BY: VALERIE GILBERT
A continuation of the serendipitous saga commenced in RAVING VIOLET, Valerie Gilbert’s first non-fiction collection of short stories, MEMORIES, DREAMS & DEFLECTIONS: My Odyssey Through Emotional Indigestion, picks up the sojourn of this sassy, single mystic, mired in her mind and cloistered above the streets of New York City.
This volume explores Valerie’s intrepid and irreverent search for healing inside and out (both medical and mystical), the quest for peace (and quiet) and, as always, true love.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: Memories, Dreams & Deflections, written by Valerie Gilbert, a native New Yorker, is a sequel, sort of, to Raving Violet. As in her first book, her quick wit will leave you laughing out loud and her heartfelt stories will leave you reaching for the Kleenex box. Memories, Dreams & Deflections is a little more down to earth than Raving Violet and deals with things like physical health, finances, intolerable bosses, and hurricanes. Just the normal everyday things a New Yorker has to deal with I guess.
Gilbert gives us real-life anecdotes from her intrepid existence and makes us feel like we can do anything. She writes in a way that makes it seem like you are right there in the room with her as she experiences these things. Like Raving Violet, Memories, Dreams & Deflections is a book you will want to share with others.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Valerie Gilbert has done it again. Like her first book, Raving Violet, Memories, Dreams & Deflections: My Odyssey Through Emotional Indigestion is a delightful, profound, and totally enjoyable read. It’s a continuation of the story of Gilbert’s life in New York as a writer, actress, and independent thinker. Only this time, Gilbert gets into the nitty-gritty of her life: bad jobs, bad husbands, getting fired, getting divorced, getting sick while having no health insurance…well, you get the picture. But through it all, she has the marvelous attitude that somehow she can handle anything that life throws at her. And she makes you feel that you can, too.
While her second book focuses a little more on physical survival rather than spiritual and metaphysical survival, Gilbert still weaves in a few stories about the psychic side of life. In a way, this open, honest, tell-it-like-it-is woman almost comes off as a bit naïve in the way she approaches strangers with open arms, heart, and mind. But I find it hard to believe that she could have survived in New York as long as she has if she were not also extremely shrewd. Maybe the glimpse she gives us of life is what more of us would see if we had the courage to face it the way she does: no bullshit, no apologies.
INTRODUCTION TO MOI
Who am I? Rather, who the hell am I? Why do I curse, rant, and rave when I claim to be New Age? How can someone spouting peace and love still be so judgmental? I’ll tell you why, and it’s central to my spiritual tenets and who I am. Because I don’t believe that when you cleave to love and light that you toss out discernment. In fact, we rely on it to get by in this world. I don’t think that to become more loving you must eviscerate your personality or your preferences. In fact, what you choose and how you see the world determines who you are.
As we uplift our energies and merge with the higher dimensional aspects of our selves (I guess we meet in the middle, huh? Maybe that’s the balance that the Star of David represents?) we do not toss out the human component. In fact, the human is as vital to the soul as the soul is to the human. Also, when a channeled spirit (whom I trusted implicitly) referred to my ex-husband as a jerk (which shocked the heck out of me), I figured, if spirit can call a spade a spade then so can I, dammit! I’m guessing he said this to shock me out of my sad stupor, vulnerability, and semi-recumbent doormat status. It helped. Being nice doesn’t mean you have to be a sucker. And some people really are jerks. I don’t care how clean their souls are. If they’re not acting from a place of love and light, I am not turning the other cheek. I am getting divorced. Dodge the bullets, people.
Unconditional love is a great goal, but does it mean that you could marry anybody? Of course not! Because you are open-minded does it mean that any job would suit you? Of course not! Now, you could try to make both odd job and strange marriage work, and you might succeed to some extent, but I believe we are here to follow our bliss, as Joseph Campbell sagely directed us, and to find what best suits us, while dealing with those things which do not, as we wend our way down the Yellow Brick Road in the wisest way possible. We can have preferences without having to judge choices we do not select. We rely on discernment to take care of ourselves and our needs. So consider that I am being “discerning” when you might otherwise think that I am judging. And if I am out and out judging, contemplate that I’m doing it for fun and/or comedic effect and try not to get your knickers in a twist. I enjoy being outrageous! Play is one of the best ways to learn.
