Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Universal umbilical cord

My head’s not on fire any more, I’ve been sleeping, my body is unwinding, my mind is calmer, the heaviness in my heart has lifted, I have an exhilarating focus, I don’t feel alone, and energy and creativity course through me.

I am grateful and blessed. Prayer truly works. So does opening personal burdens to Spirit, companions and community.

Everything I didn’t have last week, I have since been given. Best of all, I have been in a place to receive.

Even the reminder shell of pain is tolerable.

During the past several weeks, I have been counseled and listened to by amazing people, including here. One suggested I was in a “dark night of the soul,” which I had not recognized as such. It has seemed more like a dark night of the mind, battling against all else. Yet I think she had a point. It’s as if my mind/ego jailed my soul and my soul was only doing what was necessary to escape: GET MY ATTENTION by any means possible.

Maybe she’s right. I have been dissatisfied with prayer, worship and my faith community, storming at God and wondering if she even exists. I can’t remember a time I had that much doubt since embarking on a spiritual path. I felt listless, purposeless and well, useless. I’ve had spells before, often precipitated by pain, but the quality of this felt very different. Before some thread (deep worship, a project, life) provided the momentum to stop the inertia. This time, I hit a wall; a wall of desperation and fallibility that mirrored my miserable self. Something bashed that reflective obstacle and freed me. I don’t know how else to articulate it. I don’t really even understand it.

But on this side is freedom … in the form of something rising internally. I understand it is of me, not me, deeply rooted and connected, like the Universal umbilical cord. My lifeline.

• How have I experienced desolation, isolation or darkness?
• What have I learned being this side of it?
• How has it changed my understanding of myself?
• My understanding of the Creator?
• What did the experience shape me?

with pain

of energy

for love

a different

that was
inside all

yet I had
stood in the


Friday, March 25, 2011

My sloppy, loose innards

NOTE: This may seem self indulgent, but I need to explain where I live if only for self clarification. Somehow, I think it touches places in all of us. If not, just skip this.

I can’t do this anymore. The 12 years of pain and craziness. Yesterday, I had a haircut, which included what I thought was the best shampoo. She even lathered me twice, scrubbing my scalp each time, conditioning my hair me the same way. Last night, every nerve ending in my scalp started screaming, which ignited a chain reaction down my neck and spine. And that, of course, affected my already dicey getting to sleep, then staying that way. Without a deep sleep, my muscles don’t rest, I awake in darkness and the anxiety loop latent in my brain during the day is triggered.

So I am too tired to drag my butt to yoga this morning that I desperately need, but, which I know, will bring more pain today.

The world of fibromyalgia sucks. It has its ups and downs and right now I am reeling in a low area.

And people dare to tell me I look fine. Without the experience of it, you just don’t get it. During another low, I tearingly sought the help of an endocrinologist who said I looked too well to be there. “Looks can be deceiving,” I barked. He plied me with drugs, which I willingly took as I was too weak to resist. They helped for awhile, then he told me to stop them. One morning I awoke to such dizziness, I couldn’t move. It worsened all day and as I soaked in the tub trying to forget, a sneaky thought chilled me: it would be so much easier just to slide my head underwater for a bit and then IT would be all over. Oh yeah, I can’t; I’ve got a kindergartner getting off the bus in a half hour. What would this do to her?

Turns out I was in withdrawal and the bastard doc should have known better. My husband lumped me in the car the next day as I stretched out with the seat fully reclining to brave the dizziness and 30-minute trip across town to an alternative physician. No way was I letting the bastard touch me. The gentler doc told me what I already intuited: I’d have to get back on the drugs and wean off slowly. Took me several months to crawl out of that hole.

For some while, I have maintained with shorter down episodes by identifying environmental and food allergens and, for the most part, removing them, vacillating between benadryl and melatonin for sleep, swimming or doing yoga 5 times a week, getting periodic massage/shamanic counseling, throwing myself into spirituality with regular worship, doing freelance when I have the energy and clients, parenting and painting and writing when I can. I can't erase the urge to be productive.

Maybe I have forgotten what a longer bad patch is like. I also know menopause is not a good mix with fibro. The best description I have ever read of fibro for those who have not experienced it is like waking up with the flu, feeling as if a Mac truck has run over your body and having a stomach virus all at the same time all of the time. Fortunately, I do not have the irritable-bowel component.

