What was said; What I heard

I read something that had a pretty big impact on me at a pretty important time which has led to the inspiration for this post. I have not spoken to my mother in a week. This would not generally be note worthy but this time it is. The last time we spoke ended badly and the space I thought I needed to take care for myself expanded from a half hour to multiple days to now a week.

During this week my Dad showed up in his normal role in our family: peace maker/mother fixer. My Dad picks up the messes of others so everything can stay neat and tidy and we can all pretend there is no mess. Dad also takes care of Mom, Mom comes first. Always.

The space has been painful. I feel like a terrible daughter, I feel like I am the problem, I feel like I am breaking my mother’s heart, I feel guilt, I feel shame, I feel like I will be a terrible mother. I feel self-doubt. I worry that my actions are manipulative, I am constantly second guessing myself. I feel unstable, out of control.

As the space has gotten bigger so has my truth; I feel rejected. I feel used. I feel blamed like a scapegoat. I feel resentment. I feel more stable. I am starting to gain clarity. I am starting to truly understand how much bigger than me this is. I am learning how to care for myself since the focus is not constantly on caring for her. My heart is aching. I feel let down.

Yesterday or the day before, I honestly cannot remember now, I was reading a blog that I have been following for a long time. It is a blog similar to my own; personal, searching, honest. I appreciate the honest part most. I admire and appreciate people who are willing to say out loud that life is hard, families are hard, relationships are hard. I see enough posed photos with perfect smiles, sometimes I need the honesty of how devastating losing a pet can be. This blogger shows up in her truth.

So I was reading this post that true to form was painfully honest and I definitely identified with parts of it. My truth is different from hers but I saw myself, my childhood self, in some of her writing.

I wasn’t sure I had the courage to be so honest but right now seems like the time. The only way for things to be different is to do things differently. That means honesty and stepping out from the shadow of denial. Last week my mother and I broke another vase, metaphorically speaking, and despite all his efforts my father was not able to sweep these pieces under the rug like so many broken pieces before it. So now I am going to stand here in the mess I helped make and accept Alma’s invitation to be seen in my truth.

What was said and What I heard:

Calm down: You are acting crazy. You are crazy.
This isn’t going to work: You can’t do this. You made a mistake. You did this wrong.
Your mother is really upset: Your mother is really upset and it is your fault. You need to apologize to your mother. Please fix this for me. I am scared.
Your brother _____________: I love him more. Your accomplishments, life, words, ideas, problems, are less important than his.
Mother-daughter relationships are hard: This is what it is, get used to it. Stop trying to change things. Stop upsetting the apple cart.
What is most important is that we love each other: Do you still love us? Are we good parents? Please don’t leave us. Family comes before everything, including your emotional well-being.
*Silence*: Fuck you. You are the worst. I will not bend. You will give me what I want. Who do you think you are? You owe me this. You are not stronger than me. Don’t make me angry. How dare you. I do not love you.

What I needed to hear:

This started long before you.
This is not your fault.
I own my part.
Take all the time you need, I will be here.
I am ready to really work on this.
The truth, the real honest truth.

 

There are a lot of ANDs that exist in this space of pain but this time I am going to keep my ANDs to myself. I know what they are and that is what matters. I do not feel compelled to make this mess pretty to make myself or anyone else more comfortable. Not this time.

mom

The Girl and the Sea

Once there was a girl who had been holding on too tightly. This was a girl who had always been afraid of losing; losing what, she never quite knew. Her mind, her heart, her self, her future, her favorite doll.. There was just always this nagging feeling that the world was not safe and so she needed to hold on tightly to make it through.

What this girl did not understand is that not everything can be held so tight. Holding too tightly can  make what looks like love feel like suffication. Holding too tightly can leave you white knuckled and arthritic, a body cannot withstand the constant pressure to hold on so tight.

This went on for a long time and for all her efforts she still experienced devastating losses. She never loosened her grip on the things she cared about or needed to hold on to but it did not keep her safe from losing like she had hoped. Still the girl held on too tightly because she knew no other way.

One day the girl went to the ocean and was invited to step out into the crashing waves. With trepidation she followed the leader and felt overwhelmed by the power. She could not hold on out in the current, she had no control. She grasped at the sand on the ocean floor but it slipped from her fingers.  She reached out for her leader and together they were tossed by the incoming tide. She realized there was nothing else she could do so finally she let go.

For a moment she let go of everything she had been holding too tightly and watched as the ocean washed it away; in it’s place she opened her hand and found an acorn. The symbolism she did not understand at the time.

That day the girl learned that when she let go of the things she was holding too tightly her hands were then open to receive what she was truly meant to hold.

the girl and the sea

Sovereignty

Tomorrow is my interview. This interview feels like the thing I have been holding out for. I cannot explain why that feels true, it is just a feeling.. A knowing.

I have been riding a major wave of anxiety leading up to this interview and today was the crescendo. I thought my anxiety was rooted in a fear of failure, ie: screwing up in the interview or not being what they want. Now I am realizing it has less to do with that, although yes that is a piece of it, and more to do with the bigger picture.

The bigger picture being my expectations for this position and how high I have allowed my hopes to get. The bigger picture being not my fear of failure in the interview but my fear that this job will be everything I want at this moment in my life and somehow I will ruin this for myself. The bigger picture being my fear of success.

I have mentioned before I have a fear of my own greatness. It is scary to say out loud the things that you want. It is scary to allow yourself to be seen and be heard and try to fly when you still unsure if your wings will hold you.

Here is my truth:

I not only want to get this job, I want this job to be everything I am hoping it will be. I want to set my expectations high and have them met. I want this to be the learning experience I need. I want to feel fulfilled by the work and know that I am growing. I want to be successful.

I emailed one of my soul friends today who has had some recent experiences with taking big chances professionally and asked her to lend me some courage. Oh man did she deliver! I guess it is because she has some to spare, this girl has been my inspiration in terms of bravery in recent years.

Then because I felt the desperate need to be in control of something in my life I cleaned my entire house. The bathrooms, the laundry, the kitchen, the floors, dusting, outdoor work, redecorating.. I did it all today. I was a total Susie-homemaker. It did help to give that nervous energy a place to go as well as regain a sense of control over my life for a moment.

When I finished I grabbed some of my self-care tools: my Mother’s Wisdom deck, my Self-Care deck, my sage.. I lit my sage and pulled a card from each.

From the self-care deck I pulled Peace: “Embrace your confusion. Let their be peace in not knowing all of the answers”.

I felt like that was aimed at my controlling piece who is clearly struggling right now when so much is out of my hands.

Will this position live up to my expectations? Will I still be interested even if it does not? Will they want me? Can I do this? Am I ready?

There are no answers for these questions right now so I have to step back from my need to control and let myself experience peace. I recently did a few different guided meditations around water.. the ocean and a river.. both had the same message of surrender. Don’t fight the crashing waves. Don’t try to fight against the current. Instead, allow the water to carry you and trust that you will not be pulled under, trust that you will float and the water will take you where you are meant to go.

Message recieved.

From the Mother’s Wisdom deck I pulled Queen Victoria: Sovereignty. Whose shadow is dependency.

