The Personal is Universal

These conversations get intimate and we weave in and out of the personal and address universal themes. We are trying to be authentic. We considered whether or not these conversations might be something that others could relate to.

Are these perhaps the conversations that we would have liked to have had with our intimate partners in the past, but they didn’t happen? They couldn’t happen.

Daniel: What does the picture look like so far after three sessions. The old paradigm and the new paradigm we’re trying to create. The old one of not talking, not coming to the table. The new one is us coming to the table and talking. I feel that this is what we’re doing here. A new paradigm for a partnership. Both have to be into their self-awareness, self-honesty so that they can talk.

****
Our conversations were highly stimulating and there was never a lag time during the hour plus that we talked. These were serious topics, but sometimes, the humor would slip in. Once I was so sure about something that I wanted to say. Daniel’s focus was on me and I totally spaced it. I started laughing at myself. Daniel wanted to know what was so funny. He assumed it was about him or something that he said. I had to explain that I was laughing at myself. Humor is so important, isn’t it. Not taking oneself so seriously all of the time. I need to remember this.

Me: A person has to be sufficiently open and aware. We have to reach a certain stage of self-honesty. I agree with you that bringing it to the table and dialoguing is part of the new paradigm. It’s not so easy when a couple is deep into a relationship to have these conversations. Egos get in the way, old unconscious patterns get in the way, fear or anxiety. These conversations would be different if we were established in a relationship. It’s a different dynamic when a couple is living together.

Daniel: We separate at the end of the conversation…we have space. We process what was said after we part company. Have you found that sometimes you can talk more freely and openly to a stranger? It’s because we’re in the same frequency…that we’re able to share with a total stranger.

Me: Sometimes I share something intimate with a stranger and afterwards I’m shocked–how could I share that with a stranger!–as you said the frequency is there.

Daniel: We’re not total strangers. This is the most contact we’ve had. There’s been a buildup of trust and comfort. My relationship with you has always been one of a very even keel. I never attacked you. I never put you down. I’m a little erratic at times. Instinctively towards the very beginning, I felt comfortable, easy-going, support, you pulled out my good qualities. It’s the frequency thing…this is flowing as it is. Unlike, Fiona, (a friend of Daniel’s) it was hostile and aggressive until we got to know each other better.

Me: If it feels uncomfortable, it’s good to voice that too. There’s more that charges me around this and makes me feel this is really worthwhile. I honor what we’re doing here.

Daniel: You need to be around a male that is comfortable for you. Safe. As opposed to not. We don’t have stuff with each other.

Everything Daniel says doesn’t have to send me into a reactive place nor does he have to be triggered by whatever I say.

****
In a long-term relationship, how does one initiate the conversations that are wanting to be held? When talking hasn’t been at the forefront of relating, where do you begin?

Having Her Own Thoughts

The conversations between Daniel and myself were happening simultaneously to a great deal of drama around my parents who were in their final years. Family disruption, conflict, guilt, sorrow, continued abuse of my mom, breakdowns of my dad, struggles with siblings. This all entered into my conversations with Daniel in some way. I confided some of the ongoing story to him.

When a woman is in a relationship where she is being dominated, where she is fearful, where she can’t speak truthfully, she disconnects from her soul self, her true self. She lives outside of herself in other words.

I confided in Daniel that we brought my mother to safety, away from my father who was starving her. We put her in a safe place, a care home with eight other residents. She was there for six months while he wrangled with the administrators and social services, trying to get her back home. My mother was an invalid in a wheelchair at this time and totally dependent. My sister and I visited her regularly. She was always glad to see us as she adapted to this whole new world away from my father. My mother’s eyes lit up when one or both of us entered the room. When we asked my mother a question, we noted how she had to really stop and consider for awhile before she answered. She wasn’t accustomed to speaking for herself. My father typically answered for her or she looked to him for a nod of approval before she spoke. Now, here she was after sixty something years of marriage, called upon to find her own answers. It was fascinating, really, to wait patiently for her to decide what it was she wanted or felt or needed. My sister and I, over a six month period, noticed a certain newfound empowerment arising in her.

