Labeling

light and dark

This theme has come up quite a bit within the last week or so. This might be the first of multiple posts on this topic because I feel the direction I want to go is only half-baked, I may have further insights at a later date. Let’s call this a first draft.

It came up first when discussing an ex with other women who were also discussing ex’s. One of the women labels her ex a narcissist and while she and I discovered similarities in how we both experienced our ex’s this is one place where we differ. I do not label my ex anything other than an ex. Maybe that is not true. I label him a liar, and a manipulator, and a betrayer of sacred trust, and a phony, and insecure – AND at the end of that sentence I say: Me too. If I label my ex I do so knowing that anything he is, I am too.

I did not express this to her because I felt no need to. People have different reasons for why they do or do not choose to use labels, my truth about this belongs to me and I felt no real need to voice it in this instance.

Later we talked one on one in further detail, her separation from the ex is recent so I know she is still processing. My separation occurred over a decade ago. I am still processing as well but my processing is coming from a different place. My processing is less about him and more about me. There are unresolved emotional wounds from that relationship that have been left unresolved because:

  1. In the moments where I was experiencing his darkness I abandoned myself.
  2. I was not yet ready to experience my own darkness that I brought to the relationship.

So now my work is going back and picking up all those pieces of myself that I left behind and have not wanted to see because they feel/felt unlovable AND now loving those parts of myself well.

It is not about the other person, it is about the pieces of you that you left behind. This is my truth and my first reason for not labeling him in this way. Because at this point it is not about him so what difference would a label make? None.

Here is my bigger underlying truth about labeling:

Labels are used for lots of different reasons. For example it feels to me (I could have this wrong) that the woman I have been speaking with is using a label with her ex because it is helping her detach and make sense of what she experienced with him. Labels can absolutely help understand something that feels confusing.

Related to that detachment is another reason I believe people use labels, to create a sense of separation. Us and them. In this case narcissist and empath.

This is where I get uncomfortable. I do not believe in us versus them. That concept eliminates all the possibilities that exist in between and that is just not my truth about the world at this point.

I do identify as an empath. That is a label I choose for myself, that does not automatically make this person who I was emotionally wounded by a narcissist though. He is no more narcissist than I am and I am no more empath than he. We both possesses qualities of each.

In that relationship we both experienced the darkness of the other. Empaths are not just beings of light. They are not only as capable of manipulation as narcissists, they are masters of it. That is what comes with the power of feeling others on this level, you can misuse that power and go into a shadow space with it. There is this notion of a divide between empath and narcissist..

That divide says:
One of us is good and the other is bad.
One of us is the abuser, the other is the victim.
One of us is light while the other is dark.

I am sorry but I call bullshit on all that. It is just not my truth. Narcissism is a real thing, absolutely. And if you have ever been the victim of a narcissist than you know how painful their darkness can feel. I am not meaning to minimize anyone’s trauma or experiences. I only mean to underline one of my personal truths and that is: in adult relationships we ALL show up in both shadow and light, some of us lean more one way than the other, sure, it is always both though. I know individuals who have been emotionally wounded by diagnosed narcissists, I am not trying to take that experience away or make it invalid; I am merely trying to bring to light a fuller picture which includes those who have been emotionally victimized by empaths as well. If you think that is not a thing I know my ex would disagree with you.

Another place where labeling has come up recently relates to how labels can make us invisible. I am going to continue with this example of my ex and the label narcissist to avoid outing the other people I spoke to about other labels they experience in their lives. It all applies just the same regardless of the example I use.

So relating to labels and how they make us invisible:

Calling someone a narcissist allows us to strip them of their humanity rendering them invisible. He is no longer (insert name here) he is my ex the narcissist. The moment I say that I no longer have to experience him as a complex human being made up of both shadow and light, I get to detach all of that truth and see him just as a monster. Well I do not believe in monsters. And my truth is if one person in this world is a monster than we all are. Whatever one person is capable of, we are all capable of.