I have to just say, as an aside, I love that this desk not only outlines the meaning of the card you pulled but also the shadow piece that goes along with it. Sometimes what we are experiencing is the shadow and it helps to have that piece included. The description of this card said it all:

To feel whole, one must have dominion over oneself. Drawing sovereignty indicates a hunger to determine the course of your own life. In taking up the mantle of sovereignty – making decision for yourself- you risk exposing yourself to the criticism of others. Do not be deterred. What makes you unique is inviolable. Sovereignty begets acceptance. When we embrace ourselves as we are, we accede to our rightful majesty.

A big piece of my fear pf failure and fear of success has to do with the fact that in this position I am responsible for myself. I would be my own boss, the agency would be contracting me for my services. Do I really believe I can do this?

Sovereignty begets acceptance. When we embrace ourselves as we are, we accede to our rightful majesty.

The only person I have to convince that I am ready for this is me. I have always been my biggest critic and even though I have moved towards a place of nurturing and self-love that does not mean that all of my shadows have been silenced. I still have a long road ahead of me on my personal path of love and healing.

But yes, I do believe I can do this. Not only that, I believe I deserve this!

That’s right I said it.

I believe that I deserve everything that I wish for in this life and so far I have gotten it. I will see my dreams come true in this area as well because I have the power to do that for myself.

After I drew my cards I sat with the feelings that came up and saged myself to release anything that needed to be released.

I am feeling much more grounded and ready for this interview tomorrow.

I release all the messages of doubt and criticism in this moment. They are not my truth and they do not serve me. I give these messages back to those whom they came from. They do not belong to me and I will no longer allow them to call my body home.

I believe that tomorrow will work out exactly as it is meant to. I will stop swimming against the current and allow myself to be carried. I trust that I will arrive where I am meant to be.

When I was looking for an image to go with this post this is the second image that came up and as 2 is my number I clicked on it to see if it fit..

powerful

I am powerful. This was the exact message I needed today and I got it. I got it from my soul friend, I got it from the cards I pulled, I got it in so many ways. Most importantly I am able to say this to myself and know it is true.

 

Soft Pink Underbelly

puppy

Okay let’s all take a moment at the beginning of this post to just bask in the cuteness of puppy.

I chose this photo deliberately to highlight a point for me. When dogs lay on their backs exposing their soft pink adorable bellies it is not because they are trying to be cute, it is an act of submission. They are exposing their most vulnerable parts and pretty much doing exactly what this photo says, yelling I surrender!

I was thinking about this today as I processed some feelings and got to know a new shadow that surfaced. The feelings were anger and frustration.

Personally I do not see feelings as anger and frustration as “true” feelings. I think they are masks. They are protector pieces that show up for us so we don’t have to experience the true feeling underneath that is much more vulnerable and in turn, painful. Anger and frustration are the dog snarling and barking as a way to protect it’s delicate pink underbelly.

When I peeled back the first layer I saw what my anger and frustration were trying to distract me from: rejection. In that moment I had so much gratitude for the feelings of anger and frustration I had been feeling because rejection is a lot harder to sit with. It is much easier to get angry and frustrated and blame others and ignore the rejection all together.

Admitting that I feel rejected hurts. It is painful. Why?

I peeled back another layer and found shame. When I am really sitting in my true feelings around rejection then anger and frustration and blame fall by the wayside and what I am left with is shame.

Shame when I consider things such as was I not good enough? If that is true that means I do not deserve this. Then come questions like, What is wrong with me? and What could I have done differently?

Rejection is no fun at all. I am ready to be angry and just stay there, that is safer, it is less painful.

There is clearly more shadow work to do around rejection, and shame, and even entitlement (which absolutely shows up with rejection).

Right now I feel like the helpless little puppy. My pink underbelly is exposed, I have let down my guard, I surrender to these feelings and am open to the lesson they hold.

Avoiding Our Mirrors

mirror

This week I have started working with two new shadow pieces that have popped up; blame and denial. As I work with all these shadow pieces that are surfacing (entitlement, self-righteousness, blame, denial, judgement, manipulation) I am fully aware that they are all connected to something bigger: victim mentality. Victim mentality seems to be the big one, at least right now, and all of these shadows I am getting to know and learning to have compassion for I think are bringing me closer to my real work which is around my own victim mentality.

So, what I am learning about blame and denial so far. What I have found as I work with my shadows is that when they first pop up it is easier for me to get to know them by projecting outwards first. After this projection I am able to clearly see where I exist in all of it and how I use these shadows in my own life. I did this as I was getting know entitlement, I did this as I was getting to know self-righteousness and manipulation. It is hard to bring these shadows home and embrace them. If I speak in generalizations first I think maybe it is easier for me to see them objectively and then I can invite them in and make it personal.

When I first started working with denial I thought about everything I have learned in terms of triggers. Often we become triggered by some outside stimulus and want to blame the stimulus for triggering us rather than take any accountability for our own feelings and the work we should be doing around these triggers. This is denial, right? This is also blame.

Our triggers are our mirrors. Denial is refusing to acknowledge the mirror exists. Blame is acknowledging the mirror but refusing to see ourselves in it.

I know this to be true because I manipulation, and entitlement, and self-righteousness were some of my big triggers and I can see where I personally followed this pattern of denial, and blame, and victimhood throughout my life when it came to these shadows.

This is all I have so far with denial and blame but I am sure as I continue to work with these two shadows more will surface that will bring these two shadows home.

 

 

 

Spiritual Bypassing

spiritual bypassing

As I am getting to know my shadow piece around self-righteousness something that has come up for me is spiritual bypassing which is directly connected to this shadow aspect. Spiritual bypassing, in my mind, is when we (I) attempt to deny our shadow pieces exist (enter: self-righteousness). Spiritual bypassing is me wanting to stay in my “love the world, heal the world” space without acknowledging my “I want to burn this shit down” piece. What grounds me is remembering my AND. For me to be balanced it cannot just be peace, love, and happiness.. It has to be peace, love, and fuck this day I am taking a nap. or peace, love, and leave me the hell alone. or panic attack, accidentally break a plate, and curse in front of a child. Sometimes there is no peace and love to balance my darkness and my humanness.

I am not some enlightened spiritual being, that is not my  truth – as much as I wish it were. I am human. I am light, and dark, and gray. I am pixie dust, rose petals, and dirty words at inappropriate moments. I am painting, and empathy, and judging some guy for all that cheese he is eating. There has to be room for my light, my darkness, and my absolute humanness.

It is strange to think that something like our spirituality can actually have a shadow aspect, it can and it does. Everything is made up of both, that is the AND.

My truth is I am not without my judgements. I don’t know that I ever will be. That would be a pretty enlightened place but I am not sure I will ever get there truly, not during my human life at least. So rather than have judgement about my judgements I am trying to start by just acknowledging their existence. Once I am able to do that I try to get to know them a little better, like a new acquaintance; what can you tell me about yourself self-righteousness? You tend to pity people, okay, tell me more about that.

Judging my shadow parts does not make them go away, it really seems counter productive. I just have to be honest with myself and stop worrying about what everyone else will think. Ultimtaley this work is not about the world accepting my darkness, it is about me accepting me. Whose to say my darkness is any less special or beautiful than my  light? Me that is who. I am the only person I need to be listening to.

I am getting there. Slowly. But slow progress is still progress.

shadow

Reclaiming Righteous

mask

It was as if a flood gate opened in me yesterday after I wrote about my intention to work on my relationship with my shadow pieces leading up to soul camp. Suddenly a million voices rose ti my surface ready to accept my invitation to be seen. The first in line, self-righteousness.

