Tag Archives: Truth

Day of Rest

This is one of those posts where I show up to write having no idea what I’m going to say. And yet, I can feel something there, see it like I would a shape in the fog, moving towards me but as yet unnameable.

Eric is walking Sam this morning, or rather running with him. It’s windy and cold, so Eric offered to take him, in part to be nice to me (Colorado wind is my least favorite weather, even worse than rain) but also because he knew if I went he’d have to walk and that would mean being cold. When they run, he doesn’t notice the weather so much — seems like a metaphor, doesn’t it?

The weather seems a perfect match to the card I pulled this morning, “a card of conflict” with the image of five scattered wands. The card warns that “Your energy moves outward in many directions, yet you are suffering inside.” I realized this morning that once again, I was trying to do too much. I was thinking specifically of all the things I’d signed up for leading up to the holidays, all good stuff, emails of wisdom and prompts for reflection and opportunities to connect, but maybe too much… okay, not maybe — too much.

fiveofwandsI am working on a paradigm shift, and that’s hard. I am attempting to move from thinking I can’t be trusted, that I’m not allowed to want what I want, have what I want, that I have to work to earn acceptance and love, looking outward to external cues and messages, trying to do what others want, make them happy so they will in turn love and care for me, thinking that wisdom resides “out there,” that if I’m not getting it right it’s because I’m either stupid or an asshole, measuring my worth by how successfully I pleased others, some of whom are almost impossible to please, and rebelling or collapsing, self-destructing when it gets to be too much.

I can’t do it anymore. It doesn’t work. It will never work. If it did, I would have figured it out by now, but it’s a broken system. I am officially giving up. I am learning how to trust myself, to be myself. I am allowing myself to want what I want, to have what I want. I am moving from focused on what I have to offer to how I want my life to feel, the experience I want to have, what I’m truly hungry for, and no one else can tell me what that looks like, what that should be. I am the expert, only I can know.

For starters, “pancakes make me want to dance,” and I won’t be apologizing for that anymore.

Wishcasting Wednesday

homeskyFor today’s wishcast, Jamie asks, “What risk do you wish to take?” I am immediately reminded of one of my favorite quotes, from Muriel Rukeyser,

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.

I wish to risk telling the truth. Telling my story even though it’s often embarrassing and messy and hard, leaning in and letting go, loving myself, being my own best friend, “willing to be stone stupid,” showing up not knowing and unprepared, keeping my heart open, raw and tender, being vulnerable, willing to be wounded.

The truth today is that I am taking another sick day, and as soon as I finish this I will lie down and maybe stay like that the rest of the day, still tired and achy, tender and sad, feeling like I am right at my edge but finally willing to stop, be still, take care of myself, no matter what anyone else might think about that, even as I am working with feeling guilty, a sharp shame surrounding my suffering, my need to rest, that even though it’s my 20th wedding anniversary today a part of me still wonders “does he love me?” and needs to be reassured.

Self-Compassion Saturday: Laurie Wagner

Again I caught myself this morning thinking “you should have these posts written earlier, ready to go.” But first there was meditation, a half cup of coffee and the writing of morning pages, and then there were dogs to be walked and I wanted to get to the Farmer’s Market before all the strawberries were gone. I let go of the should, gently set it down on top of the pile of mail I still haven’t looked at, certain that my dear friend and teacher Laurie Wagner, of all people, knows the importance of going on a long walk, taking a pause, focusing on the moment as it is, as it arises, and would completely understand how a strawberry is so much more than a piece of fruit.

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Laurie Wagner is the creator of 27 Powers, “a writing teacher + coach, author of 7 books, mixed-media artist, fervent collage-maker, mother of two, and a one-time amateur racquetball champion.” I’ve written about Laurie before, saying in that post that “Laurie’s energy is radiant, vibrant and raw, lighting up and electrifying the space, however virtual it might be. She is at once your favorite grade school teacher, most popular camp counselor, beloved childhood friend (the one who climbed trees and loved books), best girlfriend, and precious mother.” She’s recently dubbed herself “Tender Truth Serum, In Human Form” and I couldn’t agree more.

I get to finally meet Laurie in person in September, get to hang out with her three different times over the course of three months. I’ve been having dreams about it, and in each one, I am talking to someone else in a crowded room, turn to see her for the first time and burst into tears. When I imagine meeting her, there is a sense of intense joy, but also an odd mix of relief and sadness, as if there’s a part of me saying “where have you been? I’ve been waiting, looking for so long.” It’s enough to almost make me believe in reincarnation, like she was my guru, my beloved, or my mother in a past life and I’ve been searching for her ever since.

