Thinking of breasts

Of Breasts

O. Orgasmic, obsessive, obscene.
F. Flag burning and breast revealing.

B. Bitch. A woman who shows her breasts. A woman who refuses to show her breasts.
R. Resting on Mom’s bosom, two hearts, one beat.
E. Erotic prelude and foreplay, “We’re eager to play!”
A. A hard nipple to pinch and to pierce, “Mr. Grey, you love me so fierce!”
S. Small and big. They are equal in A Nightmare on Lump Street.
T. The breast alphabet — A, B, C, D, DD, extra DD — only stops at the size of his wallet.
S. “Signorina, che bella!” Venus is born.

 

P.S. The assignment at a writing workshop was to write a poem evoking images of breasts. For fun, I added a twist: The first letter of each sentence forms the title.

What’s your image of breasts? Write me a poem in response!

 

Photo credit: GabeB.

Nobody owes you anything in life. Now, get over it.

I dream about all sorts of things. Last night I dreamt about going out with a bunch of friends. As my dreams often go, I woke with a message…

My friends and I went to see a movie. Before getting inside, we bought a few bottles of water, and one guy carried all of them in his backpack. Because we came in a bit late, there were no seats for all of us in one section. So we took seats in small groups here and there. I happened to sit in a different row from the guy with the water bottles.

The movie theater was small, and the air was stuffy. There was no A/C, and no one cleaned the place for a while. I got thirsty. I started coughing from the dust. A bottle of water would’ve been just what I needed! But I neither asked for it nor went to buy my own. I expected my friend with the bottles (or other friends) to figure it out and provide one for me. But they hadn’t. I pouted during most of the movie. When it finally ended, I told my friend – speaking from my self-righteous Ivory Tower – that if he were more considerate, he would’ve heard me coughing and would’ve passed me a bottle. I brushed aside all his explanations as not good enough. The evening was spoiled for both of us.

Then, fortunately (!), I woke up. I woke up with the following thought:

Nobody owes you anything. Get over it. If you’re thirsty, ask for or get your own bottle of water. This goes for everything else in life.

Hmm… what’s it I need to get over? How about you?

 

Photo credit: Taro Taylor.

The message you don’t want to receive: You’ve been cheated on

Zina, my oldest cousin, just turned 27 when I saw her that June. I was 17.

She was in pain. Not the physical kind that you can dull with aspirin, but the deep emotional one. Zina just found out that husband cheated on her. And, perhaps, it wasn’t the first time.

We sat at the kitchen table separated by white bowls with now-cold borscht. Neither of us had the appetite after receiving the message: Zina’s friend called to tell her that she saw Nikolai with a plump blond in a cafe in the center of our small town.

There was a long silence. My breath was shallow and barely noticeable.

“He is not even hiding it,” Zina finally exhaled. Her gaze was fixed on a spoon that she mindlessly stirred in borscht.

Her lips painted in pink lipstick were the only moving part on her otherwise stoic face: They twitched slightly; then they tensed, followed by a brief relaxation, then stiffened again; the tiny wrinkles around Zina’s mouth sent me the signals. I just didn’t know what they meant.

What were her lips guarding? What unspoken words, what tearless cries, what unbearable pains?

She didn’t say a word about Nikolai for the rest of my visit. But the message I heard, loud and clear, was “Don’t marry anytime soon.” Or ever.

 

Photo credit: Sean Ganann.

The moment I knew I should’ve not done it, or maybe…?

In a writing workshop we were asked to improvise on emotions and things we should’ve not done. Here’s my short fictional essay about one powerful emotion: anger.

I should’ve not touched that moronic cat of his. That mountain of ginger fur curled up on a weather-beaten leather couch with its eyes closed as if in deep self-reflection.

“Such a beautiful cat,” I nearly purred trying to impress Andy, my (hopefully longer-term) boyfriend. God, I’m so tired of lousy boyfriends who sleep with me and then suddenly are gone without a trace. The “boobs and butts” guys who reduce women to just two parts.

I walked closer to the couch to look at the cat. Andy stood with his back to me looking for something in the fridge. He said nothing. I thought that his small studio needed a good odor repellent, and that Andy needed a good bath. But I wasn’t used to speak up my mind.

“Look at its shiny fur, long whiskers, royal bushy tail.” I continued my monologue to stop the ringing of silence in my ears. I sat next to the cat on the couch.

“What’s its name?”

“It’s a he,” Andy finally said. He turned around and leaned on the kitchen counter. He found what he was looking for in the fridge. A beer bottle. “He’s my Mom’s. And his name is Dick. What’s yours?”

