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

Avoiding Our Mirrors

mirror

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Spiritual Bypassing

spiritual bypassing

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

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

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

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

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

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

shadow

Reclaiming Righteous

mask

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

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

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

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

Here is where I am going to start..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Victim Mentality

victim mentality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

soul work

Healing Through Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

healing-and-art2

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

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

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

healing-and-arthealing-and-art1

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

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

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

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

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

To Know True Love You Must First Be Honest

honest

It is raining and I am so grateful because the rain has always made me feel comforted and right now I will take any extra support with an open heart. It is 3 o’clock in the morning and I realized hours ago that I will be doing my sleeping when the sun comes up because I am experiencing a shift and I need to be present and bare witness.

There are multiple posts that will need to be written to capture the leading up to and aftermath of this shift. I will let each come as they feel ready. Now there is a burning inside of me, a story and an intention that needs a voice desperately so it can be released.

Friday I got off internship and called hubs. He had the day off so he was home waiting for me. When I called I asked him how his day was and then asked him what was for dinner. His answer made it clear to me that he had given dinner no thought and this led to a heated discussion wherein he may have accused me of be patronizing and I may have said there was sexism in our relationship.

This is a post unlike others I have written  because I do not discuss our relationship in this way publicly. This is true for a number of reasons. The first being that my husband and I have check-ins periodically about our relationship, similar to the state of the union addresses, where we take inventory and see if anything needs attention. Another is because an actual issue arising that would lead to heated discussion is few and far between. And third because my husband is private and although I write openly about my life I try to be considerate of how I include him.

The thing is, this is such a massive shift taking place within me that I feel the need to document it and this is where I do that. The purpose of this post is not to highlight this tiff my husband and I had but to use it as context for the shift that is taking place.

So we both said something that was honest but hurtful to the other person and when I got home we sat and talked and found common ground and hugged and hugged some more and then had some dinner. An understanding was reached and commitment was made to a change that was needed.

When my husband and I were having this talk on the couch my husband said something to me that he has been saying for five years. It has to do with how we communicate differently. My husband will let me know when something makes him uncomfortable as it is happening. He usually does so without emotion, just kind of an FYI situation so I am aware and we can either talk about it or I can just be more mindful. This probably takes place every other day or so. He has learned over time that if he is going to mention things this often he has to have a gentle approach because otherwise it is stifling, if he were overly critical or annoyed when delivering these FYIs it would be too much because of the frequency. This works for us.

I do not do this. I am a bit more easy going, he would agree with this assessment, and I tend  to let things and people be. He is who he is and I love him as he is. I only mention something if I am supremely bothered by it and I do not tend to get supremely bothered. Every once in a while though something will happen that I am not comfortable with and then I might realize, hey wait a minute I don’t like this and it keeps happening. I may not have been fully aware of my discomfort with it the first 10 times but this time I am and this has to be addressed now. I am emotional when I bring it up because that is who I am as a human and I almost always catch him off guard, understandably so. The entire time we have been together I have maybe done this a handful of times so it is again, not an issue we worry ourselves with, but when it does happen it is no fun. When I get emotional on that level I get swimmy headed and I do not articulate well. I usually start off okay, I am rational and calm. If the conversation goes on for more than 10 minutes though my emotional levels build and I get lost. I just want to tell my truth, have it be understood, and move on.

When we were talking the other night we did okay. I had a moment of emotional lostness wherein I identified sexism in the relationship (to be clear I did not call my husband sexist. I do not believe that for one second. I also do not believe that he would ever do a single thing intentionally to hurt me. The situation in my eyes was sexist though and because of his perspective I believe he was not even aware of it). After that moment I came back down and we talked like we normally talk.

Where my shift comes in was after something I read this evening. My husband is asking me to let him know on a more regular basis when something that is happening makes me uncomfortable so it can be addressed and it does not build leading to a situation like what took place Friday night. I know this would be a more effective way for me to communicate my needs the problem is, and I have shared this with him, I may not notice it the first 10 times. I notice it the 11th time and when I do it suddenly occurs to me that it has happened 10 times before as well and I am upset. I explained, as I have in the past, that I don’t know how to make myself notice it the first time or the second or even the seventh. I don’t notice it until I notice it and sometimes it is after it has been going on for a while.

