Discomfort

 

Sometimes I forget, in the intensity of my journey, how my changes affect those around me.

As I have grown, shed, evolved, shed again, and continued to come back into alignment with myself the internal process has been all-consuming. Sometimes, the changes and shifts happen so fast that I don’t understand what has happened…sometimes it takes several months to really comprehend the edges of such things, much less the core. For most of this year, there has been so much inner flux that my concentration has primarily been on breathing from one moment to the next.

So, I suppose it’s understandable that I completely lost track of how my changes were affecting my outer world…and my perceptions of it. And it has…changed.

Through this process, I’ve become more and more aware of an inner restlessness and a pulling toward something, but I have had no idea what that something actually is. I would search for it in meditation, but it was too nebulous…like a bat in the night…fleeting and never quite identifiable. To be honest, I’m not sure if the fleetingness was due to the actual issue or my fear…for there was a great amount of fear. How could I step into that pulling when I didn’t even know what it was? I had a great job…I lived in a great town…I had a great life. I’d be a fool to throw that all away just because something was flitting about “out there” calling me. The whole thing seemed ludicrous to me, so I just shoved the impulse of my heart down and away and continued on.

But a funny thing happened…work began to lose its appeal. My co-workers were no longer so congenial. My boss became less competent and much more out of integrity. I kept bumping up against the walls of my home, where formerly I had felt a lot of room. Gradually, I became aware of all the cracks in my life…all the places that really weren’t so fabulous…all the things I had chosen to ignore for one reason or another.

I told myself I was just ungrateful…that I wanted too much…that I thought too much of myself. I tried to change my thinking by expressing gratitude for all the marvelous things in my life…of which there were many. And then another funny thing happened…the gratitude grew! I had lots and lots more to be grateful for, and so I expressed even more gratitude. But there was a side-effect…the discomfort with my life didn’t ease. Not even a little bit. Instead, it grew! 

How is that even possible?! I’m expressing gratitude for my amazing life…and believe me, it really is amazing…and my discomfort is not abating at all? Rather, my soul’s calling toward something bigger and greater, with more responsibility, more passion, more integrity, more consciousness grew with such intensity that there were times I just couldn’t sit still in my chair at work. 

But, I just couldn’t face this calling. It was too big…what if I couldn’t handle it? It was too much responsibility…what if I failed? It required too much of me…what if I couldn’t live up to my own expectations? What if I risked everything and was left holding nothing? I have responsibilities now…responsibilities I can’t just walk away from simply because my heart is calling me to some unknown, nebulous idea. That is just foolishness. So, down it went again. Yet, I continued to express daily gratitude.

And then work became unbearable. Co-workers’ practices became so distasteful to me that all trust eroded away. I suddenly saw them and their practices because I saw their true motivations, and I was appalled. I realized that my perfect life that I had so carefully guarded, defended, and had given my loyalty wasn’t at all what I thought it to be. But, maybe I could change it. Maybe, if I pointed out the areas that lacked integrity, these things could be fixed and I wouldn’t have to walk away. Maybe that’s why I was still in my job…to teach and to fix. So I opened my mouth.

Alas. My words resulted in me being labelled a troublemaker. My attitude was labelled contentious. My quality of work was called into question…even though the quality of my work was higher than ever before. My honor and my character were questioned and I was accused of things that would be impossible for my character to allow. My protests and scads of documentation fell on deaf ears. I stared in amazement as my life started to crumble. 

In a last-ditch effort, I asked for support from Human Resources and we began mediated conversations to try to reconcile the situation. Each week, as I entered the meetings, my internal discomfort increased. I sat in increased amazement as week after week I presented the documentation, studies, professional guidelines, and accepted practices against the reality of my job only to see blank faces staring back at me like I was a crazy person spewing an incomprehensible language.

Six weeks into the process I broke. I went home completely devastated. I asked my mother that night if I was insane. She said no. I called another friend…and another…and another…all asking the same question. They all replied with the same answer. I called other professionals in my same line of work. Same response.

I felt stuck.

Confused. 

I could see the problem…and the answer. Why wouldn’t anyone listen to me?

Then my heart called again. 

Wearily, I glanced in its direction. 

It invited me to imagine…to take a journey with my mind and heart aligned…to really examine my dreams, my hopes, my wishes, my needs, my wants…to see them fully and completely…free of fear. So, I did. The discomfort, however, didn’t go away…it only increased, because I finally could see. I could see that my present life is no longer in integrity with the internal changes I have made…and those internal changes are calling me to something else. Without the fear, I could see that while painful, my co-workers were honoring my heart more than I had. They were not letting me stay in my comfortable place when I really desired, and was ready for, something more. 

