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.

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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.

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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?

Who’s Your Role Model?

Daniel came into our second conversation after listening to the first week’s recording with a question. We had shared intimately about our childhood years and young adulthood in the first conversation. Acknowledging that, he asked “How aware were you of the horror that was coming down while you were growing up? Did you have girlfriends and observe other ways of families relating?”

My immediate answer was that I was not consciously aware that we were different than any other family. Except that my best friend’s mother, my Girl Scout leader, was outgoing and involved in the community. She laughed a lot too–something that my mother never did. Regardless, I assumed, when I thought about it, that everyone’s family was like mine. However, there’s another component to this type of family system–the power over despotic system. Threats are in place. They are subliminal. You do not talk about the secrets that are within your family. It is a closed system. That’s it–period.

I was unaware of the degree of abuse and trauma held in my body until I was 27-years old. I vomited for two weeks straight after inwardly acknowledging that the image I held of my family as one big happy family was a lie. This was the beginning for me of the downfall of the old establishment. All of the things that I believed were true and real crumbled and it seemed like there was no foundation to my life. I couldn’t fathom what an alternative would be. Trauma from the past arose, PTSD, and I didn’t know exactly what to trace it to. What I believed was solid and wholesome was actually false. My body made me aware of the abuse and locked-away trauma.

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Growing up as he did, Daniel viewed the marriage model as “pure hell.” He didn’t want any of that! Yet, he married twice, not having done any inner work. Each time he brought “the hell model” into his marriage with him unconsciously sabotaging both marriages. He felt that he lost his freedom and that marriage was an entrapment. He couldn’t “perform” and felt justified in looking outside the marriage to satisfy his sexual needs and desires. He had no conscience about this. He basically, as he put it, “crucified two marriages.” And, he also learned from this.

Whereas, I thought that this was the path, the only acceptable path, laid out for me. Marriage felt like my only choice. When I was 18-years old and working a full-time job, I wanted to move out and get my own apartment. My father said “You can’t leave until you are 21 or married. If you do, I won’t respect you.” There it was–the path–get married, honor your husband, have children, rear them and grow old together.

As I told Daniel, “The norm was harmful to me because I was agreeing, in a way, to being enslaved. My husband had total freedom while I was bound to a paradigm that wasn’t really supporting me.” I had to ask myself “What’s going on here?”

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Without self-examination, we bring what we’ve seen modeled into our lives, into our personal relationships, into our partnerships or marriages. Again, Daniel emphasized the necessity for self-examination and self-awareness to evolve ourselves and how we are in relationship to another.

Towards the end of our second meeting, Daniel chuckled and said “This is turning into a therapy session, but it’s necessary background information.”

So we proceeded from there.

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Have you looked at your own role models? Have you learned, grown and found your own truth and path?

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.

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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.

Male Privilege

What does that mean?

My sisters and I sometimes discuss male privilege. Over the course of our own lives as women, we have seen how systems favor the man over the woman. One ongoing theme has been determining acceptable social behavior by people in the workplace. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects employees from sexual harassment in the workplace. Both my sister and I experienced inappropriate sexual advances from men more than once over the course of our careers. Note that this law was passed in 1964. When I was working in an administrative position in a school district in the 90’s, the director of personnel who was in charge of enforcing the district’s sexual harassment policy made direct advances to me. We were both married. His words were: “I’d like to get to know you in every way possible.” There was no mistaking his intention.

Our society, through magazines, televisions, films etc., objectifies women. Our bodies are portrayed as objects of desire. Unconscious and gullible men and boys believe that is all that we are. When I was newly married, my ex-husband used to leave his Playboy magazines lying around. When he went off to work, I’d browse through them and wonder how I could possibly compare to those glossy images. I was nineteen and wondered if this was what a woman had to aspire to in order to win and keep a man. This, once again, was me as a young woman seeing myself through his eyes.

Equal pay for equal work is one valid point of contention. The gender pay gap still exists although according to recent studies, it is less than in previous years. In the film Made in Dagenham (England), taking place in the late sixties, the women had to prove that their labor was skilled labor. They were pretty much ignored and placated by the management of the Ford Motor Company until they went on strike. These women sewed the seats and other leather interior of the car. Their strike shut down the entire production line. They proved their worth. In 1968, the women received 92% of what the men were earning. By 1984, they received 100% of what the men were earning.

