Spiritual Undercurrent

I am writing from my husband’s old laptop that for quite sometime acted as my primary writing device. That is, until that sweet man bought me my very first, very own laptop at graduation because he knows how much I love/need to write. He was thoughtful in his choice and picked me a device that is matched to my needs. Now being back on this dinosaur I am really feeling the difference. Still, there is a familiar comfort to this old keyboard and right now I am so happy to be writing I would take a stick to cave wall if that was my only option.

I am exhausted. I am exhausted on almost all levels. It has been a week, not a bad one mind you, exhausting though. Spiritually I have been sitting with some big stuff and processing, then on a more human level it has just been – well exhausting.

In terms of my practice I had moments this week of real connection, mainly with my clients and a former colleague turned friend that I met for lunch. I also experienced a bit of disconnection that I handled better than previous versions of myself would have, yet was still unpleasant.

To elaborate briefly; I find that for individuals who are quite traditional and conservative my approach to practice along with my general way of being, is maybe (I am not quite sure what word to put here..) – confusing- too much- unnerving.. Nothing feels quite right. What I sense is that they do not know what to do with me. This does not always feel negative necessarily, it is just an energy shift I notice. One minute I have them and the next I don’t.

I felt this shift twice this week for sure and while I would prefer to be understood both times it gave me the opportunity to practice what my therapist and I discussed earlier in the week: allowing myself to be seen as I am and not retreating when others do not understand it.

It is not a matter of misunderstanding or miscommunication. That is not what I am talking about when I say I feel misunderstood. It is more a feeling of them seeing me and not valuing my way or my words or who I am authentically. This is where I am practicing being seen without expectations from those around me. This is who I am and who I am belongs to me and I value my ways and my truth, I do not need to be understood to feel worthy and valued.

Them not understanding me is for them to sit with and figure out, that is not my work. My work is holding myself worthy to be seen and know my value inherently exists.

 

 

Advertisements

I Show Myself Love When

I went on a really terrible walk today. It is the second time in a week where an attempt at self-care has gone wrong.

This morning when I was getting ready for a client appointment I put on the pants I had picked out only to discover they would not close, at all. These pants that fit with a little extra room two months ago are now so tight I was no where near buttoning them, it was a total lost cause. I almost cried. I tried to make myself feel better, It is okay that you have gained a little weight, what matters is how you feel, not the number.. You washed these pants recently, maybe they shrunk.

I got myself through that moment and moved on with my day.

By this evening I still felt the cloud of self-loathing hanging over my head. I did not want to turn to food to fill this feeling of emptiness so I went for a walk with Lu. I always feel better when I meditate at the park, out in nature I would find my connection and come home feeling more balanced and grounded.

When we left the house I heard my neighbor across the street scream-talking to another neighbor. Oh God, No… I am not a big fan of the scream-talking neighbor. She seems to have trouble with appropriateness and has done things in the past that have made me uncomfortable. Luckily she was very engaged with the neighbor she was talking to so I just waved and walked on.

When I got to the park Lu pooped. Good girl honey. I took the poop bag from her leash and bent over to clean it up; while I am doing this I have both my cell phone and her leash in my other hand (I was wearing a dress and had no pockets for my phone). Right as I am bent over her poop Lucy pulls on the leash which results in me losing my grip on my cell phone, with that my cell plopped into Lu’s poop pile. This is my life folks, I could not make this shit up if I tried.

On a normal day when I am not under an emotional cloud and feeling more myself, I would laugh at this. The phone can be cleaned off, it is not the end of the world, it will make a good story. Not today. Today I wanted to cry. That was not very nice Lucy.

I picked up my phone, wiped it off on the bag, and proceeded to dispose of Lucy’s poop.