As a teacher, Laurie has a particular kind of magic, power, love. It makes me think of what Thich Nhat Hanh said, that “you must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.” Laurie’s teaching loves you in just this way. When I find myself in a moment of not knowing what to say, or being afraid to say what I know is true, all I have to do is imagine Laurie, touch in to her energy, and I am brave, free to write what is wild and raw and beautiful. I’m so happy to share her answers to my self-compassion questions with you today, so happy for you to meet her if you hadn’t already.

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image by andrea scher

1. What does self-compassion mean, what is it? How would you describe or define it?

Because I am imperfect, because I am flawed, I allow myself to make mistakes. I will bumble things and the wrong words will come out of my mouth. I will hurt you and I will hurt myself. But because my heart is good, I’ll know that I never meant to. And it’s this “never meant to” that enables me to forgive myself and to forgive you too. I believe in the words, “ I’m sorry.” What else is there to say?

My husband and I had a therapist who told us that the only two words couples need to say to one another are, “I’m sorry.” So my husband and I made these little badges that said, “I’m sorry.” Whenever we failed each other – which was daily – we held these badges out to the other. We didn’t mean to hurt each other, but we knew we would. This is how we found compassion for each other and our marriage.

image from Laurie's website

image from laurie’s website

2. How did you learn self-compassion? Did you have a teacher, a guide, a path, a resource, a book, a moment of clarity or specific experience?

I’ve always been incredibly hard on myself. My Father was hard on himself. We looked so valiant, so full of humility – but it wasn’t for either of us. Sure we both had a desire to learn and to grow, but I think we were just as afraid that we needed to be perfect so we wouldn’t get creamed by people. My desire to be perfect has a lot of FUCK YOU in it – as in “FUCK YOU – now you can’t touch me.” Anyone with an alcoholic parent will understand this.

Someone once said of me that I was the most tender, tough person they knew. I think that’s true of me and age has helped me to become even a little more tender. There’s just so much each day that I can’t control and that I have to shake my head at. It’s getting easier to let go because holding on – trying to get a perfect dinner on, AND get to the gym, AND meet a friend, AND edit those papers, AND be a good mommy is more and more impossible. Self-compassion for me might be emailing every appointment I have over a week and canceling everything. It helps that I surround myself with wonderful people – people who are on the self forgiving path – people who love me – who don’t want to see me cream myself because they know that that doesn’t bring the best out of me, or you, or anyone.

image by andrea scher

image by andrea scher

3. How do you practice self-compassion, what does that experience look like for you?

Recently I fell into the nasty habit of smoking cigarettes. It had been a rough spell in my life and one thing I know about myself is that I tend to reach for immediate gratification when I’m stressed. Coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, shopping. Not in excess, but those are my go-to’s. Sure, I’ll take a bath, or sometimes lie down, but I know myself. The cigarette thing was ugly and I knew it had to come to an end. So I blogged about it. I outed myself instead of holding it inside like some cherished, slimy secret that I was going to feel lousy about. Outing it allowed me to come clean – not in a punishing way – but with compassion and understanding for myself. A lot of people wrote to me about their own tendencies to do something similar. We’re all in the same boat, just different details. I’m not a bad person for smoking, it’s just a bad habit.

Here’s another:

Last week in my writing class I inadvertently hurt a student’s feelings. She began crying, got up from the table, slammed a door and wrote an entire piece about how mad she was. As she read her piece my little tin heart was beating so loud. I was scared. I’d F’d Up – the part of me that wanted to be the best teacher in the world was very uncomfortable. It would be clear that I wasn’t perfect. After she read, I simply apologized in front of the whole class and hugged her. What else could I do? I’m not perfect. But my heart is good. I make mistakes. I learn. What more might I do?

laurie_grass_boots_700

image by andrea scher

4. What do you still need to learn, to know, to understand? What is missing from your practice of self-compassion, what do you still struggle with?

Self-compassion is something that I get to practice multiple times a day. Every morning when I wake up, I place my hand on my heart and I say, “help me.”

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I’m sure you can see, kind and gentle reader, why I am looking so forward to sitting in one of these chairs at 27 Powers. I’m not entirely sure I won’t burst into flames (immediately after bursting into tears), but I’m so willing to risk it. To find out more about Laurie, to connect with her:

Next on Self-Compassion Saturday: Judy Clement Wall.

P.S. If you didn’t see the first post in this series, you might want to read Self-Compassion Saturday: The Beginning.

P.S.S. Special thanks to Andrea Scher for allowing me to share some of the amazing pictures she’s taken of Laurie.

