“See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil”

“In Search of the Whole”

The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2009 at 6:45 am

“Ghost of holocaust haunt visitor exploring Germany”

“Meditation – Not just for your average JewBu anymore”

“Blending cultural traditions in the name of love”

“L.A.: The New Israel”