Life lessons in linguistics

A few months ago I began studying Italian via Rosetta Stone software. For the most part I love the software. Languages come pretty easily to me to begin with (for which I am hugely grateful because I love learning them), and the intuitive nature of the software is, for the most part, convenient and meshes well with how I learn. Being a stay-at-home mom, my schedule is erratic and time to myself is pretty minimal, so I haven’t exactly been able to work with it in as disciplined of a fashion as I’d like. Shortly after beginning Italian, I started to miss speaking French (the second language I learned). I studied it throughout high school, college, and then lived in the country for just under two years, but have lost a lot since my return. So when the computer that the Italian software was on crashed, I took the opportunity to start working with an intermediate/advanced French grammar and vocab book I checked out of the library. Earlier today, I went through and completed all the exercises in the first chapter of the book – a somewhat frustrating experience as I struggled to remember words, proper spelling, grammatical structure, etc. After I finished (and had made flash cards for verbs I’d forgotten, good little student that I am) and several hours passed, one word keeps coming up in my brain. I hear it spoken in my mind at random intervals. The word is céder, to yield.

Because, in my experience, the things that crop up like that are not typically coincidental, I sat with that a minute. Yield. A number of things come up. Synonyms, foremost being ‘surrender’ (a lesson whose levels I’ve been working on – and will probably continue to work on – for a long time).  Questions – to whom (duh – Momma and Papa)? Yield what (probably another duh – uh, me, everything)? In English, ‘yield’ sounds like such a harsh, forceful word. The beginning of it requiring a push from the back of the throat to get it out; the “ee” sound that follows invoking a sense of nervousness, tension, apprehension, anxiety; and, the awkward combination of the consonants ‘l’ and ‘d’ at the end requiring great linguistic intention to annunciate fully. I find that pronouncing the word in English parallels my own experience in moving through the lesson of Surrender with the Divine – challenging, full of tension and anxiety, awkward. And yet, complete surrender, and, therefore, Oneness with the Divine IS our natural state. So why has my experience with it been fraught with such negativity?

The French, on the other hand, is a totally different story. Céder. Despite being one syllable longer than its English translation, the first part of the word flows off the tongue like water or a sigh, its phonetic pronunciation of “se” (like the English word ‘set’ without the ‘t’). The second syllable, ‘dae’ with its ‘d’ firm – yet not harsh – followed by the long ‘a’ vowel sound, cushioned with a gentle, open finish (like the ‘a’ in ‘ate’, but without the ‘t’ at the end), is like a mother’s solid but gentle hand around her child. When I hear it, it carries the softness of a whisper with reserves upon reserves of strength. Céder. I want to curl up in it, feel it wrap around me because that kind of gentle, wise strength could only create the most comforting safety. And there we have it. What it both takes to surrender to the Divine (some crazy ass strength, an owning of our own will and the gentle yet firm release and relinquishing of it) as well as what is offered in the surrender itself (Divine and Supreme Care and Safety, the likes of which exist nowhere else). The English word ‘cede’ is similar, and that makes me think of its homonym, seed. A seed is not forceful or dictatorial. Yet, it contains within it enormous potential (for instance, just think of a redwood tree).

I got curious about the etymology of the word ‘yield’ and looked it up online, English being such a hodge-podge language that it is. Among the root words from which it is speculated to come is the Old Norse gjaldo, meaning “to repay, return.” And isn’t that what surrender is? A return? Return to Source, to Divinity? A reunion, but one that is, ideally, lived every day? Chosen every moment?

I’ve had a hard time thinking of it and conceptualizing it like that – because a return and reunion with Source lived with each breath of my body sounds downright blissful – and perhaps part of my problem has been the language in which I’ve considered the lesson. Yield, as previously discussed, but even surrender. The latter brings to my mind images of war and/or a half-life in captivity or shame, capitulation, failure. Perhaps at this point, you may think that I’m overthinking this whole thing. And though that may be partially true (it is a tendency of mine, after all), we throw words around in our society to the extent that they lose their power on the surface. But not in our internal world. Our internal world – the one to which we’re more often than not oblivious – retains the memory of the essence of those words. And the language we use to make sense of and give meaning to the world around us and our interactions with it has great power. Like gravity, we don’t need to believe in it or know exactly how it works for it to be very real and effective.

One of the things I’ve learned over the last few years is that so much of life is simply about perspective, how we choose to view things or think about them. I’ve been blessed with a gift for learning languages and the opportunities through which I am able to use that gift. Perhaps if I can look at this lesson with which I’ve struggled through new eyes and with new language (céder) that bears completely different connotations for me, my movement through it will be smoother.