After the poop debacle we went over to our bench. It was sunset, the ducks were swimming in the pond, I could already begin to feel myself relax. I started my breathing to help clear my mind and sink into my meditation. Just as I am starting to drift away into nature I feel Lucy go rigid on the leash, a dog was coming towards us with its owner. I asked Lu to sit, which she did, and thought nothing more of it, Lucy is dog friendly and usually has good manners. Not this time. I have NO IDEA what got into her but she lunged and barked and acted like a lunatic. WTF Lu, seriously?

That was it. Clearly meditation at the park was not meant to happen. Lu and I walked home and when we came back by my scream-talking neighbor’s house she came outside. I do not want to rehash the entire situation because it was exhausting enough the first time but the long-story-short is: She asked me if I was pregnant, I said No.  Then she told me that I haven’t looked happy lately and that she can tell I have gained weight.

This woman does not know me. I was literally sitting there analyzing my recent behavior as I have been getting into and out of my car in the drive way because that is the only time she sees me. Have I looked any less happy as I get into the car? It is not like I was ever skipping and singing to begin with. Not to mention the comments about my body. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!

I was so hurt, her timing could not have been worse. Really.

And as awful as all of this was, the worst part, the part that really broke my heart the most is that I did not show up for myself. She injured me so deeply, she said very personal things without right to do so – to be clear, NO ONE has a right to speak to me that way- and I not only took it, I agreed with her. I AGREED WITH HER. Yeah well I have gained a little weight and I did just start a new job, maybe I am a little stressed, maybe that is what you picking up on. THAT IS NOT MY TRUTH.

I have gained weight AND my body is no one’s business. I have been stressed AND it has had nothing to do with my new job. I have gained weight AND I have been stressed AND I am happy AND none of it is anyone else’s business.

I wish I could go back and say exactly what I needed to say to protect the part of me that she was hurting: That is a really personal question I am not comfortable answering.

I came home, let Lu off her leash and went into my closet and cried. I don’t feel like I loved myself well today and I am having a lot of judgements.

It is not too late for me to love myself. Last year I wrote one of my favorite pieces of writing I have ever done: I Love Myself Most When. It is all about celebrating the parts of myself that I love deeply and feel connected to AND it is a reminder to show love to the parts of myself I have a complicated relationship with and feel disconnected from. So now I would like to sit in that energy and love myself well.

I will show myself love when I feel out of control in my relationship with food.
I will show myself love when my clothes do not fit me the way I think they should.
I will show myself love when I am putting the feelings of others before my own.
I will show myself love when I feel abandoned.
I will show myself love when my attempts to show myself love do not go as planned.
I will show myself love when I want to give up.
I will show myself love when I feel empty.
I will show myself love when I am afraid to speak my truth.
I will show myself love when I back slide and lose conviction.
I will show myself love. I will show myself love. I love you.

Already I feel so much better. My well being does not depend on the weight I lose and gain, it does not depend on the messages I receive from the outside world, it does not depend on whether the ways in which I attempt to perform self-care are successful or not. My well being depends solely, exclusively, 100% on me. How I feel about me. When I am not loving myself well every part of me feels that. When I am loving myself well every part of me feels that.

Tonight I am grateful.

i will love myself

Odd Woman Out

I attended another women’s circle today, it was my first time with this group, and it was not the experience I hoped for. So far I have had good experiences with the different circles I have been part of, even when feeling triggered or sitting in one of my shadows they have all been good experiences because of the work they have brought me to focus on. This one brought me work as well so I am grateful for that AND I know I will not be returning to this particular group.

There were a few things that did not fit for me and by the end I was feeling disconnected from the group and myself.

One area where I am uncomfortable is the structure of the group. For me to feel safe to do this kind of work with others I need someone (like a trained professional) whose sole function is to hold the space and facilitate. The group is tackling a very big, emotionally charged topic, which invites the members to go deep, without a set facilitator. I think it is great this group exists, it is important work and the fact that there is a group in the community that holds space for this work is beautiful AND I know this set up will not work for me.

The woman who started the group and held the first meet up today made it clear that she wants us all to be equal members with no formal leader. I love that idea for some work but for me this work is too deep, I need that anchor that exists when one member is only there to hold space for the work and not actually do the work.

