Leaving the Zone

Have you ever been looking for something and not even known you were searching? It’s like your spirit bypasses your brain somehow and directs your body where to go, what to do. It gives your brain just enough information so it can lend some resources to the endeavor but, at least initially, restricts access to that part of the brain that can take all those pieces, synthesize them, and then name it. Of course, once that part of the brain has access, the immediate reaction is just, “Well, duh!” How could I have missed that?

I think it happens that way so that we cannot possibly get in our own way too early in the process; so that our spirits have the chance to pull the rest of us into the process and get us to start to really want it. That way, in case our brain balks at the idea, it’s out-voted. Here are the pieces that my spirit had previously kept separate so my brain couldn’t get in my way:

1) Yesterday I began reading a book called Allies in Healing. It’s written for partners of childhood sexual abuse survivors. My wife (a survivor of complex, chronic trauma and abuse) had bought it for me at a used book store. She’s been encouraging me to be more social in general, whether it was to find some kind of support group specifically (online or in person), or to just make friends. While I don’t fall in the extremist area on the introvert/extrovert scale, I’m definitely not the extreme introvert she is. My wife and I have been together for just over five years. She is the most amazing being I have ever met. And though I knew she was a trauma survivor before we got together, I didn’t have the slightest idea as to what that meant for our relationship, how completely it would impact it and us, me, and my life. Up to this point, I’ve essentially gotten through all the challenges that we’ve encountered with her or on my own.

2) Last night I was cleaning up my blogroll. It was a rather saddening affair because most of my favorite blogs either don’t exist anymore (their authors deleted them, which for the record, I completely disagree with, but to each their own) or they haven’t had new entries in forever. It was like coming home after you’ve been away and everything’s different – nobody and nothing is where it used to be. A while ago, I’d try to hunt for new favorite places but couldn’t find anyone that felt like “kin.” So I finally resigned myself to deleting the now-non-existent sites, letting go of the hope that the authors would return and sighed in the loneliness that settled in my space.

3) Before our whole family moved here (south Florida) and it was just my wife and our oldest daughter, they found a Unitarian Universalist church and went to it a couple times. When the rest of us joined them and, the first Sunday we had enough gas money, I went without my wife and with our two girls as well as my wife’s ‘kind of boyfriend.’ We were prepping to go this morning, and I was talking about how I’m not a good mingler. My wife pointed out that the whole point was community – you kind of have to mingle to achieve it. Touche.

4) Late this afternoon, upon my wife’s recommendation, I went over to Quaker Pagan Reflections, and read Cat’s latest post. And that’s when my spirit finally let my brain in on the secret. Community. Support. Connection. Oh!  Thank you, Cat (no, really, I still hadn’t quite gotten it even after the whole church thing – I’m a bit slow some times, what can I say?).

So, instead of just reading and lurking on other people’s blogs, I actually started commenting (whether to express gratitude or if I had something I genuinely wanted to share). Then, I went a step further and googled to find an online forum for partners of sexual abuse survivors. While all relationships present challenges and opportunities to learn and grow, those of us who are partners of these survivors face unique experiences and challenges, and it’s past time that I get some support  and learn how to better equip myself. I did find one, by the way, and I signed up. Go me!

All of the hard experiences that I’ve lived and moved through over the course of the past couple years have been challenging enough, but by isolating myself the way I have, I’ve made it all the more difficult. Stepping away from what is familiar and out of what has become my comfort zone is daunting. I haven’t been social in such a long time that I honestly forget how to be. I have no idea how people do it – meet people for the first time and just chat let alone go from being acquaintances to friends. You might as well be asking me to read the Talmud. In Hebrew. However, I am committing myself to this pursuit. I will face my anxiety, I will move through it, and I will heal this aspect of myself and my life. Comfort, like boredom, is overrated, right? 😉

What ventures out of your comfort zone have you recently made? Or what ventures outside of it do you want to make but haven’t yet?

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Reality blogging – in the Truest sense

I try to be a very tolerant person. I think it’s a good quality to possess and express and consider it a key ingredient in the recipe for world peace. But I find I have little to no tolerance for “reality TV.”  I consider the phrase a misnomer. In my experience, and when I have forced myself to sit down and watch it (mostly when it was first introduced to our cinematic existence), I concluded little other than it being an unecessarily excessive drama-filled production; a caricature of the human experience. And because I place such an enormous value on Truth, any time I encounter or hear about it, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth that makes me want to spit. So I do my best to avoid it, not wanting to waste energy.

