Why Idealism

why idealism

I have been writing this post in my head for a very long time. I have this idea in my head on how I want it to be but my words have never quite come together the way I want. I found this picture recently and it spoke to me, I knew it was meant for this post. I also knew it was time to just start writing, let it come out however it chooses to.

This is what it feels like to be an idealist, an INFP, for me at least. I am writing this in my “I” voice, not speaking for all idealists/INFPs, just me. The world at times, often times, feels magic. The wind in the trees, the way it makes the leaves move, the noise it makes.. Magic. Old trees that have lived much longer than myself, they have seen the world change around them but there they stand strong and true.. Magic. Human connection, one soul finding itself in another.. Magic.

When I was a child I was all imagination. I played in the trees but they were not trees, they were castles. I pretended my backyard was a wilderness filled with gentle wild animals who wanted nothing more but to be my friend, I laid out carrots waiting for rabbits that would never come. I lived a life of joy and fulfillment playing in a world I created in my mind and my heart. I understand now that part of this was out of necessity. Idealism, imagination, rose colored glasses, being inside my own little world.. It was a way to feel safe when my environment did not. It gave me somewhere to go when I could not be where I was. Idealism is part of what helped me survive.

I have never grown out of my idealism. It allows me to see the best in bad situations, it allows me to find hope when all feels lost, it allows me to find compassion for those who would hurt me, it allows me to feel safe when the world feels scary.

I know there is a balance to be struck, especially as an adult, but ultimately at the end of the day I am still very much an idealist. Some may see this approach to life through a negative lens. My response to that would be before you jump to criticism and judgement think about what this world view might mean to the person. We do not become who we are arbitrarily. I am willing to bet that I am not the only survivor of trauma that has used my sense of idealism as a tool for resiliency. It is absolutely a strength, it helped me survive. I went through what I went through and never stopped believing in the world, and life, and magic, and beauty. That is strength. That is resiliency.

Why Idealism?

Because the world is going to be what it is going to be regardless of me so why not try to see the best whenever possible, it is there, keep looking.

Because The world is full of beautiful magic and I can’t ignore it. I cannot help but be in awe everyday I get to be part of it.

Because safety.

Because there is no right or wrong way to experience life and this is my way.

My husband is a realist, we balance each other, I lift him up, he keeps me tethered to the ground so I do not float away. I admire his perspective and respect what it means to him. I can also be a bit of a cynic at times because I am allowed to exist in more than one way in my life and sometimes social justice issues are too big and awful to see through my rose colored glasses. That is okay too. I embrace it all.

You don’t have to be all one thing all the time. You can exist in your life in many different ways. Life is not as rigid as we are told it is growing up. It is flexible and forgiving, we make it complicated with our ideas about right/wrong/good/bad and other forms of dichotomous thinking.

So where do you land in all of this? Idealist? Realist? Optimist? Cynic? Anarchist? And why? You are not who you are by accident. What got you there? There is no wrong answer and your story, whatever it maybe, is sacred.

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A Story About a Girl Who Did it All

reading

I just finished reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. It had me at The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland, I was sold when I saw A Ship of Her Own Making. She is the hero of this story, doesn’t need to be saved.

It was great and like all great stories a piece of me mourned when it ended. It was an adventure that reminded me of a mix between The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland.

I am not really sure where to go next. I was thinking maybe Harry Potter, I have actually never read any of them. It is pretty incredible that I even have time for pleasure reading right now but so far I do and I want to keep on until I no longer can.

Pretty soon I am going to need another bookcase. Todd has really been going through them recently too. His bookcase is quite full right now as well.

Maybe there is a Neil Gaiman I haven’t read yet that I could get into. His stuff is always a safe bet for someone like me. I used to feel that way about Gregory Maguire years and years ago but I have since moved on. I could also reread something but as I gaze upon the shelves of books nothing jumps out at me. Todd really encouraged me to read Quiet by Susan Cain, that is an option. I saw her Ted Talk about introversion though and kinda feel like I got the big picture from that.

I will figure it out I am sure. In the interim it is that much more time I have to write and that is quite welcome as well.

Awkward Shared Experience

I have about 20 minutes before I have to leave for internship so I decided to try to get this post out real quick because something interesting happened in school last night.

First I have to comment on awesome weather right now. Awesome is maybe not the word everyone would use to describe it, it has been raining for three days straight and probably will through the end of the week do to a tropical depression that is hanging out nearby. I love it though. I have my root chakra music playing and the rain is pounding in the background, I can hear it hitting the chimney and echoing down into the fire place. I think the only reason I ever didn’t love the rain was because I had long hair and rain/humidity made it impossible to deal with. Having no hair allows me to love the rain as I actually do, fully and with enthusiasm!

