According to You…

This morning my inner critic came knocking.  Usually I send her quickly to the corner and replace her scathing remarks with loving affirmations.  Today, I said “Screw it!” and just let her talk.  Let me tell you she was relentless.  I was at the gym when she started in on me and in the middle of her rant the song “According to You” came on the radio.  She preceded to steal some of the lyrics and spew them at me too.

Of course I couldn’t help myself and took some of the song and looked at it as a metaphorical example of my inward battle.  The YOU in the song could be that little me, big ego, and inner critic that likes to keep me locked in fear and self-doubt.  The HIM in the song could be the divinity within me reminding me that I am loved, perfect, and always welcome into his embrace.  It’s up to me to choose who I give my power to.

Here’s the song by Orianthi.  It is really just a song about two guys, but for me this morning it was a lot more.  Oh, and this woman is pretty badass…talk about girl power!

Meeshelle’s Click

Meeshelle started following my blog at the end of Spring last year.  She is so great about reading, commenting, and generally keeping up with my musings.  Meeshelle has a wonderfully positive energy that comes through clearly in her comments and posts.  I am very grateful she took me up on my request to share a click.  After reading her here, you can check out her blog here.

Meeshelle’s Click

Many years ago my little sister and I were enjoying a day at the lake. I wanted to go swimming and could tell she was interested in joining me. She would make short advances but then stop herself for some reason. I couldn’t figure out why this cute little nine-year-old wouldn’t want to run around and enjoy the warm weather/cool waters.

Was it a fear of sharks?
No.

Did she not want to get wet?
Nope, that was no problem.

Did she think she wasn’t a strong enough swimmer?
No, she could swim.

For a minute I was at a loss as to what to do. I tried many different ways to encourage her to JUMP IN with me, but she would just look and shake her head ‘no.’

I put my hands on my hips and asked her, “Why not?” But she just backed away from the water, staring up at me, searching. Finally she piped up that she didn’t want to take off her shirt and shorts.

Even at such a young age she had already began to develop body issues.

It was then that I took a moment to pause and take stock of myself.

There I stood, wearing my own bathing suit cover-up; a walking contradiction, do as I say, not as I do.

In that moment I decided it was time to lead by example. I shed the outer layers and stood there trying to be fearless – she was watching me very carefully.

It was the first time in years my upper thighs had seen the sun and it felt good. But what was even more satisfying was seeing my little sister’s face light up as she followed my lead.

We stood there taking it all in for a moment, and then she giggled, then I giggled and soon we were laughing like no one else on the beach existed.

Taking each others’ hand we ran and dove into the water together.

That day she taught me more than I could have hoped to teach her.

*Meeshelle’s headshot is by Pink Monkey Studios.

Breathing Instead of Bailing

In case you haven’t noticed, I trashed the “What No Longer Serves You” post.  Since I decided to return here to this space I didn’t want my bailing out post to be hanging out there anymore.  Obviously, bailing wasn’t the answer to my search.  It reminded me more than anything that I’m still searching and it sucks to not be able to talk about it.  It seems a bit silly, but I realized coming here gives me a sense of purpose.  It exercises my craft but more importantly it exercises my soul.  When I take my reactions and my feelings and I put them into words and out into the world I learn more about who I am and where I’m going.

I physically bailed on this blog on August 27th when I published that last post, but I mentally bailed at the beginning of the summer.  At that point I lost touch with friends (such as Musing Madman) who challenged me and helped guide my spiritual development, I stopped making time for silence, and I let my mind carry me to the future far too often.  I spent oh so many hours dwelling on goals and desires that I fear will never come to fruition.  I let the fears grip me to the point of paralysis.  I let gratitude slide and my breathing become shallow.

I mention breath because it really is a metaphor for life.  Shallow breath usually comes along with anxious feelings and anxious feelings usually accompany shallow thoughts.  When you breathe deeply and consciously, you can’t help but live that way too.  I’m reading the Paul Ferrini book, Silence of the Heart, now.  It begins with a few pages about breath.  It points out that whenever you are upset you can stop and observe that you are not breathing (or not breathing deeply).  If in that moment you take a few deep breaths you will feel some relief from that angst.  “One who breathes is not afraid or overwhelmed by what life presents….”