When Monday morning came, I walked into the Human Resources department and stated that it was time for me to leave my job. The response shocked me…they were shocked…the entire school, my boss, my co-workers…everyone. I was incredulous! How could they be shocked? Wasn’t this what they wanted? 

Wasn’t this also what you wanted?

As I walked back to my office, I heard a meeting adjourn in the higher realms. Chairs pushing back, sighs of relief as though breaths had been held, cheers, hands shaking, back clapping, and all kinds of murmuring. What came through most strongly to me was: She finally did it! She finally made a decision. Now we can get to work!

In that moment, I felt like a shell fell off my back.

I broke through.

I broke free.

I expanded into my full self.

The relief flooded in. 

I chose me. 

I chose my heart.

I choose the unknown.

I choose the void.

Let the miracles continue.

 

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Trusting

This is a difficult word for me. 

In my life, trust has been a cynical idea…nice for the innocent and romantic novels, but completely unrealistic. Most people are aren’t trustworthy 100% of the time, so I never quite know when they’re going to falter. That perpetual unknowingness is stressful for me, and it makes it difficult for me to trust another person at all. And, if I don’t trust someone, there is no way I will share anything about me or my inner world with another…none of my thoughts, my ideas, my aspirations, my disappointments, my challenges…nothing. I keep it mostly to myself, for sharing these things with someone I don’t trust or isn’t fully trustworthy is too dangerous for me.

“Trust another only to the degree that he/she trusts him/herself,” one of my teachers teaches me. 

I think about this for a minute. “That’s not very much,” I reply.

She nods her head.

“There’s a lot of leftover trust then. What do I do with it?” I ask.

“Keep it on yourself and use it for yourself. Trust you.”

I stare at her. What does that even *mean*?!

“Just start,” she replies with a smile. “You’re ready to learn how to trust yourself.”

So I begin.

The last blog post was one of those trusting myself moments. I had received that message a week before I posted it, but I didn’t post it because it made no sense to me. I didn’t understand the purpose for it, and was nervous about putting something up before I understood the message because, what if I got it wrong? 

I didn’t. 

Holding trust on yourself and for yourself is transformative. When you pull all your energetic lines of trust off of everyone and everything, from all lifetimes and all dimensions, and bring them back to you at the level of your higher self, cleaned, cleared, and recalibrated, a space is created. Physics requires that space to be filled, but filled with what? I choose to wait to fill it, and just watch.

Then, I notice other things that are interfering with the trust space. I have energetic lines of control outside myself too…along with lines of safety, power, integrity, empathic sensitivity and personal responsibility. As long as I keep these outside myself, my perception of trust will be skewed.

When my lines of control are outside of myself, I notice that my anxiety sky-rockets. I worry about situations and their outcomes, about people and their reactions or opinions, about whether or not my dreams will actually happen. I get angry and upset when others don’t do what I think they should. So, I try to get them to do or say or believe what I want them to do or say or believe. It never works. I only get angry and frustrated…and my trust is thwarted once again.

When my safety is outside of myself, my anxiety sky-rockets as well, because now I’ve made money responsible for my safety…my job, friendships, circumstances, my home, my car…none of which can actually keep me safe. So, the fear of losing any of these things that I want to believe will keep me safe erodes my self-trust…trust that will often lead me away from these things that may be good but not great, into something better.

The same is true for power. When my power is outside of myself, I notice that I feel powerless to change anything. I also notice that I think others have more power to change things than I do, so I pressure them to fix things for me…things I could fix for myself if I just pull that power back to me…which, is really the only way to do it, because no one else knows how to fix things for me. Even if they try with endless amounts of advice, I’ll just respond with an irritated “No!”…because they just don’t understand all the intricacies around the situation. Why do I keep asking someone else to do things for me when ultimately I end up figuring it out for myself? As long as I give my power to others…to situations…to institutions…I can never trust myself fully, for I don’t have the power to use it for anything.

Integrity is a funny one that I’m just now examining. For the most part, my words and actions are in integrity, but my beliefs aren’t always in line with the other two. When that happens, it means I’m energetically carrying something that doesn’t belong to me, so I have to release that belief or action or thought/words. Now there’s room for everything that remains to shift around and it can be quite disorienting. But ultimately, after the shifting settles, I am much more in alignment with my true self…my soul’s essence. And, by coming into my Divine Line, I can easily compare my experience with my soul’s essence and see the places that still need clearing. For, as long as I’m not in integrity with myself, how can I trust myself?

