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

Infinite Ways to Add to Nine

You’ve heard the expression More than One Way to Skin a Cat?

Well I hate that expression. So a long time ago I came up with my own version. I say: There is more than one way to add to nine.

I say this when I reach an impasse with someone where we are unable to find common ground. I say this with clients who get stuck in black and white thought patterns. I say it often.

My point is simple: there are lots of options out there and none of them are wrong, they are just different.

Fun fact: My favorite way to add to nine is 5+4. That was until tonight..

Today I finished the last paper of my college career. It was a research paper about the effectiveness of guided visualization, I could not have planned that better if I tried. I feel like I went out with a very authentic bang!

All morning while I was writing my paper and taking breaks my sweet husband was scurrying away trying to find something special for us to do once I finished. He wanted to celebrate me tonight. He would come in while I was writing and present a menu for a new restaurant for my review. Nothing was really appealing to me. A lot of restaurants think having a salad menu is enough of a vegetarian option, I whole-heartedly disagree.

On one of my breaks we came up with a plan. We found our own way to add to nine.

When I finished my paper and clicked “submit” I began to cry. I caught myself off guard, apparently it had been sitting there just beneath the surface waiting for me to finish this one last thing.

I went and found my husband charting out his math equations in the bedroom and I flopped down on top of him and let the tears flow.

I did it. I can’t believe it, I did it.

I completed a graduate program. I am a woman with a Master’s degree. I am the first woman in my family to attend college and I now have a Master’s degree.

I cried and cried.

I just cannot believe it. I can’t believe it. I did this! I DID THIS! I DID IT!

Then I started jumping on the bed and laughing and throwing blankets everywhere!

I DID IT! I FUCKING DID IT! I DID IT!!!!!

It was great fun, really it was, until I landed on my husband’s hand. He was okay though so I kept laughing and punching the mattress.

I did it man! I did it!

I left my husband to his math for a while longer and honestly I don’t even know what I did. I was so happy I was incoherent.

Later hubs and I started our master plan for the evening.

We headed to the grocery and picked up produce, ginger beer, ricotta, and naan. Then we came home and got to work.

We celebrated by making vegan/vegetarian naan pizzas with all of our favorite ingredients, our favorite cock/mocktails – the Moscow mule, and set up our dining room table like an trendy/artisanal restaurant. We brought the romantic dinner to our home.

naan pizza

We made three pizzas:

  1. Hummus, kalamata olives, plum tomato, artichoke hearts, sauteed onions and green peppers, basil.
  2. Tika Masala sauce, cumin sauteed garbanzo beans, mango, purple onion, mint.
  3. Ricotta cheese, blackberries, basil, black ground pepper.

We also made a pear salad which ended up being delicious but over kill, we had plenty of food.

When our dinner and cock/mocktails were ready we set the table and put on our Ben Howard Pandora station for mood music.

date night in1date night in

Over dinner we talked about our past, present, and future. We talked about my growth over the last 6 years that we have been together, and our growth together. We talked and talked and it was wonderful and romantic and just good in a very honest comfortable way. At one point I said what I often do about adding to nine in reference to how I went about earning my degree, I took the rode less traveled you could say. Then my husband said, it is more than that. It’s not just that there is “more than one way to add to nine”, there are infinite ways to add to nine.

There are infinite ways to add to nine because the options are endless. The options are endless. There is no right or wrong or good or bad, there are just infinite options, there is no limit to what is possible. Each person has there own unique path towards their own personal truth, the options are endless.

My path looked different from the paths of others, that is because it belongs to me and I walked it just as I was meant to. My mathematical husband helped me stand firmer in one of my own personal truths today.

 

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.

 

Employed!

The interview went well yesterday; so well in fact that a portion of the way through she flat out told me that based on how things were going she already knew she wanted me. At that point the conversation changed to this is how things work, what questions do you need answered to feel comfortable accepting the position?

I am glad that she felt as sure about me as I did about the position. I knew going into it that I was interested, I really just needed to see if she was going to throw anything at me that was going to be a deal breaker, and she didn’t.

I know that this is the next step on my path. As unclear as everything has been up to this point that is how certain I am now.

I am not saying that this is my dream job or that I will do it long term even, I am just saying I know that is where I am meant to be right now on my journey.

The true underlying purpose of this internship I just completed was to put myself outside of my comfort zone and do work that I was scared of and intimidated by. I didn’t fully know at the the time why that was important, I just knew that was what I was supposed to be doing at that moment.

Now I know.