I hope that this post is the first of many.  I hope I can find solace and inspiration in both the silence and the breath.  I know I have experienced great peace from them in the past.  Yet in the moment, returning to that peace is a challenge that should be easy but strangely isn’t.  I took a minor detour on my path to self-discovery.  I lost myself a bit in fear.  I wanted answers that are simply not ready for me yet.  Now I’m easing my way back to surrender…

Human Behavior

I’m laughing a little as I title this post because there is a Bjork song with the same title and Mark teases our dog by singing it to her.  Lilly is now pretty much conditioned to switch into attack mode as soon as she hears him belt out a note of it.  There was also a period of time where the girls would watch the video on YouTube and Bella found it quite frightening.  In most areas Callee is more like me then her father except when it comes to teasing.  For a long time Callee would say “Hey Bella you want to talk about human behavior?” and Bella would immediately get scared.

But quite frankly, human behavior is scary and I’m not talking about the Bjork video.  We’ve been watching the series The L Word on and off for the last year.  After finishing season 2 we decided it was too cheesy and melodramatic, but ultimately we got reeled back into it and just finished season 3.  During season 3, I just kept thinking and asking “is this how people really are?” The show is focused around a group of women who are all either Lesbian or Bi-sexual.  The real heart of the show lies in their human-ness and the way they react to their life experiences.  Sometimes it is just plain difficult to watch…which is what brought me to my question.  Are people really like these characters?

What seems to dominate the character’s lives is FEAR.  Almost every move they make comes from that place.  One character sees her girlfriend flirting with some men and she runs over to her ex’s house and spends the night.  When the truth comes out she apologizes by saying that this is just who she is.  Her MO is to be an insecure womanizer…change isn’t in the cards.  The girlfriend is terribly hurt but instead of communicating and forgiving she seeks revenge by also cheating.  You watch these two characters react, react, react until they have completely undone all the good between them and have no relationship left.

Another couple has a daughter and are deciding to split up.  They scream, yell, and curse at one another as the little toddler sits on the floor and watches.  They each threaten the other with getting sole custody of the little girl.  They can’t seem to find any peace, they are too busy blaming one another for the demise of their partnership.

In this show the characters make all sorts of decisions trying to make themselves feel better.  Each one seeks outside of themselves.  When faced with the loss of a friend they cling to the nearest warm body and make irrational commitments.  At times when meeting their fears they give up, too unsure of their ability to follow through.  When people challenge them they defend themselves with anger as their uniform.  They let every emotion lead them down a different road.  And still in the midst of the chaos, it is never their own choices that led them there…always someone else’s fault.

I do believe that the show illustrates what a lot of people are really like (although with some added Hollywood drama).  I know that I’ve been like this at various times in my life.  I have been guilty of seeking revenge.  I’ve been guilty of making assumptions about what other people were thinking or saying in respect to me.  I’ve been incredibly insecure at times.  I’ve been clingy after experiencing a loss.  I’ve lashed out at people who love me.  I’ve been a quitter and at times even a little self-destructive.  I’ve looked to the world to fix me.  And I’ve probably, at least on an occasion or two, blamed someone else when it didn’t.

Luckily I now have a tool that helps to lift me, even if in brief intervals, out of the madness of my humanity.  Because I seek within and find moments of silence, I’ve learned to see my old patterns and break them.  I’ve learned that I don’t have to have an MO that stays with me forever.  Life is about growth and change that cannot be found outside of us…

OpinionatedGift’s Click

I met OpinionatedGift through this blog and Twitter.  He left a nice comment, I clicked on his blog, read and instantly knew he was good people.  I have so enjoyed reading his thoughts and opinions over the last year.  He is a really good friend and someone I have a lot of respect for.  He was among the first group of people I asked to write a click story for me.  I’ve tried not to pressure him too much, but remind him every now and then that I’m still waiting for his click.  He always tells me he’s still thinking about it.  Last week I read the following post on his personal blog and I thought…that’s it.  I emailed and asked if I could share it here.  He kindly agreed.  You can follow him on Twitter here and read his blog here.