Empathic sensitivity is both a blessing and a curse. I’m still learning how to turn this into a blessing…so far it’s mostly been a highly painful experience. I can feel another’s feelings deeply…as though they’re mine. I can walk into a room and know exactly how every single person is feeling and why and how they got there. A simple slamming of a car door physically hurts my body, for the loud, abrupt sound sends a wave that hits my body with the same force with which the door closed. This also means that experiences such as loud music, loud machines, loud voices, angry voices, and unexpected sounds all physically hurt my body…down to my organs and bones and cells. I’m so overwhelmed with feeling everyone and their actions all the time that I can’t figure out what’s me. In fact, the overwhelmingly brutality of life has caused me to retreat so far that all I am is a walking reaction to everything everyone else is feeling…I’m not actually here at all. 

“All your antennae are turned outwards,” my teacher teaches me. “Turn them inward to you and your divine line…like this.”

Gradually, a stillness envelops me…like a soft, cozy, comforting snuggle blanket. I snuggle down and start to relax. As my muscles begin to soften, I wonder if they’re always that tense all the time…if so, then no wonder I have fibromyalgia. I realize that all the anger I was feeling, all the sadness, all the worry, all the panic, all the frustration…none of it was mine…I was simply feeling what everyone around me was feeling. I relax a bit more and start to feel my own soul…to connect with myself in this space, and I realize how peaceful I am…how strong I am…how powerful I am…how emotional I am…how discerning I am…how much integrity I have…how safe I am. I realize that in this space, filled completely with my soul’s essence, I can trust myself…fully and completely…and it doesn’t matter if I can trust another or not. And, I realize, I don’t ever want to leave this space.

“You don’t have to,” my teacher teaches me. “This is you. Stay in it, for this is where you belong and from where you can make everything happen. The moment you leave, you give something away, and you’re no longer in integrity. The moment you leave, you no longer are personally responsible…you now are co-dependent. The moment you leave, you no longer can trust yourself.”

“How do I do this?” I ask, afraid to twitch a muscle for fear of losing this beautiful experience.

“This is the practice,” she responds with a smile. “Keep your antennae inwards, pulling all energetic lines back onto your Divine Line, and suck yourself into your Divine Line…all day…every day. This is what the chirping sound is reminding you to do…so use it. Use anything and everything as a reminder to practice this…the alarm clock waking you up…the turning of a door knob…the pressing of the brake pedal on the car…your breath.”

I chuckle, “Of course…my breath…it’s all in the breath.”

She nods. 

I breathe.

I practice.

 
 
**Image is “Breath of Life Mandala” by Angela McGerr.**

Chirping

 

 

I have bionic ears. 

Seriously.

I hear the tiniest things…the softest whispers…I’ve even heard someone picking a lock four rooms away. When it’s quiet, and a small noise happens, my ears twist toward the sound…like a cat’s. When I play music, I rarely turn the volume past three…headphones are quite overwhelming at times. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of clubs or pop concerts…symphonic concerts and operas are my style, and even then, there are some rather loud moments that make it hard for me not to cover my ears. 

My ears are also sensitive to high pitches and frequencies. I have a hard time listening to string ensembles or pipe organs, because the harmonics are louder than the fundamental and I can never figure out what note is actually being played. It doesn’t help that after sitting next to a piccolo (which I loathe) during music school, my left ear is now 1/4 of a step flatter in its hearing than my right ear. 

Enter the chirping smoke alarm. 

On August 8th, I came home to discover that a smoke alarm was chirping. I checked every room in my house multiple times. I listened through all the shared walls to my neighbor’s house…using all sorts of devices to magnify the sound for one ear, and deaden the sound for the other. I checked the garage underneath my house. Multiple times. Finally, after three days, I concluded that a nearby neighbor is the proud owner of the chirping smoke alarm. I figured they must be away on vacation because no one would knowingly just let a chirping smoke alarm continue to chirp.

Not so. A week passed. I considered many options to confronting my neighbors, but I always came back to the issue of not knowing exactly which neighbor it is…and not wanting to be considered “The Crazy One.” 

That same week at work, I passed two different buildings that also had chirping smoke alarms. At first I thought my brain was creating the sound due to my neighbor’s incessant contribution to noise. However, as I scoped them out, I realized that no, these were, indeed, chirping smoke alarms. I was grateful that I couldn’t hear them from my office.

The next week, I went to visit a girl-friend who lives several hours away. We met for dinner, and when we stepped into her home, her smoke alarm began chirping…loudly. I hollered at it, and turned to my friend and said, “I don’t care if this doesn’t bother you, I’m fixing this bugger!” Fortunately, she heartily agreed, and we spent the next 30 minutes calming our rattled nerves with tea.

