Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reverb10: December 25: Photo

Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I started nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me. 

December 25 – Photo
Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

I believe it was in April. My company, bless its collective heart, sent me to a psychology conference held, of all places, in Cancun, Mexico. My boyfriend at the time, an eager traveler who lived for 10 years in Mexico and speaks fluent spanish, agreed to come with me. I mean hey, free hotel, warm tropical beaches, what's not to like? Oh, and then of course there was his wonderful companion, me. Due to the vagaries of cheap air travel, he got there a day ahead of me and we agreed to meet in the lobby of the hotel. The night before I arrived, he got a cheap hotel in town, and, wandering around that evening looking for a place to eat, he found a sushi restaurant that had just opened up. The food was excellent and he bonded with the owner and manager, so later that week, after the conference was over, he brought me there. We were the only people in the restaurant (it was pretty early) and we got to talking with the staff. The dinner was great, and after dinner, the owner, a former interior designer from Japan, decided he wanted to show us a wedding kimono he had just bought for some ungodly amount of money. Several thousand dollars, at least. It was gorgeous, of course, and he insisted I try it on. This photo is of him adjusting this amazing concoction of silk and ribbon, with me as the model.

This photo is special to me because it represents so many things that are dear to my heart: travel, love, my ex-, adventure, good food and company, and those kind of experiences that you could never in a million years make up. I'm trying on an expensive wedding kimono in a sushi restaurant in downtown Cancun! It's so surreal it's wonderful.

To me, it represents something I like about myself: my capacity to gleefully travel outside of culturally prescribed norms and be open to this wide, wonderful, crazy world in all of its weirdness and mystery.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reverb10: December 22: Travel

Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I started nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me. 

December 22 – Travel How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

New Orleans. Cancun. Tahoe. Napa. Bodega Bay. The Black Rock Desert. I traveled for work, for play, and for everything in between. The trips were inevitably glorious, trying, beautiful, complex, and adventuresome. I watched the sun rise over the Mississippi. Danced in the warm waves off the tip of Mexico and watched lightning flash across the beach at night, warm in the arms of my love. Smelled the dust and crushed grape-smell of the Napa valley, hiking up an unnamed creek after escaping a traffic jam on Silverado Trail. Watched technicolor clouds tumble over a hidden reservoir in a forest. Walked the humid streets of my favorite city with friends and family, celebrating my 40th birthday. Tasted playa dust and watched from atop a bus as a wooden effigy burned amidst a storm of dust and smoke. Slept in a trailer that rocked in the wind off the desert as stars brighter than I'd ever seen floated across the sky outside. Walked a cold northern beach, bundled against the wind, while the shorebirds scattered through the seafoam. Drank many a toast, laughed a lot, admired the view.

For 2011, I will be in New Orleans and the Black Rock desert again, as most years. Possibly Washington DC for a conference. I'm going to try to find a temporary apartment rental in New Orleans in May/June and live and telecommute from there for about 6 weeks. I've always wanted to know what it would be like to live there, not just party there.  I'd love to visit my old haunts: Grass Valley, Santa Cruz, Tahoe, Napa. I'd like to go on a road trip in the US south.

The sense of movement is what I like best about travel, that and seeing things I've never seen before. I've never liked staying in one place for too long, but I like coming back to a home. This year, I look forward to more adventures, more photos, more stories, and more new friends!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reverb10: December 19: Healing

Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I started nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me. 

December 19 – Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?

Something about confronting my deep, dark shadow this year healed it. At least it feels that way. Or maybe it's just that being out of that situation feels so much better than being in it, that I feel healed. But I think mucking around in the deep, stinky mud of my psyche, confronting those fears and the old pain, being forced to sit with it when there was no place to hide, did something, brought some of that stuff out into the light, where it dried up and blew away. I'm sure the roots are still in there, down in the soil, waiting to sprout again if the conditions are right, but I feel stronger now, more like I can handle a few weeds. Other things that healed me have been people who have been brave enough to shine their lights on me, and to remind me, over and over again until they must have gotten tired of it, of my own light.

In 2011, I want to be healed of more of my fear and to be able to stay centered in my own light no matter where I am or with whom. Never again do I want to lose myself to the extent that I did in 2010. I would like to heal that hole that so desperately craves someone to fill it with love and adoration, and that keens with loneliness when that person isn't to be found. Already I feel better, like the hole is somewhat healed, or healing. The loneliness isn't so sharp as it was, nor the keening so loud. I'm wishing for the healing to continue in 2011 and for that hole to close up without even a scar. Well, maybe one of those sexy scars, the kind that will make me all the more mysterious and intriguing :-)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reverb10: December 18: Try

Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I started nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me. 

Reverb10: December 18 – Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it?

I'd love to learn to dance, and I'd like to dance more. I've always wanted to take a dance class,  to learn the more formal dances because I think some of them are cool. Also, I'm not very physically confident, so formal dancing makes me a bit nervous. I think it would be good for me and open up possibilities for me to do something that demands a certain measure of physical coordination. And with a dance partner, too! 

In 2010 I wanted to do this and also wanted to learn spanish. I think spanish will take more of a commitment and hardcore studying/experiences (like taking an immersion course in Mexico), and I'm not quite ready for that yet. I actually did take spanish class in 2009, because I've always loved the language, but the class I took was too easy. So I decided to enroll in conversational spanish, but that was too hard. So then I just focused on other things. But I'd still like to be able to converse at least minimally in spanish. I mean aside from asking for more beer.

In 2010, I tried to learn to play acoustic guitar, but before I got very far, I changed the strings and I broke the G string, so the guitar has been sitting in my office for the entire year. I've had "buy a new guitar string" on my to-do list forever. In 2011, I really would like to buy a new G string. Take however you want to :-)

Reverb10: December 17: Lesson Learned

Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I started nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me. 

December 17 – Lesson Learned What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?

I learned that I am stronger than I sometimes think I am, and that I can withstand what I think I can't. It's so hard to feel stuck, trapped, not able to cope with things changing in the way that you fear, while also being unhappy in a situation that doesn't serve you. I learned that healing happens faster than I think, that I have a deep capacity for recovery and growth, and that I CAN do the thing I think I can't.

