Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Early This Morning...

December 23, 2014

I awoke this morning and took the dogs out. 6:30 am-ish. Walking to the kitchen, I passed the bookshelf and found this old journal on the floor. Strange. Lying there as if it had jumped from the shelf. I can't remember the last time I even looked at this journal. The notes in the front are from when I was still married to Steve, and then also from when I was in my first apartment after I moved out. 

That's 16 years ago. Yet, there it lay on the floor at my feet, most likely swept from the shelf by Frank's high and very large tail caught in the journal's spiral binding. Still, when I saw my writing through the translucent cover - the words I carved into the clay heart box I made for my daughter Gay when she graduated high school - my heart jumped. "Oh God, I haven't looked at this in years!", I thought to myself as I picked it up off the cold tile floor. And as I began to read the pages, I remembered there was more. I remembered tearing out pages that I no longer wanted to keep. I have no recollection now what they contained, only that it felt like a purge, a cleansing. 

Suddenly, I was overcome with the urge to write. So, here I sit on a rainy, dark morning journaling once again after all there years. 

This. The extraordinary experience of being alive, when even the most mundane moments are filled with soul.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

12 Hours Sleep

This morning I awoke after sleeping almost 12 hours. Yes, twelve. For about a year I have been working on a weekend retreat called Women’s Body Wisdom. Finally, on the weekend of July 18-21, I gathered with a courageous group of women at the tranquil and healing Bend of Ivy Lodge. It was in the beautiful mountains of Asheville, NC. Following the weekend, the women gathered for a follow-up conference call since we were from different parts of the country. The whole experience of that weekend continues to be a healing and transformative experience. The courage and willingness of these women to be vulnerable, to be truly seen, has been an inspiration to me. My heart is full at the joy of having found my kindred, and I look forward to creating more.

The week following the retreat was my last one before returning to the teaching world. Public Education. Ugh. Need I say more? Most teachers, especially here in the south, let that Good Girl archetype keep them silent in public, but behind closed doors there is much discontent, anger, and frustration. The broken system of public education eats passion, motivation, and inspiration like a war eats its soldiers.

During my week of pre-planning, I left the school in tears on at least two occasions. I felt angry, frustrated, and powerless. During the countywide meeting, I heard the superintendent say that teachers are “those who serve” and that he and the board are “those who serve those who serve.” Hmph. Really? Show me action. Show me evidence. Immediately I think of the adage, “The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior.” Yes, I am jaded, and I haven’t even been teaching that long! 15 years. What about those who have been teaching 20 years plus? They have seen more than I have. I am, as my husband says, “screaming impotently at the world”.  

So, I did what I could at pre-planning. Most teachers put in sooooo much more time than they are paid for. They buy supplies with their own money. It’s ridiculous beyond ridiculous. My sister, who teaches in Muskogee County, told me teachers had their daily hours cut to address budget deficit issues and then were required by their principal to arrive early and stay late for new “duties as assigned” per their contract. Yeah. That shit happens ALL the time.

Kids arrived for their first week this past Monday, August 4th. On Tuesday, I walked my dog in the evening around the neighborhood. We were almost home when we passed a house where a woman stood in her yard with her two dogs. Large dogs. UNLEASHED dogs. Three houses away they charged us. Her two large dogs charged me and my lab. In the fight that ensued, I got bit or cut on the knee and tore my hamstring. Blood running down my left leg, struggling with the lead and my balance, adrenalin coursing through my veins, I am screaming at the dogs and cussing up a storm. The woman finally got her dogs, and in an alarmed voice said to me, “Oh I’m so sorry! Are you alright?” I am limping and blood is running down my leg. I (thanks to the courageous and inspiring women of the WBW weekend) put my good little southern “nice” far away and yelled in my strongest voice, “NO! I’m not okay!! Put your goddammed dogs on a lead!!”

The next day after working a full day with a limp, I went to see the orthopedic. Yep. Torn hammie. She gave me crutches and anti-inflammatory. Told me to come back in 10 days. If it isn’t healing properly, they will do an MRI. That was Wednesday.  Guess what Thursday was? My BIRTHDAY! The doc had asked me if I had ever used crutches. I said, “Yeah. When they were wood!” HA! Man, that is WORK! So I got to school and surveyed the situation. My teacher chair has rollers on it. Suddenly I had this vision of the movie Wall-E. I told my elementary school students I was like the fat people in the floaty chairs from Wall-E. In my classroom, I rolled myself around backwards, pushing with my feet. When I needed to go to the office, I had a student push me. It worked SO much better than crutches, and they loved the “ Wall-E fat people in floaty chairs” reference.

That night, after being honest with my husband about what I wanted for my birthday, he went well beyond and poured his love and support out to me. He cared for me in a loving, tender, and generous way. It was a good and happy birthday.

