Who’s Biking Her Porker-Sized Butt Off?

Chick and dog donning the type of orange you can see from outer space.

Me. “Mace.”

I’m down 50 big ones.

In 4 months.

At 52.

How’d I do it?

I quit indulging in the Drinkeepoo and family-sized bag of Chex Mix every night, traded my flat bars in for drops, and got my porker-sized butt out on the road.

The catalyst?

Self-discovery stumbled upon through free-writing.

Huh?

Free-writing.

Two paragraphs to be exact.

Long-ass sentences that explained why and what I’d been running from all these years—the bouts of drinking, the trying on the wrong different people, places and things, the “girls don’t come along askin’ for ranchin’ chores.”

The unreconciled grief.

The “inflicted void.”

When I was on the edge of 20.

Edge of 20?

19. (Not 17, like Stevie Nicks.)

The discovery?

It was so powerful I sought a path to recovery.

I ride that path on my Trek Alexa.

A 47-mile bike ride down the Cape a couple of weeks ago helped shed those few pounds to achieve the big 5-0 milestone. Calcium was leaching from my muscles making my quads scream. The popping a squat to dispense fierce diarrhea and relieve the cramping in my lower gut didn’t derail me either.

Just made me dirty.

Hell, yeah. 52 and riding strong.

I got no strength, but I got endurance.

I got no core, but I got guts.

And I’ve dropped from an all-consuming 3X and comfortably sitting in a size 16 (know it sounds big, but think in relative terms). My inner thighs no longer bunch together and become one when I roll over in bed.

Does it feel great?

It rocks.

Has my presence of mind returned?

Not the kind I need to secure my smaller porker-sized ass in the technological workplace amid the Millennials. It’s troubling. What’s left of my mind is fleeting. And it’s not entirely due to alcohol consumption ’cause my high school girlfriend’s Cyndy and Kathleen’s minds are like sieves too.

And they ain’t boozers.

Nothing stays in my mind for long and there’s not alot of computing going on, just anxiety. Cycling helps. Yoga helps. My former writing coach did yoga. I wrote about the paradox (her doing yoga and my doing drinking to acquire the same effect) in the essay called My Dear Friend the Dirty, which the editors of Elephant Journal scooped up and devoured nearly 3 years ago.

My coach has since left me to pursue work with ‘better’ writers, those who are book-publishable-friendly and can afford her soaring hourly rates.

(And tolerate her sense of self-importance.)

I kept drinking the Dirties.

She used to say before reading one of my manuscripts:

“I’m eager to read me some Lisa Mae DeMasi.”

That translates to, this is going to make me laugh in parts but it has no depth or meaning.

I write when I can; back on the subject of my time spent in Cody. When I fell in love with toiling in the elements and fighting the boys to do the chores they hated. A 3-month period when Heartbreak was displaced by the cows and horses and mountains.

Saying goodbye to a foal in Cody at the Grin-N-Barrett Ranch, September ’95. My knee got torn up by a hit-and-run driver in Cody Central just days prior, necessitating my left leg remain immobilized. I’m styling a full leg immobilizer here before grease, dirt and tomato sauce made it visible. Wonder where my crutches were.

I wish I had gobs more time to write.

I chant every morning for a grant to fall from the sky and into my lap. Especially now since I can finally give meaning to my work. You know, having discovered the discovery, and feeling like a person again without all that “blind heartache weight.”

****************

The impact of loss scars the heart and you go on living your life ’cause you’re young and have to conform and can’t fall apart and you don’t realize those wounds are still there, throbbing raw, the fibers of tissue meshing over that open gap of mess. You don’t realize you mask that pain with the alcohol thirty fucking years later, that there’s a reason why you drink until the TV and the stand it rests on becomes unhinged.

You write and write and write. For seven years, straight, you do nothing but write and you’re told your writing has no depth or meaning. You keep writing because you’re still madly and blindly driven to it despite having lost all your assets and pockets are filled with nothing but dust and lint. You’re there writing, looking up the definition of a word online, fact checking, and you read, alcoholism is a well-documented pathological reaction to unresolved grief and glance down at the billionth line you just put in black and white and Jesus, the whole goddamn story comes clear.

****************

Adanna, a journal for women, about women, printed in its October editionWhy I Love Bike Commuting in Boston.

I no longer get to play chicken with city buses living in the Metrowest.

Damn, I miss it.

My work was also published in an Anthology last month, nestled inside other essays and poems by 50-something kick-ass women writers who are still enjoying sex with others and themselves. I flew out to attend and read at the launch in Santa Barbara, but never made it due to the fires.

Pick up a copy on Amazon and read it in the bathtub.

With rose pedals. And bubbly.

Unmasked: Women Write about Sex and Intimacy After 50

Time to go to spin class to burn away the remaining excess weight.

Where’s my low-calorie Gatorade.

Write to me at lisa dot demasi at gmail.

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What Happened When I Performed Reiki on My Conservative Mother

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. ~ Rumi

My mother and I are in her bedroom.

