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Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky. (Rainer Maria Rilke)

My path has been winding lately, with bends and switchbacks that leave me unable to see the coming terrain. It’s been uphill, and I’m scampering, fighting to keep the progress I’ve made. The pock-marked dirt is littered with rocks that poke through the soles of my shoes. Uncomfortable. I want to get past this part of things, and there’s a part of me that wants to rush through this, and just get it done. There’s another part of me that knows that I need to sink into the discomfort, and BE IN IT.

Every single one of my relationships has been undergoing shift and change – and I know it’s for the best. I know that following this time in my life, I will have found my tribe. I know that I will feel surrounded by people who ‘get’ me and appreciate who I am and what I have to offer – and what they have to offer me. I feel like I have no one to fly to in the night, when I am all alone, and the pressure of everything that I hold up is crushing me to death.

I am seeing everyone around me with new eyes – I misplaced the rose colored glasses that held them all in soft reflection. I see all of their hard edges, all of their faults, all of the places where they take and do not give back. And in seeing it, and taking it in, I cannot return to the time when I chose not to know this about them.

I am making decisions – can I continue the relationships, now that I know what I know, and see what I see? And moreover, do I want to?? Implementing change starts with defining what you DO NOT WANT, so I am doing that. I have a mental list forming, a collection of behaviors that I do not want to put up with anymore. I am trying to be careful not to toss out the baby with the bathwater – a fresh start with something doesn’t require you to throw out all that has come before. It requires you to step forward onto the pebbly path with care and certainty, bearing with you the resolve born out of your growing pains and your fumbles.

I acknowledge that I am not perfect. I admit that there are things about me that become obnoxious, or require understanding, patience, or forbearance. I acknowledge that I tend to hold people to high expectations – I have faith in people, I see their potential, I see the ideal of them. It’s always a little tough when they tumble off the pedestal and turn into the real person that they were all along.

I am actively engaging in the process of excavating my own bullshit and stories to try to figure out the places where I fail others and myself. I am seeking the ways that I could be a better friend, partner, and compatriot. I am trudging along that rock-strewn path because I said to the Universe, “I want to walk the path of mastery,” and that means that you need to get intimate with your inner workings, and pull the wool from your eyes – about yourself and about what it means to be human. So, I’m doing the work – I asked for the work. It’s borne fruit – both bitter and sweet.

I know that I teach people how to treat me – so, I’ve decided to be a better teacher. I’ve identified some of the things that are huge, glowing, red button issues for me. And, I’ve come to realize that just because someone wants a relationship with me, it doesn’t mean I am obligated to return the sentiment – I can be compassionate, and be discerning. They are not mutually exclusive.

For the past few months, I have been trying to get to a place where I could feel good about the evolving nature of my relationships – and I think that I’ve gotten there, but not by the road I thought I’d take. I thought that I would get to a place where I would stop feeling bad for wanting to “prune my friend garden.” That’s not what happened – I got okay with feeling crappy about it, and still being able to step forward and do it anyway – because that was what was good for me. I got to a place where I cared less about ‘what kind of person it made me’ to want to walk away from others – and I got to a place where I realized that self interest is not selfishness, although this society would have me believe otherwise.

So, what follows is partly a wish list for friendship, and partly a manifesto on what it means to be a crummy friend (I do take into account bad days, and humanness – I know that no one can maintain all of this all of the time – it’s a majority thing: can they do this the majority of the time?):

  • Do what you say you will do! This is the hugest, glowingest, reddest button issue for me. Talk is cheap – if your actions and your way of walking in the world doesn’t match what you say and how you advertise yourself, I am not interested.
  • I am not a free counselor. I am not a sage on the hill, to be sought out to heal your drama, and then to be left alone in the cave again when you don’t need me to straighten out all your crooked thinking.
  • I am not a priest – stop coming to me for absolution. I cannot give it. Some things are inexcusable. Some things are wrong, no matter which brush you paint it with.
  • I am not a garbage receptacle – stop bringing me all of your emotional effluvia and leaving it in my lap. It doesn’t make me feel kindly towards you. Deal with your own stuff. Sit in your own discomfort, and leave me to sit in mine.
  • I am not a fool – stop announcing things about yourself in the effort to get people to not call you on your obnoxiousness. Pulling the curtain off of it doesn’t make it more acceptable – it just exposes it in the effort to appear as though you’re actually dealing with it (I can actually see what you’re trying to do here, and if I can, so can everyone else).
  • I am not an indentured servant – stop mistaking my natural helpfulness. I owe you nothing. I do things for others out of a heart-centered desire to be of help – when this is taken for granted, I take it back.
  • I do not exist in a vacuum – stop neglecting the relationship, and believing that it will exist there, as you left it. Relationships cannot be sealed neatly into time capsules. If you think your neglect of me makes you a bad friend, it does.
  • I am not dull-witted – stop peeing on my leg and telling me that it’s raining. I am a frigging writer. I am intimate with stories – the ones I tell myself, the ones I tell others, and the ones I try to live out. The difference? I know, or try to figure out, which of my stories serve the highest good, and which ones I just tell myself to decrease my own discomfort. Why are you telling them?
  • I am not blind, deaf, or dumb – I see you, no matter what you choose to clothe yourself with. I hear you – what you do say, and what you don’t. Circle-speak, double-speak, and non-speak – I am really good at hearing it when you say a bunch of stuff that really doesn’t say anything at all.

