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

Counting Down to Soul Camp

shadow work1

I am about one week out from Soul Camp and I cannot wait. I am not going to lie to you, I am more excited about Soul Camp than I am about finishing internship or graduating. This is what I have been looking forward to most about the end of the semester. I swear it is coming at the perfect time too. I am finally done with college and here Soul Camp is to catch me. Gratitude for that for sure.

So I have mentioned that this time around soul camp is about shadow work. I have been doing shadow work since November so I arrogantly thought Oh this is going to be easy..

Then I got dropped kicked in the face by my truth. While the work I have been doing is important and for some might feel deep, for me it is completely surface level. It is part of my work but it is not my TRUE shadow work. My true shadow work is deeper and darker and I don’t even feel like saying more about it because my truth is I would rather just leave my blinders up and not do the work at all.

I’ll just stay up here and work on my relationship with entitlement ignoring what lies beneath..

I am not at all happy about this revelation I have had but I know that is where my real work is right now and I am going to try my best to show in my truth at Soul Camp. I did that last time and although it was AWFUL in the moment I think it brought a lot of the other women their work and gave them an invitation to be messy and awful as well.

I already know two things I can, and really need to do, in order to commit to doing this work while at soul camp. The very thought of it brings up deep feelings of grief for me.. I’ll keep processing it and see where I land.

I am really am so grateful for the timing of soul camp this time around, it is so right. I will be done with something huge and going into a major life transition so the extra support will be awesome. Plus I will be coming back to absolutely no commitments. I do not start my new job right away so I will have ample downtime to process whatever comes up while at soul camp. THAT is the real gift.

 

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

 

 

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

It’s All Here. It Always was.

answer

This morning I woke before the sun, 4:40 a.m. to be precise. Something woke me. A smell, a sound, a feeling.. I can’t be sure. I decided since I was partially awake I would go to the bathroom before drifting back off. As I got out of bed Lu decided this was a good idea as well. So, I escorted her outside, took care of myself, and then we both crawled back into bed to for a few more hours of snuggly sleep.

Sleep did not come though. Instead I was met with an explosion of ideas and personal truths. Yesterday I cleared some blocks and anxiety I have been experiencing related to my future, as a result I believe I created room for things that were bubbling underneath my surface that I could not hear over the deafening hum of my own fear and worry.

As I lay in bed I started jotting notes and ideas that were coming to me. Then whole paragraphs, then whole pages. Next thing I knew it was time to really write, this was more than just a middle of the night inspiration.

I am doing some if not most of this writing in my other writing space that is just for me because these are inspirations and ideas and personal truths related to my future both spiritually and professionally; and as I have mentioned before I am choosing for now to keep these things private. I may write a little more here later if I feel struck to do so. For now I just wanted to share something I already knew to be true but that the universe reminded me of this morning: All we need lies within us. What I am looking for, the answers I seek, they already exist within me. I just have to quiet my mind and my fear so I can listen to my own inner wisdom.

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.

 

 

Find Me, Dear Heart: An Ode to Infinite Worthiness

worthy

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?

 

Martyrdom is Manipulation

Martyrdom: a display of feigned or exaggerated suffering to obtain sympathy or admiration.

Martyrdom is a form of manipulation.

Parents use it to guilt their children into doing what they want. I gave birth to you! After all we have done for you! Enter the martyr.

It is a used in relationships. I would do anything for you and you can’t bring yourself to do this one thing for me! 

It is used in religion as a way to shame followers into submission. He died for your sins.

It is used at work as a means to increase productivity without incentive. Look at Sue she works 10 hour days and weekends and never comes in late, why can’t you be more like Sue?

Manipulation at its simplest is about control. It is about getting needs met. It usually refers to negative, underhanded ways of getting needs met, but at the core that is what manipulation is.

Martyrdom is an exaggerated form of manipulation that uses guilt trips, and shaming, and extremes, and generalizations to get these needs met or exert control.

martyr

In my life I have personally been the victim of this kind of manipulation and I have used this kind of manipulation in past relationships. I am not proud of that fact of course but it is true and I am at a place now where I can show that piece of myself love.

This form of manipulation is very triggering for me none the less. It reminds me of times I have been hurt and times I have hurt others. Neither are memories I like to go back to.

Martyrdom is a thing in social work. It is not only a thing, I feel that it is glorified. I feel it used against us as a way to keep us down. To keep accepting low pay, and high case loads, and long hours, etc. etc. These things become expected and we become the martyrs.

Part of what took place in supervision the other day was manipulation. We listened to a long story of martyrdom and were told that we were not as good because we were not doing it this way.

I was triggered for two reasons mainly, for a moment it took me back to the absolute worst employment experience of my entire life.

