I Need a Manifesto

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This isn’t the manifesto but I am working on one.  I was a sedentary person with medical issues and joint pain before starting this, so my actions are revolutionary.

Before starting, I had a health exam and got clearance from my physician. That is important to note. I also consulted a registered nurse with a nutritional-education background and we chose a plan that is mainly designed to reduce inflammation in the body and fuel it properly for the life I want to live. My nutrition plan is in check, but I think I must be under-eating, maybe. I plan to re-check with the nutritionist to see what I can do to make sure I am getting enough fuel. I feel good and have lots of energy. I only weigh once a month. I am not as concerned about the numbers, but it is still a distraction for me to think of “how much I weigh.” I know how I feel and how my overall endurance and fitness has increased. Wellness is my goal.

This is the fitness program after three months of what is a *lifetime* commitment. Just a few months ago, I couldn’t walk a city block without stopping and resting, so this, this is *amazing* to me. I owe a great thank you to my friends and family who have been so supportive. You keep me powered up. I share this because you might have additional info or insights and also, maybe someone can be helped by my experiences.

I have to use my Google calendar to figure this all out! And music is mandatory for me to get pumped, except when swimming.

Cardio every day with one rest day in the week.

The NuStep machine was good for me at the beginning to warm up and to gently move my knees to be able to proceed to other things. My joint pain has been relieved, so I don’t use it as often anymore.

I like the treadmill, but I am going to try the elliptical next, too, for cardio. I don’t enjoy the stationary bikes as much, but I am not giving up on them.

Every other day, I do weight training/strength training. On the days that I am not using the free weights and weight machines, I will be swimming because it is low-impact cardio, and will help muscles recover.

I swam for the first time today in over a decade!!

Talking with my brother, he said to stretch *every day*–all seven days, so although I haven’t developed that 7-day pattern yet, I am going to add simple yoga moves to the mix and gentle stretching every day.

All said, there are other activities I want to build up to. Going to bed. Sleep is crucial!! Your questions and comments are welcome!

True

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I have come to respect myself enough to not feel it necessary to explain my choices to anyone. If I do explain, it usually means I care enough to let another know why, or because I want to illuminate others through my own truths, be them struggles or triumphs.

Sometimes true communication is impossible. Sometimes reasons are deep within and I cannot communicate with another, due to the understandable lack of comprehension of my inner life–no matter how clearly or eloquently I phrase my meanings.

I desire to live an authentic life. I desire to do no harm. I desire to be better than myself, learn deeper, and excuse myself from relationships (with or without explanation) that do not serve to empower me.  And, at times, disengage from those whom I sense I cannot empower.

Part of this learning comes from disillusionment with the literary world in which I have experienced rare, but very distasteful, mistreatment. My joy of writing has become somewhat tempered by hollow people and exchanges I have encountered. I am a bit sick of it, but I do not mean to demean anyone who has genuinely touched my heart in this Writing Life.

In order for me to revive my own love/life, cultivate my self and grow as an artist, I have made a choice not to engage in any projects or readings, or to submit work for an indefinite period. I have clearing to do. If I write, I need it to be for myself. If that writing finds an audience (most likely via this blog), I will be grateful, but my needs are far more intrinsic to my “self” at this time.

I care enough for my readers here that I wanted to share this decision with you. Thank you, always, for reading.

Clare

ONE

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I have this one life. I am addressing areas that have been neglected and treating myself with love and care, whereas in the past I harmed myself. I have no apologies for reclaiming my energies to prevent myself from living in a wheelchair, suffering from joint disintegration, or dying from a heart attack. Of course, we don’t know how we will go, but I am revolutionizing my mind and body to squeeze every bit of life out of life.

I haven’t felt inclined to write poetry of late. That is okay with me. I feel that I will come to it when I am ready. What inspires me is other writers, other artists of many forms. I have a photo by Annie Pluto on my computer’s desktop that I am allowing to consciously and subconsciously resonate with me. I hope to write an ekphrastic poem inspired by it.