I love wholeheartedly. I reach out to others. My natural instinct is to comfort. I am faithful, and I have faith in people. I am giving. I am trusting. I want to live a vibrant life. I want to live each day of my life as deeply as I can. I take chances – on people, in life.

Once I’ve held someone in my heart – no matter how we part ways – I tend to hold them there forever. I am an elephant: I never forget – but as time passes, no matter the indiscretion, I let it get fuzzy so that I can wish you well on your journey.

One of my dear, dear, heart-friends said something the other day that twanged my heart’s deepest corners: “where are all the people who were supposed to love me forever?” I second that. Where are you? I threw my hat in the ring, I showed up, ready to play – where are all of you?

I want to be able to love the distance between us. I want to be able to look at you whole and unbroken, cast upon the skies that span our outstretched hands.

We are misled from early childhood to think that life is something you get through. Life is something to be in. (Dustin Hoffman)

I am trying to be IN the moment. I am concentrating on it. I am working to be grateful for all of the opportunities that life offers me in each day – whether they’re for happiness or healing, and whether they are comfortable or uncomfortable.

Lately things have been uncomfortable. And that’s okay. I mean, it doesn’t feel great, but I know that stuff is being brought to my attention because it’s a good time to address it, whatever it is.

It seems like the older I get, the fuzzier righteousness becomes. Things just are. I just am. We just are. Morality gets clearer, and simultaneously harder to verbalize. Soapboxes seem ricketier, and look far less appealing, as perches go.

Fighting with people at this stage of the game seems silly. Doesn’t mean I don’t still do it. I do. I just try to do it differently. I try not to be underhanded. I try to be as clear as possible, and to leave anger out of it. There are times I think I do pretty well, and there are other times I suit up for battle with the intent to make known how irate I am. That’s being human, I guess.

I’ve had a series of conversations over the past several weeks with someone who is very, very close to me. The reason we’ve had to repeat the conversation is because each time we enter into it, it’s like I am speaking Greek, and they are hearing French. Frustrating. Maddening. Infuriating.

Today, I came to them again, and I needed to just say the things that I’d been afraid to say – I hate hurting people’s feelings (I’m empathic: it just hurts me right back). At the onset, I could see defensiveness in every line of their face and body. I called attention to it, and I said, “I can see that you’re defensive right now. We’re just going to talk. I am not angry, and I am going to work very hard not to get angry.” Calling it out like that seemed to help a little bit.

And I realized something important. I was able to leave emotion outside the door. I was able to be calm and to articulate what I needed to. I was able to honor them and their need to respond in whatever way that they needed to. And, we still did not come to resolution. It seems we are at an impasse. I see green, they see purple – and we’re both looking at the same vista.

It’s frustrating. But a part of me feels very, very clear – a part of me knows that I do need to keep affirming that it is green, because that is my truth, that’s what I see. A part of me knows that if I back down this time, I will betray myself knowingly and without any excuse other than to make the other person comfortable – and this is hard, because I’ve spent the better part of my life attempting to make others comfortable. It’s instinctive.

Part of that realization was that I’m no longer willing to ensure their comfort at the expense of my own. I’m still a big fan of finding the middle ground, and of compromise…I’ve just been able to see the line where bending becomes enabling a little bit more clearly.

So, I’m trying hard not to look at this impasse as something to be gotten through. I’m trying to see it as something that is a part of our lives in the now, and that I should appreciate because it is teaching me some pretty important lessons…even if they are uncomfortable ones.

I’ve been reading Pema Chodron on and off the past few months, and it’s helped. She talks about how we human beings have a very low threshold for discomfort, and that we allow ourselves to follow the impulse to get away from whatever’s causing us that discomfort. This time, I am trying to be IN the discomfort – and I’m trying to use it. I want to see where it will lead me, because I know that this situation cannot remain unresolved, and running away will solve nothing. There is no true escape, only delay.

I don’t want to push things off anymore. I want to follow this rabbit hole to see where it leads. Even if I get a little battered on the way. Wish me luck.

 Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break. (William Shakespeare)

Three of Swords: A time to grieve over past sorrow, release the pain, and allow the rain to heal.

If my posts seem to alternate between giddy joy and abject misery lately, it only reflects the emotional rollercoaster of my life at present. I am in a beautiful place – I sail into the new horizon in each moment, and all things are new and bright and glorious.

Pleasure is spread through the earth / In stray gifts to be claimed by whoever shall find. (William Wordsworth)

I have cast away the shapes and shells of myself that were ill-fitting, and formed myself anew. I formed my new self in joy and rapture. I shaped this life with the careful attention and the playful caprice of the creating hand.

And I am in love with my life. I am enraptured with my life. I have longed for this life.