Going forward, I will do my best to remember this (it's sometimes hard when we're in the thick of things, isn't it?) and to trust my intuition to lead the way when I'm unsure. I'll act more quickly on my gut, and at the very least give myself the right not to make any major heart decisions until the right path seems clear. Consistently. Not just every now and then. I know I will be able to survive any decision I make, even when it seems heartbreaking at the time. For me, the heart heals more quickly than I ever thought possible.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Reverb10: December 16: Friendship

Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I started nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me. 

December 16 – Friendship How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

I met a wonderful lady last year by stumbling on to her blog.  Her words touched me deeply, and I commented on her post and also forwarded her blog to my sweetie at the time. He was even more blown away by her words than I was, and it started a chain of events that, I think, taught all three of us some new things about ourselves.

Her blog - all about living and loving, moments of enlightenment, and moments of struggle, and how they all intersect - seemed to tell a parallel story to my own story. Things that had recently happened in my life, especially concerning my relationship, seemed to have parallels in hers. It was eery. She writes continually of opening up to the love that surrounds us like air, and letting that energy flow through us without resistance. She writes of the boundless ecstasy that is awakening to this interconnectedness, and how we suffer by believing ourselves to be separate.

Meanwhile, over the past year, she also wrote (on her blog and in e-mails to me) of her struggles with the reality of being a single mom, with relationships - both new and past - and in carving out a career for herself in the midst of it all. Throughout this time, I was also struggling mightily with my relationship. Her words, always wise and kind, brought me back to earth when I was shattered, panic-stricken, or terrified that I was losing my love. Her message was always: this is the way it's meant to be. Everything's happening for a reason, and everything is okay. Her wisdom and good humor, and her sharing of her own struggles and stories with me, helped me tremendously in walking my path that eventually led to my relationship ending.

Now, sitting here in relative peace and contentment, feeling better than I have in years, I'm in awe that we met and that we share so many parallel experiences. We have never actually met in real life. She lives in the midwest and I live on the west coast. We've only spoken by phone once. But she has changed my perspective  - or at least her perspective has supported my changing perspective - on why we're here and what we're here to do.

During this time, I met another woman, in a workshop designed to help us find our soul's mission in this life. We hadn't really spoken much when another group member took me aside and told me that this other woman lived in the east bay as well but didn't have a car - could I perhaps drive her back across the bridge after class? This started another friendship with eery parallels to what was going on in my relationship. She was struggling in similar ways in her own relationship, and on our drives home, we would talk about what was going on for us in our relationships and in our hearts. Meeting her made me realize that I wasn't crazy for being in the situation I was in, or wanting what I wanted. She ended her relationship long before mine ended, but seeing her blossom after the ending gave me hope and confidence that I could survive and thrive in a new life without my love. Her care, concern, and genuine interest in what was happening in my life is an amazing gift.

Both of these women helped me see the importance of intuition and that deep, inner knowing that we all have access to, and opened my heart to the possibility that there are other realities out there that are worth exploring. They reminded me that love surrounds us, all the time, and also that we don' t have to be doormats to have relationships ;-) For many reasons, I consider myself a wholly new person now, not the same person I was a year ago. These two women are crucial to that transformation, and I would not have the perspective I have now if I hadn't met them.Meeting them and developing friendships with them also gave me confidence that there IS some force out there, or some energy, that looks out for us. How could I have randomly met these two amazing women at the exact time in my life when I needed them?

Thank you, L and E, for your wonderful kindness, amazing strong energy, creativity and inspiration, and for keeping me grounded during what was one of the most difficult years of my life!
Reverb10: December 15:5 Minutes

Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I'm nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me. 

December 15:  5 Minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

  • Beautiful boat, and wonderful music and friends, food, drink, and dancing.
  • The changing of the seasons in my garden.
  • Trips to the desert, the mountains, and the sea.
  • Celebrations with family and friends.
  • Organizing concerts on the boat, meeting musicians and promoters.
  • A book I acquired at work that was the best success of my career
  • Road trips to Grass Valley, in the warm early summer
  • My 40th birthday in New Orleans!
  • The sunrise over the Mississippi
  • Dancing in the surf in Cancun
  • Watching an amazing lightning show from the beach in Cancun.
  • Meeting and getting to know wonderful new friends.
  • Sitting at lunch with friend J, chatting and solving the world's problems.
  • Nights on the town with friend M, meeting new, interesting people and having adventures.
  • NYE 2010, doing a ritual of cleansing and manifestation for the new year.
  • The moments of love and connection and inspiration with my honey.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Reverb10: December 13 – Action
Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I started nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me.

December 13 – Action When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

I have a project that I'm embarking on in the new year, a project that I must keep under wraps because it's a project that I think could actually put my name on the map. It's about dating, and about having our loved ones help us find that special someone. It poses the question: is all of this seeking love by ourselves (online dating, love at first sight, pickups, etc) really working? Does it really serve us when it comes to finding long-term love? Maybe there's another way to do it, by combining certain ancient practices of couple-making with a modern-day sensibility. That's all I'll say.

I will be convening a meeting of certain loved ones next month, and then we'll go from there. Incidentally, I'm interested in talking to people who are in relationships where they met through the intervention of family or friends, especially arranged marriages or matchmade relationships. E-mail me if you or someone you know falls into this category!

Other than that, my actions include making time to meditate every day and making sure I get out and socialize at least a couple of times a week. My other action plan is to find a way to exercise that I don't absolutely abhor. I hate exercise classes! I'm thinking dance class, more strenuous hiking, and maybe an exercise machine at home. Another action I'm taking is to learn tarot, which I think can be a way for me to use my natural intuition and listening skills to connect with people. It's a lot of fun and a fascinating way to get to know people. I'm looking forward to learning more about it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Reverb10: December 14: Appreciate

Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I started nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me. 

December 14 – Appreciate What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?

The thing I learned to appreciate most this year is my intuition, my inner knowing. The fact is that if we listen to ourselves, we often already know the answer. If we sit with a dilemma in silence, with our heads still, our soul knows the right way to go. And if it really doesn't know, it may not be the time to make the decision. Looking back on 2010, I saw so many times when my intuition was right, and my tendency to trust people implicitly or look on everyone with compassion without taking steps to protect my own interests overrode what my gut was sometimes screaming at me to do. So I've decided that, from now on, I will listen to my intuition, take the time to sit in silence and let it send its messages to me, and listen to it when it keeps tapping at my shoulder. If something seems wrong, consistently, it is wrong. If someone seems untrustworthy, it's OK to protect myself before engaging with them. My intuition is there to help me walk this path with a minimal amount of danger, and I need to trust it.