So last night I was in groups class where, you guessed it, we learn how to facilitate groups and everything about group dynamics etc. One of the ways this class is being run is that we, as a class, are holding group every week and two students cofacilitate the group. They have a topic for the group to focus on etc and it gives each of us a chance to both participate in a group and run one, lots of great hands on experience.

Last night was our first group, in my opinion it was a mess at times and super uncomfortable. The main facilitator, I say main because he did not allow the woman he was cofacilitating with have an opportunity to do her thing at all! So the main facilitator appeared to have A LOT of nervous energy that he did seem self-aware of at all and he did things that were perceived by me to be patronizing, sexist, and weirdly controlling. I thought it was just me, he definitely reminds me of a few men I have encountered in life that were problems for me so I was sure this was just an issue of transference. I was uncomfortable for the first 20 minutes but bit my tongue. 2o minutes in he asked us all to stand to do an exercise, he then proceeded to separate the men from the women (there were onyl two men other than himself so he forced – literally grabbed and forced- the professor to join group and line up with the men. Background information, this group’s topic was getting a job after school, we were supposed to discuss our concerns etc.
So he lines up all the men and then has the women count off from three breaking us into three groups. He then tells us, the women, to line up in front of the men based on the number he assigned each man and take turns shaking their hands while looking in their eyes passionately. Um.. What the actual fuck is going on??

He did not explain the purpose of the exercise, even after he did later it was not clear. It was perceived by a lot of people, men and women alike, myself included, to be an exercise where the men were teaching the women how to shake hands. My feminist pieces were freaking the fuck out. This was some sexist bullshit. Not to mention sexism already exists for women in professional environments, lets just go ahead and validate that by creating a sexist exercise that prepares us for the sexism we are in for when we get the job.

And what was the whole thing about looking them in the eyes passionately? When in a professional environment should we ever be looking anyone in the eye passionately? What were learning from this? It was so awkward and sexist I could barely breathe. Oh and one more thing, once we were all done being passionate and learning how to shake hands we, the women, were told to rate the men’s performances. Holy fucking innuendo Batman! Does this guy seriously not get how weirdly inappropriate this is?? Jeezo!

So after this debacle of an exercise we all returned to our seats to continue group. The energy in the room had changed, it was tense. No one was making eye contact, it was like we were all covered in shame or something. The facilitator was clueless, he could not read the room at all and pushed on calling on people who were volunteering to participate in the discussion etc. I was so triggered I shut down. I was done with this group and this dude. He apparently did pick up on this in me and called on me deliberately, I passed because in a group you can always pass there usually is not forced participation. My pass cracked open the group and things got real for the first time all night.

One of my colleagues I know well and who knows me well could read what my pass was about so she started the ball rolling. She raised her hand and shared that she was uncomfortable with the exercise we had just done. The facilitator seemed a bit dumb founded. I then raised my hand and explained how I felt (definitely using my I voice) that it was sexist and it spoke to sexism that already exists in professional spaces. I felt like the facilitator get defensive, I braced myself for a confrontation I had been trying to avoid, but before he had the chance to respond men and women alike were chiming in about their shared discomfort with the exercise. It led to a very meaningful conversation about sexism in the workplace and what women experience. There was lots of personal sharing of stories and insightful dialogue with the other men in the room.

For the record I still do not think this guy, the facilitator got it. At the end though the professor did say that the conflict my friend and I opened up about led to the best moment the group had. He said that was the only time we acted like a real group. Yay feminism.

Quite a few of us were still processing the whole thing after class. I am glad my friend shared, I am glad I called the sexism that was happening out. I also made sure to check in with the facilitator and make sure he and I were okay. He is hard to read, I am still not sure he understood any part of what happened. That is his journey though, he will get there when he is meant to or not at all, not my concern.

On Not Being Saved

I just wrote a really difficult post in my dark place where I realized something awful, I was never saved. No one came to my rescue, I was not protected, there was no hero just the hope for one that never came. This all pertains to a certain aspect of my dark work and it was a really painful realization. So I felt the need after sitting with that terrible realization to come over to this light space and balance that.

I was never saved. That still hurts to say but there is something very important to take away from that. I was never saved but I survived. I did that. All by myself, just me. I am the reason I am still here. Not being saved meant that I had to take care of myself, I had to develop skills I otherwise would not have had to in order to take care of myself, to keep myself safe, to get myself through to the other side. I was waiting for a hero and when one did not come, it was on me to become my hero, so I did.

hero

Something we talk about a lot in social work is resiliency, and a persons strengths. I never gave myself credit for my own resiliency. When you spend your entire life trying to deny, and ignore, and disconnect from the awful things that have happened you do not pay attention to the secret gifts they gave you as well.