So tonight I was reading something and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Two things: 1. I am not being honest with myself in my relationship. and 2. By not being honest with myself I am not being fully-present and authentic in my relationship. Both of these realizations made me feel awful. Awful on so many levels. Awful that I am abandoning myself in my relationship, not intentionally but it is happening all the same. Awful that by not being honest with myself that means I am not being honest with my husband and that breaks my heart because ironically honesty is the most important thing to me in a relationship. Awful because my husband is, I shit you not, the most honest person I have ever met in my entire life. Awful because by not being honest I have not given him the opportunity to love me fully for the person I actually am.

None of this feels good. I cried silently while he and my sweet pup laid next to me in bed fast asleep. I gave myself my moment and then realized it is going to be okay. I realize it and I love myself enough to be honest. I also trust our love enough to be honest. We are both strong enough to withstand my honesty. AND my true self, the one who I have not been honest about is worthy of my love and his. AND I know in my heart he will agree.

When I say I have not been honest it is me realizing that all this time that I have been “laid back” and just letting him be him and not making a fuss, I have been abandoning myself. Not all the time but some of the time. My husband hates to cook and so I leave it be, that is just who he is. Right there, I abandoned myself. Sometimes I don’t want to. Sometimes I just want to come home, change my clothes, flop, and eat because dinner was already ready when I walked in. I told him all of this when we talked the other night and he totally got it. The thing is though if I am being honest with myself, I have felt this way from the beginning. Why I am just now saying something 5 years in?

Here is my unfortunate truth about that. It is because of what I learned about love through out my life from other men. Don’t ask for too much, don’t complain, stay small, stay silent, be agreeable, be easy, don’t fuss, don’t nag, make their life easier, help them, don’t ask for too much, don’t let them see you.

I realized after I finished writing that part that I wrote Don’t ask for too much twice. That tells you how embedded that message is inside of me.

I married my husband because from the very beginning his way of loving felt truer, more honest, safer, less conditional. He is my friend, my partner, he is not afraid of my strength, my emotions, my depth, my mind. He has been encouraging and supportive. My path to healing started 5 years ago, he has been walking it with me from day one. I have peeled back my layers and shown him my darkness and it has always been okay.

This whole time I thought this relationship was different. I knew there was this old piece of me that would show up on rare occasions but rarely, not nearly as often as every other relationship I have ever been in. I am sad that I am just now realizing how I have been editing myself. What makes me even sadder is that he has always been asking me not to. He would prefer I just be honest, he has always sensed that I was holding back. Why couldn’t I see it when he could see it so clearly? I think the answer is because it is my truth, not his, and you can’t see your truth until you are ready.

I see it now though and although I am sad that it took me this long and I am also relieved. He has given me the standing invitation from day one to be honest and be my whole self in this relationship. I am now not only ready to accept that invitation, I know how. I am accepting an invitation to be more present in out relationship and in my life. I am accepting an invitation that will bring me closer to myself and the person I love most. By accepting this invitation I am accepting myself on a whole new level.

He has never been afraid of me. Not my darkness, not my strength, not my depth, not my mind, not my emotions.. He will not be afraid of my honesty, he will embrace it the same way he has always embraced every other aspect of me.

Here is the real truth, since we being so honest, it was never about him. I am accepting an invitation to be honest with myself. To speak my truth. To be an equal. To be seen, and heard, and to ask for more, and to know I am worthy of it.

By being honest in this way I am finally able to shuck off the lies I learned about love from men throughout my life. Honesty is love. I cannot know true love with myself or outside of myself without a deep commitment to honesty.

It seems so clear to me but things always do in the after. The before is where things are tricky. Continue reading “To Know True Love You Must First Be Honest”

I Have Found My People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find Me, Dear Heart: An Ode to Infinite Worthiness

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?

 

That Wasn’t My Best Me

energy

This last week was not one of my best and I certainly did not show up with my light turned up. Between bad energy at internship, Thanksgiving not going according to plan, and then hubs and I both getting the flu over the weekend.. I have not been at my best emotionally, physically, or mentally.

I am so close to the end of the semester and having a break from internship, there is piece of me that is tempted to just sit in this place of anxiety and negativity until the break. Why though? Why would I deliberately put off feeling better? Because it would be more work to actively try and feel better while I still have work to do and assignments to complete rather than just allow myself to give into what feels easy, this negative energy.

