Saturday, October 13, 2012

It is Okay to Celebrate Myself. Really.

Birthdays have long been kind of weird for me.  Feeling like this is finally a day when I deserve attention, but not knowing how to accept positive attention, feeling like I have to brush it off and make it seem like it's not a big deal so I don't seem full of myself.

Last year on my birthday, as I was reading through the lovely birthday wishes that friends had posted on my facebook wall, trying to decide whether or not to thank each one individually or if that would make it seem like *I* was paying too much attention to the attention. . . I became aware of a curious feeling within my body.  It was as if each "Happy Birthday!" was pulling the string of a motor inside my stomach- much like you pull the string of a lawn mower to start it.  As I read each loving wish, I felt almost a vibrating, a stirring of butterflies, a light beginning to spin.  And then, like a lawnmower that hasn't had its string pulled quite hard enough, it would stop.  Each time I read a new wish I would feel this way, and I wondered what that feeling was about? 

The right to be happy that I was born.

Really?  At first I was confused, and then the understanding started to sink in.  On some level, I felt that if enough other people were happy that I was here on this Earth, then I could be happy about it too.  Each "Happy Birthday!" was bringing me closer to what I thought was a "tipping point", where I could finally stand up and say "I'm happy I'm here, too!" and it would be okay because enough other people felt the same way- it wasn't just that I was stuck up or thought too highly of myself.  But until I reached that tipping point I had to stay unhappy about being here, I had to keep my head down, I had to be meek and modest and downplay all of their happy wishes for me, because I didn't deserve them.

And then a switch flipped in me.  Because gosh darn it, what if no one else in the world was happy that I was born, what if they all thought the world would have been better off without me- couldn't *I* choose to be happy to be here?  Couldn't I chose to delight in the experiences I get to have, the breaths I get to take, the beauty I get to see?  Even if they don't see a single positive thing that has come from my birth, can't I choose to be happy simply because I am alive?  And a phrase popped into my head-

It is okay for me to celebrate myself, I don't have to wait for others to do it.

And I went over and wrote it on my white board where I write quotes and things that inspire me.  And I felt a little nervous and a little excited at the same time.  ;) 

See, I'm not a big celebrater.  I do pretty well being grateful for things as they come, seeing the awesome in the day-in-day-out type stuff, but celebrations- parties, holidays, etc- tend to make me nervous.  I mean, they're fun and all but the lead up is stressful, there are often too many people around who converse only in small talk, food to be prepared, best behavior to be on. . .  But I started to see that, if I were the only one who was happy I was here, then I could celebrate my own existence in my own way.  Celebrating myself could just mean being with myself in a loving and excited way, to honor my true self and my decision to come here to this planet, to rejoice in all of the amazing things I get to experience because I am on this Earth and I have a body to experience it with!  To fill myself with love and joy so fully that the party would be IN me, just me, myself, and I marveling at this existence.  And that motor in my stomach that was trying to start before, that couldn't get going on the love of others, started to ever so quietly and gently hum under the power of my own love.  The only power that could actually get it started.

Looking back over the past year, I can see how I started to slowly, very slowly relax into that possibility, into that realization that I can celebrate myself and the fact that I am here without having to wait for others to do it first.  And really, how on earth can other people celebrate my true self when I'm not happy enough with it to even share it with them?  My most recent birthday was earlier this week, and the change from last year to this both amazes me and leaves me grinning.  Oh, I'm still not fully there, I still look to others to get my motor started at times, but I am at least conscious of it now so it's easier to shift from thinking it has to be an outside job to remembering that it's an inside job.  Always is.  And I have finally embodied that enough to paint it.

A fantastic thing happened this year- my dear friend birthed an amazing BIG soul into a new tiny body on the same date that I was birthed.  I have a new awesome birthday buddy!  And while in the past I would have felt sorry for the poor guy to have to share a birthday with me, this year I am overjoyed to get to share such a special day with such a special guy.  I'm so glad he's here on this planet!  And for maybe the first time, I'm so glad I am too!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bad Must Come Before Good?

Hoo boy this summer has been intense!  So much time just riding the waves, or deep underwater, or feeling like the world is turning on it's head that I haven't really had the ability to sit and write here.  But tonight I'm feeling it so out some words come.  :)

Have you ever heard the phrase "Suffering is optional"?  Or been told that you can have and create wonderful things without struggling to get them?  That life can be all ease and grace even while you're learning new things?  That you don't have to work hard for what you want, you just have to allow it?

Those are common themes in self-help materials, especially those focused towards the Law of Attraction and energy/vibration.  I've read and heard those types of things for YEARS.  And while part of me has said "Oh yes, that makes perfect sense!" another part of me has crossed her arms and said "Bull S#%t".

I've pondered on this many times, this subconscious dedication that I seem to have to suffering.  I've felt for a long time that part of me has actually enjoyed the suffering, not because of how it felt but because of what it meant.  It meant that I was getting to see how strong I was.  It meant that I was learning or growing or developing a lot.  It meant that I deserved any help that others might be willing to give me.  And it meant that I was REALLY earning any good things that were coming to me after the suffering was over.

Take someone who appears to have easily gotten everything good in their life.  More than their peers, even.  They just seem to walk through life with gifts laid at their feet.  They tend to be the target of resentment and jealousy, snide comments behind their back about how it's not fair how easy life is for them.  But people who have suffered or whose good things have come after a horrible event, they are looked upon with love and comfort that at least they got some good after the horrors they endured.  At some point I saw these two patterns and subconsciously (or maybe even consciously depending on how old I was) decided that it is safer to get good things AFTER bad things happen.

And really, that message is prevalent in our culture, too.  Bad first, then you're allowed to have good.  "No pain, no gain".  The idea that if you work hard for 12+ years in school, especially if school is hard for you, then at the end you will have earned yourself the ability to have a good life in the "real world" and then you can be happy.  The harder you work, the better your reward.  I got the message in church that life was meant to be endured, the more you suffered on Earth, the more you would be given in heaven.  "Keep your nose to the grindstone".  (Can I say ouch?)  You have to punish children and make them feel bad about themselves so they will grow into good, kind adults.  You must deprive yourself of the things you like to eat so your body can be beautiful.

I was thinking about this the other day, and some phrases came to mind.  I used EFT to work through them, and felt much freer afterwards.
-I must always be working hard for good things to happen.
-If I slack off and do something I enjoy then good things won't happen because I haven't worked hard enough.
-If it's fun and easy then you're not doing enough.
-If you're poor and smiling you're not doing enough, only rich people are allowed to be happy.
-Your life has to be struggle, struggle, struggle until you have earned good things and then you can be happy.
-If I want amazing things in my life, I must first go through amazing pain.
So, in a nutshell, everyone has to start out miserable and working hard at whatever it is that someone else says they should be doing, and then eventually, if you toil enough, someone will come along, tap your shoulder and free you from the pain so you can skip off and be happy and free.

Yeah, I realize it may sound crazy, but subconscious beliefs often are!  I really enjoy uncovering these beliefs, because it helps me see with greater clarity WHY I often do things that make no logical sense ;), and gives me the opportunity to chose something different.  How do I want bad and good to relate to each other?  Do I want to struggle before good things can happen?  Can I allow good things to happen without being required to get mired in muck first?  It also gives me the opportunity to thank a part of me that has been working so very hard for so very long to keep me as safe as possible.  Even if I don't like what has happened because it was trying to keep me safe, I can love it and appreciate its hard work.  And find a greater capacity for compassion for myself.

Then again, maybe that belief that I picked up wasn't just crazy old me jumping to conclusions.  We talk about how we must finish our work before playing, students in school who have demonstrated extra effort may get to take some time to do something fun that others don't get to do, heck, isn't that the whole concept of retirement?  Work hard at something that you may or may not enjoy for 40+ years and then you earn the right to do what you want with your time? 

So is there a different way?  Is there another option?  Is it possible that those phrases at the beginning of this blog post could be true?  And if so, how would that look?

Do you have anything that comes easy to you, that you love so much that working at it is more like play?  And when other people go on an on about how wonderful and amazing it is, you feel a bit guilty that you didn't work HARD enough on it?  HARD WORK should be unpleasant, yes?  The more you want to run away but stick with it, the more value it has?  The amount of blood, sweat, and tears you put into it determines its worth?  A project that you worked on for two days straight is inherently better than one that took you 30 minutes?

