New layers of old lessons

When I was in elementary and middle school, I was not remotely assertive.  I had a horrible group of manipulative friends.  They told me off just for the fun of it and were downright mean.  I was shy and insecure and for a very long time I just took it.  Eventually, I began to mimick them and I remember one day telling the one girl off because she was being obnoxious, but it wasn’t me being assertive.  It was just me being mean, and while I gained the respect of a few for having done so, it didn’t feel good.

In junior high, I had a new “best friend” but she was just as manipulative as the girls from elementary school.  She always had to be the center of attention, would do stupid things to gain that limelight, and she frequently betrayed my trust.  By the time 9th grade rolled around, I was done.  We were on a band trip in Virginia and coming back on a charter bus after having been on some tour.  She was staring up at the reading light pretending to be tripping on drugs.  It was ridiculous, but people do a lot of ridiculous things in 9th grade.  When we arrived back at our motel, I didn’t wait for her before getting off the bus.  She eventually caught up to me and asked what was wrong.  I cooly told her nothing was wrong.  She asked why I was mad at her. I, again cooly, said I wasn’t. She continued asking me these questions, and when we got up to the room we were sharing, she once more asked why I was mad at her.  I told her I wasn’t mad at her, but that I didn’t want to be friends with her anymore.  I spent the next five minutes telling her I was sick of her mistreating me, that I didn’t deserve it, and that I didn’t want anything to do with her anymore.  Adrenaline coursed through my veins as I stood up for myself for quite possibly the first time ever.  That was me being assertive.

After that, asserting myself became easier, but it feels like somewhere along the line, there was a break.  I hadn’t realized it happening, but I began noticing it when guys would ask for my phone number, and though I didn’t want to give it to them, I would.  I notice it much more now when dealing with my parents.  I hadn’t realized my difficulty with them as a lack of assertiveness, but I just started reading a book for one of my classes that has helped me to identify it as such.  The book is called “When I Say No, I Feel Guilty” (Smith, 1975).  At the very beginning of the book, the author lists what he terms “A Bill of Assertive Rights.”   They are as follows:

I.  You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts, and emotions, and to take responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.

II.  You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behavior

III.  You have the right to judge if you are responsible for finding solutions to other people’s problems.

IV.  You have the right to change your mind

V. You have the right to make mistakes – and be responsible for them

VI.  You have the right to say, “I don’t know.”

VII.  You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them

VIII.  You have the right to be illogical in making decisions

IX.  You have the right to say, “I don’t understand.”

X. You have the right to say, “I don’t care.”

You have the right to say no, without feeling guilty.

As I was reading through them, I was struck by numbers II, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, and X, particularly concerning my parents.  They have continually warned me throughout my life of others manipulating me, and yet, after looking through these and reading the first 30 pages of this book, that is exactly how they treat me.  I was so relieved when I read, “If parents…want something, they have the power to make their grown sons and daughters feel like anxious little children” (p. 3).  Ahh!! Other people deal with this, too!?!  Other people’s parents treat them like mine treat me!?  And when I say this, I come from a place of sincere ignorance and gratitude of realizing how not alone I am in this. I have always felt the need to explain and justify my decisions to my parents and have always felt small in some measure when I feel unable to do so, when I cannot communicate and know that they understand what I am saying.  Now, I realize that I don’t have to!  What an amazingly fabulous feeling!

As this year comes to a close with Samhain being only 8 days away, I know that this is something I sincerely want to work on for the coming year.  I want to find that elemental balance of being able to calmly and clearly stand up for and assert myself.

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Time for change

As Samhain quickly approaches, I’ve been thinking about the changes I want to bring in to my life, my Self, and my relationships during the coming year.  What do I want to start doing more of, what do I want to do less of, how do I want to be with the significant people in my life, what thought patterns and behavior patterns do I want to demolish, revise, and reconstruct.  Change, it’s just in the air all around us.

I’ve spent most of my adult life detesting politics.  I felt that they brought out the worst in people.  I’ve never preached about politics before and when they’ve come up in conversations, I usually avoid the topic or leave.  For me, that has begun to change this year and with this election.  Never before have I looked at a candidate and truly believed them and/or in them.  Never before have I seen a candidate so grounded and balanced.  Never before have I seen a candidate with the amazing energy of Barack Obama. It feels to me like our country is hanging in a balance as we get closer to the 2008 elections.