Twelve years ago this week I was spending my days going through my father’s apartment with my brother. Dad had shot himself on the 9th and his body was found by his oldest friend in New York on the 12th. Twelve years ago Wednesday.

Twelve years ago I was sifting through grief, memory and questions questions questions. Not the ones you might think. The fact is, when I got the call from my brother that the police had called him from Dad’s apartment, I knew what had happened. I’d hoped I was wrong. But I knew.

Mom said it best that night when we called to let her know. “He was always so sad”. It was true. He was also scared. Whatever the combination, he had a dim world view.

I loved my dad. He was basically a good man who never really dealt with his anger issues, his alcoholism or his strengths. A talented actor, he’d packed us up from Tucson Arizona, sold the Ford Falcon and got us on a train to New York City and went straight into substitute teaching and social work. His career as an actor was essentially small productions in holes in the wall (before the moniker “Off Off Broadway” was coined.) and extra work in movies.

As a kid I would listen while he would lament the vagaries of the business and how hard it was…and it instilled in me the belief that the business was indeed brutal. It didn’t stop me from wanting to be an actor. It didn’t stop me from thinking I could do better. But these things are insidious and the sins of the father are often visited upon the son. His beliefs did become mine and even when I achieved some pretty good if minor successes, my joy would be tainted by fear of the success not lasting.

Now to be sure, being an actor isn’t easy. It can be brutal, but I can see very clearly as I look back how my own thoughts and feelings that were inherited affected the way I approached my career and subsequently the way my career developed…or didn’t as it turns out.

Twelve years ago fears and doubts overtook my father to the point that he no longer was able to reason. This man who raced down the street with me…encouraged me to take the training wheels off my back when he knew I could. The man who when he saw I was floundering in my efforts to audition for the High School of Performing Arts bought a gazillion plays for me to look through and helped me find the right pieces and even coached me. A man who as a social worker had saved or improved as best he could, so many lives, wasn’t even able to remember a simple meditation technique because anxiety had overcome him.

He’d been given Buspar and started to take it, then stopped. 12 years ago it got so bad that he sat at the edge of his bed and ate the barrel of a .357 magnum. He left a note that was really more of an excuse than anything else. Fears of a cancer that didn’t exist.

Two weeks later, the girl he wanted to marry, a dancer from Japan was finally allowed back into the country. He’d become convinced it wouldn’t happen after months of legal back and forth. Fear of being alone and abandoned convinced him that his life wouldn’t work out as he desired. So it seems he decided to just stop trying.

12 years later I still wrestle with loving him and hating him. Remembering his capacity for compassion for everyone while he seemed to only have pity for himself. I am sometimes on the edge of forgiving him. And then I remember having to tell my daughter what happened. I remember how as she is now almost 20 years old, she can’t play chess because that’s what she used to do with Grandpa. I can’t quite do it.

For the past 12 years, for about 3 weeks before and after the anniversaries, he shows up in my dreams. Sometimes as if he’s never been gone, sometimes as if he’s only been on some trip in South America or something and we all just THOUGHT he was dead.I forget about it…forget it’s that time of year…sometimes even the days of his actual death or the day he was found go by entirely unnoticed. Sometimes not.

Twelve years later I can watch Dirty Harry make one line comments about his Magnum and still get a kick out of it. But when Heroes first aired and there was an episode with half a skull being cut off and brains removed, I get completely worked up.

I wrestle with fear too. And it’s not hard to see how it keeps me from acting. Clouds my thinking. I’ve made a decades long struggle of shifting from “can’t” to “can”. It hasn’t been easy.

Twelve years ago I cremated my father. Twelve years later I’m still cremating parts of his legacy so I can rise from the ashes.

Nothing is Against You

I read something recently about the idea of spiritual warfare and outside forces pulling on us.  I felt I needed to address it in a post as I suppose many people feel this way.

Here is what I believe, plain and simple:  NO ONE AND NOTHING IS AGAINST YOU!

Those “forces” that are out to get us, come from egoic FEAR.  I believe that “God” is love and light that is always present and all powerful.  If we build our foundations on that rock we can release the fear of being brought down.  If our foundations are set in Love even the “bad” things make us better and stronger.