The following week, I went to a restaurant, and, sure enough, there was a chirping smoke alarm. I turned to my dinner companion and said, “You’ve got to be kidding me! How is it possible that everywhere I go has a chirping smoke alarm?!”

At home that evening, my neighbor’s chirping serenade still ever present, I realized that there might be a bigger reason behind all of these smoke alarms. I’d had more than three of these pop into my life, and the insistence and frequency indicated that there might be a rather important message behind them.

After another couple weeks of meditating on what that message might be, I heard this:

Come into yourself.

Pull all your energy and energetic connections off of everyone and everything, and bring it all back to you and your Divine Line.

Gently release all attachments to people, events, places, and things, and instead, increase your attachment to only yourself and your life’s journey here as a multi-dimensional being.

Lift all your tools and mastery and wisdom off of everyone and everything, and bring them back to your Divine Line at the level of your Higher Self, cleansed, cleared and recalibrated.

Deepen your commitment to only yourself and your life here as a multi-dimensional being, and use your tools, wisdom, and mastery on you and for you…not on or for anyone or anything else. Everyone has their own available to them…just show them how to access it and use it for themselves so that everyone is in a place of energetic integrity and wholeness from a place of personal responsibility rather than co-dependence.

Practice connecting to others from this place of your Divine Line, rather than putting energetic lines onto others, by radiating your essence from this place, allowing others to reflect it back to you…rather than basing the quality of your life on your circumstances.

Feel the immense and unlimited support available for you from within your Divine Line…feel the wealth of potentials, dreams, possibilities, resources, and love. Sit in this energy…relish it…receive it…claim it, for it’s yours. 

Then wait…expectantly…ready to take the next step when it’s time…for it’s soon.

It’s now been almost eight weeks since this started. My neighbors continue to treasure their relentless tune, and I still hear those alarms as I walk to and from work each day. But, rather than be consumed by irritation (I’m now only occasionally irritated), I now realize that I can use these as reminders. Reminders to come into my essence…to be powerful from within, and to feel the support from within…releasing others from the obligations of supporting, encouraging, seeing, or doing anything toward or for me…they can just be

My neighbor’s alarm just chirped.

I go ever deeper into my essence.

My soul soars in freedom.

 

Assurance

Yesterday, I saw two of these within five minutes of each other. And while there wasn’t a third one, I was surprised to discover that I was expressing gratitude at my inner reaction…or rather, the lack of the usual reaction, and the new one that is taking its place.

When beginning the process of dreaming a bigger dream, I had many many doubts as to the reality of it ever coming true. My dreams seemed so big and so out of reach and so impossible…the idea that they could happen to me was ludicrous. While a part of me did believe that anything is possible…and I still do…I just couldn’t reconcile the gap of reality between where I was and where my dreams were. Whenever I saw my threes, I felt my insecurities…my unworthiness…and the vast divide separating me from my dreams seemed too big for any bridge to span in this lifetime.

The threes became slivers of hope after a while…hope that even though I couldn’t quite believe in my dreams, I knew that someone did, and I held on to that other’s hope in me…hoping that one day I’d be able to carry that hope and certainty for myself.

Today, as I only saw two, I realized that the insecurities are almost gone…definitely, the unworthiness is gone. There was a calm sense of certainty…of knowing…of assurance…that not only were my dreams possible, but that they actually were going to come true. 

I smiled.

My soul danced.

Emergence

As one begins the process of emerging, one finds words again…able to organize thoughts into coherent lines…have a bit more energy…feel restless. By the end of June, everything is back online again…fully functional, even though I know things are different. It is as though I’ve been hiding in a cave for six months, and have just stepped out…blinded by the light…realizing loneliness…desiring connection with others.

Three weeks later, after practicing my new “feet” and “balance” in my new self, I set off on a month of adventures. I revisit old, familiar places…finding pieces of myself from 10 years ago that I have left behind. I meet, talk, and commune with people…some of whom I haven’t seen in over 10 years…some of whom live many states away and hadn’t planned to see me. Again, I see myself reflected back to me in new ways. Old stories challenged. Old memories challenged. Nothing is quite like I remember it, and yet…I am still there…left behind like a hidden, shameful secret. Professionally, I learn new skills, confronting and pushing through barriers I didn’t know I held for myself. My temporary colleagues reflect back to me my confidence and competence…my passion and my sensitivity, and again, I pick up pieces of myself that I had forgotten even existed.