A friend of mine recently told me that when she looked at McCain/Palin, she saw the Patriarchy and everything it embodies.  I hadn’t thought of it previously, but I completely agreed with her comment after I looked at it.  Today I was reading CNN.com and came upon an article in which McCain quite clearly proved it himself in saying this about himself and his VP running mate: “She is a direct counterpoint to the liberal feminist agenda for America…She’s a reformer. She’s a conservative. She’s the best thing that could have happened to my campaign and to America.” Liberal feminist agenda?  You mean the one that wants men and women to be equal?  To gain equal pay for equal work?  The one that wants to demolish the glass ceiling and everything it stands for?  I couldn’t stand Palin from the beginning, particularly after I learned she had a priest pray over her before she was elected as governor to protect her from witchcraft, but this is just disgusting.  And it seriously saddens me to see the reality that there are so many women out there who have internalized the patriarchy that condemns them as unequal, as less than, and stand right there beside it defending it.

Are we ready as a country for the patriarchy to begin crumbling?  Goddess, I hope so.  I think about what I’ve learned in my classes about change, about how one needs to experience a certain amount of pain associated with the way things are and have been before change becomes a viable option, one that looks remotely appealing to even be considered. I know I’ve had enough, and I’m praying that enough of the American people are standing beside me feeling the same thing.

Though I have a hard time believing I have any republican readers, please, take a look at this video.  I found it to be so compelling and so moving.  Obama might be a few points ahead in the polls, but change does not happen when we sit back and think it’ll come on its own, when we feel like we’ve done a few things and now it’s all downhill from here, when we get complacent. What kind of change do you want to bring into our country?

Taking my own advice

Signmom published a post a few days ago about Mabon, how this is the time of year to review the past 365 or so days as Samhain approaches and brings with it a new year, a time to take stock at what one has accomplished and what has been left undone or not reached completion, a time to reflect on the path one has traveled. I commented on her blog challenging her to look at not only what was left undone but what was accomplished, what growth took place.  I decided it was a good idea to take my own advice, so I started looking at my blog and where and who I was this time last year and reflect on what all has happened since then.

To say that a great deal has changed for me, with me, and in me over the past year would be, I feel, a gross understatement.  Last year at this time, I was learning lessons that I just realized about 5 minutes ago I had forgotten over the course of the year and only began relearning recently, some just within the past 6 wks.  Most of them were huge, life-changing lessons.   I forgot them at some point along the way like I was suffering from amnesia or something.  As I read my own words, a realization began settling into place that I had spoken briefly about, alluded to, last October that has only within the past several weeks begun to be clear to me once more: although I am a student and I am (content, now, with being) imperfect, although I am always learning and growing, although there is far more that I don’t know than that which the Momma has taught me either Herself or through others, I am not without something to share.  Eek – even writing these words I hear a voice in my head saying that I am being too daring, too audacious, presumptuous, and egotistical to utter them; a voice that says I should doublecheck with certain people in my life to get their approval and validation before even publishing this post.  But I say this, not from a place of ego, but from a place of recognition at how I have grown, from a place of gratitude and feeling honored and humbled that I would be given something to share with others.  And I remember the adage that everyone has something to teach someone.  This is something that I have struggled with for a considerable time.  Constantly looking outside my Self for wisdom, for learning, for information, insight, guidance and all the while, putting others above me, fixing them atop pedestals, thinking (of my own accord) that they were “better” than me is a pattern I have participated in for longer than I can remember. A pattern that, as this year draws to a close, I choose to allow to end.

A wise woman once told me that it is important, as we travel our paths, to not only look at how far we feel we need to go, but to honor how far we have come.  I look back on this past year, and it feels to me as though I had reached a certain point on my path and then veered off, moving backward, forgetting significant pieces of wisdom and knowledge as I allowed my Self to get bogged down and disoriented by challenges I faced, dreams I lost, and pain I experienced, only to slowly circle back and reach that point again recently, changed.  Some times we need to move backward and lose our way in order to truly find our Selves.  Although there is a part of me that wonders where I would be today if I had not backtracked and become a bit lost, I feel that dwelling on that thought bears no significant and meaningful fruit.  That was simply where I was at the time.