I am being very selective about what I will do in my Writing Life. I have set boundaries; and will respect my own authority to make decisions in regards to how I will proceed. Otherwise, I firmly believe, the work will not be authentic or any good, the goals for which I have always strived.

I have had to let go of things that at one time meant so much to me. My mother’s death changed me in ways that I view as positive, which I believe she would have wanted for me. My hope for the New Year is that I can continue the progress I started in late 2014, to better myself, in a holistic way.

My determination is strong. My hope is rising. My will is palpable; and I have the love and support of those dearest to me, thank God.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Clare L. Martin

My personal mind/body revolution

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I have undertaken a determined and whole self-initiative to remake my body and recalibrate my attitudes. I am excited, but more importantly, I am focused on making this a permanent aspect of my living.

For so many years, my work has been done sitting at a desk.  This and other things led to a sedentary lifestyle. After my mother’s death, I had a vision of how I wanted my life to be and these many months I have been working with my family to get myself to that place. One critical aspect was to get healthier and fit, quit smoking and generally improve my wellness physically and mentally.

With the guidance of my psychiatrist, I have gotten off of the antidepressant that I had been on for ten years and am trying a new one.  I had been afraid to change anything but it is working very well for me.  I also have been in consultation with my doctors and therapist about undergoing bariatric surgery, and I was ready to take that drastic measure–but I had a revelation that I really, really didn’t want to—for many reasons. The main one was that it would be a last resort, and I wasn’t there yet.

In the meantime, I found out that my insurance has a wellness benefit that allows me membership in many health and fitness centers, reductions in prices from many alternative healthcare practices, and access to wellness and weight loss coaching.

So, a few weeks ago, I enrolled and started working out. I started slow, but in short order I am feeling energized. I look forward to my late-morning workout which includes cardio and strength-training. I also started a new nutrition plan that really has kicked in for me and is producing results!

For my own needs I am writing this down.

The workouts so far include 25 minutes of cardio (which I wouldn’t have been able to do at all two months ago) and several exercises on circuit machines that strengthen my arms, back, legs, and abdominals. I plan to increase the weights on the machine gradually and increase my time on the treadmill and NuStep machine. I haven’t gotten into the indoor pool yet, but that will happen soon!

For my nutrition plan, I have cut out sugar, wheat and dairy and all fried foods. I am upping my protein from animal and non-animal sources; and whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables. Of course, incorporating healthy fats like avocados, nuts, and olive oil daily.  I rarely drink sodas, but they are completely cut out. I drink water and sometimes vegetable juice. I drink my coffee with almond milk and nothing else. I really have no idea how much weight I have lost, but it is noticeable. No one advised me on the nutrition plan I am living. It just made sense to me and the approach was something I had not tried before. I am also taking B-12, a daily vitamin with metabolism support, and Vitamin C. I also noticed that I am sleeping better, and waking up earlier and more energized.

I am nicotine-free.  I feel so fantastic about this. I swear I used to waste 40% of my time wondering when my next cigarette would be, but I am clean now. And while I have had minor cravings, I handled them successfully without any relapses.

I am also going to research juicing recipes, because I think someone is possibly giving me a juicer this holiday. I made a joke that I am going to divide the refrigerator in half—half for me and half for everyone else, so it will be easier for me to go to the foods I know I can have.

This is me taking all known steps to prevent degenerative joint disease, give my heart a chance and not treat it horribly anymore and make peace with/love my lungs the way they should be loved. Also, our family has a history of diabetes on both my mother’s and my father’s sides, so I am hopefully working toward lessening that risk factor in my life.

I am very happy for me. I am very happy that I came to this place of confidence and decisiveness. I have the full support of my loved ones, and faith that the vision I have for myself is rooted in practical habits that I can and will live daily for the rest of my life.

