Honoring the In-Between

in-between

I am sitting in the middle of a glorious in-between and I did not want to let this time slip by without showing it the appreciation it deserves.

The in-between is such a special place, it is a place where all things are possible. It is a place of both certainty and uncertainty. You know where you have been, you know what came before but there is no promise of what comes next, just hope.

We can become so focused on the getting there without truly acknowledging the beauty of the in-between.

In thinking of the in-between my mind is gravitating towards a client I had at the beginning of the year..

She was with me much longer than most. Towards the end she was struggling, she was in her own in-between and wanted desperately to arrive. I came in for my shift at the beginning of one week to discover she was gone. I was overjoyed. Good for her, she made it, something worked out, she is going to be okay now, she is on the path towards love and healing. It was the best way to start my day, I was on a cloud.

Then one of the other therapists came in and shared with me the details of the client’s discharge.. I was no longer in my hopeful in-between, I had arrived at the truth and started to descend from my cloud. My client had AWOL’d. More came out about possible human trafficking once she was on the street and a break from reality.

This is why it is so important not to overlook the in-between. Although this was hard for me to hear and reality can be cruel, for a moment I got to experience a different reality for this client wherein she was safe, and loved, and everything worked out as she had told me she wanted it to. For moment all things were good.

Reality is not important in the in-between, just hope. Hope lives its biggest life in the in-betweens.

So as I sit in all of my in-betweens right now I send the universe a note of gratitude.

Thank you for my in-between before soul camp, and before my new job, and before becoming pregnant, and before all the exciting plans I have made for this year. Right now all good and amazing things are possible. Reality will come and I welcome it too, but right now I get to have this magical time with hope and I am grateful.

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Sometimes You Just Need a Day

This morning I woke up and rolled over to this face:

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That was all the convincing I needed. I am staying home today, the dog needs cuddles. So I rearranged my schedule, sat in my gratitude for having a flexible schedule that allows for these kinds of changes, and got to cuddling.

After a sufficient amount of time cuddling it was time to get up. It was early and I had the whole day ahead of me with nothing on my calendar. Nothing. I love the way that word sounds when used in the context of my schedule.

I had my tea and meditated in the silence of my home. Once my intention for the day was set it was off the the art supply store to polish off the rest of my gift card money from the holidays.

I have a few different art projects on my list right now. Some are for me, some are for loved ones, and some are to do with my clients.

I got all my supplies for my various projects and headed to the check out line. I was standing in line admiring the art supplies that the silver haired woman in front of me was purchasing when the magazine rack next to me caught my eye. What caught my eye specifically was the piece on the front cover of a magazine that read: 70 Everyday Bits of Magic Worth Celebrating. In my head I started compiling a list of my own everyday magic. I looked back at the magazine; another piece on the cover read: Living an Intentional Life.
Okay magazine you made your point. I proceeded to put it in my basket and check out.

I spent the rest of the day on the art project I plan to do with clients. We have adult coloring books at our agency that many clients use as a coping tool. Recently my supervisor and I brainstormed an art project that takes the coloring pages a step further into a therapeutic art project. This came after my supervisor bought a bunch of canvases on sale at the art store and came to me asking what kind of project we could do with them.

I took myself back outside today to create because it was another beautiful day. Not to mention that the clean up is way easier when I don’t have to lay a drop cloth.

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I lit my candle for creative inspiration, colored my coloring page, grabbed my paints and created a colorful background on my canvas. From there I modpodged my coloring page on to my canvas and added odds and ends for pizzazz. (That word is weird right? Pizzazz..)

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When I was done with my art project I cleaned up my supplies, did a few chores, and then because I was feeling really domestic today I even made a berry crumble for after dinner. I always keep rolled oats around just in case I feel like baking something easy.

While my crumble baked I caught up with two of my soul friends by phone. One of them is coming to stay with me at the end of this week and I am over the moon. I cannot wait to be in her presence.

After everything else was finished I curled up in my blankets on the couch and read my magazine. It has been a long time since I have bought a magazine. The last one I purchased was an art magazine. This felt a little foreign but this magazine is very me from cover to cover.