Apparently some of my shadows are very open to a relationship, it was just up to me to send the signal. So I spent the day with self-righteousness yesterday listening to my own inner wisdom and exploring my truth a little deeper.

I started my relationship with this piece here, where I explored my initial reactions to the word righteous. Towards the end of the post I spoke about reclaiming the word righteous, and I still have that intention; getting to know my own self-righteous piece has helped me understand there is more work to do before I am able to get to that point.

First things first, get out of victim mentality. I wrote that post with an outside perspective. “I am uncomfortable with this word because of others”. That is true, but it is a partial truth. A fuller truth is I am uncomfortable with this word because of my own sense of self-righteousness. I have to be able to see myself in all of this to fully embrace this shadow and reclaim this word.

Here is where I am going to start..

When I started this blog 5 years ago I was absolutely caught in a trap of dichotomous thinking patterns. I was judgemental of others while unwilling to process the source in myself where the judgement stemmed from. Therapy helped me with this, so did being in the two social work programs. I recognized something though while I was spending the day getting to know self-righteousness; while I may have moved away from black and white thinking and judgement into the gray area of AND there is still room for judgement to exist here in the form of self-righteousness.

This kind of judgement might even be more toxic actually than the judgements I was casting previously. I remember when I first started back in college I was making observations and judgements about all kinds of stuff, “these millennials and there addiction to their cell phones”, “her clothes are not professional”, “that professor isn’t qualified”. My professional piece is a pretty judgemental piece I admit. I really had to reign her in.

Now as I have been waking up to my higher spiritual self and my own truth I cast aside these judgements and have been much more open to different ways of doing things and allowing each person to be as they are rather than as I think they should be. At least I thought I was doing this.

Apparently my spiritual piece has some shadows as well; enter self-righteousness. I sat in front of a man the other day who was caught up in his own victim mentality and I judged him for it. That is my truth whether I want to see it or not. My thoughts were not “this guy is bad or wrong”, no my self-righteousness does not pass those kinds of judgements. My thoughts were “this poor man doesn’t even realize he has the power to change this”. My self-righteous piece passes judgement disguised as pity.

I look around and see a world full of people that have not woken up to this thing or that thing that I think they should be waking up to and I pity them. I pity them from my place up here on the top of the mountain of enlightenment. And while I just tried to say it is not a judgement of right vs. wrong or good vs. bad, that’s a lie. It totally is. I am up here and you are down there, and I am right and you are wrong.

This is why people do not like to do shadow work. It is not fun to be this honest with yourself. We like to let our happy flag fly, and our freak flag fly, and our I’m-a-great-mom flag fly.. However, we certainly don’t want anyone to see our judgement flag, or our manipulation flag, or our I’m-over-here-being-a-jerk flag.

Well that is the flag I am flying right now. I’m over here being a jerk.

My truth belongs to me. It makes me feel good and centered and connected. The things that makes me feel this way may feel like utter torture to others. I do not need tolook at others and pity them or judge them in order to feel sound in my truth. If the words I am speaking are truly my truth they should make me feel this way on their own.

Old habits die hard. I thought I was shedding judgement and instead I was just dressing it in new clothes.

I am grateful that my own self-righteous shadow piece rose to the surface and accepted my invitation to build a healthier relationship. I will definitely being working with this piece while at soul camp. I am curious to see what a little unconditional self-love will do for my self-righteous/judgement pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Victim Mentality

victim mentality

As I take the next month to prepare myself for soul camp I thought it might be a good time to really sit down with some of my shadow pieces that I try to deny and ignore and get to know them better. I have been doing this for a while; I have gotten to know my manipulative piece pretty well and in doing so have found love and gratitude for her which has resulted in her not having to work so hard. I have also been doing a lot of work with my entitled piece, that relationship is a work in progress but there is progress so I am satisfied with that. I am finding the same truth with each shadow piece I work on/with; the more attention I give my shadow pieces the easier it becomes for me to find compassion for myself in these dark places. In addition I realized the more compassion these pieces get the less I need them.

This is what wholeness looks like for me, talking openly about my darkness and showing it light by not keeping my shadows as dirty little secrets that I am ashamed of. There is no reason for me to be ashamed of my shadows, everyone has them, everyone. Your shadows may show up differently but they are there, just beneath the surface, just like mine.

One shadow piece that I am aware of but have had trouble building a relationship with up to this point is my victim mentality. This is my piece that allows me to be innocent and untouched by the events of my life. This is the piece that keeps my hands clean and points the finger. “It wasn’t my fault, he was a habitual liar”, “I was the victim, I had no control”, “This happened to me, pity me”.

I have made some progress with this shadow piece over the years, the truth is though it has been slow going and I have been stuck for quite some time. The first step towards showing this piece light and love came roughly 5 years ago when it finally sunk in that I am the common denominator to everything that has ever happened in my life. I do not get to have clean hands when it comes to failed relationship after failed relationship, I do not get to have clean hands when jobs do not work out, I do not get to have clean hands in regards to why I struggled in college my first go around. I do not have clean hands. My hands are dirty.

Taking accountability for how I show up in relationships was a huge step forward for me. I credit this epiphany for the success of my marriage thus far. My husband came into my life just as I was starting my journey into self-discovery and from the beginning he has been on board with all that comes with my process of rebuilding and putting my pieces back together. By me taking accountability for how I show up in our interactions with one another he has been willing to do the same. We don’t have relationships all figured out by any means, although owning our stuff and recognizing when we are projecting or trying to play the victim is part of what has made this relationship different and healthier for both of us compared to any relationship either of us experienced previously.

Aside from holding myself more accountable in my social and intimate relationships I have to admit I have experienced very little growth with this shadow piece. There are relationships where I know I still play the victim, like with my family. There are parts of my past that I still view through the lens of victimhood, unwilling to take any accountability. I recognize this to be true, it does  not mean I have any insight into how to pull back that curtain and show these shadows light though. I am stuck and I know it. I have been for some time.

One of my intentions for soul camp this time around is to absolutely work on my relationship with this shadow. She has been surrounded by darkness for a long time and I would love to bring her the light and remind her the goodness and fullness of love. I know I will continue working with my entitled shadow piece, and my self-righteous shadow piece as well as any other shadow that rises to the surface ready to feel the light again. I say again because I believe that every piece of me was born in light and love. The process of loving my shadows is a process of guiding long lost family members home.

soul work

Wild Geese

One of my soul friends sent me something that instantly brought tears to me eyes. I feel compelled to share it so others can feel whatever it brings up for them and so I will always know where to find it.

wild geese

The very first line spoken aloud caught like a hook in my throat.

You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees.

Let those healing waves crash over you.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air are heading home again.

Home. A tear falls from my eye.

The world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like wild geese..

I see those geese flying in my minds eye. I see the blue sky, I feel the breeze. I read these sacred words and know I am okay. We are all okay.

Thank you for this my kindred soul. It meant more than you know.

How to be Attractive

I logged into my Pinterest account today to grab one of my images for one of the other posts I was writing and there was an image sitting there waiting for me because apparently based on the other things I have been pinning Pinterest thought I would like it. I had a total WTF moment about it. Here is the image:

how-to-be-attractive

What the fuck Pinterest? Really? Do you not know me at all?