And still, I grieve. I went through a similar thing when I got divorced. I sought the divorce: After the 15-year relationship – almost 4 years of it being married to a man determined to sink further and further into waves of alcoholism – I sought it eagerly. I wanted to reshape my life, and I did.

And I grieved. I sobbed. I wailed. I raged. And then one morning, I woke up, and realized that it was like death – I was grieving the death of a dream. I grieved the girl I’d been, and the boy he’d been, and the life we’d thought to have together. And I healed, got over it and moved on.

The entire mishmash of feeling was perplexing – if I’ve sought out and chased the change, if I’ve hunted it and hungered for it, and bent the world to my will, and learned to flow with fate, all in the pursuit of a new shape….why, oh, why, on earth, do I grieve?

It’s all in the letting go. Even when what I’ve just picked up is newly settled and glistening with promise in the palm of my hand, I still look back at what I was, what I had, who I was, and feel sad. I become Lot’s wife, and build a pillar of salt with tears.

When I chose to set my foot firmly on a new path, pretty much everyone said, “Wow. I am so glad that you’re doing this!” I felt encouraged. I was encouraged. There were the naysayers and the how-the-hell-will-you-ever-make-that-work-ers, and I let that go. I did it anyway, even though there was the nasty voice in my own head that whispered that I would fail. I did it anyway.

And while I was actively going about making those changes and setting those plans into motion, there was no time to grieve. There was no time to feel anything other than the bliss and triumph of having had the guts to go through with it (well, and to be a whole-lot afraid sometimes, too). But, no time for grief.

You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present. (Jan Glidewell)

Once the day to day of things kicked in and I lived in it for awhile, I started to feel this yucko feeling sneaking in there and crapping up my bliss. This blecky, yucky, craptastic feeling. And I just couldn’t figure out where in the heck it could be coming from???? What was I doing wrong? Maybe I hadn’t been meant to do this? Maybe I would never be happy in anything? Maybe I was incapable of it? (FEAR, fear, fear).

Then I got ahold of myself. And I started to notice a pattern – I read tarot spreads for myself almost every single day. And this rollercoaster was there, in the cards, plain as day. Great joy, great grief. Great opportunity and promise, and great sorrow. Great support, and great loneliness. Both, together, at the same time, in the same moment, on each breath.

There’s definitely a part of me that wonders what in the heck I could possibly be grieving from my recently past situation – and then another part of me chimes in with the common sense that, perhaps this grief is just a part of change. Part of easing into the change.

Because most things have changed for the better – the best. But some things are harder to deal with. I am alone a lot more – a situation designed to help me achieve all that I set out to achieve and give me the chance to do all that I want to do. But, I still have to get used to the aloneness. I am home: I almost never drive anymore – a situation that is totally beneficial, but after having a two hour commute each day (which I grew to hate), it is still an adjustment to just…be here. There are other things, too. This situation means that I no longer get to cling to the false sense of security that I gained from being the breadwinner – I have to trust that Jeremy will do a perfectly fine job. That is hard. I’ve had to let go of those illusions of control in a lot of areas here. And, God, it’s hard – they might have been illusions, but they were my illusions, ya know?

Sorrow makes us all children again – destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Ever since it dawned on me that this feeling of yucko was grief, I’ve tried to be kind to myself, and just feel the feelings and let it move through – a stormfront on my glistening horizon. I’ve tried not to be impatient, waiting for the clouds to part and the sun to shine again.

So, I go back to the Reiki principles, and I find comfort: Just for today, I will not be angry. Just for today, I will not worry. Today, I will do my work honestly. Today, I will honor my parents, my teachers, and my elders. Today, I will count my blessings and be kind to every living creature. And I remind myself that I am one of those living creatures to whom I have pledged to be kind today.

Three of Pentacles: Success in return for persistent and dedicated labor. Return or reward.

 

I do this thing once in a while where I open up a book to a page without looking, or dial through my Ipod without looking, intending that the Universe will flash me a message of whatever I need to hear at that moment. (Sometimes I cheat — if I don’t like the first message, I’ll do it a few more times with different books).

I’ve been dealing with learning to let old habits and ways of thinking go, so that I can enjoy the life that’s spread out before me. So I can savor the banquet. This is what I paged to today:

Every moment is a new beginning for me. We all do a lot of vacillating between old ideas and new ways of thinking. I am patient with myself through this process. Beating myself up only keeps me stuck. It is better to build myself up instead. Anything I say or think is an affirmation. I become aware of my thoughts and my words. I may discover that a lot of them are very negative. I used to approach life through negative eyes. I would take an ordinary situation like a rainy day, and then say something such as, “Oh, what a terrible day.” It was not a terrible day; it was a wet day. Just a slight change in the way I look at an event can turn it around. I choose to look at life in a new, positive way. I enjoy new ways of thinking. (Louise Hay, Meditations to Heal Your Life)

Just this week, I was telling Dani that I finally realized that I needed to stop talking about leaving my “regular” job as having left it — I needed to start saying that I’d started my life’s work. When I focused on the leaving and the ending, I wasn’t looking forward or into the moment, but into the past. When I talked about the old job and called it my “real” job or my “regular” job, I was implying that there was something lacking in my new pursuit — when I don’t really feel that way.

