Monday, May 18, 2015

One Word 365: Looking Back, to Look Forward

This has sat in my drafts for five months. I can't point to any particular reason why it never got published here in this space. I'm posting it now. It's just as true today as it was when I wrote it last December. 

For the last three years I've had a word for the year. It's been my touchstone, a daily reminder, a daily challenge. It's been a sign post for decisions and a catalyst for personal growth. The last two years I've gotten to the end of the year and felt my word let go to make room for a new word for the new year. This year it seems to be taking it's sweet time. I feel as though I closed my eyes for just a moment in September. Now as I open them again I see December - which at the moment looks a lot like September. It's unseasonably warm and rainy for it to actually be the middle of December. 

My heart is still catching up on the whirlwind of these past couple months. It wasn't my whirlwind as much as it was my husband's. That cyclone caught me up and spun me around. I thought it derailed me. I thought it took all the growth of this year of become and destroyed it. I was wrong. As much as it wasn't what I wanted, it was what my heart needed. I thought I had lost myself, that all of the beauty I was beginning to see in myself was lost. I thought that all the ways that I had started to step into who my bones know that I'm destined to be had been buried in the wilderness again. 

In 2013, my word was hush. A word I didn't want. I didn't want the implication that went along with it. The implication that there was this deep wail of grief that needed to be heard. I wouldn't want to do that year over again. Without that hush, learning to embrace silence, to sit and allow grief to well up so that it could be seen and held by arms stronger than mine, I couldn't have stepped into this last year of become. I would never have joined Be or Story 101. I couldn't have believed in myself enough to have even tried. Without learning how to hush and be hushed I wouldn't have sat in the silent grief these past several weeks. Without that silence I wouldn't have heard the whispers from my bones that told me I wasn't through yet. Yet before I could hush, I had to choose.

I spent all of 2012 making choices. For a girl who had never made a choice for herself, who hadn't expressed and owned an opinion of her own until her 20s, choose was a daunting word. But oh the freedom it brought. The growth that it sparked. I'm still living out the lessons that my year of choices taught me. Choose empowered me to begin to live my life.

On the cusp of 2015, my bones are once again whispering to me. It's going to take everything that I've learned through these past three years, these past three words to even consider the word that I know is mine to grow with and grow into this coming year. Spirit is asking am I willing to become? Will I allow my fears to be hushed? Will I choose to follow where I feel led?

In 2015, it's time to learn how to believe. To hold onto hope, to promises, to faith - to shift another layer of my heart from surviving to thriving. To believe that I can tell a different story with my life. To believe that life can and will and is getting better. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Price of Mother's Day

Trigger warning for self-harm, estranged mother-daughter relationships

I want to carve my pain into my arms, to watch the blood drip down onto this pristine white floor, mixing anger and grief, loss and love as if somehow it will cleanse my heart of the secrets it carries.

I played good daughter today. I called my mother, told her the truth, told her that I love her. I buried everything else inside through that stilted, brief phone call, voices of my siblings in the background. Siblings who were there, with her today.

I hid out in my apartment all day. Actually I hid in my bed, curled up with the man who loves me watching movies on a laptop. Periodically I checked Facebook, comforted and stifled by the words of others. Words of acceptance for grief like mine. Words I wanted to like, to share to shout from the virtual rooftops.

Instead, I sat silent, withdrawn, pulled away. Immobilized by fear. Fear  of it getting back to my mother, of causing more pain for her than I’ve already caused. Fear of further estrangement from those who believe my family to be supportive and loving. Fear of fucking it all one more time.

Today I choked on my own truth. The truth that my Mother is a complicated woman who I have a complicated relationship with. The truth that I am not a mother, may very well never be a mother because I don’t want a child who will bear the scars of my mistakes. A child who may very well thirty years from now fight tooth and nail to call me, to reach a hand across a divide that cannot be bridged. A phone call that costs her everything, that leaves her wrung out. Too many emotions, not enough words.

I don’t want to pass down this legacy to my daughter. Each year I’m reminded on Mother’s Day of the cost my heart pays for that choice. Each year I question if the cost is too high. Each year I work to remember that even though she never protected me, never bonded with me, my Mother loved me as best as she could. Each year I hide my truth from myself and everyone else in the name of love that tastes of guilt and obligation.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Look Back

This year has been my year of become - a year of process. A year to focus on myself and this person that continue to unfold, the phoenix reforming from the ashes of her former selves. This year is almost over. Right now I still see ashes. I'm still sifting through them, teasing out truths from the larger scraps and breathing in the ones that have crumpled down to dust. Everywhere I turn, my heart screams this isn't how we wanted this year to end.

This summer turned into this fall and the me that I was becoming seemed to be hidden away again, pushed to the back burner by circumstances beyond my control or my choosing. I tried to hold onto this self, to shove her forward. I tried coaxing her out with e-Courses and art supplies. Those things worked when she was first forming, surely they would work now. Only they didn't. I was left with newly awakening dreams and ideas, and no spark.