I am sorry but my inner feminist could not let this one slide. I have been made aware that this utter nonsense exists in the world and for the next five minutes it is my mission to balance this garbage.

Luckily as if she somehow knew I needed something awesome in this moment my soul friend sent me this.

This awesome slam poetry serves to rip shame in half and give the finger to sexist agendas that aim to keep women small, neither seen nor heard.

Hear is my truth about feeling attractive and connected to myself: I do it for me not for anyone else.

  1. I smile when I feel like it not out of obligation to the world. Sometimes I feel swallowed by my emotions and smiling is not a thing, I am no less attractive because I experience more than one emotion.
  2. I smell the way that I smell. It is my smell. My smell is usually lavender and lemon oil, it may not be for everyone. I am not open to anyone else’s opinion on my smell.
  3. I wear clothes that feel good and make me feel like myself when I look in the mirror. No outside opinions needed or wanted in that area either.
  4. I will educate or shelter myself on and from the world as I see fit. I am no less intelligent or worthy of taking up space based on my decision in this area.
  5. I can kind of get behind this one honestly. I do not speak kindly of myself though, that is doing it for other people. I speak kindly to myself because I do it for me, not for you.
  6. Have whatever kind of hobby you want, screen or no screen. Or if you prefer don’t have a hobby at all. Your interests are YOUR interests. They belong to you, do what feels right.
  7. I do value education, that is my truth. I also thought that college was out of reach. You are no less worthy if you did not get past the 8th grade. You do your life in the way that feels right for you and do not accept anyone else’s judgements or opinions based on some classist bullshit like higher education.
  8. Make time for yourself and anyone else you feel drawn to give your time to. Our time is an enormous gift, we deserve it as much as the rest of the world. You are still a good  and worthy person if you never volunteer a day in your life.
  9. I like the piece about saying thank you because one of my own personal truths is deeply connected to daily gratitude. I do not believe in obligatory reciprocation though. You reciprocate when you feel compelled to and do not allow others or society to guilt you into doing favors you are not comfortable doing.

These are my truths about being attractive based on the list provided. They may not be your truth, maybe you like the original list. That is alright. Personally, it was not for me. I am more in line with Olivia Gatwood and her Ode to the Resting Bitch Face.

You owe the world nothing. Focus on you, figure out what unique brilliance you bring to the world and do not allow others to tell you that you are less than because you did not conform. Radical self-love my friends. Embrace all aspects of yourself as you are not as others believe you should be.

 

 

Healing Through Art

Yesterday when I received the email from my relative I mentioned that I did not read it, only the first line. This is true but that first line was enough to leave me shaken, quite literally.

I have been taking good care to protect myself from the negativity of the world for some time now. It started with my decision to no longer watch violent TV, then I stepped back from watching the news everyday, then I made the decision to remove myself from social media, then I started to became mindful of how I spend my time and made the decision to be selectively social.

In order to be able to wake up to my own truth about myself and love and life and everything beyond these things I had to turn down the volume on everything else so I could hear my own truth and inner wisdom.

This has worked for me. I have had more epiphanies in all of these areas thanks to my solitude and silence than I have ever experienced previously in my life.

I will not go on this way forever. I may continue with some of these decisions such as my absence from social media and my decision to filter out the media and violence but socially I know that I will not remain a hermit long term. What is point of these epiphanies if I cannot build connection through sharing my truth with others and those I love?

For now this where I am at and I know with my whole being it is where I am meant to be.

These choices I have made have in essence been like a spiritual cleanse. An emotional/spiritual detox of sorts. A resetting of my soul and being. Because of this I have noticed that my level of emotional sensitivity has become heightened.This truth is what made my relative’s email so unbearable for me today. It is the reason I only got through the first sentence before I said to myself, No. I will not expose myself to this poison.

We receive invitations all day long through our interactions with the outside world. What is important to remember is that we are not obligated to accept these invitations. When my relative wrote that email he was essentially saying here is this darkness I have that I am not able to hold, I am bringing it to you so you can hold it for me and I can feel better. I knew immediately I could not grant this request for him. I declined this invitation and chose not to read the email as an act of self-love and emotional preservation.

That first sentence I read was like being bit by a venomous spider. I had a physical reaction. I began to shake. I recognized immediately the reaction I was having and stopped. I will not suffer to ease someone else’s suffering. I do not owe anyone that. I will not burn to keep someone else warm.

I took sometime to recover. Took a deep breath and wrote my truth in my response. After I felt better. I also sent a separate email to my extended family to offer them love and support and healing energy I felt they all might need to balance any difficult emotions they may be grappling with after the initial email from our relative.

Once I had done what I felt comfortable doing for those I love it was time to take care of me. I knew what I needed today: light, gray, AND, nature, painting, and writing. This is what that looked like for me..

  • I changed into my favorite gray clothing to wrap my soul in my own truth: that the world is not black and white, it is beautiful shades of gray where everything is allowed to exist together.
  • I lit my gray candle for healing and two more tea lights to bring light and love through the amethyst stones that held them.
  • I grabbed my art supplies and headed outside to set up shop among the leaves that blanket my backyard.

healing-and-art2

I spent the afternoon in the company of Lu, the squirrels, the leaves and trees, and gusting wind that would occasionally blow pollen and leaves into my paint and down my shirt. The afternoon was gray and overcast and I know the Universe did that for me because today I needed to feel the all consuming comfort and healing of the gray.

Lu looked on as I released the toxins from my system by slapping and spattering paint on to my canvas and across the leaves that served as my back drop. Gray and black and white and every color of the rainbow came flying off my paint brush and from my fingers in a mess of color and pain and love and surrender.

Then I began to write. I gave voice to every AND that was banging around in my soul. I bled it all out until I felt clean again. Until I knew it had all been heard, and seen, and released.

healing-and-arthealing-and-art1

As I look at this piece on my book shelf I have unending gratitude. It is holding so much for me and it does so without needing anything from me in return. This is how I know I am on a path of love and acceptance and healing. I did this for myself. I took my pain and I made something beautiful with it. In this way I AM THE ALCHEMIST.

This is a representation of the AND I am always talking about. This is life. It is messy AND confusing AND dark AND colorful AND light AND love AND GRAY.

There is room for everything here. The pain I felt when I read the first line of that email AND the clarity I felt in the message I was meant to send. The rage I had over what was said about someone else I love AND the compassion I felt for my family member who is clearly sitting in the middle of their own pain. The ability to express my own truth in that moment AND make room for others to express their own truth as well.

This is not easy work to do. I have not come to any of this in ease or grace. It is only through willingness to embrace my own darkness and shadows and love them fully that I have been able to wake up to my truth and share it so earnestly.

I am still working, I think I always will be. I know what took place here was important though and I wanted to make sure to give it recognition. I think it was another small step towards my something bigger, whatever that may be.

Emotional Arsonist

emotional-arsonist

I was weary and ready for sleep tonight when it was time for lights out. I did not write yesterday because the words had not yet come to me. Then magically they appeared in the middle of the night as they sometimes do like a song stuck in my head. The longer I lay there trying to ignore them, trying to wait til the morning, the louder the song grew. Until there was only one choice to make, it is time to write.

I woke initially with a pain in my shoulder which makes sense because I am carrying a burden. A burden that weighs heavy on my heart and heavier on my soul.