I had to do that for myself so I knew I could. I had to shut down fear, and self-sabotage, and my not-good-enoughs by standing in the middle of all of them and doing it anyway. And doing it was not enough. I had to show myself that I could be as successful in that place of fear and uncertainty as I am in my place of expertise.

I am realizing that that fear and self-sabotage and shame are going to show up when I am doing anything that allows me to step into my power and truth. I also recognize they are doing it to protect me because for a long time staying small and hidden felt safe. Now I am going to create a new place of safety and it is going to be on the top of the mountain, not down at the bottom hidden underneath a bridge.

I know what my end goal is and I know that this is the step I am meant to take right now to get me closer.

I am excited about the opportunity for growth I have in this position. I am also scared, but that is good, the kind of fear that is showing up tells me that I am doing something right.

I am excited to be on my own for so many reasons:

They train me as I go, not before. I will be jumping in with both feet. That is going to be a huge place of growth for me. Of course I would like to be fully trained and prepared before ever taking on my first client. This might be a little painful at first but it is going to shoot my confidence level through the roof once I get through it, and I will get through it.

I will have support if anything comes up where I need it but I will not have a clinician with me at all times for me to check in. Essentially no safety net. Another tremendous growth opportunity!! I am going to have to learn to trust myself and my clinical instincts. This is self-reliance 101. I am scared and thrilled all at once.

I am responsible for diagnosing, and filing with insurance, and getting all the proper forms signed, and I will have hard deadlines for documentation if I want to get paid. This is all going to prepare me for when I am doing this completely on my own.

A lot of what scares me about running my own show one day is going to come up organically in this position I have accepted. I am have the opportunity to face and conquer these fears right out of the gate! I am still afraid of them but that is okay. I am going to do this work and I am going to be good and it is all going to be okay.

Like I mentioned before there are some clear downsides to doing contract work. It is not a steady income like being on payroll is for one. Ultimately though, for me, the experience out weighs any negatives. It is strictly clinical, I am making my own schedule, but most importantly this work is going to prepare me for my ultimate goal in a way no other position can right now. These are the fears I need to overcome right now and this job provides space and opportunity for me to do that.

I am grateful. I know I am exactly where I am meant to be right now and DAMN! Does that feel good!

yes

Soul Camp Meet and Greet

shadow work

Friday night one of my soul friends stayed over. She painted her nails while I laid across the guest room bed and we talked. We talked for hours. We talked about relationships and shadows and projection and writing. I had missed her so much, it was so good to be in the same room with her.

Saturday morning she left early, before I was even up, to get to a wedding out of town. I woke up, had my tea, and headed off to my therapist’s office where she was holding a meet and greet for everyone attending soul camp at the end of the month.

We did some light shadow work to prepare us for what we would be doing the weekend of soul camp. The two shadows that came up for me were self-sabotage and victim mentality.

shadows

I literally laughed out loud (so did my therapist) when these cards came up because this is exactly where I have been stuck.

I know this is where my work is right now, that does not mean I know what to do with it. It will come to me when it is meant to that, I trust that.

So I will be sitting with this leading up to soul camp and more than likely while I am at soul camp.

As for the rest of the meet and greet, it went well. There are a few new faces and a few familiar. I will be sharing a room with my roomie from last time so I am excited about that.

There is one new person who based on my limited experience with her at the meeting I can tell is bringing me some of my work. She reminds me of parts of myself I do have great a relationship with. She shows up the same way I do when I am nervous and while I can have compassion for that, it also makes me uncomfortable because of how I feel about this part of myself.

I think it is good she will be at soul camp because she we hold me accountable for working on the relationships with parts of myself that I prefer not to have positive relationships with.

I am also excited about some of what is being planned. All the work will be meaningful in it’s own way but it was shared that we will be doing a drum circle and I can’t wait. I loved the last drum circle we did, it was so healing after the negative energy that surfaced after the election.

Today I finished my last big paper for my policy class and by the end of the week I will be finished with all my assignments. Next week is my last week at internship. I met my hours the week before last but I decided to stay on until the end of the month so my clients experience a smooth transition going from me to the other counselors.

I do have a few interviews set up in the upcoming weeks but my main concern is just getting through these last few assignments and wrapping up at internship.

I am so grateful to be here, at the end after all this time. In a few weeks I will have my Master’s degree – I never ever thought I would be able to say that.

I am glad that I am ending my time in college with a retreat weekend. I think it will be a great way to release energy I have been carrying all this time. I think it will give me a place to process the shame I have carried all this time that made me feel like these were goals I could never meet.