The howling began again - that ache in my chest that reminded me with every breath that I'm not done healing yet. Every time I sat to write, to create, to see - the past came bubbling up, spewing pain and toxic sludge through everything. I went silent, wrote just for myself. Too quickly that turned into not writing at all. The dreams seemed to taunt me, to serve as one more reminder that I'm a failure, that I'm too damaged, too broken, too fill-in-the-blank, for these dreams to ever be more than a mockery of hope.

Many of those dreams circling around the idea of offering hope to others. I want my life to be a flickering light in the darkest places. I remember how badly I needed that hope in the form of someone who had been where I used to be, whose life was no longer driven by the desperation that drove my self-destruction. I want to be for others what I didn't have, but so desperately needed. Yet three weeks ago I was being eaten alive by my own darkness, yet again. It wasn't as bad as it's been in the past - I have more options, more tools, more awareness of what's happening and what actually helps.

I've been feeling this shift coming internally, a shift that once again asks my eyes to see the beauty in these ashes. Not because of what they may one day become. Not because of what they once were. But because in their shades of grey, there is a fragile beauty for my heart to stop and notice. I'm still afraid that I wasted half of this year. That I got off track and failed. But those arrows aren't sticking today. Today they don't hold power over me and for now that's enough.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Leaning into My In-Betweens

I was ranting at my therapist yesterday about this in-between place in my healing. I want a framework for this next piece of my healing - just like I wanted a framework for the pieces that came before. Between workbooks and several 12 step groups, I found those frameworks and was able to adapt them to be the guide I was looking for in my processing. Now I'm gearing up for a new phase. And just like every other phase of my life this far, I'm complaining that it's not getting here fast enough, that I don't have the right tools for this next piece. My therapist ever so gently called me out that once again I was getting ahead of myself. He reminded me that we're still mapping out what I'm working on, and until that is laid out, I don't even know what tools I need.

How often though is this my pattern, not just in healing by in how I approach life? I have a dream and a general idea of how I'm going to get there. I can see the step I'm on, and maybe even the next several down the road. Because I can see it, I get impatient. I start to push myself into places that I'm not quite ready to step into. Sometimes that push is exactly what I need and while I might flounder around for a little while, I do end up catching my feet under me. But then there are the times when no matter what I do, I can't get my footing. I drown. I claw my way back onto the step I'd been on before my great leap. Too often I back down at that point, decide that nope this wasn't the step for me to take and not only that but my entire dream was just that, a dream. I camp out on that step, making a home in a place that was meant to be temporary.

The contradiction of it all is I'm anxious to get to where I'm going. To prove that I can do what my parents didn't and heal from my woundedness without passing it on to others. I don't want to stand still and wait in this space for the next step to become clear and firm. I kick and scream, muddying the waters until I can't see even this step. I lose myself in my frustration of what comes next and forget to breathe in the space I am in.

I have these next six weeks, while my therapist is out of the country to allow this next piece to continue to form. I could spend them kicking and screaming at how I don't have tools and how this is unfair. I've definitely made that choice in the past. I would still eventually get to my next step, exhausted, needing rest, defiant.

I have another choice here. One born out of what this year of become has taught me. I can sit in this space, quiet my racing desperate need to not still be entangled in my past, and see. I can see into this place. See the next step that is still forming in front of me without having to jump on it. I can see deeper into myself, dig deeper into my own why.  I can choose to live this process in a way that brings life to my heart.

I can choose to stay in this moment even though it's uncomfortable. Even though I know that I have this new piece, this shift in my focus that is just brushing against my outstretched fingertips, I don't have to DO anything with it yet. My entire psyche is tuned to function in the tension between two opposing truths. It allowed me to survive, and now, it can help me to thrive. I can hold the truth that this space I'm in doesn't fit me any more and that the next space where I need to go isn't ready for me yet. I can lean into my in-between with intention, with purpose, allowing it to shape me, prepare me for this next shift.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Delighting in My Voice

I am distracted by the utter cuteness that is someone's toddler, running around the coffee shop, saying hi because it's the only word she seems to know. She has no fear running up to me sharing her one word. It's her word. Her ability to connect with the big wide world around her. So she keeps using that one word, over and over again. Asking, inviting those around her to respond to her one word.

A whisper of a thought strikes me, do I see? Do I get it? This toddler isn't judging her word. She's revelling in it. Sharing it freely, not concerned about how others are going to perceive it. Not afraid that her one word isn't good enough. Those of us around her respond to her word with smiles, enjoying her exploration of her voice and her world.

Somewhere along the way I lost my delight in my words. I stopped approaching my world like a toddler. I learned to judge my words, to hesitate in approaching strangers, to stop exploring. I learned that my words weren't as good as someone else's words. I stopped delighting in words and my ability to communicate. I micro-focused on learning better words, on digging deep to find the perfect meaning. There's value in that. There is value in expanding vocabulary. But in learning that, in learning new words, I got caught up in the quest to refine my words, and stopped using them.