One reason for that is projection, which  I saw happening a bit today. I think for the group to truly be healing you need a way to hold space for things like projection, which did not happen.

Another piece that did not speak to me at all was following a book. There was a lot of talk about books in this group. I am a reader, that is a big part of who I am and how I take care of myself AND I am not willing to read something out of some false sense of obligation (this did not include my text reading in college, I absolutely did obligatory reading in college).

My truth is I read what I feel called to. My therapist gently suggests books all the time because she knows I am a reader and there are some I do end up reading but not because I felt like I had to because she brought it up, because I knew it was time.

With this group because there is no formal leader they are following this book that deals with the topic the group was formed around. I think it is great to reference a book that is relevant but in order to be part of the group they are making it feel like you have to read this book.

I call bullshit on that.

Between the feeling of pressure to buy/read  this book in order to belong and how they plan to structure the group around the book it started to take me to places in my life where I have been injured by religion.

By the end of group so many names and titles had been tossed around that my head was swimming. It was exciting to be in a room filled with women who read AND it was too much. Everyone had a book that the rest of needed to read to heal this emotional wound or that one. There were a few women who were furiously writing all the titles down the entire time and I was just not into any of it.

I will not follow someone else’s word. That is not how I will find my truth. My truth is an inner knowing and it is sprinkled in world all around me; as much as I love to read no book is going to heal me, unless it is my own story written by my own hand.

I know I am sitting in some judgement right now. I am definitely experiencing my own self-righteousness about the group thinking this is wrong and my ideas about how to do it are right.

This group did not speak to me AND there were moments of true connection AND there were moments of discomfort and disconnection AND I have a lot of judgement about my experiences AND it is so important that this groups exists for those who do feel called to do this work this way.

The last thing I will say is that this group taught me the importance of diversity in groups. Every other women’s circle I have been part of up to this point has been made up of women from different cultures, women all across the age spectrum, women who have varying identities, from different socio-economic backgrounds, who have different belief systems..

Sitting in a room of women who all felt overly similar, and where I did not feel I fit in, intensified this feeling of otherness for me. I felt like the nobody in high school sitting at the lunch table with all the cheerleaders.

When I got home I texted my Soul Camp sisters and shared with them this minor epiphany I had around my gratitude for the diversity in our group.

When you are in a group of people you tend to look for someone like yourself. This makes you feel safe, and comfortable, and understood. I did this when I started with my Soul Camp women and this woman I found is my roommate every time we go to Soul Camp because we help anchor each other after group. I am so grateful for the diversity amongst the other women in my group though because if every women there was my age, with my story, and my background, how much work could I realistically get done? You need people who are similar so you can experience yourself from the outside but you need people who don’t necessarily reflect you back images of yourself as well. That is where the balance and perspective and true healing and growing happens.

So yeah, I was disappointed that this group was not for me. The topic is important and it is absolutely part of the work I have been doing for years, this is just not the space to hold that work for me though. That is okay. I had a lot of important take aways none the less. Sometimes you have to experience things you don’t want to know what things you do want.

clique

Them Keeps Us Scared, Them Keeps Us Safe

Something I love about my new job, the number one thing I love about my new job, is the freedom. I had a meeting by phone today and when I was done I went in the backyard with Lu and laid in the hammock meditating for 45 minutes.

medi

I laid there and for the first few moments I counted gratitude.

It is 1:45 on a Monday and I am in yoga pants, braless, laying outside.
I get to decide when it feels right to do the work I need to do today.
I have a schedule that allows me to rise with the sun rather than yelled at by a clock.

I am so very grateful.

As I was counting my gratitude, staring up at the branches of Nana our Live Oak tree – who is not in fact ours but her own, we just share this land we live on- I started thinking of Ofglen and OfWarren and Ofrred, and the other handmaids from my book. I was thinking about these luxuries that I just listed and how they are just that, luxuries.