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It was a good day and sometimes you need one of those.

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.

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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.

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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.

What is it Going to Take?

The question was raised this week in therapy, what will it take for me to do this work? The question was asking what do I need to do to support myself through this next phase? How is taking care of me going to look different right now while I do this?

I had an answer in that moment and we discussed it but I also knew I needed to sit with this and go deeper to answer it fully. This ties into the permission I will give myself during this time but it is different.

My initial answer to how I will support myself was my books. Reading has always been part of my self-care routine but often I use it for escape. I read fairy tales as a way to escape the occasional ugly of everyday life and balance the darkness of humanity for myself. Books will still support me in this way but right now it is bigger than that. I am open to receiving and I am seeking out the books I have been timid to read up to this point because I was not ready for their message. I am reframing that fear I have held and instead of being afraid of the message I am going to allow it to support me. I will read and feel comfort knowing that what I am experiencing has been the experience of others as well. I will find connection and community in these books.

Since the initial discussion around what it will take I have been stewing on this and realized that I had already started taking steps to set up my support for this work. I have mentioned how my boundaries will look different as I do this work and that I am giving myself permission to be with just myself when I need to without feeling the need to live up to any social expectations.. Well the boundaries I am setting go beyond just my relationships and I have been working on them for quite sometime now.

After the election I stopped watching the news, that has not changed. I am still anti-news because I have found that I feel better physically, emotionally, and mentally when I do not allow that energy in. If something big happens I will find out, otherwise I am out.
This boundary came late October and has extended past just the news now, pretty much in general with TV I am out. I have one show I watch every week otherwise the TV is off. We have moved away from watching the TV in the evening which has led to us spending more meaningful time together either doing our introvert things or playing games or just talking. It feels better so I know I am on to something here.

I have also set other media boundaries, I am once again off FB. I kind of knew this was coming. When I stopped watching the news in late October I also took a break from social media, I had a feeling that break would result in a more permanent detachment, which it has. My husband is not on FB and still manages to keep up with all the relationships he cares about from IL. If he can do long distance friendships and networking without social media, I can maintain my relationships that are not long distance without it. I went years without FB in the past and it was good, it was time to let go again. I still maintain that FB is not real and while it can be a great way to feel connected, I also think it can act as a distraction from true connection. That is my truth, it does not have to be everyone else’s.

I think the best thing I will be able to do for myself while I do this work, aside from these steps I am taking to create a calm environment, is to be honest as often as possible. Be honest with myself about how I am feeling and not push myself to do things that feel like too much and also be honest with those around me. Expectations are set based on prior behaviors, tradition, essentially the past. I am in a new place therefore I need to have new expectations for myself and I need to be honest with others about what I can handle so their expectations are managed as well. I have found when having to do this kind of thing in the past that people are actually very understanding when you give them the opportunity, we often feel so reluctant to even bring this kind of thing up though. So I will be honest with myself and others and give people a chance to support me as well by managing their expectations of me during this time.

This weekend I am doing a two day workshop that includes identifying the blocks that I have that could impede me meeting my intentions for the year as well as vision boarding what my intentions for the year are. I am glad I have had this time off to reflect and build deeper insight and just be. I think it will serve me well when life gets busy again.

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Making the Block

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Tonight I shared space with my mentor and two other women I admire and it was so good. It was also sacred so that is all I am going to share about it.

As I was driving home my favorite song by Ben Howard came on my Pandora station. It started right down the street from my home, so I decided to make the block. Sometimes you are just not ready for the moment to be over. As I drove and enjoyed every chord, every word, all the feelings that rose up in me, I thought about mindfulness and being in the moment and how great it is when you are really committed to it.

I admit it is not always easy. I am very inside my own head a lot of the time. I am known for walking out the door without something I need for the day or walking into a room and not remembering why. I at times operate in a state of fog because my consciousness is not in the moment but in my dream world instead.

I can do it though. I can be intentional and mindful and present. I love both spaces, the here and now and my dreamy place.

