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!

Stripped & Unburdened part I: Hiding behind fear and pain

After writing this post and realizing how long it was, I decided to split it into two parts to make for more easily digestable reading ūüôā

When I was in grad school, I took a class on crisis intervention. Ironically, while I was taking it, my family and I were actually in crisis. I’m going to pause here for a moment because ‘crisis’ is one of those words like ‘depressed’ that has reached a point in our vernacular where it has been overused to the extent that its definition has gotten lost. Kind of like how socks manage to vanish between the washer and the dryer. In order for us all to be on the same page, then, I’ll share with you the definition I’m using which is the working definition in the shrink world:¬†when you’ve reached a point where your perceived demands of your environment overwhelm and exceed¬†your perceived coping mechanisms. In plain English, that means that¬†the stress you’re experiencing¬†with whatever it is going on in your world is so great, so vast that you literally cannot deal with it. You are drowning in an ocean when you’ve only ever learned to doggy paddle and your stamina is quickly running out.

Crisis is a strange thing. It‚Äôs strange when you‚Äôre experiencing it, and it inevitably changes you. Due to its extreme nature, the change it brings about is also generally extreme, though the individual experiencing it is the only one who can determine which way that goes. In crisis, it typically feels as though nothing is stable, nothing is solid, very little is safe. It is a time not just designed for tending those most basic of needs on Maslow’s hierarchy (e.g., food, shelter, water, sleep, etc.), but it is a time when there is no room for anything else.

¬†I don’t know and won’t speak to or for anyone else’s experience of crisis, as we all process things differently. For me, I had no idea how to “appropriately” invite, ask, or accept support from others. The crises I experienced spread across a range of topics that are all in some way taboo in one form or another. Finances and homelessness, spirituality, incest. It didn’t help that my family lives on a different planet from orthodoxy and my greatest fear of someone pointing a finger at any of the things that make us ‘different’ as the reason for what we were experiencing was too great a fear to conquer in the midst of chaos. It haunted me every day.

And so I withdrew. I stopped talking to my family of origin completely. I kept my eyes averted when I was in class. I stopped calling friends. The world had become a desolate¬†and coldly unpredictable¬†place.¬†It seemed every time I turned around, something else had exploded. I want to clarify a moment here – it wasn’t that I didn’t receive support from others throughout this time. I did. In many forms. But it was as though I had lost my knowledge and ability to interact with others. Because focus has to shift to all those primitive needs, interactions with others become more, well,¬†primal. Thus, there is no sugarcoating, no easing your way around things. A starving person will simply snatch food out of your hand if you hold it out.¬†There is no¬†thinking about manners and politesse. That’s just not the space they’re in.

When you’re in a crisis, though, other people don’t know that unless you tell them, so they still expect you to behave like a “normal” human being. This adds a degree of stress in and of itself. I would¬†find myself wondering, How many times should I say ‘thank you’ so that they would know how grateful I was?¬†How could I infuse those words with enough emotion that I sounded as genuine as I was especially when I was doing my best to not even¬†glance at my emotions because if/when I did, I’d fall apart? How many times should I apologize for burdening them until they believed me? How cliched did I sound when I asked my best friend to borrow money? Again? How should I explain to my professors that, I’m sorry, I can’t come to class today because my family and I just spent our last $2 on egg noodles from the dollar store so we could eat today and therefore we don’t have the $4 I need to get a subway ticket to get to class and home again? Who could I possibly talk to and share what I was going through with and not have a concern that they’d call DFCS on us and tear my whole family apart? So I hid behind my fear and my pain. And I kept my mouth shut.*

After we moved here and things had settled a bit, I found that I still kept my eyes averted. I wouldn’t tell anyone I met much about myself or my family or the circumstances that surrounded our arrival in this new state. I was still hiding. But while I was hiding, my thoughts were as venomous as the¬†mouth and belly of a kimono dragon.¬†Internalizing my fear and pain was destroying me, so¬†at least in my head, I began to direct that poison outward.¬†¬†I alternated between using that fear and pain as a shield and as a weapon. I clung to my sense of wounded entitlement and became resentful of everyone who wasn’t me. When I looked at the people with whom I worked and the people I served at my job, the people I saw in the grocery store or on the street, all I saw were the differences between us. Differences to which I took personal offense. (Before all of those crises took place, believe it or not, I had liked people in general. While I wasn’t ever one of those super outgoing, extreme extrovert types, I found people fascinating and loved learning about them, hearing their stories.) Now, there were few people who could provoke even a kind look from me. And while I realized this wasn’t me –¬†wasn’t who I was – at the time, I had no interest in changing it, let alone any idea how to do so even if I did.