Being braless, having a say in what I wear based on what feels good on my body.
Having say in my daily schedule, freedom to rise and sleep and eat when my body tells me it is time. Living a life guided by my own wisdom about what is right for me.

These are all extravagant luxuries. Luxuries that the women in my novel would covet. To be able to go outside at all on one’s own accord, a luxury.

Then I started thinking bigger, outside of the pages of the book. I live in a world where the terrifying reality of The Handmaid’s Tale is someone else’s reality. There are women in this world who are forbidden to read therefore never given the opportunity. There are women in this world who have no say in what they wear, their bodies are given no consideration to what feels right and comfortable to them because the reality they live in states that their bodies are not in fact their bodies, their bodies belong to men. Their are women in this world that are used strictly as vessels, just like the women in this book. They are possessions, not people.

In the story Ofrred talks about how before the change took place she would read about women raped and murdered and oppressed in the news paper, when she was still allowed to read the newspaper, and think Oh that is awful and then move on with her day because it had never happened to anyone she knew personally. This was not her reality therefore it was not a reality for her at all.

There was this feeling of Us and Them and as long as whatever tragedy or atrocity was happening to Them and not Us then it was of no concern.

I sat with this for a while and it began to manifest. Us versus Them in this sense makes Us feel safe. As long as it is not happening to Us then we are safe. We are not morally responsible for what happens to Them, just Us.

Us versus Them has historically been used in another way as well. It is a classic way to create and build fear. It is the creation of a separation that does not actually exist. Politicians stand behind podiums warning Us about Them. Them, the ones who mean to hurt us, kill us, steal our jobs, rape our women, take what is ours. We elect people to protect Us from Them.

I sat with this for a while as well and then came back to my truth, that there is no true separation between Us and Them, only the separation that we as humans create. We have created this oppressive fear. We have created this divide to keep Us safe.

When I stand in my truth that all life is connected and the illusion of separation is in fact a fallacy this is the deeper truth that is uncovered:

Because we are all connected that means that if one person has darkness in them we all have darkness in us. If one person has light we all have light. If one person is capable of killing that means we are all capable of killing. There is no Us, there is no Them, There is only We. We all have light and dark and the potential to stand in there at any given time. What one person is capable of We are all capable of, for better or for worse.

I do not have answer on how to save the world with this knowledge, it is a knowledge many already possess yet here we sit demanding women wear bras and killing each other. Afraid or each other and thankful for the illusion of separation that allows us to believe some invisible line exists to keep Us safe.

For now I will hold my gratitude and cherish it because I understand that one woman’s oppression is also my burden to bear. I will look into the faces of those I meet and know that we are one and that their shadows are my shadows and my light resides in them as well. I will hold this truth sacred above all. I will hold this truth sacred.

Hostage

Yesterday I agreed to be part of a girls day with a few family members, it was the most exhausting experience I have had in months. It was a stark contrast to the rejuvenating experience I had with a different group of women Friday at Red Tent. In one scenario I left feeling grounded and inspired, in the other I left feeling completely drained and resentful.

There is definitely an AND present here, it was not a terrible experience on the whole.

I really enjoyed being with these women in my family AND it was too much. Too much stimulus, too much time, too much giving without enough receiving, too much of my mother, too many different energies clashing. Just too much.

There is a family wedding approaching and the bride wanted to attend a bridal show at a local hotel. This is not my scene. I went to one of these things when I was engaged and was overwhelmed. I have not seen the bride in  months though and she went with me when I went before so I agreed. I figured it would be a few hours of being over stimulated but that trade was worth the time I would get to spend with her and the other women in my family.

My first mistake was not getting all the information. I agreed to something without understanding what I was agreeing to. What I thought would be a few hours was over 7. My entire day was consumed by this and I had no out. I was at the mercy of the group.

That is really what made this day hard, the length of time.