In these amazing times of planetary and personal transformation, it is imperative that we rely increasingly on our internal guidance system, our feelings, our intuition, our “gut.” And yes, our humanness. I believe our humanness is the key to our enlightenment. We must go through, not around it to receive the gifts that are buried deep inside. In exploring ourselves, the good, bad, and ugly, we mine the gold. Gold dust can seem paltry at first, but after a couple hundred lifetimes, we start figuring out how to smelt the precious metal and turn it into nifty baubles and keepsakes.
I was raised a goody-two-shoes Theosophist among a group of them in New York City whose worst vice was being dull. Most were vegetarians, a couple of ’em smoked, none of ’em drank. Sex was not discussed though clearly we were not Shakers, as new Theosophists were occasionally spawned. There was even a sex scandal, but it was never openly discussed because Theosophists basked in the realm of ideas and ideals and avoided the Platform of the Personal like the plague.
This is where they lost me. Cause I’m a person. If there is no practical application of your philosophy to my life, if I don’t feel better from learning its tenets, then it is of no use to me. I don’t disagree with any of the Theosophical ideas. They were amazing for the time they came out (late 1800s) though the concepts themselves are timeless. But the presentation of the ideas did not evolve with the times. I’m not a Victorian. I’m a Valerie. Here and now. I’ve fought long and hard to achieve a state of raucous outrageousness, of irreverent liberation. It’s why I curse. And drink. And have sex, when the wind blows in the right direction. It’s why I’m here, and why I write. People need liberating from their own self-created prisons. I’m here to relate one escapee’s way out.
Theosophy uses the construct of the Higher Self and lower self. I always resented it. ‘Cause they were talking about me when they were referring to the lower self. My personality, my body, my inclinations, even my aspirations. (I wanted to sing, dance, and act). Me, low? And who was this Great Higher Self anyway? The Great and Powerful Oz? What makes it so special? Does it just keep me around to make it look good?
It was implicit that the personal human, the ego, was low, just like Christians were taught they were born sinners. We have derogatory associations with the word “low” just as we have elevated associations with “high.” High Society, for instance, you low down dirty dog! I felt rather insulted as a small child and then later as a less small child. And what about my personal questions? What about sex? Love? (the very conditional kind). What of loss? Grief and pain? It was not discussed. It was left at “that’s your karma.” (What is? Teenaged curiosity about sex? The fact that no one talks about my Dad being dead?) Why is it okay for the Great Divine I Am to be the Great Divine I Am but my “I am” (that’s all ego means, literally, in Greek) gets reduced to being some putz-y little psychological construct, abutted by a selfish id and a guilty superego? My puny, puffed-up self railed against the insult and indignity.
I don’t know about you, but much as I love crystals and wind-catchers, silence and ritual, deep thoughts, introspection, meditation and revelation, there is much about spiritual and New Age teachings that just plain BORES me to death. Do I really need to read a book on breathing? I’ve been doing a pretty good job of it up to now (for the most part). I open some of these books and within a couple of sentences my eyes start to cross. Where’s the sass? Where’s the zip? The personality?
We are not here to transcend, but to transmute ourselves. Not rise above, but take it with us and mix it with the other stuff. That’s all alchemy is. Taking the basic ingredients we came with: ego (check), insecurities (check), deadly sins, not so deadly sins, confusion, coercion, aspiration, inspiration, divination, mix it all together, have a couple hundred lifetimes, meditate a little, release a little, change a little, burp a little, et VOILA, enlightened person! Must I be relegated to a lifetime of filtered, room-temperature water and mung beans? (I drink filtered, room-temp water, by the way). Where’s the wine, men, and song? Where’s the chocolate? Where’s the FUN, I ask? Have more fun. Joy is sacred. Angels fly because they take themselves so lightly.
To become enlightened people need to “En-lighten up” (to quote astute humorist Puppetji). We need to activate our CLOWN CHAKRA (to quote sagacious humorist Wavy Gravy). Just like Dharma Punx founder Noah Levine (a heavily tattooed, former convict), as I’ve grown more balanced, I like to keep my personality around for “flavah” and old time’s sake. One doesn’t have to shave one’s’ head and don orange robes to be deep. I can save the world in a bathing suit or my underwear, if I like. It’s my party.