So boys and girls, I think I am finally starting to ‘get it’ — to learn to ask for new eyes, instead of for new circumstances!

 

 

Looking back on the fires that made me who I am today, I know now that the person who rose from the ashes of my most difficult times is far more interesting, joyful, brave, and honorable than the young woman who thought she knew what the world needed. (Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open)

I’ve spent time in the abyss. I’ve traveled dark paths that wound into the midnight-black and charred depths of my soul. And out of that, every time, I’ve soared…eventually.

I’ve always identified with the phoenix, even in childhood. I am entranced by reinvention. By the whole process of burning down to ash, and rising up again renewed and reshaped – in essence, similar, but wholly different.

I read Elizabeth Lesser’s book Broken Open this week. So many of the things she talked about resonated, gave me that “me, too!” feeling of confirmation. I’ve been through several “breaking open” experiences and done my fair share of reinvention. Usually, when I tell people about my life, they counter back with, “And you’re how old again?” I’m an overachiever, what can I say?

When I was first going through the process of deciding whether or not to get divorced, I had the visceral feeling that life was slowly being pared away from me. That I was being laid bare, and that once everything that needed to had fallen away, I might be able to look at myself and see what I wanted to pull from the ashes.

It sucked. It was hard and I cried and cried and cried. I filled pages of journals. I wavered and I despaired. And then, I let go.

At the time, what I’d thought I was letting go of was a marriage that didn’t and wouldn’t work, but what I was really letting go of was my whole self. Looking back now, I can see that my divorce wasn’t really the catalyst for the breaking open, but sort of a by-product. Every particle of my being had been railing against being confined in the “Carolyn-suit” that I’d created and maintained and wore every day, all day long. I could not live an ingenuine life for one more moment.

Today, I’m actually grateful to my ex-husband. I’m grateful that we agreed (whenever or however we do this before we come to the human playground) to be this for one another. I wish that I had been able to look at him during all the turmoil and really see who he was, and remember that he was not only the body standing before me, but the soul who dwelled in it. Maybe I wasn’t meant to, then. I see him now, and I remember who he is. And whether he knows it or not, I’ve gotten some of the greatest gifts from that time that anyone could ever ask for.

I pray that each one of us stays awake as we fall. I pray that we choose to go into the abyss willingly and that our fall is cushioned by faith – faith that at the bottom we will be caught and taught and turned toward the light. I pray that we don’t waste precious energy feeling ashamed of our mistakes, or embarrassed by our flaws. (Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open)

I am more awake now, more aware. I still get caught in the everyday trials of being a human being, living a human life in a human world. I still get mad at Jeremy for leaving his socks in a ball when he tosses them in the hamper, and I still worry about whether we’ll have enough money to pay our bills. I still get annoyed by slow drivers and small inconveniences. Some days, it’s hard for me to let go of some of those things. Other days? They don’t even factor.

Today, I feel good about where I am, and who I’ve come to be. I am grateful for all of the trips into the abyss. How can I appreciate the blinding beauty of the light, unless I’ve dwelled in the darkest heart of the pit?

I am grateful that so much of what I’d built fell away, because I am standing here today, on the cusp of embracing my dreams and desires. Of finding out who I will be until the next conflagration burns away all the excess, and leaves me standing naked and whole and utterly, utterly changed.

 

 

Am I seeing it as a sign, because I want a sign and am looking for a sign? Or do I see it as a sign because it is a sign? I’ve always done this circular kind of questioning, this ‘which came first – chicken or egg?’ kind of wondering. Sometimes, though, I just allow a sign to be itself, and accept it, because it’s so fortuitous and timely and unquestionable that questioning feels like sacrilege.

When I first went to part time at my ‘regular’ job, in order to embark on the dream of being a Reiki Master Teacher offering her services at the shop, I went through a period of intense doubt (as do most people when they’ve made a change that feels huge). That day, standing outside of the office with my aunt, I watched a Strange Angel come to me with a sign.

I stood there, dumbfounded, as a woman popped out of a shiny black SUV and announced that she was the Mustard Girl. She told me how she’d left behind a life of certainty in order to start a new life as the purveyor of homemade and heritage mustards. How she’d doubted it could even really happen, but that now, she’s got accounts throughout the Midwest and a committed customer base, and it all happened because she’d been brave enough to ask an old man how to make mustard, and to follow where that passion led.

She glowed. She was so happy, so utterly in the moment, that she glowed. She handed each of us a few bottles of complimentary mustard, popped back into the shiny SUV, and went on her way. It was a ‘holy sh&#’ kind of experience. And it snapped me out of the miasma I’d sunk into – it stopped the little voice in my head. The one who dirges all day long, “Who are you to think you could do this?” A new thought replaced it – “If the Mustard Girl can do it, so can I!” A strange battle cry, to be sure, but it worked.