I can handle my mother complaining about her life and only talking about my brother and his family without ever asking about me and mine in small dosages, not for 7 hours.
I can handle being in an over stimulating situation in small dosages, not for 7 hours.
I can handle superficial conversation in small dosages, not for 7 hours.
I can make allowances for boundary violations, especially during special occasions, not for 7 hours.
I can handle postponing a meal, not for 12 hours.

I ate breakfast at 8am and then did not eat a meal again until 7:30pm. During that 12 hour window I ate one bite of wedding cake, a mint, a handful of goldfish, and edamame.

When we finally left the bridal show everyone was starving. The group decided on a Chinese restaurant, I immediately spoke up and reminded my family that I cannot eat Chinese food due to a food allergy I have. I was told the same thing I am always told when it comes to eating out with my family: you can order a salad.

This right here is one of the main reasons I no longer go to restaurants with my family.

What if I don’t want to eat a fucking salad? What if I am starving just like you and want to eat something more substantial? I don’t see anyone else ordering a fucking salad, yeah it is because you are fucking hungry and lettuce just won’t do it!

When we got to the restaurant I discovered that my allergen is used in the salad dressings and the marinades for the meat. If I ordered a salad I would have to order raw vegetables with unseasoned meat in order for it not to make me sick. And you know, there are times when I do eat that way and it is okay but I had not eaten all day and that was not going to cut it. I ended up ordering edamame to hold me over and decided I would eat dinner at home with my husband in a few hours when I was finally released.

Everyone around me ate rice and chicken and vegetables while I sat there with my edamame and hot tea. My mom kept trying to feed me her fried rice and I kept having to tell her, No it will make me sick. I was supremely frustrated. Please stop waving your delicious food in front of me, yes I would love to eat it but I don’t feel like shitting my pants today.

I did finally have an opportunity to share some things in my life I am excited about right now but soon after I was given the floor it was taken away again. Interruption after interruption. Me trying to tell my story quickly became someone else telling theirs. I did get to finish but only because I redirected multiple times.

I love my family AND they are not my people. That is my truth.

I live a life they do not understand. The way I live, the way I communicate, the things that I am passionate about, are not valued in my family, even among the women, so I am silenced.

I have nothing to contribute in the way of gossip, or complaining, or what I like to eat at the newest chain restaurant. And they have nothing to contribute when I talk about the sacredness of a space like Red Tent other than side ways glances at one another and concerned questions.

I love my family AND they are not my people. That is my truth. A truth that once made me feel isolated and lost. A truth that now makes me feel liberated. I can love them AND live a life outside of them that is not for them. I do not have to belong to my family in order to belong. Family is not the most important thing, connection is. That is my truth.

On Friday I spent time with strangers, sharing a meal I could eat, talking about things that excited me and made me feel heard and understood. I left that gathering of women feeling completely connected to myself and these women. I knew who I was.
Yesterday I spent time with women I have known my entire life, watching them share a meal I could not eat, listening to them talk about things that frustrated me and made me feel invisible and outcast. I left that gathering of women feeling completely disconnected from myself and these women. I felt sick with the over exposure to this energy field.

When I finally got home my husband came outside with my sage already lit and brought in some groceries I picked up for our dinner while I cleansed myself in the driveway before entering my home. We ate together and talked about things that mattered to us and I felt connected again.

I love my family AND they are not my people. That is my truth. I have so much gratitude to be able to stand in that truth with love rather than fear. I have so much gratitude for the places I do belong. I have so much gratitude for the inside connection I have built that allows me to stand in my truth and be free.

ecstacy maxfield parish

 

What Do You See?

Last night I was writing a post about my weekend and this great time I was having with my husband dog sitting our friend’s dog. After I was finished writing I decided not to post it. I decided not to post it because of this photo:

puppy love

It is so cute right? We filled up the kiddy pool and the three of us totally had a blast while my husband laughed and took pictures from the hammock.