I’m a big advocate of speaking out about causes I feel passionate about, signing petitions, and sending emails to government officials and corporate heads. I am not a fan of marches and protests. We all have to find our comfort level, but doing something is always better than doing nothing. The key to this kind of work is keeping your cool and staying in your center. You do not have to be angry to be active. I know a lot of people eschew activism because they feel that focusing on what is wrong in this world creates more of what’s wrong in the world. (Ye Olde Law of Attraction). I will grant you this. If you rant and rave and foam at the mouth, get no sleep, and are angry at the world, then their assertion is correct, you are contributing to the negativity on the planet. However, if, as I do, you have a glass of wine in hand, some jaunty music on in the background, and you are centered, confident, and happy when you take action, well, I say, there are lots of things that need fixing. Whistle while you work.
You can be a happy activist. I am. Sure, there are things that will get under my skin. (Animal abuse is a good one.) However, by speaking up and educating those who think that these egregious offenses (human and animal rights abuses, environmental destruction, poverty, disease, starvation, genocide, poisoning our water, bees, and food supply with GMOs, chemicals, and pesticides, shall I go on?) are okay, are, in fact, their way of conducting business and making profits, I say, no, you shall not continue unimpeded. The Dalai Lama speaks up, so does Thich Nhat Hanh. Bishop Desmond Tutu is an activist and so, obviously, was Nelson Mandela. Just because you’re a man or woman of peace does not mean you don’t get in the trenches. In fact, I feel it imperative that we do. How we define our goals is up to us. Meditating alone is not the answer.
My subjects veer between the sublime and the ridiculous. At times I get deadly serious. I don’t skirt around the issues. Mine, at least. Now, who in Heaven am I? Read on, dear reader, read on…
Make Me Happy
I love TED. For those who don’t know what it is, rent the 2007 documentary The Future We Will Create. It showcases the mad genius flowing and gurgling out of our imagineers and visionaries. It made me proud to be human, here, now, and excited to see the future Planet Earth. We are AMAZING when we put our minds toward brilliance, art, science, healing, and community. I’m pretty sure the film featured the amazing computer technology that is now standard manual navigation for Apple’s iPhones and iPads, so someone at Apple saw the TED demo and bought the software. Deals are made at the conference, plans are hatched, organizations are formed, worlds are changed. TED is a forum for artists and inventors, philosophers and candy makers alike. Willy Wonka would be an ideal speaker. Inspiration, childlike wonder, community, and connection is what TED is all about. Ancient Greece had Socrates babbling in the town square. We have TED.
Look up TED on YouTube and pick a speaker. The talks are 20 minutes and under. You’ll find someone you’ll like, most likely love, and possibly, someone who will inspire you to see things a new way. Try Sir Ken Robinson on education, for starters. I dare you not to be entranced.
I’ve never met a TED speaker (online, that is) I didn’t like. Until a few nights ago. I was witnessing sheer heaven, award winning cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg’s “Nature, Beauty, Gratitude.” It’s ten minutes. Go watch it online now. I’ll wait for you.
After I watched, I saw a link for another TED talk, and I was intrigued by the saucy title: “F__k you. How to stop screwing yourself.” Well, with an eye-catching title like that, especially spouted by a woman, how could I not look?
Mel Robbins is attractive, blonde, in good shape, and well dressed. She looks like the Republican version of author/speaker Elizabeth Gilbert, whose TED talks I liked well enough despite my not being an “Eat/Pray” fan. Mel is not just sure of herself, she is cocky. I have nothing against strong women. I am one. But this woman was a strident football coach. I adored Sandra Bullock’s sassy wife/mom/mentor/rule-changing character in “The Blind Side,” and Sally Field’s “Norma Rae” (characters both based on real women), Eleanor Roosevelt, Gloria Steinem, Emma Goldman, Susan B. Anthony, Dorothy Parker, Mae West, even brassy Bella Abzug. I love women who buck the tide and challenge the status quo. That was not this woman. She was acerbic. Shrill. And tried way, way too hard to be cool, witty, and ugh, “likeable” (as evidenced by showing homey photos of her family). She even jumped off the stage into the audience in her heels to be “one of the people.” Kiss of death.