What would life be like without those beliefs?  What would "work" look like if we didn't believe that we HAD to endure a period of intense unpleasantness before we could get to the good stuff?  Sometimes it may happen, yes, and maybe the project we put the most blood, sweat, and tears into ends up being our favorite.  But it doesn't HAVE to be that way!  It could be that the project that just effortlessly flowed from our fingertips ends up being the favorite, and most impactful, and most celebrated.  But we likely won't even allow ourselves to see it that way if we keep focusing on work=amount of uncomfortable effort=worth.

I love this quote, and my level of understanding continues to deepen the more I try to live my life by it-

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don't need to escape from.” 

                                        - Seth Godin

What if my greatest gift to the world, the greatest impact and service and place within humanity is that which comes easiest to me?  If I believe that work has to be hard to do any good, I'll likely look elsewhere when choosing my career, to something else that I struggle with more.  Or if I do go into the field that comes easiest to me, I will probably undervalue what I do because it is just so much fun.  What if we judged our true vocation by how much fun it is?  What if the more we enjoyed working on a project the more worth it had? 

Oooh, so many "What if. . .?"s!  The more I ask the clearer my own path is becoming, the more options and opportunities I see.  Yay for getting closer to a life that has new good things without HAVING to have bad things first!  Heh, I can feel myself becoming more open to new things in general since loosening the need to have the bad justify the good!  Mmmmm, it will be FUN to see where this goes!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Out Of My Body

I've been feeling the strong desire to run away lately.  The type of running away that involves hole-ing myself up in a room and ignoring everyone, and escaping into a book.  Or watching a movie marathon (SO wanting to watch all of the Harry Potters back to back!) and not taking care of any physical responsibilities, like cooking or cleaning.  Or even losing myself in deep thought.  Engaging myself in the philosophical and spiritual world that I've kept separate from my "real" life.  The stuff that feels so right and just pours out of me when writing to someone online, but that has a difficult time coming out of my mouth in a way that makes sense to other people when talking face to face.

I know my body can't go anywhere, but my mind and my spirit sure can!  I can leave my body here and go play out in the ethers.  Oh, it is so fun out there, you know!  Spiritual laws are so much more lovely than physical ones, and much more enjoyable.  Where love heals all things, creation takes but a thought, where there is no time, only this moment,  there IS a purpose and meaning to everything, and we are all filled with this divine light and wisdom.  Being in the physical, sometimes it's easy to forget them.  Easy to feel like they don't exist, that the only thing that does exist is pain and suffering because that's what keeps popping up.  The physical world is so dense, so separate.  It can feel imprisoning.  The spiritual world is so free and expansive!

I often see physical manifestations of my "inside" world, especially when something is really taking a lot of my focus, or even more when that thing is trying to get my attention so I WILL focus on it so I can work through it and release it.  Last week I found this sunflower in my garden.  I've never seen a half orange, half red sunflower before.  The other sunflowers of this type have red in the center and orange on the outside, or vice versa.  I stood looking at this one with wonder for a long time, pondering it's existence in my garden.  And then I got it.  Split in half.  I feel split in half.  Absolutely.

Lately I've been wrestling with the question of how to be both fully spirit and fully physical.  It feels like I've split myself most of my life- I have my day to day physical stuff and I have my "out there" spiritual/philisophical self.  I often feel deep in the "out there" side when doing things like journaling or looking at the sky or whatever, and then I get yanked back into the physical side when people talk to me or my kids fight or I have an alarm that brings my attention back to time.  I have absolutely been accused of daydreaming, "having my head in the clouds", not hearing when other people talk to me. . .  I feel like I can't live the expansive, spiritual side because there is no proof that it exists, other people can't see it or touch it or verify that my experience is real.  That's probably why I stopped breathing for a bit and started crying during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Dumbledore said "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

This past year I have been developing my "out there" side more, trusting that abilities and feelings that I have are okay, perfect even, even though at points in my life I have been told otherwise by other people.  I have also been developing the physical world around me- gardening, becoming the caretakers of 23 guineas and 10 ducks (hopefully more soon!)  Making plans for our farm and working to figure out how we can make a living off/with our land.  Digging in the dirt a lot.  And then there's my paintings that feel like they're a bridge between the two, a chance to make physical that which otherwise only exists in my feelings or mind or heart. 

I've had this piece partially done for a few months and was just able to finish it last week.  It's called "Out Of My Body".  I feel drawn to do a series showing the process of a spirit being as separate from the body as it can be, choosing to be outside of the body as much as possible, then progressively becoming more and more embodied until the spirit and the body are one, fully in balance and harmony.  I have no clue what the rest of the series will look like because I feel like I'm here right now, preferring to be out of my body.  There have been other times where I have felt like my spirit has been in my body much more fully, but I'm having a hard time seeing that at the moment.  I'm just not there right now. 

I have been hard on myself this past week about how much I want to run away, how I keep hearing "I don't want to be here!" in my head.  How much I want to retreat into a different world, into someone else's life through stories or movies.  I normally don't have much "screen time" because I feel like it distracts me from my real life, but lately I've been craving it.  We've watched the third and fourth Harry Potter, the first and second Matrix, and John Carter of Mars.  And I've been feeling guilty that we've eaten dinner in front of the tv for so many nights in a row, guilty for wanting to enter their worlds instead of staying in my own.  Today that dissolved somewhat when I realized that although sometimes I AM running away from my life so I can forget about the pain and the problems and the discomfort, at other times it's about immersing myself in a world of infinite possibilities so when I go back to my world, I can see my pain and problems in a different light.  Which can actually be really beneficial!  After all, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them," as Einstein said.  

It's comforting to escape into stories because I have this trust that everything will turn out right in the end.  That no matter what the problem is, everything will resolve in a way that feels good at some point.  Would I want to actually live Harry Potter's life?  No, I honestly don't think I'd be brave enough, I think I'd hide in a corner and cry more than the story allows for.  My habits of freezing in fear and digging in my heels just wouldn't allow everything to flow as it needs to.  But I love the stories, and the situations don't terrify me as much as they would in real life because I'm coming into the story with this trust that it will all work out.  And maybe that's what I'm trying to find by wanting to run away to them right now- the deep and complete trust that everything will be okay in my own life.  I do have that trust to some degree, but not to the same degree as when reading a story.  So maybe that's the goal- the trust that if I cast off all fear and actually do extraordinary things everything will be okay, just as if I were a character in a book.  

Maybe that's the key to choosing to be in my body, to combine both spirit and physical.  Trust.  Trust that I can be in my body AND be okay even though it can be incredibly painful.  I can be okay while it is painful.  Trust that I will be safe even though I can't see the big picture.  Trust that my spirit and my body can work together as equal partners and neither one will get squelched or suppressed.  Trust that my spirit can stay intact in all of it's expansive amazingness while being contained in a physical vessel.  Trust that I CAN be my true self while on this planet, I don't have to hide it by trying to run away and never show it to anyone.  It is SAFE to be FULLY ME.  

It is going to take some processing and releasing to get to that last sentence, but the relief I felt from writing it tells me I'm on the right track!  Maybe I don't have to run away anymore.  :)  It is SAFE to be FULLY ME.  I WANT to be FULLY ME.  I CHOOSE to be FULLY ME.  I AM FULLY ME in this body, on this planet, in this moment right now.  Wow.  :')

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Being Powerful

Tonight our whole family watched the new American Girl movie on tv-

I have really enjoyed all of the American Girl movies so far (the Samantha movie is my favorite!) and this one was no exception.  The feelings that kept coming up for me while watching, which really had nothing to do with the movie itself and more to do with my own "stuff", were all around how much I missed having a powerful body.  Remembering how awesomely strong I felt when doing back handsprings and swinging on the bars and running towards the vault with all my might and then flying into the air.  Oh, my body remembers those feelings! 

I did gymnastics for a couple of years in middle school, during a break in swimming.  I never got "really good", only competed at the first level, and was much taller than most of the other girls on the team.  But it was FUN, and I look back on that time fondly. 

