Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Exposing the worry loop

It makes me worry to think that I am a worrier so, you see, it's an endless loop. I picked up a book on the subject while perusing the local store rack and skimmed. From that, I quickly gathered that one of the primary reasons I stew about things is because, on some weird and out-of-whack level, I feel I have to be perfect and responsible for everything. Being first born, I suspect, has something to do with this.

When I say it out loud to myself, it sounds so ridiculous. I am merely a self appointed worrier of the world. I would like to "un"appoint myself. And I think I can as I realized with that quick reading that there's no point in worrying if it doesn't change anything. Being of a certain age, night waking has become common and that's when the worry button really gets stuck. My mind can't quit and begins to look at the most harmless, mundane things and creates panic. I mean come on, my daughter's math test? She prepared, I got her some extra help and it is HERS for goodness sake! I can't take it for her. There's really nothing else I could have humanly done. Now I can laugh about it. I do realize, however, I may be passing that gene on. So, if even not for myself, I need to re-program for her.

But, I need to do it for myself. Mostly, I worry about things I can not change. The book pointed out that is often because we don't want to feel the emotions of feeling out of control. I believe it may also have something to do with my biggest fear. And I need to draw into that, not away.

My biggest fear. Do I really have to admit to that here? S'pose so. When I verbally commit to it instead of letting it ricochet around my mind, it doesn't sound so menacing. So, here goes: that I will live the rest of my life in the chronic pain I've had the past 12 years. Sounds small and whiny and selfish. But if I expose it to the light, it loses some of its power over me. The logical brain tells me: Big deal, you already know how to do that plus it allows you the out so many others don't have (I can't right now ...) and forces you to do what's essential and important. To drop the rest away.

This warped view I have of perfection also plays a role here. I compare myself to what and how people are that don't have fibromyalgia or how I used to be. If only I had the energy to do that or could jump out of bed, be busy all day 'til my head hits the pillow, sleep soundly all night, and be ready to do it again the next day. And by stating that fear, I remember to focus on gratitude for the things I now have that I did not before:
– A valid reason to slow down (because I wouldn't do it otherwise; would any of us?);
– The ability to say no;
– Permission to weed out those things and people that are toxic;
– A deeper, richer spiritual life;
– Time to explore that interior life;
– Time and space to know myself;
– A rhythm that suits me;
– The ability to take myself outside of the cultural world;
– Being more of who I am.

What gifts those are!

• What triggers my worry loop?
• What unrealistic models or expectations do I use that help create that loop?
• What is my biggest fear?
• What happens when I expose it?
• What happens when I exchange that worry for gratitude?

[The following is wisdom that flowed through me several years ago specifically for Lily, yet for all of us. She keeps a copy of this tucked under the top bunk where she can see it at night.]

    Be MORE of who you are.
    Not less or who anyone else says you are.
    Listen deeply, inside, to know who you are. 
    Not outside.
    Listen to your heart.
    To me.
    To love.
    Love is always the answer.
    Live in love.
    Respond in love.
    Act in love.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Plunging the waste

Am I:
– Full of it (you can add the sh if you wish)
– Stupid or
– Getting it?

I have a hard time knowing. As well as what the difference is.

I have been wrestling with that question since Saturday after a meeting with a highly respected editor who reviewed my book proposal. Right after the meeting, I was bouyed. Just before, someone told me she would be straight forward, which is what I said I wanted.

Basically, she affirmed my gifts of language, image and even content, but said I needed to focus on ONE thing. So why am I somewhat distressed now?


This morning at the gym, I discovered the toilet was clogged as I was flushing, so had to beg another, dressed, exerciser to go to the front desk and ask for a plunger. That simple experience came capped with a little red flag wavering: pay attention.

I was mired down, asked for help, received the proper tool, used the tool and corrected the situation.

Isn't that similar to my experience with the editor? I brought my book to the point I could, sought help and was given the tools to "fix" it. Why is that still deflating?

Honestly, maybe because deep down I wanted her to say, "We want your book right now, as is, without your having to do anything. This is wonderfully fresh material no one has ever thought of and you are so brilliant in your use of language and images. This is certain to be a best seller and make you fantastically rich."

What I got was: you are talented, your book has potential, but you have more work to do. It's the more work to do that gets me.

I am sick of the work of this book. I hadn't been until this conference. It's not supposed to be work. Because of its spirituality, I want it to be joyful, creative and fulfilling.