I watched a few minutes then turned it off, but thought better of it the next day when I realized I could write about what she was ranting about. I “forced” myself to watch it—ironic when you find out that “forcing yourself to do things” is one of her prime tenets. Her philosophy runs directly counter to mine. But then, I don’t have to force myself to do things. I’m an adult. I just do ’em.
I watched a full ten of her twenty minutes waiting for the moment when she would actually say something. Interesting. Provocative. TED-worthy. Eventually, her world-view became clear: “MAKE yourself do the crap you’re supposed to do. FORCE yourself. Your mind prefers auto-drive, it likes to be comfortable, you like to be comfortable. FORCE yourself to be uncomfortable. As soon as you ‘‘activate’ yourself, your mind will fight and put on the emergency brake. Get out of your head! Get past your feelings! (past your feelings?! After I’ve worked so hard to get into my feelings?). You are never going to feel like doing it, so just do it. Be honest when people ask you how you are. You’re not fine. You’re either great or you’re terrible. Which is it?”
Is she crazy? I have to give a full report to every passerby? People say “How are you” not because they want your actual update but because they are clumsily trying to say a simple “Hello,” to acknowledge your presence. More people should just say, “Hi” and fewer people should say, “I’m terrible….whine, whine, whine,” or “I’m great!…boast, boast, boast.” Who has time for status reports?
I was exhausted just listening to her “Push! Push! Push!” agenda. I felt like I was in the labor and delivery wing. She was saying we couldn’t trust ourselves. Our natural selves. She was calling us shiftless and lazy. I happen to disagree. When they panned the audience, I saw more than one person with their arms crossed (body language for “just say no”). I’ve scanned her blog and webpage, and I’m not wanting more. What I want to talk about is why.
Mel’s credentials are listed as “a married, working mother of three, an ivy educated, criminal lawyer, and one of the top career and relationship experts in America.” She has book, radio and TV shows, and a column in Success Magazine. Of course. Everything about her screams success. “Most nights, once the kids are in bed, you’ll find Mel at home with a bourbon on the rocks and her Australian Shepherd at her feet, writing about life, love, and everything else on her award-winning blog.” Blecch.
This is exactly why people like me (not married, no kids, no searing career, blah, blah, blah) get DEPRESSED. I’m supposed to be like her —bourbon, shepherd, and children in tow? Why is that the gold standard? It doesn’t make her a success. It makes her married with kids and lots of jobs. It makes her busy. In many ways, I think it’s what’s wrong with the American dream, and the American work ethic. Bigger, better, faster, more, no, MORE! Busy, busy, push, push. No one takes the time to just BE. We are human be-ings. Not human do-ings. People have no idea how to sit still. I think we’ve incurred ADHD with our behaviors, our need for speed, and our addiction to rapid-fire media missives.
Just because you’re accomplished doesn’t mean you’re happy. People pushpushpush while on autopilot and neglect to ask themselves if they enjoy what they’re doing. Mel complained -about people who aren’t satisfied and implied that they’re not go-getters, but lazy and complacent. Well, say I, what of go-getters who are not satisfied? Are they happy, or just busy? They are doing what they think they should (aren’t all women supposed to be married with kids AND huge media stars with multiple book and TV deals?). Egads. Why is this even a goal? Because of the money? The fame? American Idol is not my idol. We know fame and fortune don’t grant happiness. Happiness is a state of mind, not a state of affairs. Besides, comedian Stephen Wright was right when he said, “You can’t have it all. Where would you put it?”
Another thing that drives me nuts is when inspirational speakers say, “If I can do it, you can do it.” What do you have to do with me? Seriously. I may be inspired by your story but your success most assuredly does not guarantee mine. My success (or lack thereof) will not look like yours when I achieve it. What we need are gems of inspiration that we can take and make our own.
I went to an ivy-league college. I wasn’t happy there and I’m not blaming the school. I take responsibility for how I feel. We have the power, with our attitude, to have a great or terrible time. And if something really, truly is terrible (or seems terrible) because it is a bad fit for you, it is still teaching you about what you DO want by showing you what you DON’T want. This is how we learn, and there’s the gift. It’s an if-then thing. If not this, then that…if not that, then something else. It’s trial and… learning. There is no right or wrong. Only what works.