Though somewhat less potent, my response to what I consider “reality blogging” is similar. It’s something I’ve written about (here) before, but apparently, I’m not quite done with it, so here I am again. Before I continue, I think it’s important for me to clarify that I am, by Nature, an Idealist. I am Joy-filled and Innocent (in the Truest sense of the word). I am not a cynic. Nor am I pessimistic. Really. So throughout the remainder of this post when I’m discussing these kind of blogs, it’s important for me to communicate my distaste for them does not come from that place.

I am all for positivity and positive thinking and energy and the laws of attraction and Love and Gratitude. They are sources of hope and healing and, seriously, I conclude that there’s not enough of any of them in the world; that if there were more of them, the world (and everyone in it) would be more healed and, in general, better. Not the kind of better that leads to debates about superiority or inferiority or judgment, but the kind of better that only compares each person with that person. Better as in more a manifestation of their True Selves.

Now, it is damn hard work to get to that place of True Self and certainly to live from there. I know because I’m working on it. And instead of things getting easier the further I go, they seem to get more challenging as I root through all the shit that’s piled on top of Who I Really Am in an effort to get rid of it. Yet, I find I am also filled with more resources to be able to move through that process, and the rewards are great. The “reality blogs” that frustrate me are the ones that are fairytale-esque, the ones that are only positivity, that show only the light-filled portion of that journey or only the “end” of it.

Perhaps you’re wondering why, if I’m all Joy-filled and Hopeful, something that’s so positive bothers me so much. I’ve been wondering that myself, and here is what I’ve come up with: Those blogs are the air brushed and glamour shot photos of the pursuit of self-actualization. As a Witch and a person, I have dedicated myself to being an instrument of healing in the world. Healing – synonymous with self-actualization, for in self-actualization we heal all that is not our Truest Self – is not easy. Healing is messy and painful and uncomfortable and takes far longer than anyone ever wants it to (anyone who has actually attempted to pursue psychological, spiritual, emotional, or even serious physical healing will attest to that).  Because I have committed myself to being an instrument of healing (and perhaps because of my professional training as a counselor), I think anyone considering healing should have fully informed consent before they begin. They need to know how much it’s going to suck in the middle, how it will probably get worse before it gets better (and that’s a good sign!), how it will be a process and, depending on the nature of the healing, a lifelong pursuit. So these blogs that only showcase the “end product” or the light half of the adventure serve as false advertising, mystify the process and possibly create disillusionment in anyone who reads them who is considering healing. Such disillusionment can be downright damaging, sometimes irreparably so because if one person comes across a blog like that and tries to pursue healing and then runs smack into the actual Reality of the process, the consequences – and I’m NOT being dramatic here – can be as severe as to be literally deadly. I don’t understand something, though. The question I have for those bloggers who paint such an unrealistic picture of healing and growing is this: if you actually grew or healed or are pursuing growth and healing, then I can guarantee you did or are working at it – why would you exclude the actual work part from what you share?  Do you not realize that in doing so, you dishonor not only the process itself, but your Self as well as the progress you have made and are making? How can anyone share in your triumph with you when you don’t talk about what it was or is that you’re triumphing over?

Now, to be clear, I’m not advocating anyone be a fount of negativity or talk about nothing BUT their trials or obstacles without following that up with how they moved through them. But if you’re going to blog about a pursuit of growth or healing, then I think you have the responsibility to your readers – whether your readers number 5 or 5, 000 – to be honest and real, to include the dark as well as the light. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found that movies or books based on true stories are so much more powerful and meaningful than those that aren’t. So even though it can be hard, even when it might not paint the prettiest picture of you, I encourage any bloggers writing about growth and healing to include those moments of stumbling, those moments that seem less-than-beautiful if not downright ugly.

It is our imperfections that make us perfect and beautiful.

Perhaps you think that I take this whole blogging thing too seriously and are saying to yourself, “Blogs are for entertainment – Who looks to them for a life-changing experience? Get a grip, lady and chill out.” But I’ve looked to blogs for that very reason, for connection with others, to try to find out if I was the only one who had experiences like those I’ve had, if there was truly hope out there, if anyone who’d had similar problems had made it through to some better place. When we are dying of thirst, we will hunt feverishly, almost maniacally, for any source to quench us, to sustain us; and, when the internet provides immediate access and connection to a host of the world’s population, surely someone out there could offer us the life-giving substance we so desperately need. And we can stay anonymous so no one will know how we struggle and where we fall short! So, if one has access, what better place to look?