In France, the street sign equivalent to the American ‘yield’ sign is sometimes just the familiar upside down red and white triangle , but often, it also reads “Cedez le passage.” Most interpreters advise against direct translation and that’s a general good rule of thumb; but, sometimes direct translations provide insights we would otherwise miss. Cedez le passage, translated directly means ‘Yield the passage, or way.’ What if I stopped trying to force my own way or passage onto or on my life and just took a side step? What amazing things could grow from my having ceded, and therefore, seeded the way?

What about you?

 

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Why, What, How – huh?

Up until probably the last two years or so, I was a big supporter of the question, “Why?” I asked it all the time and about pretty much everything. I was convinced that the answers held the keys to everything I thought I needed and wanted. I first began to be broken of this habit during an extreme financial and family crisis. When you consistently wonder, for a prolonged period of time (i.e., months at least), if you’re going to end up homeless or how to possibly feed a family of 6 on about $10, you stop asking, “Why?” There is no more time for why. Why becomes wholly irrelevant. Facing any major crisis is like being on fire. It isn’t helpful to wonder why you caught on fire because if you do then you’re spending energy there instead of just putting the damn fire out. The important questions then become, “How?” or “What?” as in, “How can I put this fire out?” and “What can I use to accomplish that most quickly?” etc.

On a spiritual level, “Why?” is completely incongruent with the practice of surrender, of trust, and faith. Just like when you’re a little kid, even the most ideal parents will train you to just follow directions some times. My wife and her husband trained our girls like that because, God and Goddess forbid that in any dangerous situation they would hesitate when given directions instead of immediately following them without question (obviously, this practice could be and is abused by bad parents but we’ll leave that discussion for another time). I’m convinced the Divine operates the same way.

I don’t know if it’s because we have averted most of the crises facing us or they’re at least not raging fires but little piles of smoldering ash now, but at some point over the last several months I started asking Momma and Papa that question again. Like an obnoxious 4 year old, I would rattle on and on, “Why aren’t You telling me what my career is supposed to be?” “Why have You stopped me so many times in the middle of pursuing a career?” “Why do I have such a hard time with selfishness? “Why is it such work for me to have to remember the needs and wants of other people and focus on them instead of just my own?” “Why couldn’t I be one of those people that just knows what they want to do with their life with such conviction and goes after it?” “Why have I had and why am I still having such a hard time figuring out who I am?” Ugh. On and on and on and on. Interspersed in there, of course, was a lot of, “What am I supposed to be doing right now?” “What am I supposed to be doing long-term?” “What is my purpose?” Thank goodness that Momma and Papa are Patience because when I started piecing this all together yesterday, even I wanted to smack me upside the head. But then the craziest thing happened, and it began slowly some time last week. They started giving me answers. And here’s the part that’s even more astonishingly crazy: having the answers to all those questions didn’t do a damn thing other than lead to me feeling stupid, guilty, and overwhelmed. It fixed nothing. And, of course, as soon as I began to get the answers, my questions shifted to “What” and “How?” and I found myself saying, “WHY isn’t helping me!!!” Oh, hey! *Lightbulb moment*

Now, I don’t know about you, but I had to sit with that for a while (that’s what happens some times when you’re hardheaded like I am). And as I sat in that space, Momma explained – and not because I asked! – that it was the only way I was going to learn that ‘Why’ is, for the most part, a waste of time. And energy. Then I saw a pattern. When They gave me what I told Them I wanted, I wanted something else. Back when I was working full time, I complained about having to do the work of figuring out who I am and all the other stuff that goes with that at the same time, and wouldn’t it be nice to not have to work and have more time to devote to working simply on me? And I saw that as soon as I had that (now and since we moved), I’ve been complaining about not knowing what path my career should be heading down, and why can’t I just get on with that? It’s the same thing with the Why’s. I’d been asking Why (instead of What or How), and They’d been telling me the What and How. Then when They started to tell me the Why’s (totally unhelpful, but exactly what I’d been bugging Them about), I’d shifted to the What and Hows. Kind of a grass being greener type thing which stems from a lack of gratitude, but also a lack of trust.

So, in light of all of that, I am committing myself to surrender, to trust, and sticking with the Whats and Hows. I hope to report super happy fabulousness shortly on this new venture!

Enter the White Room

I am currently in a space that I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever been in before. It is a still and quiet space and it is full of emptiness. How can a space be full of emptiness?  Honestly, I don’t know how that works either, but I know that it is. Why do we characterize emptiness as a “bad” thing? I know that in my own head (a dangerous place to spend too much time) when I say the word ’empty’, the emotional response that first pops up is sadness, but in a variety of flavors and intensities. And when I step back and observe it non-judgmentally, it is like rice paper. Thin, flimsy, filmy, and a little dingey and dirty. Like an old white t-shirt that the washing machine can no longer restore to its initial brilliance. That tells me that it is not Truth. At least not all the time, and certainly not in this instance. This emptiness is clean and crisp, like a fresh canvas or maybe more accurately, like a fresh bulk of sculpting clay, waiting. And its silence is a music all to itself.