I took the topic into a session of soul-writing.  I asked what I should write to respond to this idea of spiritual warfare.  This is what came through:

God is omniscient and omnipotent.  There is no place we can be and nothing we can do in which God is not with us.  There is nothing more powerful and we are never alone.  How do we suspect these forces are going to pull us away?  We are the prodigal sons.  We get to decide where we will go and how far we shall travel from the Beloved (or at least how far away we are in our minds).  It is not about giving in  to the threat of the world.  It is about forgetting to bring our presence back to God, the ever-present power that moves around us and in us.  Do not give power to outside forces.  Take responsibility.  You get to choose to live a life of fear or love.  When presented with a hardship you supply the meaning.  It can be a curse or a gift but that is not the decision of something outside of you.  This world is what you choose to see it as.  It is a mirror for your own consciousness.  Does the mirror show you hatred, fear and obstacles in your path?  If so it would be helpful to go inward and ask why that is all that is visible to you in this world full of miracles.  We are all-powerful in the sense that everything in our life stems from who we’ve decided we are and how open we are to the gifts of the Universe.  Nothing is out to get you.  You are loved, provided for, protected, and embraced as long as you accept this to be true.  As long as you hold figurative swords and take a fighting posture, enemies will find their way into you life and you will be in Hell.  God saves you by helping you save yourself.  You get to decide.

When I first started meditating, someone said to me with great fear in their voice, “Oh no, you’re not a Buddhist now are you?”  When I answered no, the relief that washed over them was visible.  This person chose to create an enemy of one of the most peaceful, loving religions in existence.  An institution built around compassion was, in this person’s mind, a monster pulling me away from God.

I believe our faiths are continuously tested for a reason.  That reason is so that we can grow and discover our own personal truth with the Spirit that lies within us.  I also think this is why Jesus said “Love your enemies.”

Jill’s Click

I’m not sure where I first met Jill, whether it was Twitter, our blogs, or Owning Pink, but I know that I read whatever was the current blog post on her page and added her immediately to my blogroll b/c it spoke to me so strongly.  I have enjoyed tweeting with Jill and she is always so very supportive of my blog and writing.  She sent me the following post in response to my request.  It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.  An essay about moving past fear as I was stuck in a fearful place, worried about rejection.  Thank you Jill, for the following wise words.  You can follow Jill on Twitter here and read her blog here.

When I was asked by Leslee to write a Click story I was momentarily panicked.  I instantly heard a voice in my head say, “No way! You can not do that. You have nothing to say. You don’t remember any click moments.”  It was the voice of fear.

Fear has often stopped me in my tracks. To be honest, it has not only stopped me, but it has knocked me down and pushed me into a deep hole and then shoveled dirt on top of me. Ok, that is a little dramatic, but that is exactly how my life used to feel. I would be wandering along happily and then BAM!! Something would bring fear into my heart and I would fall to pieces.

Since January of 2009, I have been on an interesting journey.  I don’t remember the specific date, just that it was a Saturday in January. I was at my baby sisters house and we were discussing the spiritual journey she was about to begin. She had recently quit a job that was sucking the life out of her and she was feeling drawn to California. I remember sitting there seeing how happy she was and how she was much more relaxed than I had ever seen her before.  I wanted what she had. Then a thought came into my head from nowhere that turned me upside down.

“You get to decide. You get to choose who you are.”  With that thought I was brought to tears. These were tears of joy.  It was like my life had never existed until that very moment. I was so excited to finally get to live my life on my terms.

I chose a few things that day. I chose to no longer accept that I was an addict of any kind. I had recently left a 12-step group for compulsive overeating, and while in that group I had also accepted that I was probably an alcoholic. On that cold, January day I gave those labels to the Universe, and I was happy, joyous and free for the first time in my life.  I chose to let my past be my past.  I chose to allow myself to be happy and beautiful, even if I was overweight.

It was very much a spiritual experience, but I had a long way to go.  I was coming out of the depths of my own living Hell, so there was much more work to be done.  Over the next year I had my ups and my downs, but I never lost sight of the fact that I get to choose.  I spent numerous hours reading all things spiritual. I also spent many hours in the therapist’s office.  The day came when I decided that I no longer needed a therapist. I was ready to go it alone.