I had been doing so well with my intention of turning up my light. I am disappointed that I was so easily derailed by other people’s energy, illness, and just life in general. How committed was I if it was that easy to give in?

I think it is good though. It causes me to reflect and realize how easy it is to forget our purpose. This is not something I can be passive about. It is something I have to be actively engaged in everyday. Waking with intention, going to bed with gratitude. I admit I have been doing neither for last few days.

I can give myself space though, I have been ill and in a medicated delirium. Now that I am starting to feel better though I would like to get back to having mindful intention and gratitude. I have felt incredibly unbalanced the last week or so. That is how it goes sometimes though. I can try to show up as my best self everyday but the truth is I am human and sometimes I am going to show up in very human ways which may not feel like my best spiritual self.

So tonight as I am getting ready for a very big week that I know I have underlying anxiety around I would like to show my dark pieces love. My sick pieces, my vulnerable pieces, my scorned pieces, my jealous and angry pieces, my very human and beautifully flawed pieces that show up in painfully honest ways.

I am doing my best and my best looks different depending on the day. Today my best was taking care of body while it healed from the flu and giving Lu a bath after she rolled in the dirt even though I was completely exhausted.

Yesterday my best was making a conscious effort not to puke on my husband.

Tomorrow I will start my day with whatever intention is awake inside of me and I will give the day my best, whatever that looks like tomorrow.

Sacred Femininity

divine

I need to start by saying that after my last post I was sitting in a bit of a vulnerability hang over. It is not easy to not only see your own darkness, but to sit in it and then allow others to see it as well. My ability to not only acknowledge the existence of my shadow pieces but to give them voice when needed and love them just as they are is what healing looks like for me.

This kind of ties into my current inspiration which is the healing power of feminine energy. Feminine energy to me is nurturing, it is creation, it is love, it is divine, it is pure and unending, it is acceptance on every level. I just finished my latest painting and it has to do with creation, and transformation, and evolution, and how all things are connected, and the power of feminine energy. There is a lot of symbolism in this piece. It was also in part inspired by the female body.

transformation

It felt so good to be painting again. After I finished it I kept seeing more and more symbolism in what I had created, even beyond what my initial inspiration was.

It felt really good to sit in this healing feminine energy after the darkness I allowed myself to sit in and share, after weeks of being exposed to toxic energy out in the world.. I have been talking for a while about how to balance the negative energy that exists in the world right now this goes back to that. There is balance in everything; darkness is balanced by light, negative and positive, hate and love, destruction and creation, masculine energy and feminine energy. In the middle of each of these extremes is the balance, the gray area.

My light is aflame and I am embracing my own sacred femininity because my truth is that the sacred feminine energy that each of us possesses is what will save the world. The Dali Lama said the world will be saved by the western woman, some thought that meant Hillary, some think it means western women as a whole, I think it has to do with being in tune with our collective feminine energy. That nurturing, maternal, infinite loving energy. That is what will save the world. I am stepping into that energy in my own life and am seeing the impact it can have. What would happen if we all led from a place of love and light?

dali-lama

 

Oh My Aching Heart

Today was not a great day for humanity. I sat in on a TIC training that turned into an open forum for the floor staff to bash the therapeutic staff, AND air grievances about how the clients are lazy, bad, and destined for prison. There was also a 45 minute segment devoted to rants about transgender individuals as well as other gender and sexual minorities.

yes

My heart left severely bruised. I am not going to go on a feminist/social work rant about diversity, acceptance, compassion, and inclusion because I need to set a boundary on this. If I absorb the toxic energy that was spewed all over us at the training today I will burn out before this semester is up. This stuff does not belong to me. My truth is my truth, theirs belongs to them. All I can do is my part within my role and hope that it is enough to counter balance whatever toxic messages my client may be receiving in other areas.

After the training a story was shared with me that also hurt my heart. It was about one person’s divisive behavior and the pain it had caused. There is a post I have been holding that I want to share so badly that is related to this, but this is the one time since I started this blog that I feel truly unsafe doing so. I will write this truth at some point in the future, for now it will have to wait.