I didn’t post because I had a moment of fear. A thought crossed my mind, what mean things could people say about me in this photo? My inner critic gladly seized this opportunity to answer my question:

Look at this dumb girl in her kiddy pool with a bunch of dogs. Grow up.
Nice one piece prude.
Is that her hair or a blonde football helmet?
She is fat.

Nope. Not gonna do it. No thank you. I immediately deleted the post and went to bed to read my book. I wouldn’t have given it a second thought but then tonight I watched the documentary Embrace and was moved.

I have been working on my relationship with my body for a long time. I am not ready to tell my story about that yet. What I can say though is in the last 5-7 years self-love has been my goal and I feel myself building a deeper connection within.

Clearly I still have inner critics that are waiting in the shadows to strike, the mission has not been to silence them but to shine light on their faces and show them love. Self-love includes all parts of self, shadows too.

So here is how I am going to shower myself with a little love tonight and hopefully inspire others to do the same; I am going to share some of my favorite photos of myself and discuss briefly how I used to view myself in these photos and how that view has shifted.

I will start with one of my favorites:

Lu and me in the mountains

This is my favorite photo of me and Lu. We are in the Georgia mountains during my husband and I’s favorite family vacation to date.

When I used to look at this photo the first place my eyes went were to my double chin and pudgy belly. I am a size 12 in this photo, which is towards the higher end of my spectrum which ranges from sizes 8-14.

best buds moo

This is a photo of me and my best buddy/niece Moo.

When I used to look at this photo I was critical of my overall blobbyness. I am a size 14 in this photo and around 160 pounds, my heaviest weight on record.

banana

This is Banana, one of Moo’s sisters. I love this picture because this is when she was first learning to draw and I was part of that, that was special for me.

When I used to look at this picture all I could see was my awful hair (this was during another pixie grow out attempt that I inevitably gave up on because I loathed my looks so much during the grow out process). I also zeroed in on my make up less face and had my judgements about what I look like in my truth, make up free.

Here is my last photo I will share, it is the one I feel the most vulnerable about.

honest

This is a picture I think many people have hidden in their phones, it is a photo I took to document how I look in one of my bathing suits over the course of many months while I was attempting to lose weight. I never dreamed I would share this photo, if I knew that in the future I would be posting it to my blog I probably would have never taken it. She is one of my shadows though and if I am going to show the girls in these photos love, I want to show them ALL love.

When I look at this photo I feel shame, not just because of my physical reflection or the fact that my room isn’t clean, I feel shame because of what this photo represents. This photo represents self-loathing and comparison and obsession and feeling not-good-enough. I can feel this girl’s rigidity and disappointment, the waves of shame crashing over me are overwhelming. Sharing this photo and being honest about it makes me feel completely vulnerable and not the good authentic kind of vulnerable, the naked in public kind. The please don’t look at me kind.

So now let’s line all these photos up and see what we see:

When I take away all of my criticisms what I see in these photos is joy. In the first four photos I see me wearing my favorite clothes and doing my favorite things with my favorite people. I see love and connection.

I want to go now to the first photo that inspired this post and the last one that made this post feel scary to share:

These photos share similarities; in both of these photos I am in a bathing suit with Lu. What I want to highlight is their obvious contrast though, the energy is so different. In one I am hyper focused on one thing: my appearance. Yes Lu is in the photo but this is not a photo of Lu and I, it is a photo of me ignoring the love in the room and instead punishing myself in the mirror. In the other photo, the one that I was originally afraid to share I am happy, I am playing, there is so much joy and love and connection happening. I am not thinking about my weight or how my bathing suit fits, I am just spraying the girls and having a great time.

Taking away my criticisms and looking honestly at these photos shows me that I am able to experience love, connection, and joy at any size, no matter what my hair looks like, with or without make up, and regardless of what I am wearing. My obsession with my looks and weight is part of what can lead to feelings of disconnection from my ability to love myself and accept love from others.

I recommend the documentary and I encourage you to step out of your criticisms the next time you look at a photo of yourself and pay attention to what you really see.