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

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.

Righteous

The word righteous has come up three times so far this year. I do not remember this word coming into my life once in the last ten years.

Yes Universe, I am listening exactly what message are you trying to send me right now?

Two of the times this word came up was in the context of two completely unrelated people “acting self-righteous”. My skin crawled a bit each time that judgement was used but I moved on.

The third time it was my mother telling me that I am kind and righteous in the form of a compliment. I know her words were well intentioned but that word being used to describe me took me from skin-crawling to feeling completely covered in slimy shame and disgust.

Apparently I have a problem with this word. I have been sitting with this truth for weeks in order to understand it better.

I emailed one of my soul friends at one point and asked her what the word meant to her and what her first reaction to the word was.

She emailed me back the following:

First thought, used today as old-school surfer slang. Second, of or pertaining to goodness. Third, negative connotation related to disparaging accusations like “self-righteous”.

I emailed her back and agreed those were my thoughts and reactions to the word as well but in reverse.

My first thought/reaction is the judgement statement around being “self-righteous”.

My second thought has to do with pureness and goodness.

My third thought takes me to a Jeff Spicoli type character riding a wave in California.

spicoli

I guess it is a matter of perspective, and the experiences guiding the perspective of myself and my soul friend are different so it makes sense that we would come at this word from different directions.

I am realizing I struggle with this word for two reasons (there might be more than two reasons but so far two main reasons have risen to the surface for me).

  1. The Us vs Them mentality. What is the difference between myself, who my mother referred to as righteous, and the other individuals who have been labeled as self-righteous? My truth: very little. Compassion tells me that very little separates me from these individuals. These individuals are both righteous AND self-righteous, just as I am both righteous AND self-righteous, just as we all are both righteous AND self-righteous. Righteous is white light and Self-Righteous is black darkness, together the white and the black, the light and dark come together in truth: GRAY.
  2. Religious undertones. For me this word takes me straight to the church, it takes me to a place of pain and ridicule and otherness. My truth is that if this is a matter of Us vs. Them, I am on the Them side of that fence, not the Us.

The second struggle is my truer struggle I think. I already know my truth when it comes to Us vs. Them mentality, if that was my only issue I would have moved on quickly without giving it much thought because I am sound in my truth. The reason I was so triggered and felt myself linger in this place of feeling triggered was because of my second struggle.

Righteous is word that belongs to the church and I will never again belong to the church so that word can never ever be part of me.

Wrong.

I can reclaim righteous. I can reclaim it much like I reclaimed the word sacred. Sacred was another word that for a long time I felt like could never belong to me because of my experiences with the church. Then I found my own truth around spirituality and realized my truth was sacred.

I do not know what reclaiming righteous will look like for me. I do know it will have nothing to do with Us vs. Them, and it will have nothing to do with religious doctrine. These thing I know, the rest is yet to be seen.

righteous

For now I found this and it felt true.

 

Truth Speaking

truth-speaking

If my family had a a hashtag right now, it would be #truthspeaking. The best part is I did that. Me. The girl with a thousand secrets, the girl with the constant shadow. I brought truth speaking home.

After the ordeal that took place in my family early last week I spoke my truth via email to my relative and then emailed the rest of my extended family to offer love and support as well as encourage each of them to speak their own truth in this moment. The title of the initial email sent was The Truth, it felt very ominous. This relative shared their truth and although I think they believe it to be objective truth I know that is not how truth works. So I took this as an invitation to share my own truth which I did. Now what I did not share with most of my family is that the truth I chose to share was just one piece. I have many truths about what is taking place in my family right now, I chose to share the truth that I thought would do the most good and bring the most healing which is what I believe is needed right now.

As a result of my emails some of my family members did choose to speak their truths as well. Their truths did not look like my truth and that is okay, their truths belong to them and mine belong to me.

After all was said and done the situation is no closer to being resolved but maybe it is on a path towards healing. You can heal without resolution, that is another one of my truths. Truth speaking breaks down barriers that keep us from healing. Once those walls come down it often becomes less about “fixing the problem” and more about healing the hurt.

So as I family I think the focus now is supporting one another as we apply ointment to the emotional wounds that were inflicted from this fire. I am sending each person in my family light and love as they take care of themselves during this time. I hope that as a family we are able to move forward in our collective and individual truths and feel connection and love as a result.

Sometimes it takes hearing someone else’s truth that is not our own to wake us up to what our truth is. I think my relative did that for my family last week. By speaking his truth he allowed each person the opportunity to wake up to their own truth in that moment and speak it.

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

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.