Watching the Wheels

 

I forgot who I was. I knew the age spot on my left cheek. I knew the sagging breasts and the overlapping belly. I knew my feet; my unusually small toes. I knew my eyes and what they had seen. I knew my lips, now shaded in regal purple. I knew my place in the bed next to the dog, and further away, my husband. I knew him; his wants and needs. I knew the losses: friendships, a friend forever, my father, son and now, almost seven months ago, my mother. I knew something of my values, but not as clearly: my own value. I had forgotten the tools of my fingers; except to inconsistently pleasure myself, wash my face, shave the stubble here and there, or grip a steering wheel. I knew my daughter; but already this knowing is an ocean away. I knew the reason I withdrew from an outside life that filled others more than myself. I knew the shame of saying one thing and doing another. But I had forgotten myself.

I know that in the past six months I put words on paper. I know that as soon as those words were written I forgot them. I forgot the thrill too, and felt only dislocation.  I forgot the feel of words in my mouth, as though my tongue had been numbed for surgery. I forgot the clicking taps on a keyboard except for inane mumblings; wretched gloats and ambiguous streams of babble. But back to dislocation: my writing setting has been unsettled. There are two sofas in this room. One does not belong here. Things are unplugged that should be plugged in. There are china cups wrapped in newspaper in boxes that haven’t been unpacked. One curtain hangs and another needs to be hung up. Where is my grounding? Files and files and no skeleton for them. Unopened mail. Books unread. I became dislocated in the aftermath of death. I do remember the tenderest parts of me and the kisses they received.

Before I progress, I need to familiarize myself with myself. Yesterday, I wanted to disappear. I wanted to drive on a road I’d never traveled and tell no one if I was going north, south, east or west. Instead I went to a bakery and bought my favorite dessert. My husband ate half and my daughter the other.  The yearning I have is to be left alone. JUST LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE.  That has been my mantra, but I do want to engage. Those closest to me understand. I have enough time. I just need awareness of the ever-presence of the opportunity of solitude and the will to delineate myself into its holy grasp.

Drained. I have been drained. Lately, I have related an adage that came to me: “If your own kitchen is on fire and your neighbor’s house is burning, put out the fire in your kitchen and then bring water to your neighbor.”  This is how I must live my life, for now, until the fire is put out, until the long task list is accomplished. I do not feel guilt for saying no. I do not feel remorse for expressing wrath when only wrath, justified, would accomplish the necessary. I had forgotten wrath. Wrath can be useful. I accept my own blamelessness.

God help those who elicit my wrath. It is life-stopping in a metaphorical way; and profoundly affecting. Good, good, good. Now you know. Now you will pay attention and show me respect. Wrath: a wolf in defense and defiance for survival. It is necessary for the continuation of my living with no ill intent at all.

I talked to a friend today. It was nice. She offered refuge and calm water. I cannot do for others outside my closest family and my core friendships. Loss. We have lost so much and I am in transition. Part of what I forgot or tried to unburden myself from was writing; what it had come to mean for me.  But what it meant, or what it was starting to represent for me was obligation and burden. Yes, there is a burden to carry as a writer and almost always I carry that with joy, but the elements of operating in a society of writers was what I felt trapped by. I came to a conclusion to only write when I feel like it and to not submit my work to journals anymore unless I am solicited to do so. It is not because I feel I have reached a level of status that it is beneath me; it’s just that I am not hungry.  I do not have the time to write, submit, write, submit, etc. I think of the John Lennon song’s “Watching the Wheels” because it expresses how I feel about my career as a writer.

What is it about writing that brings me joy? I am no longer playing the game. I am vitally more interested in growing my family, as we have lost so many of our blood and kin. If I can solidify my core family, blood or not, I will find that inner resolve to write something worthy and authentic. I will write words with blood-worth, with the meaning and impact that has always been my fiercest intention.

Seen and Unseen

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As a poet, I have been given gifts of perception and the tool of language. As a poet, I have an almost clairvoyant apprehension of things seen and unseen. I embrace my “self” as visionary and humbly identify as such. Protecting our sacred space is difficult when you are entangled in toxicity, but small comforts, tears and self-nurture can help re-forge our beings. It’s not necessarily walls we need to construct, but a temple. This is something I learned over the weekend of October 18th and 19th when I attended a healing retreat at Tranquility Point Sanctuary in a woodsy location in Ville Platte, LA. I can see with more clarity and perspective how the seemingly incongruous events of the past led me to that revelation.