Oh no, not again. He doesn’t remember my name! Andy’s words exploded in my heart opening an old wound. My heart – a dart board for so many men.

“My name is Cindy.” I smiled submissively and looked down at my feet. “My mom called me Cinderella.”

“That’s because you wait for a prince, Cindy.” Andy brushed away his greasy hair from his forehead. “And they don’t exist!” He laughed like a maniac at his own joke.

I raised my head and looked directly at him through the squinted eyes. “Fuck you! They do!” My lips and hands trembled. “And they’re kind, and generous, and fun, and hot. Not like you!”

“This is your first,” Andy said with a smirk. I too didn’t believe what I just said. I mindlessly caressed Dick’s back. And then, the fat bastard sank his claws into my hand. Deep bloody scratches ripped my skin. Sharp pain seared through my hand. Andy started laughing again. And then I lost it. I grabbed the cat by its tail and tossed him at Andy. Both of them growled with pain at the contact.

“Have it, kiss your dick!” I yelled with rage and stormed out. It felt oddly good to be on the giving side of anger. I didn’t go back.

 

Photo credit: ~ Erebos.

Is creativity what’s left behind?

Last Sunday I came to Kripalu, the main center for yoga and spiritual healing in the Northeast. Aka a place secretly tucked in-between the magic Berkshire Mountains and the white, puffy, 3-D clouds of the summer sky.

I came for a creative writing workshop, and the setting could’ve not be more conducive to producing free-flowing, juicy, extraordinary ideas. Creativity was practically an additional air element here, still to be discovered by a chemist.

Right? Wrong.

It was hard to get out of my head. From the moment I walked through the Center’s door, I’ve been analyzing, dissecting, questioning everything that came across my eyes or ears. Like a computer that is never turned off. Like a computer that doesn’t even get into a sleep mode.

In our Sunday evening class (the first out of six), own writing teacher Karen, a tall brunette with a highly expressive face, asked us to come up with one adjective that captured the essence of our childhoods. Then, we had to run (literally) around the room and find people who described their own childhoods in a similar way.

Adventurous. Lonely. Poised. Boring. World’s best. Painful. Brave….

I listened closely to other people’s descriptors, thinking, noticing, classifying the great diversity of answers. I wasn’t moving around the room freely. I couldn’t! My energy was spent on creating the Periodic Table of Elements about childhoods, not directing my body to move for the sake of movement.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy intellectual stimulation, a good conversation, an astute observation, but even then in the midst of a fun activity I was trying to analyze how my analytical mind works and why it wasn’t doing things differently. Ha!

Karen talked about our inner critics, and at some point she suggested to imagine them as characters in a play. She said, “Give them a personality, a body, an outfit. Make them real.”

So I asked myself, “How would mine look like?”

Holy cow! This is scary! She would look nearly exactly like me!

But I do have other parts of self, including those that are sentimental, creative, spontaneous, funny, actually really funny, but during the exercises only the analytical and serious me came through.

It was hard to connect with the other parts in that moment. We talked earlier in the class about what we forgot to pack. Maybe that’s what I left at home. I forgot to pack the creative me together with a bikini, shorts, and flip-flops.

I came for a workshop to work on how to be a creative writer after all. So the fun Janna can take a break, right?

Wrong! I needed to FedEx my creative self overnight, just in time for our 8:30 AM session. Or even better, I could run barefoot through the tall green grass, use scissors to turn my jeans into Daisy Dukes, or to go skinny dipping in the lake at night. Perhaps, I’d even start a trend. Seriously, who needs the bikini when your vivid imagination is back?

In fact, mine was never left behind. It just got carried away by counting the blades of uncut grass, dancing among wild daisies, and finding shapes in the clouds.

What’s the shape of your imagination?

 

What do the stars do? Stars shine!

To my friend Magda who encourages me to write, to express, to be who I am.

For the most part, gym is the only place where I indulge in watching TV. I gave up watching it at home about 5-6 years ago, but I’m glad to visit this long-lost friend while I’m on a treadmill. Yesterday as I was flipping through 100+ channels without much luck finding something of interest, I stumbled on “Stardust.” It’s a romantic fantasy film about a guy (Tristan) who hit the road in search of a fallen star because the girl he wanted to marry gave him an ultimatum, “Bring me that fallen star or forget about my hand in marriage.” Tristan not only found the star, who upon falling on the Earth turned into a beautiful woman named Yvaine, but also fell in love with her. Fortunately, this time around the feelings were mutual, without ultimata or other demands. Unfortunately, villains, who went after the couple, seemed to multiple by the minute. In the final battle Yvaine had to use her star power, that’s yottawatts of pure starlight, to blast a heart-eating witch into vapor. Before turning the switch on, so to speak, Yvaine said: “What do the stars do? They shine!” And then… Kaboom!!! The witch was gone, the movie’s happy ending followed, and I left the gym with fewer calories than I came with.