Seven months have passed since that fated sidewalk meeting with the Mustard Girl. Since then, a million things have happened, all of which led to me leaving my ‘regular’ job in order to take a chance on…. me, essentially. So, I gave notice, and I made plans, and I talked about it to everyone. And in the past month, it seems like each person that comes my way needs me to tell them what I need to hear most – that it is possible, that they can do it (whatever ‘it’ happens to be). They need me to be their Mustard Girl, and so I am.

This week is my first week away from that ‘regular’ job, and I am grateful for the way that it’s playing out – even though I wasn’t at first. I’d intended to revel in the freedom from that old routine and simply bask in the empty space left behind and let my creativity and juiciness bubble on up. Instead, I’ve spent the week minding the shop for Dani as she gets to revel in creativity, and homecoming, and a different kind of freedom. And I’m grateful to the Universe for setting it up this way, because it was good to give me something to do while I got used to the idea of having all that space and time and emptiness waiting to be filled with the longings of my heart.

I’ve spent some time second-guessing myself this week – hovering over or behind Wittler as he attempted to blow off steam in virtual pursuits (he’s a devoted World of Warcraft player). I mostly got non-committal grunts of assent or disagreement over the background noise of virtual people virtually exploding virtual targets. Even our most devoted cheerleaders get tired of the same routine when they’ve done it a few hundred times.

So, I left Wittler alone, and I made the bed each morning, and did the dishes and went to the shop. And I took care of business. And I mulled. And I pondered. Some of it was jubilant, if disbelieving – as though I were a dog that’d finally slipped its chain and didn’t know quite how to go about achieving all the things it had dreamed of doing. Some of it came from that crummy voice that mutters the nasty stuff, “I can’t believe that you thought you could make this work. You don’t even know the first thing about what you’re doing. You’re going to fail. You’re impractical. What made you think that you deserved this?”

Somewhere in between all of that, I came to the shop today and got down to business as normal. And then, it all slipped sideways. Dani always says, “Is it odd, or is it God?”

Was he a prophet, a soothsayer, a convenient pedestrian, a madman, a holy man, a sage, a way-shower? All those things? None of them? I don’t know. I looked up from what I was doing to see a brilliantly sunshine yellow shirt, and a key lanyard that said, “God is awesome” dangling in front of my eyes. He introduced himself as Artemus, and proceeded to tell me all about all of the ventures that he had going for himself – from advertising on the sides of dogs to helping others live their dreams to scouting out new talent. I kept waiting for the pitch.

He asked me what my dreams were. I told him, that ironically, I’d started to live them this week. I told him that I’d decided to leave the known behind and to do all of my “someday, I’ll’s” today. That I was going to build my Reiki practice, and that I intended to try really writing, instead of just playing at it. I wasn’t sure why I was telling all of this to a complete and total (and rather odd) stranger.

He turned to me and said, “Your time has come. The world will meet you.” And then he told me that he was looking for all sorts of things, one of which was love, and said, “I’m a revolutionary.” Then he thanked me, gathered up his dog advertising board and binder and left the way he came. And I stood there, bemused.

And I had that choke-y feeling at the back of my throat that I get when I listen to live music (which calls emotions from me with vibrancy and insistence). I felt like crying – in the good way, the grateful way. I let myself think about it a bit more – the yellow shirt made me think of the solar plexus chakra, our power center. Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, the female warrior, the protectress of women. “God is Awesome.” Indeed. Odd, all the way around.

Maybe I see signs where others see a slightly odd man, or a condiment peddler. Maybe I see just what I’m meant to see, when I’m meant to see it.

Whatever the reality or the truth of the situation may be, what I know and feel to be true is that when I stand there, mewling about my fears and getting bogged down in that feeling of undeservingness, I am sent a sign that is unmistakable and cannot be ignored.

Thanks Artemus. Thanks Mustard Girl. Thanks to all my Strange Angels.

 

 

One Alice chose to leap from the solid ground and follow the white rabbit, that’s when things got interesting. All the hesitating at the edge of the cliff? Everyone does that. It’s the leap that makes waves, makes changes, makes things happen. Creates the resounding ripple through the universe.

The past two weeks, I’ve felt the urge to mutter, “curiouser and curiouser,” hourly. Things have been really intense, and I retreated inward. I had a lot to process – about the decisions I’ve made –  emotionally, that I’d already processed mentally. Mental processing? Psssht! A snap. Emotional processing? Another matter, altogether.

It’s like I am finally able to sit back and see all the threads woven together now. Things that were coming to an end are buttoning themselves up, and resolution is everywhere. And all of that is GOOD. All of that is also accordingly intense.

I’ve been snappish like an old dog on a hot August day – testy, nasty, and plain-old no fun to be around. I’ve craved silence and solitude. I’ve longed for a hermitage somewhere, where I could go and let the wind blow through my hair, and the sun beam on my head, and let all of this stuff just assimilate itself into who I am today, now, in this moment.