Reverb10: December 12 – Body Integration
Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I started nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me.

December 12 – Body Integration This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?

This is going to sound so weird, but the times when I feel the most integrated in my body are when I'm driving. There's something about how my senses and my body move in an intricate dance. I see a brake light or a car come into my lane and I react. I don't have to think about it. I know what to do when I change lanes, get on the freeway, take a corner, and it's like I'm totally in tune with everything around me. This is probably why I like driving so much. While driving, I have to watch my ability to drift into thinking and ruminating, so that I can stay alert behind the wheel. Not that I'm always good at bringing myself back, but, since mindful presence is so important while driving a large hunk of metal at insane speeds while feet away from other hunks of metal being driven by soft, squishy humans, there's more at stake while I'm driving, more reason to stay present.

I LOVE to drive. Sometimes I'll just take off and drive. In a mental storm, it helps me to calm down. When I'm feeling good, I love to explore. When I drive, I feel in flow and engaged, at one with my mind and body.

Reverb10: December 11: 11 Things
Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I started nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me.

December 11 – 11 Things What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?

1) Loneliness (as opposed to being alone, which is different.)
2) Criticism and judgment.
3) Too much expectation.
4) A resistance to letting go of sadness.
5) The need for people to agree with me.
6) The need for people to like me.
7) Physical laziness (more yoga and exercise!)
8) Fear - of contact, of newness, of doing things I'm not good at.
9) Living too much in my head.
10) Overdrinking and overpartying.
11) Living vicariously.

I think most of these can be faced (I don't necessarily believe in eliminating any part of ourselves) by cultivating mindfulness and attention to my experience, and by reminding myself that one of the things I value is participating and connecting, even when initially it might feel scary. I can use the tools that I know: breathing, centering, meditation, and an attention to my desire to live by my values, and use those to surf the ocean of life.

When I feel lonely but too sad or scared to go out and socialize, or feel like isolating myself from loved ones, I can center myself and remind myself that I value connection. When I'm feeling down on myself for not going out (or not staying in, or not calling a friend back), I can remind myself that I don't need to be perfect. When I don't know what to do, I can consult my values and what I want my life to mean. I can also do this when I'm scared to try something new, or scared to make a commitment to a new path. When I don't want to go to yoga or take that walk, i can remind myself how good it feels to take care of my body. When I want another drink though I know I've already had enough, I can remember the discomfort of a hangover and remind myself how good it feels not to overindulge, how much brighter my mind feels when I'm not toxifying it. When I lose myself in my head thoughts, I can gently bring myself back to the moment and consider that a part of self-care is not letting myself ruminate myself into a deep, dark pit.

When I feel alive and centered and connected, I feel truly myself: confident, strong, laughing, and vibrant. Other people don't need to see that or agree with me or mirror that to me, I can feel it. In achieving the goal of letting these things go, I will feel that "true-selfness" more and I will be using my gifts fully, not escaping from myself or my experience, nor beating myself up (or believing others who beat me up) for not being someone else.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reverb10: December 10: Wisdom
Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I started nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me.

December 10 – Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

This year, I was wise enough to sit still as something that had taken up a lot of energy over the last 2 years went away. I could have fought it, and I did a little bit, as I have for the last year. I could have continued to grasp and cling, but finally, after many tears,  I just let go and sat down and let the waves of pain and anger and loss cleanse me. It had been a long year of trying very hard to make something work that was not working. We had tried very hard. But in the end, the change that kept trying to happen over this year, and that eventually, I think, we both knew was inevitable, made a final push and, after a few weeks of continuing my fight, I let go of the rope. I sat down and grieved and hugged myself and closed my eyes and let go. It was a combination of me getting pushed out of the nest and of me choosing to go, but I think wisdom can sometimes be just simply seeing and accepting the writing on the wall. Though I still sometimes wish for that life back, I'm wise enough now to know that those feelings will fade, and I that I don't need to do anything about them. I still want apologies from my ex-, but I'm wise enough now to not demand them. Sometimes wisdom is not doing anything, and letting the waves come and recede.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reverb10: December 8: Beautifully Different

Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I'm nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me. 

December 8 – Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

We're all so beautifully different, aren't we?  I used to write a zine called Beauty is a Battlefield that explored the beauty trap for women. Why we're so caught up in the myth of physical perfection, how it feels to be a woman who would not be considered Barbie-like. I had girls and women from as far away as the Phillipines buying the zine because I think all women, everywhere, resonate with the issue of not feeling beautiful in our own skin. When I look down on myself for not being physically beautiful enough, I can sometimes remember to review what I see as beautiful in others. Who are the most beautiful people I know? The answer is that the most beautiful people I know are the ones who aren't concerned with being beautiful. They're the ones with energy, radiance, kindness and love shining out of every pore. The ones whose eyes and faces light up with excitement, who laugh big and dance strong. The ones too worried about whether their outfits are right or their makeup is smearing aren't beautiful to me, whether or not they have perfect skin and perfect bodies.

My whole life, I thought that I was ugly. And even now, as an adult, it's a load I carry with me, something that's hard to put down, though the load is getting lighter the older I get. I know I'm not ugly, but I also know that I'm not some perfect woman, and in this culture, that's a message we get from every rooftop: you must be perfectly coifed, perfectly made up, smell like roses at all times, be bright and chipper always, and have no physical flaws whatsoever!

The things that make me beautiful: my desire for honesty and truth, even when the truth is hard; my awe and wonder at everything around me; my dry humor, my curiosity, my calmness in the face of problems, my openness and flexibility, my willingness to be with people even in their sadness or distress, my deep well of forgiveness and kindness, my understanding of the complexities and nuances of life that sometimes get me labeled a 'downer' because I don't care to turn my face away from pain, my ability to act as a muse and bring peoples' words and dreams out of them in new form, all of these are ways I'm beautiful. One thing I'd put at the top of this list: my ability to see beauty everywhere, and in everyone.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reverb10: December 7: Community

Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I'm nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me. 