Over the last year, I have learned a lot and I have probably forgotten more.  I have been shaken. I have had my ass kicked by the Momma more times than I care to count and, thankfully, I have grown as a result.  My world has been turned upside down by love. I have lost dreams and gained new ones. I have worked magick successfully and unsuccessfully. I have stumbled and fallen flat on my face. I have risen to try again.  I have died.  I have been reborn.  I have lost my power.  I have uncovered it again.  And still, I am becoming, unfolding, and awakening.

A story

A long time ago, there lived a very little girl whose parents loved her very much.  Loving her as much as they did, they gave her a special pair of shoes to support and protect her feet and carry her through her life.  The shoes they gave her were identical to the ones they wore which supported and protected them so well, they wanted to provide her with the same gift.  The shoes were meant to grow with her as she got older.

As the little girl began to grow up, her shoes given to her by her parents kept her safe and supported her, but even before the girl began to realize it, something about the shoes was a little bit off.  The little girl would spy other shoes or bits and pieces of shoes other people wore that jumped out at her, and secretly, she longed for those bits and pieces of other shoes, though she was told by her parents those shoes were bad and only bad people wore them.  Though she didn’t understand how that could be, she loved her parents very much and trusted more in what they told her than what her own heart did.

As the years tumbled by, the girl became more aware of how her shoes didn’t quite fit right.  They rubbed at her feet and felt uncomfortable at times.  She looked around her at all the people she knew who wore the same shoes, and noticed they didn’t seem uncomfortable, their shoes which were identical to hers seem to fit fine.  She began to become concerned and sought the advice and wisdom of those people, asking them her questions about her shoes that rubbed her feet in a way that left her uncomfortable.  Alas, she was told that her shoes fit just fine and that the rubbing was good for her feet and would form her feet to fit her shoes better.  She sighed inwardly, confused as to how that could be.  She began to think something was wrong with her feet that they did not fill her shoes out right.  She tried to put it out of her mind and tried to believe that what she had been told was true.  She held on to the hope that one day, her shoes would fit the way they seemed they were supposed to.

But no matter how much she tried to put her uncomfortable shoes out of her mind, her attention kept returning to them like a moth to flame.  Something was not quite right.  She became frustrated at the answers of those wise people she sought for advice, and as she grew older, she started to take her shoes off some times.  It felt good to give her feet room to breathe, though she knew the dangers of walking through her life without shoes of any kind. Soon, she was keeping her shoes off almost all the time.  She tucked them away in a corner of her closet.  Without her shoes, she danced and ran and played, and though she missed the support her shoes offered her, she kept right on dancing, running, and playing.

Soon, though, the girl’s feet began to ache from the lack of any support at all.  She got cuts on her feet as she wandered paths her shoes would never take her.  After a while, she realized that she was in pretty bad shape.  A bit lost and more confused than ever, she knew she needed shoes.  She thought about her shoes tucked away in her closet – they were the only shoes she had ever known.  Determined to somehow make those shoes fit, she dragged them out of the closet and put them on her feet.  At first, it felt comforting to be in her old shoes.  They were familiar, she knew them.  She knew the path they would take her on.  But before long, she began to realize that they fit even worse than they had before.  In a different land, now, she again sought the wisdom of others.  She found a person whose shoes looked similar to hers but had a few differences.  This person took one look at her shoes and said, of course they don’t fit you!  Then, she helped the girl make some adjustments to her shoes by adding some new material and helping the girl learn to walk in a slightly different way, a walk that had a bounce to its step.  The girl began to feel better, her shoes were more comfortable than they had possibly ever been.  But something was still a little off. These newly redecorated shoes still had the same sole as the others and the girl began to notice that it was the sole that provided the support for the shoe and her feet.

Time continued to roll by, but the experience of having slightly different shoes gave her the courage to begin looking at other shoes – shoes that were completely different from the ones her parents who loved her so much had given her.  It was a frightening undertaking at first, considering shoes completely different than those from her parents.  What would they say when they saw them on her feet?  But the girl persevered because she was now more convinced than ever that her original shoes were not for her.  And in her persevering, she remembered those flashes of the beautiful shoes she had seen when she was little – the ones her parents had told her were bad.  She examined these shoes in earnest and saw that, though they were very different from her parents’ shoes, they were not bad.  She felt drawn to them.  Soon, the girl’s courage grew even more, and she decided she would create her own shoes.  She found parts from a variety of different shoes that called her attention, and she used the support and sole from the shoes her parents thought were bad and found that they fit perfectly to her feet.  Slowly, she began sewing and crafting shoes of her very own with her very own hands and her very own spirit, specially designed for her feet to support her, carry her, dance her, run her, and play her through her life, all the while leading her exactly where she was meant to go so she could become exactly who it was she was meant to be.