I used to be such a morning person, having slept from the instant my head hit the pillow, then bouncing gloriously out of bed like Tigger, ready to meet the day head-on. Now I have lain awake awhile, talking myself into facing the wall of pain moving creates to get out of bed. The only places that don’t hurt, usually, are my lips, elbows, wrists, humerus, ulna, radius, femur, tibia and ankles. It’s good to focus on the positive – isn’t it? Everything else aches or is stiff. However, the mental momentum required to arise is rewarded with less pain once I actually get moving.

So, I ask myself, how did I get here again? Don’t think I haven’t asked God the same question.

Just two months ago, I felt almost pain free, full of hope and love after spending a week alone revising a book I will publish. Today that task seems so much further off than it did in January. But since then I have weathered the rejection, after what seemed like some courting, wooing and possibility, of a top NYC agent and a six-week stint working in my Quaker meeting office. The office work was a trial and just to give me some cash while I pursued the book. But different people had different ideas of how much the job would pay, its flexibility and actual duties. All of those were communicated to me independently and two large projects awaited. I immersed myself and worked with the speed, intensity and professionalism as if I were getting my usual freelance rate though this trial was paying only a fraction. I felt burdened, pressured and also lost my sense of my faith community being a safe place. Worship changed for me.

Hum … worship. I haven’t had my weekly hour of mostly silence in a month, I feel detached from a place I have worshipped for 12 years.

12 years. Yes, there is a coincidence between the onset of fibro (which took me years to ID) and my spiritual journey. Pain forced me to seek relief in any way possible and directly led me to my Quaker meeting.

I have prayed, talked to and stormed at God privately and even with another present. But I have not experienced corporate worship in what seems like a really, really long time. My response to pain of most kinds is to shrink back and turn inside: to deal with it myself and not seek outside help.

Maybe I just need to pray in community. Maybe I need to ask the community to pray for and hold me. My stubborn inner self doesn’t want to have to ask. It wishes it would just happen. I can intuit how people are feeling and forget that’s not universal.

Asking for help. To save myself, I think I have to do this.

• What is my continual struggle?
• How do I deal with the pain in my life?
• How do I approach God when I am in crisis?
• How do I surround myself with the support of others?
• How am I able to seek help?

at yoga last week,
the instructor said to stay soft inside
and hard outside

my external hardness feels like
a brittle shell that's beginning to crack

and I am afraid to let the sloppy,
loose innards seep out

they are innocent

inside they are protected,
outside, exposed

will I be accepted
if seen for myself?
vulnerable and imperfect,
creative and loving

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My inner child roared STOP

I never understood the theology behind being saved and born again. "Saved from what?" I would unintelligibly ask myself whenever I heard the phrase. It's certainly nothing I've ever heard in my Quaker meeting. Probably if I had, it would not have been the place for me.

Yes, I literally knew what people meant. But, having known Jesus in a rather mystical way (which I now believe is the way of Jesus) as a child, those words were meaningless to me and, often, were used as judgment or a means of separating some from others. Counter to what I have experienced as oneness.

Now I might have an answer to saved from what: myself. And I am beginning to feel re-shaped, freed – perhaps born again – after unburdening myself of many years of woundedness. Hurt compounded on hurt like sedimentary rocks. Deep and thick and not easily picked apart. But the prying began some time ago and slowly, bit by layered bit, one after another has been exposed thanks to grace. About 10 years ago, I spent a summer in my sanctuary studio listing my wounds. I acquired an awareness as a result. It explained a lot about myself. About a year and a half ago, I recognized another, inflicted at a very tender age, that has largely shaped my belief that God resides within. Identifying these painful moments provides insight on how I behave and react. But that hasn't been enough. Instead of merely struggling, I struggled with an awareness. That has, almost, been worse; except for the faith I have that I am somehow progressing. In certain situations, I don't automatically act anymore. I have been opened to knowing my idiosyncracies, placing less emphasis on myself as victim.

However, I wondered why life was so difficult and where was the so-called freedom, nirvana, kingdom or happiness most religious traditions bandy about. I never lost my hope or trust, but it did grow thin at times. I believed that acknowledging these dark pieces in myself was enough. I had shed light on them, what more work was there?

Acceptance. Acceptance in the form of forgiveness for self and others. That was the big step missing. The only way for me personally to obtain that was to verbalize all of the hurt to another human. One I trusted, who met me where I was with only love and the experience of having traveled the same path. Because she could accept me and my wounds and love me, then I could do so myself. For the first time I felt totally "seen" both dark and light. She gave me names for my wounds, which opened more self wisdom and let out a lot of self loathing. She enabled me to let myself off the hook. The horribly deep hook that had taken charge.