December 7 – Community.
Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

Community is a hard one for me, because I think, at my core, I'm a loner. I crave connection at the same time that it seems difficult for me to maintain connection. In 2010, I was active in several communities, but seemingly only on the outskirts of most. In one case, I was one of the founding members of a community that has not seemed to notice that I've gone away from it. In another case, I've spent two years being active in a community that, again, generally doesn't seem to notice my absence, but for one person who has reached out. Then there was my family, probably my biggest source of emotional and all other forms of support, the community that has stood by me the longest - and I hope vice versa. My friends - my chosen family - have, as always, been a wonder of connection, support, laughter, and wisdom. I am very lucky to have them in my life. My work community is also a gem - I work with some of the most amazing, creative, fun, loving people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. 

I did have a revelation about community not long ago, though. It struck me that community is not a group of people that exist already, and with whom we begin participating. Community is all the people around us, the ones from all the orbits of our life. We each make our own community, from everyone we know, not from existing identified groups. Facebook illustrates this nicely. I sometimes wish I had a chart that illustrates my Facebook community, including how they're all connected to one another. Several times I've gotten back into contact with old friends because they know a current friend whom I didn't know they knew, or noticed that current friends know each other without me knowing. Every time, I had the sense that my community was connecting to itself, one strand at a time, like a web. It's a lovely feeling, like puzzle pieces are being put into place. One thing I've always loved is to help people find others people among my community who can help them. It's one of the things that makes me the happiest. I feel like a spider, creating an infinitely precious web, one silken thread at a time.

For 2011, I'd like to continue to grow my community and also to be more proactive in building and nurturing my community.  I think in 2010 I somehow expected community to care for me, but without putting as much of myself into it as I could have. In 2011 I'd like to be more proactive in caring for my community, expanding and linking the people therein, and discovering new aspects of community. I'd like to be more conscious of who I let into my life, and to pursue positive, healthy relationships with people, rather than just letting relationships crash over me like waves in the ocean. In 2010, my community was largely about partying, drinking, and play. There's nothing wrong with that per se, but I'd like community in 2011 to be more about connection, communication, exploration, and a deepening of our understanding of life. And then parties, too ;-)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Reverb10: December 5 – Let Go.
Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I started nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me. 

Reverb10: December 5 – Let Go.
What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

So much letting go this year, and over the year prior! You can dig around on my blog to see more details of this, but suffice it to say that I grabbed on to a dream 2 1/2 years ago and clung to it like a starving wolverine until 2 months ago,  despite all signs that told me that this wasn't working. I was so in love, and love blinded me to the obvious fact that I was not in the relationship I thought I was in. Ho hum. Oldest story in the book. But even knowing that, I couldn't let go. The message of letting go came to me so often. Once, during one of our many "practice breakups", I had lost a ring that I really valued. I couldn't find it anywhere, and so I finally accepted that it was gone forever. Taking my lover's clothes out of their space in my dresser, I found the ring, UNDER the clothes where it would have been virtually impossible for it to fall. To me, that message was loud and clear. Get out from under this, it said. But I didn't take heed, and found myself losing myself in my desperate attempts to cling to a relationship that anyone else could see wasn't working. I wanted it so badly. I thought we were building a future, but I was in a fantasy world. The messages came to me one on top of the other, and even then, I couldn't act. I was trapped by some deepseated longing to be loved the way I pretended he loved me. Then, it was over and I had no choice but to let go. The letting go was excruciating, like letting go of my own soul. There were the stages of grief: denial, despair, anger. I'm just now getting somewhat over the anger, and acceptance is peeking its head around the corner. I'm not sure I'm ready for it yet, anger is so comforting, in a way. But I'm finding the vise-grip of my heart slowly loosening. Some light gets in, these days, and some joy and laughter. Two months ago, I never would have thought I'd be in this place, contemplating a new future and new possibilities without the angst and suffering of the last 2 1/2 years. There are still some things to cope with, but dawn is coming. I can feel it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Reverb10: December 4: Wonder
Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I started nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me.
December 4: Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

Wonder? That's an easy one.  Everything is so wonderful it's hard to pinpoint one wondrous thing. But I do know that wonder is something that circulates in my blood, that eases in and out of my lungs with every breath, and that causes my muscles and neurons to fire. Wonder? Let's see. Everything that my senses detect is full of wonder. The light, the color, the sounds. Today, for instance, the storm of the last few days had passed, and the weather was actually warm, the air wet but not spilling over. Fat clouds passed over and spit a few drops here and there, and the sun came in and out of play, toying with us - sunglasses? Yes. No. Maybe. The pepper trees on my walk to lunch were orange and yellow and bright red. I couldn't get over how fiery they were. They were like torches standing against the soft grey skies. Yellow leaves against the wet sidewalk made me stop and stare. The colors! Where was Andy Goldsworthy when you needed him?

In 2010 I used nothing but my presence to cultivate a sense of wonder. Sometimes, it was all I could do not to take photos of every moment. Here are some:

Bliss - sculpture at Burning Man

The Black Rock desert

More Black Rock Desert. Every moment magic.

The beach at Cancun

Cancun, the night of an awesome lightning storm
Sugar Pine Reservoir, Tahoe National Forest

The Ninth Ward, New Orleans

Audubon Park, New Orleans

Dillon Beach, CA over Thanksgiving

Dillon Beach

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Reverb10: December 3: Moment
Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I'm nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll write now about one that sings to me. 

December 3 - Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors.)

I sit at the door to the boat, and the people start coming in. The band is starting to set up. The rain is dancing down on the roof, the windows, and the water that surrounds us on three sides. I'm the doorperson; I take the door donations and direct people to the seats and to the kitchen where the food and drink are. People are happy to be here. They're impressed with this beautiful, 80-foot, wood- and window-lined boat, and with the concert series. The windows surround us; the light is falling and the rain makes it feel cozy inside. I'm surrounded by friends and by people who love music. This phenomenon is something I helped create: a house concert series on my (now ex-) boyfriend's boat. We had this vision, and we made it happen, and now, swimming in love, light, and music, I'm happier than I've ever been. Nothing else matters, and tomorrow does not exist. When the musicians arrive and the room fills with guitar and voice, the audience - and I - well up with tears. "If you're not in awe, you're not paying attention" is the phrase of the evening. I'm in awe, and I'm paying attention, and we're all so alive that the air hums with it. This is a moment that all future experiences will be measured against.