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. And if something just plain old sucks lemons and you’re not in the mood to make lemonade, well, that’s okay, too. We’re all entitled to our moods, so long as we don’t unleash them unkindly on others. Lick your wounds in private, don’t take it out on the dog or your kids. Or on yourself, for that matter. People punish themselves all the time, jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Be brave and sit it out. Have faith that you have the strength and fortitude to get through whatever it is, and that you will take some sound experience and wisdom along with you when you get past the bumpy stuff.
I had pushpushpush the first half of my life from a mother who pushpushpushed me. Made me a nervous wreck. Yes, I did well in school. But I didn’t like to hear the clock ticking and feel someone breathing down my back. I’ve had to UN-learn that stressful, type-A, anxiety-filled way of living. So what works for me? Taking full breaths and realizing I have control in my life. I don’t have to push. I don’t have to run. And here’s a big one: I don’t have to do things I don’t want to do. I don’t have to suffer. Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch said it thus, “A master feels pain, but she does not suffer.” Pain is a physical sensation. Suffering is a state of mind. We hold reign over that kingdom when we examine and change our beliefs. Even if your pain is emotional, you don’t have to compound it by judging or bemoaning the hurt. Feel it, understand it, and process it. So it may take more than two weeks. You can do it. You’re worth it.
Some people are happy to be unhappy and make excuses when you (I mean me) make suggestions as to how to make something better, or make it go away. (“But I can’t stop, I have to do it, put up with it, stick with it,” etc.) Author/New Age guru Louise Hay learned to back off when giving advice as soon as she heard the words “Yeah, but…” If someone is gonna “yeah, but” you, they don’t want to change. They just want to complain. When someone really wants to learn a different way, they’ll listen. And they’ll make the changes they need to make to alter their lives. We all have that ability. But we have to want it. The magic key is to get in touch with our wanting, with our desire. To coax with a carrot (or carat) and not traumatize with threats of inadequacy and failure. There is a huge difference between the two approaches, indeed, a world of difference. One is a gorgeous, gloppy, three-tiered chocolate cake. The other is mucking out the barn. When desire is generated organically (“Did you say that cake was CALORIE FREE?” “Why yes! Yes, I did!” I chime back), we initiate our very own gold rush.
Mel went on in her lecture, “I will do whatever it takes to make you do what you have to do.” Direct quote? No. I couldn’t bear to listen to her a third time. But I’m nearly positive that’s the sentiment she was expressing, life coach that she is (and if she isn’t, she might as well be). That sentiment implies that she is responsible for our progress and success. Don’t you believe her or teachers like her. You get the credit, and no one else, for what you do, even if someone “helped” you. There’s only one person who can do the work in life, in your life, and that’s you. Yeah, sure, go to a therapist or a coach. You could also talk to a friend. Talk to yourself. Talk to God. Journal. Take a hike. Go for a swim. When we still our minds and calm our emotions, that’s when we receive inspiration from the deepest, highest part of who we are. We all have a Guru. She’s living inside our hearts. All we have to do is activate our heart centers. Rev those engines and zoom off in a blaze of love and glory.
The clearest route to access this wisdom within is to listen to our feelings. This I believe from the bottom of my heart…we must trust our feelings. We’ve been trained against them, favoring instead the rational. Nah-ah. All wrong. We have feelings and thoughts for a reason. So they can work in concert. Think with your heart. Feel with your head. Feelings are the language of the soul. We need more soul in our lives. Not more pushpushpush. When we get in the flow with ourselves, in sync with our selves, guess what happens? Synchronicity. Enchantment. Magic. Happy coincidences. Serendipity. We attune to the forces within. “May the force be with you” is not something you can coerce. You can’t force “the force.” It’s a Zen thing. It’s gotta flow organically. One must allow it. Will it to come. Invite. Intend it. Receive. But a football coach sure ain’t gonna scream inspiration out of you.
I gentle myself. I don’t want a jarring alarm in the morning, I wake up naturally, but there are gentle alerts these days for those that need them, including Zen chimes. I had a most remarkable experience one morning when someone woke me to the music of Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin,” the beautiful theme song from “Midnight Cowboy.” I never knew you could start your day with song. That morning changed my life. Gentle yourself through life.