The reason labels exist in the first place is to help sort and understand commonalities. It is not black and white though and that is why it is so important to never lose sight of the person.

Think about all the different labels you identify with- truly take a minute and bring these labels up in your mind – now imagine if you were only seen by everyone else through that lens:

I am someone’s wife AND I am not just someone’s wife.
I am a social worker AND I am not just a social worker.
I am someone’s sister AND I am not just someone’s sister.
I am manipulative AND I am not just manipulative.

I am light AND shadow.
I am grateful AND entitled.
I am you and you are me AND we are no different AND we are completely different.

It’s all of it, everything in between and then some. There is more than one way to add to nine, the possibilities are infinite, and one measly little label will never be able to contain the vastness of a human being. That is my truth.

 

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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.

 

 

I Choose Shadows AND Light

shadow work

Last night I was having a conversation with my husband and this morning there it was, my exact feelings put out into the world by another. You can read the post I am referring to here.

I strongly identify with this writer’s perspective on spirituality and life in general because what she is talking about is the AND. I had a hard time in my younger years with my experiences in formal religion because there was no AND allowed, even then I knew that was not my truth.

There are times even now where I struggle in interactions with individuals who claim to be spiritually enlightened. I show up with my shadows AND light and I feel shunned. I have been made to feel on occasion that there is only one right way to experience myself this way, and again, I know that is not my truth.

My version of spirituality, my whole life, will always include both. I will always choose my shadows AND my light. All parts welcome, no parts left behind. That is how I will love and how I will heal and that will be my life’s work.

Getting It Wrong: Shadow Work

A week or so ago I wrote a post that I was so embarrassed by after the fact that I deleted it. First time ever in all my years of writing that I straight up deleted something. This is not the first time I have felt embarrassed by myself after the fact.

I have a whole other blog that holds five years of writing and you better believe I evolved quite a bit in five years, the early stuff is embarrassing to the point of nightmarish. I never deleted any of it though because that is who I was at that time and I will not dishonor that girl by hiding her, that was my truth at the time, I own that, for better AND for worse.

So fast forward. I got it so wrong the other week and I was almost so completely destroyed by how wrong I was that I deleted a post. I started to go in and edit it to correct my mistake but I realized that didn’t feel right, I also realized that I was not comfortable leaving it up as is SO I decided to start from scratch, write it over with my new truth included.

So a week or so ago my husband called me in the morning after he left for work to inform me that there was a gopher tortoise in the road that needed help before it was run over. I immediately started putting pants on.

As I walked outside, still on the phone with hubs I asked him if he was sure it was a tortoise because I know better than to mess with turtles, some are mean, especially the snappers we have here in Florida. He was reasonably sure it was a tortoise and when I saw it I knew for sure it was NOT a soft shell snapper (which are no joke with their aggressiveness) so I went along with this assumption of it being a tortoise.

The thing is, I wasn’t just going along with the assumption of it being a gopher tortoise, I convinced myself that it was a gopher tortoise and that it was a sign from the universe because I had just had a meditation a few days prior where I identified the gopher tortoise as my animal totem for my root chakra. Now suddenly one was appearing before me a few days later (after I had not seen one since I was a child). I got so caught up in my spiritual place the truth is I was not actually experiencing this interaction with this animal from a place of grounded realism.

I was able to help the little guy over to the park next to our home, which was the direction he had been heading, and once we got there he was trying to get past the fence that circles the pond so I helped him get there and he quickly scooted off into the pond.

Here is where I got it wrong, devastatingly wrong!

  1. My sign from the Universe was not in fact a sign from the Universe. This was not a gopher tortoise, it was one of the painted water turtles that live in our pond.

Now this is an absolute blessing and I am BEYOND grateful for this fact because:

2. Gopher tortoise cannot swim!

Legit, if my turtle friend had been a tortoise than my “helping” would have literally killed him.

I have never EVER been so fucking thankful to get anything wrong in my entire life. The way I figured all of this out was a few nights after helping my little friend I started thinking about the gopher tortoise’s from my childhood and realized: Wait a second, they live in burrows in the ground, I never saw one near the water, can they even swim?