After I spewed and she accepted, the stabbing ache vacated my heart. And that area of my body felt odd all day. It wasn't until I was falling asleep that I understood the naming, accepting and forgiving had cleared those old wounds out of my heart. There was more room, less restriction, a lightness and freeness. I listened to my inner self and took the next day off to feed myself for myself. Not so I could then feed others ... in the hopes they would feed me in return. That last part is a relatively new revelation for me. I have been a nurturer most of my life because I had not received that for reasons, which now seem meaningless and unimportant.

My lonely inner child has been fighting so many of the negative lessons on self care I have accrued over a lifetime. And now she doesn't have to. I have re-birthed a place in myself that is learning to truly nurture me merely for me.

• What's my theology pertaining to self revelation?
• What is it's connection to Spirit/God/Jesus?
• What has happened when I have shared my wounds with another human?
• How am I able to take that experience and open to another?
• How do I nurture myself just for myself?

constantly pushing
to help others to keep up
the good-girl title

avoiding any conflict or negativity
and secretly storing it away
also to keep the title

and also because I knew no other way

I had been told, taught and shown to be quiet,
pay attention, but not call attention to myself

never learning how to care for myself,
just to serve and please others

not knowing I was secretly
serving others so they would do the
same for me

and being hurt, rejected and worn down
when they didn't return the favor,
turning on myself

years and years it piled up
until my inner child roared STOP
and pointed me to the person in
whom I must confide
ALL of it

and, when I did,
most ALL of it drained away,
clearing space for forgiveness,
which created more space
for freedom and love
especially love for myself

I have always liked myself,
now I can love me, too

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Holding me back from myself

Yesterday morning as I was unloading the dishwasher while my girls were setting up the snack they volunteered to bring to our Quaker meeting, the metaphor of me working in the kitchen during worship was too powerful to ignore. But it's also painful to consider what action the meaning may spark.

I am so spiritually wiped out that I can barely feel God. Enough that I asked my spiritual friend of several years for a large dose of help this morning. She lovingly and caringly doled out what I so desperately needed: a practiced ear, a big heart, a knowingness and affirmation I have not often received and, as a result, need.

I seem such a far place from mid January when I spent a week alone writing in the woods and snow at another generous friend's condo. I was full of energy and joy, working on my work and sailing toward some imagined (though I suspect Divinely-inspired) bliss. Two events have intervened to take me somewhere else. Situations that fall into my pattern of giving myself away in exchange for something less than I am worth. I was prayerful on both counts and felt as I was doing what Spirit asked. I don't doubt that now, but am smarting from the dark hole into which I've fallen. I've been here before, but this time I seem to have tools I didn't earlier: awareness, a light to shine in the dark and the wisdom of a real friend.

I am supposed to be here, hard as the road was.  I have some excavating of old wounds to face instead of letting them scab over and grow deeper. I opened those wounds last week, journaling them. Today I exposed them, some for the very first time, to another human. And this time, I received the response I have so often missed.

I am becoming increasingly aware, however, that to move toward wholeness, I have to make a major change: unearthing myself from a previous source of nurture and growth. It seems I am only seen there for the light, bright parts of myself that I can give and not the dull, dirty parts that need attention. But for my spirit to shine, I MUST wade into the muck and reclaim those hidden pieces ... with or without my faith community. In not encouraging and nurturing the journey into darkness, I am suffocated and called to venture on accompanied or unaccompanied. This journey can not be stalled, neglected or delayed. My soul is at stake.

And I won't be alone.

• When have I been called away from something that no longer fits?
• How has a previous journey or awareness eased the transition?
• How do we recognize that finding our True Selves is a constant evolution and may mean leaving ideas, concepts and people behind.
• How do I nurture myself through those times?
• How can I be sure not to miss any new doors or openings?

the patterns from childhood
are so strong that it takes
something bigger than I to
shake them loose

that shaking can be brutal,
uncomfortable and tear
me from things and places
I hold dear

and yet, they are
holding me back

Saturday, March 19, 2011

God spelled backwards

It's official! My cat, Him Kitty, is over being mad at me for a two-night stay at the vet last week. He hasn't purred for me until this morning. Never mind that the antibiotics we've forced fed him seemed to have cured his inner-ear infection; he's not constantly scratching that ear.

