Reconstruction

The word “Reconstruction” is a challenging word for me. It evokes memories of the period of U.S. history after the Civil War…and I have no idea why I wrote “memories,” except that somehow it’s appropriate and the word persists in staying.

The memories of this time in history bring up all sorts of unpleasantness…of a time where everything that had once been accepted and comfortable and predictable, no matter how abhorrent, no longer could continue. Nothing was as it used to be, and everyone was forced to alter their way of be-ing…whether they wanted to or not. Of course, such an environment is going to have backlash…and such backlash is sure to be horrific…and it was.

So, to apply that term to my present state of existence is increasingly fitting…including the unpleasantness and backlash. All habits, patterns of behaviors, ways of thinking, and stories of events no longer work. I am changing…therefore those things must change as well. And, even though I’m glad for the change, it’s excessively uncomfortable, for everything is new and not predictable. This means I make mistakes…and at my age, my story goes, I should know better…I should handle this better…I should be kinder…I should be more patient…I should have more control of myself..etc. But, the truth is…I’m not. And I don’t. It’s challenging, exhausting, and some days, just plain hard. The most interesting difficulty of all? Accepting and allowing the challenge to be there…without judgement or story.

This process was highlighted today, because I attended a day-long Non-violent Communication seminar. It’s been a while since I’ve practiced NVC with my teachers, and I found myself feeling both shock and relief…shock at how much I have forgotten to apply to my daily life, and relief for the reminder of all the tools at my disposal to address issues that are present for me…issues very very much alive and full of juicy energy.

One particular exercise that revealed this active transformative process on my life was one in which we were given the opportunity to examine a situation from two perspectives: “Have to” and “Choose to.” At the facilitator’s suggestion, I chose a benign issue so that I could practice this new skill/tool without too much coming up for healing. The issue: cleaning out my closet.

Seriously. Cleaning out my closet shouldn’t be a big deal. Right?

Oh…but it is. I’ve been trying to clean out this closet for four months. Everytime I think about it, I think of the mess it’ll make, how I don’t know where to begin, how I don’t have time to really put the focus and attention on the task like I want to, and how if I get rid of stuff, then I won’t have what I need when I need it.

Seriously.

Then the thoughts begin telling a judgemental story about all those feelings and I just really don’t have time to figure it all out, so I walk away to do something distracting and fun.

Until today. Today, I couldn’t walk away from it. Today, I decided to look at this situation and see if I could identify the resistance, which is massive, and flip the resistance to a “Choose to.” I had no idea there was so much to uncover.

As I physically stepped into the circle designated as “Have to,” my breathing intensified, deepened, quickened, and became quite forceful. Some part of me was surprised that I didn’t spew fire from my nostrils. Then, I noticed that my hands were clenched in tight fists. My face was scrunched, and my forehead furrowed and lowered. My feet were shoulder width apart, and my heels were planted firmly in the floor. Heat shot through my body as I realized that I was livid and ready for battle. At this point, I started noticing my thoughts: “You can’t make me!” “I won’t do it!” “Stop taking things away from me!” “I won’t let you do this to me again!” “This is mine!” “Stop forcing me to do things I don’t want to do!”

Then I saw myself as a child…packing…again…and again…and again. Being forced to move, over and over and over again…completely powerless and unheard. Having to leave my friends, and my home, sell my things or give them away, without ever having a choice in the matter…or the opportunity to express my displeasure in the fact that someone else chose for me and now I have to live with the consequences. Even as I write this, there is still juice in this situation…albeit it now comes in the form of tears rather than rage.

I stayed in this space, making room for everything until no more forced its way to be seen. The juice was still very much there, but it was stagnantly roiling. I allowed myself to step out of the “Have to” circle. I took a deep breath and slowly relaxed. Then, I shook my body to loosen it up and wiped all that gook off of me. The facilitator then helped us breathe for a few minutes before the next step: “Choose to.”

As I stepped into the “Choose to” circle, things are very different. My arms are folded across my chest. I find this startling, because many people interpret this stance to be one of defiance and distancing. I search for the corresponding emotions in my body and don’t find them. Instead, I find that I’m feeling thoughtful…contemplative and analytical.  My breathing is calm and slow…my body relaxed…my brain unusually quiet.

Then I recognize that all those feelings of resistance were old patterns. Old thoughts. Old ways of be-ing. Old ways of having my needs met. They served a very important purpose when I was young, but that situation no longer exists…therefore, those old ways are no longer needed. I think, “Huh! Fascinating!” I look over at the “Have to” circle and “see” all those emotions and thoughts and behaviors and I feel compassion for myself in that space. I see all the hurt and anger and fear and recognize that I was doing the very best I could do…and, surprisingly, those ways I created worked really really well!

I bow to all those emotions, thoughts, and behaviors…thanking them for protecting me…for helping me meet my needs in the best way I knew how. I then let them know that I have other ways of meeting those needs now and don’t need them any longer. They relax, deflate a bit, shrug and move away. I then “see” my closet again, and this time, things are completely different. I realize I really do want the change, and, for the first time, see the closet as I want it to be when I’m finished. Instantly, I’m filled with so much creative, inspirational energy that I want to leave class, drive home, and start cleaning out my closet.

Who knew?! That such a simple task as cleaning out a closet could bring so much up…and then heal so much…making room for a new way of thinking…feeling…behaving…be-ing. This is my present process. This is reconstruction…uncomfortable and unpredictable…and so freeing.

And so it continues…

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