My life continued to get better. My heart opened in ways that I didn’t think were ever possible. I learned how to love myself and others fully. I recognized that I had been sharing my Spirit with a bully and got some help to get rid of it once and for all. Happy, joyous and free had continued to be my destiny.

I can’t possibly remember all of the defining moments I’ve had over the past year and 3 months.  There have been many.  The next one that struckme came sometime in November (or was it December). I honestly can’t remember. I was on Twitter and in my Twitter stream came a Divinely inspired tweet. I don’t remember the exact quote, but it was about giving up “chicken behaviors” and living bullet-free.

I decided at that moment in time that I wanted to be bullet-free. I wanted to live fearlessly, out in plain sight. So I committed to facing my fears and not letting them control me any longer.  You see, even though I was happier than I had ever been in my life, I was still letting fear live a part of my life for me. I was still holding back because I was afraid of what people would think of me.

So starting in January 2010 I dedicated my year to living it free of fear.  If something puts fear in me I know that that is something I need to do.  I have faced a number of fears through my blog. I found my voice and now I let it speak. I no longer deny my spirituality. If someone wants to know who I am I tell them. I started homeschooling some of the Littles again because I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do, even if others didn’t think so.  I sang karaoke for the first time recently, because it has always been something I wanted to do, but was too scared to try.  And when Leslee asked me to submit a Click story, I knew by the fear I felt that I would be writing that story.

My decision to live a fearless year has not been easy. I still have fears that I have to face. I have avoided some conversations with loved ones. I have a phobia of the dentist that I will be facing soon. I have kept my truest self hidden from certain people.  These are all fears that I have, but I know that each one will be dealt with. I know this because, I get to choose. And because I have chosen to live free, I know that I will face all things that make me want to run and hide.  I’m done hiding.  I’m living out in the open.  Happy, joyous and free.

Fear VS Hope

The idea for this post popped into my head while I was on the spin bike this morning at the gym.  It came to me by way of a really harsh metaphor that I may or may not use.  We’ll see when I make it to the end.

There are two ways that groups, particularly religious and political, try to recruit members.  They do it by using fear or hope.  We know that in 2008, “hope” won the US presidential election, or at least the promise of hope won.  A year has passed since then and many people are angry.  The new dawn that was promised hasn’t arrived.  We want instant gratification..the equivalent of high speed internet in every aspect of our lives.  It is in these moments our fears are honed in on.  When we are down and frightened someone tells us something even scarier with the hopes that we’ll submit to them and their cause.  It’s our last resort right…the only thing that can save us.

When I was little, I had a sleep over with a very religious little girl. I’ve said before that my memories are all fuzzy but I do remember being terrified that night.  I either ended up in bed with her parents or calling my mom to pick me up in the middle of the night all because of a conversation we had about the devil.  This took place before my family started attending church, so I was a blank slate.  I’d not heard much about God, Jesus, Heaven, or Hell.  If you can, imagine just for a moment how it might feel to be a small child with little to no religious background having Hell, the devil, and demons described to you.  It is even worse than watching a horror movie, because someone is telling you it is a real place and YOU will probably end up there.  From that point on I never forgot that feeling and was always uncomfortable at the girl’s house.

It occurred to me today that this is the method a lot of religious groups use to “save” people.  Members may ask someone what they believe in, then tell them they are wrong and unless they change they’ll go to Hell and burn for eternity.  Joining the group can keep the person from experiencing a pain that is immeasurable.  Innocent, kind, and loving souls are colored as evil sinners because they’ve chosen a different path or have no recognizable path.  Fear is the weapon of choice.  Hope is offered only after fear has set in.

I wondered today if there is a certain look that crosses a person’s face that lets you know they will accept your message.  Can you see the fear in their eyes and know then that they will gladly drink your wine?  And is that the goal…to see that fear and know the person will submit?  If this is the case it makes some “evangelizing” not so very different from rape, robbery, or even murder.  It is all about power and playing God.  In the mind of the individual in control it is about holding someone else’s fate in your hands.  You create so much fear in their mind that anything you follow with is salvation….