But I fear that even if the purring has returned, my longtime furry friend has lost something else: kitty alzheimer's, the vet has hinted. After three visits, everything else checks out. Though there is treatment for dogs, there really isn't much for cats. I have explored some alternative remedies.

He's somewhere in the vicinity of 17 years old and has lived with us since he was a kitten. First as a you-can-see-me-but-not-touch-me fixture on the front porch, then as an ally for life when he looked at me with big kitten eyes and I knew he was hungry, very hungry, so I fed him. He soon came to live inside with out first cat, pretty much obtained in the same manner – only she was lost and crying under our deck when I retrieved her with a flashlight, then fed her.

But this guy's decline is different from when Girl Kitty [ok, so we've not blessed our cats with very creative names; never thought she'd be with us permanently, so gave her a generic name so we wouldn't get attached] went on a hunger strike and expired as the vet was attempting to diagnose her condition. Him Kitty's still eating and I have always known he was healthy by the amount of purring emanating from his throat ... until this past week, that is. And it's been pretty scary.

Part of the scariness is in feeling so very responsible for this creature who can't verbalize what he's thinking, feeling or experiencing. Although, over the years, we have learned to decipher his moods, temperaments, gestures and varying meows. What if I've misinterpreted, made a grave mistake or just don't get it?

The trip to the vet is enough to trigger cardiac arrest with his yowling, drooling and pacing. I'm such a softie that I haven't wanted to subject him to the cat carrier in this trio of vet visits over the past six months. So I purchased a small-dog harness and laid old beach towels in a basket on the front seat and looped the leash around the door handle. Invariably, he climbs out of the basket and into the foot well of the front seat, walks in a tight circle, mounts the gear shift and slides into the back seat, where I can only hear and guess that he's up and down and all over each seat and floor space. That and the tell-tale cats hairs collecting on every surface. It always seems to be raining on this half-hour journey, so my driving concentration is tested. Occasionally, I reach back and stroke whatever bit of fur is within my reach. After a trip around all parts of the car, he usually climbs into my lap, where I pet with one hand and steer with the other. Needless to say, no Starbuck's sidetrip on this jaunt, even though I pass three along the way.

It was such a beautiful day when Lily, my ten-year-old, and I picked him up Saturday that we visited a park and paraded him around on his leash. We felt he deserved it after two nights of sleeping in a cage. More people broke out into smiles and snickers at the sight of him. He actually behaved fairly well for an animal whose nature is not in being herded. He returned home exhausted and slept.

Then we began masquerading his new meds in several foods. The coat-the-pill-in-butter trick worked once. The bite-Tad's-finger-as-Cathy-crams-the pill-down-the throat only happened once; Tad's edict. The expensive pill pockets worked ONCE. Finally we resorted to restraining him in a beach towel. Tad held him, opened his jaw and I quickly popped the pill in the back of his throat. Then we blew into his nostrils, a method gleaned online. That worked enough times to finish the round.

No wonder he's pissy, disoriented and listless. But, today he is also purring!

• What is it about animals to which we humans respond so deeply?
• How do we experience their unconditional love?
• Where else do we experience and practice unconditional love?
• How have relationships with animals nurtured us?
• How have we experienced Divine love through these creatures?

how can flesh and fur,
whiskers and claws
work so deeply into our hearts

teaching us not only
how to love, but what it feels
like to be loved unconditionally

maybe it's what we used to teasingly say
to our young daughters:
God is just dog spelled backward ... or cat

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Upsetting the social script

Meeting with wonderful old friends – from my first job – Monday night and realizing, other than aging somewhat, no one has really changed, I wondered out loud on the drive home if it's possible at 25 we have already become primarily the person we will be for life.

It seemed a rather profound thought to explore. I know in some ways I don't feel very different; in all of the essential ways I believe I am the same person, sans some of the baggage and experience I have accumulated along the way.

Or were we just putting on our best faces? In this group, we have all witnessed each other at our worst: nursing headaches at work after a Sunday night galavanting; playing grownup in newspaper jobs that practically paid play money; living large because we didn't know any better; and loving hard for the same reason, sometimes rewarded with heartaches, yet also with relationships that have survived and grown. It stymies me to think that these people sailed out of my daily life when they had been such an important part of my maturing. I guess we all grew into other things: different careers, marriages, relationships and families.