Being powerful has been on my mind a lot lately, it's definitely something I've been processing through.  And remembering how it felt to have a powerful body just brought up a whole 'nother level for me surrounding the power I have and have not had!  Growing up, like most kids, I didn't have a whole lot of power in my life.  Didn't have too many decisions I got to make, not big ones at least, just had to do what I was told and what was expected of me.  I have realized that I learned back then that the only power I DID have was to resist.  Going somewhere I didn't want to go?  I couldn't say no, but I could make us late.  I didn't have the power to create opportunities, but I could break them down, refuse to participate.  I had power when I was angry, and that was probably one of the only times adults would actually stop and listen to me (or at least that's how it felt).  If I said I really liked something, or wanted something to happen, then it was possible that that thing would be used to manipulate me into doing something they wanted.  Those ponies are your favorites?  Then they will be the first thing we threaten to take away unless you do what we ask.  Really want to go to the zoo?   Then you have to do everything we ask leading up to it or yo might not get to go.  Eventually I learned to hide the things I truly loved, those that made me come alive.  It's been a journey getting to know that feeling again.

And before you think my parents were horrible monsters; really, they were just doing what they were told that "good parents" do.  Reward and punish.  Make sure your child grows up to be a good person by getting them to do what they're supposed to.  Show them you're boss!

This past week I got to watch an aspect of the way we make children powerless during a reptile show at the library.  The librarian told us that the guy only picked kids who were sitting very still and quiet, and he didn't pick kids who raised their hands.  W tried SO HARD during the show to do just that.  Lots of kids would raise their hands, and the guy would say "Put your hands down!" not because everyone would get a turn, but because he didn't care if people WANTED a turn or not, in fact he seemed to delight in calling people up who did NOT want to touch the reptiles.  E got picked to hold a snake right at the beginning of the show.  She did really well.  I was so proud of her, because when the guy asked if she wanted a nose tickle (rubbing the snake's nose on the person's nose) she said "no" because she didn't.  He tried cajoling her many times, and still she stayed firm in her "no" and eventually he gave up and she sat down.  My mother-in-law (and many others) did NOT stand so firm in their "no"s and he took the wavering as permission to shove the snake in their faces anyway.  He seemed to delight in freaking people out, and I was afraid a couple times that he was going to put a pregnant woman into labor because he kept shoving creatures into her face that she was OBVIOUSLY terrified of, but he continued anyway.  L ended up holding an alligator, and W wasn't picked at all.  He was so sad, especially since he had tried so hard to behave in a way that would make it more likely that he would get picked.  Afterwards the librarian said he mostly picks the little cute kids and rarely picks the big ones, anyway.  That didn't lessen his disappointment.  And it just struck me how powerless the audience was during the show.  If you really wanted to participate, there was really no way to make it more likely to happen, and even if you didn't want to participate, unless you stood very firm in your "no" he didn't really give you the choice.  The audience was basically at the mercy of his whims.

And really, this is how many of us grew up, and many kids are growing up now.  Kids don't have the power to do or change much in our culture.  Sure they can choose their clothes (kind of) and maybe what activities they engage in, but for the most part we let kids know that they are NOT in charge of their own lives, they have to do what they are told when they are told, they have to associate with people they many not like at all, have to listen to someone who may be incredibly disrespectful to them, have to spend their time doing things that may not interest them at all, eat what is put in front of them, and live with the possibility that "their" things may be taken away for not doing what someone else expected.  Yes, children have power in that they can "choose" to do these things, but what if they don't want to?  What if they absolutely hate their teacher?  Sorry, hopefully you'll get a better one next year.  (An adult could switch jobs, or file a complaint).  What if they really want to study the ocean?  Or want to take the math equations a few steps further?  Sorry, have to wait until those come up in the curriculum.  (An adult could change careers, and hopefully would, if the subject matter bored him/her to tears).  Really hate what's for dinner?  Then go to bed hungry.  (If an adult finds him/herself at someone elses house for dinner and what is served is inedible, there is always the option of buying or making something else later).  The only real power children have in these type of situations is to "do the right thing" no matter how they feel about it, or resist and refuse.  For the most part they don't have the ability to actually create what they want in their lives.  And some people may say that that's the way it has to be for children.  Even if I agreed with that, the problem is that there is no "magic age" where a person suddenly HAS power, and most of us carry these attitudes of powerlessness into our adult lives and continue to live as if someone or something outside of us is still calling the shots.  And for the most part, it's not, we're just caught in this invisible cage and choose to stay there because we don't realize that there are other options.

I've been aware of my habit of resisting for quite awhile.  When life tries to head me in one direction I put on the brakes.  If I feel like too many things are pulling me in a direction, or in different directions, I refuse to do anything until that pressure has lessened and I feel like I am acting out of my own free will.  If someone tells me I have to do something, even if I was headed towards that thing and WANTED to do it, I'll very often refuse to do it then on principle, even though I will then be missing out on something that I actually wanted.  These reactions aren't conscious most of the time, it's not until I stop and look outside of the reaction that I notice what's going on.

I realized earlier this year that it feels like the way for me to be the MOST powerful is to resist life, refuse to go where life is pushing me.  Ha ha, life!  You tried to make me but you couldn't!  Look who's in charge now!  Um, yeah.  The metaphor that life is a river really resonates with me, and I easily see myself clinging to the grasses on the shore, yelling and fighting against the current trying to push me downstream.  "You can't make me!"  After awhile I may get comfortable and decide that I'd like to move somewhere else so I'll let go and float down the river for a bit until I freak out and grab something and start fighting again.  But staying IN the river is just too terrifying.  To feel like I'm being tossed about with no control at all, at the mercy of the current.  No thank you.  I like to know where I'm going, see the big picture! 

Because of unschooling I have learned that there is an option when it comes to power and children.  Instead of having power OVER children, we can have power WITH them.  Having power with them means working together so everyone can get what they want and need out of situations, it means that what children want, what they are interested in, what they would prefer, actually is important and worthwhile, and therefore, what I want and am interested in and prefer is important as well.  Expectations and societal rules and "the way it's done" don't HAVE to rule our lives.  We DO have the power to choose what we want, where to go, how we live. 

So a few months ago, when I was deep in fighting life, it hit me that I could decide to have power WITH life as well.  I wasn't exactly sure what that meant, how it looked, but it FELT good.  So I decided to paint it.  I sketched it at first and wasn't completely satisfied but decided to paint it anyway.  The resulting painting felt both good and a bit unsettling, but I wasn't sure why.

It has been sitting on my dresser ever since.  Repeating the words feels good, and the colors feel really good, but it wasn't until tonight, after watching the movie, that I understood why it didn't feel quite right.  I couldn't figure out how to portray having power WITH life, so I put the leaf there because at least it wasn't stopping the flow of life like the rock was.  But the leaf wasn't really having power with life, it was just along for the ride.  And while releasing the resistance is a good thing, and the releasing itself is a powerful act, the leaf had no way of interacting with life and directing its course at all. 

When I realized that, I picked up the painting, and noticed the one below it.  It is a painting that I made while playing around with a children's book that is trying to be written through me.  And it hit me that swimming WITH the current would be an excellent way to work WITH life!  And how when you get used to moving that fast, it's easier to direct where you're going and you feel less like a ping pong ball being bounced along on the waves.  Releasing the resistance and directing attention and intention to what we want.  I GET IT now!  LOL.  And how perfect that the image that brought about this realization is one that I have been called to focus on a couple of times in the last week.  So working with life would mean diving into editing the story (that I wrote stream of consciousness) and creating more images.  Yeah, I think I can do that.  *Deep Breath*

I definitely want to focus in feeling powerful in my body again as well.  Because of the movie my kids are interested in gymnastics, and honestly I'd love to be able to do a back walkover again.  You know, just for the heck of it.  ;)  We do have a yoga studio in town, that would help me start using my body and getting flexible again.  Flexible, awesome, that's releasing resistance in the body!  Hoo boy, there's a lot getting loosened up and moving over here tonight!

How do you tend to react to life?  Resist and shut down?  Run ahead (or away) as fast as you can?  Do you have power WITH life?  If not, any ideas of how you can?

