Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bittersweet Bliss

Brian Andreas, who writes the beautiful Story People nuggets ( wrote one of my favorite images called "Bittersweet":

She said she usually cried at least once each day not because she was sad, but because the world was so beautiful & life was so short.

I was reminded of this story yesterday when I simply had to sit down, breathe, and realize that, indeed, the experience I was having was my life, is my life.  I stood on the beach on the central California coast and my legs gave way and all I could do was sit and let tears run down my face.  I was not and am not sad.  I am awed.  I am letting go of the last little bits of exhaustion and disbelief.  I am breathing in wonder.  And I smile.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Beauty and Trust

I sat tonight at the botanical garden with a beautiful friend, listening to a lovely singer-songwriter play.   Hawks and hummingbirds were in the audience.  The temperature released its oppressive stranglehold.  And I thought to myself, yep, all is right.

And I'm thinking about my own views on beauty.  I have seen more beauty in this world as I've slowed to look around this year than I have in a long time.  It's been refreshing, revitalizing, and renewed my capacity for wonder and enchantment.  However, I lose sight of what's around me at times.  I lost my feelings of gratitude and bliss for a couple of days--succumbing to fears, ancient defense mechanisms, and frustration with myself because of this.  Thankfully, I have been conscious enough of late to at least recognize when I lose consciousness.

Today's yoga theme was focused around the idea that every interaction we have is an opportunity to create a beautiful work of art--that we are able to create beauty in every moment, every shared expression, and in our poses, our conversation and our actions.  There are times when I'm feeling raw and exposed and I would like to simply hide from the world.  And I'm sure that my fellow humans would be happier if I did sometimes.  :)  However, I'm also recognizing that there is a generosity of spirit in those I surround myself with, and that fissures and flaws are allowed.  Who knew?

And I continue to think about what I project into the world.  I'm hoping it's mostly positive, but also know that there are times when I have some work to do.  I can't excuse myself, but I can continue to do the work necessary to bring myself back to right, so I can shine out what I believe instead of what I fear.
If I want to have an open heart, then...well, I need to keep it open in all circumstances.  I have an awfully easy time saying that I have courage when there aren't any situations in my life that demand it.  If I want authentic connections in my life?  Well, I'm going to have to let myself be seen.  We all are.  And, really, who would have it any other way?

I turned to my friend tonight as the sun was setting, highlighting the hawk's nest in the tree above us, and as a woman smiled and sang her heart, and I said, "we have a truly beautiful life."  And we do.  This is my truth.

Monday, June 13, 2011

No Judgment

Is it really possible to live without judging yourself?  I am truly hoping so.  I realize there are layers to my experience when I feel like I've screwed up:  1)  I acknowledge that I haven't been fully present and have acted in a way I don't like; 2) I beat myself up for it; 3) I let my mind run rampant--"geez, how could you be so stupid"; 4)  I apologize, but think there's no way the other person is not judging me and cataloging my flaws.  I've been sifting through this and realize there's no way I would judge someone else as harshly as myself, and also realize that what I do is make something small about ten times larger than it needs to be.

I keep trying to develop my courage to be recognize that I screw up, and that it's okay, because, really, who doesn't?  But, and there's a big "but" here, it's a challenge.  It's easy with people who've known and loved me for years--and I've surrounded myself with these people all year.  It's more difficult to let new friends see all of who I am.  I finally built up a little armor this year, and now that I need to let some of it down, this requires a whole new negotiation.  I have counted myself hugely lucky to have been spending time with someone who I feel totally free to be myself with, but realized recently that this applied only when I didn't feel I had said or done the "wrong" thing. This level of vulnerability is much different than being fully transparent in front of people who've seen through me many times.

I think, though, that it's not a matter of being afraid of being imperfect (I'm pretty clear on who I am and I kinda like me), it's not trusting that new people I engage with are who they say they are, or that they accept me exactly as I am.  I need to remember to put this baggage down.  I like to think I'm a pretty good judge of character, but, as history will attest, this doesn't always extend to the men I let in my life.  Maybe part of growing up is realizing that I have grown in this area too, and that people I allowed in my life in the past are most certainly not people I would engage with now...Still, this takes some doing for me.

As I continue to unpack these ideas, I am not sure why I find it necessary to qualify so many things.  I like to eat junk food sometimes.  I like to have a glass of wine (or two) on occasion.  I like to lounge about my house and do nothing when I feel like it.  I don't mind if my house gets messy sometimes.  Why not just accept that this is who I am and not worry?  I am rewiring the tape that plays in my head, and realizing that most of it is not even my tape--it's as if I've adopted, through osmosis, the ideas of another that were handed to me way too often in the past decade  ("You're not _____ enough.  Shouldn't you be _____?")  I don't think these messages deserve any more power.

So...solution?  Explanation and communication--and reminding myself that I'm not an asshole, but sometimes screw up when I'm not paying attention.   A friend recently reminded me that I should assume positive intentions, and I realize I have to hope that this assumption is extended to me as well.  It's funny, I apply these presuppositions to perfect strangers--people who cut me off in traffic or don't see me while I'm riding my bike, but I don't always have the same perspective when dealing with relationships that feel more vulnerable.  More work to do.  Wouldn't it be so cool if there was an endpoint to the work?  That every new situation didn't come with its own new learning?  :)  Nope.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Past in Present

Times of transition and new beginnings offer space for reflection.  I've been sifting through research done a decade ago as I rewrite my dissertation proposal for the coming school year.  I'm amazed at how lucid my thinking was and how my current goals are simply extensions of the stories I've been wanting to tell since I began teaching--allowing the voices of students to speak for themselves and offer insight.

A decade ago, I wrote about my experience teaching on the Navajo reservation:  "I watched myself change.  It will take some time to recover, but when I do I will be stronger than I ever thought possible.  I have been furious, I have been sad, but I have also felt triumphant and cried from happiness."

It appears that my biggest moments of growth occur when I am forced to confront truly incongruous ideas and ideals.  The conflict, for me, offers up insight that I couldn't come to in any other way.

This mirrors my experience with marriage and divorce.  I will carry the experience with me into my future.  It informs who I am and how I live.  I have emerged, however, with an even stronger clarity about life, love, and myself than I thought possible.  A year has passed, but it's been one of those years when every week is a month.  I said goodbye to my therapist last month, and she and I spent some time laughing about where I'd been:  Remember the "this is all my fault" phase?  Or, "here is where you finally got angry...I'd been waiting for that..." and "thank god, here's where you realized this wasn't about you..."  And we recognized the fact that every single step was necessary to move forward intact.  And the beauty is that when you process all of your shit as it surfaces, you get to emerge freely and fully.  And you get to choose what informs your next move.  The past doesn't own you; it just provides some really cool insight.  I love my life.

And I love every bit of my past that informs who I am.  I'm not proud of everything, but I wouldn't trade.

And I am reminded of an encounter I had with a young person, and one that reminds me that we are all magic...even when we forget it:
"I am a queen.  Do you want to bow for me?" she asked.
I did and I will again, I am certain.  She, at 3 feet 7 inches is the most imposing figure in the room. 
"I am a cowboy now.  Check it out."  And she is: the swagger, head cocked to the left and eyes squinted for an ensuing gunfight.
"You are magic," I said.
"I know," she replied.

Hopefully, our past will always inform our present...

We are magic.  And every step in life is making us more so.  Every single one...even when it feels like a misstep.  Here's to self-correction, to beauty, to recognizing the beauty in ourselves...and to allowing others to see it.