I Will Never Cut Another Dress

That’s a good look.

I lifted my head and peered out at my husband from behind the scarf that was covering the majority of my face.

Oh yeah, think I should leave it like this?

Oh definitely.

We both laughed as I continued to tie my head scarf and put my glasses back on.

My husband and I have a rule in our relationship: no body policing.

That means I am allowed to be in my body however feels comfortable without worry of non-acceptance and so is he. This is one area in our relationship where acceptance is not conditional.

So I can shave or not, wear make up or not, do my hair or put on a hat or scarf, dress however I feel etc etc.
He can shave or not, get a haircut or not, dress however he feels etc etc.

This is an important rule to each of us in our relationship because we have both been in relationships where we did not feel this freedom and we agreed that not having this freedom makes for an unhealthy relationship. We have to belong to ourselves first and one of that fastest ways to autonomy is through feeling full ownership of one’s body.

That is not to say that we never say anything about one another’s body/appearance. When my husband’s finger nails start to get long he sometimes scratches me on accident, I let him know so either:

A. He can choose to trim his nails OR
B. He is more mindful when embracing me.

Me saying something about his finger nails does not mean he has to cut them, he can make that choice, I am allowed to set a boundary stating: Hey that hurts please be careful how you touch me when your nails are that length.

This morning as I got ready and was thinking about this aspect of our relationship and silently counting my gratitude for it I thought of the times in my life when I did not feel in control of my body/appearance and acceptance was conditional on meeting the expectations of someone else.

As children we experience this all the time. For me it was my mother doing my hair the way she wanted it done while I cried under her comb that was piercing my scalp.

I started shaving my legs in 5th grade because two of the boys in class made fun of the hair on my legs. I had never given it any thought until suddenly I was made to feel ashamed for something my body does naturally.

As a teen it was all about trying to fit in order to stay invisible and survive. My face was marked with noticeable scarring after my car accident freshman year so I was already getting some harsh unwanted attention, I did my best not to stick out by way of appearance.

And in my twenties when my identity was usually wrapped up in whoever I was dating I followed their lead. My boyfriend said he likes brunettes better than blondes so for the first time in my life I dyed my hair and played the role of brunette for a few years.

There is one instance that always come to mind first when I think of why this (whole body ownership/autonomy) is so important to me: my ex and the dress.

I have a few great loves when it comes to dresses over the years. In high school I had this denim jumper dress that I loved so much I have it saved in a box to hopefully give to my one day daughter. In my twenties it was the Joni Mitchell dress, so named by my then boyfriend. Now it is my long blue wrap dress.

These dresses were my go-to dresses during these periods of my life because they all possessed the same magic: no matter how I was feeling before putting the dress on, the second I was wearing it I felt beautiful and grounded and myself.

I remember when I bought the Joni Mitchell dress, I got home and put it on to go out with my boyfriend that night. I felt invincible, like the most luminous, stunning version of myself. I got to his house, walked in surrounded by the energetic light I was feeling, and was immediately verbally shit on.

What are you wearing? You look ridiculous. You look like a hippy. You look like Joni Mitchell (which was totally meant as a dig – but she is fucking fabulous so jokes on him)Did you bring a change of clothes? I hate that dress. Never wear that around me again.

Honestly I loved it so much that as hurt as I was in that moment I still felt beautiful. And this was during a very insecure time in my existence, so for me to be able to rebound so easily from this verbal attack when my feelings about myself were completely wrapped up in how others feel about me.. that just further speaks to the power of this dress.

I was faced with a dilemma though. My boyfriend hates the dress and never wants to be seen with me wearing it again and I love the dress and never want to take it off. I was desperate to find a way to make this work. I was desperate. Those three words pretty much sum me up back then.

Acting on this feeling of desperation I did something that I immediately regretted, I cut the dress. The dress was long, white, and flowy with explosions of color splashed all over. It looked like art on a blank canvas. When I cut it all the magic was gone. I was Delilah cutting Samson’s hair. It was awful.

My boyfriend loved it. He thought I looked amazing. I suddenly realized just how much that does not matter. I did not like it and every time I saw myself in it all I could think was how I ruined this amazing piece of art. I think what I was truly feeling but was not ready to see was how I had once again abandoned myself. No amount of outside love and validation will fill the void created when we abandon ourselves.