Wishcasting Wednesday

Yesterday, my therapist pointed out that I’m trying to find a formula. I was confused and uncomfortable and irritated by that — because she’s right. All of my research and work and searching and contemplating and pushing, all my suffering is a quest to find the right way, the perfect strategy, the foolproof plan, the trick to having a happy, content, successful, safe life. Every book I buy, every new blog I subscribe to, every new class I take, every workshop or retreat I sign up for, all of it is my tiny little heart looking for the secret to peace, to love everlasting and pure. I know it intellectually, but I can’t seem to get myself to accept that this is not going to work. I make grand gestures of letting go, only to feel again the familiar tightness in my chest, to look down and see my hands clenched into fists.

It’s Wishcasting Wednesday, and Jamie Ridler asks “what do you wish to discover?” To discover means finding something or someone unexpectedly, becoming aware — to find, detect, uncover, reveal, unearth.

I wish to discover my truth. The essential and fundamental fact of myself, reality.

I wish to discover my confidence. To manifest what Susan Piver describes as “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.”

I wish to discover my basic goodness. To be fully aware of and connected to my innate wisdom and compassion and power.

I wish to discover presence in each moment. To become aware of what is, exactly as it is, to accept it without judgement — to show up for my life, with an open heart, at ease in the vast space of now.

 

The Truth, Part Two

P.S. Yesterday when I wrote about the truth of my creative process, I left something out. Turns out it wasn’t the whole truth. I told you about the difficulty, the mess and the moodling, but didn’t to say anything about the moments that are easy. There aren’t many of these, so it’s no wonder I didn’t tell you, they are easy to forget amidst the fuss of the rest, but they are there and worth mentioning.

For example, that post, the explanation of my process was easy. I’d sat with my journal after completing the Reader’s Write piece, reflecting on the experience. I didn’t plan it as a blog post, wasn’t thinking I’d share it, was simply contemplating, figuring out what I thought, looking for meaning, working towards understanding by writing it down. It was that reflection, fully formed with only minor edits for clarity and style, that I shared with you, that I typed and published.

So I left that out, kind and gentle reader: sometimes my process is easy. I do something naturally and for myself, no resistance, no pushing or trying, it just happens–easy. Sometimes creating starts out this way, without any struggle. I am grateful for it, but I don’t hope, don’t expect it. Whether it’s difficult or easy, I do the same–show up for the process with an open heart and allow it to happen, invite and accept whatever wants to come.

The Truth

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The imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling, and puttering. ~Brenda Ueland

My creative process isn’t tidy, and parts of it are quite painful. I have a longing, followed by an intention, but then there’s resistance to work with, obstacles to work through, a lot of moodling and outright avoidance happens before I even start, as I must eventually.

In the same way I feel stiff some mornings at the beginning of a walk or a yoga class, but eventually warm up, I start to write. At first I move to be moving even though there’s no grace in it and it might be messy and awful and not feel good. I show up and move because I must, there simply is no other option. It is just this way with writing, with making anything with my heart and my hands.

scribble

But eventually there is a shift, a spark, a warming, and I move into a flow, I’m connected and creating. It makes sense, feels good, and there are moments of beauty and grace and truth.

This happened the other day, when I sat down to work on a submission for The Sun Magazine’s Reader’s Write feature. Each month, there is a single word, and reader’s submit a short piece of nonfiction in response, “subjects on which they’re the only authorities.” It’s on my Mondo Beyondo list to be selected for publication in this section someday, so I’m going to start submitting something every month. The word I was working with was “honesty.”

tribefeather

Nothing came at first. Then I started scribbling, just to be writing something, anything, but it was all total crap, like a freshman composition essay that starts with “Webster’s Dictionary defines honesty as…” or “Since the beginning of mankind, the dawn of time, the birth of civilization, humans have struggled with the concept of honesty.” I let myself go like that, then got a little closer to something real, an acceptable collection of words but nothing special.

Another run, a fresh start using one moment from that collection, extended and connected to something else, something bigger, and it all starts to work, there is a subtle magic there which I hadn’t expected, couldn’t have planned. I had to show up when I didn’t really want to, start without a plan, keep going even though it wasn’t working, stay with it until I had moved towards the light.

There is a lot of trust involved in that. You have to remember every time starts slow and seems hopeless, trust that if you maintain your effort, stay open and in your seat, something will arise, will arrive to meet you there. You have to be willing to practice, to show up for the process with an open heart and allow it to happen, invite and accept whatever wants to come.

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Here’s what I’ll be submitting, Honesty, which ended up being a mix of something old and something new:

The way we were taught to write academic essays in grade school was so painful—consult an encyclopedia or textbook for the facts, make an outline, retell the story using your own words but don’t use “I.” I resisted writing one particular history essay in the 6th grade so completely that I didn’t even start it, which forced me into a lie.