The past two weeks, God (in infinite wisdom, I am sure) has taken the opportunity to make the things that are coming to an end SO uncomfortable that I am battered. And that’s okay. I know that the reason I need the battering is because I am so damn stubborn. I am learning, in no uncertain terms and in a way that I will actually remember later when I’m doubtful, why leaving this job is a good idea. Why it is an absolutely fabulously wonderful plan to go out on my own. Why it is so important, so necessary, to stop all my procrastination and dithering and just embrace the me I was always destined to be. Why it’s so damn important to just get on with it already.

The past two weeks have been bruising and horrid so that there was no way I could ever look back at this and fashion for myself some story of martyrdom – so that I’d always remember the honest gut-wrenchingness of it, and know that I made the right decision. So, I’m grateful. I’m applying salve to my wounds, but I’m grateful for the wounds.

The past two weeks have been liberally peppered with all sorts of affirmation, too – for every instance of negative reinforcement, for every single “Ouch! Quit it!” in the old situation, I’ve been given a balm that grows out of the new situation. People have come forward to tell me how wonderful it is that I am doing this (not what I was going for, but thanks all the same – it’s helped). People have affirmed my abilities. The universe has supported my plans with reinforcement from all angles. And I’m grateful.

I was not in this appreciative and magnanimous mood last night. Last night, I was a terror. I was annoyed, and short, and nasty to be around. I was mean to Jeremy, who did not deserve it, and mean to the cat, who never deserves it. I was not fit for polite company, and I was getting sick of myself and the mood in which I’d enveloped myself. So, I did something smart. I walked out the door, determined to return in a better frame of mind.

I walked out across the streets. It was dark, and cool and breezy. It helped to blow off the head of steam I’d built all day. It was quiet. I wandered down the alley behind the shop. I crossed “Love Bridge” behind the place where the farmers’ market is held, and I went to the river. I went to the water. I sat there, in the calm dark and I just listened to the river rushing past.

I brought my journal, thinking I’d purge some of this bleck out of me. The universe is wily and doesn’t pull any punches – as soon as I started recounting my day and bemoaning my state (whine, whine, cry, cry, poor me), my freaking pen died. I am like the best Girl Scout ever created – always prepared, except today. No extra pen. I had to laugh. I did laugh, out loud. Just me and the river and the biggest spiders I’d ever seen in my life.

So I walked around, and let the peace of it seep into my soul. I checked out the abundant and abnormally-sized arachnid population. I watched them at work. I watched them skittering back and forth, weaving patiently through the night, hoping that somehow (having faith) they’d benefit once all these strings had been drawn together. (If you knew me, you’d know that watching spiders usually gives me the heebie-jeebies. But these were outside spiders. That’s their house, and in their house, I’m fascinated by them. In my house, I’m terrified. Illogical, I know.)

I came home with a measure of peace. I hadn’t found a cure-all, but I’d soaked up some measure of solace. I could be nice. Mission accomplished. I could even laugh at myself.

And tonight, I started thinking about where I got all of the ideas for how life should go, and why – for me – certain things scream of “settling,” and why there’s something within me that just won’t abide it. Why I couldn’t just accept my lot, and be content with what I’d had. Why I’d so often felt like a square peg shaving away at its corners to try to squash itself into a round hole. And I remembered. Thoreau.

Thoreau’s writing has always really hit me where I lived. I couldn’t dismiss it the way I could other messages. It was always like he’d written it all, just for me. So I pulled it out, and I reread it – you know the one – THE passage that got to you. Everybody’s got one – if not Thoreau, someone else.

Here’s mine (bear with it, and remember, that the chaff cradles the good stuff):

To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?

We must learn to reawaken and to keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. (Thoreau, “What I Lived For,” Walden)

Thanks, Henry David Thoreau, for daring to be thought a nutter by everyone you knew. Thanks for writing it all down – all the discovery and the struggle and the enlightenment you found. Thanks for fanning that spark within me – that carpe-diem, seize-the-day, life-is-short, burn-brightly spark within me.

I’d rather be speeding down the rabbit hole into the unknown than standing on the edge, looking down and wondering ‘what if.’ I’d rather be hurtling into life, fully present and engulfed by the living of it than seeping away slowly. I’d rather be doing this than what ‘I ought to be doing.’

And every single time I doubt that, I am going to open that book and read that passage. Seize the day people – take chances, dance in public, go after what you want, wring out the pleasure from each moment. Be a brilliant flame. Light the way for others. Don’t look back. Grab your resolve, wry grin in place, and rush, headlong, deep into the moment.

 

 

I would rather be ashes than dust!

I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze

than it should be stifled by dry rot.

I would rather be a superb meteor,

every atom of me in a magnificent glow,

than a sleepy and permanent planet.

The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.

I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.

I shall use my time.

(Jack London)

 

Ever since I was a little girl, there was a quiet knowing, a small urging deep inside me that whispered, “You’re going to be something special. You’re going to do big things.” I think everyone has that little voice inside them, that inner certainty of specialness.

And that little voice, that inner urging, doesn’t let me rest. More accurately: I refuse to stifle it (for long).

When I was younger, my absolutely all-time favorite movie was Dead Poets Society. I think, honestly, that movie is one of the reasons that I taught high school – everyone cringed when I told them that was the age group I wanted to teach. Why do you want them when they’re already so screwed up? There’s no chance to change them.  They’re past molding. They don’t listen. Etc., etc., etc.