In a way, as my mother was remembering herself, my sister and I were discovering her for the first time. My father was able to talk to her on the phone and he tried to influence her through this connection. However, he wasn’t right there in the room. He couldn’t use his icy stare or body language to subdue her. For the first time in many years, she had a sense of safety. And perhaps, a feeling of freedom.

Two other sisters had power of attorney over my parents and, after six months, they decided to reunite our parents in another care home. I was opposed to this as I knew that the same patterns of the cycle of abuse would return. And they did. Old patterns die hard.

****
For my mother to have her own thoughts and to finally have a small opening in which to speak them was also true for me to a different degree in the conversations with Daniel. My childhood had been one of being voiceless and invisible and not feeling safe. This carried over into my marriage. Now, with Daniel, I had an opportunity to speak to a man who had once-upon-a-time been an abusive male. A man who was consciously deepening his own self-awareness. I wasn’t going to hold back. I was going to be truthful, authentic and to have my voice heard!

I noticed that during the conversations , Daniel was sometimes so eager to speak that he would interrupt me to interject his thoughts. He is quick and when you’re that quick there is a tendency not to really settle in and listen to the other person. He was so ready with his own thoughts that he didn’t allow me to complete what I was saying frequently. It made me wonder if I was really received and heard. Perhaps not. He admitted this…he was excited about the topic and he was eager to express his thoughts and insights. There was a lack of patience on his part for the conversation to unfold at a pace that felt respectful to me and my point of view.

For someone like me with a history of an abusive father and spouse, that isn’t the best way to have a dialogue. It could shut me down. It could cause me to waiver from my own train of thought. I might fade out of the conversation. I might disappear and become voiceless and invisible once again. However, recording the conversations and making a cd for both of us to review, enabled Daniel to recognize this for himself. Between our meetings, listening to the cd, he observed that he talked too much or interrupted or was overbearing. He vowed to be more conscious of that. Even with the best of intentions, Daniel mostly was true to form and carried on in the same way throughout.

Having the cd served me also in that before the next meeting, I listened and wrote down my questions and observations and was able to interject my thoughts and insights with great presence and persistence the following week. In retrospect, I viewed this less as an opposition and more of an opportunity for both of us. I also considered that Daniel and I would take away from these conversations what we each needed.

Writing My Way Through

Writing a blog, one can get stuck in a rut. Trying to hold true to an original intention for the blog, I encountered a block. While I loved what I was writing and sharing, was it making a difference for myself and others? Was their an evolutionary track to it? Perhaps, I’ve gone as far as I need to in that direction.

I paused the blog to grieve three intimate losses, to reencounter myself and rekindle a relationship with what has been a lifelong theme. That theme is the theme of woman/mother in a society that disrespects woman. As a girl with a mother who was virtually voiceless and invisible, I was impacted strongly. In her invisibility and silence, her effect upon me has been profound. How, then, did I find my voice? How did I allow myself to dare to go from invisibility to being seen?

As I write this, I ask myself “Do I want to share something this personal referencing my ongoing lifelong journey towards finding my voice, healing and wholeness?” I haven’t arrived there and I don’t necessarily feel secure or that I’m in a place of grounded strength and complete self-awareness. If I haven’t arrived, then how credible can I be? While I took a break from writing this blog to process grief, I realize that the period of healing, grieving, reclaiming and replenishing is ongoing.

In these times, each one of us has something that we are working on in the inner landscape of our individual lives. We are, each one of us, a microcosm with its own center and on our own evolutionary track. We do this, side-by-side, unaware of what our neighbor’s or our brother’s or our sister’s inner self is working on. If recognizing this helps me to access compassion, then I’ve come a long way.

We live in what has been termed “unprecedented times.” The challenges are great for us as individuals and as a society. There are a few people in my immediate circle with whom I reflect and share deeply. I admire those who can hold a positive attitude…although sometimes I wonder what channel they are tuned into as I don’t have the same consistent optimism. I do have hope, but I also am a witness to my own turmoil and the world condition. What is my small part in this great whole?

As I was walking in the late afternoon, it occurred to me that I could harvest writing from my journals, essays and non-fiction short stories to present the themes that explore a woman’s evolution from invisible and voiceless to “it is safe to be visible and to have a voice.” But there is something that I’m looking for in my own life and journey–what is the transformational piece? I don’t only want to present a problem…I want to consider “What is a possible way to transform what was or has been?”