Finally I got home and was having a mindless moment on social media when I saw that a friend from the program was being bullied over a political post she wrote. What is worse is that apparently the bullies were her actual family. Let me say that again in case you missed it, Her family was bullying her on social media. I messaged her with a short word of not committal encouragement just in case she needed to see a bit of good in humanity today like I did. Apparently it was the right move. In her response to those degrading and patronizing her she was open and respectful, this seemed to inflame the situation though rather than temper it. It was like they were mad she wasn’t reacting and meeting them in their place of aggression. She and I had a short conversation about living in our truth and the joy that comes with belonging wholly to yourself without that need for approval from others, including family.. I think it was what we both needed. I am glad we were able to show up for each other and ourselves like this.

There is a lot of really bad scary energy moving around out there right now and people are feeding on it like a feral cat over a rodent. It is frightening but that is just it.. All of this negativity is rooted in fear. So all I can do is wake up each day and do my part to meet it with love.

So here is where I am at.. For the staff that struggled in the training today: I was able to take a perspective about what they were saying that helped me understand where they were coming from. It is in part culture, it is generational, it is tradition, it is pain, and it is fear. It also probably much more, but for now that is where I am stopping and I can have compassion in all of those places. I can have compassion, understanding, and appreciation for cultural differences and for generational differences. I can have understanding and make space for a person’s beliefs and for tradition. And I can absolutely have deep compassion for pain and fear.

yes2

For the divisiveness that led to the emotional pain of another. Again, I think this was in large part cultural. There is a piece of me that earnestly believes the divisive individual is not being deliberately malicious or hurtful, I think that is a cultural barrier present. There are other things at play here as well but part of my truth in this moment is that this individual and this situation was sent as a test from the universe to make sure we(who are involved and impacted) are doing our own work.. Our soul work. So I thank this person for what they are bringing me personally and I know the person on the receiving end of the pain will rise up to meet her lesson in this as well because that is the kind of person she is.

Finally my friend who was verbally and emotionally assaulted by her family. I send you light and love tonight dear soul. I know how hard it is to step into your truth possibly at the cost of family. Your journey is not for them though, it is for you. You are right, you have NOTHING to apologize for, and I applaud you for figuring out in your twenties what took me 30+ years to recognize.

My wish for all those I wrote about tonight is that we are able to all move forward on our path living unapologetically in our truth. My your soul find peace, may your mind rest, may your weary heart feel comfort. It is the best of times and the worst of times, just as times usually are. Tomorrow in a new chance for amazing things, I am grateful for that truth and the opportunity to live in it.

I Don’t Need You to Validate My Tomato

tomato

This post has two purposes:

1. to talk about self-love and not needing to seek validation outside of myself.
2. to talk about how I speak in very abstract terms and at times have to reign that in for the sake of communicating with others.

This week I was talking with someone about the human need to be validated by others and how to temper that by being able to self-validate more. I don’t know that the need for outside validation ever goes away completely, maybe it does, who knows. I still find I need it at times. Like for example when I am new at a job and am unsure about my progress, Am I catching on fast enough? Am I doing this right? Am I meeting their expectations?
Or another example is from my Parents. I am in my thirties and I am not going to lie I still find that I am seeking out my parents validation from time to time, Am I making them proud? Am I disappointing them? Did that decision I made hurt their feelings?

This need has slowly gotten smaller over time for me. My boundaries are better, my sense of worth actually exists now, I am confident in my abilities and feel more secure in who I am as a person.

New jobs provoke a lot less anxiety than they used to. Fear of disappointing my parents has waned as well. I know I am capable, I know I am smart, I make decisions that I know are right for me and are healthy, whether they are right for others is less of a concern.

As I was having this conversation about the ability to self-validate and emotionally take care of our own needs I thought of this post I wrote back in April about tending to my emotional garden. I started talking in this metaphor to the other person and they totally got it, which was awesome. At one point I was talking about being the emotional gardener and how I know my tomato is great, I don’t need anyone to validate my tomato. My tomato being whatever piece of myself is feeling insecure and needs support. I love that not only did the person I was talking to get it but now “I don’t need anyone to validate my tomato” is a thing.

Sometimes your weird, and sometimes it works.

The other part of this post also has to do with how I use abstract thought to get my ideas across. This does not work with everyone. For example, my husband is super concrete in his thought patterns. If I said “I don’t need anyone to validate my tomato” in context, giving him the entire back story so it is not just some random ass thing I am saying, he would get it but he may not get why I felt the need to use the tomato metaphor. He would probably say something like, Why not just say, “I don’t need your approval or validation”?