Gosh this all feels so good.

Soft Pink Underbelly

puppy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avoiding Our Mirrors

mirror

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Little Glimmers

I had something close to a break through with a client today. This is a client I am working with for the second time. They were in our program lat year and returned recently after AWOLing from another program. I was sad to discover this client had regressed considerably since the last time I worked with them. Then after observing the client in ways I had not had the opportunity to previously I started to wonder are they regressing or did I never know the full story?

I worked with this client for only a few days last stay, this time I have had them for weeks so I am definitely uncovering more.

Session started on an intense note today. I had to assertively set boundaries with the client on multiple planes before we even started session then the topic was not an easy one to navigate which led to a lot of gentle confrontation with the client.  Ultimately by the end of session we had turned a major corner and I was able to build the beginning of a bridge with this client on an issue they have been struggling with and taking next to no accountability for up to this point. It was a little glimmer of what is possible with motivation and empowerment.

I am grateful that my supervisor trusts me with complicated cases. I am grateful that I have been challenged and made uncomfortable so often during this internship that it has given me the opportunity to step into my own place of empowerment. I am also thankful that I have been working with a population who are mandated to receive counseling services based on how our program is funded. This is not the ideal situation for clinicians, typically you want clients who want to do the work, when client’s are mandated they are  not always willing participants. This internship has presented so many awesome obstacles for me to work through and overcome.

It may have been an uphill journey but you better believe my social work muscles are strong as hell thanks to the path I chose to walk!

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

Opportunity Comes a Knocking

I got a call back yesterday for an interview. It is for a clinical position which I was excited to hear. It is with an inpatient substance program. I have done inpatient before and I have worked with clients with substance use issues. I have never worked on a program like this before though which makes this a great option for me. I want new experiences with new populations. I do not want to go where I have already been, I want to grow in a forward direction.

Right now I am playing phone tag with the agency representative who reached out to me. We will see how things go with this potential interview. I will report as things move along.

Continuing Education

I have been given a plethora of information from mentors and professors regarding trainings, certifications, and continuing education opportunities. I have been researching my options since last semester and have a pretty good handle on at least a few things I know I am definitely interested in learning more about. The challenge is that many if not all of the trainings I am interested in are out of the area.

There is one locally that is only about 20 minutes from home for me but the next closest is in south Florida and the next closest after that is out of state. The one training I definitely want to pursue is out of state and is a three weekend a year commitment to complete the level one certification. I am starting to understand the level of commitment I am making to my future career and becoming the clinician I know I am meant to be. Dreams take work.

I have had a lot of trouble with clarity around my path forward with my career now that I am nearing graduation. I know what my end goal is but I have been unclear on how far into the future that goal lies. Is it 5 years? 10? Shorter? Longer? I really don’t know. I know I am not ready yet but I also know I am doing my work to get ready.

It is not just my professional journey that prepares me for my end goal, it is my personal one as well. I would say my personal journey is what will make the difference really. I had a break through with a client in session a few weeks back and this break through came not because of anything I learned to do while in the program, it was because of my personal work. I allowed my intuition to guide me and allowed her to lead and what I suggested not only worked it was exactly the right thing for the moment. The next day she disclosed her entire trauma story to me in session and I was able to make reports and referrals to help her on her path towards healing.

The client said to me that based on our previous session and talks she recognized a pattern she was stuck in and she wanted to “break the cycle”. She did that, and I helped. And while yes, I have to have the degree to do this work, the degree is not what makes me good at what I do, it is my commitment to growth both personally and professionally.

Rumi says you can only meet someone as deeply as you meet yourself. How can I help my clients discover their own personal truth and path towards healing if I have never done this work myself? How can I show my clients what boundaries and assertive communication and truth speaking and shadow work and true self-love and authentic self-expression is if I have never walked my own version of this path?

So for now I will continue down my own personal path of self-discovery and in the near future I will start signing myself up for trainings to supplement my personal growth with professional knowledge and growth. I may not be able to do anything about these trainings right now because of time and distance but even learning about where they are, when they are held, and the level of commitment involved sheds some light and brings a level of clarity for me. For that I am grateful.

 

 

 

 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s All Here. It Always was.

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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

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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.

 

 

Visionary

I have been called a lot of things by a lot of people over the years.