As the pieces keep coming back to me, my internal peace increases. Where once I would have been terrified to be seen fully and completely for who I am, I gradually begin to realize the safety that exists within me. As internal safety increases, my confidence increases…with startling reactions. People flock to me. They share their souls’ yearnings and dark questions…as though I somehow have answers for them. Of course I don’t. All I can offer is the assurance of safety in pursuing individual paths by staying internally connected. By the time I leave two weeks later, my heart overflows with an abundance of love, joy, and gratitude for the blessings that consume me.

A week later, I journey to another place for a few days. Again, I am confronted with pieces of myself in places with old family history. Grandparent history and family culture history. I see family patterns and stories in new ways, and see my child self in a new light…and I am filled with compassion for her. Again, stories are rewritten…and my place and purpose changes. Again, as my pieces come home, I am startled at the response…an unknown woman stops her truck, rolls down her window, stares at me in awe, and finally tells me that I look absolutely stunning…wishing she could tell me specifically why.

A few days later, I travel to another state. For the first time, I’m completely unorganized and unprepared for a trip. I barely make the airport shuttle and am completely rattled by the time I sit down. As I go within, seeking calmness, I discover an incredible amount of love and compassion. I choose to just sit in that space the entire trip to the airport. Once there, and easily through security, I discover that the flight is delayed. Mildly annoyed due to eagerness to reunite with family on the other end, I wander into a bookshop…always my first place of solace. I realize that I will be purchasing at least one book, so I consciously intend that only books with a life-long impact will make their way into my hands. I leave with the book “Aleph” by Paolo Cohelo.

As the flight takes off, I marvel at my surrounding companions. No one is quite together or controlled. Across the aisle is a tall, black, gay man, clearly terrified of flying, who retreats to a world of lyrically expressive rap…vocalized…volume increasing with his fear. Two rows back sits a family from India, the small boy addicted to kicking the seat in front of him. In between them is a father and son, connected to the mother and daughter sitting next to me. Because their children want the window seats, I’m in the middle of the passing of anything and everything between the two sides of the family. Behind me is a row of women who must have some sort of water issue, for there is rarely five minutes of time that passes without one of them exiting to the restroom…pulling my hair every time. In front of me is a young man, wearing role-playing clothes, a long ponytail and a choke collar. Next to him is a woman in her late sixties, clinging to her youth with her brightly and badly colored red hair, botched plastic surgery, and a smoker’s cough. In front of her is a young woman in her 30s, also embracing the goth culture, clearly smitten by the handsome 20-something Australian men to her left. In order to gain their attention, she puts on her massive headphones and starts to fully rock out in her seat…rarely does her derriere touch the seat for any length of time. Between songs, she turns to talk loudly to the young man in front of me, until he resorts to rocking in his seat…at which point, she talks to the red-haired woman. The Australian young men look around for another place to sit…trying not to panic because there are no other seats open on the flight. It is precisely at this moment, realizing that nowhere else on the plane is there a solitary twitch of movement, how fortunate I am. I’m surrounded by people fully embracing who they are and fully living in the moment. I’m surrounded by people who are unafraid to connect with those around them…creating a network…a web of memories that no one else in the plane will experience.

As the week unfolds, the plane’s lessons stay with me. In the gift of the web of connection with my chosen family…all strongly and beautifully flawed, completely open in brutal honesty…I again discover pieces of myself. Pieces that I’ve left with them…in stories we share…stories that we now realize we want to rewrite. So we do. We recreate ourselves and our web…piece by piece…into a strong foundation of a richer, deeper, more compassionate community.

On my last night of my adventures, exhausted with joy and memories and sorrow at separation, I read this in “Aleph”:

“I skim an article about Chinese bamboo. Apparently, once the seed has been sown, you see nothing for about five years, apart from a tiny shoot. All the growth takes place underground, where the complex root system reaching upward and outward is being established. Then, at the end of the fifth year, the bamboo suddenly shoots up to a height of twenty-five meters.”

I stop.

I realize, I’m completing my fifth year.

I’ve emerged and am reconnecting…preparing to shoot up twenty-five meters.

Stay in the flow…massive change is about to happen.

Trust.

Be Joyful.

Be Peace-filled.

Be Love-filled.

Be.

Backlash

As the reconstruction continues, a curious thing happens…there’s a backlash.

Some people call this karma, some call it ego resisting change, others call it a test for the lessons just learned…I call it backlash…a law of physics. Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion to be more specific: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (simplified).

As the foundations of my self complete, I now start to build, orient, and reference myself from this new foundation…this new me with updated ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. At this point, the change or shift isn’t really optional…it’s happening no matter what. And, to be honest, I’m greatly relieved, for I’m tired of that old way and am ready for something new.