My answer to that would be, because my way is more colorful and fun. Still, I see the point he would theoretically be making. Also, realistically my husband would probably say this to another person if they used the tomato metaphor but he likes my weird so he would most likely not say it to me and instead laugh and think it is cute/weird.

Back to my seeing the point of speaking directly, using concrete terms, and saying what you mean.. It is not how I typically communicate honestly but I see the value. It is important when working with young children because their ability to utilize abstract thinking is not fully developed, it is also very important with adults and older adults who have certain medical conditions which may effect the ability to use abstract thought. Not to mention some people just do not communicate that way and have trouble following that line of reasoning. A few people I am interacting with quite frequently this semester fall into this last category. They all are direct, to the point, not frivolous with their words, and expect to engage with others in this way. It has been a great opportunity for me to work on my communication skills, it is a work in progress though. I catch myself frequently falling into my pattern of metaphorical story telling to illustrate a point or just becoming too tangential in general. I am aware of it though and making a concerted effort.

At the end of the day though I am sure these people do not feel like they need any kind of validation from me about whether or not their style of communication is effective, and I certainly do not need them to validate my tomato either.

Unconditional Positive Regard

unconditional

This is a concept we talk a lot about at school. It is part of the commitment we make to doing this work,treating our clients with unconditional positive regard. For me this, like so many aspects of social work, goes beyond my clients. It is a goal to strive for in life, treating others with unconditional positive regard. I’ll let you in on a secret though, it is not possible. It is not possible to treat every single person you meet and interact with in life with unconditional positive regard, not without completely abandoning yourself, and then you would not have succeeded anyway because unconditional positive regard starts inside.

So we start with our clients and then try to extend that concept out into the world as far as we can understanding that sometimes we feel other ways about people which is okay, that is when we make sure to turn unconditional positive regard inward to take care of ourselves in that moment.

I was thinking about unconditional positive regard on my drive home today because of a conversation myself and a fellow intern had during a break.

Today was a day for deep conversations in the intern office. Next week we start taking on our own cases so today was a lot about prepping. We cleaned the office and organized it the way we wanted. We went through all the different work books and tagged the worksheets we will want to use with clients, we did a few more trainings on the computer, and in between we chatted. We talked about religion and spirituality, turns out this intern and myself share a common thread in that we were both raised in Catholicism and walked away from it as soon as we were confirmed. We talked about some of classes. We talked about the importance of doing your own work (through therapy or in other ways) in order to be an effective clinician. We also talked about some of our fears, specifically as they pertain to certain populations.

In school we are taught that you have to be open to all different populations, different spiritual backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, ages, cultures, races, etc.. For some people this idea is difficult for them from the very beginning, others do not think it will be a problem for them at all (me using my “I” voice I kind of wonder how honest they are being with themselves), many fall somewhere in the middle. I am one of the ones who falls somewhere in the middle.

What got my colleague and I on the topic of this particular fear/concern is a story I was sharing with her about a podcast I was listening to over the summer. Trigger warning I am going to talk about pedophilia on a superficial level.

I was listening to a podcast wherein someone who self-identified as a pedophile who had never acted on his thoughts shared his difficulty when seeking out a therapist to help him with his condition. He was young, maybe 20, and he had been having these thought since around the time he started high school if I remember correctly. He talked about the shame he felt, and he knew it was wrong but that he did not feel like he could control the thoughts. Not too long after it started (the thoughts) he went to his mother and told her that he needed to meet with a therapist, he did not disclose why just that it was very important. His mother scheduled him to meet with a therapist. Upon the initial meeting and after listening to his story and why he was seeking out help the therapist quickly told him that they would not be able to help him but they would refer him to a therapist that could. The therapist also told the client’s mother without his permission which I understood and at the same time my heart ached for the client because this deeply impacted their relationship. His story went on to tell how therapist after therapist turned him away, I am sorry I cannot help. Referral after referral was made, help started seem further and further out of reach. Feelings of shame and isolation grew, not even those trained to help could help him, who could?

I am sorry to say I do not remember how this story ended. I do not remember if he ever found the help he needed, I hope he did.