Before I go further I would like to offer background for this post:
The Unraveling of a Family Tie
and
Boundaries are Hard in Families
will give some context to this post for anyone that wants it.

Out of respect for my family I have been doing what I consider shadow writing on topics related to family issues up to this point. For now I plan to continue to write in the shadows, I may feel differently about this as time goes on, that is yet to be seen.

So in these previous posts I have mentioned a long brewing issue that one family member is at the center of. In recent months another family member has become involved and when this took place a small flame was lit. A flame of negativity and malice, of confusion and mistrust. This small flame has resulted in a raging fire of destruction and disconnection that threatens to engulf my family.

Previously I mentioned that I am not the fire department and I hold no power to extinguish this blaze; that is still my truth. I am one person with a bucket though and today was the day I decided it was time to pick up my one bucket and use it before it was too late.

Up to this point this flame has been somewhat contained. There are two family members who started it and they have been trying to add small pieces of kindling but the fire has burned away from most of the rest of the family so we have been able to remain uninvolved with collective hope that this fire would burn out on its own given enough time. Today a flame from that fire licked my face and that was too close to comfort. It was time to set a hard boundary.

What took place was that my relative who is one of the fire starters emailed the entire family to speak their truth about another family member who they have a waged character war against. This was done as a way to further discredit this person and lambast their integrity. On this issue I remain neutral, this is not my quarrel. What I will not do however is accept any kind of correspondence that will cause further injury to my family. I did not read more than the first line of this person’s email, that was enough for me. From there I took a breath and decided to respond. My response was as follows:

_________________ ,

Please know that as I write this email I bear you no ill will. I believe that you feel that you are doing what you think is right.

With that said, I did not read your email and I will not read any further correspondence that means to further injure our family. When I say family, that includes everyone. You, ______, and _______ will always be part of my family and I will always have compassion for all of you, as I do everyone in the family.

I feel as though you have lost your way and I send you light and love during this difficult time.

As for  __________, there is nothing that anyone could ever say that would convince me that he is anything less than good hearted.

I hope we are able to heal as a family. The disconnection we are experiencing is hurtful and it does not have to be.

I am sending you love and forgiveness.

 

This was my bucket of water. This was my offering and my hope is that the healing energy of love and compassion would act as water to the flame. If not, I have at least set the boundary in an assertive way to let them know I will not accept this kind of correspondence going forward.

This person’s email was entitled “The Truth” and they spoke their truth. I took this as an invitation for the rest of us to speak ours.

I have remained silent and neutral up to this point, as the rest of my extended family has, for reasons I have listed before: hopefully this will blow over, it is none of my business, etc.

This is not blowing over, the flames are growing larger and the moment my relative sent that email to the entire extended family this situation went from being none of my/our business to this person making it our business.
There is a time for silence and a time for action and for me the time for silence ended the moment this person hit the “send” button and spewed this venom on the family.

I still remain neutral on the overarching issue because I do not believe it is my place to pass judgement on who is right or wrong. I might have my private feelings about that but I do not have the authority or the right to pass that judgement openly. I also do not believe that doing so will help me meet my ultimate goal for an outcome which is the healing and preservation of my entire family.

Judgement and anger and other negative emotions would only further insight this fire. To put out a fire you have to introduce a new element: sand, water, etc. Love is my water. Unconditional forgiveness  and compassion are my water. An invitation to heal is my water.

When I sent my response I replied all. No one else in my family had responded to this relative, this is still true. My hope is that I was able to set an example of love, an example that my family will have the courage to follow. My hope is that my family will see me here with bucket and join me with buckets of their own healing truth to share with this family member in an effort to extinguish this flame.

In the end we cannot control this person or their reactions. We are not the fire department and we may not be able to put out this inferno. I will not stand by with my bucket and feel useless though. I will not watch my family burn and do nothing when I have a bucket I can offer. My family may be doomed to burn either way but at least I know I did my part.

Tonight I send out love and light to everyone in my family, we all are hurting in the wake of this crisis. My hope and intention is the light I am sending out be the light that guides my family back to a path of love and connection. We have to come back to each other in love and connection to heal and be whole again.

 

An aside: When I got out of bed to come and write I did what I normally do when I write in the middle of the night. I lit my candles to bring light and love to darkness, I lit my salt lamp with the same intention, and I made myself a cup of tea. Then I took my tea and nested in blankets on the couch for comfort. The tea I often make for middle of the night writing is a brand that has what I think of as “love notes” on the tag. When I looked at the love note on my tea it was as though the Universe knew what I am trying to do with my healing bucket of water and was sending me support and assurance in its own way.

cosmic-support

 

Entitlement and the Illusion of Scarcity

One of my early morning epiphanies had to do with something that took place back in November. You can read the full back story on this event here. For the purposes of this post I will give a quick recap.

During group supervision one day.. Let me pause for a second because it just occurred to me most of my readers are not social workers. A quick side note for my non-social workers; supervision is when the entire social work/clinical team comes together to discuss cases, ethical concerns, and all other pressing matters at the agency and that impact our clients.

Okay so at the end of supervision when the clinical team was getting ready to leave our supervisor asked us to stay for a moment longer so she could get something off her chest. She then spent the next 10-15 minutes pretty much berating the team for not being fully committed to the work and our clients. She even went so far as to call some of us entitled. This lecture came without warning, there had been no issues that any of us were aware of at the agency that triggered this. It also came with no explanation or clarification. She made it clear that she was not talking to everyone but what does that matter?

The truth is she was talking to everyone. Literally. Everyone is here. You are talking to all of us. If this message is not meant for everyone then it seems pretty inappropriate that you are sharing it with everyone. If you need to have a private conversation with someone then by all means but right now, you are in fact talking to everyone.

There was a lot about this incident that bothered me. It felt incredibly passive-agressive first of all. If you have something to say then say it, to the person, directly. This whole talking in shadows to the entire group as a way to shame one person into submission did nothing but spew that negative shamey energy all over everyone.

Second was the use of the word entitled. Apparently that word bothers the shit out of me and I did not know this about myself until it was being thrown at all of us from left field.

I have been sitting with that word ever since to explore what exactly it is that bothers me. I have processed some of my feelings in prior posts but this morning I feel like I finally put my finger on it.

That day when my supervisor pulled the rug out from under us in the way she did, I believe she was operating from a place of scarcity. Scarcity has a direct connection to shame which is why we all felt covered in it after supervision that day.

The definition of scarcity is:

 noun: scarcity; plural noun: scarcities
  1. the state of being scarce or in short supply; shortage

It is the idea that there is not enough to go around. We all like Brene Brown here right? Right. What does Brene teach us about shame? Shame thrives on the feeling of not enough.

shame

 

Now lets look at the word entitled, what does that word even mean?

en·ti·tled
inˈtīdld,enˈtīdld/
adjective
adjective: entitled
  1. believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment

So that day my supervisor told us a story based in the illusion of scarcity. And followed it with a shame chaser by calling us entitled. As a result here are the messages we received that day in supervision:

Scarcity: What you are doing is not enough.
Shame: You are not worthy/not good enough.
Entitled: You are asking for things you do not deserve.

Here is the thing about shame, there is only one way to balance it: with love. Loving all parts of yourself. Believing that you are worthy. That you are enough, what you have is enough, and what you give is enough.

That is why the word entitled bothered me so much and this whole incident was hurtful. This might be her own truth, but it is not mine.