Remember the scene in The Blind Side when Sandra speaks the magic words that inspire her son to play football like never before? Inspire means to “breathe in,” to take in the “force,” or prana (divine light or life force) naturally. That’s what lungs do. You have to relax to allow them to expand fully. She inspires him to think of his teammates as her family (which is his new family), how they have his back, and he theirs. She motivates him with a thought that touches his heart, and it is that fire, that passion, that ignites his will, his energy, his “force,” and yes, his feelings. But in fact, he is the one that initiates the ignition sequence. If he didn’t comprehend what she said, if he didn’t agree, it wouldn’t have worked. So, in fact, and this is very, very important, HE INSPIRED HIMSELF. He motivated himself. No one does it for you.
Jesus said, “You can plant seeds on rock, but they won’t take root.” We are the ones who decide whether we are fertile ground or barren rock. No one inspires us. No one makes us happy. No one makes us sad. We are our own marching band, coach, inspiration, or desperation. And when you realize that, boy, are you powerful. This is not to negate the power of love, support, and insight we receive from friends, loved ones, strangers, and yes, coaches. We are not alone. But we alone are responsible for our state of mind and the feelings those thoughts and beliefs engender.
Sure, you can have a down day. I do. Have sour thoughts. I indulge them when I’m grumpy. Some people even have bad decades. I’m no sugarcoated Pollyanna. But we have the resilience to pull out of these moods. This is the greatest power the human has. Resilience. The ability to recover. The ability to survive wars and holocausts and move past them to thrive. Some stay rooted in misery and relive the past and their pains. Others move on. What’s the difference? Their mental software. Make sure you’re running an operating system that supports your happiness.
Your thoughts and feelings are your creation. If you don’t like what you’re experiencing, look at how you’re programming your day. “I love myself. I trust life. I believe in love. My life is getting better and better every day. I trust myself. I am love. I am loved. I am wonderful. I am okay. Everything is okay. Everything is going to be okay.” Do those words resonate? Do they agree with you? Great! If not—okay. Find words that do. Write your own mantras. Better that than your epitaph.
“I hate my life. I hate myself. I hate my body. I hate my job. I hate my home. I hate my spouse. I hate the government. I hate the terrorists. I hate the weather. I hate.” How did those words “make” you feel? Did they uplift? Make you nervous? Resonate? Make you realize you need a new job? There’s no reason to suffer. But the words themselves have no power. Their meaning is different for all of us (for no two of us feel and think the same thing) and strikes different chords of resonance with different people, or no resonance at all. They are just words. But when they do have resonance for you, choose carefully. What you think creates how you feel and determines how you live and what you will experience. If, then…Cause and effect. Plant a seed, grow a flower. Or a pickle.
So, no thank you, Mel. I don’t want your “tough-love” scaring me to get out of my “comfort zone.” I’ve worked too hard for too long to get into my comfort zone. I want to be happy. I want to be comfortable in my own skin. I want to trust myself. Life can be effortless and easy, that is, in fact, the way God designed it to be (She and I are tight). “Be ye as the lilies in the field. They neither spin nor toil.” (I’ll switch that out to “strive nor toil.” Spinning is not a real big problem nowadays).
When we “follow our bliss,” as Joseph Campbell directs us, when we trust our wants and listen to our feelings, they will warn us against people, places, and things. They will incline us toward other people, places, and things that resonate with who we are and what we want. The big, subtle twist is this: Move toward your wants, not away from your “not-wants.” Attraction vs. repulsion. Honey vs. vinegar. Use desire for your goals as your motivation, not distaste for what you no longer want. The difference is huge, and practical. When you start fueling your life with desire, magic unfurls.
When we create comfort for ourselves, we get in alignment with who we really are. We are God. We are love incarnate. God is Love and Joy. Therefore, at our core, we are Love and Joy. Our job is to jackhammer off all the dried muck that we’ve allowed to cake onto our juicy, golden soul. “All this and more ye can do,” said Jesus. We (I’m talking about you and me!) are amazing creators and imagineers, not just the TED talkers. We are creating a Beautiful New World. If we allow it. Believe it. Activate it. Will it. Now that? That “makes” me happy.
Copyright 2014 by Valerie Gilbert.