In light of all of that, I commit to you that I will never try to gloss over or sugar coat the healing process, the process of unfolding and becoming my True Self; I will share my struggles (though not wallow in them) with you and I will share how I move through them. I will be honest and authentic and seek to inspire encouragement and hope. And I welcome dialogue, your stories, your feedback, your input, so while I certainly appreciate all the “likes” for my posts, if you feel moved to do so, please do comment. I genuinely want to know what you think and how you’re doing, and if I can be of any help, I am honored to share in your journey.

Story time

Rarely is my life not in some state of upheaval. Thankfully, when my shit is on really straight and I’m not bitching about it, I thrive on change which means I’ve learned to make some damn fine lemonade. Lemonade aside, though, I’ve established a pattern of bitching more often than not (whether this takes place in my head or with my outside voice) and allowing the upheaval to dictate my life and schedule, not to mention temperament. I’ve resisted embracing the concept of thriving on change out of fear for sending out a message to the Universe to keep it comin’ and thereby never attaining a sense of stability. The thing is, when I deny parts of my Self (like thriving on change), the result is usually a hot mess. Through denying this particular part of my Self, I essentially get plowed by the wave of change and end up bruised and exhausted on the beach of whatever new space I was meant to be, sputtering up salt water, coughing, and wheezing because I chose to hide instead of ride that wave and see where it took me. Cause that translates to stability? So, since what I’ve been doing isn’t getting me to where I’d like to be, I’m going to try something different. I’m going to do my best to not hide from those waves, to not bitch about them, but to stare at them head-on and then ride them out with grace.

One of the things that I’ve allowed to lapse when those waves come rolling toward me is my writing, as is evidenced through the extreme inconsistency of posts here. I’d like that to be different. At the moment, we have one semi-functional car among myself and the two other adults with whom I share my life. My wife is working full-time, and her husband is working part-time. His boss provides transportation to the jobs they handle, so his lack of vehicular independence isn’t a problem. My role in our house and family, though, has dramatically changed from being the full-time employee and primary “bread-winner” to being the stay-at-home mom. I’m still adjusting. One of the beautiful things about this new situation, though, is that it provides me more time to be able to devote to writing.

I was reflecting on this the other day and a movie clip from my memory slid onto a projector in my mind. I am in my tenth grade biology class. We are, yet again, sitting at our desks and coloring in pictures of mitochondria. It seems we spend most of this year just coloring in pictures of cells. Mrs. S, our teacher, is at her desk with her head bent down doing who-knows-what-besides-ignoring-us. My lab partner, JW, asks me what movie I watched this weekend. We’re not really friends, JW and myself, but these times of coloring pictures have become story time for all of us and quiet anticipation breathes collectively as they all await my tale. It is not that I am popular or friends with all or even most of them. As soon as the bell rings, we will go about the rest of our day and probably ignore each other again. But right now, I am the story teller and they are my eager audience. I begin recounting the latest movie I saw, vividly painting the scenes with florid descriptions as our coloring pencils fill in the whites of the papers on our desks. There are occasional laughs, gasps, “No way!”s, and “Then what happened?!”s. Some times, someone will point out a part I missed or forgot – not antagonistically, but because they want me to go back and include it. I am in my element. It is not the attention that I seek – I’m more comfortable out of the spotlight than in it, struggling as I am with typical 15 year old insecurities – but it is the passion for the story and its telling that drives me and lifts me up into more of who I am than I am capable of achieving on my own at the time.

I’ve been meditating a lot over the course of the last year and, through meditation, have been holding discussions with my True Self. She is a story teller. After I learned that, it made much more sense as to why I have difficulty being concise. It also made much more sense as to why I feel so alive and just right within my own space when I am writing or telling stories. In an effort to step more into the space of my True Self, I am recommitting myself to this space and to writing. I don’t know how often I’ll be posting here, but I’ll aim for at least twice a week to start and see how that goes. Wherever you are in your journey, I wish you well.