On the way home I wondered about Yvaine’s words:

What if we all were stars? How would we shine? Would we shine brightly to the fullest, or would we keep the glow down to keep it last longer? Whose life path would we choose to light up?

And even though physically we are not massive balls of exploding gas (although some people are full of it for a different reason ;-)), we do have the choice to be the sparks in the darkness for ourselves and others. That’s what the stars do. They shine.

How did you shine today?

 

 

 

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Virginia

Necessity is the mother of invention

What do a sharp knife, a funnel, a clear plastic bottle, and mini toy car have in common? Last Saturday evening these four household items plus lots of tape morphed into an art installation titled “Waiting for a plumber to come.” (Not that kind of plumber, silly! The real one). The idea to assemble them didn’t come as a creative spark in a long-nursed art project but rather out of a dire need. Cold water has started seeping though a kitchen wall, sliding down the paint and methodically counting seconds with drops. Per Murphy’s law, our building’s sup was out of town.

But haven’t I dealt with a water leak just this July? I thought the repairs were paid for and done! Apparently not. Back then, water stains and mold turned my kitchen wall into a poorly doctored Monet painting. This time around, I decided to take a more active role – for the art and the repair costs sake.

My first-order step was to find something to capture water drops to avoid having a soggy wall by the evening. A plastic bottle would have worked but its neck was too thick to lean against the wall to collect water. A funnel, my next guess, was thinner but still not good enough. I needed something long and thin so I can redirect the water flow from the wall into a vessel.

How about a flat metal ruler that I had for years, though I haven’t measured anything with it? Or, the sample pieces from my metal-and-glass closet doors that added their brick-heavy weight to my drawer for the past three years? Oops, I let them go just that Saturday morning during a spontaneous Spring Cleaning in the Fall – you know, when you purge your closets and room corners with determination of Genghis Khan. During this no-regrets exercise, I donated my no longer wanted or needed “stuff” to Salvation Army, the Freecycle Network, and a trash chute. 

And while I felt amazingly lightweight and lighthearted immediately after the cleaning, now I needed that metal ruler! Was the lesson that I should store things around in case they become useful one day? I weighed different factors, and the answer came as a resolute ‘no.’ I don’t need to keep what’s no longer of interest or functional. They just create clutter that breeds more clutter choking off both physical space and good vibe. I vote for the latter two instead!

So in a place a ruler, I taped a long, sharp knife that I propped with a miniature car toy to achieve a certain angle. Now the water could flow from the wall onto the knife blade into the funnel and then into the bottle. By the end of Saturday, I had no clutter in the house and my installation worked as intended. Mission accomplished. Now I can wait for a plumber with an easy heart.

What were your art projects, real and out of necessity, recently?

How resting is your “resting face”?

The benefits of public transportation are plenty. One, perhaps underrated, perk of riding a bus or metro is people watching, especially if we are not glued to our i- and other e-devices. Thanks to a dead phone battery, I was able to observe others and to learn something about myself in the process.

A woman in her late 40s walked in my rail car at a metro stop before mine. I’m not sure what caught my attention as she didn’t stand out in any remarkable way from the rest of my fellow metro riders. Maybe, it was the look on her face: The cheekbone muscles were tense; two deep wrinkles marked her forehead between the eyebrows; the lips were tight as if she wanted to say something but had a change of heart and caught her words in the last moment. I couldn’t tell whether she was disappointed, upset, concerned about something, or just deep in her thoughts.

As I was studying her face, I wondered if she was aware of her facial expression. What if she were to look in the mirror right now, what would she think about her reflection, her so-called resting face expression? What if I were to look in the mirror right now, what would I see? Where are those candid cameras when you need them!

With the idea of mirrors and reflections planted in my subconscious, I stopped by at DSW, conveniently located on the way from the metro to my house. (Full disclosure is needed: I didn’t plan to go to DSW when I left the office. It was all my subconscious’ fault ;-))

I was walking between the rows of nicely-displayed shoes searching for that perfect pair of black booties for the fall when I suddenly saw myself in the mirror. “How did you look?” you might ask. Well, I looked like a woman on a shoe-hunting mission: My eyes were slightly narrowed to bring everything into laser-sharp focus; my upper body leaned forward to charge ahead; my teeth were clenched. No idle talking is permitted. Seriously.