While men could advance on a job, women were not given the same opportunities for advancement. If she was young and married, there was the possibility that a woman might get pregnant and her priorities would change, therefore, she was not promoted into a position for which she was qualified. I don’t know if this is true presently…but it was so in the sixties, seventies, eighties and even the nineties.

In a nutshell, “Male privilege refers to the sociological concept that men are automatically granted certain privileges and advantages in politics, society and the workplace based entirely on their gender.” (Greenhaven Publishing) Additionally, a man’s access to these privileges could vary based on how closely he matches his society’s ideal male norm. In my opinion, male privilege is basically a class system. It allows power over…within the male privilege itself, there are layers or levels of power…white male being at the top…discriminating against men of color, men of other gender identification, men with lower educational advantages, men of poverty, etc. Women fall below all of these on the scale.

This favoritism has been a given within a patriarchal system. The underlying belief of man’s superiority and women’s inferiority is systemic and notable throughout societies and cultures.

I asked Daniel “If the world is working for the man, what’s his incentive to change himself or the way that things are?”

Daniel is at a stage in his life where self-awareness is a priority. He values his personal evolution. In his opinion, therein lies the hope for mankind. As people, male and female become more conscious, then large-scale change for the better is possible. But, how do you motivate that in men who see no need for change and don’t care about evolution. They can be the very ones with money and power on this plane at this time.

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A journal writing from November 20, 2015
As a rule, across the world, are men less “evolved” than women? Since they, within each culture and tribe or family system, are typically the privileged ones, does it seem then less necessary for them to evolve? If things are working for them (or seem to be as compared to women), why should they choose change? Evolution? Change often comes because something isn’t working for a person, for a civilization, culture or tribe. Out of necessity. What necessity is forcing the privileged male to change?
So long as women, whose evolution has been different, allow men to rule without consequence, then there can be no immediate growth even in the face of dire circumstances which are denied or minimized or mocked in some way.

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Do you have experiences of male privilege in your own life? Please do share them.

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.

How Introspective Are You?

Writers, one would surmise, are introspective people.  They witness things in their environment and within themselves.  They frequently process what they witness by writing it down.

Introspection:  “a reflective looking inward an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings” Webster’s Dictionary

According to the same dictionary, it’s about “self-examination, self-questioning, self-observation, self-searching, soul-searching”

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To elaborate on this, those who tend to be introspective do interface with their environment.  They go out into the world and have experiences.  It is then necessary for them to have downtime to process deeply in order to glean the lesson, meaning or the gem in what they have experienced.  Writing is one valuable  link to self-awareness and self-acceptance.  It enables integration.

As a writer, this introspection infuses the writing that you share publicly with truth bred of  inner work.

Does that make any sense?

We’re all unique.  I have friends who  extract information and learn very differently than I do.  There’s room for all of us, isn’t there, to be who we are?

Writing Prompt:
Be an observer of yourself in comparison to one other person.  Notice how you best process and integrate your experience.  Notice how the other person appears to process and integrate.  No judgment, only observation.  Write about it.

 

Do You Enjoy Writing?

“What are the greatest pleasures of writing fiction?” is the question the interviewer posed to Jennifer Egan and Carmen Maria Machado.  This short video, less than three minutes, is very revealing about writer’s process.

Whether fiction or nonfiction, do you find pleasure in writing?

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These two authors declare that they are on opposite ends of the spectrum as to how they approach their writing.

Are either of their approaches true for you?  While Jennifer seeks “escape” through writing, Carmen enjoys “organizing her mind into a narrative form.”  What about you?    Or is there something else entirely that guides your writing process?

For me the pleasure in writing comes when I engage “the flow.”  Then I feel both compelled and supported.  That is when I notice that things in my world become synchronistic.  There is a sense of no separation between me, the world, the words on the page.  It is both my process of self-discovery and a broader curiosity that propel my writing.  The real gift for me comes in being able to share what I’ve learned with others, inspiring them and inviting them to embark upon their own inward journey of self-awareness and integration through writing.

WRITING PROMPTS:
What brings you the greatest pleasure in writing ?  What is your “golden door,” your favored entry into writing?  If you aren’t sure, consider things you’ve already written and recall how you began and what lead you onward.