This year of become has been one heck of a journey. It's not over yet either. There's still another three months ahead of me. If they are anything like the last nine have been, I may not recognize myself by the end of it! A huge part of this year has been reclaiming my delight in my written words. Delighting in stringing thoughts into sentences, building paragraphs, taking a deep breath and pushing publish. It's not the only place that my words have been spilling out. by the end of this year, I'll have filled three journals.

I'm not yet like that little girl running around the coffee shop. I'm not ready to put me and my words out there everywhere I go. I am becoming though. I am learning to delight in my words, even though it feels self-indulgent. I'm finding myself as I put pen to paper. It's a beautiful thing.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Staying in the Right Now

Most of my life I've been a pessimist, looking forward into the worst possible outcome for my future. I was so certain that life would always be hard, that if there was a loss that could be experienced it would happen to me. I lived from a place of constantly looking for and planning for the worst. It was a survival skill and because of it, I'm pretty good at spotting issues and problem-solving. It's what made me a good business student.

All that looking ahead though, it kept me stuck. My dreams for the future were more like nightmares. In all of it, I couldn't dream for a positive, healthy future. At least not realistically. My dreams were more like surreal fantasies, nothing that I could work towards or own. Constantly living in the what could be, instead of the what is meant that instead of enjoying the sunset, I was fretting about having to wake up tomorrow and do it all over again. Several years ago, I started to dream - healthy positive, these could be possible dreams. They stayed as dreams, flickering in and out of my life over the past several years. Even though my dreams were positive ones, my response to them was still cynical. Too many days, these good dreams seemed to be mocking me, taunting me with what could be if only I would pull my head out and work for them. It left me beaten down, unwilling to voice my dreams or allow them a voice.

Now I'm learning what it looks like to own my right now place, instead of using my dreams as a cudgel to beat myself bloody. My right now, it's messy. It's not as productive as I want it to be. I don't feel as disciplined as I need to be. My fear is still making more of my choices for me than I'm comfortable with. I could go on, listing ways that my right now isn't enough. Because really that's what this is about. It's comparison rearing her ugly head. Only I'm not comparing with someone else, I'm comparing with my own expectations for myself.

I've been reminding myself over and over that my getting to those dreams, living those dreams takes me living in my right now. The choices that I make now. The tools that I learn to use now. The character that I build now. These are some of the things necessary for my dreams. If someone were to hand me everything I ever wanted, with no strings attached today, I still wouldn't be able to be the person that I dream about. I wouldn't be able to accomplish the goals that I have. My life wouldn't have the depth of what I hope to offer. This future me, she needs my present self's lessons and growth and mistakes. This future life can only, is only built on the growing that I'm doing between here and there.

That means that today, I showed up. I sat down to write, even though it meant fleeing my messy apartment and the chores that tempt me. Away from the taunting that my time would be better spent being a "better" wife and housekeeper. That's my right now. My right now is pushing through the resistance, the reluctance to dig deep. My right now looks like owning my raw beauty, the power of my heart spilled into words.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Story Sessions Write In: My Voice

This post brought to you by a Story Sessions prompt. "When (and how) did you find your voice? And if you haven't yet, what do you think it's going to take to find it?"

My voice is playful. Caught up in this never-ending game of hide and seek. The first time I found her, I was 13, bored out of my mind in school, She showed up in elaborate stories where the heroine was always rich with an older brother to protect her, a boyfriend who loved her and her parents were no where to be found.

I started high school the next year and my voice went back into hiding, intimidated by the creativity of my peers and overwhelmed by life. I'd catch glimpses of her as she moved from one hiding place to the next. But I never could quite catch her.

This past Spring I took Story 101. Instead of chasing my voice, I sat down and created a space for her. I listened to her, saw her need to run, to be a little wild. She didn't want to be caught and forced to write on straight lines, words lined up like little soldiers. She loves the freedom of ink spilling across a page and the smell of a new journal. She wants to write in half thoughts and run on sentences that we come back to later to clean up, or not as the case often seems to be. She creates in shapes and spirals that circle around the blank page.

I'm still finding layers of my voice. My voice is more than just playful. Her whispers are powerful. They shake tears from my eyes. They scatter truth as they fall.

Finding my voice is tied into finding me. The me still trapped under the layers of rubble.

I found part of my voice the very first time I introduced myself in a 12 step meeting. I found it sitting in a circle every week, whispering truths through tears.

I found my voice every time I put pen to paper, jotting down the phrases and sentences that ran in my head and captured me.

I found my voice at the top of a hill, screaming at a God I could no longer understand.

I found my voice in darkness, when mental illness swallowed me whole, chewed me down and spat out what was left.

My voice found me as I learned to say yes to things like leadership and E-courses. She found me as I wrote and spoke through my fears and inadequacies. She found me through thousands of journalled pages and therapy work books.

It turns out in that game of hide and seek, I was the one hiding and she was the one seeking me.