And yet I realize this is all part of the journey, my journey, the book's journey. Just as the book isn't ready, maybe I'm not either. The thought has crossed my mind as I prepared the proposal, outlining all of the marketing and promotion I was prepared to perform. It was a long and exhaustive list. Too much even for the editor. "Give me 5 things, not 25," she said. "When you try to be all things," she added. "you're nothing," I finished.

I am beginning to realize the book is not only about my life, it is or, at least, symbolizes my life. It's one of my mirrors as my husband so graciously put it this morning.

So when I look in the mirror what do I see?

Someone fighting pain regularly.
Someone with more ideas than energy to complete them.
Someone who often feels outside of the mainstream.
Someone struggling to balance her role of mother with that of herself, wife, artist/writer, productive member of society, neighbor, friend, nurturer, Quaker, daughter, sister.

Someone who needs to simplify. To take the plunger and push the waste away.

• What's clogging my life?
• Where may I find the tools to unclog it?
• Is it something I must do or seek assistance?
• What am I ready for at this moment?
• What am I pushing for that isn't right, right now?

I let
it all


let it

I realize
it, I

and some
the stuff

to edge
into a

within me

and it

to tell

I see


Thursday, October 14, 2010

When brain and body gang up

My yoga teacher kindly gave me an article [link below] to read on fibromyalgia she thought may be helpful. It was, but the one that began in the next page, Goodbye Guilt, really grabbed me. It's calling me to wrestle more deeply with my addiction to guilt, its roots and present, convoluted entanglements in my mind and body. Somehow, my spirit has not been sucked in. Unfortunately, I have to know things on every level to truly understand and, often, be released.

The author defines guilt as three types:
Natural that serves as an internal alarm to identify unethical behavior, make amends, forgive yourself and release it;
Toxic that can be accumulated, "free-floating" natural guilt, and/or a result of cultural insistence on original sin, creating a ripe environment to fear "expos[ing] innate badness;" and
Existential, triggered by the suffering and injustice in the world and, when compounded with toxic guilt, produces feelings of responsibility for everyone's pain.

I actually think this article has more to do with fibromyalgia than the one specifically written on the chronic condition.
"But if you are willing to look more deeply, you will probably find that your sense of toxic guilt has very little to do with anything that you did. That, paradoxically, is what makes it so toxic. When you suffer from this kind of pervasive guilt, any real-time infraction you commit becomes so freighted by the weight of your stored guilty feelings that facing it can feel paralyzing."
WOW. I'm not sure if I've ever said this out loud here, but so often I feel I am either fighting myself or paralyzed. That recognition, in itself, is huge. But, as I said, I have to truly understand concepts, including why and how. I am beginning to piece together that the guilt issue and being told as a preschooler that my heart was black with sin has literally torn me apart all of my life ... at least mentally and physically. My heart has always known otherwise. Perhaps it's just now my body and brain are catching up.

Every constant ache and pain in myself is an unreleased guilty thought, mostly of the toxic and existential variety in my case.

One of my fibro friends and I often discuss that we seem to be missing the filter that keeps some of the world's negativity out. He says his counselor has told him he needs to develop one. We both chuckle because we have no idea how. I am beginning to comprehend that it has more to do with letting something very old and encrusted out: the idea that we are not good enough.

The magazine article concludes:
"So the real solution to our problematic guilty feelings is to recognize, over and over again, the light of God's love that illuminates our heart."

• What types of guilt do I experience?
• How do I carry toxic guilt?
• When I recognize the pattern, how do I respond?
• How can I make a practice of reminding myself of my innate goodness?
• How can we remind each other?

brain and

gang up,

it's really
to break


I don't
in charge

I choose
the impermeable

and gratitude


Friday, October 8, 2010

Bits of myself

I had a dream some years ago that is as vivid as the morning after. It was beautiful, full of color and love, yet also haunting and calling me, once again.

My mother's youngest sister, and more like a sister to me, and I were intimately chatt3ing in a small vestibule with an extraordinary stained-glass window. The only words I recall were her telling me: "You had better choose." We had been discussing who I thought Jesus was. Then, the windows parted, siren-like music almost too beautiful for human ears played, the atmosphere rolled into translucent waves of color and Jesus appeared as if coming for one of us. My aunt died a few years later, so I had interpreted the dream as Jesus coming for her.

This week I received a facebook message from someone with whom I had lost contact, admired and shared some rich spiritual experience, including a dream group. She said she had come across that dream and "was really struck, this time, by your aunt telling you you must 'choose.' I don't know whether you've chosen Jesus a long time ago, or whether this is still an open question in your life. If it is an open question, I had the sense that the choice was looming with more importance and urgency."

I was bowled over. By the fact she had even paid attention then and now, with her sense of timeliness. She did say it applied to her and, possibly, this was not my message.