Here's a video of Lisa and Erika, the duo who played that night.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reverb10: December 1: One Word
Following a link from Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project, I found the Reverb10 site, which encourages us to spend each day of December looking back at 2010 and thinking about what we want in our lives in 2011, through daily prompts. Since I'm nine days late, I'm not going to write about all of them, but I think I'll start now with the one that sings to me. 

December 1 - One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you're choosing that word. Now, imagine it's one year from today. What would you like the word to be that captures 2011?

2010: Growth.

Man. 2010 was a doozy. My heart held sway this year (as if that's different from any other year!) but it held me so tightly, that it forced me to look deeply into my own darkness and the darkness of others. It forced me to sit with this deep, howling need, and to look, over and over and over again, into this pit of despair that makes me want to fill this emptiness with someone else's love. I couldn't get out, it was like I was mesmerized, in the old meaning of the term: hypnotized, spellbound. All I could do was watch myself behave badly, claw and grasp my way in a sort-of-relationship that did not suit me, surround myself with imbalance, ambivalence, and shady half-truths that I wanted, so badly, to believe. At the end of the year, eventually, we got out of it, and I'm still in grief. But the growth has been amazing. Amazingly profound. Amazingly painful. Amazingly deep. Amazingly life-altering. I've discovered some deep core of myself that I wasn't aware existed. Some strength that I didn't think I had.

2011: Balance.

I know what I need to have in my life to make me happy. Creativity. Connection. Laughter. Exploration. Nature. Self-Reflection. Physicality. Spontaneity. Honesty. Love. Music. Books. Any of these things can be had, basically immediately, but to have them all, and in balance? That's the challenge. In 2010, I had many of these things, but but not in balance. I stopped meditating, did very little yoga or exercise, ate badly, drank too much consistently, was tense and stressed out, and in my head much of the time. Honesty as hard to get at. It was there some of the time, but there were far too many secrets and nasty surprises for my blood. For 2011, I would like to bring my life back into the balance that I know is good for me, and to not forget what it takes for me to be happy. I want to remember, in this next year, that I need to look out for myself before I can look out for anyone else, and before I do for someone else, I need to do for myself. At the same time, I want to dance with life - a waltz this time, more than a tango. No need for so much intensity and angst that it steals all the light. Life is meant to be lived, and as we grow older, we know more and more what we each need to live well. I know what I need to live the life I want to live. I'm tired of sadness and profundity. I want laughter, happiness, love, and light, and all of these in balance.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

It's In the Cards

At the office holiday party, we had a nice young tarot card reader tucked away in the corner of the bookstore who would do a simple, 3-card reading.  Of course I had to partake! I love that kind of stuff. My position on explorations of the divination kind is that regardless of where the information is coming from, it can all be useful. I don't know if the cards (or the palm readers or the crystal-ball gazers) are really tapping into something otherworldly, but I do know that when I've had my cards read, I've inevitably gotten useful information. This time was no exception.

There were three cards - what to hold on to, what to let go of, and what to look at for the future. I'm not actually clear on how she phrased the position of the third card, but it's not that important.

The first card, that reader said (there was no exchange previous to this except for discussions on how I was to cut the cards) told me that I should hold on to my ability to grasp all the complexities of life, and to help people see and understand those complexities. That was kind of a mind-blower, considering that this ability - and support for it -  is something that keeps coming up again and again in all of the inner work I've been doing for years. It's what I try to do on my blogs. It's something I've struggled with, as I continue to get messages from others that I should just think happy thoughts and be happy and that all this complexifying is just a downer. But the cards said it: don't let go of this ability to see life for what it is - infinitely nuanced and mysterious!

Wonderful! After this last couple of years, getting a divine confidence boost like that was nice.

The second card - what to let go of - pictured the Hermit. Uh oh. "You need to stop spending so much time alone." she said. OK. After the breakup, I went into lockdown mode. I shut myself off from everyone except the people closest to me, and my coworkers, who I see everyday. Granted, I've had a bad cold for about the past week and a half and that's intensified it (I think I fell in love with Netflix Instant Play) but for the past two months, I've really not wanted to be around people. This one both rang true for me and also made me squirm in my chair. What? Leave my safe cave and go back into the fray?

The third card made me laugh. "Now is not a good time to be vulnerable," the tarot lady said. Ha ha! That's a good one. Ha ha. Funny. Wait. What?? "Now isn't the time for intense self-reflection," she continued. Alright, now look, I almost replied, I am the queen of vulnerability. I write a blog about my own depression on a website filled with psychologists. I've written about my most intense, opening, often painful moments, on a public blog, for years. I still use Blogger fer godsakes!! And before that, in a zine. A ZINE!! So how am I supposed to not be vulnerable, to not be intensely self-reflective? It's what I do, it's in my bones. My gravestone will have to have a screen embedded in it so I can update my blog from the Afterlife.

But it all made a kind of sense, and the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. So I told myself that, after I got over this @#$%$ cold, I'd reenter the big, bad, dangerous world and make it my bitch. Errr...sorry, my oyster. That doesn't mean no self-reflection or vulnerability or alone time, but maybe it means taking greater pains to reinvent myself, to try new things, and to let go of the past as much as I can without denying my natural grieving process. To laugh more, to let go of expectations more, and to let the moment in more. To be present with whatever's happening, and to meet the people around me with less in my head and more in my heart.

To that end, I'll be adding some new stuff to this blog, shaking things up a bit, and, at least somewhat, participating in the #Reverb10 meme, which is what I was planning to write about in this post before it got hijacked by this tarot card post. But not tonight, I'm off to meet a friend for a spontaneous drink on a rainy night.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

We Survived!

Walking at lunch the other day, off to go do some retail therapy to try and make myself feel better about heartbreak, and wondering why emotional pain can hurt so badly that we sometimes wonder if we'll survive it, I had a thought. I remembered other times I've been in intense pain, even the day before, and how I despaired of making it another minute with this pain, and how I did make it. It seems melodramatic in times when we're doing okay to think of emotional pain as something that can kill you, but I think all of us at one time or another have had moments (or longer) of being in such pain. And in this moment, I wondered how many of us have given ourselves credit for surviving those moments. Yes, perhaps the thought that we will die from heartbreak or disappointment is unrealistic, but in the moment, it can feel like the ultimate reality. When's the last time you stopped and congratulated yourself for getting through those moments, and even getting past them, healing, and moving on?