Re-translated and re-membered

It’s been too damn long since I’ve written. Anything. Unfortunately, my computer troubles I had been having are still unresolved – at the moment the hard drive of my previous laptop is in a sort of limbo state where it’s still fully intact, yet I am unable to access or open any of the files. Including the book on which I was working. I don’t know if that’s some sort of message from the Universe that I need to chuck it and start over; that I need to work harder and because I hadn’t been it, I can’t have it until I’m ready to work harder (and therefore I need to go about 1) being dedicated and disciplined enough to do so, and then 2) start proving that I am; or, if it’s just some fluke that has no meaning at all and I’m just overthinking things (who me? Surely, you gest). Regardless, I do recognize that thinking about it too much just makes my brain hurt.

I recently reread one of my favorite series ever – the House of Night books. I. Adore. Them. They’re just plain fun. And in re-reading them, I’ve found I want to write again. Unfortunately, my desire to write wasn’t the only thing that rekindled.  The smoldering ashes of my fears and doubts that I tried to deny before burst back into flame. I had previously attempted to at least dismiss their importance while still working toward my goal: “I’m not a good enough writer to write a book,” “I’ve researched writing seminars and workshops in my area and haven’t even found any so how can I even improve my writing so that I could eventually write a book?” “I don’t know enough (period – as in, about anything) to write,” “I probably average maybe 3 people visiting my blog on a daily basis – obviously what I have to say is 1) at best not very attention-grabbing and interesting for other people or 2) at worst, so poorly written (in addition to being uninteresting) that even the people who do come here don’t make a point to return,” “And what about that whole idea of finishing my damn post-Masters degree – how does that fit in to wanting to write a book?” etc. Blah, blah, blah. Ad nauseum. You get the gist. There they all were, huddled together, burning as brightly as ever (and making a great deal of noise) in the front of my mind. The discouragement I felt at not having my laptop and my hard drive thus suddenly had annoyingly frustrating company.

In the midst of the blah-ness I had been feeling during the semi-forced/semi-voluntary hiatus I’d taken, I was barely even checking my emails. So the other day I finally went through my inbox and deleted a ridiculous amount of crap. During said pruning, my eye caught on some post notifications from a couple of the blogs I follow. One in particular drew my attention. I hopped on over to Courage 2 Create and began reading Ollin’s post. I was as stunned as Ollin, I imagine, when I read about the quote from the Tao te Ching having been mistranslated. The quote is probably one you’ve heard before, except here it is with the accurate translation: “A journey of a thousand miles begins beneath the feet” (not “…with a single step”). Huh. Now, it’s not the whole individuality, self-reliance thing Ollin describes that I’ve typically gotten caught up on when previously reading the mistranslation. It’s the pressure Ollin writes of regarding that first step that resonates in my belly. That potential (and not kinetic) energy waiting and pushing on my insides, warring with feeling overwhelmed and unsure of the what/where/how/etc. of the step itself. Not to mention desperately needing to NOT misstep (I really hate making mistakes). So, the correct translation of the quote seems to be advocating not doing as the first part of this thousand mile journey but being. Ah, hell.

Thus do I recognize another lesson that has spiraled back around. Be. Don’t Do. Or perhaps more accurately, be before you do. This has been a difficult lesson for me to breathe in and internalize to the point where I know it all the way deep down in the center of my bones. I’m much more comfortable doing. Probably because I recognize that being has long been a weakness of mine, wrapped up in that whole knowledge of and intimacy with self/identity.

I’m (like, I imagine, most other people) not a fan of psychological or spiritual pain. When I’ve spent any time withbeingbefore, I’ve ended up drowning in a stagnant, dishwatery hot mess of gross and fearful emotions. The other night was the first time I’d ever been able to put some words to this historical emotional experience. You know those little grow-your-own pots of herbs of flowers that come with the dirt and seeds all their in a neat little package? In the analogy I worked up, it’s like those little pots are people’s identities and the different herb or flower seeds in them are the different pieces of our identities. What it’s felt like for me is that my little pot didn’t come with seeds. Like somebody got sleepy on the job and just forgot to put them in there. And all around me I see all these pots with seeds that have created beautiful and strong and healthy herbs and plants and flowers. And I just have dirt. So I’ve cut flowers or herbs from around me and stuck them in my pot so that it looks like I’m just like everyone else. Except that whatever I take eventually dies and I’m left with only dirt once more.

