Waiting For My Real Life…

It sure does take awhile to shift to living from a life of surviving, pretending, and waiting for things to get better.

When it’s finally time to land in the doing and living of life, it can suddenly feel pointless. The weightless feeling of a rug pulled out from under. I could convince myself “nothingness” is really okay.

But,

I remind myself that that was also the past feeling of trying to do anything that wasn’t “allowed” – an energy suck that kept me safe from doing much to get me in trouble. It was tinged with a pain, though.

This seems different (different is good, we say, in SE land…).

I wonder if it’s like another layer of self-protection…not even knowing what to do with the freedom, then feeling lost, time drained by a million distractions.

Don’t know how many times it will be going back to basics, just simply making space to be, each day…

to eat

to move

to do some work

to be interested in what’s moving outdoors, or inside me

and connect to that for a minute or awhile

to make a plan

to fail to get the plan done just right

and just return to the simplicity of

my aliveness

life in my backyard

and easy gratitude

without needing to be anything more

then doing it all again tomorrow.

It takes a lot of practice to be convinced that it’s all right to just be here. Maybe that’s all I’m supposed to do, practice that. I don’t know what’s next. I’ll let you know.

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Learning to Walk Again

It’s quite a thing to try to relearn a whole way of being. To change from walking always focused outward, in anticipation of pain, and then intensely focused inward, reeling from every injury.

It’s hard to change the patterns developed from being repeatedly abandoned in distress as a baby, as a child.

It’s hard to change the pattern of despair and pessimism when you haven’t had support to do hard things or fail.

It’s slow hard work. It seems almost impossible to change them when you don’t even know you were supposed to have support for hard things, hard feelings, hard days, mistakes.

If you’re lucky you find someone, or a bunch of someones, who do a good enough job of standing in for the good mother/father, and you get a taste.

At some point, you realize you need to be one, a very good caretaker, inside, to yourself, to make up for all of the lost time and love. The caretaker who wants nothing in return, only delights in your growth.

A caretaker who sees through you, and loves you no matter what. Who never gives up and always gives you the space you need, and keeps trying even when they get it wrong.

An internal guardian who validates your experience, doesn’t take any crap from critical parts or energy leeches, internal or external. Not explosively, but firmly, and without hesitation. Again and again.

Then, pretty soon, you find yourself wondering what might really be possible with all this support.

You might find yourself wondering what it’s like to run.

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Sweeping Habits

There is a black walnut tree that lives just over the edge of the property line, that makes quite a mess, nearly year round, dropping leaves and nuts and branches and bark. This would not be a real problem, but for the fact that this debris, as well as the roots, are poisonous to many other trees and plants and permeates the soil if left to break down. Anything living under the canopy, inside the dripline, of this tree is at risk. Even though, overall, the tree is great for wildlife, it limits other kinds of life – limits its ability to sprout, or to thrive – nearby.

I’ve read all kinds of things about how to deal with this, my research fueled by the fact that the sunniest part of the yard where I might have a garden, is indeed, under the drip line of this tree. I’ve read about consistently removing the debris, gardening above the ground level with barriers, and planting things that will tolerate the poisonous “juglone” the tree produces. I actually grew lettuce, and gleefully gorged on big summer salads, as I’ve been used to in previous gardens, until, after a half dozen experiences of feeling mysteriously and vaguely unwell, I finally connected it to the black walnut effects.

The leaves fall nearly year round, and already are calling for me to sweep them, and I once again silently considered the possibliity of a daily sweeping of black walnut debris from the porch and driveway and patio and the pots and gardens on the patio. I had a flash of thinking today, that if I had a daily practice of sweeping those leaves from the plants at the edge of that dripline, I wonder what might thrive. A part of me rebels (or gives up?), wanting to be “all one” with the leaves and allow them to exist with oak and maple and all the others.

And I thought, how like having an internal practice, daily, in the morning, this sweeping is. The thoughts about what good the sweeping might or might not do; is it “worth” the effort. The wondering about the commitment to it – could I keep it. Knowing what it’s felt like the times when I could keep it up. How it doesn’t have to be rigid; some days it isn’t possible, but the collections of days of sweeping can make up for the missed days here and there, and that sometimes extra time is needed to keep up with the sweeping up. Sometimes the extra sweeping out is needed, from outside forces, the storms and damage of them.

I thought how I could build the sweeping up inside myself into a real and necessary thing, just as real as sweeping the leaves. Daily, I could value and protect and sweep away the debris, external and internal, that threatens to deaden my creative force, my life force. A time protected from being overresponsive to others, phone and email, too many words spoken aloud, from the sound of inner critics and worries and to-do lists. A time to let formerly good ideas and other remnants from the past start to fall away to make room for new growth, or prepare for rest, or gestate new sparks not yet ready to be birthed.