So is the person who laughed, reminisced, stirred fond memories and totally enjoyed herself with this group the real me or is the one who has not-so-gracefully navigated a harsh winter and feels lost, even desolate, me? I don't recall these spells of hardness during my tenure with these friends. But then, life was simpler. Only me to care for, no worries, no lingering expectations or disappointments, only living in the moment as we all did. AHHHH living in the moment. That may be the difference.

How did I stray so far from that earlier time? I felt new, alive and my own person then. Now I feel governed by some pretty deep ruts not necessarily of my own making, but trenches – family and cultural patterns, philosophies and tenants that run counter to my essential self – from which I am attempting to emerge  The first step has been to recognize them. Now I am working to extricate myself. And it's really hard. I feel like I am the only screwed-up person as well as the only one trying to do something about it. It's not something that pops up in the daily course of conversations, e-mails or facebook posts. And, when in passing, someone asks how I am, I know they don't want to hear "crappy or demented," so I suck it in, force a winced smile and reply, "OK," which is a blatant lie. But the truth would upset the social script.

Deep down, I know this is imperative and what I am supposed to be undertaking right now, in this moment. Last week, I was beginning to wonder if God were an invention, but that's because I am conflicted about my faith community. I have been giving there what I have needed all of my life, spiritual nurture. My wise shamanic counselor says they can't provide what I need. So where, I ask, do I get it?

Certainly at age 25 I did not suffer from this dilemma. I did not examine issues this deeply. Was I living more superficially? It was surely an easier way.

Perhaps my lesson is to meld my earlier ability to live in the present with the harder course right now, including talking about it, even making people feel uncomfortable.  And to take it one day at a time and see where it leads ... hopefully into God's loving embrace. But I am not so very sure.

• What does renewing old friendships mirror about who we have been? Who we are now?
• How does dealing with the complexities of life as we grow older contribute to our maturity?
• To our spiritual growth?
• How is it possible to have felt so very close the the Divine, only to feel so far as to question its existence?
• How can we open a healthy conversation about the darkness, which is also a part of the lightness?

they held the mirror
and when I looked back,
I saw joy, frivolity and an easier way

I am afraid to look presently

because the ride is steeper, twisting and taking
me deeper and darker away

from the light I only so
very recently seemed to find

something tells me it's okay and
if I were to peer ahead, I would be pleased with the view

I must hold that hope, along with the reflection
of the past, and let it light the darkness now

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Albatrosses to be shed

I had a last-minute invitation to an International Women's Day (IWD) lunch hosted by a Russian friend of mine Tuesday that was more of a treat than I could have imagined. I had never even heard of IWD until I met Svetlana a few years ago when the heater on the gym pool conked out in December and we were the two lone and hearty souls to take a dip.

The luncheon brought together an interesting array of women spanning five decades of ages, a myriad of life experiences and the common desire to unite. It was lively, serious, fun, nurturing and the breath of fresh air I desperately needed. Emanuela, originally from Umbria, Italy, and Svetlana, from St. Petersburg, had both grown up celebrating IWD, so they seemed to be the driving forces of the commemoration, which happened to be the 100th anniversary. It's a national, no-work, holiday in almost 30 countries. Apparently, in the former Soviet Union, there's a men's day, but everyone still works. The irony was not lost on me.

Initially,  IWD was political in nature, originating in socialist Eastern Europe and Russia advocating better rights and working conditions for women, but has taken on the larger role of celebrating and uniting women around the world. It seems the collective voice has grown loud and strong in a century.

And I had NEVER heard of it before my Russian friend. How strange and ridiculous is that ... in this land of plenty and justice? Fortunately, my seventh-grader came home also talking about it as it had been discussed on her daily school news program.

After a marvelous Soviet-style feast, mingling and getting acquainted, learning about IWD and feeling a part of this group, we meditated together. Right there in Svetlana's living room mid day. And it was glorious. She played an Indian sax CD, we opened our kundalini energy and faced her altar dedicated to Sahaja Yoga founder/guru Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, who died last month.

All of these women had that in common. They asked if I'd be comfortable meditating with them; I smiled and said I was Quaker and used to silent worship, which is, essentially, the same thing. They seem pleased.

OMG I had not realized how very long it had been since I had meditated outside of Sunday worship. Sure, I make my semi-weekly swims meditative and the five-minutes of relaxation twice a week in yoga, but this was SO different, SO healing, SO cathartic because I entered with NOTHING.