Ooh, these new possibilities are exciting!  :D

Friday, June 15, 2012

Never Enough

This post has been in bits and pieces for over a year.  I'd write some and then just not be able to finish it.  I feel like I can now!

A year ago we adopted two cats.  It turns out that one of them was pregnant.  She wasn't much older than a kitten herself, and the poor thing got so huge she couldn't even clean her own bottom!  She had five kittens.  When the kittens were about three weeks old, I noticed one night that the mama cat (Bubbles) was acting strange- twitching and crying and she had a fever.  Turns out she had what is called "milk fever" which is when the mama doesn't have enough calcium in her body for both herself and her babies, and she develops eclampsia, which can quickly lead to paralysis and death.  We took her to the vet and got her stabilized, and we were told she couldn't nurse the kittens any more.  So we started bottle feeding them, and I would let her in after their bellies were full so she could try to top them off, and more importantly, she could clean their bottoms and help them defecate because I wasn't having any luck with a wet washcloth!  At the times when she had to be separated from them, she would sit outside their door and cry, and clean any paw that they stuck out at her, and when we opened the door she would rush in, calling to them, trying to lick them all at the same time, and then settling down to nurse them.   She was such a dedicated, giving, self-sacrificing mama.  And it almost killed her. And we had to keep her from doing what she wanted to do most in the world because if she did, she may have gotten past the point where she had nothing left to give.

Watching this, being the surrogate milk feeder, trying to keep them all healthy AND happy, had me reflecting on my own mothering journey. And it brought up for examination a BIG subconscious belief- "the more I sacrifice for my children, the better mother I am". Wow. And I could see it, in my reluctance to leave my kids with ANYONE (including their father) so I could take care of myself, or be by myself. There was always been this knot in my stomach about leaving them, and about doing things for me, and I didn't know what it was. It was that belief. Because if I stopped doing for them and started doing for me for a bit, that put me closer to the middle of the scales that weigh out the good moms and the bad ones. And I just wasn't comfortable being there, in that wobbly zone. All the images and voices I had stored in me of what a good mom is- the one who gives the choicest cuts of meat and best food to her husband and children, and takes what's left for herself. The one who "would do anything for her children". I never wanted my children to be able to look back and say that I didn't care about them. I wanted them to look back and see how I gave EVERYTHING to them, so whether they're happy with the way I raised them or not, at least I never held back. 

Just recently I've realized there is another piece to this.  The desire to have given enough, done enough, sacrificed enough, that NO ONE would be able to look at my life and say that I should have done something else, or didn't do enough, or should have done more. That even if something went wrong, no one could say that it was because I didn't do something I obviously should have.  Sometimes there has been this desire to do it "by the book", do everything to the most extreme, to the letter of the theory (this has come up around food especially) so that if the results I'd hoped for didn't happen, it's at least not because I didn't try hard enough.  At the root of all of this was the desperate need for others to see me as a good mom, or at least not see me as a bad mom.  A desperate need to prevent anyone from criticizing me.  Because if I truly "get it right" then there will be nothing to criticize, right?

As much as that may have been true in school (if I followed the rubric and gave the teacher all that was requested, then the teacher would have no reason for criticizing) it's just not true in real life.  I could completely sacrifice everything for my children, give them everything they needed, been completely focused on them so much that I completely neglected myself, I could even DIE for them, and if our story ended up on the Huffington Post, there is no guarantee that there would be no hecklers.  How many martyrs in history still get criticized?  Heck, according to the Bible Jesus died for all the people in the world, but that doesn't stop people from talking negatively.  My freshman year in high school, our band director talked about "Joe Schmoe Popcorn Eater"- the guy sitting up in the stands who couldn't have cared less about the band and who quite honestly never may, no matter how dazzling and amazing a performance he saw. 

Criticism does not feel good.  We are trained to avoid it- if we do the "right" thing we get praised, if we do the "wrong" thing we get criticized.  Great behavior modification technique.  It has brought many of us to where we are today.  Tried something, got brutally made fun of and laughed at, and we decided we'd never do it again.  For some of us all it took was someone rolling their eyes at us.  Or dead silence after we poured out our hearts.  It didn't feel good, so we decided to avoid it.  The thing is, it is NOT possible to actually live life in a way that prevents us from ever being made fun of, ever criticized, ever seen by someone else as "wrong".  And attempting to live that way is a little bit like living in a cave and just scuttling out to grab something necessary every once and awhile, and completely missing the beauty of the sky and the trees because we're so intent on avoiding getting stepped on.  Some of us have tried to carry protection around with us in many forms, but it often ends up slowing us down and we live life inching along at a snail's pace while we long for the freedom to swoop and soar like the birds, but not enough to let go of the shell.

I've known for a long time that it's impossible to please 100% of people 100% of the time, yet part of me has still tried to make it happen.  And I realize how much of my life has been wasted trying to live in a way that others will approve of.  When my focus has been on preventing others from criticizing me, I've been too afraid to be true to myself and allow myself to embody who I truly am.  It's impossible to feel confident, secure, and peaceful in what I am doing when one eye is watching out for the person who is going to pull the rug out from under me. And I WANT to feel confident, secure, and peaceful in what I am doing!  A freedom came to me when I realized that no matter what I do, it will never be enough to prevent others from criticizing.  I can never get to the point where I am "enough" in the eyes of others so they will leave me alone.  There will never be a time when I have proven myself so completely that everyone in the world says "Oh yes, we see you know what you are doing, we will now support and trust you as you finish out your life."  And now that I can see that, I can decide to stop even trying as it is a waste of my time and energy and there are fantastic things I am missing by focusing on avoiding the pain of criticism. 

Eleanor Roosevelt said "Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway." Wow, there is such a freedom that comes with that!  There is no avoiding the possibility that someone else will think I am wrong, all I can do is listen to my heart and do what feels right to me.  And if it turns out badly and other people chime in with their "you should have done. . "s I can go back to my heart and ask to be shown what I am meant to learn from the experience, trusting that I did just what I needed to do even though the outcome wasn't as I had planned.  Others can never truly know what is right for me.  At times it may be right for me to be sad, to be angry, to be in pain.  It is my experience, and there may not even have been a way to "do it right" that allowed me to avoid those feelings.  In fact, it may have been "doing it right" for me to have felt them, experienced them, moved through them!  I can choose to decide that the fact that it happened meant that it was supposed to happen, and let go of all of the shoulda, coulda, wouldas that get in the way of seeing the wisdom that came from the experience.

There is no such thing as being "enough" if the goal is avoiding criticism or uncomfortable situations or pain.  And there IS no "enough" to strive for if the goal is being worthy of love- we just are, nothing needed.  We need not compare ourselves to any measure at all- we are all completely amazing in our own unique ways, experiencing life as only we can, adding to the variety and brilliance of our planet in ways that can't even be fully described.  We just ARE, and no amount of criticism can ever take that away.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Threats and how they run our lives

Last night I had two dreams that I remember.  The first was being threatened/bullied by W's baseball team (they were his team in the dream, not in real life) at a pool.  The second was that there were lots of people just wandering around our property near our house.  I tried to talk to them but they ignored me.  I called HD out to talk to them, and they ignored him too, until we said that we weren't cool with them being there and we wanted them to leave.  Then a female who was close to HD took a knife out of her book (they were all carrying books) and headed menacingly towards HD with it.  The rest of them headed towards HD as well.  He started using a stick to fight them off, and I ran inside trying to find a phone to call 911, but couldn't find one that worked, so I went upstairs to get the handgun, but I couldn't remember the combination to the safe.  Then I woke up. 

At first I was pretty shaken up.  Then I realized the theme of both of the dreams- threatening- which is a theme that has been popping up around here with more and more intensity.  W has the ability to pick up on what needs to shift, what IS shifting, what *I* need to see and move through so I can be at peace, and then act it out until I "get it".  And once I get it and work through it and release, then the behavior either stops on its own, or I am at least in a place where I can better help him work through what he needs to.  He has a gift, this boy of mine. The gift of helping me see the messages that I need to see.  Because I so often ignore the subtle, gentle signs and need those blinking neon ones that hit me upside the head (sometimes repeatedly!) before I'll pay attention.  ;)

Honestly, I have been seeing and reacting out of this pattern for at least a week, being semi-conscious of it, but I haven't really stopped, sat down, looked it in the eye, fully HEARD it, and then thanked it and let it go.  Nah, I've been treating it like an annoying fly buzzing around my head- swatting, seeing it for brief seconds out of the corner of my eye.  I knew it was THERE, I just wasn't DOING anything about it except wishing it WASN'T there.  Which doesn't really work all that well. . .