I kept the dress for a very short period after the alteration before gifting it to a friend with the condition that I never have to see her wear it, ironically enough. I did not want the reminder.

Clearly that relationship did not pan out and I had time to myself before meeting my husband. That time was spent getting to know who I am outside of other people, that time is when I took myself back to my foundation and started rebuilding. My husband has only ever known me as a builder, as a woman under construction, as a being of growth and transformation.

Certain boundaries were set very early on in our relationship to ensure we would always belong to ourselves first:

No body policing.
Our books will have their own bookshelves.
Time apart is every bit as important as time together.

More boundaries were added as the years went on and adjustments are made as needed. One of the underlying messages in our relationship being: freedom to be exactly who we are and that be enough. And with that freedom I hold this truth sacred: Never in my life will I cut another dress.

joni mitchell dress

 

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Opening My Arms

i love you moo

Something, a theme, that has been coming up for at least 6 months now in my writing, my meditation, and my personal healing work is this idea of needing to set some things down so my arms are free to receive what I am really meant to be holding.

One example that I am willing to share in regards to this coming up in my writing is this piece I wrote not too long ago. It was my first true reflection on this idea.

This came up again for me in a big way this week.

I found out that my brother’s family is moving out of state in the near future. My brother is a recent graduate as well and his post-grad job is taking him north. It is the exact job he wanted so I am elated for his good fortune AND I am heart broken.

I am not going to beat around this bush one bit. I will miss my brother’s entire family, I will miss all of my nieces and nephews, AND I know I am going to feel as though my insides are being ripped out when my oldest niece leaves. Moo is one of my all-time best buddies. She is my bosom friend, my kindred spirit. I know this little soul was put on this earth so I could be her auntie and she could be my niece. I am devastated.

I have been taking it in stride. I am holding it together because I think a piece of me is a little embarrassed to show just how heart broken I feel. I will give myself the time I need to experience my pain, I will hold this and love this piece of myself well.

For right now what I am comfortable exploring is the fact that I am happy for my family. There is an AND of course. It is both devastation AND happiness, for now I am discussing one, this does not mean I am ignoring all of the other feelings coming up – all parts are welcome and I will take my time to be with each of them.

So my happiness is this: my family has trouble with boundaries and codependency and I think this will allow everyone to stand on their own for a while and each individual family unit figure out who they are and what works for them without pressure from other members of the family to do or be anything.

My husband and I have been setting boundaries for years, this will allow my brother’s family and my parents to catch up. My brother brought this up himself as a benefit to this move.

Here is what I am sitting with right now for myself: relating back to this idea of setting somethings down so my arms are open to receive. Maybe at this moment in my life I am meant to set Moo down so my arms are open to receive my next big relationship, that with my own children. Moo and her big brother have been my babies since they were born, especially Moo. I will love Moo no less and miss her no less AND I will be open to receiving.

My husband and I are not quite ready, we will know when the time is right, and when that time comes I believe my arms will open.

The Universe has divine timing, I know this to be true. I am not trying to spiritual bypass this situation, I am open to all of the feelings that come up, AND I can see the Universe at work here.

Self-Love Can Survive Any Drought

self-love can survive any drought

Over the weekend I spent a lot of time in quiet meditation creating. From that came the inspiration for a piece I painted this afternoon.

Cactus came up during my creating over the weekend and when I started thinking on what symbolism I see, this is what I came up with.

Cacti are like all other plants in that they need water to survive, that need looks different for them compared to many other species of plant however. Cacti are able to survive barren conditions and drought thanks to their ability to self-sustain by storing water inside. Cactus are not only able to survive these harsh conditions, they grow. They grow in conditions that would cause most plants to wither and die.

I related this back to inside love versus outside love. We have no control over the love we receive from others, much like plants cannot control the weather and when it will rain. In times of emotional drought/disconnection those who depend on that outside love and validation may struggle while those who can self-validate and experience love from within/self-love will not only survive these times of solitude, they will continue to grow and bloom because of the love they are able to show themselves.

In this way self-love is this self-sustaining property that allows us to operate with little fear of outside disconnection for we know all we need to thrive and grow lies within us.

For a long time I was much like Gerbera Daisy, finicky in every way imaginable and very dependent on my environment to provide me with everything I need to feel love and connection/survive and grow.