I can choose to protect and nurture what wants to grow – in me, in the yard – rather than just waiting to see what survives the fallout. It’s an act of hope, of faith, of love. An act of being fully alive, of being willing to invest, to risk, to tolerate all the deaths and losses but not stay stuck there. To protect the ground of being, returning to it and caring for it, with dutiful intention. To embrace the successes and new lives that come, and nurture them – plants, ideas, loved ones, projects. Holding all of it, feeling all of it – life and death in a dance.

I’d started to do this again recently…bit by bit. Sheltering with curious wonder what seems to want attention, space, nurturing. Protecting the little space of myself, around myself, in the morning. Imperfect, but out there, on the patio, warmth in a mug, pen, book, journal – sometimes written in, sometimes not. I knew I needed to do something when I felt that familiar urge to run away to the woods, an urge that kept coming back even right after a trip. It’s long overdue, and taking significant time every day, to make up the lost time. That’s okay. The storms of recent months kept me away, drained my reserves, but now I’m here.

This is what the idea of committing to sweeping black walnut leaves made me think of this past couple weeks as I sit and stare out at them looking back at me. Committing to protecting, nurturing, on purpose, myself, my body, my creative life. Starting to sweep away the debris from the space, to at least offer to that energy, to myself, a welcoming space that says, finally, “I’m sorry it’s taken so long, but I plan to keep this space for you now. You are welcome here. Won’t you come and play for awhile? I’d love to see what we can really do together.”

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Bloom

“What’s it like to bloom?”

I asked Buttercup

She stood silent

radiant

unapologetic

Not trying to be

Daffodil, or

Dandelion

No apparent wish to be

Rose, or

Daisy

Not seeming worried about

threats of

future weather

or careless feet

I waited for a reply

She just continued to

shine

All of Herself

at me

without explanation

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Shift

There’s a place

tight

little

hidden

balled up

somewhere

That’s known

terror

degradation

hunger

loneliness

That can’t deeply rest

digest

sleep

play

Watches

the fight for power

greedy growth

ignoring the cries of Mother

and each other

and shakes at its center

Convinced

its tightness is

the only way

I try to find it

enlist wise ones to help

I scratch and scrape

for years

in desperation

to unlock it

once and for all

no luck

Perhaps I must approach more softly

offer to hold it

in a soft little hand

in the dark

for as long as it takes

to melt

once and for All

into pure love

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Another Awakening

I was supposed to be at a training this past weekend. Saturday, Day 3, would have found me exhausted and dreading the final day, ending 4 days of work, late Sunday afternoon. Then I would go into a heavy work week, to make up for clients displaced by the weekday training commitment.

Instead, it’s a regular week, after a strange hazy weekend full of reading, thinking, writing, wrestling, strange dreams, strange new feelings of resistance, betrayal, isolation.

I’m here, restless, lost, in a partially dazed state. Reading Dance of the Dissident Daughter a second time. Choking on it, taking breaks, holding on to my seat like I’m on a roller coaster. My heart aches so badly I feel like I could pass out. I am dizzy with amazement. My stomach has been sick all day. I hadn’t realized how much I’d all this time been putting all of it somewhere. I’ve known so much of this intellectually, but this is different.

I’ve been dancing toward this opening for over a year, and now, the impact. I feel it. I’m glad I’ve done all the work I have, because I feel as though I can barely hold it all by myself.

I’m having flashes of all the experiences conditioning me to second class status as female, like a slide show, moving through. I’m now unwilling to dismiss it, just because there is also other injustice in the world, so many other -isms, starving children, gun violence, and all the rest. It’s all connected.

And more flashes, of all the ways I turned away from the discomfort, truly not knowing what to do with it. Memories of repeatedly feeling overcome by anger, hopelessness, defiance, and then occupying myself until they faded away. The gaslit feeling of no apparent barriers to freedom, but knowing they were there.

There are the blinding hot experiences of all the times I’ve felt crazy, been ridiculed, quieted when speaking up.

There’s the fear of public speaking that I’ve worked on in therapy, tried to source to childhood, to past lives, chasing the unknown cause.

There’s the wondering why I can’t seem to stop apologizing for being in the way, every speck of dirt in the house, every mistake, every instance of not being exactly what others need, every inconvenience to another. Feeling like apology is woven into every cell. No wonder it was always easier to just be alone.