At this point, I’ve historically gotten completely discouraged and felt so utterly defective that I’ve just turned to do something else to distract myself. But the other night after reading the quote from the Tao te Ching on Ollin’s blog, I forced myself to continue sitting and being.  And then something pretty awesome happened. I re-membered that I have the power to create my Self each and every moment. I (and I believe all of us) have the power todecidewhat seeds I want to plant within me. Just like a mail-order catalogue, I can simply ask Momma and Papa (or the Universe/Goddess/God/Divinity/Whatever language you want to use – insert here)  for whatever seeds I want, plant them, and then work to cultivate them and help them grow.

So let’s say maybe you haven’t ever felt like what I have, but maybe you’ve struggled with or don’t like some of the seeds you were given. The beauty of all this is that you have not just the freedom, but the amazing opportunity to determine for yourself that perhaps you don’t want to grow chives, for example, anymore. Maybe you feel like growing mint or hibiscus or calla lillies or catnip. Awesome! Dig up those suckers up, chuck them in the Universal compost pile, and go get you some new seeds.

We just celebrated Beltane here at our house – a time of supreme and Divine fertility and also the halfway point through the year. Each year, I usuallly procrastinate and wait until October 1st to begin really working on my shit in those last 30 some days before Samhain and the end of the year. I’m going to try something different this year. Instead of putting all that work off (which makes for a miserable October, by the way), I’m going to commit to stop being a lazy Witch and start doing that work now. Litha (the summer solstice) is a little over a month away, a time of fullness and abundance and blooms. Let’s see if I can get some of these new seeds I’ve ordered to show some of their glorious colors by then!

What blooms are you working on coaxing to life and fullness? Do you have some seeds or plants you’d like to exchange? What’s stopping you?

Stripped & Unburdened part II: Perspective, compassion, and connectedness

This is the second part of what would have been a lengthy post – if you haven’t read the first part yet, you might want to do so here.

After more time had passed, though, I started to consider that maybe I could want and have friends again, but I told myself it wasn’t safe. I lied to myself saying that my world was too catastrophic and chaotic and anyone who came near me would just get hurt. It was (and is) all bull shit, of course, but I was still too afraid to acknowledge that the reason I wasn’t reaching out was because I was focused on all the differences between me and everyone else and was terrified of facing rejection and shame.

In psychological research (and, really, in most forms of research), there is an ethical danger called ‘congruence bias.’ It exists outside of research as well, and in every day cognition. It means that you find what you’re looking for simply because you’re looking for it; or, conversely, you don’t find what you’re looking for because the idea you have in mind is too specific. The thing is, it backfires both ways: 1) Frequently, we have very specific ideas as to what we’re looking for, and when we don’t find exactly that, we conclude that whatever “it” is, isn’t there. For example, let’s say you were looking for a screwdriver and it happened to have a red handle. You pull out the tool/junk drawer and start tossing things every which a way, and you cannot find the screwdriver. Then someone else comes along, opens the same drawer, and says that the screwdriver is right there, handing you one with a black handle. You would probably swear up and down that there was no screwdriver in that drawer 30 seconds ago – because you were looking for the red one. 2) Similarly, if you’re looking for and expecting people to behave a certain way, you’ll interpret all their behavior to match your thinking. Let’s say you think that everybody doesn’t like you. So when you walk into a group of people and someone happens to leave at the same time, you conclude they left because they didn’t like you even though that wasn’t necessarily the situation at all. Maybe they’d had to pee for the past hour but one of the other people in the group kept running their mouth and Mr. I-need-a-potty-break-NOW! was only able to escape because your arrival caught Ms. Mouthy’s attention and she shut up for a half a second giving Mr. Potty-break the escape he needed.  Make sense?

I don’t remember when I realized I had been doing this with my life exactly, but at some point in the last month and a half, I did. The Universe had been sending me little signs – showing me people who I would never think had seen and experienced the same kinds of things I had (not necessarily in the specifics, but general themes anyway), but they did. I’d been so focused on finding the differences between me and everyone that I encountered that I could not see the ways in which we were alike, the things we had in common, how we were connected. On a drive from (or to – doesn’t really matter) work, it coalesced in my space. What connects us (all) is ultimately more powerful than anything that can divide us. It is simply a matter of perspective.