Some things I have liked:
Joyful
Magical
Empathetic
Kind
Tenacious
Playful
Wise
Honest

Some things less so:
Bitch
Slut
Ugly
Fake
Liar
Manipulative
Bad
Insecure

Some things have even come as a bit of a surprise to me:
Brave
Strong
Sexy
Leader

Today a new word was presented to me: Visionary.

I felt good when I tried it on for size. Visionary. This is a special word, not everyone gets to wear this one, it felt like trying on Merlin’s robes. Yeah, I like this one.

As I have documented here I have been experiencing some pretty cosmic shifts recently. I am experiencing an understanding, a knowing on a intuitive level, like I never have before. I am able to see things and make sense of them in a new way that feels really really good. All of this will play a role in who I become as I move forward towards my truest self and share my knowing as I work with others.

That is where the visionary word came up, as I was talking about that. You are a visionary, you will light the path for others, your truth will not be their truth but your truth will help them find their own.

Through art and written word and practice and truth and connection.

When I started on this path towards inner healing nearly two years ago I was Luke; unaware and uninterested in what existed beyond myself. As I have traveled this path with my own personal Yoda guiding me I have started to become a Yoda myself. Soon I will mentor and guide my own Lukes as they walk their hero journey towards Yodahood.

That is the cycle of the hero journey.. Luke to Yoda, Yoda to Luke, and on and on. The Yodas are the visionaries and I am becoming a Yoda.

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visionary

Brene and Cheryl and Glennon

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This weekend I read Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. I have talked about books on my blog before but this is the book. This is THE book. If you only read one book I have talked about here this is the one. Especially for all my female readers. Her whole story may not speak to you but some aspect of it will because she is telling the truth. She is telling the truth about what it means to be a woman. She is talking about dating, and hating our bodies, and the shame ingrained in us by society and religion and men and even other women, she is talking about sex, and motherhood, and being married, and infidelity, and addiction, and  many other aspects of womanhood and humanity. You will find yourself somewhere in her story, I almost guarantee it.

Her story made honesty and truth telling feel far less scary.

Her story made me think of the stories of other women I have read. Brene Brown, Cheryl Strayed and Susan Cain.. My modern day heroes.

Then I got to her acknowledgments at the back and she had thanked Cheryl and Brene. Thanked them for their honesty and their truth telling. I get it. These women are the women that are making this world feel safe to be vulnerable in. Their tenderness is their strength, their commitment to keeping the mask off is what makes them brave. You can be introverted, and vulnerable, and a mess, and scared, and quiet, and healing and it is all okay and there is a space for you too out there in the big noise of the world. A space that was designed and meant just for you, no one else can occupy that space, it is yours. I am beginning to understand that now.

So I would like to put my thank you out there into the universe. Thank you Brene, and Cheryl, and Glennon, and Susan. Thank you to all the women I have encountered, and whose books I have read, and lectures I have heard, who have brought me closer to my own truth. Thank you for showing the rest of us that we are worthy and we deserve to be seen.

This year I made a commitment to read the books I have been afraid to read previously because I was scared the truth would be too painful. It is painful, I was right about that, but some truths are. I will not be afraid of these truths any longer though. I will allow them to support me as I journey further inward to discover my own. Today after talking with my husband I ordered 9 more books. I cannot wait to devour them all.

Truth Telling

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Last night after my revelation I closed everything down and went back to bed. It was 4:22 when I climbed in next to my pup and my hubs; as I did he stirred and then got up to go to the bathroom. When he returned he asked if I was okay and what I was still doing up. I told him I was fine and that I was writing and that I have things I would like to tell him but that it could wait until morning because clearly it was late and we were both tired. He smiled and said okay, told me he loved me and I slipped into a deep dreamless sleep.

Five hours later I woke up. We all did. Each of started to stretch and look around at each other and cuddle. We let Lu out, got her breakfast, got our own breakfast, and then scooted back to bed to eat and talk.

I put on oils in the bedroom, a mix of peppermint and lavender for clarity and calm. I lit my candle, I have many candles in my home but one is special, it is my candle, it’s light is there solely to support me. Then we crawled back into bed, him with his oatmeal, me with my peppermint tea and we started a new chapter in our relationship.

I told him that I experienced a shift last night and that I understood things I did not understand before and that I wanted to share these new realizations with him. Before I started I explained to him what I needed from him while we talked and that was space to be honest without it feeling like too much. He did not think that would be a problem.