I've had clues that the topic lately has been threatening (a new one around here, or newly separated from other things) because that's what has blurted out of my mouth in a knee-jerk type reaction when W starts into acting it out.  "Stop threatening your sisters!" has come out of my mouth so many times in the last few weeks!  He takes the nerf guns and points them in their faces, swings a foam-noodle sword inches from their heads, growls or cackles like a mad scientist at them so they fear for what he's going to do to them.  Thursday we were trying to clean out the van and he would.not.stop. saying things to them that made them scream at him or cry.  Things that he said they had to do, or he was going to do things they didn't like.  It wasn't until I yelled "What is WRONG with you?!?!?" (something I've sworn to never say!) that it hit me that I needed to look deeper into this.  It wasn't just an annoying behavior.  It was important and needed my attention, and I needed to look IN me, see where the reaction was coming from, work through it in me.  But, when there is conflict between my kids and I'm not sure about their safety, I can't just go hide in my room until I have worked through it, I have to work through it while keeping everyone safe, and if I can manage it, while helping them work through it, too. That day we sword-fought together, we threw soft balls, we ran, we tried to work through it together while I tried to keep my focus on my own internal sensor screen.  If I got too overwhelmed with my own feelings and tried to take a break, he would go back to threatening his sisters.  I tried things that have worked in the past, when he would be angry and furious for hours and we would have to stay right with him and help move through it.  That hasn't happened in over a year, and I had to reach into my memory for what helped.  I focused on my own anger, made sure I was releasing it myself while doing this dance with him.  This time it felt different, though, and the more I vocalized or stomped or did things that would help release anger in the past, the more he would come at me with the sword or whatever.  It hadn't really hit me yet, that what was behind this was not anger like before, but threatening.  That day things shifted when I went out to the garage to find a tool to fix his remote control truck that had broken (and he was getting up in L's face and upsetting her because he thought she did it so working through the disappointment just wasn't cutting it because he was using blame to distract him from his own feelings), and when I came back in he was standing at the stove smiling because he had flipped the quesadilla that I was cooking and then put it on the plate when it was done.  He had done something that he had never done before and he was really happy about it!  So I taught him to make quesadillas himself and the whole day changed, and he was so proud of himself and full of his own power. 

On Friday the behaviors returned and I really GOT that what was going on was this energy of "threatening".  Friday night I did a lot of tapping around "the first feeling of being threatened".  I felt big releases.  I was woken up many times by little things, but knew that I was being woken up to continue my work.  And then those two dreams.  Yes.

Something I saw while I was tapping was this image of this certain amount of power that is needed in order to "get things done".  I saw how when someone is in fear, and is motivating another through threats, neither person has much power, all of the power needed to create action comes from the explosive, enormous cloud of the threat.  However, when two people are seated strongly in love, in the energy of love, they are filled with power, and often all that is needed is the silent offering of a hand to make things happen.

I am really seeing how huge this threatening thing is, in our homes, the way we interact with our children, with ourselves and each other.  Also during tapping I heard "The world is run on threats" and I could feel in my body the truth of that statement.  It hit me how when W was threatening his sisters, I would come back with my own threat in an attempt to get him to stop!  Giving him "the eye" which says that things will get worse for you if you don't quit what you're doing right now.  Telling him that I wouldn't take him to the store if he didn't quit acting that way, or that I would take away his nerf gun (that he spent his own money on, as he pointed out) if he kept threatening people with it- both were an attempt to scare him into stopping what he was doing.  I was doing the same thing to him that he was doing to his sisters! 

At times, as this pattern has been showing up in our house, when I have asked him why he's doing it, he has responded that he wants them to play with him and threatening them is the only way he thinks can do it!  And I see how I feel that *I* have needed the "threat" of something in my life to get things done.  Getting going because of the threat of missing what I want to do, cleaning my house because of the threat of someone judging me poorly for the state of my house, brushing my teeth because of threat of cavities or judgement from stinky breath, going to a church that makes me feel farther away from God when I walk out because of the threat of others judging me to be a bad person if I don't go, or because of the threat of hell, doing homework because of the threat of a bad grade, or because of the threat of disapproval from those who are in a position of authority.  I tend to wait until the last moment to do things, until I feel the "pressure".  Big aha there.  I have felt powerless to do anything until there is a threat attached to it.

Is it possible to do these things out of joy and love instead of threats and fear?  Is it possible to get going out of excitement for where I'm going, what I'm going to do?  Is it possible to clean my house purely out of the joy of having a clean house, the opinions of others notwithstanding?  Could I brush my teeth because I love the feeling of clean teeth and enjoy taking care of my body in this way?  Could all decisions and actions that I make come from a place of love instead of fear?  Can I stop when I feel the pressure from a threat, step out of that cloud, ground myself in love, and then act? Is it possible that I have the power to do things within me, and I don't need the power that comes from the threats that are being pushed on me?

I can also see how I have felt that I have to threaten others in order to get what I want or need.  This is so true with children, especially!  The feeling that we have to threaten children with things that they don't want in order to get them to do what we want, because children are unruly and will never just go along with what the parent wants!  That we as parents are powerless to force our children to do things (because we are!  We only truly have power over ourselves!  But so many of us don't even realize that we have THAT power!) so we have to rely on the power that comes from threats.  That fear and punishment are the only things that will motivate children.  Or even with bribes and praise, which can both carry the feeling of a threat that they will be taken away if the child does not continue as expected.  Like that both horrible and wonderful feeling of being singled out by a teacher as having done the "right" thing and how other kids should "be like you".  Ugh. 

What if, when we wanted something to happen, we grounded ourselves in love first?  We filled ourselves with the creative power of love, and then we saw the other person as also filled with that amazing power?  Maybe sat in awe of the both of us, full of this fantastic unlimited power?  And then reached out a strong but gentle hand of connection, and allowed the "doing" to come from there?  How different could our lives be?  How different could our days and homes and WORLD be, if instead of needing threats and fear to move us throughout our lives, we made the choice to move and do through love and joy?

I think I'd like to find out!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I'm a FREAK!

About a year ago, a friend posted a question on facebook asking if you could get rid of one word, what would it be?  My immediate response was "freak".

I have felt like a freak for probably as long as I can remember.  Freak to me meant that I was so different, so "wrong" that I would NEVER belong, I would NEVER fit in.  I would always be alone, rejected, misunderstood and beyond that I was so strange I didn't even deserve to be understood.  I was a freak in kindergarten because I went to Falk School, and the kids on my soccer team teased that I went to "the Incredible Hulk School".  I wasn't very good an soccer and preferred to pick flowers while playing defense.  I was a freak in first grade because I went to three different schools in three different states and I was so shy that I didn't really make friends at any.  I think second grade was the first time I was actually called a freak- there were a bunch of older girls who liked to tease me and make fun of my clothes at recess.  My "hand me down" clothes were apparently an easy target.  My mom told me to tell them "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me."  Except they did.  A lot.