(continue on to part II here)

*If you know or are close to someone who is experiencing or has recently experienced a crisis, I hope that what I share in these two posts might help you to understand what they may be feeling and going through. I¬†encourage you to keep reaching out with compassion, understanding, and patience while they move through the dark night they’re facing.

Courting Anger, Courting Truth

I have a draft for a post I’ve been working on for about a week now (it’s not this post, btw, and I will get to finishing and then publishing it. At some point). When writing it, I stumbled upon some pivotal ‘ness’ that I’ve been fumbling around for I don’t even know how long and was just about to break through that last screen of fog that separated me from Truth, from insight, from a new level of growth. Then some shit hit the fan, and like following a thin, sliver of barely-there-thread I lost my grip on it in the wind from the fan. I find it incredibly frustrating when that happens, don’t you? So now there’s all this shit everywhere and, somewhere in all this mess, is that lost thread. I’ll find it. I know I will. Because I’m a persistent and stubborn bitch at times, and because I have a gift. That gift is that I cannot ever give up. Literally. Like, ever. Like, I am driven deep down in my marrow to keep going. I might cry, whine, and pitch fits the whole time, but I’ll keep on truckin’ on. I don’t know how the rest of the world deals with all the shit that gets thrown at them without this little gem. I’ve been near homeless with my family in tatters, a handful of change and a mountain of debt to my name, my beloved suicidal and barely hanging on, living on Ramen, etc. And I walked through it. Not very gracefully the entire time, mind you, but I’m still here. So find that thread I will, but in the mean time, there’s some stuff that needs to get cleaned up. And so this shit that the proverbial fan has showered all over at the moment is just one more thing to walk through. The space that I find myself in right now is not unsurprising, I would think.

Do you remember that ’80s (maybe early ’90s) dating show called The Love Connection? In my mind right now is the set of that cheesy show, and I am determining who I want to date. Anger. Or Truth. Oh, and let me tell you, I am having a rough time of it. There sits Anger, all dark and smoldering, his eyes beckoning to me to come and play. Sensuous fingertips gliding a promise away from my skin and steam rising in the ghost of the trail along my arm. And when I look up into her eyes (because Anger is both masculine and feminine), flames dance within them, hypnotizing me with a pledge of sharing power. Nails dig into my flesh for just a moment in a dance between pleasure and pain. I want to play. But then a cool wind whispers across my face, drawing my attention to Truth.

At first glance, Truth seems simple, plain even, and not especially enticing. Yet, there’s something there that has me waiting, holding my breath because I have a feeling there’s something below the surface. Even as I’m looking, my eyes¬†slowly climb up the bodice of a white, silver, and gold gown that has instantly become translucent, and my breath rushes out of my lungs in an attempt to simply be closer to her. My eyes lock with his (Truth is also feminine and¬† masculine) and my whole body trembles with the imaginings of a union between us. There is a spark in his eye that I want to hold in my hands and pull close to my belly. But when I look again, that same spark cuts through me and the pain I feel is beyond measure. I am undone. I am caught between the two. (And these are not two that would work together in a polyamorous relationship.) I must choose. Fuck.