I wanted that age group because they were on the cusp – they stood at a great precipice in their own lives and had to make choices, had to make that leap. All that potential for greatness – it inspired me. I didn’t see damaged kids who were already set in stone – I saw kids who had been through the fire, and who would be heading out into the world, ready to start some fires of their own, to heal the burns of others, to mark it in their way. I saw potential.

What I failed to grasp then, was that I’d come to that precipice again and again in my own life. That I’d face that leaping off point more than once – that we all do.

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. (Andre Gide)

Well, I’m standing on that cliff once more, facing the unknown. Knowing that the discomfort of staying on solid ground had finally outweighed my fear of taking that leap. I’m tired of listening to that other voice inside me that says I’ll fail, that I can’t-won’t-shouldn’t. I’m tired of allowing fear to make all my important decisions for me.

All of those “Someday, I’ll….” statements? Well, I’m doing them, now. Someday kept moving farther and farther away. And I had to get real with myself and decide – was I ever going to reach out and grab any of this? When?

Today.

I quit my “regular” job yesterday. I gave 30 days notice. I stood on the cliff, looked out, and leapt. I have no idea what will come of this – but something will! I will have tried – really tried! – and not only invested half of me, while the other part clings to some illusion of safety.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a great adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable. (Helen Keller)

I’ve had to look hard at myself, at my life, at what I believe. I’ve had to point fingers at what wasn’t working. And I had to ask myself, if when I lay down to die, would I be at peace with this? Would I feel that I had come and done all that I wanted to do, all that I’d longed to do?

Yesterday, as I girded myself to make that change, I wrote this in my journal:

God, please go with me as I enter the unknown. I trust You to guide me; I trust You to give me strength against the challenges to come. In trust and faith, I place my well-being in Your hands.  Amen

“Someday” is today.

 

The other day, Jeremy (my fiancé) and I had an argument, and I gave lack of confidence as a reason (excuse) for my behavior in the situation. He, incredulous, turned to me and said, “I ran 400 miles away from my family, my hometown, and my past. You stayed here with all these same people, took it on the chin, and kept going. Don’t tell me you’re not confident! You’re one of the most confident people I’ve ever met.”

Where do I begin? My first thought was, “That’s a lie. I’m not confident. That’s bravado and stubbornness disguised as confidence.” My second thought was, “He really thinks that about me?” And my third thought was, “I never really had a choice.” In many ways, I see what he did as brave – venturing off to try his fortunes all on his own – and what I did as “cowardly,” I guess.

I suppose that one of the main reasons I “stayed here and took it on the chin” was that, in my family, there is no running away. They will come get you – if not physically, then emotionally. I was too well trained to the family expectations to go haring off to Ireland as I longed to do. When my life crumbled around me, I heaved a sigh (well, a few hundred sighs, actually), squared my shoulders and kept marching.

At the time, I’d thought that I’d changed dramatically – and I had. Everything I believed about myself, about others, about the nature of life and love and relationship, about reality, about success and failure, about individuality, about “good” and “bad” had changed. Everything had changed. I had changed.

I just hadn’t changed as much as I thought.

The moment we try to please another and abandon our own truth for theirs, we essentially hand our power to them, violate our own integrity, cut ourselves off from our inner wisdom, and – at least for a while – disconnect from our ability to love and nurture ourselves. (Betty Ford)

I was the Good Daughter. I did my duty. I tried not to disappoint my parents – I followed the code of behavior they laid out (both written and unwritten). I was very good at covering up misbehavior and lying “for their own good.” (Honestly, there are some things that parents don’t want to know their children are doing, that the majority of kids end up doing).

I exceeded expectations. I developed a strong perfectionistic streak. I attended all functions, I said the right things to the right people. I worked a LOT – too much (important in our family – being jobless for any reason is “shameful” – along with a lot of other things). Wherever they stated an expectation, or where one was unspoken, I not only tried to meet it – I tried to do it perfectly, so that I would be “beyond reproach.”

When being a “good girl” or a “good boy” becomes a way of life, we can be sure that exhaustion will accumulate, resentments will build, desperation and neediness will increase, and we’ll travel deeper into the land of victim consciousness. (Betty Ford)

So, when my life fell apart, when living by all those codes and rules didn’t automatically guarantee success, security and safety, I questioned everything. I suppose I went through a sort of “second adolescence.” I rebelled against expectations, figuring that if it was impossible to meet their standards, I’d do whatever I damn well pleased and pretty much courted displeasure as much as I courted their pleasure before.

And then the pendulum swung again. And I realized that in courting their displeasure, I was destroying my relationships with my family. I had to find the “happy medium.” At first, I thought that I’d just swung too far the other way (from people-pleaser to people-displeaser), but it’s really not that simple. All that I’d really changed were the externals. The circumstances, the situations, the conditions. Deep down, I was still aiming to eventually shine in my parents’ eyes, and in everyone’s eyes.