On that note (I did in fact use the morbid metaphor that came to my mind), I’d say the best way to live the spiritual life is to let your living be a witness to others.  Live in such a way that others would be drawn to you and may ask what it is you have found that brings you such peace and joy….  Then and only then should you share your message of hope, love, and peace (and God if you see fit)!

The Mountain

The Mountain (2-19-10)

Ahead is a mountain

full of mysteries

unknowns

I’ve walked the other way

even tried to go around

there is no way around

and going back

leaves me spinning

dizzy and breathless

I’ve dug my heels in the ground

refusing to keep

promises made

the mountain could

drain me

spit me out

I could

fall off a cliff

slide back down

over and over

I fear the mountain

making it to the other side

could change

Everything

even worse

could change

Nothing

not making it

equals failure

the ground beneath me

is shifting

my heels don’t fit in the sand

the way they have for so long

I’m looking around

and up

need the push

shove really

to get me onto the

Mountain….

My Twitter-Free Challenge

Tonight (Tues.) marks the end of my one week Twitter-free challenge.  It has been a liberating week that has allowed me to reconnect to my real life and discover something new about myself.  It’s safe to say I had a problem with the internet in general and especially Twitter.  It’s not unlike drugs or alcohol in that it offers you highs and at times leaves you flat on your face.  Depending on how you use Twitter and the road it takes you on this may look different to different people.  For me it was about validation and feeling “liked.”  If I tweeted the right thing people would reply and show interest in me.  Conversations would start and I’d get the warm fuzzies of a new friendship without having to leave my living room.  But what you realize about Twitter is that it is saturated with people and those people are using it for all sorts of reasons, mainly to get noticed themselves.  People move on, find new followers and engage in more interesting conversations.  For me, I was always on Twitter (logging in and out almost constantly), but not always getting that validation.  In those down moments I would feel the urge to sign off and stay off, but then someone would mention my blog or tweet about my “lovely smile” and I’d be sucked back in again.

For weeks now I have felt this pull to spend less time online and especially less time on Twitter.  I have met such great people there though and when I would think of taking a break the fear voice would pipe in.  What if my Twitter friends forget me? And of course the logical answer to that is if they do forget me they are not actually friends and if they are friends they will not forget.  But that damn fear voice is not logical, it just panics and clings.  So I decided I would present my predicament to one of the sweet souls over at Owning Pink.  I happened to find her on gmail chat last Tuesday evening.

I asked her if she spent a lot of time on Twitter.  This was a question I already had the answer to.  Yes, she has an account, no, she doesn’t really use it.  I told her that I was beginning to feel like it was draining me.  It was making me feel like the regular girl trying hard to be the popular girl.  I am an introvert at my core and that huge part of me aches at these attempts to be an extrovert.  I joined Twitter for the sake of my blog.  It’s what people do when they have something to publicize.  She asked if it was helping.  I told her I thought it helped but really could only see about 8 hits a day that come from Twitter.  The fact is out of 1400 followers I have on Twitter, maybe 20 of them read my tweets (or at least that’s how it seems).

Then she suggested this challenge…Take a week off of Twitter or for the next week limit the time you spend there.  There it was, one of those wonderful clicks. I thought OF COURSE, I’LL DO IT.  A minute later I left my last tweet for the week (other than the daily post that goes to the FB fan page and Twitter simultaneously).

So what have I done this week?  I read a book.  I meditated more.  I bought a sketch pad and started drawing.  Inspired by Bella’s homemade Valentines, I’ve started making greeting cards.  I put 5 handmade and handwritten cards in the mailbox to friends and loved ones today.  I’ve played Wii with Mark.  I’ve spent time with the girls.  I’ve wallowed in the beauty of my real life.  I’ve breathed in gratitude that these three people are here in my world loving me so completely and wonderfully.  I am full and blessed and happy.

I’ll sign back on to Twitter tonight.  I’ll say hello to the friends I’ve missed.  Maybe I’ll find a few mentions of me, or maybe I won’t.  I have learned that I can earn the same validation by listening to my soul when it demands a change.