Anger and I have a longer history together. I¬†am not, historically,¬†one to kowtow to niceties and politesse when someone has pissed me off. I am unafraid of confrontation to a point of, at times, a serious lack of wisdom. I’m the person who wants to hash it all out. Right. The. Fuck. Now. Unfortunately, that’s not always what’s best, and it certainly doesn’t always pave the way to resolution. My anger exists on multiple levels at the moment¬†– at an individual, at the situation, at the idea that, really? things had just started to settle down and improve and now this?! All of that lends itself to the internal struggle of this disturbed love triangle I’m in (with Anger and Truth). What I want is to give a verbal flogging to a certain individual until they are bloody with sincere and¬†soul-felt apologies¬†and crying for mercy and promising to undergo a personality transplant and be completely transformed into a more decent, considerate, and empathic¬†human being. But, don’t fret. Though our relationship is younger, I’ve spent enough time with Truth to know that’s not who I am, so I won’t do it.

The other part of me simply seeks resolution. That part of me is wiser. It is¬†a part that can let go of what’s past and simply look toward creating a new future. At the moment these two parts are engaged in a heated debate inside my mind and attempting (well, really, it’s that first, vengeful and angry¬†part that’s doing most of the talking) negotiations. But, can’t we please just yell a little? Okay, not even yell, but just forcefully respond/interject/communicate? That part is a significantly disappointed that the resolution-seeking part isn’t overjoyed at the promise of not only no¬†physical violence happening but¬†not even a verbal assault taking place, and why isn’t it getting a huge pat on the back right now? Why isn’t that goody-goody, wise part giving in to all other demands, damnit?!

Here is what I know. All anger is rooted in fear. Fear of something. The fear can have many faces, but the most recognizable face on the surface is Anger. It’s a smoke screen. Next time you’re angry or feeling angry, take a step back and a deep breath and peel back that first layer to find what’s underneath. I guarantee you’ll find some sort of fear. The fear I’m feeling at the moment is the loss of my family’s heart, the inability for us to all heal, that one person’s refusal tobedifferent than who they are at the moment will continue and we will never be able to move beyond, that – at the least – some piece of my beloved is dead now and will not ever resurrect. Here’s the shitty part. Some (or all) of these fears might be legitimate. And, at least from where I’m sitting this moment, there might not be much I can do about any of it. Yet, I am compelled to keep going. I can’t not. ¬†

So here’s the other thing I know. I glance over at Truth, breath shaking in my chest and from my lips, and I see Strength. I see Compassion. I see Love. I see Divinity. I spare a moment to look back at Anger. The smoky hot facade falls away in ash as I stare. What remains is a whimpering, distorted, deformed, twisted and ugly thing that can only breed further destruction. I’ve already thought about what I want, but what do I need? Not that. That stands no chance against thwarting any of those fears in becoming realities. There has to be some way. I turn back to Truth who has come to stand in front of me. I gracelessly spill out of my chair to kneel at her bare feet, my body already seizing and spasming as her eyes pierce through¬†me, cutting away all that does not reflect her.

As the pain subsides, he pulls me deftly up to embrace him in a dance as old as the sunrise. He twirls me in his strong arms. Arms that will protect me – not from pain or from hurt, but from inflicting further damage upon myself. Stay with me, his breath whispers in moist heat along my neck to my pulse. How can I not? But then she turns me so my back leans against her chest and, running her silken hands down my arms, shows me a reel of past choices I have made. When I have strayed. My belly clutches and my heart sinks as I watch. She hugs my body to hers from behind, then turns me. I plead to her with my eyes, how do I not do that? How do I move forward, with you? What do I do with the anger that I know is still churning in my belly?

Her response: Shake it out.

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. ūüôā

Holding on

Things here have settled a little after our recent explosion, but aftermath is not pretty, and it sure as hell isn’t easy. I have made the discovery that one of my gifts is that, when it comes to coping, I am in no danger at this point of turning to alcohol, drugs, self-injurious behaviors of the direct and indirect varieties, etc. Instead, even when I am my most miserable, what I do is I keep doing. I just keep going. When it sucks, when I’m hurting, when I’m lost, confused, frustrated beyond imagination, rageful and bitter, I refuse to stop.

One of our mounting frustrations here is the absolute dearth of advertised Pagan- and poly-aware/friendly shrink people in the area. My beloved needs a shrink person, and scour the internet for countless hours though we have, we have found nothing. Perhaps it’s idealism or just sheer stubbornness, but regardless, I have a very difficult time believing that such a professional does not exist. If we were in rural Alabama, I might have an easier time believing it (no offense to anyone who lives there), but we’re not.

