you’ve got to crack the chest wide open

wide open
fierce fashion
eiko ishioka

furtive doodles
i’m back

Eiko Ishioka

My favorite yoga teacher used to say, “you’ve got to crack the chest wide open,” while we were doing chest opening poses in class. This rather violent saying was a call to relish the pose, the feeling and results. And of course to be brave and open not just the chest, but the heart.

My father died in June, so I spent part of the summer in the Midwest. When I returned home, after the first trip, I was given a 2 hour Reiki session by a friend. Well, I admit to having less than positive feelings about Reiki in the past. 

I’m not “airy fairy,” I’m not a believer in miracles or magic, I don’t believe in the “laying on of hands.”

I prefer the stuff you can really feel. Yet I’m capable of appreciating subtleties, I know that at times they have a greater and more lasting impact than seemingly more powerful experiences. 

And there was no way I wasn’t going to take the opportunity to just be taken care of… 

At the Reiki practitioner’s office, I’m surrounded by the usual accoutrement of the holistic health community. But I’ve been around the ubiquitous Om symbols, mandala posters, and Buddha statues a lot, I’m used to them. 

Once they might have irritated me, but I’m tired and I’m experiencing some kind of odd mourning, and I’m a bit broken; that state mellows me and tempers the judgemental me. I tell myself to open my heart.

they’re all stories

I’m lying on the table, not overly sugary, new age music quietly fills the darkened room, as the practitioner starts to work, I begin to relax. 

I understand the power of touch, the touching/not touching, and I’m appreciating it. Slowly or quickly, I can’t really know, I’m, let’s call it “dreaming.”

Then, fast, pictures of my life come at me from all directions.

It’s as if someone threw a stack of photographs of my life up in the air and they’re dispersing like autumn leaves lifted by the wind, coming from above, from the periphery I sense with my closed eyes, skittering at my feet. 

My long gone mother, my recently deceased father, all of the places I’ve lived, and the places I’ve been, and me at every age and stage, in no specific order. Messy. When I told her I didn’t know what to call these “visions,” My therapist friend said, “they’re all stories.” 

Is that what our lives are, stories?

cheesy photo album

I have an old photo album that belonged to my parents. It’s very cheesy with some kind of animal print cover, held together with a frayed cord, it’s falling apart because it’s more than 70 years old and seen a few continents and many cities in our time together.

The photos in it are of my young parents’ lives and then of their early life together.

Some photographs were cut like hearts, my mother one lobe, my father the other.

There are pictures of them together, standing with my father’s arm around my mother, both of them looking into the far distance. 

My parents were both quite attractive. Even here, after fleeing from Latvia, refugees in a Displaced Persons Camp, you can see they have a sense of style and their own beauty. There are pictures of my mother, sitting by a stream, with her dress coyly revealing her shapely thigh. She, climbing a tree in the bathing suit she made.

They’re all stories.

no fear

To say a thought came to me, as I was lying on the table, wouldn’t be quite right. But the story continued. I was to put the photo album into my heart. I was to do that. I had no doubts.

So I slit the skin of my chest. I exposed the flesh. I cracked the chest wide open. I had no fear, and I put the album into my heart.

There are many religious and spiritual traditions where the iconography shows the chest opening, open, a bloody and often frightening mess. But we’re drawn to this strong visual imagery despite the mess. We’re drawn because we need it, it breaks down our feelings of invulnerability and permanence. 

Whether in love, or on the operating or Reiki practioner’s table, whether it’s the bleeding heart of Jesus or Ganesha we’re looking at, the heart exposed is a brush with death.

Invulnerability and permanence, just stories we will have to eventually abandon.

If you’re reading this the same way I might have done once, I don’t blame you. A sly smile, verging on a smirk? Overall skepticism? A willingness to indulge me because I was mourning, feeling broken? I expect nothing less. 

But I feel stronger for having this experience. I’m not sure it “proves” or shows anything, and I don’t really care. I suspect that it speaks to the power of vulnerability. I think it has a lot to do with staying open to possibilities. I know it’s about strength and resilience.  

the heart exposed

I’m not going to say what story I was telling myself or what was being told to me. All I know is that opening the heart is powerful and seldom the wrong thing to do. And while I did not have an immediate, emotional connection to the Reiki practioner, and I may never see her again, I’m grateful to her for facilitating my story.


“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”

-Ernest Hemingway

fierce fashion

Fierce, it’s a term that is en vogue. Women are wearing t-shirts with just the word Fierce on them. Women are being called fierce because they dare to model a bikini even though they’re what was once called exclusively, “plus size.”  

Fierce fashion, I like fierce fashion. To me, fierce fashion is anything that steps just over the line from “edgy.” It’s sometimes a whole outfit, at other times just a single piece of jewelry.

Fierce fashion is what makes people turn and then turn again, and wonder, “could I wear that”.

Most of the time the answer to that question is yes. I always say, you just have to know how.  

The stuff of fierce fashion is leather, metal, lots of sharp edges, menswear, a certain slice of eyeliner, and of course black, and red. Belts, bustiers, and collars can be fierce, and so can bald or nearly bald heads. More about those coming soon.

Eiko Ishioka costume, photo: Erik Bergrin

Fierce and mysterious, feminine, a costume by Eiko Ishioka moves me.

Fierce and modern. Would you wear it?

furtive doodles

My friend Jen: career coach, writer, and Narrative Medicine student is also a doodler. I don’t know how she has energy left over after everything she does, but she does. Well, actually I do.

If you’re curious and you’ve ever had to wonder about and question the side effects listed on your medicine bottles, take a look at her Instagram feed, Furtive Doodles. It’s funny!

 i’m back

I’m back after a long hiatus. I’m definitley feeling different, but I’m not sure what that difference is. If it’s good, I hope it shows. Thank you to all of you who have stuck with me over time. It means more than you can know. 




  • Leslie says:

    Your first piece about ‘opening’ — I’m crying here. My eyeliner is not thanking you. But beautiful.

  • Brigita Stroda says:

    Thank you, more than you can know!

  • Barbara says:

    I’m so glad your Reiki experience gave you that gift. I love the image of the photographs floating in the air. And I truly believe they are all stories; hopefully many of them will make you smile.

  • Brikka says:

    Lovely to have you back. Warmest wishes to you.

  • Ann Hollandsworth says:

    You are nothing short of Smart and Fabulous! I learn so many things from your wonderful writing. It jumps off of the page and I enjoy it so!
    Yes, I would wear that red and black dress, in a heartbeat I would twirl in that dress proudly!
    I realllllly relate to your description in rolling around in the mud having been raised in a “proper” family. I could feel myself rolling around in the mud with my mother’s finger in my face saying, “You’re not showing any manners.” Oh the memories that came flooding back from my childhood!
    Thank you for who you are Anita! You’re helping to shape who I am when I thought that could no longer be done!

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