I took care of me when no one else showed up. And now I am learning to love myself in those places of pain. I was there for myself when the bad happened, I will be there for myself as I heal.

I am the hero of this story, don’t need to be saved. – Regina Spektor

So Small in a Very Big Place

astronomy

4 years ago I left the professional world and returned to school full-time. It was a big left turn in my life, one of the biggest (best) leaps of faith I have ever made. My first semester back in school I arbitrarily signed up for an astronomy class because I needed a science credit and I thought the class would be interesting. To this day, and after all the other wonderful classes I have taken, astronomy is still at the very top of my list as one of my favorites.

I was thinking about my astronomy class and professor last night when Todd and I were leaving my parents home. My parents live in what is considered the country for our area, lots of cow pastures, no street lights, some paved roads, some dirt. One of my favorite parts of visiting them is leaving in the evening, and as I typed that I realized how bad it sounds! Let me elaborate, I enjoy leaving because at night in the country you can see so many stars, much more than we can see downtown, and they shine so brilliantly! Last night the sky was clear and full of bright white star light, it was stunning. I stood there outside our car for a few minutes to take it all in. This is when I thought of my old professor and everything he taught me about how vast the universe is.

Something happened to me after I took that class, it changed me a bit. I learned so much and some of it was pretty overwhelming. I remember feeling so insignificant and small the day I learned about how big the universe is and that fact that it is still expanding, I wrote about it in a post called A Smooth Sea Never Made for a Skillful Sailor.

That class made me claustrophobic in a way. Since learning everything I did about us in relation to the enormous everything that exists beyond us there have been times when I look up at the sky and feel like the planet is too small, I do literally feel a bit claustrophobic. It seems silly right? The sky is so high above me, how could it feel like it is closing in? Well it does. When you think about how big everything is beyond the sky suddenly the planet feels like a marble in a open field that has no ending point.

I think it is okay to feel this way sometimes. It gives me perspective when I get hung up on a baking disaster or any other conflict, how much does it matter in the grand scheme of things? I try not to dwell to long either though because it can kind of make me feel like what is the point of anything too.

Last night was a gorgeous night and I felt small as I looked up at the asterisms and planets above me. I considered how far away they must be, and wondered what was way out there where they exist. Sometimes just looking at the night sky can reset whatever dialogue you have going in your head, or make you rethink the importance of your latest dilemma, I know that is the case for me at least. I look at the night sky and I feel small and infinite all at the same time.

neil

The Snail and the Sunflower

Last night my husband told me a bed time story as he sometimes does. This story has a back story I should share before I go any further though.

Recently I painted Todd a picture as a thank you for being an amazing life partner and beautiful human being. It was important to me that the picture I painted him be math and science related because those are two of his sweet spots. After lots of thought and looking over some reference photos I decided to paint him a picture of a snail in a sunflower garden. I chose this as my inspiration because both snails and sunflowers are parts of nature where the fibonacci sequence naturally occurs. I also chose this theme because science and nature go hand in hand as well (biology, ecology, etc).

I was worried he wouldn’t get the homage I was trying to pay to these subjects he loves. Not  only did he get it, it turned out to be his favorite piece I have ever made, he even named the snail in the picture Simon. It is now in our bedroom where we can both admire it everyday. I am not going to lie, it is one of my favorites I have ever painted as well. The sunflowers are warm and show good detail and the snail has so much personality. Todd says that Simon looks determined, he has set his mind to something and nothing can get in his way, kind of like the little engine that could.

Last night at bedtime he agreed to tell me a story. I offered to get a Beatrix Potter from my collection of her works but he said he was going to make one up for me. This was a special treat!

I am going to share the story now, with added embellishments from yours truly. The bones of the story belong to my sweet husband (who is secretly very creative), I just added some color.

Simon was a snail that lived among enormous trees, trees so tall he could not even see the top of them. These trees of course we know are actually sunflowers. Simon was curious by nature and wanted to know more about the world around him. Simon was yearning for something in life that he could not quite understand. One day Simon decided to climb to the tippy top of one of the great trees in his forest home. It took him an entire day but once he did he was able to see very far distances and feel the warmth of the sun. In the distance Simon saw a farm and thought it seemed very far away.

That day Simon decided to make the journey out of the comfort of his sunflower garden to the farm in the distance, he was sure whatever it was he was longing for he could find in this strange new place.

