Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November: The End Of Survivor Guilt & The Beginning Of Metamorphosis

November is quite unpopular in the northeast. A friend of mine calls it "stick season," but I find it magnificent and I feel truly welcomed Home by this time of year. The last of the leaves are falling, and the palette of the earth is simplified to shades of brown, blue, gray, and white. If you recall the artwork in my old offices, there wasn't any green. I like having a break from green, yellow, pink, and red for several months. It's exhilarating to be "back east," as they say in California, to have the contrast of changing temperatures, and the sensual shift of the colors of nature, and to shift gears in concert with the earth's cycles. I finally start to cool off in November. I've been overheated for 14 years in California.

I became weary of the October Breast Cancer Awareness Month pink ribbon epidemic - another good reason to celebrate the arrival of November. My friend Julia, a fellow adventurer in Stage IV living says,
"Thanks Safeway/Yoplait/fill in the blank (multinational bizzillionaire company) that’s helping me be aware of breast cancer. I’m quite aware. I’m so happy my disease is helping to sell your products."
I am happy that someone is raising money for the cause, although I wonder about who gets that money and how they spend it. I reach my limit when every wine list in town has pink ribbon specials, the local recycling and garbage pick-up company has a pink truck that drives around town, you can buy pink ribbon snow tires, the local Zumba fanatics throw a Pink Party Zumba class, and the local students can be seen wearing, "Protect My Assets" t-shirts.

What's the point? Are companies making money and getting tax deductions on the backs of  women with breast cancer? Do people alleviate their survivor guilt by spending money on products with pink ribbons?

I don't think that our culture has a deficiency of focus on and awareness of breasts. Breasts don't exist as separate from the body of a woman. Breasts are not "assets" and if a woman with breast cancer is told that they are then she can't help feeling like damaged goods. I actually went to the Pink Party Zumba class (kind of like an anthropological expedition) and I cringed as the sweaty young scantily-clad participants drank out of plastic water bottles. I think they missed the cancer part of breast cancer awareness. I commend them for attempting to promote exercise as a way to prevent breast cancer and increase the quality of life in women living with the disease, but they missed a few other important points.

In this realm, Vermont is no different than California, they just wear more clothes here for most of the year. Objectifying the body is a rampant distortion that disrupts our experience of being embodied. The body is not an object; it is a process. (This is what my book is about - please buy it and read it if you want to dive deeper into exploring this. In fact, please buy 10 copies; they make great stocking stuffers!) I am moved by the way David Abram describes this sense of things in Spell Of The Sensuous,
To acknowledge that “I am this body” is not to reduce the mystery of my yearnings and fluid thoughts to a set of mechanisms, or my “self” to a determinate robot. Rather it is to affirm the uncanniness of this physical form. It is not to lock up awareness within the density of a closed and bounded object, for as we shall see, the boundaries of a living body are open and indeterminate; more like membranes than barriers, they define a surface of metamorphosis and exchange.
I am on the fast track of "metamorphosis and change." I hardly recognize myself, which is a good thing, just occasionally disconcerting. I'm looking forward to winter, when everything slows down (except the diehard skiers) and hibernates or looks like it has died, only to be reborn in the spring. Ice may form on top of the water, but it is "more like a membrane than a barrier." Ice insulates and protects the deep dark waters beneath, so that the fluid intelligence continues to unfold and express its creative potency. The bare trees of "stick season" may look barren, but they are cooking up a new expression of creativity that will burst forth from the deep live roots in the spring.