The work will always be there. There will always be more to do. It will never get done. There is no finish line in social work or pretty much any profession, there is just wrapping up one thing and starting the next.

I give of myself every day while I am with my clients and I know that what I give is enough. That is my truth.

I do not ask for special privileges. I know my worth though and I honor myself the same way I honor my clients, by making myself a priority in my life. I deserve my time and attention as much as any other person in my life. That is my truth.

When you find yourself operating from a place of scarcity and shame I encourage you to look inward and listen. What is your truth in this moment? What voice needs to be heard?

I am grateful that I have been open to having an honest relationship with the parts of myself that have been struggling lately because in doing so they felt heard and as a result they quieted so I was able to hear something else, my truth.

scarcity

I Knew This Day Would Come

badgut

One of my biggest fears when I first made the decision to become a social worker was that I would not be able to do enough to help/protect/save/fix/serve my clients. Then I started the BSW program and my own therapy and realized that is not what this all about. Help, yes at times. Serve, yes we do that. Protect, we would love to be able to do this, and maybe sometimes we do but the truth is we are not super heroes. Save/Fix, nope, not part of the job description.

Learning boundaries helped me a lot in this area. It gave me a much healthier mindset about the work we do. Still, I have always known that a day would come where these feelings of not-good-enough in the realm of social work may pop back up for me. Well my friends, that day has come. That day has come and gone actually.

I did all the things I am able to do, I followed protocol, I worked with my client to ensure they were safe and gave them a few new tools for their emotional tool box. At the end of the day though I had this nagging feeling that I made no impact. I had to sit with that feeling, take it to tea, and get to know it better.

What does it say about me that I was not able to make a difference? Am I a bad social worker? Is this person’s suffering my fault? Did I do enough?

The answers are: Nothing. No. No. and Yes.

Here is my gratitude now that I have finally had the client that brought on these feelings and this day has finally come..

I am grateful that I have been doing my own work so when it did finally come I maintained my boundaries.
I am grateful that I was able to recognize these feelings belong to me and they actually have nothing to do with this situation. My client did not make me feel this way, this is my stuff, not my client’s.
I am grateful that I am comfortable enough with my darkness that when I feel my shame pop up I am able to show her love and support. Love is inside job.
I am grateful that  I self-aware enough to recognize how I was triggered in this case and check-in with myself.
I am grateful that I am in place in my life where I make taking care of me a priority so I am able to offer my support to others in a healthy way.

At the end of the day I did all the “right” things and did not get the outcome I hoped for. That is okay, this is not my life, it is theirs.

I was enough. I am enough.

 

 

Whole Hearted Authentic Practice

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It is really important to me that I am being true to both myself and my clients when in a therapeutic relationship. I have talked about this before when discussing how me doing my own personal healing work will only help me become a better therapist. Also I will not ask my clients to do work that I would not be willing to do or am currently doing or have done previously myself.

I have been thinking about this throughout this week because I am finding that many of the clients I have had recently are bringing me some of my work. What I mean is they are mirroring back for me work I have either already done or versions of the work I am currently doing myself. It is interesting.

Today I had a whole session with a client around body positivity and unconditional love. The client made a comment about how unconditional love does not exist, this client is currently struggling with feelings of abandonment. I helped reframe that statement discussing how in our outside relationships with other people there will be boundaries and that boundaries are how we maintain healthy relationships with others because it allows us to love others and feel connected without having to abandon ourselves. The client was framing conditions in a negative light so I attempted to reframe conditions as boundaries and help the client see how boundaries create healthy relationships. I then used my “I voice” to share my own opinion around unconditional love.

I explained that personally I do believe unconditional love can exist and that it is how we love ourselves. Unconditional love, unconditional acceptance, that is what we strive for in our relationship with ourselves. We explored this a bit and I asked the client where they feel comfortable starting on this journey towards self-love. The client came up with an idea for a chart where they will set an intention, or choose a positive word, or do an affirmation everyday that is a message of self-love and then track how many times throughout the day they are able to use it to balance any negative self-talk they experience throughout the day.

I was really impressed with my client and decided that in solidarity I will do this same exercise for the rest of the week privately. This also helps me keep with my intention of not asking my clients to do work I would not be willing to do myself. This is something I do pretty regularly anyway but it is not a consistent everyday practice. I will be curious to see how many times I will need to redirect my own thoughts back to my intention of the day if they start to get negative. I am looking forward to feedback from my client and to see how they do with it as well as tracking myself and seeing how difficult it is for me to be mindful in this way.

 

I Have Found My People

A year and a half ago I remember sitting in my therapists office asking Where are my people? It was in reference to a specific aspect of my story we were talking about which I will not disclose here because of the stigma attached. I share this piece though because I know I am not the only person that feels this way due to stigma.

This past weekend was a big weekend for me in many ways. First was the women’s march, which I already shared some about. That was certainly a moment for me that answered that question. I rounded that corner downtown and felt my soul sing, Oh here they are.

Attending that rally and being physically and energetically part of this piece of history was so important for me, not just as a woman and a feminist, but as a survivor, as someone in recovery from a lifetime of trauma that is uniquely female, and as a possible future mother to a daughter.

We went back and forth that day about whether or not to go. Our introversion almost talked us out of it because the crowd was going to be so large and that is a nightmare for us. I knew though, deep down in my gut, that I would not be right with myself if I did not do this. I did not just want to be there, I needed it for my own personal healing. As my husband and I talked about it after we left one of things we discussed was how this is something we will be able to tell our children one day we did. We were part of history and before they were even born we were thinking of them.

The next day I woke up early. I was set with nerves because I had plans to go to a spiritual service with a friend from school. I felt good about the spiritual community I found for us to visit but the idea of entering any kind of religious/spiritual building and attending a service made me feel torn between wanting to cry and vomit.

I am taking a spirituality in social work class this semester. I decided on this class because of my own personal need for growth in this area and because I want to be a well rounded therapist who is able to discuss all aspects of a person’s identity with them when working together.

If you have been following my writing for a while then you know I have only started walking down my path towards spiritual awakening in the last year or two. Before that I identified as atheist, and before that I was suffering under the burden of Catholicism being forced down my throat by my well-meaning family.

My friend from class, who come to find out is also a recovering Catholic, felt as terrified about this task as I did. One of this assignments from this class is to attend a religious/spiritual service that is outside of your own religion and then report about what you learned.

Well in a way this assignment is easy for the two f us, because when you do not believe in anything specific all the doors are open as far as where you can go to learn about something new. The part that made it difficult and a bit terrifying is that both of us have the same aversion to religion/church as a result of the heavy handed judgement we experienced at the hands of the Catholic church growing up.

So in order for us to feel safe to do this assignment I did research, a lot of research. After a week of lots of digging I found something that not only did not feel icky but actually sounded kind of good, Unitarian Universalists. The website spoke of their commitment to inclusion, and social action, and love, and community.. They have seven principles that are directly in line with the social work code of ethics that we practice by. When I saw that I thought, this is a church for social workers!

So plans were made and Sunday morning at 9:30 am my girlfriend met me at my house and we set off together in my SUV to go see about a church. We got there early and sat in the car for 15 minutes working up the courage to go in, we were scared, both of us. We finally decided it was time to make the leap and we both got out of the car. We started walking towards the building and an older woman with short silver hair walked by us wearing a I Stand With Planned Parenthood shirt. She welcomed us as she walked by. My friend and I looked at each other after she passed and agreed that that was a good sign. I have that exact same shirt but I would have never dreamed of wearing it to a church service! That was pretty cool.