I offer that question to you, the reader of this blog. Surveying your life, are you able to name a transformational piece? Certainly, there can be more than one.

Enjoy your day.

The Ballerinas

In these uncertain times, we strive for balance, meaning, purpose.  We hope for the safety and health of ourselves and those we love…and we extend that prayer for our entire family, neighbors, community, state, country, neighboring countries, the earth.  We are in this together.  We always have been.

****
I honestly don’t know why I started to paint ballerinas.  Perhaps it is their perfection of form–the way their bodies stand tall and poised, their mastery of graceful movement.  Perhaps it was the memory of a fleeting girlhood fantasy of being a ballerina.  Perhaps it is their delicate beauty.

I began painting ballerinas, several of them, one after the other.  This first painting was a total surprise to me.  It’s one that started out as something else, a compassionate feminine Buddha portrait, and then, it turned into the ballerinas.  At first, the central ballerina was a flower, the bleeding heart.  However, all around her, other ballerina figures were developing.  Suddenly, the bleeding heart no longer fit.  The flower became the central ballerina and she too changed over time.

Ballerinas.1

Sometimes, the way in which the paint or acrylic ink  “dripped” prompted a new figure.  I limited the color palette.

****
Today is a good day to notice beauty.

The Virus.1.

I’m not ignoring the virus, the pandemic, the constraints on travel, the isolation, the possible detrimental effects to businesses and their employees as we slow everything down, bring some things to a halt and are forced to isolate and go inside.  If we hopefully aren’t sick, chances are that we or someone we know are directly affected by the restrictions in place at this time.

One of my nieces has been at a cooking school in Southern Italy since January.  The school closed before the course was completed.  She is currently on her way home having to make three different flight connections–one in Munich, one in London and then home to San Francisco.  She is going to self-quarantine for two weeks.  We aren’t sure what requirements she is going to face at each of her stopping points.  We pray for her safe return and minimal hardship along the way.

Then, a nephew working in the entertainment industry, may lose his job.  He finds out today.  He has a wife and three young children.  I can only imagine the stress that he is under at this time.  Of course, ideally, employers should take care of their employees at such a time.  I read that Disneyland is paying their employees during the shutdown.  Yes, we each deserve to be so valued.

One of my daughters is a nurse.  She works twelve-hour shifts.  In a clinic for low income people.  She is sure she’s been exposed to the virus at this point, even with all the precautions that she takes.  On the weekend, she shops for groceries.  She is dismayed to see that the shelves are emptied by people in a panic.  When she loads her shopping cart with what she can find of her weekly food supply, someone in line smirks and says “hoarding.”  She has a husband and three children all at home due to school closures across the land.  We know so little of other people’s lives.  Another reason to be considerate.

For me, I work at home, so at this time, it’s not affecting my daily work routine.  I admit to taking one extra of things on the grocery shelf than I might ordinarily.  I leave plenty for others.  However, being single, I do miss the local social gatherings that have been cancelled.  I call a family member or a friend…but it’s not the same as being in their physical company.  Even living in a small community, the streets are bare and it is somewhat eerie.  I do have concern for my family that lives in the big city.  I do pray for everyone, for a worldly calm to descend.  I also hope that we take advantage of this time apart.

Blessings, calm and good health to you and your families.

 

Poetry in Perilous Times (3)

We have not had very much precipitation in the mountains this winter.  We’ve had three big storms that deposited a lot of snow in the city proper and on the mountain.  However, it was quickly washed away with rain at the lower elevations.  February brought idyllic spring-like weather.  While we enjoyed it, we also felt some trepidation.  The summer and fall of 2018 were frightening to us living in this highly forested area.  Fires sprung up in every direction around us.  We were told to be packed and ready to evacuate…but where to, we wondered.  Some of us stashed non-perishable food staples in the car, packed a suitcase, a tent, sleeping bag, bottled water, clothing, important papers, etc.

The smoky skies extended throughout the summer months starting in early July through October.  It was an intense panorama of smoke-filled days and nights.  We wore masks when we ventured out.  Typically, summer is a time to appreciate the lakes and hiking trails, to walk briskly, climb, swim and breathe deeply the fresh mountain air.  Not then.  Honestly, there is a certain dread of the coming summer.  Without a winter of sufficient rain and snow, we pray for our own safety and that of our forests and forest creatures.