As time went on, she noticed these shoes magically adapted as she continued to grow the way she was told her old shoes would but hadn’t.  She added pieces, took pieces off, but each time she noticed that her shoes reflected who she was, who she was becoming, and though the path she walked with them was not an easy one, she took comfort in the fact that she was going where she was meant to go and she had all the support she would ever need, crafted from her very own hands and her very own spirit.

Opportunity ‘a knockin’…

I discussed in my previous post about how stumbles and mistakes I make along my path and life were really opportunities for learning and growth.  Over the past two days, opportunity has come ‘a knocking on my door.  About a week or so ago, I did a tarot reading that informed me I would be experiencing a loss of health and/or money in order to learn a lesson and that the lesson would be less painful if I saw it as such and tried to understand it.  Shortly after that, I noticed I was coughing more, my glands in my throat were a little swollen, but other than that, no further symptoms.  I remembered from my tarot reading that part of this was to force me to slow down and spend some time in reflection; however, I was pursuing a training outside of school that would last the whole weekend, so there was only so much slowing down I could do.

Then, Monday night, I experienced some car issues.  I would need to wait until Tuesday morning to get my car to the shop and as I was sitting and having coffee that day, I was chatting with the Momma, and I knew that this experience concerned the lesson mentioned in my tarot reading.  She told me that my job was to not freak out when I learned how much it would cost to fix my car, that I had the money to pay for it, though I didn’t want to spend it.  I was working hard to be open to learning this lesson and to being friends with the Now, as Eckhart Tolle puts it, and didn’t flinch (though inwardly I took a deep breath) when my mechanic gave me the total for the repairs my car needed.  My car wouldn’t be done until probably toward the end of today.

He gave me a ride home yesterday, and I was still maintaining myself, but as the day wore on, it got harder, and I eventually slipped up.  I kept repeating to myself “This, too, shall pass” and I knew that I was not supposed to explain my car situation in detail to two people I talked to on the phone, but I felt this overwhelming urge to do so.  And I did.  I was triggered again when I went to the store up the street to buy a few groceries and the idea of spending money sent my stomach into more knots.  I tried to get myself back on track, reminding myself that this was a lesson, that the Momma would take care of me, as I filtered through some ideas as to what this lesson could be.  By the evening, I was feeling all sorts of crappy.  And I was looking forward to hitting my reset button when I went to sleep last night.

When I got up this morning and took my coffee and cigarettes outside on my balcony, I noticed I felt considerably better.  I thought back to yesterday and to the compelling urge to tell those two people about my car issues and saw that I was complaining.  I wanted them to know what I was going through very much with the energy of, “poor me, pity me!”; in other words, victim energy.  I saw that that was hardly being friends with the Now, nor was it congruent with the attitude of, “this, too, shall pass” and a lack of judging my situation.  I hadn’t before put together the fact that complaining in any form is victim energy manifesting and thus totally ego-driven.  I started to think about how much I complain, how much I judge situations I am involved in.  I remembered what one of the instructors of my training said about how when we judge something, we lower our vibration and level of consciousness.  I thought back to the parables Tolle recounts in A New Earth, about the Buddhist master that continually said, “Is that so?”, and the man who consistently replied, “Maybe” when people informed him of either his good or bad luck, and the king that sought enlightenment and was given a ring by a Buddhist master that bore the inscription I’d been trying to repeat to myself: “This, too, shall pass” – a message to consider when facing any situation and to be looked at before judging anything as positive or negative.  And it began to click and come together for me.  And that feeling of calm and peace I had when my car first started having issues Monday night and that I’d had throughout the day Monday when I was kayaking with friends and feeling at peace with everything going on in my life returned.  I felt my vibration heighten as I began to be able to detach myself from this situation and embrace this lesson.