We walked in the front doors which were wide open letting the fresh air in and we were greeted by two more women. They gave us name tags and we explained that we were social work grad students from the University that were here to visit and observe a service. They were over the moon to hear this! Something that happened immediately after introducing ourselves that my friend really appreciated is that one of the women explained that one of the leaders of their group is a retired psychologist and this woman is also a retired LMHC.

My friend appreciated this woman saying this because it proved to my friend that this woman understood what we do. So many people still think that social workers are all DCF case workers who remove children. The field is so vast and this woman identified us as mental health professionals which was nice.

She walked us into their facility explained a little but about the service so we knew what to expect and then offered to give us a tour after and talk a bit more if we were willing to hang around, we willingly agreed and thanked her for her gracious hospitality.

The service started, we sat in the last row trying to be inconspicuous, it didn’t work. It is a small group (not too small but much smaller than the hundreds that we are accustomed to at a Catholic mass) and it is clearly tight knit so new comers stick out. The thing is though, that was okay. We stuck out but we did not feel like outsiders at any point. Everyone was so welcoming and accepting, it was a wonderful feeling.

The service started with the lighting of a candle by a child and only got better from there. This group does not worship a specific deity, they do not follow any specific religious scriptures. All faiths and belief systems are welcome. They do not pretend to have any answers, it is more about asking questions and bringing in multiple perspectives and philosophizing together. There is no right, or wrong, or good, or bad. It is all GRAY.

I was home. For the second day in a raw after years and years of searching.. I had found my people.

The woman who gave us a tour after shared that she too was a recovering Catholic, and she agreed that she was called to this group of people because for the first time in her life she felt safe to experience her spirituality her own way without losing that sense of connectedness and community. Everything about this service spoke to me. I am not going to go into further detail because this post is long enough, if you are still reading send me your address and I will mail you a sticker of appreciation.

I could not edit this down though because it was too important. The last 6 months, starting at soul camp and my monumental shift that took place there, have brought so much clarity to an area of my life that for so long has left me feeling lost and alone. I have found connection in ways I never thought possible. This past weekend was a huge jump forward in my work and my healing and I am profoundly grateful.

My friend and I were so excited and comforted after our experience with this group that we have decided to go back next Sunday. We want to go a few times together still just she and I before we bring both of our significant others in to check it out. I think because of our past experiences with organized anything in terms of religion/spirituality we are afraid and hugely skeptical of anything that feels remotely related to a church. We need to make sure this feels right on all levels before we make any decisions.

It is hard not to get ahead of myself though and keep from jumping in with a both feet. They have a social action committee that plans activism opportunities for the group.. I mean, how do more social workers not know about this?

Find Me, Dear Heart: An Ode to Infinite Worthiness

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Tonight I checked in with a friend. I am glad I did, she apparently has been struggling and I was not aware. I know it took a lot for her to even be open with me about her struggle. I am glad that I have done enough for our relationship to feel safe for her to share even a little bit, I know how scary it can feel to be honest during dark times. We talked for a while and her pain hurt my heart. It was not just her pain, but the shame she was unknowingly expressing.

She talked of the burden. The burden we all have felt at some point. The burden we carry that we will not allow others to shoulder for fear of burdening them. We don’t want to be too much, we don’t want to ask too much, we don’t want to risk running others off with our darkness. We don’t feel worthy of the comfort, and love, and connection that can come from allowing others in and trusting that they will want to stay and hold our hand through it.

I gave her my words, I tried to make her feel heard and loved and understood. Ultimately I know from my own experience that you can never feel connected with others and truly allow yourself to be unburdened until you begin to work on the relationship you have with yourself. Until you love yourself you will never feel worthy of the love and comfort that can come from others because you will not believe you are worthy of it. It is an up hill climb and it is a long road she is on, but I know she is on it and that gives me hope.

I am no poet but tonight I want to close this post by sending a message out into the universe with the hope that my friend will feel it and feel comfort..

Find me, dear heart.
I know the pain you carry.
The pain of I cannot burden another person with my load.
The pain of I am not worthy of your time, your consideration, your love.
The pain of the awful voices in your head that torture you with hurtful untruths about yourself.
Find me, dear heart.

I see you.
I see your greatness.
I know what bubbles beneath your surface.
I know because what dwells in your soul dwells in mine as well.
I am darkness too, your dark does not frighten me, it is not too much.
And like me, you contain the brightest light, a light that is uniquely and magnificently you.
So find me, dear heart, and let me be your mirror.

A mirror that can reflect for you the love, and connection, and wholeness you are worthy of.

Coming Out

power

We just got back from the Women’s Rally downtown. It was incredible. We heard the music and crowd while we were still walking a block away towards the event, when we turned the corner and I saw the scene laid out before me I began to cry. It was like coming home.

It was so beautiful. There were families, and every different kind of person you could possibly imagine. I saw fellow social workers, and some of my professors, and even our PCP walked by us with cat ears on! It was so great to see so many people I personally know but also just the turn out in general. The messages people were carrying on the signs they made were love, pure love. Some were also sad, sad because of the truth they hold. I cried behind my sun glasses for the first ten minutes while we were there, I was so overcome by the energy of it all and what it meant to me personally as someone who has very real reasons to be afraid right now. I am sure I was not the only person who felt so moved.

We walked around and took it all in and then planted ourselves so we could listen to the speakers. The first speaker spoke of the importance of coming out and how the rest of the world could learn a thing or two from our LGTBQ+ brothers and sisters about coming out. She talked about the importance of coming out everyday; in the grocery when we see someone treated poorly, at our jobs when we are afraid to speak out against something we know isn’t right, in our families, in our relationships, in public, everywhere. We have to come out as the people we actually are and have the courage to be seen. She talked about coming out as feminists, and as allies, and in all these other ways. We have to be willing to come out and been seen as the people we actually are and then live in that power of wholeness and authenticity everyday. It is a big ask, I know this because as much as I was inspired by her words I was also afraid.

I was afraid for the same reason we are all afraid; how will this change my life? will being my true self negatively impact my life/work/relationships? what if _____ isn’t/aren’t okay with it?
An extra fear for me that has always kept me small is fear of my safety. It is a fear I know I share with many. Coming out means allowing those who hate us without even knowing us to see us. In the closet we are safe, those who claim to hate us can’t see us. Coming out means taking an enormous risk. For some of us the stakes are higher than just will this person stop being my friend? or will this family member disown me?
For some of us it is will someone try to hurt me?

I was inspired though in spite of my fear. And just being in the presence of all these amazing, open minded, loving people made my light feel all the way turned up.

I agree that we need to come out, it is the only way to accomplish real progress. We have to step out of our fear and into our greatness.

When I think about my own coming out I know I am still operating from a place of fear, but I am working on it, and maybe one day I will find that courage to turn my light all the way up.

Soap like Erasers

soap

The universe has been sending me a message for a while and I have known this but was not ready. It has been woven into my life disguised as the ordinary; a conversation here, a sign or symbol there. There were three major signs recently and that is what finally made me say okay enough, I am ready.