I worked for a company for 5+ years that was completely toxic because I loved the work and the population. I finally left after my papa died. That is when I realized I had totally lost sight of what was important in life. The night he died he was surrounded by his family. I was not there. I had worked a 12+ hour day and was too tired to make the drive to hospice. He was stable, I would go to him first thing in the morning. He did not make it to the morning.

Following his death I took no time off to grieve. I was in charge, I could not take time off. I thought my job was the most important thing. I realized after experiencing prolonged complicated grief that I had that all wrong. It took me a long time to forgive myself for the time I lost at the end with him. He was more important. I don’t even work there anymore. How could I have ever thought that work, no matter how noble the work I was doing, was more important than the people I love?

The other part of the trigger for me has to do with my mother. Growing up and even into my twenties my mother used martyrdom, shame, and guilt to control me and get her way. It took years for me to recognize it for what it was. It was not until I recognized it in myself that I was able to see it in our relationship. She no longer has that power over me but the pain is still there. It takes a while to heal that kind of wound, especially when you are trying to learn to love and forgive yourself at the same time.

Social work is a primarily female field. Guess which gender struggles the most with work-life balance in general? Guess which gender is the most over-worked and underpaid? I think it is sad that we do not see this as the feminist issue that it is. It is true that many of us, myself included, do not enter this field for the money but that does not mean that what we do is not valuable and I do believe that we should be advocating for ourselves here. It is not just social work either. I feel the same way about teachers. It is another field that is heavily populated with female workers and is very demanding and treated in a similar way.

As women we are programmed by society to feel shame for wanting to be heard and seen and to have a place at the table. How are we supposed to break the glass ceiling if some of us do not even see how we are being manipulated and controlled by those who would rather keep it in place?

Martyrdom is manipulation. I will not believe anyone who tries to convince me I am not worthy of being seen, and heard, and that I have a place at the table. I will not be a martyr, I will be an advocate for myself and minorities like me who are being manipulated into believing we deserve less.

martyr

A Soft Place to Land / A Bed of Nails

I am very tired but as I lay here trying to drift off there is a piece of me who desperately needs a voice and I feel compelled to give her a platform. I keep a notebook in my bedside drawer for inspiration that comes to me at bedtime, it happens often, but this one does not feel it can wait until tomorrow morning.

                          Sometimes dark stories prefer to be written in the dark.

When I was sharing the story earlier today about my elevator encounter I mentioned my ex for a brief moment when I was calculating the math since the last time I had talked to this ghost. With out realizing it I think I triggered someone deep inside of me who now needs to be heard. She is piece who holds a lot of my darkness from that time.

My ex and I brought each other darkness. We had dated a briefly a year prior to when our true relationship began. He re-entered my life in the  middle of one of the biggest traumas of my life. At this time I believe he was in a dark place as well although at the time he was more focused on my crisis. We started in crisis and that is also where we ended. There is something tragically poetic about that I think.

A few months in the turmoil was already present. It continued through out our 3+ years together. It was apparent at this point that we were dealing with our own darkness and we were inviting it into our relationship, and I believe with my whole heart that at the time neither of us had insight into what we were doing to the other person. I may have been able to see his pain, and he may have been able to see mine, and on some level we may have been aware we were both personally struggling but not enough to step back and truly acknowledge it. On occasion his pain would bubble to the surface in a moment of vulnerability and I would do my best to be there with him and give him a gentle place to land. Occasionally I would show up in my pain in a vulnerable moment and he would console me and attempt to give me a soft place to land. More often than not though we were more like a bed of nails to one another, magnifying the ever present pain we were both experiencing. The root of our suffering was not grounded in each other at all, it went much deeper than that, it was present in each of us before either one even knew the other existed. Our relationship was a long process of two hurting humans suffering together. Unfortunately instead of healing each other’s broken pieces, more often than not we amplified the other’s suffering.

Our relationship ended in a explosion of glass and emotions quite literally. I took him to his emotional edge and he scared me to a point of no return. I have never held this moment against him but it was very clearly the end. Or so I thought. So we both thought I am sure.

A month or so went by and we reconnected very briefly, this too went up in flames. Then many months went by. I had the best year of my life up to that point. I was single for the first time in a long time and after a little of mourning the loss I realized that single is my happy place. I was so much better on my own. I know now it is because I was suffering and it was much easier to hide that suffering when there was not another person always around reflecting it back to me.

Fast forward to a few weeks before my birthday that year, he reaches out, and I faltered. I thought I was past him, I thought I was in a different place. It was one of the biggest back slides of my entire life. With one text message we fell right back into each other. This went on for a while until it stopped once and for all. Our final breaking point came in light of the largest betrayal I have ever experienced by any human being in my entire life. In that moment he brought me a darkness that took years for me to overcome.

I did though. And in time the hurt began to hurt less. And even more time I began to see my part in it all. And in more time I no longer saw him just for his darkness. And in more time I started to recognize my own. And even more time I was able to find compassion and love for both.

