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Archive for October, 2013

No matter how often I walk the beach near my home I feel a thrill. It’s the same beach except it is not. It has all of the same ingredients it had yesterday but is rearranged by the tide. The rocks aren’t all in the same places. The shells and sea glass and drift wood deposited on the sand are different. 

Is it that way with us? Are the gems that surface daily originals while the core remains the same?

I saw Jill Bolte Taylor last night interviewed by Oprah. She talked about the stroke she had and how it changed her and her life. I thought of her as I found my mind ruminating worry about what might happen later in the day or week, revisiting conversations from the day before. The sand beneath my feet. The ocean air filling and fueling me with an opportunity to start new and fresh no matter what I’ve carried into my day.  She talked about if you are having disturbing or worrisome thoughts you can choose different ones.

I might have argued with the simplistic nature of this statement in the past, might have said, “If you are going hungry are you supposed to think a different thought to get fed?” She’s not talking about abandoning reality or avoiding real-life problems but a new approach for the thoughts that run through the mind when it’s not quiet.

I won’t speak for her. I’ll include the link to her website which has the webcast I watched last night she did with Oprah.

I love the part where she recalls meeting her mother again. She didn’t remember her mother but she felt her mother’s energy and presence when she crawled into bed with her daughter and held her like a newborn.  Her body and mind and spirit felt that energy even though she had no memory of her mother as her mother because she had no memory of herself or her previous life. She even talked about how all of their old roles disappeared and were also gone. What would it be like to approach people, and your own life, completely fresh?

Today, on the beach, I found several purple and white pieces of sea glass as well as pieces of drift wood, rocks and some shells. It’s a new beach. A new day. Are you new today? Am I?

The link to the webcast is on her own website and her tag line is “Peace is Just a Thought Away. http://www.mystrokeofinsight.com/

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0930131039a 0930131038I have a friend who has a beautiful cottage with blue and white everything. There are other colors in her home but blue and white is the dominant theme. Every time I looked at the miniature tea set I had sitting on my kitchen window sill I would think of her. And since my dishwasher broke recently I had a lot of time to look. It was as though the set was calling to her home.

So when her birthday came I had an idea. Maybe I could add the tea cups and the platter and the mini tea-pot itself into a wind chime. So that’s what I did. I got a white rock from her beach, drift wood from mine as well as some sea glass and pottery shards from Massachusetts. I wire wrapped the sea glass and the shards (in case they want to be free later) and the only thing I super glued was the pottery pieces to the drift wood.

If you love someone who has a special fondness for trains or clothes or dolls or a shells, I recommend bringing some of those items into a wind chime. It personalizes something with so much natural beauty and makes it a worthy gift.

 

 

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Walking a new beach in a super heightened discovery mode (like a dog just let off leash); I came upon a sign, in the form of drift wood with a magic marker message. I took a picture. It says: even if you are lost, you’re here now & that’s good enough.

signI’ve been lost. I’ve been lost not even knowing I was lost. Have you? Has life served you a fresh dish of WTF? Are you still eating the leftovers?  

Being lost is familiar to me. Loving people who are lost has been a favorite hobby. Believing being here now is enough is a radical concept I’m only beginning to embrace.

I had a conversation just last week with my friend Jen about this subject and how, for most of my life, I have been auditioning for the part of human. I have lived with this idea of myself as a decent and whole and accomplished woman. I was her wanna be, her almost but her not quite there yet. In my mind, I was a totally potentiated self entirely “over” my past, with no scars from the ugliness of childhood and absent of untidy emotions spilling out. This imaginary self was what I used  daily, as a hammer, to beat the hell out of my actual struggling and imperfect self.

The former me would have laughed at this driftwood sign, would have screamed at the sand and said, “It’s not enough to just be here. You need to make a difference, make a mark – you lazy four-eyed fuck.” This yelling would have been at myself just in case I was in danger of believing the world would offer any pillow and tempt me to put down my guard. I would have thought, “You can’t just take up space on the planet.”

Jen not only understood she could relate and shared how she too had been trying to perfectly execute her roles as mother, daughter, sibling, friend and spouse. She wanted to be “good” above all and to get life “right.” She wanted to exceed the expectations of others. She was proud of what a hard working soul she was, how good she was at helping, giving and exerting A+ effort. We both prided ourselves in anticipating the needs of others. We were gifted at judging ourselves for personality defects and any weakness of character.