I was a freak because I loved cats, and liked to wear clothes and earrings with cats on them.  I was a freak because my house was always messy.  I was a freak because I read too much.  I was a freak because I wore these really awesome shoes that I begged my parents to buy while we were in Denmark the summer after third grade.  There were saddle shoes- magenta and teal (my favorite colors!) and suede.  They were not a hit with the American kids.  They spent the rest of their life at the back of my closet.  For some reason I felt like less of a freak in fourth grade- I went to a private school that year, we had two teachers and about twelve kids in our class.  Despite the fact that I knew nothing about the Beatles (the most popular girl in the class loved them), I couldn't figure out how a kid got a condominium to school when another kid said he had brought a condom, and I didn't read Sweet Valley High, I felt much less out of place there.  I was back at public school in fifth grade, and while participating in the talented and gifted class once a week was awesome, that was also the year I was put on antidepressants.  I cried so much, was so unhappy, was so sensitive, was "chemically imbalanced", was so much of a freak, that I needed medicine to "fix" me.  It made me feel both better and worse.  In sixth grade I was a freak because I got my period before everyone else.  Other girls would stand on the toilets of the stalls next to me to watch me while I went to the bathroom.  I was a freak because I got good grades, was in band, did Odyssey of the Mind and Future Problem Solvers, was still a Girl Scout in High School.  I was a freak because I wasn't pretty and didn't have a nice body and I had frizzy hair that would NOT do the big bang thing no matter how much hairspray I put on it.  I was a freak because I was a Christian and didn't hide it.  I was a freak because I said things that really upset people without realizing why.  Writing it out here makes my problems seem so trivial, but they were not trivial to me then.  They were heart and soul crushing and left me with no option but to know deep down that I really and truly was a freak.  There were times that (even though I was on medication) I thought it might be better to be a dead freak. 

I was called a freak by others because of things I did or said or looked like.  The worst part, though, was that there was so much I had hidden, so much of the REAL me, so much of my own truth that would have just made me stick out even more, so much that IF ANYONE KNEW. . .  I would just have been rejected forever, eternally unlovable.  Sometimes I was aware of things others weren't, sometimes I knew what was going to happen before it did, sometimes I knew things I just shouldn't know, knew things about other people that I shouldn't know, communicate with people and animals I shouldn't be able to communicate with.  I remember sitting on my bed in middle school, doing a devotion in my Bible, and saying to myself "Well, maybe some people can see the future, but it certainly didn't come from GOD." In effect, demonizing myself.  I loved the character Topenga on the show "Boy Meets World" and so wanted to have the courage to be like her, because she was true to herself.  She was hippie, and "out there" and weird, but was still sure of who she was.  I just pushed "who I was" farther and farther away because of how "wrong" it was, how wrong *I* was. 

And, seeing my response to my friend's question, this was a feeling that I carried into adulthood.  Even with the healing I had been doing for the five years prior, that had brought me out of the depression I had been in since before I was put on medication in fifth grade, the healing that had allowed me to release my anxiety, the healing that had helped me accept parts of myself that I had hidden away. . . even through that, I still had the very painful wound of FREAK.

(Warning- if you are easily offended, you might want to skip the video below. Maybe find the radio edit song without any images.  But definitely listen to the song.  :) )

And then one day I hear P!nk's song "Raise Your Glass" on the radio, and it changed "freak" for me forever.  All of a sudden I realized that I could be a freak according to others, but that didn't mean I had to be miserable for the rest of my life because of it.  I could be a freak and still enjoy life to its fullest.  That I would always be ME, and there will always be people who consider ME to be a freak.  A dirty, nitty-gritty little freak.  And that there was a certain freedom that came with that- if you see me as a freak, as being so different that I don't fit into what you consider acceptable, then you will always see me that way, which means I can stop trying to fit myself into what you consider acceptable, because there is no point in trying!  From "freak" spoken in disgust and repulsion, to FREAK! spoken in celebration, without those old feelings attached.  As a FREAK! I'm free to be whatever I want and to stop worrying about what you think of me, because I KNOW what you think of me, and I can say that I just don't care and I choose to (and have every right to) be happy anyway.  (Getting to truly not caring has been, and still is, a bit of a journey.  But I get to go on that journey because I'm a FREAK!)  As a FREAK! I am not "less-than" I am simply outside the circle of the majority. I GET to operate outside the box!  I don't have to try to prove why I belong in your circle, which is honestly quite a relief because constantly proving myself worthy to you is completely exhausting, and doesn't give me the time to see my own worth.  And anyway there are some really amazing people out here to hang out with who I don't have to prove myself to! 

A wonderful friend posted about flying her rainbow sparkly freak flag high, and as soon as I read her words I knew I had to paint one for her.  Looking at it has given me courage to be true to me, to speak my truth, to stop even trying to "fit in".  Because having the freedom to not fit in can be freaking awesome!  :D

Friday, May 4, 2012

Taking Care of the Self

So I'm sitting here getting ready to write something, feeling good, and then HD wakes up (he fell asleep with W) and all of a sudden I'm NOT feeling good, feeling like I have to stop what I'm doing because now I'm no longer in charge of me or my time.  And all of a sudden I feel angry and bitter and resentful and constricted.  And he says "Are you grumpy?" and I say "No" in a tone that really says yes, and he asks why and I say, well, what I just wrote above.  And he agrees that he is not in charge of his time and I totally flip out and close the laptop a bit to hard and say "Fine!  I'll just go to bed right now.  You're not in charge of your time so I don't deserve to be in charge of mine either.  You're ready to go to bed now so I have to be a good wife and go to bed with you." and I flop down on the bed and cover myself with sheets not very gently.  And he pauses with this look of incredulation and mouth kind of agape and says "WHAT is WRONG with you?  I just meant that I'm not in charge of my time right now because you're in here with the light on, but if you go somewhere else then I can do what I want, which is go to bed.  Get up and do what you want.  Geez."

So, um, yeah.  I have since moved to another room and will attempt to spill out/work through a theme that has become apparent to me over the past week, which apparently just erupted all over my bedroom.  :P  I'm setting the intention that what you just read was the breakTHROUGH and not just a breakDOWN.  That it has all been expelled from my consciousness, or maybe it will hang around just long enough to get on the screen and then will be released for eternity.  Yeah.  That's a good intention.  :)  And I'm choosing not to pick apart the above conversation (even though I totally could!) and just trust that what was said was what I needed to hear to get me to where I needed to be, and leave it at that.  ;)

L is 4.  She has, in recent weeks, refused to pretty much do anything that resembles taking care of her basic needs for herself.  She needs help getting dressed, serving herself food, finding her toys, and the most annoying of all, going to the bathroom and washing her hands.  Her pleas for me to "Help me wash my hands, mama!" led to the rather deep question (although it came out deeply annoyed): "Do you want me to help you or do it for you?  Because those are two different things."  (Ahh, big important insight there for me. . .)  Her answer: "Do it FOR me!" 

I absolutely believe that behind every behavior is a need, and I have had kids long enough to know that a lot of stuff is a phase and will disappear without any sort of "training", and that four is a year of discovering how big the world is and how small the child feels in it which often leads to increased requests for help and hopefully leads to the security that help will be there when it is needed, and brings the child back to a place where s/he would like to do it all alone again.  And then five tends to be about how the child knows EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING, thank you very much, and doesn't really need the parent in much of a capacity at all.  Unless everything DOESN'T go the way s/he expected. . . 

Anyway, so I'm not really concerned that I'll end up doing everything for her forever and she'll never try to do anything on her own again, mostly I'm just trying to make it through with what patience I have.  Which, at the moment, has been on the small side of nil.  The bathroom, especially, since it often results in her ignoring her need to go until the last moment and then I have to find her new pants and undies (oh, laundry), and when it comes time to wash her hands she gets interested in something else and wants me to keep waiting until she's done.  Um, no, I'm not cool with that. 

So we have this new behavior (needing me to help with, or do LOTS of stuff that she could do herself, for her) and this incredible, knee jerk anger, frustration, and desire to tear out my own hair that comes from me.  It finally occurred to me to stop and see what she could be mirroring for me, what it is that she is triggering in me that is causing this incredible, out-of-proportion with the actual issue, reaction from me.  I can't help her when I'm flipping out myself, so taking care of MY side of the issue is really the most effective place to start.  When I remember.  And I'm not sticking my fingers in my ears because I don't want to hear it. . .

The answer came last week, when I was working to get the outside animals taken care of so I could get dinner ready so I could sit down with my kids and watch the show "Touch" (LOVE that show!)  And I was outside scooping wet bedding out of the brooding room where the ducklings had once again splashed the majority of their water onto the wood chips and it reeked and I was taking care of it right then instead of waiting until tomorrow morning and it was 8:46 (Touch comes on at 9) and dinner would absolutely not be done, and I had spent a good couple hours just prior wasting time on facebook or something and I asked  out loud "WHY do I do this?  Why do I sabotage myself so that I can't do the things I want?  Why do I wait until the last minute and then I miss what I was looking forward to???"  And I groaned and sighed and finished up and made it in JUST as the show was starting.  And as soon as the first commercial came on and I headed upstairs to work on dinner, L sayid "I need to go potty!" so I grumbled and took her up and she keept saying "I don't want to miss Touch!" and I said, annoyed "Then hurry up!" and as soon as I wiped her, she layed down on the floor and started playing with her James train, continuing to say "I don't want to miss Touch!"  And as I washed my own hands I said "Well, you would be able to do the things you want if you would just DO what you need to do yourself instead of waiting for me to do it and getting distracted by the trai. . . ."  Oh, crap.  Um, yeah, that message was for me. 