Now I know I am evolving into my own breed of cactus. I still enjoy being showered with love AND when drought comes my way I am able to self-sustain with my own inner supply of love stored up just for me, my own special gift from within.

My prickly spiny exterior is equivalent to my boundaries and assertive attitude, protecting me against all who would mean to harm me.
My root system underground is my way to connect with others who are willing to go deep rather stay merely on the surface.

At the end of the day what keeps me going is me. I am the love that keeps my heart beating, I am the love that will help me grow. If water is the source for life to grow and love is equivalent to water, I am the source from which my biggest growth takes place.

Exploited

Today was a day let me tell you! Not only did I have this self-care experience that ended up being the antithesis of self-care, my husband and I had one of our relationship check-in conversations and in doing so we identified a shadow that we are each showing up in, in our relationship; exploitation. I was not in the mood to get to know a new shadow today. This was not the day for this. I was so emotionally spent from my earlier experience I just wanted to spend the rest of the night writing, and meditating, and maybe even painting as a way for me to process and release the energy from earlier. I still plan to do all of those things, and I am even as we speak, however now I am working through the emotions from early and the emotions surfacing that are attached to this new shadow.

When a new shadow presents itself it arrives with lots of emotional luggage. The first suitcase to unpack is always shame. I have to sit in my shame with the ways in which I show up in my life and exploit others, specifically and especially those whom I love most.

This shadow surfaced in a conversation my husband and I were having in order to clear the air after an exchange last night resulted in hurt feelings.

We were honest, took turns being heard and empathizing, and then talked about what boundaries needed to exist going forward to avoid further incident. Rather than instate new boundaries it was more an issue of being mindful of boundaries that already existed and respecting ourselves and each other with concern to those boundaries.

What we both realized as we closed up the conversation is that we both show up in our relationship and use/take advantage of one another in the relationship. We were both clear that this exploitation that takes place is done with nonmalicious intent, it is happening none the less though and it was time to shine some light on this shadow.

For both of us exploitation shows up in places where we don’t feel like doing something so we use the other person to get that need met. It is attached to the shadow of avoidance for both of us.

Our work here as it pertains to our relationship is for both of us to speak up when we feel the other person operating from this shadow. Personally my work is to invite these two shadow pieces home, avoidance and exploitation, and get to know them better. My work with my shadows is always to seek to understand their motivations from a place of objective nonjudgement, and then working on building a relationship with them ultimately shining the light of self-love upon them.

It all sounds pretty and whimsical, it feels more like trying to hug an unwilling porcupine in the dark.

This is where I am tonight though. Trying to separate myself from my experience early so I can where I exist in this place of disconnection I encountered AND welcoming in my shadows of exploitation and avoidance.

Who Let That Phone In Here?

technology addiction

The answer to the question posed in the title is Me. I did it. On accident. And I was not happy about it once I realized what I had done.

I have a pretty strict no phone in the bedroom rule for myself. I have an absolute no phone in the bedroom rule at bedtime. Tonight I almost broke my own rule but thankfully realized it before it was too late.

I have pretty specific boundaries with my cell, I always have, and as a result I have been able to build connection with people and places rather than the device and the internet which is no connection at all truly.

Tonight when I realized my phone was in the bedroom (I apparently dropped it on the chest of drawers after my mud meditation when I was on my way into the shower) I picked it up, opened the bedroom door and chucked it out onto the dark couch. I will find it in the morning.

I do not sleep with my phone in the room because:

  1. I value my undistracted, uninterrupted sleep.
  2. If there were a middle of the night family emergency my husband keeps his cell on vibrate on his side of the bed.

I do not keep my phone in the room at night for the same reason I keep it on silent most of the time, because whatever I am doing that is what I am doing.

If I am sleeping – I am sleeping.
If I am meeting a friend for tea – I am meeting a friend for tea.
If I am playing with Moo – I am playing with Moo.
If I am spending time with my husband –  I am spending time with my husband.

Whatever I am doing I am doing it. Whoever I am with I am all there and that includes when I am with me, like when I am sleeping.

I check my phone periodically throughout the day but on the whole my people know I am not instantly accessible. The trade off is when I am with you, you know you will never have to compete for my attention.