It took Simon three long days to make the trek across the sunflower field to the farm, he met many interesting insects and animals along the way. He was tempted once or twice to side track and stay a while with these new spirited characters he met but in his heart he knew he must charge on. Simon was certain his destiny lay just on the other side of the horizon, he was determined to reach the farm and learn his true fate.

On the third day Simon arrived at the farm, the first thing that caught his attention was the farm house itself so he pushed forward to see what good fortune lay ahead. Simon arrived at the farm house, all golden yellow and glowing in the sun, it reminded him of his beloved trees he left behind for a life of adventure and discovery. Simon decided the best plan was to climb up the side of the farm house in order to get a better vantage point of his new surroundings.

After many hours of climbing Simon reached a window that just so happened to be cracked open. He slid under the opening, a breeze blowing against his turquoise spiraled shell. Once inside the farm house Simon was promptly discovered by the farmer’s daughter, Juniper. Juniper loved all living things. Upon meeting Simon she picked him right up and told him that the farm house was no place for a snail, a bird could snatch him off the window sill and have him for an afternoon snack, or the farm cat Camille may think he would be something fun to torment. Juniper delicately carried Simon back into the farm yard all the while telling him about the friends he would make and how happy he would be living on the farm with the others. What others? Simon thought. And what is a friend? This was a new word Simon had never heard before.

Juniper proceeded to carry Simon to a back corner of the farm yard, far away from any potential threats like hungry chickens or curious kittens. Juniper stopped just above a smooth gray stone that was perfectly positioned among a patch of carmine poppies in full bloom. She gently placed Simon down on top of the stone, it was toasty from baking in the brilliant autumn sun. This is when Simon met another snail who looked remarkably like him, her shell happened to be a swirl of violet, indigo, and rose rather than the turquoise and gray that shimmer and shone on his back.

My name is Sally, the new snail said. I’m Simon, he replied. Would you like to be friends Simon? It gets awful lonely here in the poppy patch and it would be oh so nice to have a companion to go through life with. Without any need for explanation Simon suddenly knew in his soul what it meant to be a friend and have a companion to share life with. He also knew this is what was missing and this is what his heart had longed for back in his sunflower field. Yes. Yes, Sally I think I would.

And together Sally and Simon lived out their days in the poppy patch, on the farm, near the sunflower field, under the great blue sky.

Letting Go of What Does Not Serve Me

borrowed identity

You know that voice in your head, the “not good enough” voice, the bully?.. Where did that voice come from? Who gifted you the negative messages that you play over and over? Does your truest self actually believe these negative things or are they someone else’s words or actions that you absorbed and have turned into your own personal torture device?

Maybe it is a little bit of both (most things are after all). Our internal bully can be made up of social messaging from society, messages received in close relationships, and things we say to ourselves that have a foundation in one of the first two.

Listening to one of our clients in group yesterday made me think about this. What the client was sharing made me wonder, Where did they first receive that message? As I was processing the day on my way home I was thinking about some of my own messages I have internalized over the years and who they came from. I had some major I show myself love moments on the drive home and have decided it is time to release some of these messages because I no longer believe them and they do not serve me.

I am crazy. That was a gift from a former intimate partner that could not cope with my depression and grief after the death of a loved one. I was in pain, a pain so deep it scared him. I release this message. It is not my truth and it does not serve me.

My body is not good enough. This was also a gift from a former intimate partner. My body belongs to me alone and I know she is worthy of my love. That is my truth. I release this message. It is not my truth and does not serve me.

I am manipulative. There were times when this was other’s truth about me. I recognize times in my life when I was without and did what I needed to make myself feel safe and loved. I am grateful to the pieces of myself that took care of me during that time. I send love and light to those I hurt with my actions when I was trying to take care of myself. I release this message. It is not my truth and does not serve me.

I am not deserving, I am not worthy. I release these messages. They are not my truth and do not serve me.

I am unlovable. This was one of my most painful messages, and one that I have had the longest relationship with. This is not my truth now because I love myself. I am worthy of love and I show all the pieces of myself unconditional love. I receive love from without and within. I RELEASE THIS MESSAGE. IT IS NOT MY TRUTH AND IT DOES NOT SERVE ME.

I know my truth. These messages can no longer hurt me. These words no longer have meaning in my life and no one will ever be able to use them to hurt me again. I am stable and safe, my body belongs to me and I am in love with it just as it is, I have everything I need to take care of myself, I deserve to be here and I am worthy of the goodness of life, I feel love, I give love, I am love.