Knowing it’s not really safe to say these things aloud. Every bit of me wanting to hide it, and not share any of this. I know I’m supposed to claim my fitness, boldness, power, strength, and just do it. But I don’t think I can pretend anymore.

And there’s the fear of writing anything unless it passes some test of eternal truth, no room for error, lest some fierce nebulous source of recrimination or condemnation follow.

There’s not knowing what to do when I name it and others deny it exists, ridicule it, or even defend it with vigor, and the subsequent shaking in my boots that I hope I’m able to hide.This feels like a new level of realization and I don’t know what to do. My mouth opens and I name, and then I don’t know what comes next. It’s all new.

This is where I am right now. All these things I already knew, now touching me in a new way, beckoning, toward I know not what, yet. Suddenly feeling deeply in league “with those who resist unjust power relations”(Carter Heywood, according to Sue Monk Kidd in Dance of the Dissident Daughter).

Telling the truth, so you might know you’re not alone.

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New Old Wisdom

As I read Jamie Sams’ The Thirteen Original Clan Mothers, I feel a reverence for the journey I’m on.

It’s deeply validating to see things I have felt from the beginning, echoed in these pages. The reverence for the interconnections of all nature, and the life energy in all things is there. The pull for times of solitude and introspection are there. The understanding of our world built around trying to do everything through warrior’s ways, and the imbalance this creates. I believe you don’t even need me to explain that…just feel it.

I understand the ways I was fooled in subtle ways very young by tv and other stories later in my formal education, even ones sympathetic to Native Americans, to think that their ways were niaive and ignorant. Those stories leave out the context; illustrating only glorified colonial points of view.

No words describe what this feels like to read, but I will try.

It’s like remembering. Like finding home. Not in a giddy, shocking transformative way. In a warm, soft flesh and hard,white bones and red blood way. In a factual, ground underfoot, and sky overhead way. It just is. Not through some nondual teacher, or healing technique, or witnessing practice. Direct connection that just is. Me and the Mystery.

I understand why warrior ways of spiritual seeking have not produced the results I thought, that we’ve all thought and been taught to believe. I understand the deep residue of this belief system that made only those ways acceptable, and made me reject womanhood and those energies. I see where it makes others reject it, as well. I understand what cultural appropriation is, and is not. I understand how badly and deeply the world needs the divine feminine to rise up and balance it’s oppposite. I understand now how this whole deal is not about women overcoming their femininity to become more like warriors, or using warrior ways to break down those barriers.

It’s about seeing and respecting the unique living spirit in all things, respecting the great mystery, and giving space and asking permission; treading with lightness and respect wherever we go.

It’s about belonging to a planetary family, and the deep awareness of it, that makes for never feeling alone again, not matter what loss occurs.

I’m so glad I didn’t, never could, stay in anyone else’s version of this. I could have, and often wished to have it settled, but others’ versions were never quite right, and I could not rush myself toward what I did not know or couldn’t know yet.

What a happy surprise to read the traditional belief that full womanhood isn’t reached until afe 52. Makes me smile.

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Welcoming a New Day, New Year, New Perspective

I’m looking out at the back yard. The fox was here this morning, looking as though he’d spent the night. Five deer. Squirrels running around. 23 degrees. Birds combing the frozen mud. Winter has arrived, just in time for the new year. It feels different than I thought it would. I have plans for change, but they are different than years past. Makes me think of past eloquent posts defending the resistance to things resembling resolutions. Hmph.

The past month has been turbulent; I struggled to register all of the change and I haven’t wanted to move toward this new year yet. Somehow, I got through it, and though it’s felt hard, I somehow feel like I stayed with and moved through most of it, instead of bypassing it all. To be sure, there were some moments of bypass :). No perfection, but maybe good enough, it seems.

I’ve not sorted the past year, organized for the next, nor do I feel ready. I couldn’t, so I had to just take it day by day. It feels more real, now, somehow – having moved through to the other side with not even a huge amount of grace or purpose.

I feel a bit of relief from the perfectionism, as I notice I’ve still exercised on many of the days I’ve been off these last two weeks, and there was plenty of salad and real blocks of conscious eating mixed in with the emotional eating and days of nibbling sweets in response to all the holidays can evoke – anxiety, loneliness, sadness, depression, longing, and the highs and lows, family patterns. The change is all gradual, punctuated with ups and downs, but surprisingly ending with a net gain. I didn’t get lost. It didn’t have to all go to hell, even though it felt like hell a lot of the time.

No, not that sexy at all. But it’s very real and slow and solid gain. Undeniable differences from before.