I have many regrets about the time I spent with this person. Most have to do with pain I know I caused. I have since forgiven him for his part. I know we are good people at the core who were hurting and did not know how to heal at the time. I hate that I made that time in his life worse for him, I hate that he made that time in my life worse for me. I have gratitude for light in that time that we both brought each other because it was not all dark. We were never friends though. That is the only relationship I have ever been able to say that about. I have been friends with every person I ever dated except for him. During our relationship we were never friends. We were just two lost souls sharing space.

It bothers me a little bit that I am coming back to this. I moved past it quite a while ago. I guess there are still pieces of me holding this pain somewhere buried deep though. Tonight I show them love and light. I send the parts of him that I injured love and light. I send the younger versions of ourselves who caused each other so much pain love and light.

There are things I regret about that time in my life but I would not change any of it. That darkness was meant to be. I hate that this is my truth but it is. We all have to show up in our darkness at times in our life to truly get to place where we are in our light. I grateful for his part in my journey and my part in his. I think we both moved on to better places of true love and comfort and that is all I could ask for either one of us.

 

Now I Know Why I Am Here

I don’t know how to write about this weekend. I don’t know where to start. I know there is much I will not share but there is some I would like to. I cannot figure out how to give words, words that are so limited and flat, to what took place. How do you illustrate the shifting of a soul with words? How do you describe a fractal of light that can split a room in half and then fuse it back together? How do define a power so great that it is beyond understanding?

This weekend I allowed myself to be seen in a way I have never felt safe to do in my entire life. In a way I have always wanted to, but was too scared. This weekend I allowed one of my darkest pieces to feel the warmth  of light on her face for the first time. I did not realize how little I actually understood about the AND I am always talking about until that moment. It was the most terrifying moment I have experienced since the trauma itself, it was also the most liberating moment of my entire life. Something broke apart in me when that trauma took place, something broke apart in me when I set a piece of free as well. For the first time in my entire life I felt TRULY SEEN. It was terrifying AND liberating. It was the most powerful “AND” I have ever experienced.

I didn’t feel like myself for a while after. I received love and support and other things I do not have words for. It was so special and it was also very hard. When you have done things one way for so long (hiding) you do not know what to do when that changes (being seen). It took a while to adjust and I have to be honest I am still adjusting. I am taking the week off from school to give myself time.

The morning after my shift I was sitting on the couch drinking tea and having more soul talk with some of my housemates/soul work companions and one of them said the most important thing to me that anyone has ever said.

To give a little context to this particular soul work companion, she is a self-proclaimed skeptic. She came to soul camp, was present physically in every group, and participated on a certain level, however she seemed to have trouble with the deep work. She would say things like I have nothing, or I don’t believe in this, or I don’t believe you (to our therapist) and she rarely shared much. She appears to be a realist who is very grounded in rationality and facts but this is not a retreat where we learn breath work for our anxiety, this is SOUL work. I know it was a struggle for her at times. Here is the thing about her though, (before you start wondering why she was there or having any kind of negative feelings about her) she was invited to be there and chose to come knowing it was deep work. She did not have to to come she chose to. And my therapist did not have to invite her, not all clients were invited only the ones she felt like were called to this. These decisions were made for a reason. Whether she understood it or not she was called to this for a reason and whether my therapist fully understood it or not this person was meant to be invited.

So as we are sitting on the couch drinking our tea and talking one of the companions asked this companion (the skeptic) – who happened to be sitting next to me- if she felt like she was getting anything our of soul camp and how she was feeling about it. The skeptical companion, who never minces words and always says exactly what she means, told us how  the day before (which was a 12 hour day of soul work – almost nonstop) she was wondering what she was doing here, how she kept asking herself why am I here? Then she said that it wasn’t until after I shared my story with the group and experienced my shift that she knew. She said That’s when I knew, I was here to hear Jillian’s story.

I don’t want to share our exchange after that because it is sacred. I just feel the need to document those words though. I do not know what it means to her. I don’t know how she knew that I am what called her to soul camp. I can only tell you what it meant to me..

It was a validation of my life. I have told my story to others before, mostly out of what felt like necessity because I needed to know that they could love me even though I carry this terrible darkness, and I have been loved but never like this. For some reason her bearing witness to this life changing moment for me is part of what makes it life changing. I do not know why her presence is important in this shift but I know in the depths of my being that it is.

I tried to express my gratitude multiple times to her and for her but again I feel my words fall short, how do you truly show someone what is burning inside of you with mere words?

I do not know what to do now that this happened. I feel called to something bigger than myself now this has happened but I do not understand any of it yet. This woman is from another country, another culture, another generation, another life perspective, but for some reason we were called to each other this weekend. I do not understand any of it yet but I know know know KNOW it means something.