I went to lunch with a friend a few days ago, and she happened to pick a restaurant where I had gone with an ex- (not the most recent one.) We just happened to sit at the same table he and I had shared. My friend and I had a nice lunch, and it was only that evening that I realized: I had had no twinge whatsoever of pain from that old breakup! I almost texted my friend, but held back, figuring I'd already talked her ear off about this latest ending and she was due for a break. But when I realized that I had moved past that painful time and moved on, and that the old memories no longer haunted me, I got a new shot of faith that I will survive the current time and come out alive, kicking, stronger, and healthier for it.

If you're struggling with emotional pain, despairing that it will never end, remember the old pain and give yourself credit for surviving those times. Give yourself a pat on the back or an ice cream or a new book and congratulate yourself for being so strong, resilient, and courageous that you've made it here!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

 On Letting Go

I have to let go. I know that. Even as I grasp this situation, this person, the way someone grasps desperately at leaves of grass as she tumbles off of a cliff, I know that my grasping is only doing damage, and will not help either of us. I've become someone I'm not proud of, someone who lashes out with jealous comments and little snipes to ease the pain of loss. Last night, at a very special event that fills me with pride and joy, I was forced to act easeful, happy, and welcoming in a group of others. I was the hostess, I had to be strong and poised, even though that morning I had been weeping, angry, and desolate. After that night, I knew, my new life would start, one that I had to walk into with the same poise and confidence that I displayed to our guests. As I closed that door behind me after a wonderful evening, carrying with me flowers and compliments and a strong feeling of the love and support of the people around me,  I wanted to cry, I wanted to rage, to be called back and to be told that it was all a mistake, that I didn't have to walk away, that I didn't have to let go. Even as I write this, when a car drives up in front of my house, I look, halfway hoping to see that familiar car. The joy of witnessing something I helped create come to a gorgeous crescendo is still inside of me, as is the feeling of love for someone that will never (hopefully) go away, even if our relationship must change.

I just wrote a blog post for Psychology Today about how accepting the feelings of anxiety and terror that I used to have about driving a car helped me finally get my driver's license at age 36. I realized as I wrote that I can use those same skills now, as I make a new life for myself. I can sit with the loss, the grief, the sadness, and even the hope and the good memories, and still choose to move my life in a direction that supports my values of being a good friend, speaking and acting with compassion, surrounding myself with beauty, supporting creativity in myself and others, and generally living a life of integrity. I realize that, in the recent past, I have not acted in accordance with my values, and that, though it hurts to let go, that letting go will actually help me get back to my valued path. At the event where I helped host, I was able to be there for others, be strong, confident, welcoming, and happy even though I knew that every hour that passed brought me closer to walking out of a door that I never wanted to have to walk out of ever again. If I could do it then, in the midst of people and chaos, music and laughter, I can do it now, in the silence of my house, with the light streaming in and the warm breeze. I can let go of wanting life to be different than it is, and I can wish everyone in my life - past present, future and maybe-future - love and wholeness.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

How does One fall in Love With Oneself?

I actually asked my counselor that, when he suggested that I take this time of being single to explore the idea that I am the one I seek: that I am my own Beloved.

We tend to look outside of ourselves for love and validation. All of us do it to some degree or other. I tend to do it balls-out, no-holds-barred, full-on, to a degree that terrifies me and leaves me floundering in a sea of emotion. To say nothing of what it does to my partners or the relationship.

If, then, it's possible to fall in love with myself, to always carry with me that serene knowledge that I am the one that I seek, that I can give myself everything (yes, everything) that I seek in another when I look into his eyes, that means that nothing can derail me emotionally because I will never need someone else so badly that he can break my heart. I can choose to be with someone because I love him, because of his true qualities and not the fantasy qualities I ascribe to him. And I can choose to leave, if that seems like the best decision, without falling apart, because he is not the one who gave me the good feelings I had when I was with him. And I know I will be OK, no matter what, because I can trust that I can provide for myself everything that I need.

That sounds nice. But how do we do this?

Yesterday, I meditated on the fact that I am totally unique in the universe. Think of it! You - we all - are like nothing else that has existed ever before or will exist ever again. There will never be again be a collection and expression of genes, experiences, learning, emotion, and thought that is exactly like you. Even if you were cloned, that person would not be exactly like you because he or she would not have the same exact experiences, and thus would never have the same reactions to life, the same quirks, likes and dislikes, or the same thoughts. The same is true of every being that we meet. Even that bird on a wire is totally unique. There is no other bird exactly like that one.

Have you ever stared into your own eyes in the mirror? I have. Do it sometime. It's fascinating, because, if the eyes are the windows to the soul, you can almost see your own soul while staring into your own eyes. Whenever I doubt that I am a genuinely good soul, I do this exercise. My eyes tell me that I am, even if I do or say things I regret. Do this: find a mirror where the light is good, and just stand for a few moments, looking at your face and into your eyes. What do you see in them? Kindness, sadness, amusement, embarrassment (it might feel kind of silly to be doing this, after all), anger, joy? What does your face tell you? I've been noticing where the wrinkles will be, and that these are the same places they are in my mother's face. Around my lips, and under my eyes. I notice that I purse my lips a lot, and that my face is always active, my expressions pass quickly. What do your eyes tell you about yourself? Mine seem innocent and open sometimes, like I don't understand the meanness that's in the world. This is actually how I feel, a lot of the time. Other times they seem to speak of unseen worlds inside them, characters and stories and ideas and images. Sometimes they are very sad and red, sometimes calm, cool, and serene. Sometimes laughing, sometimes steely. You can tell a lot about yourself from your own eyes.

One night, having no plans, I just hung around in my house, alone, listening to music. On my mantel were several photos of myself with various important people in my life. I sat on my couch as I listened to the music, occasionally singing along, and when I did this, I faced these photos. I was at it for hours that evening, and at the end of the night, I realized I felt an incredible love for this person I had been gazing at for so long. I've always considered myself less than beautiful, but at the end of this night, I realized I was beautiful. It was like after hours of staring into my own face, I had finally seen myself, and liked what I saw.  Perhaps one way to fall in love with ourselves is to have photos around us of our best selves, where we'll see them every day. I have two photos of myself as kids up on my bookshelf. In one, I'm laughing. In the other I'm looking into the camera with an expression of calm and strength. Both of these remind me that those kids are still in me - the joyful one and the calm, strong one.