I was working with client recently and the conversation led to me using validation and body positive messages. After I felt good about the work we did together AND I felt like a bit of a phony.

A few weeks later I was with my love and he said something that I feel like all women want to hear (myself included) but the truth is it hurt to hear it because I did not believe him. It is not that I did not believe that he felt what he was saying, it was that I do not agree and I do not feel that way about myself.

2 days ago I was in the shower, the night before I had been painting and as per usual I still had paint on my legs and fingers. I took the bar of soap and rubbed it up and down my thigh until the streak of black paint faded into nothing and the water washed away the soap. This led to the literal inspiration of this post (although the larger inspiration has been building for some time). As I watched the paint on my leg disappear under the bar of soap I thought about how the soap looked so much like an eraser in that moment. It made me wonder.. How many times have I gotten in the shower and used the soap like an eraser to wash away pain?

We all do it. Showers have never been just for washing our physical body.

If we have a bad day we can step into the shower and wash it away.
If we are sick we step into the shower and let that hot water cleanse us and wash away the germs.
If our heart is broken we step into the shower and cry so no one can tell the difference between the water from the spout and our tears.

The thing about this though is that it doesn’t actually work. The shower is not some magical portal where when you step in it erases bad days or illness and last I checked it does not have magical healing properties that allow it to mend a broken heart.

Me using the soap to erase the paint from my body did not take away the fact that the night before I painted, it just cleaned the paint off.

Suddenly it hit me. All these showers I have taken over the years to erase awful things that have happened to my body have erased nothing. My shower is not a portal that can undo trauma my body has experienced. Until I go back and be with my body in these places of hurt I am not going to feel authentic when having a body positive conversation with a client, and I am never going to be able to believe my husband when he compliments me because I cannot see what he sees.

Something I have said for a long time is that is important to me that I am not asking my clients to do anything that I am not willing to do myself. Up to this point I have been not been ready to do this part of my work but now I am.

I know this next year will be transformative for me and I know with my whole being that this part of my work is going to play a very big part in that transformation. A very big, painful part.. And I am scared. I am scared to go back to some of these places with my body. I have gone back emotionally and started the healing process that way but this is different.

What I can do to help myself prepare for this next part on my journey inward is to remind myself of the progress I have already made in having  better relationship with my body.

I listen better. This shows in little ways like what I eat and when, taking breaks when needed, even in what I wear. Some clothes hurt so I have stopped wearing them. High heels for example, it they are uncomfortable I will not wear them. I set the intention a while ago that I will not cause my body pain for vanity sake. I can feel beautiful and be comfortable.

I am more accepting of my body as it is. I do not feel the need to wear make up or paint my nails for others. If I am doing either it is for me only and I have checked in with my body first. Personal grooming, I have talked about this before, I will not feel shame for the fact that my body naturally grows hair. I shave when it feels right and am not mean to myself when I don’t. My hair has a right to be there and I am beautiful either way.

This is a good start these two things but I know there is much work to be done and I am ready. I have to do things for myself so I know how to helps others in these same places of pain. You do not learn these lessons from the text book, somethings can only come from the soul.

I love hot showers, hot baths, the cleansing nature of water in general. I love the way it can wash over me and hold me and make me feel whole. I also recognize that by doing this work I may no longer need water for this and I certainly will not look to soap to act as an eraser any longer. What if I could hold me and make me feel whole. What if I had the power of water?

 

A Glorious Mess of Color and Noise

drum

A little over a month ago I shared that I attended a meditation/sister circle that ended with a drum circle. Let me tell you about this drum circle.

After we concluded our formal meditation we went outside. Set up around a stone fire pit were 8-10 hand drums set in front of a circle of corresponding chairs. Each drum had a slightly different shape, some were more squat and wide, others taller and more slender. They also had different designs, some were plain without much color, others had elaborate detail and were wildly colorful. Each of us took a moment to decide where to sit based on which drum spoke to us. I ended up choosing a squat drum with a colorful pattern.

Once we had chosen our drum we were encouraged to get acquainted with it. We all took this to mean different things, some people banged on their drum to familiarize themselves with the sound, others rubbed the top and sides to see how it felt, I grabbed mine around the middle and hugged it.

After this moment spent with our drum the real fun began. We were guided at first, we were taught the different ways to hit the drum in order for it to make different sounds, we were also taught how not to hit the drum in order to avoid finger injury. After a few moments of practice it was time to begin. Our leader got us started, she began her beat and the way it worked is that when she felt ready she would look to her right indicating that she was ready for that person to join in, this went on all the way around the circle until everyone had joined in and we had many different sounds playing all together.

During another point our leader brought out all kinds of fun hand instruments for us to try. Some opted to stick with the hand drum, others sounds that joined in were that of a wooden hand instrument that when played sounded like a frog, there was a high pitched bell similar to a wind chime, there were bells more similar to what you would imagine on a reindeer harness, I played an egg shaker during this time, there was a cow bell as well. All our different unique sounds played together made a glorious mess of noise.

At first all of us were intimidated. I think only one of us, other than our leader, had ever participated in a drum circle before and there was a fear of doing it wrong. I have said before that it is a very vulnerable feeling to allow yourself to be free and create in front of others, the trepidation at the beginning of drum circle speaks to that very truth.

What if I cannot keep the beat? What if I sound stupid? What if everyone looks at me? What if I am too loud?

5 minutes in all that fear washed away. We played with our eyes closed towards the beginning so we could focus on the sound instead of each other and that is when the connection happened. That was the meaningful take away from this experience, the connection. To be able to make your own unique sound that is just yours and is not swallowed up by the noise of any other but to be able to also connect with the collective noise. I was just one drum, just one shaker, just one person.. but without me the group would not have sounded the same. There was no right, there was no wrong, all that mattered is that my sound was heard.

creative

This brings me into the next part of this post. I have been incorporating art into my practice with my clients. I cannot call the work I have been doing art therapy because that is something you have to be certified to do and I am not, but I am creating a space for my clients to express themselves creatively in order to help them with some of the work we are doing together. Art therapy may be on the horizon for me at some point.

One of my focuses with this internship is to give myself space to figure out what kind of therapist I am going to be. What unique thing do I bring to this field? How will I let my unique light shine? Art is certainly part of that because it is a very big part of me. One thing I have learned about myself while in this internship is that I am the kind of therapist that quotes Bob Ross. haha. (Yes I just laughed at myself, I do that. Often.) When I have been leading a creative arts group or working on an art project with a client during individual session I have definitely quoted Bob Ross on more than one occasion. Of course I have. That man knew what he was talking about:

There are no mistakes just happy accidents.

If you don’t like it, change it. It’s your world.

You need the dark in order to see the light.

I mean, yeah. He got it.

Creating this kind of outlet for a person allows them to get out of their head and be free for a moment. It allows them to put down their judgements about themselves and the world and let an inner voice speak. In a world full of black and white ideas about how things are art allows us to step back, call the world on it’s bullshit, and play with the full spectrum of color. Because life is a glorious mess of color, black and white is a myth of existence.

I am grateful for the personal lessons I have learned through allowing my own inner voice to be heard through art, and music, and other creative outlets I make for myself. I am also grateful that this is an area where my light is turned up and I can share my truth with my clients and help them to find their own. This is what makes this work special, this is what makes life special, it is all about finding your own unique voice and knowing how important your contribution to the collective is.