I have the rare opportunity to administer healing energy to her, an act that will draw us together—physically, emotionally, spiritually. We are awkward about touching one another; emotionally, we don’t discuss matters close to the heart. The idea of God and a Higher Presence is strictly private.

This is the nature of our relationship, dictated by her upbringing.

Overwhelmed at the prospect of laying hands on her, I ask her to lie down on the bed. I recall when I needed her support and love—when I first got my period, the aftermath of boyfriend breakups, amid broken bones and excruciating pain—and she conveyed little.

Her convictions, tainted by my bouts of rebellion, are as big as a mountain.

I underwent Reiki training when writer’s block saturated every molecule of my body. Explaining the premise of the healing art to my conventionally-minded parents was like conveying Einstein’s theory of relativity in Swahili.

I read their expressions like an open book.

They figured, like my memoir writing, practicing Reiki was an escape from reality—another endeavor to keep me from returning to the workforce. But to counter their belief, I didn’t offer to demonstrate the various Reiki positions on them—I felt defenseless against their skepticism; this most recent act to sabotage their “please-just-do-the-right-thing” campaign.

On top of it, my dad mispronounced Reiki. No pun intended, he called it “wreck-ee.”

The whole notion of “healing energy,” however, must have taken up residence in my mother’s mind. For a week later, as we were getting out of the car, she asked me to do Reiki on her.

I panicked. Slithered down the driver’s seat like Bugs Bunny doomed in fighter aircraft; blurted some excuses. “I can’t do Reiki on you, Mom. I don’t have my massage table.”

“That’s okay, I’ll lay on my bed.”

“But I don’t have my Reiki playlist.”

“We’ll do it without it.”

“But, I don’t have my sage candle.”

“I don’t need a sage candle.”

“But, Mom, I don’t—”

“Let’s try it anyway.”

We entered the house; Dad is visiting the pharmacy. I tagged along after Mom, up the stairs and to my parents’ bedroom—a charming and spacious room painted robin egg blue, decorated with Victorian furniture and “delicate things.”

Sunlight pours through the dressed window; beyond it, birds chirp, fountains burble. Mom’s lying on her four-post bed and I’m splaying out my hands. Here’s the rare opportunity to impress her with these healing hands.

I tell her to relax, a strange thing to say to my mother. She closes her eyes and her expression softens. I rub my hands together to warm them. I study the features of her face and describe where I’ll be placing my hands.

I take a deep breath as I lay my hands in a V on the crown of her head, crushing her frosted, poofy hairdo and pray her skepticism will melt away. That she’ll leave the room having experienced peace and healing.

She is instantly receptive to my touch. Her trunk sinks deeper into the 500-thread Egyptian cotton duvet. I feel grounded in healing light, my hands growing warm with the energy. The moments elapse, lengthening, slipping us into a realm of peace.

I the giver, and my mother, the receiver.

Floating…

Deeper…

Love and light…

The breach.

It emerges from a great distance away, perhaps all the way across the Atlantic, an outer, invasive stimulus. It repeats, drawing closer, skimming the surface of the sea, its frequency pricking up the hairs of my inner ear. It’s tearing a hole in the veil of peace, popping it stitch-by-stitch up the middle, bringing me back to the place I left several minutes ago—the sunlight, the blue bedroom, the depiction of my mother’s body impressing into the duvet.

I shake it away—my higher self resisting it, swatting at it with my tail as if I were a horse with a fly on my hindquarters—my head writhing, my lips bristling.

“Hello?” The source of the invasion sounds from the bottom of the stairs. “Helloooooo…?”

Dad, I scowl in my head, please occupy yourself elsewhere. You seem to enjoy spending a great deal of time in the bathroom. Why not do that now?

He keeps calling helloooooo—as if my mother has gone beyond the 900-square foot perimeter of the second floor and escaped into some magical fairyland through the guest room crawlspace.

I lose patience at the sixth iteration and shout, showering my mother with spit. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph! We’re up here doing Wreck-ee!!!”

Things quiet down. Dad is mostly likely smoothing his balding head with his open hand in a gesture of acknowledgement. His loafers walk the rest of him down to the family room.

I hone my concentration back on Mom, breathe. She has, despite the disturbance, remained still and relaxed: a state of being that is the typical response to my father’s elaborate greeting and any of his inquiries, for that matter.

I continue doing the Reiki, envisioning golden energy entering and circulating in my mother’s body. When I squint an eye open to read the bedside clock and whisper that the twenty minutes are up, Mom awakens as if from a deep sleep. She begins to speak about her experience. Excitedly. A surge runs through my insides.

Was the Reiki a success?

I squeak out a smile. She isn’t aware of my nervousness; the punch of credibility her testimony could bear.

“Oh,” she begins, speaking softly. “When you placed your hands on my forehead, my mind quieted—the thoughts just scattered. I felt so peaceful.”

That’s totally what Reiki’s supposed to do, Mom! I want to say, clapping my hands together in praise.

Mom’s blinking at half-speed, astonished. “When you placed your hands on my stomach, your hands felt hot, almost too hot.” She sits up, her brow lifts. “When you held your hands around my ankle, a wave of energy radiated at my knee, shot down my shin and out my big toe!”