I don't know the answer to the question I posed above. I don't know how to fall in love with myself, although these things all seem to be good starts. I - we all - can practice looking at ourselves with compassion, even when things are difficult. We can treat ourselves like our own best friends, rather than our own worst enemies. We can care for our bodies and our souls by treating them right. We can treat ourselves like we would a small, dependent child and make sure we always keep ourselves safe, yet at the same time open ourselves up to new, challenging experiences.

I tend to feel resentment when I realize that, truly, I am the only one who can help myself when I'm in trouble. Even if I call my friend or mom or sister for support, at the end of the call, I will hang up and be alone with everything. It hurts. But why, if I'm really the one that I seek? Why is this a situation to resent? I hate sleeping and waking up alone, often dislike coming home to an empty house and to have an evening to kill at the same time that I don't feel like filling my days with empty plans just to fill the time. Maybe this is what I'll work with. Turning the resentment to joy that I have someone like myself that I can count on when things get rough. Enjoying time alone with myself because I am the only one who fully, truly understands me. And who wouldn't want to be with, sleep with, wake up with, do yoga with, be creative with, someone who totally and fully understands and loves them? It would be a dream come true.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

And the Sun Shone In

Wow.  Sometimes the light comes from the most unexpected sources. My brain is buzzing with what I've learned, all in the course of one day, and how I went from crushing devastation to strength and bliss within an hour. The details will remain vague because I'm not interested in 'outing' anyone or blaming anyone, so I apologize if the vagueness is irritating. This isn't a tale of woe or of revenge. I'm telling this story for those of you who are in difficult situations, who don't feel like things will ever get better, who are stuck in self-blame or in blaming others for situations that cause you grief and pain. For those of you trapped between love and a hard place. Until last Thursday, I felt trapped, too. And then a light, delivered by a most unlikely fellow traveler,  clicked on.

The story starts with a situation that I've been in for a couple of years. There is love there and also conflict, confusion, and tears. For years I've twisted myself into a pretzel and bent over backwards, forwards, and all ways to make something right that really didn't work for me, with someone who really - at his core - didn't want what I wanted, but that I desperately wanted. I cried over it, despaired over it, ruminated, ate my own heart out, got angry, got desperate, threw things, raged, made accusations, blamed myself, blamed others, lay in bed more than once in a stew of confusion, grief, and loss. God, I wanted this so badly, more than I've ever wanted anything. To get what I wanted, I tried hard to be sweet, forgiving, open, and understanding. I stood by, trying to be patient, absolutely sure that things would change once a certain situation worked itself out. I meditated, envisioned my heart glowing with a white light and enveloping the people in my world. I did magic, blessed charms, burned prayers and sage,  made an altar, did lovingkindness meditation to towards all those involved, prayed for all of us to find joy and happiness in our lives. I even tried to let go, to move forward, to cut the bonds of attachment, but I kept going back. Through it all, what I really wanted, was to possess this thing that seemed to be the answer to all my prayers.

Through the whole thing, I tried so hard to be consistently patient, kind, sweet, and forgiving. I tried to rise above the pettiness and low meanness that popped up around me from time to time. I tried to tell myself I was above the drama, and that it wasn't me, but 'them', that created it.  But no matter what I tried, for some reason, I kept acting badly, kept doing things that filled me with shame and regret. I had rage attacks, for weird reasons that made no sense. I got upset over miniscule things. In my heart, I tried to keep love and kindness and openness ascendant,  but what kept coming out of me was pettiness, jealousy, anger, and judgment. It was so strange, like trying to speak to someone and finding your words coming out as gibberish, even though they're clear as day in your head.

No matter how hard I tried to rationalize this situation and make it OK, no matter how hard I tried to be the model woman, to be wonderful and calm and everyone's friend, it always backfired. People seemed to hate me. They gossiped and sniped and made bizarre accusations. People I had helped and tried to be kind to turned on me. I found myself in a situation I've never known before: surrounded by people where I didn't know who was my enemy and who was my friend. And I thought I deserved it, on some level, because I had behaved badly at certain times. I had lashed out at people, had attacks of anger, fought, wrote ill-considered e-mails, made accusations, snapped at people. So I decided that these people hated me because I was flawed and damaged and had made too many mistakes in their presence. I believed they were right to dislike me.

And I kept on trying to make the situation work for me, to try to be even better and sweeter and nicer and more forgiving, and I started to develop gratitude that someone I cared for still cared for me even though I was so damaged and troubled. I lost so much of my self-respect that I was actually grateful to have what I had - even though it was far from what I wanted and deserved -  rationalizing that nobody else would want me because of my craziness.  And the more I tried to be kind and open, the more the opposite came out of me. In desperation, and hating the needy, untrusting, unbalanced person I had become, I prayed to the Universe to please show me what to do, to show me the path away from all this pain.

The answer came from an unexpected place. One day last week, when I was drenched in pain from things that were happening in my life, I got caught up in a drama, where I made some accusations in an e-mail to someone who had been in my social circle and clearly had some issue with me. I believed wholeheartedly that I was doing the right thing by keeping this person out of our circle, because I believed she had wronged myself and a friend. I tried to make the e-mail sound fairly objective and straightforward, but basically I was acting on the word of someone else who was untrustworthy. Yet another mistake, I thought to myself, after I sent it. Why am I always such a screw-up?

She wrote back, an e-mail steeped in bitterness, hatred, and contempt. She called me horrible names. She accused me of horrible things, and made herself out to be blameless. But most importantly, she told me things about the situation that I was in that, despite the nastiness of her tone in general, I believed as soon as I read them. Though perhaps some of the facts of the letter may not have been true, or may have been distorted, I believed the spirit of it instantly, because it felt true. In my thank-you e-mail to her, I told her she had "bitch-slapped me into reality."