But.

The people around me may not be.

Hence, the backlash.

I can’t really say that I blame them for being angry…or confused…or upset…or sad…or frustrated. After all, the person they thought they knew isn’t really there any longer. My interests are different…my conversations are different…my reactions are different…how I stand…how I hold space is different…what is acceptable to me…my boundaries are different. I know what is happening and why this is happening, but they don’t. Often, they’re not even consciously aware of what has changed…just that something is different…and they don’t like it.

So, they use the most effective and efficient tools they have to try to get me to revert to the me they knew…the me that is familiar to them…the me that feels safe to them…the predictable me. They use these tools in order to achieve a level of peace they’re used to. These tools, however, are usually some form of anger…passive or direct. I’m grateful that, many years ago, I read the book The Dance of Anger, providing me with understanding as to what’s happening. But…the emerging me is struggling to find the new, effective, and appropriate ways to respond…not only to their anger, but my anger as well…my anger that is triggered from theirs.

After several months of wrestling with this backlash, all while in the midst of my transformation, I’m gifted with a beautiful group meditation involving six other wise, spiritual women. We begin by sharing our revelations from the past week. I share that I’m grateful for the peace that I experience when I turn off my brain. They’re curious about this practice. I struggle to explain it to them. So, we go into meditation to experience it energetically. As I communicate with them, I simultaneously receive and share this message:

When you turn down the brain chatter,

you turn down all the stories

all the beliefs…

all the ego that seeks to run your life.

When you turn down the brain chatter,

the emotional programming cannot activate.

When you turn down the brain chatter,

you are no longer able to

engage with the thought that would trigger the feeling,

which would then lead to the story and a resultant emotion or loop.

When you turn down the brain chatter,

a vacuum is created.

The laws of physics don’t allow a vacuum to exist,

so something new fills it.

When you turn down the brain chatter,

the heart activates,

filling the vacuum,

connecting you to your soul and your wisdom.

When you turn down the brain chatter,

you cannot be triggered…

instead,

you experience life from a place of

Unconditional Love,

Clarity,

Non-reactivity.

When you turn down the brain chatter,

you become the teacher…no longer the student.

When you turn down the brain chatter,

you receive the gift of backlash…

Peace.

Welcome Back!

What a complicated greeting that is! 

That statement conjures up a myriad of emotions within me.

To welcome someone back implies that the welcomed person has been away or separated from the welcomer. It also implies that the orientation of “from” is shared by both people in order for the “back” to be accomplished. But…what if it isn’t?

The first, and strongest image that comes to mind with this phrase is that of me, as a child, returning home. That sounds slightly odd I know, until I tell you that I didn’t know where home was…because I’m a fourth-generation missionary kid. As a child, I knew my parents considered the United States to be their home…but I didn’t. My home was where I lived…where my friends were…where my life was…which wasn’t the United States. They were excited whenever furlough time came…I was not. They were happy to leave for the United States…I was happy to leave the United States. So, when we were greeted by blood relations (who were strangers to me), invariably the greeting was some form of “Welcome Home!” Not wanting to betray my parents’ loyalties, I smiled and responded appropriately…all the while wishing I were in my real home. 

We returned to the United States, permanently, during war-time conditions for our host country. All of us had been traumatized by the war and I felt like a refugee…banished from my home. This time, when we arrived in the United States, no one welcomed us back or home. It was assumed that we were happy to be in the United States…that to want to be anywhere else was not simply ridiculous…it wasn’t even a consideration.

So for me, the phrases “Welcome Home!” or “Welcome Back!” carry a connotation of selfishness from the perspective of the welcomer…that the welcomer is implying that this is the only place or space to return to after leaving…that the separation hasn’t changed anyone or anything…that everything can now return to the way it used to be.

The second image I see is that of someone in the hospital…someone who has been in a coma or through a surgery, and he or she is waking up. The person waking up is disoriented, might feel a significant amount of discomfort or pain, and may be easily overwhelmed by the bombardment of sounds, lights, and people. Coming back to a conscious state may not be such a fabulous experience for the welcomed individual…even if it is for the welcomer.

Finally, I see soldiers returning home from active duty. These people have seen and experienced things that they may not even be able to verbalize. There’s a good chance they don’t even know how they feel about their experience because they haven’t had a chance or allowed themselves to feel or process much of it in order to survive. Coming “home” or “back” only means that now the real hell begins…facing the inner emotions and memories that will now forever color the way they see the world and their place in it.