And now, I think I’m finally starting to “get it.” I didn’t take things far enough. I changed my course of action, but I never really changed my reasons for acting or my rationale. I never went deep enough. I hadn’t touched what Dani calls “my core foundational beliefs.” And I realize that until I do that, nothing will really change. 

Now, I’m working to try to rewrite that story. Recast myself. Discover what it’s like to do something just because it’s what you want to do – and not because you know that action will get you the pat on the head. I’m trying to imagine my way towards what it means to be me – without the people-pleasing.

 

 

Perfectionism is slow death. (Hugh Prather)

I separate all of my M&Ms by color, and then I eat each color in groups of three. I wish I were kidding. For the longest time, I really thought that this, among many other things, was simply quirky. I’m not so sure anymore.

There is a proper way to fold everything: large and medium bathroom towels get folded one way, hand towels another way, washcloths another way. I have another method for folding the towels and washcloths for the kitchen. There is a proper way to fold sheets, jeans, to tuck socks together. And all of these right ways are set up in a little system of rules in my head. Part of me argues the point that I’ve just figured out the neatest way to fold everything so that it fits into the space we have for it, and another part of me realizes that the preciseness with which I accomplish these tasks is a bit neurotic.

The other day at the shop, I was cutting apart my printed blog posts and securing them into my journal. I saw nothing odd about this. I cut them into pieces, then glue stick the pieces into place, and then cut tiny little strips of tape to secure the corners and kind of ensure (more) that they won’t fall out (someday).

Dani was standing next to me, watching: “What are you doing?” I told her. “But why are you taping them in? They’re already in.” I explained. She watched for a few moments more, and then just burst, “I can’t even watch this! It’s like, sick! It’s driving me crazy!” And off she went. I could kind of tell that it was getting to her – like nails on a chalkboard – but I kept going out of perverseness, I suppose.

My logic? No one but me really understands it. It’s another little code, another little set of rules. The title of this blog? Dreamphemera, alluding to the inescapable brevity of the human experience. Me including my (by nature ephemeral) blogs into my (less ephemeral) journals? That, I suppose, is me railing against that – me shouting into the darkness, saying that I, somehow, will circumvent the end we all come to and leave a legacy of some sort. That I will find a way to control that, too.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

I’ve been thinking a LOT about all these little rules and codes, and unspoken taboos lately – these quirky little habits are like the visible tip of an insidious iceberg. Beneath the surface lurk all sorts of other little rules and codes for behavior, tasks, food, conversation, relationships, etc. AAARGH.

I’m frustrated. It’s frustrating. The more I think about all of it, the more I realize that it really is all about control, and the urge to feel safe. If I control the outcome and all the players, then it will be known, and therefore, safe. What utter hooey.

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. (Anna Quindlen)

I am a total perfectionist. While Dani watched me cutting those strips of tape for my blogs, she saw me as doing each one uniformly, with uniform motion – all that I could see was that this strip was too big, that one too small, this one inserted crookedly.

This is something that’s been coming up for me consistently the past few weeks – first with the small things, the little routines, the subtle habits. And then, I started thinking about it on a deeper level – and I could see that it was like a fungus that had spread throughout the entire block of cheese, unseen. The only things I’d noticed were the quirky things that people commented on – all of the deeper stuff? I got real good at blaming it on something else (all excuses).

When you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target. (George Fisher)

Then Wittler and I had a conversation last night – issues resulting from one of the subtler and more damaging ways I “seek perfection” needed discussing. It was an awkward conversation. I had a hard time being honest. I wasn’t totally honest. And it didn’t feel good. Afterward, I lay in bed, studying the ceiling in the dark, and dwelling on it.

And came up with a few things:
Perfectionism is about control, not about seeking excellence.

Perfectionism kills creativity.

Perfectionism kills relationships.

Control is about avoiding fear and pain.

Controlling outcomes is an effort to feel secure.

Control is an illusion.

Security is an illusion.

I don’t want to do this anymore.

On this path, fumbling towards mastery, out here where everyone can watch, I’ve encountered challenges, I’ve changed mindsets and behaviors, I’ve worked on me, and all the stuff surrounding me. This is a tough one.

I couldn’t be honest in our conversation last night, because I felt like Linus. As though someone had asked me to set down my blankie, and walk the rest of my days without it, naked.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor. (Anne Lamott)

If I don’t get honest about this with myself, I won’t be able to be honest with Wittler. And if I’m going to be honest, giving up this way, this control, terrifies me. Even though I can intellectually know that control is an illusion, giving that up just scares me to death. What do I put in place of it? And how can I ever hope to truly thrive, to truly grow, if I am so busy making sure that everything is in its appointed place, and done in the approved way?

I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it. (Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird)

 Maybe it’s time to start relaxing into the fumbles.

Come have a look through my kaleidoscope eyes. Come walk with me, as I make my way down the Path of Mastery (complete with fits and starts and pitstops and potholes). Our very impermanence is what makes us burn so brightly, and struggle so valiantly, and feel so deeply – it’s what makes us seize the day, and the moment. Come in, settle in, share a moment with me.

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"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)