He listened as I talked and when I was done, before moving on to another part of my epiphany I waited for feedback or questions. He was on board with everything, all of it. He understood everything I was saying and was open to all forms of honesty in our relationship. I made sure he knew that the standing invitation that he had always held for me, I was holding for him too. I am going to honest with you, in all forms, please trust me enough to know you can be that free here too. Our love is strong enough to hold this for us, it will only make it stronger. We agreed. We will move forward in this relationship without editing ourselves for the sake of the other. We will be real, and honest, and authentic, and build a deeper love on this.

Then I did something I have never done. I asked for help in my dark place. My therapy is what my therapy is, we are still separate from that part of my work because only I can do it. But there are other things that could get better if I ever trusted anyone enough to ask for help. He has shown me I am not too much, I am not asking too much, I am lovable, and he is not only willing but wants to help me should I ever ask. So I asked and he said yes. He is going to help me with practical aspects of overcoming my PTSD. We are going to work together to try and make me feel safe in ways I never have before.

This request was my very first step towards taking him up on his invitation of honesty and love.

Our relationship does not come up often in therapy because he is not something or someone I have to heal from. I realized though that he could help me heal. And that by being open to accepting his help I would also be opening myself up to a deeper level of trust within myself and in the relationship. I am learning to trust myself and trust him. I am learning to love myself and allow myself to be loved.

This is big stuff. It makes me think about the intention I started the year with, transformation. That is what this is. It is transformation, it is a learning and unlearning of love. I have been planted and now I am starting to sprout and grow.

To Know True Love You Must First Be Honest

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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”

Distraction

Last night when I walked out of internship I felt great. I had just wrapped up a really good session where my client showed definite progress and this came after an abysmal family session with that same client earlier in the day. I had another session with a new client earlier in the day where the rapport came very naturally and left me feeling hopeful about the work we will be doing together. I felt a distinct sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as I was walking out at the end of the day.

When I rounded the corner to the parking lot I was in awe of the scene in front of me. I was just in time to see the sun setting a deep orange red behind the oak trees that surround the property. It was stunning. Suddenly my reflection transitioned from my clients to myself. Somehow that sunset brought me back to my center. It was great that I had such a productive, meaningful day with clients but now I was going home and it was time to focus on myself and my family and my intentions in those areas.

As I drove home I thought about what I wanted to get accomplished when I got there. My check list included take care of and spend time with Lucy who had been in her crate all day, make a nice dinner, clean up the kitchen, and spend the rest of the evening with my husband. I also reflected on where I was at personally. I checked in with my body, checked in emotionally, made sure that I felt connected and whole across the board. The word self-care came up for me when I saw that sunset in the parking lot. It occurred to me how easy it is to get distracted by things in life and lose focus. So easy in fact that you don’t even realize it is happening.

As a social worker I spend the day in therapy sessions working with my clients to heal emotional wounds and problem solve, at the end of the day I usually feel good about the work I have done. So good in fact that I could use the success my client’s are experiencing on their own personal journey as a distraction from my own personal work and growth. Do some clinicians use helping others with their problems as a way to distract from their own? Maybe..

Typically when I think of distraction I am thinking of things like social media or shopping or TV.. Things we do almost absentmindedly to numb or distract ourselves from facing things. I never considered that the very thing that helps give my life purpose could also act as a distraction. If you think about it, almost anything could act as a distraction if you are using it that way..

I mean for example, for a very long time I went from one long term relationship to another never allowing myself to be single for more than a few months at a time.. I did it because I was using these relationships as a way to distract from the work I did not want to be doing on myself. If I was alone for too long things would start to surface that I did not want to see or deal with. Even when I was single for over a year I made sure to stay busy with friends at all times. I could not allow myself to sit still. My relationship with my husband is very important to me but if I am not mindful I could fall back into a pattern where I allow my relationship with him to act as a distraction from my relationship with myself, particularly if there is an aspect of my relationship with myself that I do not want to focus on because it is painful.

Last night I got home, let Lucy out, made her some dinner, and had some puppy snuggle time. When I was done I made a delicious tomato soup from scratch. I cleaned the kitchen, sat with my husband and had meaningful conversation while we ate. After dinner we did not turn on the TV, instead we played a game together until bed time. Then we went to bed, cuddled, and read our books until we fell asleep.

I feel good about the night we had, I feel good about the day I had at internship and what I was able to help my clients with. I am able to say this though because I took time to check in with myself and make sure that I was okay and I was not using any of the other things going on in  my life (however positive and healthy as they appear) to distract from or neglect the continued work I am doing internally. I feel good about my day because I not only felt connected to everything that was happening, I felt connected to myself.