Does this mean that the possibility of my being rejected by anyone who I decide to trust with some choice pieces of my history and experience has suddenly diminished? Maybe, but not necessarily. Maybe because of the new perspective I intend to take, I will draw people to me who would be accepting. And maybe not, but it doesn’t matter either. It certainly wouldn’t shock me. I recognize that a lot about me is a bit “out there” for most people, and that’s okay. What matters is that I breathe in the Truth of the power of our connection and live in that space. Whether others choose to see that or not is not my responsibility. We all behave from who we are, not at or to anyone around us. If someone I encounter is in such a place that they cannot recognize what I have recently discovered, I have a choice. Because I was in that space so very recently I remember distinctly how absolutely miserable it made me, I can choose to have compassion for them.

Thus, when I read of one of my new favorite blogger’s recent experience with discrimination, I was not surprised. Sadly, “A” has not yet come to learn what I recently have. I have been, at earlier times in my life (and still occasionally, though I try not to be), judgmental or intolerant in some way. And I’ve learned that I make my life and myself the poorer for it when I am. So while I empathize with Ollin, having experienced similar discrimination, I also have compassion for “A” because she probably has no idea of the internal consequences of her decision in her own space, not to mention that her blog will be all the poorer for the contribution she denied Ollin the opportunity to make. And I have compassion for her because of that loss of which she might not even be aware. What I found interesting was that when I was reading through all the comments Ollin’s readers made to his post in which he recounted this experience, I noticed that the comments that I interpreted as a little snarky toward “A” had me shaking my head in compassion for those individuals as much as hearing of “A’s” own action did. Perhaps its simplistic (not to mention unpopular) to think so, but at its root, I think the energy of those kinds of comments is as divisive as “A’s” action was.

I finally finished reading Eat, Pray, Love the other day, by the way. I had set it down for a while and it just seemed time to pick it up again. I’m sure that all this embracing of compassion has everything to do with what I’ve taken away from that book. I’m interested to see what else I’ve garnered from it, to watch it unfold in my space and my mind. The father of a mentor of mine used to finish every workshop he did by telling us that we were taking away and had received far more from our time together than we understood in that moment. I think the same is true for this book for me.

Moving forward, I realize that I have allowed the experience of these crises to result in an extreme and negative change for and in me thus far. I’m done with that now. From this point on, I intend to strip myself like a shameless menopausal woman in the midst of a personal summer of this fear and pain that I have been harboring and, instead, continue cultivating this new perspective on connectedness and compassion.

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 🙂

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’s strange when you’re 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.

I’ve missed you!

Oh my goodness I have missed this space. My apologies for having been absent for almost a month – eek! My laptop had wine spilled on it and is still out of commission for the moment (though I am hoping said moment’s termination will occur in the next day or two). There happen to be four other computers in my house belonging to the people with whom I live my life. Why didn’t I just use one of their computers this whole time? Valid question. My response seems, I can recognize, a bit childish without further explanation: because none of those are mine.

Here’s the thing. While a Buddhist might look at that response and shake his/her head at my apparent attachment to a conglomeration of metal, plastic, wires, and electrical circuits, there’s a deeper meaning for me in it. I have spent the majority of my life adopting the beliefs, values, ideas, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, etc. of others instead of truly cultivating and committing to the creation and maintenance of my own. I have been a chameleon and a ventriloquist, and it has taken me a long-ass time to work to break that pattern (which, truly I am only at the beginning of doing and still stumble. A lot). For me, my own laptop became an extension of my voice. Frequently, when we first start something, we need some kind of crutch, some kind of tangible assistance – training wheels of some sort – until we can learn enough and become strong enough to not need those things. This is what my laptop has been for me in many ways. And while, yes, the aforementioned hypothetical Buddhist has a valid point, some times when we are striving for balance, it is necessary to go from one extreme to another. Some times that is balance. Writing from another’s computer has felt to me a little like borrowing someone else’s underwear. That they’ve already worn. It just feels icky.

However, my jaw has been aching for weeks. For the most part, I have not been conscious of clenching it, though I have been (clenching, that is). A great deal of the clenching takes place in my sleep. When I mentioned it to my wife last week, she said it was because I was swallowing my voice, which has to do with not having been writing but also with some relationship things I’ve been dealing with among members of my family that I hadn’t been doing with very clean energy. After our talk, I became more aware of when I was clenching my jaw during my waking hours and would also wake up in the middle of the night realizing I was a mess of tension in my face. And so today, I decided that I needed to push past the ickiness and frustration of not having my own computer with which to write and just do it. It’s not comfortable – writing here at this other computer. But not being able to open my mouth wide enough to take a bite out of a sandwich and not be in pain is more uncomfortable, so here I am.