I wrote this poem in September of 2018…

When the not-so-far ridges have been obscured
by smoke for months…
When your mind is clouded with confusing thoughts…
When what you once perceived proves to be false
or limiting…
When you sip your morning
cup of tea and place one foot
in front of the other
and say yes to this new day,
you have learned faith.

The smoke hangs on the ridge waiting for
directions from the wind.
The firefighters are out there
day and night manning
bulldozers, helicopters, heavy machinery–
we trust them to do their jobs–
to be wisely directed by those
who understand the nature
of fighting fire in a heavily forested area
with up and down rugged terrain.  We
have to trust them.  We have to trust
and to hold onto faith that everything is
going to be alright…
and until then,
that we can bear it–
be strong
be patient
and live our lives truly
and boldly.

We have to trust that we have
sufficient courage,
to share our gifts and
to proceed
into this new day.
We go forward into the uncertainty
on wings of prayer, hope and trust
and faith
and whatever love looks like today.

Then, I go into the garden to harvest tomatillos.

tomatillos

As of this moment, it is snowing and accumulating.  Yay!  And the rest of March might bring more precipitation.  We hope so.

 

Saying “NO”

I write down thoughts that seem valuable in the moment.  I found this list in one of my journals that seems worth sharing.

I’m wondering if this is true for other women (and some men)–at a young age, I learned that saying “no” to my father was unacceptable.   To feel safe, I acquiesced.  This carried over into my life as a young woman, wife, mother.  I was there to meet the needs of others and to deny my own.  At a point in my life, I literally had to learn and practice saying no.

I was taught to feel guilty as a way to manipulate
me into saying “yes” when I wanted to say “no”

To feel safe, I said yes when I meant no

To be liked or accepted, I said yes when I meant no

The ability to say no preserves physical and mental health

It’s appropriate to say no to those things and people that are not consistent with my life values

It’s alright to say no to things that aren’t important to me

It’s alright to say no when I have something else to do

How to say an appropriate no–

“No, I won’t be able to do that.”

“No, I choose not to do that.”

“No, I’m busy.”

“No, that doesn’t interest me.”

When I decline an invitation, I don’t have to explain why

Can I say no without having to give a reason?

Consider what it is that I really want

Remember that I have a choice to say yes or no

When I say yes or no, how does it affect my physical and mental health?

****

I’m sure that it’s more complicated than this…the right to choose your life is no small thing.  I once gave a workshop to a group of economically disadvantaged women in a college setting.  The workshop was about self-nurture.  Several of the participants had no sense of putting themselves first.  The concept of “no” was inaccessible to them and even frightening.  What would the fallout be if they dared to say no to someone, typically a man?

Real Life

I write a blog.  I give writing prompts.  I aim to inspire.  That said, there is something too real to ignore right now near where I live and affecting my immediate family.  I live in the forested mountains of northern California.  There are more forested areas to the north, east, south and west of where I live.  Three of my sisters live one hour south of here.  Two of them have been evacuated from their homes due to forest fires.  The fires are now 17% contained.  Where I live, the air has been of an unhealthy quality due to
the smoke.

****
Why is it this way with humans–if it’s not happening to us directly or to  someone we love, then we can disregard it.  Healthy detachment is good…but when we don’t think it could happen to us or our families, then we are in denial.  Do we have a false sense of divine immunity perhaps?

Regardless of our race, creed, color, gender, sexual preference or other differentiating factors, don’t we all want to feel safe?  Don’t we all desire the safety and well-being of those we love?  Isn’t this a a common thread of connection despite all of the things we name that separate us?  Isn’t this awareness/recognition the fulcrum upon which we can chart a new course?

Instead of putting dollars into making heftier weaponry, shouldn’t we be collaborating to save our planet? What if we put our collective imaginations in that direction?  What could life on earth look like then?

****
Today, the smoke level has reached unhealthy proportions where I live.  I am packing what I need and preparing to leave, if necessary.  This has been one of the worst fire seasons we’ve experienced in this part of the country.  We need rain.  We need prayers.

For now, this blog is suspended.  Thank you for following it over this past year.

Best wishes to everyone.

Christine