I believe we are on this planet to give and receive love and to spiritually grow into our most holy selves. This has been what I have believed since I was a child. I believe in a Creator, the “Divine Whatever” which is what I speak with awe and reverence for that unknowable Force. I believe God is in all things.  All things. All experiences. In each and every living thing on Earth, Earth itself and the Universe beyond our little speck in space.

We use and overuse the word love. But I believe that we are loved and loving beings. We were born to love and love is our natural state. Unfortunately, everything in contemporary society and in our history for a long, long time has been commandeered by human greed to misdirect us from our spiritual selves and hence our openness to the Divine Whatever is denied and vilified.

I have many friends who are “devout” atheists. We get along fine, unless they try to undermine my beliefs with theirs. And atheism is a belief and a choice not to believe in a God, because really if we put the question on the line there is only the weak human mind that cannot grasp what is unknowable, until death, perhaps. I respect that these friends are for whatever reason convinced of the non-existence of a Creator, God, Divine Whatever and I don’t try to change their minds.

Most of the people I have encountered recently have a fierce aversion to religion and may not have really considered a grander idea God at all—many try to direct me to the harm that organized religion has and continues to perpetrate on this planet. I get that. I do not subscribe to a single religion but I do believe in Something. We can point to a million reasons why a God wouldn’t exist, because of all the prejudice, injustice and evil in the world. This is the world, however, and the humans in it, and not what I can only dimly imagine God is.

I went to Texas at the beginning of October to read poetry at an opening of an art exhibit Degrees of Separation/Degrés de separation http://www.degreesofseparation.org; a project in which I was one of four Louisiana poets who worked with visual art from artists from Louisiana and France.  We writers were tasked with writing ekphrastic poems inspired by pieces of visual art. The project is being documented at the web site above.

It was a thrilling time and I am so honored to be a part of this project. I was lucky to be able to manage the trip and I broke through many fears to get there. My daughter and my friend, poet, healer, minister and navigator, Bessie, joined me. I was able to see my best friend from college, Wilhelmina for one night as we traveled through her town in Texas.  I had not seen her in twenty years and we were gleeful at our reunion.

It’s kind of funny that as she holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Willie, back in the day, proclaimed herself an atheist and had all of the arguments to back her stance up, but her life experiences have led her to a deep, grounded faith in the Divine Source. She and I laughed about that because we used to debate the existence of God all of the time, and now we just talk about the miracle that she and I are still alive and rejoice in all the blessings in our lives. What a wild trip. Unforgettable and the experience teaches me still.

What do we know?

Let me assure you, we know less that we think we do and the sum of all human knowledge is minuscule. The smartest humans can only theorize or try to present logical arguments for the proof of God or construct theories of disproof. The humanistic point of view is very popular now and to me it is not sad, because that doesn’t stop God from doing God stuff. Someone gave me a phrase over the weekend of the retreat that has stuck with me: “We are tools in God’s toolbox.” I believe this to be true. Even if we are crowbars, nails, hammers, drills, a two-by-four etc. in some way we are tools or instruments to reveal some deeper meaning and growth in our own lives or in someone else’s. We only have an intimation of what God has in store but I cannot even voice it because—hey, I don’t know. Something grand I am sure.

Part of my reason for attending the healing retreat, which I plainly cannot put into words what actually transpired, but can express that it was profound and led me to great joy, was that I had a negative influence in my life that was blocking The Good from coming to fruition. It troubled me greatly because to be free, truly free, I had to sacrifice something I loved. My intention for the actual healing session (which was miraculous in all ways) was to not be entangled in negative energy battles and to become more discerning in my choices and actions.

The healing session was administered by a healer and Reiki Master; a Lakota medicine woman, healer-teacher and elder; and a Buddhist practitioner of Reiki/healer. I have never, ever, ever, ever experienced such a powerful intercession on such a deep spiritual level in my life and the whole experience brought me to a wholeness of self that I only hoped was possible.  It was a complete surprise to me.