I put a working on my altar over a week ago sending out an S.O.S to what we lovingly call the “Universal HR Department” explicitly stating what we needed for my wife. As of yet, we’re still waiting. I know I only see a fraction of the puzzle pieces that are our lives and the Divine Grand Scheme of things, but I cannot believe that what we need will not be made available to us. But as of right now…

Sometimes…

DISCLAIMER: If you are in a fragile space of any kind, I would strongly urge you NOT to read this post until you are stronger and more centered and grounded in your life. I wrote this post when I was moving through a very dark time, when hope was at an all-time low. Writing is one of the ways in which I exorcise all those things that I feel (but note that this is not Truth) I simply cannot move past. So if you find your self/Self in a similar space at the moment, give your self/Self the freedom to come back here when you are stronger and know that, if you are in need, I am sending Light, Compassion, and Unconditional Love to help see you through until you can visit again. Blessed be.

Sometimes the other shoe does not exist. Sometimes we spend so much time worrying about it falling that we even go so far as to not live our lives because we are drowning our Selves in anxiety. And we waste all that time and energy.

But sometimes it does exist. And it crashes to the ground in a deafening roar that forever changes…yes. Everything. And who’s to say why it exists for some people¬†at some times and not others? I don’t have the answers to those questions.

Today, that shoe plummetted, exploding in to the center of my family’s life, and shattering. Something. Maybe¬†a little bit or a lot¬†of everything. I’ve never (thank the Goddess) been in an area where an explosion has gone off, but in my imagination, it’s something like this. There is this moment of quiet immediately after the explosion where the mind is battling with itself – the frontal lobe and the limbic system warring for control and trying to determine who is best for the crisis at hand – and everything seems to be in slow motion. And then, it is as if someone pushes the play button for the reel to return to regular time, yet regular time feels like fast forward after that seeming eternity of slow motion. Then, there is noise everywhere and it seems as though everything is moving all at once. Everything is harsh and bright and sharp and jagged.

Then comes¬†preliminary dammage assessment. This is the time to scan for bodies, to see if limbs have been severed, if anyone is in the process of bleeding out, and to begin triage, all the while debris is still raining down threatening concussions and further injury. After this first round, there comes another to more closely¬†investigate injuries, to examine the extent of the dammage in the surrounding area and to try to figure out how to establish some kind of safety. Initial steps are taken to attempt to construct that – whatever it may look like, even if it’s only temporary. Something to keep further damage from occuring.

It feels as though where we are right now is huddled in a ramshackle lean-to, wounds bandaged but seeping, poisonous gas having been inhaled and internal injuries abound. And worse is that members of my own family were responsible, in some way, for setting off the explosion. Even worse yet was that this wasn’t the first time that we caught them playing with metaphorical pyrotechnics and explained the potential life-altering, life-long,¬†and¬†seriously grave¬†ramifications that could result. Somehow, somewhere, it seems as though something didn’t sink in. And so here we are.

I’m not writing to whine or to get pity. Hell, I’m not even writing to get prayers. I’m writing because, even though I’m not describing the details (and won’t) of what happened, I need to have the recounting of it somewhere, to have it recorded, to face it myself. I’m writing because I need to believe that we can heal from this, and I need to have almost a mile marker of where we started from when things at least appeared to be at their absolute worst so that when we do heal from this, I can look back and know. I’m writing because right now I am so fucking livid that I feel as though I am on fire. Writing is the element of Air, so maybe if I can bring enough of it in, it will blow some of the flames down to somewhere a bit more manageable. And I am terrified. I am terrified that of all the “one more things” that could have come down the pike, this might be the one that we simply cannot survive.

And so I sit here, in this jerry-rigged lean-to with debris still falling from the sky, and I pray because I can think of no other thing to do that might help this situation and the people who are in it with me. There is a heavy quietness in my chest and a deep longing and wishing for…healing, stability, and a healthy and whole family.