“Welcome back!” is not a welcoming statement…except for the person stating it. For the welcomed, it’s a lonely statement…isolating…it includes grief and pain and separation…it means that life as we know it will never be the same again. And, for me, the person receiving that statement, it’s trite and insincere.

Until today. 

Today I met a lovely, and deeply soulful Jewish woman, one of the facilitators at the NVC conference. We sat on a bench in the sun and connected, initially through the class’s content, then through our spirituality, and finally, through our Jewishness. Then she discovers that I converted to Judaism and I expect the inevitable question about why I converted to Judaism and I prepare my standard answer. Instead, she surprises me by asking, “How and when did you know you were Jewish?” I’m stunned to realized that my standard answer has found the appropriate question: When I was four years old, I asked my mother if we were Jewish. When she said no, I burst into tears.

This isn’t a new story for me…crying at the age of four years old…nor is the reaction of other Jews to my story dissimilar from this woman’s. But she does something fundamentally different…she sees me. As in the Avatar form of seeing me. With tears in her eyes, she reaches out with both her arms, gently grasps my arms with her hands and looks at me…her heart opening toward me with gratitude and unconditional love. She looks at me…wordlessly…letting the tears run down her face. “You are a Holocaust Jew!” she whispers with great emotion. My breath hiccups, tears instantly flow from my eyes, my body slumps and surrenders to the safety of being seen and acknowledged for who I am…as she sees my soul and holds me in great love. I nod…incapable of speaking. And then she says the most beautiful two words I have ever heard…words that offer connection…words that offer community…words that offer recognition of where I’ve been and acceptance for where I am now.

Welcome back!

Tests

Extracting wheatgrass juice with a manual juic...

Extracting wheatgrass juice with a manual juicing machine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During the lunch break for the Non-violent Communication seminar, I was gifted with an opportunity to test my skills. I’m sure some part of me is very grateful for this test. I’m still trying to access that part of myself…the majority of me is just not quite convinced that it was necessary.

Before I experienced life through a wheat-free lens, lunches at conventions, seminars, airplanes, weddings, funerals, and such were often frustrating due to my vegetarianism (it sounds like an incurable disease, doesn’t it?). So many food providers are at a complete loss as to how to prepare a vegetarian meal that I came to dread those times in an otherwise lovely and stimulating experience. Now, it’s positively horrific.

On the one hand, I’m very grateful that lunch was available on-site. I’m also very grateful that there were salads available. I’m not quite so grateful that none of the salads were vegetarian.

I’m so not kidding.

But, I am grateful that there was a vegetarian option. I’m not quite so grateful that it was a sandwich…made with wheat-based bread…and without a salad. Seriously. I was very proud of myself for saying politely that, while the sandwich looked delicious, I couldn’t eat it, but thanks for providing it anyhow.

I know! At times, this transformation thing really comes through in magnificent ways.

 So, I drive away to the nearest health-food store to get a gluten-free sandwich and a freshly juiced drink. Alas. It is a beautiful Saturday, and everyone has the same brilliant idea to go to the beach, so the freeway is crowded…and slow. At this point, my irritation  escalates. I start my pity party around not being able to eat wheat and sulk that no one even considers people like me and now the freeway is clogged with stupid people keeping me from my sandwich that will most likely be dry and tasteless.

I know. The transformation thing didn’t last long.

By the time I get to the health-food store, I’m grumpy and quite annoyed. I breathe deeply, looking for that gratitude spot that such a store exists, and that the possibility for a gluten-free lunch also exists. Humph! I think. Possibilities, my a$$! This should be mainstream! If it’s bad for me, it’s bad for everyone else (Isn’t there a saying somewhere that misery loves company? I think I invented it.).

I wait until I’m calmer before walking into the store. I approach the deli counter and ask if they have gluten-free bread. They nod…quite bored with the question. I fairly dance with joy and proclaim them my new best friends. I place my sandwich and juice order and wait. And wait. And wait. Ten minutes later (I timed it), my sandwich is ready. I pay for it and the juiced drink, trusting that it will show up at any moment, as the juicer is whining away…as it has been for the past 10 minutes without much to show for it. I wait five more minutes and ask about my drink. They then realize that the drink order has been lost. I realize I’m out of time and have to leave.

“Don’t worry about it,” I say, “I can’t wait. I have to leave.”

I didn’t raise my voice or express irritation. Once again, transformation popped back in momentarily.

As I walk to my car, however, the injustice of the situation riles me all up. The line at the register was so long, that I didn’t even have time to get a refund on my drink. All because I couldn’t eat wheat!!!! Stupid wheat.

On the drive back to the seminar, I try to use the self-empathy tools to calm my spirit and body down. The sulking returns and I find myself vowing to never go back to that store again.