It has been a very long time since I entered my Sunday worship that way and I had not even realized it. Compared to the heaviness and restrictiveness I have felt in Quakerism [can you tell I haven't been fed in awhile?], the Sahaja yoga was light, deep and refreshing all at the same time. With no agenda.

I also happened to have a strange dream this week. [Well, aren't most dreams strange?] Someone in the Quaker Meetinghouse was pointing out rubber body parts – a heart, hand and unidentifiable organ – on the office floor to me. I recognized them as representing me and, upon reflection, something has been tearing me apart ... literally. My wise spiritual friend has given me some ideas for working further with this dream, but it is obvious wholeness is not a part of my life right now and I am beginning to understand the source – that, perhaps, it's time to explore another spiritual avenue. I am uncertain whether that means leaving my home of the past 12 years or just branching out. Hard to tell, but Tuesday's meditation makes the idea more appealing,

• How has a refreshing experience shaped or changed my view or attitude?
• When my spirituality has become stale, am I brave enough to look elsewhere or make a change?
• How can I extract myself from that kind of rut?
• What are potential drawbacks?
• Potential rewards?

unquestioningly entrenched
because, for so long, it fit

wearing it, bearing it because
it had been such a vital connection

relying more on memory than
the present for comfort

until something: a new experience or dream
awakens us to new possibilities and albatrosses to be shed

what courage will I be called to muster?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Perseverance in an imperfect life

Yesterday, my husband and I snuck off to a matinee of The King's Speech. I'd been wanting to see it for a very long time. It was every bit as good as I had hoped and then some. Beyond the intrigue of the royals, WWII and the abdication over an American divorcee, it was a moving story of friendship and how a commoner, no less an Australian, became a King's first true friend and how that friend helped a potentially great man overcome fear instilled by upbringing.

It was amazing to me to understand just how lonely, vulnerable and screwed up a King can be ... no less than an ordinary citizen; maybe more so because of circumstance and the way in which royals are raised.

My favorite passage [with the exception of the scenes when the speech teacher actually gets the Duke of York to spew obscenities or sing his words without stammering] was when Lionel tells Bertie (the-soon-to-be-coronated monarch) he is the most courageous person he knows because he has persevered.

The struck a powerful chord in me and is a strong reminder of how our wounds not only force us to grow (when we rise to the occasion), but are often the source of our gifts. If only we can see that for ourselves and remember.

Sometimes when I take stock of my life, I feel I have underachieved. That I pursued a career full force with wonderful opportunities and successes, took time out to start a family later and then tanked because an auto accident [combined with other factors] resulted in fibromyalgia, a diagnosis that took years and me finally screaming it at an endocrinologist, who concurred. Not that having a name attached has changed anything. I have a full list of what I haven't been able to do.

But the notion of perseverance  – of getting up day after day to the wall of morning pain – stopped me. Even on days I feel I do nothing else, I persist and persevere. We all do in our own ways and with our own adversities. Think about it. And then begin another list. The list of what you have accomplished in spite of the wounds. Maybe even because of them.

I have been forced to slow down, live a more spacious and contemplative life. Would I trade that? Emphatically, NO.

We need to be the Lionels of the world and remind ourselves, as well as those we love, of what we have achieved. We must muster the courage to see, acknowledge and applaud our perseverance.

• When was the last time I gave myself credit for persisting? Muddling through?
• What difference can that make?
• Do I have someone to remind me or is there someone I can remind?
• How have my wounds aided or become my gifts?
• How has my life been enriched by the hardships?

I am beginning to understand
that life is in the struggle

otherwise, we'd be complacent,
ungracious, striving

not that we aren't those things anyway

but how much more so would we be if we danced 
through life unaware?

instead of being grateful for the opportunity
to live imperfectly

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Frozen by what's NOT in my heart

It's been a rough and tumble couple of weeks as I attempt to figure out what I want to be right now, not just when I grow up because I'm not sure I'll ever be in that place. Nor do I want to be, unless, maybe, when it's time to transition from this life.