To all those women who struggle with the “be nice, be sweet, don’t make a fuss” voice, I am proud to celebrate that I contacted the dog owners and spoke of responsibility and integrity. They did the right thing and have paid for my out of pocket expenses so far. It is getting easier and easier to be who I am rather than who I think I *should* be. Joseph Campbell said, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” Damn straight, Joe!

Tonight I am celebrating my birthday with friends. Two of my friends, David Stepps and Cord Woodruff, are hosting a party for me. They are generous and kind and supportive people. I am honored to call them friends. There will be local family and friends there to celebrate with me. I am looking forward to sharing that time with them. My life is full.

Twelve hours sleep?

Yeah. My body needed that.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Culture of Scarcity

(Sea lions are symbols of
abundance in many Northwest Coast tribes)

We live in a culture that tells us there is never enough. That we are not enough, that we are not good enough, that we can never be safe enough, perfect enough, certain enough; that there is never enough time, energy, money, love, creative ideas, etc. I grew up with this message. My psyche was imprinted with this message. This message is like a cancer that permeates every area of living and eats away at the passion of living, of being fully alive. For women it is often mirrored in our relationship with food.

How aware are we of the many images and messages of scarcity we are constantly collecting every day? Consider how often you “should” or “shouldn’t” yourself.

And how many times do I hear myself say “I don’t have time” or “There’s never enough time!”? Scarcity of time.

Or what about “I’m so stressed because there is so much to do and never enough time!” Scarcity again.

Our culture strokes and rewards busyness, and programs us to numb our feelings of vulnerability. “I’m so busy!” in our culture translates into productivity, importance, carrying one’s weight, and the *right* to be here. Think about it. What are your internal messages about work and productivity?

My father had an internal message I don’t believe he was conscious of. The message, productivity is determines one's value and worth, means the more productive I am, the more value and worth I have. Living with him and being raised by him, I too carry this message, although my awareness of it has helped me choose how much it drives me and my choices.

Our compulsive busyness has a payoff. It keeps us distracted from the truth of our lives. The truths we don’t want to look at. We all have truths we don’t want to look at. It’s the product of being a fallible human living in a world with other fallible humans.

What are the consequences of avoiding those uncomfortable truths and numbing our vulnerability? Well, for one thing, it is not possible to only numb the unwanted emotions. If we numb the unpleasant, we also numb the joy, the love, the passion, etc. Personally, I’d rather be vulnerable. I want to feel it ALL. Our culture wants us to believe that vulnerability is weakness. Vulnerability is at the core of fear and shame and anxiety and the difficult emotions that we all experience, but as Brene Brown points out, vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, love, belonging, and creativity. I love that idea. It is a *birthplace*. How cool is THAT?

These are the kinds of things we will be exploring on the Women’s Body Wisdom weekend July 18-21. For more info, e-mail info@sagesoulsisters.com

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

An Expansive Life

Challenge yourself to 
do one courageous thing every day. 

Katherine Martin wrote, “Courage has many faces: challenging injustice, breaking barriers, reaching out, being vulnerable, being different, persevering against all odds . . . just for a start.”

I would add to that list, *being seen*.  Allowing myself to be seen, really seen, is an extremely vulnerable and courageous act. As such, it is not an easy thing to do. It requires stepping out of one’s comfort zone.

When I speak of being seen, I mean the beautiful *and* the not-beautiful. The neat and tidy about ourselves and the not so neat and tidy. The messy. The unfinished. The I-haven’t-got-this-all-figured-out parts of ourselves.

Author Anaïs Nin said, “Life shrinks or expands according to one’s courage.”
What is an expansive life? What is a shrinking life? I don’t know what  Anaïs had in mind when she said this, but I do know that for me an expansive life sure sounds a whole lot more interesting and rewarding than a shrinking one.

I was raised with scarcity thinking. I was programmed with an all permeating not-enoughness kind of lens through which to view and experience my world. I’ll tell you right now, it’s crap. I mean crap as in a diminishing and unfulfilling way to live, and crap as in a false, bullshit message to live by.

The question is, am I willing to risk being seen, really seen, in order to expand my life? You bet your ass I am. Right here. Right now. Tell-the-truth-faster kind of being seen. Yes, those truths that might repel. Truths that might offend. Truths that might “hurt other’s feelings” (whatever that means, but that’s a post for another time). Telling the truth faster about what I really want, what I really think, what I really feel requires that I trust the other person to take responsibility for their own feelings.

As a girl I was taught that a good and kind and loving woman *manages* other people’s feelings. She takes responsibility for how another feels. She does this by changing and monitoring who she is in a multitude of small ways in order that others might be more comfortable.

No more. Not my job. Not even possible. Even more so, it creates martyrs and manipulators of women. That’s not a happy place. It’s a bitter place. It is a place of scarcity, and now we have circled right back around to where I began. An expansive life, or a shrinking one?

I want a life of abundance, and that means I have to be willing to dare greatly, call up my courage, bring ALL of who I am. In doing that I am saying to myself, “I AM ENOUGH.” Now, *that’s* what I call living from a place of abundance!