I sit in this white, crisp and clean fresh room/space, and I acknowledge that I – not my True Self, but all the crap I have piled on top of that brilliant and radiant Essence that I know is buried under here somewhere – am making myself miserable; not to mention, I imagine, making the people who love me anyway, crazy. It is a consclusion that I first reached last night. This I – the crap piled on top of Me, I – has sought transformation, half-heartedly, many times. But, again, when I step back, it looks like those attempts have just pasted shiney pieces on top of the crap. But the shiney pieces don’t stay shiney, and soon, they just look like everything else, and no real change has occured. It’s like setting out on a path to an amazing destination, but convincing myself that the directional signs I encounter point the exact opposite way they really do and so I’ve walked around in circles and, of course, end up right where I started.  The result is that I feel more confused, disoriented, exhausted, discouraged, and frustrated altogether.

So last night (I think it may have been when I was lying in bed before I fell asleep but I’m not entirely sure), I recognized myself as being right back at that same starting point, except this time, I also recognized that little bit I mentioned above about making myself miserable. Possibly for the first time ever, I admitted that to myself. Always before, I would point to circumstances around and outside of me – people, situations, my bank account balance (a consistent favorite of mine), etc. Events over the past few days had catapaulted that little fact into my consciousness. My response to a gentle and inordinately patient prompt from my wife as to what I needed the other night when I’d  thrown a temper tantrum about not having eggs in the house and had come back after having gotten them (I had started to bake chocolate chip cookies and ended up driving out to go get them in an energetically violent huff) was a personality transplant. You mean me, she asked? No – I need one, I had responded, as I journaled the ridiculousness of my outburst so as to not put any of that shit into the cookies I still planned to bake. I am telling you, if we were Roman Catholic, my wife would have been canonized years ago. Her response was to pick up our sea salt grinder and immediately shower me in the stuff.  Back to last night, though. After acknowledging that I make me miserable, I informed Momma that I think I might finally be at that point where I am willing to truly and irrevocably change. Not like any of the myriad times before, but completely different. I also told Her that I knew it might be a difficult road, and that I would need Her help to tap into that crazy-oomphy-Divine Will that’s buried somewhere in my core that I struggle to access on a conscious level but seem to be able to do fine when it’s completely unconscious and unintentional. Please, please, please, I begged. Help me to do this. After I’d woken up (not just the physical part of that, but, you know, my brain was awake), and I stopped to breathe a moment, I found myself here. In this white and beautifully empty-filled room.

I did a spiral journey reading with my Goddess amulets revealing my gifts and talents; my childhood wishes; my secrets; my pleasures and treasures; my anger, fear and sadness; my body, mind, and spirit; and, my Future Self. Then I went outside to smoke a cigarette. Outside, I closed my eyes and saw myself in the white room. As I sat there, I don’t remember if I was trying to figure out what my next step needed to be, if I had asked a question. But I saw a vision of myself reaching down and the floor of that space opened as I reached. Vision-me reached for my Self – the one that I’ve buried under all the crap – and an arm came up to grab my arm. My Self’s arm. Vision-me told my Self that I didn’t think I was strong enough to pull Me up from under all the crap. Vision-me didn’t have enough weight or substance to do it. Then I thought that maybe that wasn’t the answer anyway. As soon as I entertained that notion, the idea that this me simply needed to be devoured by Me and then partake in that alchemical process of transmuting all the crap and be the only one left standing. For a moment (probably out of fear that the notion of being devoured inspired), I entertain other possibilities and analogies to get to this same destination. There are none. I know this on a visceral level, more clearly than I know my own name.

All of this I could see happening in this vision in the white room, and where I am now is standing in that white room, starting to bend over. The floor has not yet begun opening up, My arm has not yet reached out toward me, to pull me under and devour me completely. I will because the idea of being consumed in that way by my Self both terrifies me and excites and arouses me on every level imaginable and promises to be ecstatic in a way that I have never experienced before. How could I possible turn down a promise like that? Better yet, why the hell would I? No, I will not turn it down.  I simply wanted to pause in this moment, to record this moment as I stand on the precipice of such ecstasy after having inflicted such misery and pain upon myself while it is still pooling around my feet with the sensation of it gripping my ankles with its cold and meely fingers because I know that whatever lies ahead – and for once, I am not attempting to predict it or imagine it, to set an expectation or prepare myself in any way – will be full of the kind of beauty that speaks directly to and of Life. That beauty that a Mother sees and stands in awe of as She watches Her child grow and stumble and make mistakes and get up and learn. The beauty that is so True that the only response is in the language of tears. And I hope that some day, I will look back on this, and I will see that beauty not only in the step I intend to take shortly here, but in the thousands of circular steps that have brought me to where I am now, with all their pain and stubbornness and hardheadedness and determination and folly and arrogance and selfishness and close-mindedness. I honor those steps, as I honor the one I am about to take, and I express gratitude and hope as I lean forward to be devoured by my Self.