A quick google search confirmed what the shadows of my mind already knew: no, they cannot.

My brain exploded.

Oh my God I killed it! It drowned and it is all my fault!

I was beside myself. I was sick with shame and guilt.

I spent the next I don’t even know how long researching every kind of tortoise/turtle that resides in the central Florida area. It was apparent almost immediately that my little friend was not in fact a gopher tortoise, nothing about the shell shape, texture, and coloring matched (thank goodness I took photos of him so I had something to compare to the pictures I was finding). This fact did little to ease my mind however. I needed to know that whatever he was he was able to swim. It wasn’t just that I didn’t want to kill a gopher tortoise, I didn’t want to kill anything!

I finally found my match and with relief my husband confirmed my picture to the picture online. The little friend I helped was in fact a turtle, a turtle that swims, the same kind of turtle that lives in the pond next to our home.

The moment I was able to finally breathe knowing that I had not contributed to the drowning of an innocent creature it was time for me to take a hard look in the mirror and address how wrong I got this situation and how to be more mindful and aware in the future.

  1. As well intentioned as I was in helping the turtle get to where I thought he wanted to go, I should have stopped at getting him out of the road. That was enough. Getting him to safety was enough. I should not have interfered past that point.
  2. This speaks not only to my shadow piece around arrogance but also to my shadow of denial and spirituality. I know, and have always known, that gopher tortoises cannot swim, I grew up next to their burrows, I know they are land dwelling creatures with claws for digging, not fins for swimming. Yet I allowed my “spiritual moment” to completely cloud this knowledge I possess because I thought I was having this profound moment with this animal.

Wake the fuck up girl and do no harm! This is a perfect example of why it is important to have your enlightenment and spiritual awakening AND keep yourself grounded and tethered to the earth/reality. I was arrogant to not only be so sure I knew it was a tortoise just because I wanted it to be because if it was that would mean something, but to also ASSUME I knew what was best for the animal. I was in denial to not make these connections sooner; that tortoises do not swim and that is wasn’t even a tortoise. And this is all true because of my shadow around spirituality. Lesson learned.

I clearly do not have a well established relationship with my shadows of arrogance, denial, and spirituality because now that I am facing these truths I am sitting in shame. I was in an absolute shame spiral when I did start to put all this together. I got this so wrong and I am absolutely ashamed of myself. The phrase that keeps flashing across my mind is: You should have known better. That is the worst!

I really need to have a I show myself love moment right now.

I show myself love when I get it fantastically wrong.
I show myself love when I feel ashamed.
I show myself love when I do not want to see the truth because the truth is painful.
I show myself love when I dare to be honest about my mistakes and failures and be seen as the imperfect being that I am.
I show myself love when I am doing my best to love my shadow pieces and invite them home.
I show myself love when my good intentions fall short and injure others.

You are okay girl, you are doing okay.

all parts welcome

 

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

Coming to Consciousness

consciousness

I am a page and a half into the introduction of The Handmaid’s Tale and already I am so inspired that I had to put it down to write.

First I can already tell I like Margaret Atwood the author. I do not have an answer for why, it is just a very strong feeling of  Yes. She feels honest. There is something about the way she is writing even just the introduction, she feels like someone who has to write. I identify with that. Some people choose it and work at it and become good. Some are just naturally gifted and they can choose to use that gift or not. Others do it because they have to, much like cave men banging rocks for fire, they would not survive without it. It is not about being good or gifted, it is just about the sheer need to get that fire started by any means necessary. I feel her urgency and I know that feeling.

On the first page of the introduction she talks about when she was born and then when she came to consciousness, two separate dates. You hear people talk about awakening to their life; some call that adulthood, for some it is spiritual, others their might be a right of passage involved. Whatever consciousness means to you really. For me it was 2011.