However, I hear a voice tell me, “If you go back after the seminar is over, you’ll get your drink without paying extra.”

I’m not sure I heard correctly, so I ask, “Really?!”

“Go back after the seminar ends today. It’s important that you do this.”

“We’ll see,” I reply.

After the seminar finishes for the day, I debate whether I should go back to the store. If I do, I could get lunch for the next day’s seminar-lunch and be super prepared. I hear again that it’s very important that I go back, so I reluctantly agree to return.

As I drive, the same voice asks me if I can now feel empathy for those behind the counter. I begrudgingly admit that it’s slightly possible that there had been a lunch rush…that someone may be having a bad day…that maybe someone wasn’t feeling well…that they may have run out of ingredients and had to go to the stock room to refill, slowing down the process…that a shift had changed and communication may have failed.

I am instructed to stay in this space of empathy as I walk back into the store. I am also instructed not to bring up the drink…to just order my lunch for tomorrow and watch what happens.

I do as I’m told. As I approach the counter, the drink guy from lunch is the only one behind the counter. He asks me what I would like. As I ask for a salad, he says, “I’m really sorry about what happened with your drink earlier today.”

I look up in complete surprise.

“It was you, wasn’t it?”

I know the shock is all over my face. “Yes!” I reply “It was!”

“I’m so sorry,” he repeats.

“Thank you,” I reply, “but please don’t worry about it. I imagine you had a lunch rush and things got a bit confused. I had an appointment and couldn’t wait, that’s all.”

Relief floods his face, and I realize that this person looks ill…like he needs to be in bed eating chicken soup. In that moment, I remember what it’s like to have to work when sick because I can’t afford to lose the income due to the job not having sick time. My compassion increases for the young guy.

“That’s exactly what happened,” he explains, “and our stock was low and I had to restock before making any drinks, and your order got placed in the wrong place.” 

“How frustrating!” I reply.

He smiles, “It was!”

He hands me my last container and asks if I need anything more. I ask if I could get my drink from lunch. He lights up, and I realize he may be happy to do something to rectify the situation. “Yes! What size did you order?”

I stop, stunned, realizing I hadn’t selected a size at lunch. “I don’t know,” I reply. “Let me look at my receipt.”

“Wait,” he says. “You already paid for the drink?!”

“Yes.” I reply with a smile.

“That’s even worse!” he exclaims. “I’ll make sure you get your drink this time.”

“Thank you so much!” I reply.

Several hours later, I’m still pondering the necessity for this situation, and all I’m getting is that it was a test…an opportunity to actually use my tools to resolve conflict in a new way…using new skills, new thoughts, new behaviors, new words. It was uncomfortable, and I didn’t enjoy it, but a new groove in my brain is beginning to form…providing me with options and a freedom to choose where once I had none.

So…maybe I have found that gratitude part of me…and it’s bigger than I originally thought.

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…

D!reaming in the Void

Once all the grief falls away, the panic passes, and one becomes comfortable with the silent uncertainty of being, one realizes that this is where dreams create reality. 

That’s a heady moment of realization…the power to so utterly and completely create and define yourself and your world. The responsibility can be overwhelming. 

As I sat in this space…completely overwhelmed and scared to make a mistake…I wondered How do I dream about something when I don’t even know if it exists or if it’s possible? How can dream something better than what I know?

I’m not really certain how to answer that question yet…I’m still experimenting. But. During this void time, I went for a drive on the freeway. It was a splurge drive, harkening back to the days when I drove for mental health…to explore the world…to go to new places, meet new people, and expand my horizon just a little…to connect with the earth. My budget and gas prices have made such drives only memories now. But, on this day, I gave myself a treat and went for a drive.

As I drove, feeling panicky because there was so much traffic and wanting an open road to myself…away from people and the mundane…I gradually became aware that the air around me had changed. The sounds around me had changed. I was surrounded. I looked. I WAS SURROUNDED! Encasing me in ecstasy were three Lamborghinis and two Porsches. 

Confession. I know I blogged about the Porsche Carrera being my dream car, but my real dream car is a Lamborghini. At some point I changed my dream because I didn’t think it would ever be possible for me to see a Lamborghini, much less drive or own one. Not that a Porsche would be that much easier for my budget…but at least I’d seen a few of those. 

And now THERE WERE THREE LAMBORGHINIS SURROUNDING ME!!! THREE!!!! AT ONCE! 

I realized in this moment that tears were streaming down my face. Then I heard a chuckle in my head and heard, We’ll help you remember your dreams. Play! Have fun! You can always create more.

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