I have a post I intend to write in the next few days. It is something that has been simmering on the back burner of my life for a while now, reducing like a good sauce and geting denser and more substantial. I am hoping that it’s time to bring it forward and give it more attentionnow, that it has reduced enough at this point that all the unnecesary stuff has evaporated from it and we can proceed to the next steps of its creation and embodiment. The Universe has been sending me little signs recently, like spices, seeming to tell me that yes, it is time. So, I hope to publish that post and promise to you that I will do my best not to be an uber perfectionist as far as the writing is concerned, thereby delaying its publication simply because it feels really important (when I do that, those posts tend to not ever get published).

I hope to find you well as you read this. And I hope that today is a day that you can feel the sun shining down on you, even if there are clouds overhead, and know that you are loved and that your very existence on this planet matters far more than you will ever comprehend.

The art of getting lost

Whenever I move to, or perhaps just visit, a new place, I will at some point relatively early on set out with the intention of getting lost. I’ll take some precautions. Usually. I’ll make sure I have enough gas, some money, maybe some snacks. But I’ve found that it’s a great way to get to know a place and to discover treasures off the beaten path that I might not otherwise have come across. Things and sights that won’t be found on any citysearch website or in the pages of a tourist book.

I’m beginning to come to the realization that I do the same thing with my life, except not always intentionally. Okay, most of the time it’s not intentional, but rather it’s a result of setting out to find something. I just tend to get a little ahead of myself and take off with no map, no supplies, and the only thing in my pack being my sheer will, my ability to actively cope with pretty much anything, and a compass a little like Captain Jack Sparrow’s, except mine seems to be a little less reliable. Hard to believe I used to be a major planner, huh? Perhaps it’s something in my hardwiring – I have no idea. In keeping with the whole Pirates of the Caribbean movie connection I’ve got going here, it reminds me of the second movie. You know, when Captain Barbosa says, ‘You have to be well and truly lost to find a place that cannot be found.’ Or something. I’m paraphrasing. My point being that most of the things I set out to find are not straightforward, concrete, tangible objects.

In a conversation with my wife and L recently, my wife remarked that I was lost. I was working on getting un-lost, but there I was. I hadn’t confessed this to myself in those exact words yet, but the idea was present enough in my space to the point that when she said it, it wasn’t even a light bulb moment for me. Not one of those – Aha! That’s what’s going on! No wonder I feel/think/seem *fill in the blank here*. It was just a, Yup. I am. Again. Sigh.

I have a rough idea as to what this round of being lost centers around. The last major time of being lost was about finding my Self. I made some serious progress in that regard, and I can say that, while it’s certainly a process that continues to unfold, I know my Self better at the moment than I ever have before. In general, I am more managed and have the rest of my shit more together than it’s ever been before (no, really – you can ask my wife). That is certainly something I am celebrating and am grateful for. What I’ve set out to find in this most recent endeavor is my career. Like, the career that harmonizes beautifully with who I am. Because I’m stubborn and a bit idealistic and can’t imagine settling for less. In the mean time, sure, I’ll wait tables, but it’s simply a means to an end and is definitely not my career.

So, here I am. Lost.  My wife reminded me early on in our relationship that what you do when you get lost is sit down and stay in the same place and wait for your Momma to come and rescue you. Thus, am I staying in this place, and asking Momma to come find me (again) and please bring my Career with Her when She does. I’m slightly frustrated with myself about the being lost again part, but not blaming anyone else for it and nonetheless am determined to make the best of it while I wait for Momma to hunt me down. For instance, I asked my wife to teach me sign language. In the past 3-5 days or so I’ve established about 100 word vocabulary. Do I think I’ll actively do anything with sign language or that it’ll be integrated somehow into my career? Nope. But I love to learn – especially languages – and it’s something I’ll be able to share with my wife. Just one of those little scenic side routes along my journey.

I respect those who do not need to pursue their life’s path the way I have mine and some times am a little envious of those individuals. Perhaps my life would be easier or smoother in some way if I moved through it differently, but then I wouldn’t be being me. And that is something I have learned (the hard way) to never do. 😉 Wherever your journey takes you, may it bless you beyond your imagination. And remember, if you ever get lost, just wait for your Momma to come and find you.