I remember my very first spark. I was sitting across a room from a man who told me that in everything that happens in our lives there is only one common denominator and that is you. You are the connecting thread between everything that will ever happen to you, good or bad, which means that no one ever leaves this life with clean hands.

I would say my true awakening came some years later, maybe closer to 2015, but it would have never happened without that spark.

There are a lot of wonderful and unfortunate truths about experiencing your awakening.

One is that you don’t get to go back after. For better or for worse once you cross that threshold that is where you are. Like Neo and the choice between the red and blue pill, once the red pill is chosen that is it.

Another is the level of clarity you experience in terms of yourself and others. You are suddenly given special glasses that allow you to see beneath the surface. You can see shadows where others (as well as yourself) try desperately to project only light. You are able to see truths that are completely hidden to others. It is like emotional x-ray vision.

Another wonderful unfortunate truth is that with great power comes great responsibility, this translates into LOTS AND LOTS OF WORK. You no longer get to be a inactive bystander in your life, you have to take action and the work is never done. It is the truest labor of love there is though which makes the heaviest days feel worth it. Mud suddenly is every bit as beautiful as crystal clear water, and everything you thought you valued shifts right along with that truth.

I am excited to read this book. I am excited for the messages it holds for me. I am excited to see how her consciousness shows up in the story she tells. I am open to receive all inspiration that I am quite certain is on the horizon.

Muddy Butt

muddy butt

My husband worked late this evening so after dinner Lu and I decided to go to the park for a sunset meditation. The air was nice, not as humid as it had been, my long sleeves in early summer were comfortable for a change. When we arrived at the park Lu handle her puppy business, then I handled her puppy business so as to be a good neighbor and not leave a smelly surprise for an unsuspecting neighbor to step in, then we found our spot.

We agreed upon the second pond tonight under the big shady Laurel. We walked up to the bank of the pond and found the grass surrounding the perimeter to be wet and muddy. Lu did not hesitate to sit right down in the mud and get comfortable, without another thought I followed suit.

Immediately I felt (and heard) the mud squish beneath me as the butt of my yoga pants became saturated with water and earth. I put my head phones in, put on the Out of Africa soundtrack and closed my eyes for a moment to focus on the feeling of the swampy earth beneath me and the cool breeze above.

I opened my eyes and started taking notice of the life around me. I started with the pond; the dragon flys skimming the surface, the fish jumping up in an attempt to catch one, the bubbles from life unseen beneath the murky surface.

Next the sky; the Live oak across the pond appeared unwavering until you look to the tippy top where its thinnest branches lightly swished back and forth in the breeze, the Cyprus mirrored the motion – back and forth back and forth. A nondescript black bird flew over heading for some tree further east, maybe his home, maybe just a resting place along the way.

Finally I looked down to the mucky earth I was slowly sinking further into. To my left a snail sat on a blade of grass, to my right an earth worm wriggled about. It had been so long since I last saw an earth worm, it took my back to grandma’s house as a child. She had the richest earth. When it would rain grandma would take us outside after and we would all dig in her beautiful black soil bringing our hands up, fists filled with wriggling writhing earth worms. When you grow up being taught to see the beauty and magnificence of the humble earth worm you are anchored in the truth that ALL life is precious.

Lu came over and laid next to me in my mud puddle and together we watched the sunset over the oaks, over the pond, over our mud.

This was one of my messiest spiritual moments to date (notice I did not say my messiest – a story for another day), and I could not help but see so much symbolism while I sat there. Here I was trying to connect with something greater; life around me and my higher spiritual self all while sitting in mud. You look at mud and think Yuck. Avoid it. Don’t get dirty. But can you connect to life and the earth and yourself and anything higher without getting dirty? It was in this most humble place that I felt the most connected in truth.

When we were done we got up and walked our muddy butts home to bathe. My husband pulled up just as we were walking in, he laughed at the sight of our soggy rears as we had family hugs and kisses. While I was in the shower I noticed an ant or some other angry insect had bit me in the fanny while I was down there. I guess that is what I get for meditating in the mud, a truly spiritual experience and a bug bite.