Yep, truth be told, I'm not all that great at taking care of my own needs, either.  (I had to tell myself to just get up and go to the bathroom already instead of trying to hold it until I was done writing this. . .)  And gosh darn it, do I really need to wait for other people to give me permission, or help me, or do it for me?  Do I need to wait for someone else to say "Good job, I see you've been working very hard, go take a break!" or "You did all of your work!  Good girl!  Now you can go outside and play!" or  "Well, you've completed your obligatory assignments for today, now you can work on something just for the fun of it."  or "You look tired, why don't you rest for a bit?" or "I can see how your soul is suffering under the weight of these "shoulds" that have been piled on you.  I'll take them off and throw them away for you." ????  I don't NEED to wait for others or to get permission to do any of those things.  But I feel like I DO.  Deep down I really do.  And it keeps me frozen.  And you know what?  I'm sick of it.  And I'm ready to be done with it.   

My pattern is normally to ignore my needs, push them aside, until I hit crisis point and freak out.  And then I have to do all of this intense work that takes up a lot of time to get myself semi back on track.  And I look at that time and part of me feels like it was a waste and I feel guilty about it, so I keep on ignoring my needs because I JUST took care of them (sort of) so I shouldn't need to spend more time on me, until I hit crisis point again, and the cycle continues.  Today, while I was watering my seedlings that had been neglected for a few days while I was away, it occurred to me that they would die if I took care of them the way I take care of me.  They would have no chance.  They need regular, tender, nurturing care.  And so do I. 

So, some things I can do.  Journal, paint, or sketch daily.  Wait until the day has started and everyone is fed and I have worked towards something I TRULY want to do before getting on the computer.  Look myself in the eye in the mirror and tell me I love me.  Drink enough water and eat what my body is directing me to eat.  Get outside and not just when I'm feeding the animals.  Ooh, you know, when L asks me to take her to the bathroom, I could use that as a reminder to get present and focus on my breathing, even if it's only for a few seconds.  A few seconds of gathering myself up and being mindful is better than none!  Maybe that's what she's been trying to tell me all along.  <3  My four year-old zen master.  :)

How about you?  What can you do to take care of you better?  Little ways that you can water yourself instead of trying to recover after a drought?  I'd love to hear them if you're willing to share.  We can all use more possibilities in our lives.  <3

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Birthing Children and Beyond

I had a dream the other night that HD and I were at this homey type medical center of sorts, and I realized I was pregnant and in labor. We asked them if we could hang out in one of their rooms, and let them know if we needed anything, and then I felt the familiar and exhilarating feeling of my body pushing without my input, and I went with it, and out slipped a 10+ lb boy, smooth as butter.

When I woke up I had that familiar, "Oh, I miss that!" feeling. Baby lust. Or rather birth and baby lust. Disappointment gently brought me down when I remembered that no, we had decided that we were done adding any biological children into our family and had taken permanent measures last spring. I know some people have post-vasectomy babies, but honestly I don't feel that that is in our future. I really am happy and peaceful with our family just as it is. But OH! The rush of birthing. . .

You may be thinking I'm completely insane here, with this talk of missing birthing. ;) I'll get to that later. What I realized later that day, as I was pondering this in the shower, is that I STILL have the opportunity to birth, just not children. In fact, I have many things inside me that WANT to be birthed, and I've been fighting them. It's terrifying, you know? Birthing something, especially something that feels really big, changes everything. Life as I know it will be different. Better? Quite possibly. But the fear is still there.

And I think that's what the dream was trying to tell me. I've done the terrified, fighting-every-minute-of-it birth. My first birth was a pitocin induced, anxiety ridden, force myself to the end type birth. I actually think W had tried to be born weeks earlier but I had refused to allow my body to let him out. Fear. Absolutely. So he was induced and there were points where I had my arms and legs and face clenched so hard that they would go numb and be stuck in one position, and my husband and doula would lovingly massage and help me relax. Points where I felt that my body was being ripped apart. I know the pitocin had a lot to do with it, but I also know that I was absolutely working against my body by tensing up. And because narcotics make me throw up constantly and the whole "needle in the back" thing freaks me out (and that I'm incredibly stubborn ;) ) I made it through with no pain meds. What helped the most was our amazing doula, who would bring my attention to places that I was tensing, and help me relax them. Honestly, I was so disconnected from my body at that point that I didn't even realize that I was doing it. She reassured me that what was happening was normal, that I COULD do it, that I WAS doing it, and that we were all really okay.

That's where I've been lately, with these things inside me that want to come out. I'm having this type of birthing experience. I allow things to come out a bit, and then I freeze, or close back down, or tense up. And I KNOW that doing that when giving birth to people increases pain. Exponentially. And I'm seeing how I'm doing that right now, and causing myself pain.

I drew this a few weeks ago in my journal, because words weren't able to express how I was feeling.

My second birth was much easier. I was more in tune with what my body was saying, and I was less afraid of what would happen once the baby came out. I WAS very afraid that she'd be overdue and the doctor would insist that we induce again. My water broke at home on her due date, labor started immediately, and in an hour and 15 minutes I was checked at the hospital and was 7 cm already. As I labored at the hospital I could hear the nurses whispering in disbelief that I was so quiet even without an epidural. I was listening to by body and breathing and staying on top of it with the help of HD and a very good friend. I kept waiting for the "body ripping apart" feeling and it never came. After another hour I was ready to push, but I was told I couldn't because the doctor wasn't there. So I sat on the bed, trying to be a good patient while my body pushed my daughter down for at least 20 minutes. She lost her cone head, I ended up with internal tears, and I lost my rhythm with my body. When the doctor did show up, I felt frantic and couldn't push effectively. On the squatting bar, on my back, nothing seemed to work until he said he'd have to cut me and I jumped back up onto the squatting bar (yes, there was laughter about how quickly I moved ;) ) and got her out with some external tearing. But, she was out! And I remember thinking, as he laid her hot, slippery body on my belly, "I LOVE this!" And then I met her and loved her too. ;)

So that birth is an example of knowing better how to follow my instincts, trust that I know what I need to do, but getting caught up in what OTHER people feel that I should do. Their rules and expectations and requirements that, in this case, mostly led to more pain when I followed them. It never occurred to me that I could say "Sorry, I'm pushing her out now with or without the doctor!" And a lot of the time, it doesn't occur to me that I can birth those other things in me in ways that aren't expected, that don't fit the norm, that come at times when others are unprepared even though it's the perfect time for me. Just because they don't realize it's right doesn't mean that it's wrong. Whew. That can be a hard one for me!

My last birth was incredibly peaceful and calm. Intense, yes, but only a bit painful, and I never felt out of control. She was 6 days late, apparently she wanted to hold out to be born in the spring. ;) We decided to have a homebirth since (among other things) the hospital had just gotten in the way and caused problems with the previous birth. I knew that my body knew what it was doing, and I trusted our midwife and her apprentice completely if either of our bodies would need help. I called the midwife around 6 am. For awhile I needed to walk THROUGH contractions to work with them (unlike I'd read/heard that I'd have to stop and focus on them), and then I sat on the toilet for awhile. I was able to feel things changing inside of me, the bag of water bulging through and then breaking, feel into each second by second as I marveled at how I was more present than I had ever been. So very, very cool. The apprentice got there around 7:45, checked me, and said I was 8 cm. Actually, I was complete at that time, but since the midwife wasn't there yet and I wasn't pushing, and the birth pool was too hot, she decided to lie to me. ;) (And I'm so glad that she did, because it allowed me to listen to when my body was ready to push, instead of panicking that I needed to push NOW because I was dilated to the "correct amount".) I stood in the birth pool, waiting for it to cool down, swaying and dipping and when I felt like I was going to loose my grip, breathing so deeply that I could feel the very edges of my body with my breath. Eventually the water cooled, and the midwife arrived, and I had the urge to push. And L came out, with both fists by her cheeks (that was the pain part ;) ), and I caught her. And then I sat back and we floated in the water for awhile. She was born around 8:45.