As for me, I’ll be…

 

Gardening of the soul

Oh, today is a good day!  I heard from one of my dear, fellow blogging friends informing me she had created for herself a new home out there in cyberspace. So, of course, I immediately skipped on over there and my heart leapt as I read her most recent post. She wrote of the need to feel rooted and also thriving on change, and somewhere deep within me came a cry, in orgiastic agreement, “Yes!” Yes, that epitomizes a huge part of who I am and how I want to dance through my life.

I’ve been craving something recently. It’s a something that I’m not quite sure I have words for. Part of it is soul-ful friendships, connections, and community. In “real life” but also here in blogland. The kind I can sink my teeth into. The kind that have depth. The kind that challenge me to grow beyond what I know of myself in this moment. Part of it is doing that work myself. Part of it is realizing the potential that lives within me that, until very recently, I have not been ready to connect with. And I’m not sure what else there is there, but there’s more.

I’ve known for a long time now that like attracts like. That’s not hard math. If I want to develop new friendships like the ones I mentioned above, then I need to be that kind of person, that kind of friend. I cannot sit here in my little corner of cyberspace and expect those kind of friendships to just happen. I need to open myself to them but then get the fuck out there and interact! So, when I went to Miss Janece’s new home to celebrate with her and welcome her there, I visited some of the blogs of people who had come to do the same thing I had for my friend. And what wonderful places and people I found in the process! I had no doubt ever that there were amazing people out there. Kindred spirits. Yeah! 

We just had Imbolc here at our house. Imbolc signals the end of winter, the very beginning of spring. The time of year where it’s time to start seriously thinking about what I want to plant in my life and myself this year. What do I wish to grow? I find my head spinning a bit because there are so many things buzzing around up here that it’s a little dizzy-making. And just like when planting a garden (which I’d love to do at some point), this is the time of year for tilling and prepping the soil. For turning it over, clearing the space, and getting rid of the debris and weeds that have shown up over the course of the winter.

There are some things I can feel in my belly that need attention. Some weeds that I have turned a blind eye to that I need to make decisions about. Do I want to continue to feed energy into finishing my post-Masters degree? Do I even want to pursue a career in the mental health profession? If I’m not so inclined, am I not inclined because of the obstacles I perceive as being in my way? Is this one more thing that I’m not going to complete because I’m better at starting things than finishing them? Is that statement accurate? Does my behavior reflect that pattern? Is it a sour grapes kind of situation or is it a reflection of my Truth? As you can see, I’ve got some work to do!

If you are so inclined to be doing similar work, then I wish you fruitful tilling and encourage you to uncover and follow your Truth, trusting that you and your path are unfolding as they should. Remember – nothing conquers fear like love and gratitude 🙂

Adventures in becoming

I have been itching to get back here the past couple days, but between eating, sleeping, working, and just plain breathing, there hasn’t been the time. So, tonight, I’ve carved some out and voila! Here I be.

The past couple days, I have had moments where I’ve felt some of that old energy (remember – the crap piled on top of me stuff) try to sneak back in. It’s come, at varying times, like a slug doggedly trudging its way across the surface of my Self and leaving behind its toxic residue or like a big bucket of slime got dumped on my head and started seeping into my brain. Not a pleasant experience overall, I will say – either way. Each time, I did not have my Goddess amulet that represented my Future Self on my person. I’ve determined that it is like training wheels as I venture in this process (Momma made sure to point out to me the day I devoured my self that this was not an event, but a process).

Unlike the seemingly myriad times when I’ve attempted this before, the fact that it is a process is not frustrating to me now. It doesn’t lead me to grind my teeth until my jaw is sore or have me pitching fits like a 3 yr old who doesn’t want to take a nap. Instead, it’s more of a comfort. Like when you’re starting to learn something new and exciting that you’re passionate about, each and every little tidbit is a fabulous adventure – even when you fall down once in a while.

In my process of revolutionizing/extreme make-over-ing/transforming/transmuting/etc. my self/Self that I’m adventuring in at the moment, I’ve decided I am tired of all the music I’ve been listening to. I’ve never ventured out into this realm on my own to hunt down new and happy music – I’ve always told someone I’m looking for new material and somebody ends up delivering. This time, though, I wanted to explore this realm for myself; an activity equal parts act of independence and self-discovery. Like most of the juicy goodness life has to offer, I’m learning this is a time-consuming task; but, fortunately for me, it serves up some immediate gratification. I’d like to share one of my new discoveries with you that also is very apt for me at the moment!

Oh, and p.s. I. Love. Her. Hair.