After sharing this story my colleague and I talked more about whether or not we felt this client would have been a problem for us. Would we have helped or referred him on? We then talked about other populations that are severely stigmatized and where we stand in those cases.

Then we talked about compassion. This is where the unconditional positive regard comes in. When we think about pedophilia a clear line is drawn between victim and perpetrator. One is shown sympathy, the other is demonized. I am NOT at all in any way trying to downplay or dismiss the experience of the victim in these situations, we (my colleague and I) did agree that there was still compassion to be had for this person who shared his story and others like him though.

unconditional positive regard

There is compassion to be had with all people. What I was thinking about specifically on my car ride home is how society creates stigma through fear; and what I may be doing in my own life to further stigmatize those already facing severe stigma and shame. What it came back to for me is something I say a lot and that is words matter.

Last summer I stopped using the word crazy as a filler word in casual conversation. Now instead of saying we are having crazy weather I say what I actually mean, it sure has been raining a lot. Crazy is a loaded word for a lot of people, myself included, it may be should not thrown around so casually without thought about impact to others. Another good example is replacing committed suicide with died from suicide. Committed has a negative criminal connotation that stigmatizes the bereaved. I took a training on this in the spring and have since been mindful of this.

One that really stuck out for me on my drive though was the term narcissism. If you go far enough back in this blog you will find I am guilty of throwing that word around casually  with deliberate intent to judge others.  Typically I would be using it to refer to society’s social media habits. Here is the thing though, this is a diagnosis that is already SUPER stigmatized, it carries a lot of weight. What does it say about me as a future clinician and my commitment to unconditional positive regard when I do this? Individuals who are on that spectrum are worthy of compassion and unconditional positive regard as well.

unconditional positive regard1

We are all capable of causing pain and harm, we are all also worthy of compassion. I am willing to bet that there will be times over the course of my career where I struggle with a specific client for one reason or another. I may even have to refer a client to another clinician. I will always be mindful of my commitment to unconditional positive regard though and mindful of what it means to practice it both professionally and as a human being.

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.

I Love Myself Most When

This post is inspired by this photo: i love myself most when

Today I attended a workshop where we had an opportunity to make art. I thought I had washed all the oil pastels from my hands before I left to come home but as I drove through downtown with one hand out the window trying to catch the wind I noticed the blue still smudged on my thumb and finger tips. I thought to myself I love seeing the remnants of my creations left over on my body. Whether it be paint on my knee or elbow, or oil pastel on my hands. Sometimes I almost hate to wash up after a day of creation. I love looking down and for a moment being taken back to the joy I felt while creating.

While I was stopped at a red light I snapped this photo as a representation of this feeling. This feeling of being absolutely in love with myself in a moment. I started thinking of other times I feel this way which led to me compiling a list..

I Love Myself Most When..

I love myself most when I snatch that last glance in the mirror before I walk out into the world for the day. In a glance I feel grounded, loved, secure, and confident. I have taken care of myself at home and now I am ready to be apart of the humming buzz of the outside world.

I love myself most when I am completely engulfed in a project at home. I am in the trance of creation or productivity and I feel full and abundant.

I love myself most when I accomplished something that felt insurmountable at the beginning. I conquered the feeling of intimidation and smallness and made something my heart is proud of.

I love myself most when I am able to speak my truth from the heart. It is when I feel the most connected to myself in the outside world and I find it is often where I find the deepest connections with others as well.

I love myself most when I give myself time. It is a gift I give of myself to others and it is a gift I deserve as well.

I love myself most when I can feel in my body and my soul that I am doing exactly what I need to take care of myself. I feel in tune to my own needs and am showing myself unconditional love by doing my part to make sure those needs are met.

 

Now as I was writing this post in my head this evening I knew it was important for me not only to show love to the pieces of myself that I find easy to love but also to the pieces of myself that I may have a more problematic relationship with. Regardless of my current relationship with the different aspects of my being they all deserve love so I also complied a list of:

I Will Show Myself Love When..

I will show myself love when I break something.

I will show myself love when I get upset with someone I love.

I will show myself love when I make a mess.

I will show myself love when I am procrastinating.

I will show myself love when I cancel plans with a friend.

I will show myself love when I am scared.

I will show myself love when I need to ask someone for help.

I will show myself love when I feel self-doubt.