I was stunned, crushed, devastated. The situation was not as I had thought. I saw evidence that someone I thought was my unabashed supporter had said cruel things about me to people we both knew, some who were my friends. Suspicions I had long held but tried to rationalize away seemed true now. Doubts I had had over the years made sense to me now. Feelings I had that I thought were my own craziness now seemed not as crazy. I realized that the two of us had often had exact opposite experiences, even though we were together. Everything fell into place.

I cried in long, choking sobs, with my office door closed, too broken to even think about driving home. I called my best friend and cried to her. And in the middle of the conversation, it was like a someone  poured a soothing balm onto my aching heart, and the pain left me. I felt relieved. I felt free from the situation that had been chaining me down for so long. Though some of my realizations were not very positive about someone I cared for, and some were pretty damning of myself, I felt no anger or self-blame, only release. I walked on air that evening, feeling no bitterness or regret or sadness, only sympathy for all of us in the situation, bemusement at the actions of people I had trusted,  and gladness that I was more free of it than I'd been in 2 years.

But I couldn't figure out why I felt so good. I should have felt crushed, betrayed, angry, bitter, and resentful. But I didn't. I felt like I had been in a twilit room, filled with creeping shadows and half-hidden figures,  and someone had turned on the light. The reason, as near as I can tell, is that the e-mail finally forced me to see what was happening, forced me to let go of a fantasy that I had been holding on to about who I was in the context of this relationship, who the people were around me, and what this situation meant. Everything I had thought was going on, every hope I had clung to, every bitter disappointment I had struggled through, was all based on a fantasy that was never true, that was all created out of a desperate, primal need I had to be wanted, loved, and held. Perhaps realizing that things weren't always as I had thought them - that I had been naive, in a certain sense -  had the effect of banishing all of the assumptions that I had been making for the previous 2 years, and in seeing through the assumptions, I realized the truth: That my fantasies of what had been going on were false, that the pedestal on which I had placed certain people was make-believe, and that even my holier-than-thou beliefs about my own pure motives weren't true. And it freed me. It freed me to see those around me for who they are and not for who I think they are or who I want them to be; it freed me to live a little bit bigger in my own self, without feeling like I need to be different to please others.

And it solved riddles and answered questions I hadn't even known I had asked. Puzzle pieces finally fit together. I had felt so crazy for so long, and all of a sudden I didn't. It all made sense.

A friend suggested that my acting out had been my inner knowing - which knew things weren't quite what they appeared - trying to get my attention. That my intuition had been right all along, and because I tried to ignore it, it kept coming out in these acts of rage, insecurity, and fear. That sounded right to me because, though I've always had a temper and have occasionally overreacted out of anger, I had never acted so badly as I did in this situation. This simply wasn't me. I was a different person in this situation than I was in every other part of my life.

After I received the e-mail, I sent one back thanking her. I felt so grateful to her for pulling the wool from my eyes. Her response to me was to call me a "moron who thinks she's enlightened or something." When I read that, sitting at a patio table on a warm evening, drinking a glass of wine, I had a visceral feeling of the pain that she was in, and I felt an intense sympathy for her. May she - and all of us - be open to the light that comes from unlikely sources, and widens our understanding a little bit.

I now feel like I've found myself again - the person who was lost for almost 2 years - probably even longer. I feel strong enough to put my life back in line with my integrity and values, to go back to self-care, to remember what's important to me, not just what's important to someone else.  I feel like I walked through an underworld and came out of it into the light, like the Chilean miners.

The lessons I'd like to impart from this experience are:

1) Trust your gut, even - especially - when you don't want to.
 2) If you find yourself in a situation where you keep acting in ways that aren't in line with your values or how you usually are, consider that your intuition is trying to force you to take a deeper look at the situation that triggers these behaviors. If you feel like a situation is making you crazy, it probably is; it's probably not you, it's what's happening around you that's the problem.
3) Get to know your own projections, fantasies, and dreams about things in your life that are important to you. Realize when you're making it up - and most of us are making it up a lot of the time.
4) Cultivate open, nonjudgmental awareness as the key to bringing contentment and strength in all areas of life. When you absolutely know the real you, and can be relaxed enough to let others be the real them, without judgment, then you will know peace.
5) If you are struggling and feel that it will never get better, practice this: What if, just for a moment, everything really was OK just exactly how it is? See if you can relax your judgments, expectations, worries, and hopes even just for a split second, and see how it feels. Is it possibly to come from that place of peace and nonjudgment and make the decisions that are right for you?
6) When faced with a difficult decision, go inside and ask for help - from God, from Buddha, from the Universe, from your spirit, from whomever you pray to. Ask them to show you the answer. I did, and everything became clear. 
7) if you, or anyone in your life, thinks they know all the answers, that's a sure sign that they don't.

Namaste, be well, and take good care of yourself!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Clouds and Water 

These photos were taken at Sugar Pine Reservoir in Tahoe National Forest by myself and Scott Locker. The camping trip was much-anticipated but started off rockily: A misunderstanding started it all out, then the van broke down just at the exit from Auburn. It turned out to be an easy fix (well, maybe easy isn't  the right's guy stuff.) Then we got lost on the way to the campground, then the campground where I had planned to stay was closed for the season (even though I had checked online that morning and it was listed as open). We found another campground, but the only spot left was next to a huge family of dirt bikers with lots of screaming kids, and across from the bathrooms, which were desperately in need of a pump-out. Let's just say you didn't need a flashlight to find them at night, you could navigate by smell. Though it was warm and hot when we got there, it started to rain that night and the for the rest of the trip was cloudy and cooler. It was all enough to give one pause and to make plans for a hotel in Auburn. But, we stuck it out and the next day was wonderful. We got a new spot by the water (with its own private beach!), took a gorgeous hike around the reservoir, hung out around the campfire with wine and good food and lots of good discussion and laughter, read to one another from "The Holographic Universe", and generally bonded and enjoyed our time together.

These photos were taken on the last night, as we drank red wine sitting by the edge of the water. The clouds were spectacular and the water was like a mirror. As the sun sank, the contrast got brighter and the colors deeper; several layers of clouds moving at different speeds drifted north. Some lit up orange and pink while some stayed the grey of a soft longhaired cat....and then, literally in the blink of an eye, the color went out, and all was cool grey, and it was night. It was better than any TV show could ever be.  It was magical. Thank you, Universe, for gently teaching us that letting go of expectations can result in experiences we could never have imagined.