THIS is the type of birth that I dreamed about the other night. Where I know that I have the strength to do it, the support around me that I need, the TRUST that it is all working out how it needs to be, and no one around me telling me any differently. Completely empowered to help what is inside me move through and out in whatever way comes up within whatever time it happens. No judgement, just presence with what is happening NOW, knowing that what is happening now is okay and fine and perfectly where I need to be. Bliss.

This realization has helped me through the last few days. They have been incredibly emotionally intense, and stopping the "I need things to change so life can be easy!" voice and instead treating the waves of emotion moving through me as contractions, breathing deeply, focusing only on what is going on in my body, and at times feeling my very edges with my breath when I feel I might loose it, has really REALLY helped me through without screaming at my children and breaking things. ;)

After I understood what the dream was trying to tell me the other day, I decided I wanted to paint that birthing energy. I'd let out the resistance energy on paper, and I wanted to do the same for the other side of the spectrum. I also wanted to be able to look at the energy of how I want to move through this birthing of these not-children and remember. And this is what came out:

Painting it felt so good that I felt joy zing through my body at times. I am so incredibly awed and humbled to have played a part in its creation. It makes me smile just looking at it. And I want to do it again! I want to let that 10.5 lb baby boy slip out like butter, empowered and present and full of trust for each experience in each moment, no matter how intense or painful or untimely they may be. Just relax into them, knowing they are just right, are purposeful, and are taking me exactly where I need to be. WANT to be even.

Yeah. :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

This Blog

So after the post in December, I had all of these plans, all of these ideas, all of these images in my mind of what was going to happen with this blog now that I had declared myself ready to play big and be powerful and live my truth out loud. They mostly involved posting regularly, maybe even daily, because I have at least one blog that I follow where the author posts daily, and I love that I have something to look forward to from her every day. Never posting more than once per day, though, that seems needy and pushy. ;) I needed my blog to look like other blogs I respect and love and that inspire me deeply in order to be, well, those things I said I was going to be. ;) And then L got sick with a fever for five days, and she only wanted me to sit with her on the couch. I was able to get up and do things in about 15 minute increments- work on meals, clean up enough that we would have dishes and clothes for the next day, run to the bathroom- before she would start crying pitifully and heart-breakingly for me to come back and sit with her again. I COULD have brought the laptop to the couch with me, but in a stroke of pure and utter genius, I decided to just be present with her and myself as we sat there. Yes, five days was a lot of presence. ;) But WOW the stuff I felt come up and that I was able to work through! And, as I have noticed before when she has been really sick and I have focused on myself, each time I had a huge breakthrough, a huge shift, a huge releasing, she would appear to feel better for awhile. Like my releasing my stuff allowed her to release some of hers as well. And oh the joy at times, of just BEING with her, even though she was sick. Being TRULY with her. It filled my heart.

A few times as I was sitting there, it came to me that I wanted to write some more on the blog, mostly because I didn't want it to be another case of me doing something awesome and then hiding in fear. And I realized that this felt different. It felt more like peaceful contemplation than the terror I had experienced many, many other times. And it started to sink in that maybe my playing big and telling my truth can even have it's own timeline that doesn't have to match up with the timeline of others. Meaning maybe posting daily just isn't how I roll, and that there is nothing wrong with that at all. Maybe how I roll is more like a wave. I get to a place where I can share, where I have something TO share, and then I dip back down again, into myself, into silence, into what appears to be "bad" or "negative" or "undesirable", and then I come through it and am able to formulate words again, ready to share again, and the cycle repeats itself. And it's all good. :)

Also after posting in December, I went back and re-read all of my old posts. I saw my early struggle of what this blog WAS. At first I started out wanting it to be a place for me to record what we did, a kind of online scrapbook so I had documentation that we, well, DO something. But that felt very inauthentic to me. And then I decided to allow myself to post what I felt inspired to post, to follow where that led. And I think that I can now see where I am on that path. For now, at least, this blog is a place for me to share what is going on inside of me, the journeys I'm taking, the paths I'm walking, the truths I'm discovering inside of me. People have told me that reading my experiences helps them move through their own, which sometimes really amazes me, and I am humbled and grateful for the chance to hold a hand, hold a space of love, hold a light without even realizing it. But at the same time, it's not about getting others to change or do what I've done or believe what I say. I share because I feel this internal nudge, push, sometimes a size 14 EEE boot up the rear to let it out where others can read/hear it. Sometimes it's the writing itself that helps me process and get to where I need to be next. Sometimes I need to write it and put it where others can see you make it more REAL, make it matter more. There is this fear that comes with putting myself, my processes, my learnings out there. Especially when I am well aware that what I have just discovered to be true may well change in the next year, week, even second. I remind myself that I am not responsible for the reactions of others when they read what I write, I can only ever speak for myself, for my experiences.

I can never tell you what you should do, how you should feel, how you should think. Only you can know that. I can share MY truth with you, but I can't tell you what your truth is, only you can do that. My responsibility is putting my own truth out there. Your responsibility is deciding if it means anything to you, if it resonates with you, if it's worth your time to read what I write. If it is worth your time, awesome, I am so grateful to be walking with you for however long our paths cross. If it is not worth your time, that is equally awesome, and I am grateful to you for realizing that you need to move on, and that it is not my responsibility to change myself to be what you need. I send you love as you walk down your own perfect path.

I am finally realizing, after years and years of fighting it, trying to fit into the mold of "acceptable" to other people, trying to push away the parts of me that annoy others and "get me into trouble", that I can only ever truly be me. Even when I'm fighting it, I'm still me, I'm just tearing at myself, attempting to destroy and dismantle my own essence, until I get to nothing? I'd rather be me than nothing. There were points in my life where I felt that maybe it would have been better to be dead than be me, but I am grateful that I chose to give myself more time. I am learning to love this ME.

And I love me the most when I remember and really feel that I AM love. We are ALL love. When I marinate in the feeling that I am love, allow myself to really feel it even though the "Yeah, whatever"s and the "you're horrible!"s and all of the other arguments pop up, as I hear them and allow them to fall away, I am left in awe of me, and you, and all the amazing ways that love expresses through us, even though those ways may annoy or get us into trouble because others don't understand that it's love. When I can really hold that "I am love, you are love, we are ALL love", anything seems possible. And that's a lovely place to be.

How I've Jumped

Well, there has definitely been "jumping off" that has happened since my last post, although obviously keeping this blog updated was not one of those things. The biggest of those things was signing up and going through the first part of a certification course. What it's for isn't extremely important right now, I know it will come out later. The most important part is that this is something that has made my heart sing since the moment I heard about it, over a year ago. But my mind kept telling me how bad of an idea it was- it's expensive, and I don't deserve to have that much money spent on me. I've read judgements others have made about the people who subscribe to this type of thinking. I have no idea what I'm going to do with the certification once I have it. But it kept coming up again and again, my heart telling me more and more that this is the direction I need to go. And so, I signed up. And after each call I feel bubbly and jazzed and so RIGHT, that THIS is where I need to be. I still don't know what I'm going to do with it, and the thought of others judging me because they think they know what I believe and am going to say still bothers me, and I still am really not sure that I could charge people money to guide them through the new possibilities that I am both starting to understand and have understood for years but just kept telling myself I was crazy. But I took this first HUGE step, and I am sure that I am walking down the path I need to be, by following my heart. <3 Do you have anything like this, that you heart is calling you to ever so loudly and your head screams at you to turn away?

I don't understand this painting. As I was painting it, I kept hearing "Home". And it feels good. And maybe that's all I need sometimes, maybe all the time. The feeling in my heart that this is the way to go to get home to that love, to myself, even when my mind doesn't understand it, even for big, important, expensive things. Sometimes, maybe all the time, my heart knows better than my mind. :)