I am feeling like I am in a list making mood so I am going to share some of my favorite moments of mindfulness.

  • When you are with someone and they are telling you a story and you are all there experiencing every piece of it with them. I get to do this with friends, clients, family, colleagues.. Sometimes¬† even people I barely know. It is so remarkable, you are literally transported into their reality and can feel, and see, and smell, and hear all the different things going on around them in their story. Those are moments I live for. I love stories.
  • Meditation. Being able to feel every part of my body and listen to it. The slight tinge in my back from my posture, the growing numbness in one butt cheek from holding a position too long, the feel of my mala beads rolling between my finger tips as I breathe in my intention, my breath – the air filling my lungs so full and then release, every little pulse going on inside of me. Sometimes meditation feels like a super power, to be that tuned in to your own body, it is a spiritual experience for sure.
  • In nature. Whether I am walking a trail far away from humanity, or sitting outside a crowded cafe some of my favorite moments of full on mindfulness take place in nature. There is a table I like to sit at on campus when it is available, it is right next to a patch of green – grass, bushes, a few little saplings.. I sit there with my ear buds in to drown out all the human noise taking place around me and I just watch. I watch the way each leaf moves in the breeze, I watch tiny spiders dancing across blades of grass occasionally throwing a little web if the distance to the next blade feels to far, I look at the color of the different leaves on the bushes and wonder why some turned and not others. I see it all taking place right in front of me, I am immersed in something it seems like no one can see, but here it is all happening right in front of them.
  • Music. Music is a vehicle, you can climb inside of it and get lost for hours. Radiohead is a great example of this for me. When I first listened to the OK Computer a million years ago I remember getting lost in it. Particularly Paranoid Android and Subterranean Homesick Alien. I would rock while I was listening, I would sing, I would bang my hands on my legs in tune with the beat. I was transported, I was lifted from my bed, out of bedroom, and into another space and reality this music created. The power of music is otherworldly.
  • Creating. This is one of my favorite ways to experience mindfulness. Being completely consumed by my creative process is my ultimate answer to the question of self-care. When I am holding my pain brush it becomes an extension of my body, the cold feel of paint on my finger tips is a feeling of renewal I have no words for.. Experiencing each step of the creative process is spiritual for me; laying the drop cloth – spending a moment to take in all of the colors present on it and how beautiful my messy splatters are, setting up the canvas – taking a moment to relish its emptiness, setting up my paints – choosing each color with intention and leaving the drawers open that hold my paints so each color not chosen knows it is still invited into the experience, the physical act of painting – I have no words, and stepping back occasionally.. Coming to the surface for perspective, to tell my family I love them, to witness my progress. Creating allows so much room for so many things. It holds space for me in a way few other things and people are able to in life.
  • Writing. I am here right now present in this moment. Choosing every word I type, sometimes sitting with my choices before I move on.. Does that feel right there? Is this what I actually mean? What is the absolute perfect word for this sentiment? Writing is another part of my life that holds space for me in a very special way. It is more than special, it is sacred. I am able to give myself to the act of writing in a way I struggle to with many people in my life. I have a few soul people who experience me in the way I show up on this blog but few truly know my depth.

If you are someone from my real life who I have invited in to this place please know how much that speaks to what I think of you and how I feel about you as a person. I may not show up fully in this way with you in real life but you were invited to a sacred space where I allow very few “real people” from my life and there was a reason I let you in.

I could continue with this list. I am growing tired though and I even while I am in this moment of writing I am still listening to the needs of my body. The one last thing I would like to add to my list being in moments of true emotion. When something touches me, when something impacts me in some way and allowing myself to feel it without a filter. I am often moved to tears and I often let them come. I am not uncomfortable crying in public spaces and if I make others uncomfortable with my vulnerability I think that may speak to their disconnection from their own – that is not a judgement statement. I really do love allowing myself to feel things though and not having to sensor, I feel much more alive when I can show up this way.

I have no fancy ending for this post. This is all I have for you. I hope it gave you something, I know it did for me.