I didn’t know that was the work my soul was bringing to soul camp, I had a different plan entirely for the work I was going do. This all happened for a reason though and one day I will know why.

bear-witness

The Double Standard

therapy

Last summer when I started my journey back into myself through therapy one of the last questions I asked my therapist before hiring her was, are you currently in therapy? Her answer to that question had a huge weight on my decision to work with her or not. Her answer was yes.

During one of our first sessions the topic of therapists in therapy came up. I believe that if a person wants to do therapeutic counseling as a career they should either be seeing a therapist at the same time or have seen one in the past (I prefer the former though personally). The bottom line is we all have emotional work to do and I think some therapists try to ignore that fact. They try to put themselves in higher position than their clients, they are the expert, they do not need help themselves. I call that denial.

My therapist during this session I referenced was saying how she was impressed that I asked about her being in therapy when we first talked. She said that when people in her personal life come to her for advice about choosing a therapist that is the very question she tells them to ask. She says that she would never see a therapist who is not doing their own work, I agree.

Even in the program right now, so many of us are in therapy doing our own work and you can almost pick out those who are not. You can feel the difference.

The thing that has always been baffling to me is the double standard that exists in this field as well as many other helping professions about seeking out therapy. There is something kind of shamey about it, like this feeling of, you have no business being a therapist because you are just as screwed up as the people you are wanting to help. News flash: WE ARE ALL SCREWED UP. Get off your high horse, no one makes it through life with out emotional bruising, and scarring, and worse. That IS the human condition. I want a therapist who is not in denial and who is making them self a priority, we all need to be modeling that behavior for our clients.

Side note: this rant has classist undertones and I know it. There are many clinicians and aspiring future clinicians who are not in an economic position that allows them to spend the money on their own therapy. I am not trying to shame anyone here, I am just saying that for me this piece is important. Really important. And some clinicians who can afford it still do not do it because of the double standard.

So let’s get back to that double standard for a moment.. How is it that a person can go through all the energy of becoming a therapist and not actually believe in therapy themselves? I want to be a therapist but I do not believe in going to therapy. OR worse:.I think therapists who go to therapy are broken in some way and should not be practicing.

I am putting a lot of words in a lot people’s mouths right now, I see that. I making broad generalizations about attitudes felt towards clinicians who are in therapy themselves. Let’s be real, there is a whole middle area. In that middle area there are therapists who do not go to therapy but think no less of those who do. There are therapists in therapy that judge other therapists for doing exactly what they are doing themselves. This, like everything, exists on a spectrum. (If there is only one thing you ever take away from my blog it will be the idea of the gray area).

My truth is though that I have experienced some weird energy around my admission to being in therapy. I am not at all in any way in the closet about being in therapy. It is the best gift I have ever given myself and I refuse to feel shame about this amazing thing that is changing my life and helping me in a way I have never ever been helped before. Still, when someone says, Hey can you get together this day at this time to go over this project, and I say Sorry I have therapy at that time, I can do this time. I have definitely seen the other person squirm. And when in class we talk about self-care and I share that this is part of how I do self-care the class go silent like I just admitted I am a leper or something.

It is time for this to be normalized, for it not only to be acceptable but expected and encouraged. Some of my professors have straight up told me that when they were in college they had to go therapy, it was expected of them because counter transference is real and you need to work your stuff out before you go out and try to work with vulnerable populations, especially if the work you want to do is therapeutic in nature.

What I can tell you is that sense being in therapy and being so open about it I have noticed a shift at school. For example, the class where I disclosed that therapy is part of my self-care – the next week two more students disclosed the same thing – the week after, three more shared they were in therapy as well. In these classes we are there to learn from our professors but we are also there to support each other while we are on this last leg of our schooling. I am glad that we as a cohort are able to be more open with each other, and in turn decrease the stigma around asking for help.

There is so much stigma around mental health issues, how is that going to change if the clinicians who should be advocating for their clients are partially responsible creating that stigma. If we are judging our colleagues for seeking out help we are feeding the flame of stigma around mental health issues, because our colleagues are clients as well. If we cannot advocate for ourselves, for our colleagues, how can we do it for our clients?

On an airplane they tell you before take off that in case of emergency put on your own oxygen mask before helping your neighbor with theirs. That is all this is. Trauma, and conflict, and family issues, and relationship issues, and mental health issues are all part of the human experience. So we, as clinicians, need to be modeling the behavior for our clients. We need to be putting on our masks before we try to help them with theirs. AND we need to stop doing it in the shadows. My openness about being in therapy is one small step I take in my commitment to break down the stigma around mental health and seeking out help in general.

A Case for Personal Therapy in Counselor Education

On Not Being Saved

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

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

hero

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

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

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

Letting Go of What Does Not Serve Me

borrowed identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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