I never promised you…coherence

After I had received my emailed copy of Grace’s post today (I have a subscription to her blog), I had written a scathing diatribe of a post about Horace Bushnell and his ideas about hardship and inspiration. Being intimately familiar with hardship, particularly over the course of the past couple years, I felt bitter, angry, and annoyed that someone could imply that inspiration was automatically linked to hardship and not an act of transmutation – something that requires conscious choice, intention, and a great deal of work. In the end, I deleted it. I still feel miffed about the quote, but I could see no healing or benefit in sharing my extensive angry words with the public, and I didn’t like how jaded and bitchy it made me sound. Sure I might have moments, but they’re just that – moments. With everything I have gone through over this crises-filled time, that is still not a reflection of who I am at my core. I am proud of that.

I haven’t had much energy for blogging recently. And when I have had energy, I haven’t been able to think of much to say. My own thoughts have been so disjointed and the kind of coherent that’s only somewhat coherent to me that I didn’t know where to begin to try to form them into some type of meaning that could be understood by anyone else. I’ve wanted to write and have toyed with the idea of some creative writing, maybe taking pieces of my own story to create a work of fiction that could be healing for others. But each time I think about it, I wonder where I would take the story, how I would resolve the conflicts I could see myself weaving in to the plotline, and I have nothing. Perhaps because it feels like little is resolved in my own conflicts from which I’d borrow or simply because I need more space from where I am. Either way, it’s not happening now. I like the idea, though, of writing in the future.

I wrote ago (at some point) about how I was dedicated to only writing from a truly authentic, raw, and present space; and, while I don’t think I am going against that now, I also don’t see how writing here and sharing the darkness of the spaces I’ve been in recently could be helpful to others. Or at least I don’t know how to share that in a way that would communicate the strength and faith I have within me as well so that it wouldn’t simply be depressing and draining for anyone who read the posts.

One thing I do want to share, though, is that in the midst of all of this, I have bumped up against one of my biggest issues (or at least, one of my known biggest issues) – being my Self. I hate how just plain icky it sounds to point the finger at my parents for my issues, and I think that there comes a point when that’s just tacky and irresponsible coming from a 30 year old woman (like, I should have fixed this by now, right?), but it is what it is, and if it makes me sound tacky and irresponsible, so be it. My parents communicated to me from a very young age via mostly passive agressive and indirect ways, that parts of my self were unacceptable. The fact that other parts were totally fine only served to create confusion, I think. I don’t know many conservative Christians who are comfortable with raw sensuality (my parents were certainly not the exception to that rule), and I had bucketloads of it since before I could form coherent sentences. My parents also struggled with my fascination with all things mystical. Both were stamped out and forced to be buried. So if it wasn’t okay to be me, I had to put on something else. I’ve been doing it ever since.

Since we got together, it’s driven my wife insane (not that it was exactly intentional on my part), especially because I’ve spent a good portion of the last 3 1/2 years putting pieces of her on, a lot of which don’t fit me at all and she is a fiercely independent woman. Recently, I had a chat with Momma about the whole thing, after I realized I’d left the “me” out of my spirituality and, most everywhere else in my world. I’ve been doing this for so long, I told Her, how was I supposed to find me in all the mess and be that? Her response was (I think) super cool. She told me it took far more energy for me to fight the natural state of who I am by putting all these other people on than it did for me to simply be me. The solution? It was something I don’t know if I’ve ever heard from Her before – stop working so hard. It made me think of the Buffy episode where Xander gets split in half into two versions of himself and, in the end, Willow explains that his natural state was to be one Xander – the spell was the only thing working so hard to keep him split in two. So she just says something like, “The spell is endeth” and poof! One Xander.

The other piece of this that’s been very cool is that Momma and Papa have started to give me traits that do truly reflect who I am. I started a running list in case I start being dumb again in the future. The instances over the past week or so when I have acted from those traits, it’s felt like slipping into a pair of shoes that fit perfectly. It’s like my whole Self just sighs in contentment with the rightness of it. A very yummy feeling.

So, I’m still here and finding me in the mess of all this to boot. Thank you for visiting. I wish you well on your journey and hope to have more exciting and happy news to share soon. 🙂