I’m riding the energy of this recent new moon that is geared toward structure, boundaries, and planning that supports more ease in life. I ordinarily would buck anything resembling structure, but something must be shifting for me, as I can feel the faint pull of curiousity toward the idea of structure and starting to come into alignment with the truth, with the earth, with “what is” minus much of the usual resistance and disgust.

This really is how it is, I’m discovering. Real change shows up like this, as if something is happening organically, almost magically. But it isn’t magic. It’s just different than the ways many of us are conditioned, deeply socialized, to experience it (and I’m coming to understand more fully this enculturation as western, and white, as well). By and large we just accept that if someone is not doing something, it’s because they don’t want to, or they don’t want it badly enough. They must be lazy, have no work ethic, or are a moral failure in some way. Weak character, or some such.

We tend to treat change as something entirely up to us. We don’t much cotton to the idea that we aren’t in control of it all. And we certainly can’t tolerate watching someone else be in that state, either. Those good ole mirror neurons will instantly notify us of how it feels to be there, so we get rid of it.

Literally.

We tell people to quit their whining if they’re not going to do something about it, and we tell them the same thing even if there’s nothing they can do about it. If they don’t stop, we’ll be mean to them or stop being in the same space with them. We are attracted to big changes that send a clear signal of progress, even though we can’t actually tolerate big changes like this, so we “relapse”. Our homeostatic body wisdom (read: autonomic nervous system) that keeps our systems and identities stable don’t really dig big changes.

And still we lust after, pant over, lunge toward, big changes.

My experience tells me that when change is fleeting or elusive even though we crave it, wish for it, dream of it, something is probably in the way. It may not be something we have conscious control over, and it could be we’re not even ready to be conscious of it.

What does”ready” look like? Well, having access to help and being able to ask for and accept help if we need it are a big part of it. This is something I’m learning to unlearn: the deeply rooted notion that

Everything is really hard and painful, and I have to do it all by myself

It’s taken years and persistence and a sincere desire to find truth, and many dollars and hours of support to work on shifting my nervous system, to free it from the blocks. I have heard of very few instances of quick shifts that last. Even plant medicines and the most significant spiritual shifts still require support post journey to integrate and stabilize the realizations.

Increasing nervous system capacity can also help make bigger and bigger changes more tolerable, but this is still felt as a disruption. If we can build to a place where change does not automatically equal danger for the nervous system, that really helps. Not judging ourselves for that automatic fear or anxiety response, and being able to stay present and observe it, are also really helpful.

We often know full well we need structures, habits, and supports (and help!), that bridge us to change, but can’t quite manage it. Here again is the detestable gradual approach. It is incredibly powerful, and incredibly unsexy. I think I’m starting to get the hang of this idea. At least, I hope I am. James Clear (from Columbus, Ohio!) writes a lot about this in his book Atomic Habits. I’d like to read it again to see how it seems to me now. I read it right when it came out, recommended it to others, thought it made a brilliant case, and put virtually none of it into practice. Readiness is all (but does not equal comfortable, mind).

We had a conversation in Meditation class this evening about the role of structure in bridging us to a future desired state or self. I used to detest even the word boundaries and any structure suggested or imposed. I now know how structure for me became confounded with rigidity, abuse of power, manipulation and control, and now I can see how it ultimately was connected to danger. People suggesting boundaries, or a lack of them, felt dangerous. I didn’t sense it that way. I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready to feel that fear, humiliation, anger, shame or anything else related to past violations of my boundaries.

Now, a testament to my healing,and a result to some degree of the structure of regular work supported by another human (I couldn’t heal relational trauma without a relationship, damm it!), driven partly by a desire to be less miserable, is this new orientation to structure, emerging as if by magic. For the first time, I notice genuine curiousity about structure, boundaries, and systems as a conscious path to change at a speed that my nervous system can tolerate. I thought my aversion was a stable part of my identity, but to my great surprise, I am starting to have the ability to sense structure as containment, support, continuity, glue; a necessary and helpful bridge to somewhere I want to go. A source of stability, security, safety. The foundation to support expansion, energy, change, and even some chaos, uncertainty and fear if needed. I can see now how I had to have help from outside as my structure at first, while I patiently, and not so patiently, built the internal structure needed to realize this shift.

I am conscious that I always start writing these posts to share something that feels meaningful, as pieces of the puzzle land and start to form a clearer picture, and then as I reach the end, I sense they sound like advertisements for something. That wasn’t the plan.

So be it. Enjoy the ride, if you can. If you can’t, know there’s help out there.