This is it. This is how I look without even realizing it. Eeek!

So, what if I imagine that I’ve already found that awesome pair of black suede booties and that I’m about to take them out on their first walk? I closed my eyes getting into the image of me strutting down the street in my brand-new, high-heel (but pleasantly comfortable) booties. Ok, got it. I opened my eyes and walked to the next mirror.

Quite a difference, my friend! My body was erect but relaxed, my chin was up, and a playful smile lit up my face (and DSW more generally). Here’s my lesson of today: Awareness coupled with vivid imagination is a powerful tool that we have right at our fingertips, yet we do not often use it, or do not use it often enough.

I walked out of DSW feeling gorgeous and in style – in the booties of my imagination. 

Looks and outlooks, or how our bodies react to stress

*** Watch a video blog ***

The other day a friend shared her feelings about her parents-in-law’s visit. With a heavy sigh, she vented that not only they came for a whole month – the eternity in a life of two young parents who juggle busy professional careers, social activities, and a boisterous 5-year old – but also that her husband’s parents wanted to sit on the porch and talk for hours and hours — mostly about why my friend and her husband did everything the wrong way.

During our chat, we agreed that a longer visit made sense: After all, the parents travelled half the world from a small village in Thailand to Los Angeles to have some quality family time. We also agreed that well-meaning parents almost by design feel obligated to “fix” their less-experienced offspring and have a wide repertoire of methods to accomplish this. Even if they live in Thailand and you live in the States, somehow they still know better. But can they really expect that the lecturing would be received with love, gratitude, and undying interest every single day from dawn to dusk? According to my friend, her in-laws’ expectations regarding this are high, and so is her blood pressure. So, we talked how lower the stress by meditating regularly, finding a different perspective on their words and actions, and most importantly, how to channel their “we want to be relevant” energy on innocuous tasks such as gardening… or moving rocks.

I can commiserate with my friend as her story stirred the memories of the visits of my ex husband’s parents. Like my friend’s in-laws, mine are good-hearted people and expressed their love in the way they could. But it was hard to be around them because they dealt with cross-Atlantic travelling, lost baggage, new foods and new environment with the coolness of the boiling water. Our house would turn into a minefield of social interactions. An extra step to the right or to the left, and you’re toast. Anything could have set off arguments and occasional crying: the way the furniture is arranged, our diverging views on politics, wasted money on travelling, and even how loud it is appropriate to slam the car door.

I recall that during one of their visits, my entire face broke out in hives. Not the small ones that could be overlooked as pimples and covered with some foundation make-up. No, they were bright-red, penny-size blisters with an attitude: “We’ve got you covered, girl, and you can’t do much about it. Ha-ha-ha!!!” I was pissed for a serious reason. These annoying attention grabbers devoured the entire bottle of my new Chanel liquid foundation in just three days. Imagine that!

“Oh, you must have eaten something,” my concerned mother-in-law told me. “Yes, I had a fat Big-Mac portion of the two of you!” I wanted to say that. Instead, I went along with her explanation. A typical family visit, I guess…

Like my friend, I was counting minutes to the time my in-laws go home. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. Shortly after we dropped our guests off at the airport, the hives took off too, like by magic.  And to make my day even better, I went to Macy’s and bought another bottle of Chanel foundation. Talk about a different look and outlook!

So, what do you do to lessen your stress level?

 

Photo credit: ^CiViLoN^.

Aren’t you too old for this?

A friend of mine, who is in his early 40s, just bought a motorcycle – a powerful, beautiful, classic Kawasaki. While some of his friends reacted to the news with excitement and poorly covered jealousy, others were more blunt, “You should have not done this. You are too old.”

I smiled when I heard this, thinking that if he’s too old to buy a motorcycle, then he’s certainly too old to be given such advice. Yet this comment also made me wonder about the perfect timing of taking certain steps in life. Is there such timing?

Perhaps, if it were the case, Jordan Romero would have not reached the top of Mount Everest at age 13 to become the youngest Everest climber. He hasn’t even graduated from high school by then! Or, perhaps, Ms. Nola Ochs, 95 years of age, would have not become the oldest college graduate to walk across the stage to receive her bachelor’s degree in History. Her dream of education would have been forever shelved because raising a family and taking care of others took priority when she was younger. Same goes for her post-graduation dream of working as a story-teller on a cruise ship.

So, if you dream is to ride your motorcycle to conquer Everest and then come back to tell incredible stories, there is no better time than now. The Guinness World Records book is ready for another achievement, and so are the people who choose to live their lives according to their own timing.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user feileacan)