My blog, among other things, has suffered as a result. It's not that I haven't tried, it's just that it has come out in fits and starts that never seem like a whole piece or even finished. Yet that's been my life of late. Perhaps stringing these chunks on one strand may make a whole something. Here goes:


Wish the world would let me in on its little secrets sooner. Ones like:

• You can have a career and have a family, but if you have the family later and take time off, you're in for a BIG surprise if you think you can return on your terms.
• If you decide you have a spiritual side and prefer to live in that place, the rest of the world doesn't hold much of a place for you.
• You can have a chronic disease and pretend you don't, but sooner or later the world will trigger something to remind you that you do.
• You can give yourself away and the world will ask for more.
• You can show your soul to the world, thinking you're ready, and it will still get stomped on.
• You can "think" you're in a spiritual environment and still be subjected to the demands of the secular world.
• If you are creative in any way, you will have to carve your own path.
• Ha, ha, ha; there IS a glass ceiling.

[You can CUT the anger and frustration, can't you?]

After feeling defeated, now I am rebellious; tired of the restrictiveness of the norm and anxious to break out into something more creative, joyful and ... well ... me.

[Something's at work in this shift – creativity?]

I tried an office job because people I love and respect asked and I thought I should give it a go, which they graciously let me do. It was not a fit for many reasons. But primarily because that's not where my essential self calls and it spoke petty loudly. I ignored it and fought on. Which is what I have typically done in life when I let my social self tell me what to do and I let myself be dictated to by "everybody's opinion," that I have learned is not real thanks to reading Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You were Meant to Live by Martha Beck.

Interesting how I came across this book. It was "recommended" by the New York agent who flirted with me for a few days to quickly dash my hopes of her representation after  a lot of blood, sweat and tears.  She said my book was too similar to North Star, among others. I was shocked because my research had not turned up anything quite like I was proposing: my journey of the past 12 years in journal entries and art, wrapped with meditations, queries, affirmations, exercises and explanations I've developed in training and leading spiritual-nurture groups and workshops. And, because North Star was ten years old, it wasn't even on my radar.

So, being the curious sort, I borrowed a copy of the book. Our titles are similar [mine was Finding Your True Self: A Map of Self Spiritual Exploration and Nurture, which I will change], even the chapters follow common themes, ending with exercises. That sounds like a lot, but the commonality ends in that her approach is more a life process of finding your calling; mine is about re-discovering the Divine within.

And then I began reading it. BINGO. I needed this book and am not sure I'd ever have found it otherwise.  Coupled with a rejection, which I usually take pretty hard, I began to explore how and why someone else's judgment can be so personally damaging and damning. 

This probing has been also been facilitated by a convergence of experience, awareness and provocative, loving souls who have witnessed my pain and frustration. The North Star book delineates our essential self [the one we're born with] and the social self [the one that conforms] and theorizes that balancing the two opens new and greater possibilities. For most people the social self is in charge ... often without any awareness.

I understand I am not meant to live a conventional life and can surrender into that acceptance, while leaving "what everybody thinks" behind. Everybody, according to Beck, boils down to those influential in our lives, the media, our educational system and those who have been critical of us ... especially those.

The intensity of recent events in my life was almost crushing until someone shook me up and made me see what I passively let happen. Maybe not so passively. I took a bold step and the immediate release was unexpectedly wonderful. In North Star, Beck says that siding with the essential self makes one feel like Scrooge the morning after the ghosts have visited: free and full of love and gratitude.

I was certain I'd crash the next day with the flu/cold one daughter and my spouse shared. Instead, I arose very early, cooked large breakfasts and saw each daughter to her bus, took a yoga class, visited on the phone with a close friend and prepared to have appliances delivered the next day [i.e. cleaning out the old food and old fridge]. And, in between, dreamt of all the new possibilities for MY work, with the emphasis on my and not someone else's.

I have re-gained some energy and a new vision is emerging, one that flows and does not require me to fight. I am tired of fighting, pitting my selves against each other with my body and psyche as the battlegrounds.

I am dealing with the lost-energy aftermath, but my spirit is more than in tact; it feels free again. Free enough to put itself out there with this "in-process" blog post. One person whose opinion I respect rather strongly suggests it's time for me to go out into the world and I wonder what, exactly, that means right now.

• How do I know what I am currently doing is my real work?
• How can I use blinders to let rejection and judgment fall away as I find my path?
• What lessons do those difficult encounters create?
• What is the real, true me?
• How do I remind myself gently that I am a work in progress and extend that to others?

frozen by what's not in my heart,
but rather on my mind or in untrue voices

thoughts and whispers that have imbedded a deep and binding
culvert I am attempting to dig out and re-channel

thus connecting my heart to the rest of me and ...
working toward wholeness