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Gifts in Disguise

I made the mistake of looking at my email last night, when Sunday is already quite a pressured experience anyway, preparing for the week. Glancing through, I found that I’d been fired by a client.

The pain of it inhabited the space before I went to bed, as well as my dreams and in between as I lie awake. The pain being multifold, inflicted partly by my internal critic quickly identifying my errors with this client, partly worry about harm I might have caused, and partly due to my own personal traumatic material.

My more recent work has enabled me to turn toward grief and difficult feelings. The resulting introspection and discovery leads me to wanting to share here.

The essential “error” was too many misattunements in too short a period of time. My dear colleague Twig Wheeler talks of this in relation to SE, saying that as a practitioner, you get 2, possibly 3 strikes, and then you’re outta there.

I can see how due to some stress in my personal life, I had instances of being less than perfectly attuned. As I replay things, I can identify moments where I might have been able to seize upon the moment and name what was happening in those moments. This may or may not have made a difference.

The thing I would have named is the pattern of conflating disagreement with threat and otherness.

This experience was necessary because I am human and need reminders. And because I am still growing and will continue to grow. And because I am human. Because I do the same thing, we ALL do the same thing that this person was doing. I needed to see my own pull to identify fault or cause and otherize my client in response to being otherized.

As I allow my grief, it is impossible to not be aware of the ways in which I have “othered”, continue to “other”, on a daily basis. I am usually aware of it, and interested in and capable of inquiry about it. In this way, there’s possiblity, room for change and expansion of my perspective. I’m also acutely aware of my own trauma patterns that have made me, and still drive me, from time to time, to move away from another person because their disagreement feels threatening to me.

This is a cause for further grieving, because I can see this everywhere, in a new way, due to the gift from my client. I wish there had been an opportunity to have a conversation, to repair, but alas, I don’t get to choose, nor to know whether it would have made a difference, or whether the best thing for both of us has already occurred in this case. I grieve not getting the chance for a closing (a hazard of this job no one ever talks about in the training period).

I’m sharing so you can think about the distortions we are seeing in society at large, where we have a really low tolerance for discomfort, which makes it even harder to examine the othering that happens as a result of being driven by our trauma states and baser drives for safety and tribalism. It feels incredibly sad and isolating. I see it in my family, and the families of others, at the grocery store, on the road, on the bike path.

We all have the right to distance ourselves from whatever feels threatening to us. If our insides are creating the thing that feels threatening, rather than the outside (I am not talking about -isms and true environmental threats), then we may be continually actually be trying to move away from ourselves. The more we try to move away from ourselves, the more conflicted we become. I think you can see the dilemma.

I do the work I do, no matter how painful it may be at times, as an expression of trying to take responsibility for my othering, and help others be able to do the same.

I want to express my deep gratitude to all of you for your assistance in my becoming more and more awake, adult, and compassionate in this life I’m gifted with.

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Back to basics

I’ve been away. I’m sorry it’s been so long. I’ve been thinking about you, though, be assured.

This will be short. Perfection abandoned in favor of breaking new ground to feel the initiation of something a long time coming. Hope you can forgive it.

A lot has transpired. A new home, a compromise, a bit more quiet, a bit more dirt to steward, a boatload of trauma work. A mountain of labor ahead. Learning about grief and aging. Continuing to discover the vastness and depth of the conditioning I’ve experienced, and that most of us have been subject to. Wondering if there’s any real such thing as hope, and doubting its usefulness more and more.

I’ve been reluctant to say many of the things I’ve been thinking, and starting to realize thanks to others out there with the courage to speak plainly (thank you, Stephen), that you probably aren’t served by my keeping quiet.

I’ve thought, and said in safe places, the thing that I’ve finally heard someone (Stephen Jenkinson) say publicly, that we’ve missed a huge opportunity for stopping, in the form of the pandemic. The hoot and holler for things to get back to normal, a normal that we all know cannot be sustained, has filled the opening we might have used to make meaningful change.

I’m working on the daunting task of permaculture design, and dedicating time and energy to being closer to the earth, closer to food production and preservation, to watershed management, and all that it entails, not least of which is the disinterest of others.

I credit the ongoing work on my own trauma patterns with making it feel safer to share, to speak plainly, to risk pissing some of you off, confusing others, or sounding like a downer. I credit my work with making it more and more possible to inhabit the space of living in gratitude, while hope for the future of the planet withers.

I promise to use care as I share from a place of great love.

Just wanting you to know I’m still on this train with you, and will be writing more regularly. Because I must.

Looking forward to next time.

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