My grandmother was a traiteuse, a Cajun Roman Catholic healer. She was unable to pass on her “gift” before she died. This always fascinated me and I would have requested that she teach me but it was a very secretive thing and I was at the time unworthy for many reasons. After the healing session at the retreat, I wondered about the Cajun folk tradition and where it originated and looked into ties between Native American medicine and the folk medicine of the Cajun people. There is much more that I want to learn but the deduction I surmised was that the cultures intertwined in their shared histories in early Acadian life and out of life and death necessity there was likely a real sharing of knowledge for mutual survival. I plan to look into this further and talk to people I know to find stories that may illuminate my understanding. But for me, whereas at some point I may have been a true skeptic, the firsthand experiences of the retreat weekend blew my mind wide open.

The night I came home from the retreat, my mind and spirit were so open and so clear that I “heard” the voices of my French ancestors trying to speak to me emphatically in French. A spirit I recognized as my grandfather was trying to “translate” the Cajun French into English so that I could receive the message but it became confusing and I fell asleep astounded but also a bit lost. I need to brush up on my French!

I am much more grounded, and some of the doors that were open are closed a bit. As I write these words some people might think I am just a kook, but I don’t care. One day we will glimpse at the things of this world seen and unseen and acquire an intimation of that which is incomprehensible Divinity and Wholeness. This is my belief. I believe in angels. I believe our beloved dead are near to us. I believe there are repercussions for ignoring or deflecting what they have to say to us, or what life urges us to pay attention to. Life is not all that is on TV.  Life is not all war and destruction. Yes, these things are real, but if we allow a transformation of consciousness and connect in positive ways seen and unseen, I devoutly believe we can revolutionize the current state of affairs. I believe in spiritual evolution: a loving flow which can heal humanity and the planet, in service to The Divine Whatever which breathed life into us, and which will take that breath away, too.

May we turn inward, to the deepest we can plumb, and know within and without that life, here and now and beyond this, is holy, infinite. Each moment holds meaning. Each moment we have a choice to be our faith, a living prayer, and be in the revelation of the miraculous. In the darkest hour, if we choose to open our minds to the Divinity of all things, light can break through.

 

In translation

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“Dead Owl”  by Uko Post

Uko Post, (born in the Netherlands,Meppel,27-07-1954) is a contemporary realistic painter, was trained at the academy (Minerva) of fine arts in Groningen (Netherlands) 1972-1978. He lives in Belgium (region Sankt Vith, Eifel) since 1994. Visit his website at www.ukopost.eu 


Here is my poem “For the Electrocuted Owl” in original English and in French translation by Louisiana poet David Cheramie. Thrilled to have the honor of his generous artistic effort!

FOR THE ELECTROCUTED OWL                                    POUR L’HIBOU ÉLÉCTROCUTÉ

We bend to blacktop to better see,                   On se penche sur le goudron pour mieux voir;

to eye the majestic—                                        pour viser le majesteux—

And quivering with gravity                                Et frissonant avec la gravité

succumb to the helpless                                               succombe à l’état

state we must suffer                                         d’impuissance qu’on doit souffrir

when attacked by forces                                   quand attaqué par des forces

unnamed and unknown                                                innommées et inconnues

compelling us to stay rooted,                            nous obligeant de rester enraciné,

frozen, and so inescapably speak:                     gelé; et ainsi parler inéluctablement

O glorious;                                                        O glorieux;

splayed in moon-devotion;                                évasé en dévotion lunaire

night descends on silent wings;                                    la nuit descend sur des ailes silencieuses

cream-belly angel with black                             ange au ventre de crème aux yeux

pearl eyes; o wind blade;                                  de perles noires; o lame de vent

this dew is blood; this killing fire                       cette rosée, c’est du sang; ce feu assassin

whistles in bone; you                                        siffle dans les os; toi

lightless dead lie in sick streams,                      mort sans lumière couché en rigolets malades

utterly gone.                                                     Tout à fait parti.