The 6th grade is a particularly awkward and confusing time for girls everywhere. I’d started my period before any of my friends and was hiding it from them through elaborate measures, including an especially desperate shower routine after gym class. I was fairly popular, which isn’t so hard in a small town, a small school where there were less than 10 girls in your class. But I wore long sleeves to hide the tiny warts that had developed on my elbows, and a pair of Sticky Fingers painter style jeans that I put on every day because they were the most fashionable thing I had ever owned. Other kids teased me, called it my “uniform,” said my pants must be so dirty from wearing them so much that they could probably stand up on their own.

The day the history essay was due, I panicked, couldn’t admit I hadn’t done my homework—upset my parents, disappoint my teacher, shame and embarass myself. One of the things I was popular for, praised for was being smart, a good student. So I lied, said I’d finished it but lost it, tried but couldn’t find it. I claimed to have lost it in the classroom somewhere, and my teacher had the whole class help look for it. When we couldn’t find it, he gave me an extension, extra time to finish another essay.

This is the same teacher that told me later in the year, after a few creative writing assignments, “You could be a writer if you wanted to. You could be anything you want to be.” He was sitting in a bright red, child-sized chair, knees pushed up into his chest, leaning towards me with his eyes wide, gesturing his hands wildly at the future he wanted me to be able to see. He believed in my potential and encouraged me to believe also. I was desperate to believe him, to believe such a thing about myself—the girl who sweat too much, cried herself to sleep sometimes, and loved books more than anything. I had trouble internalizing his faith as my own, but I held tight to the memory, turning it over and around in my mind, watching the way the light would catch it. It seemed like the truth.

What I’m Learning Now

Love is, above all else, the gift of oneself. ~Jean Anouih

On Thursday, I worked a lot with letting the day unfold naturally, without force or agenda. I was fatigued, worn out, and took a sick day to rest. The plague (several versions) has been circling around campus and there’s a good chance my body is doing everything it can to fight it off. I stayed in my pajamas all day, fed myself well, drank lots of grapefruit juice, watched some inspirational videos while resting on the couch, taking notes and at one point having a long nap.

The Universe is bombarding me with messages about self-love, self-care, self-acceptance. The classes I’m taking, friendships I have, things I read and see and hear make clear what I can give, what is needed. The theme is that there is only one me, I have unique gifts, a specific perspective and calling, and that I must be true to that, honor it, because that’s what I have to offer the world. And most importantly, it is not selfish to be who I am, to love what I love. In fact, it is the deepest kind of compassion, the most profound expression of wisdom.

To succeed at being somebody that you are not (but think you need to be) is still a failure. But to love who you are and courageously be that fully is a life well lived. ~Kute Blackson

I contemplated this blog post that I’m writing now all day Thursday, but made the choice to rest instead. In fact, this past week, I only posted three times, when I typically post every day, sometimes twice. Normally that would make me feel bad, less than worthy and anxious because my stats were down. For years, I’ve been singing as loud as I can, dancing as fast as I can, performing elaborate routines, begging to be noticed, to be loved and accepted, cared for and safe. I can’t do it anymore, won’t–“a life lived in order to please others ends up pleasing no one at all,” (Elizabeth Lessor).

Pleasing another person is often about avoiding the conflict that might ensue if we tell the truth about our feelings, needs, fears, and dreams. ~Elizabeth Lessor

I know I have something of value to offer, but I can’t do it from a place of exhaustion and overwhelm. When thinking about how I might do this, my heart’s work, while maintaining full-time paid work and all the other things I’m responsible for, it is clear to me that the same approach that had been so unworkable, such a failure in my old job–overwork, overwhelm, anxiety, perfection, hustling for worthiness, people pleasing but self-hating–was being carried over into this. The same method of forcing and pushing and denial.

I want to continue loving what I love, so I need to soften my approach. I need to meet this work with gentleness, kindness, and be open to joy. I need to maintain my focus on how I want to feel, the experience I want to cultivate, the process rather than a product. I need to balance my effort with ease.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. ~Howard Thurman

I also must forgive myself for all that came before. All the years of trying to be good, hoping to be perfect, imagining that if I did what others wanted and expected that I would be loved, safe, accepted. The self-denial, self-loathing, self-abandonment, self-abuse, the pushing, forcing, smashing myself to bits, and broken promises. The cycle of starving and stuffing, never satisfied. I have to also forgive myself for my confusion, my disappointment, my despair, my rage, and every action that came from that dark place. I was only trying to be who I thought I was supposed to be.

Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are. -Anne Lamott

I’m choosing that second option, dreaming bigger, cultivating courage and rest and joy, keeping my heart open, showing up and staying with whatever might arise, and doing it all imperfectly. My wish is to leave you, this space, this planet in better condition than I found it, and to ease suffering, in myself and the world.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
~Mary Oliver