We didn’t see ourselves as people pleasing, co-dependent or even acknowledge how afraid and exhausted we were. We saw ourselves as activists; sensitives willing to make life easier for others because we were tough and others were in need. Dire need. It was an identity and a lifestyle and so deeply ingrained we thought it was who we were and would always be. We didn’t know exactly what we were trying so hard to accomplish or gain. But the desperate and excruciating effort of wanting to be perfect, productive and caring had a self-denying relentlessness that became a machine that never stopped to rest. It operated on autopilot even without having a destination.

It took root in childhood. The details aren’t necessary except to say, though different, we each experienced and survived two or more of the following: Abuse. Abandonment. Addiction. Neglect. 

 We didn’t become addicts or criminals. We weren’t materialistic or blatantly narcissistic. Our pain was mostly internalized. We appeared to be  kind, responsible, smart, sweet and upstanding. We were the type named to guardians in wills, go-to people who could be counted on for advice, rides or loans. We would never be caught doing anything dishonest or “bad.” And if all of those ways of being had given us pleasure and were the deepest expressions of who we were meant to be – so be it. But they weren’t. We were anxiety ridden, trying to justify our existence, to prove we were worthy enough to take up space and air. 

Jen recently found a note she had written to herself that said “I feel guilty for even being here on Earth.” My mantra used to be, “Who cares if you feel bad, who have YOU helped make feel better today. Why don’t you focus on that?” I tried to bully myself into mattering. We didn’t see being human as a birthright. We didn’t see ourselves as lovable or even likable. We were terrified that who and how we were was deeply flawed, wrong and bad. We were trying to “sell ourselves,” not just to others, but to ourselves.

Despite our desire to break family cycles, and how good we seemed to others, we were cruel to ourselves. We abused ourselves. We abandoned our own needs. The reason I bring Jen into this is that she, like me, didn’t question her way of being in the world until life exploded. We both thought we had paid our dues in childhood and would be spared future hardship. It wasn’t until “the plan” failed that either of us drastically changed. We realized being good wouldn’t protect us from more pain. For both of us, it took major relationship betrayals and shocks to wake us up and force us to re-examine ourselves, our lives and our assumptions. It took career changes, moves, depression, divorce, post-traumatic stresses and varied heart breaks to teach us we needed to learn how to be there for ourselves. It took seeking, creative discovery, self-exploration and endless lifestyle adjustments. It took the shattering of the selves and lives we constructed to unearth our deepest selves hidden decades deep inside of us.

We didn’t meet trying to fix one another, to help each other or hoping to be finally understood. We bumped into each other doing some version of adult parallel play while sharing deeply through writing. We met while learning new ways of being, in shock at how much of life we had missed experiencing or knowing about while trying to stay safe.

Now, we are peeling back layers to uncover our deepest selves, the real people who exist under masks, good intentions,  pain and fear. Our lives look less white picket fence but we both feel more honest, connected to ourselves and authentic. We are kinder within, more supportive and gentle. We both agree we would rather be disliked for who we are than loved for who we are not. We were led into the Brene Brown school of learning that vulnerability isn’t optional.

Still, the process of reclaiming the abandoned self can be as painful as hell. There are many people who loved us better before, when we met their needs more and our own less. Some feel abandoned or betrayed, that our lives and priorities have changed, that we’ve gone “off” script and we no longer match their image of who we are. It’s an adjustment. They loved the only version of us they knew. They loved us when we didn’t always love ourselves. Not everyone will embrace a more honest and complicate person who is predictable and apologetic. I’m no longer as available to others as I once was. I don’t love them less I just need myself more. I’m responsible for my own life no matter what my childhood. There’s so much to learn and experience and I’m even eager to make and bounce back from my own mistakes because I’m no longer too afraid to take risks.

I still believe in changing the world but it’s not an activism born of self hate. What can I offer the world if I’m not at peace with myself? In the past, I tried to “earn” love and support doing some unspoken exchange, hoping giving myself away to others meant they would give me back to myself. That version of caring might seem kind but it can be manipulative and controlling when done to make others like you more while avoiding the intimacy of being real. At least I’ve lost my smug certainty and no longer judge how anyone else ought to live. how could I when  I’m full up with figuring out my own life.

It’s a solitary quest at times so it’s nice to make a friend doing her own work, who isn’t trying to fix me or expecting me to cure her. My friendship with Jen makes me wonder if this a common midlife rebirth. Maybe it’s common for anyone going through major transition or who has survived traumatic childhoods and are in need of shaking off old survival skills in in favor of finding new ways of living. Maybe the person who left the sign on the beach knew all of this already. Maybe they’ve been on a similar path. I will never know. But I will always be grateful for the guidepost.

“Even if you’re lost, you’re here now and that’s enough.”

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