I will show myself love in moments of weakness.

I will show myself love when one of my plants die.

I will show myself love when I am feeling petty.

I will show myself love when I am having trouble showing love to others.

 

I am worthy of love and that starts right here from within. I thought this would be a challenging post to write because I was worried about it feeling self-absorbed to write out all these reasons why I am in love with myself. It was not challenging though and that is because I know that loving myself is not shameful or wrong or selfish or narcissistic. Loving myself is vital. It is everything.

So I challenge you to step back from this after reading it and finish that sentence for yourself, I love myself most when… Then follow it with I will show myself love when.. Then bask in the awesome glow of your open heart that is beating in that moment just for you. That moment is not selfish, it is everything.

Walking into Your Greatest Fears

As I continue to wake up to my truth and become more connected to my soul self somethings are becoming clearer to me. Things like who I want to be as a social worker, what whole-hearted parenting will look like to me, and that the things we are afraid of are maybe exactly what we should be pursuing in life.

There are things I know that I want for myself but I am afraid. Not so afraid that my fear will stop me but afraid enough that it could delay a natural flow that already happening. I do not want to stand in my own way.

One of my fears is of owning my own practice as a therapist. I am afraid for so many reasons. I am afraid of the business end of things, I don’t know anything about owning a business, it is scary to think about. I am afraid of being on my own and not having someone there in the moment to guide me. At some point it is going to be just me and the client, I am so afraid of not being what they need, I am afraid my words or skills will fail me when put to the test. I am afraid of my own success. It may seem irrational, maybe it is, but it is also my truth in this moment. I am afraid of having the exact life that I want. I am afraid of success on that level.

I see it though. I know this is part of my path. I do not know how large of role this part will play in my overall story but I know in my heart that it is part of it.

I started the social work program with an intention and that little intention grew so much larger than I had ever dreamed possible. That intention is still growing. I am so much more than I thought I could be. Nothing has been forced, it has been difficult at times, but I have tried to allow the process to be what it is. I have spoken my truth when it felt like I needed to. I have tried to be connected and present. I have allowed myself to be real, which in my past life was a terrifying proposition that I would not have never considered.

I am meeting with my mentor in a few hours to talk about my next steps. It felt important to me to set time aside to focus on my intention moving forward. Having intention in life gives you a place to focus your energy and from there comes the growth. I have had intention in my role as a student and have experienced momentous growth. I have had intention towards self-compassion and acceptance and have felt my energy towards myself evolve. I have had intention with the way I engage with the world and I have seen the impact that intention has had on my life.

When people talk about being mindful I think a big part of that is just knowing what your intentions are and honoring them. I am grateful for this life and everything I have been given.

 

Standing Up for What You Believe In

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Saturday a presidential candidate who has been garnering much media attention will be holding a rally locally and the venue chosen just happened to be my university. I personally find this to be unfortunate because much of what I have heard from him sounds xenophobic, sexist, racist, and generally hateful fear mongering. With that being said, it appears there are plenty of people who do not share my view of him that plan to attend this event in support of the candidate. Such is their right.

One of my colleagues in the program shared a link to a peaceful protest that is being organized on campus Saturday against the candidate and in one day more 2,ooo people expressed and interest in going, myself included.

When my colleague first shared the link I was kind of excited by the proposition of a peaceful protest where I could stand with like minded people against all of these things I feel so strongly against. Throughout the course of the day though as the movement gained popularity I started to feel the idea of peaceful protest was beginning to devolve into something that felt too close to what I wanted to stand up against. I am hoping I am wrong about this but either way what I was seeing posted on the page was enough to make up my mind for me.

I understand the frustration that so many people are feeling, I feel it too but historically meeting hate with hate has never solved anything. There is nothing peaceful about some of what I am seeing being proposed and while I am sure the actions of a few are not representative of the many who truly do want to hold a peaceful protest, I started thinking there has to be another way to stand up for what I believe in a way that feels right to me.

Next Saturday Todd and I are attending a Bernie event downtown so we have decided that we will donate to his campaign while there and see how we can possibly get more involved locally with a candidate we do support rather than one we do not.

I fully support my friends and family who plan to attend the protest, I hope they are able to stand up for love and acceptance both peacefully and safely. I look forward to hearing all about it after and for myself I will put my energy into what feels right for me.

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