It is I am certain, but not sure how exactly.

I didn't think this was an open question. Firstly, I think Jesus chose me as he chooses each of us. It is I who came to the invitation late .. well, I accepted as a child, then backed off until more recent years. I accepted on my terms: that Jesus means something deeply within me. That I feel his energy in my heart and have experienced his presence in worship and meditation. However, I can't literally reconcile the crucifixion and resurrection. Marcus Borg's book Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time helped me distinguish the mythical Jesus from the historical. And so I am left with what I call a mystical Jesus, a palpable energy.

I perceive him as a bridge between divinity and humanity. That he was a wise and wonderful person who truly loved God and is an example of the path to God within my faith tradition. And, yes, I flirt with the possibility of divine origin in my mind and heart, but I can live with the mystery of not really knowing. I DO know Jesus as my inner teacher in how to be with God.

This dream may be pushing me father, deeper. I wonder what I have chosen or not chosen if this question arises again. Have I chosen something else? Has something else chosen me? Is my choice too superficial? Do I understand my choice?

The question that scares me the most is "Has something else chosen me?" Something not love, light, beauty, color and music. Something dark, murky and destructive. Something that breeds self-doubt, guilt and punishment. Something that holds me so tightly all I can I feel is pain or paralysis. Something I can dispel with another choice. An intentional choice. One I have neglected to make as I had not noticed what crept in, stealing bits of myself.

I choose wholeness/holiness and the path of light in whatever language that can be translated.

• How do I view Jesus/God/Spirit?
• How has that changed over time?
• Is it time to re-examine that?
• If that choice calling me to something deeper, to what?
• How can Jesus/God/Spirit bring me wholeness?

I seem
to get lost
a lot

and you
find me

my awareness

is it
grips me

also without
my knowledge?

holds me?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Love letter to a wild thing

        The night Max wore his wolf suit
        and made mischief of one kind
               and another
        his mother called him "WILD THING!"
        and Max said "I"LL EAT YOU UP!"
        so he was sent to bed without eating anything.
                            – Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

I wish I'd consistently respond to my wild thing the way Max's mom does. Often, I mete the consequence, but I also ignore and tolerate until my very long fuse gets lit. And, when it does, I become a wild thing in a rumpus.

I don't know how she does it, but my youngest is a master at pushing my buttons in a way no one else ever has. I thought I was a kind, loving, compassionate, tolerant, peaceful person until this lovable furry beast grew old enough to challenge me every inch of the way: relentlessly and unceasingly. Invariably, she fuels up and pushes until one of us bursts and then – only then – can she settle, mellow and do whatever it was she was supposed to.

I've been told I give her too much power, must learn to be consistent, should create stronger and clearer personal boundaries and remove myself from the drama. Mostly, I can. But there are days that seem endless and something just clicks. I am blinded in the moment and become someone I don't recognize. My hair covers my body, my nails lengthen and curve to become claws, my voice screeches and something else takes over. I don my wolf suit when she taps the wild side in me.

Most recently, I left and walked a labyrinth trying to simmer and calm the seething. Often she blocks me from leaving, not understanding I need to retreat to survive (which may be a faulty mechanism she's unconsciously attempting to correct).

So I have to ask myself, what, exactly, is she reaching in me?

It's as if she taunts me to dredge up every old wound I have stuffed down. Every injustice. Every wrong, slight or injury. She is a master stirrer and she's dredging up my anger from the bottom. My shamanic counselor says every family has a shit stirrer. Boy, does she keep that pot bubbling.

She forces me to look deep into the underbelly, the places I have locked away or forgotten. The feelings I have numbed for a variety of reasons. Maybe because she has those feelings and doesn't know what to do with them. She's forcing me to deal with them and teach both of us.

Is she simply coercing me to express those subdued layers? To find some form of freedom in releasing them? She never holds a grudge and once she has her fit, is done. Maybe that's a lesson I could learn. To express, then completely let go. Have my rumpus ... maybe many for all of the years of suppressed anger  -- and be done.

        "And now," cried Max, "let the wild rumpus start."
        "Now stop," Max said and sent the wild things off to bed
        without their supper. And Max the king of all the wild things was lonely
        and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.
                            – Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

After the rumpus, Max was ready to love. I think my wild one is, too.

• Who are the wild things in my life?
• What do they make me confront?
• When am I a wild thing and do I recognize it?
• What does my inner wild thing teach me?
• What is there for me to release with a rumpus?


I have
to look
very hard

and wade
very deep

to see
past the

of you
in your
wolf suit

and me
in mine

to the
that are