Sunday, October 23, 2011

Safety to Feel

I spent the bulk of the day in the woods with my dog.  We retraced steps we've walked before.  And on the drive into the mountains, I put my i-pod on shuffle and listened to a soundtrack both old and new.  I was reminded of times in the past when I believed something different than I do now, and in the peace of the day, I was allowed to mourn and be joyous in the same moments.

I am struck by the amount of love that surrounds me.  I have an abundance of love in my life.  I have met people in my life who have the capacity for such goodness and unconditional love, and I am never ever "alone."  I've been enjoying time with myself of late--craving it, and also craving connection with the women in my life who have buoyed me through many difficult times.  I pride myself on self-sufficiency, but I also recognize that this self-sufficiency is borne out of the knowledge that I have so many cushions if I fall.

In this space and in this calm, I have been (finally) processing the level of cruelty that accompanied my divorce last year.  I lived through lies, hostility, outright hatred, and my resulting confusion.  I've been confused about what transpired during the course of the divorce process (the parts leading up to it were pretty obvious in retrospect...almost textbook :).   I also know that I can't ever understand what motivates someone to act as they do, nor do I need to in order to move on and let go.   Memories resurface in interesting ways:  snippets of conversation, emails and notes written to me, actions that were (to me) hugely disrespectful.  And I realize, and this is where the sadness lies, that someone I counted as my partner for a number of years, was capable of acting like this.  Oldest story in the book, and I know it plays out a million times over in a variety of ways, and I know there are many many scenarios that are so much worse.

What I keep realizing, as I slowly let things come back to the surface, is that it's all fine.  There are beautiful lessons.  This beauty, however, doesn't mean there isn't some residual pain, and some disbelief. It just means that I mourn not only the demise of a relationship that at one time I must have believed in, but that I mourn the loss of an illusion that I knew another human well, and that he had my best interest at heart, and that he was capable of things he wasn't.  And these realizations are disconcerting.

I think it's okay to celebrate the present, but it's also okay to recognize the past and what's been learned.
Thankfully, I live in a present that offers me the safety necessary to feel these things with no fear.  That, in itself, is a luxury I don't think everyone gets.  Gratitude.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Harmony and Discord

Okay, I'm struggling with vulnerability.  Yep.  So, I thought I'd lay some things out here, and just trust that it's okay to let people know that, indeed, there are many times when I'm just not feeling like a rock star.  Discord.

I'm launching into my dissertation year.  This, coupled with a change in season, some feelings of failure at work, and a slight fear of the future, and confusion about how to make my present what I want, have left me in a bit of a black place the past couple of weeks.

I have found that despite the fact that cerebrally I know my life is really gorgeous, and that there are so so many things to look forward to, I have been a little flat lately.  A lot of this stems from the fact that I'm nervous about resuming my status as a workaholic, and the other part of me is afraid I don't know how to put my head down and do the work I need to do any more.  Some of the blackness stems from the fact that I have been cleaning up some dangling details from divorce (how's that for alliteration surrounding a negative experience?).  I don't like that things are still needing cleaning up.  I'm frustrated with myself for feeling residual feelings of anger.  But, there they are.  I'm not at all angry at the outcome, but I am angry with myself for what I let occur in my life.  And I'm angry with myself for being angry.  These layers make it messy to untangle what the truth is.

One thing I do know as truth?  If I don't go ahead and feel what I feel, it's going to sneak out of me in really counterproductive ways.  So, in order to figure out what I'm feeling and what needs to occur in my life to remedy it, I have to sit with it, not ignore it.  So, this week, I invited the anger and frustration in.  I poured it a drink, made up the guest bed (as it seemed to be hanging out for a time), and I indulged its company until it made me:  1) laugh at myself, and 2) take action.

Forgiving ourselves doesn't happen overnight.  Shifting from "what the hell was I thinking?" to "what did I learn from the experience?" doesn't happen overnight either.  It's a constant process.  And it's one that takes a lot of patience and compassion.  I realized that because I was sick of the process, I assumed all of my friends were too, and I was refusing to tell anyone that I was struggling.  Because, really, I like timelines:  After three months, you should be _____________; After a year, you should be _________.  How arbitrary these deadlines are.  How ridiculous to try to apply linear thinking to something so circuitous and messy as emotion.  How fabulous it would be if we could simply have ego-botomies (I hope you know what I'm trying for there even if it doesn't make any sense as I've written it).  The fortunate part of a process is that we learn from it.  The tenth or one-hundredth time something surfaces, it's familiar, we know it, and we know why it's there.  It doesn't mean that we're cured from having to deal with it, but it's no longer scary or's just what is.  Maybe I'm getting closer to letting go of the judgment I place on myself.  Maybe, one day, I'll be able to say, "it's neither good nor bad, it just is."

So, these feelings of discord will eventually lead to resumed harmony.  The nice part about faith is that I honestly believe this.  And if I can open myself up again, instead of shutting down, shutting people out and hiding when I'm not feeling like I wish I was, then harmony will be faster coming.  One would think this would be a lesson that I had learned already as well (see the judgment rearing its head again?).  My friends have never once said, "No, Lisa, I really don't want to hear what's going on with you.  I'd rather you were distant and strange for a while."  And I know I would feel the same way.  We want the shared humanity; we need it.  I forget how much love there is.  And how much patience.  And this is where I find harmony in the world.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


I have hit the moment in Tucson where I breathe a sigh of relief and realize I've lived through another summer.  For some reason, though, this shift in season has been accompanied by unsettled feelings:  irritability, confusion, inability to focus on what exactly I'm doing in the now.

I spent last year really grounding myself in my space and place and making my life exactly what I needed it to be.  And now I recognize, as we all do, that at any given moment we need any number of things that will not be what we need at a later point.  A friend of mine reminded me that self-care is a moment to moment process.  And to be really honest with ourselves, we need to always acknowledge that change is part of the equation.  

Unfortunately, the past month has been one of ants in my pants...I want to move and I want to move on NOW.  I've had this before.  I'm accustomed to these feelings surfacing recurrently in my life.  I am.  I also know I need to finish what I started here.  I want to finish what I've started here.  And so, this next month is data collection for my dissertation.  I'm alternately excited and completely overwhelmed by the prospect of the next six months of my life.  The excitement wins and I launch.  (Not without some feet-dragging and procrastination in the process, however...and the Saturday of, "I know I'll be able to focus if I just ride up Mt. Lemmon a ways on my bike...I know I will...")

What I do know, though, is that when I leave the present, when I try to leap forward to a place I don't actually inhabit yet, I can't function fully.  And I realize how much work it takes to remain grounded in life.  I have been talking myself out of falling into the trap of believing that just because I lived through a rough time in my life, that everything from here on out will be couched in a blissed-out state of enlightenment.  If only.  The work in life, I think, is taking what we learn in the hardest times and not losing the insights gained as we slog through the minutiae that makes up a lot of our daily life.

My goals right now?  Another purge and clean.  Organization.  Clearing space for a new challenge.  Remembering that I am doing what I do because it's what I truly want, and not because I'm being told to.  And not one person is watching to see if I pull it off successfully but me.  I like that, but I also know I'm my toughest critic.  Maybe I'll learn a little more compassion through this process.  

And I let myself fall into this period of reflection, of time, of space, of movement and of stillness...and I try to shake the need to jump ahead before I have the opportunity to enjoy exactly what I'm doing.  Because even in stillness, there is a lot of forward movement.