Yes, yes, Mom! That’s the healing energy of Reiki, not Wreck-ee! I want to say but afraid I’ll lose her in its mysticism. As I gaze at her poofy hair listing to one side and her incredulous grin, I feel something heavy disintegrating: a mountain crumbling.

 

What Happened When I Performed Reiki on My Conservative Mother was published in Elephant Journal.

My Dear Friend, the Dirty

Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off. ~ Raymond Chandler, author of the Big Sleep

The bliss in that first taste soothes my soul.

It’s six ounces of Ketel One vodka with a dribble of brine. Not the nasty liquid that comes out of an olive jar, but twice filtered brine from premium olives. This subtle saltiness takes the bite of the vodka down just a notch to pleasurable, an inviting clean crispness that sterilizes my insides and satisfies the palette like nothing else.

This drink and the art in making it is what symbolize the end of an arduous day, or not so arduous, a ritual nonetheless.

It’s a beautiful thing, the vodka martini. Even the word vodka sounds terribly exotic, so undeniably Russian. I’m wearing a sable hat, standing amid the tundra, my breath streaming before me in smoky condensation as I set my implements about—the cocktail shaker, ice, olives, pick, the 1.75-liter bottle that takes the support of my two hands to pour it.

How is it that I came to drinking dirty martinis? Gradually so clean one can no longer detect the color of the brine?

It stemmed from a stretch of unbearable time when I had been writing for seven years without any validation, an ounce of fruition.

I’d bleed all day long over the page, feel isolated long having abandoned my corporate career, determined to make something of myself writing. What I found in my dear friend, the dirty, was a form of self-medication—a crutch, a reward—the delightful anesthesia that numbed the anxiety of feeling like a failure, the taking of a wrong turn.

“Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

The thing, too, that’s commendable about drinking the dirty is it gets you to where you’re going. Fast. And instead of looking like a thirsty drunk, you can do the deed looking poised like Holly Golightly, long stem glass high in hand, three beautiful olives appearing larger than life through the condensation forming from the rim down where you’ve already sipped away.

The art, the sophistication, the ritual—its downright writerness.

I am a seasoned, one per night, quite functional vodka martini drinker. To some that may not sound bad, but I know what my physician would say and I’m staying clear of her examining room.

The margin, however, between quite functional and fully functional is a subject to be questioned.

Certainly, the gain is to be numbed from pain, some sort of intolerance for various fragments of life, the daily grind. The loss, in the slightest incremental stages that’s widening the margin, is found in a loose tongue and the voracious appetite that follows in the martini’s wake; the inability to read before bed, remember little things in the morning.

The loss, the slippery slope, is outweighing the gain.

It’s evidenced in my ever-expanding girth and my two arms, which now resemble loaves of bread. For the dirty, the escape it brings, frees me to consume a serving fit for Pat’s defensive tackle Alan Branch. Sugar and salt begets more sugar and salt.

And chicken parm tastes best when complemented by what?

A robust red wine—two glasses worth.

It’s stops there, right?

Nope.

With an overstuffed belly, a shot of Remy Martin in a handsome snifter comes afterward. I’ve had a love affair with food all my life, well-managed through biking my butt off, but throw in this consumption at my age, it’s gonna lead to the end of me.

Obese essayist dies of ever-consuming consumption: she drank and ate herself to death, despite what she’s thinks, not so artfully.

Shakti Gawain, a new age author, whose methods of creative visualization I practiced like a junky when I began writing, says of validation, “When we consistently suppress and distrust our intuitive knowingness, looking instead for authority, validation, and approval from others, we give our personal power away.”

Sorry Shakti, I just can’t buy that.

I’m wired differently, tethered to the physical. I do not trust my intuition; I don’t even think I have any. I need validation to keep on.

Once upon a time when no validation was coming, I delved into taking in cute and furry animals until a person of well intention adopted them. The vodka soothed my nerves, caring for the animals gave meaning to my life. I’d be hard pressed to count the number of lagomorphs and tiny whiskered fur balls that have moved through our home.

Validation is crucial to my existence.

But, wait.

There’s a change blowing in the proverbial wind—there’s no need to anesthetize myself to endure the operation of life. I’m quitting the vodka although I’m on the third bottle beyond the one that was to be my last.

I’m gearing up, you see.

Why, might you ask, am I “suddenly” willing to give up my dearest friend, the dirty? The beautiful thing that took me away from reality; facing the endless number of untethered days ahead of me?

Because my work is getting picked up. There’s the validation, all that I’ve been striving for. No more crutch needed.

Getting published, I find, tastes as clean and pleasing to the palette as the vodka.

And, by God, it’s healthier!

It is the dawning of my existence.

Right now I’m crafting another essay with my writing coach, someone who validated my existence long before I was born and frightfully knows me better than myself.

We have a lot of things in common she and I, except outside of writing, she’s not obsessed with the dirty—she’s obsessed with yoga.

Yoga sounds so wholesome, doesn’t it?

 

Elephant Journal published My Dear Friend, the Dirty in December 2014.