Nesting

With a blog named “Life on the Skinny Branches,” you might surmise that I have a thing about birds. And you’d be right.

I have always felt drawn to birds of all kinds. I think the connection began when I was young when I was first introduced to the great poem by Maya Angelou, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

The free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wings

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with fearful trill

of the things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.

Maya was speaking of many things, experiences that I do not pretend to know about. But also, for me, she spoke about something that I knew firsthand: feeling locked in a cage, grounded, longing for freedom. You see, I, too, know why the caged bird sings. (Maybe in some ways we all do.)

Perhaps that set up my lifelong affinity for and sense of connection to birds, and flying.

In 2016, my words for the year – for what I was calling in for myself – were: Emerge/Celebrate/Express/Reveal. It was a year all about self-expression, growing confidence in myself. And it definitely was that kind of year. I started this blog last year — it was a big deal for me to begin to share my words in a public way. I began intentionally living on the skinny branches, and it has been thrilling.

This year, when I soul-searched for the words to guide my year, they were: Daring Greatly/Stretch/Curious/Creative/Depth/Credibility/Courage. So I expected to be soaring, having jumped off those skinny branches. I expected to be flying high.

And the year started off strong. I was in a play. Then a play reading. I did a short film. Took an incredible trip to Spain.

And then, in March, I was suddenly grounded.

Literally. My whole system shut down.

It was if my body went on strike on behalf of my spirit and said “No more, sister. You are gonna stop and sit for awhile.”

I was forced to stay home. A lot. This was not easy for me. I have always been driven. Have always sort of hurled myself through life, a bit desperate to make up for lost time.

It was humbling to have been so completely drained of vitality that walking down the street was a challenge. But that was my reality.

So I had to stop many beloved activities. And somewhere along the way, I began to listen to whatever it was that my body and soul needed me to hear.

(I also sought professional medical help, and received it. I made many changes in what I was putting into my body and began to look at how to approach my life better, aka how to lesson the internal stress I create for myself as I interact with the external world.)

I am realizing now that it was in this being stopped, it has been in this time of recovery and healing, that I have learned to appreciate the nest.

When I got stopped, I got quiet. I had a great deal of solitude. I have been depressed before. This was not that. It was…me with me. (It was awful at first because a part of me feared I was “losing” more time. That part of me fears it is already too late. That part wants me to run around like a chicken with my head cut off. That part is misguided. I help it along today with a firm but loving hand. No more shoving myself through the world.)

In time, I began to see that this being stopped was helping me to ask new questions and to also really listen to the current answers of old questions. The answers have changed since the days I first asked them. Who knew my body was so very wise? She made me listen. She made me pay attention. She had lots for me to re-cover.

And slowly, I began to heal, and my vitality began to come back. I can say with joy today that I am almost 100% back. But I am not the same.

I cannot run around like I did before. I could, but I do not want to. I am finding new ways to do the things I want and need to do. I am giving myself more time to do these things, to process, to absorb. I am nipping stress in the bud — I simply do not want to waste my precious life energy on certain things any more.

It is a new day. It is a new me. I am finding out all sorts of things. I have much to do, but it will be on new terms. I think they are much better, frankly, than the old ones.

I appreciate the life force that calls me to soar, to live life on the skinny branches and beyond. It is a huge part of who I am.

But every bird also needs some sort of place to call home. A place to hatch their young. A place to refuel.

And so, it is so very clear to me now, do I.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: nest

To the Core

I used to hate myself.

Seriously. I hated just about everything about me. I was fixated on the way I looked: I felt like a monster, something grotesque, misshapen, disgusting.

This was painful, and difficult. It is hard to relate and be in the world when you have that kind of hatred for your body.

But as I look back, the most painful kind of hatred I felt towards myself was the hatred I felt for the ways I felt and thought. I felt tormented by my own mind and feelings and sought escape in every way imaginable, including close contemplation many times and one failed attempt at ending my own life. I could not get away from this internal self I so hated. I felt like a freak trapped inside a monster’s body.

I wasn’t born with that kind of self-hatred. It developed slowly over time in my early years following trauma that created a kind of split from my own core. Losing connection to my core made me vulnerable to the outside world in a way that was devastating.

With a healthy core intact, dealing with bullies and the other social pressures at school is painful and impactful but does not warp one’s self-perception.

With a healthy core intact, a person can withstand the challenges that exist in most childhood homes where there are people with untreated mental issues, and where there are emotional, sexual and physical abuses or neglect as a result of parents who themselves were abused or neglected.

Without a healthy core intact, the affect of these kinds of external forces become stronger, louder than one’s own innate internal sense of self, sense of well-being, of any innate self-support. As a result, these events, people and experiences bend and shape one’s sense of inner and outer self and reality.

The best way I can describe living without that connection to my core sense self is to have been like a tissue blowing in the wind, this way and that, getting stuck wherever the wind took me.

I do not have multiple personality disorder, so I cannot speak to what that experience is like, and I do not mean to offend anyone who does. But I have sometimes imagined that what I experienced was somehow related. I could not hear my own internal voice most of the time. I was “hearing” the world, and it was loud and dangerous to me.

Living when you are disconnected from your core is terrifying. It is suffocating. It is lonely. It is deadly.

I am lucky, because even though that connection was severed, there was always somewhere deep within me some sense of something to keep fighting for. One tiny shred of connection to a core that I could imagine if not feel or often hear. I didn’t trust it or understand what it was. But it was there and I could sometimes hear it in the very darkest moments.

Like the moment some years ago now when I had the razor blade that I had bought and planned to use in my fingers and held to the skin of my left wrist, ready to end my suffering. That tiny shred began to whisper to me, “What if I am wrong? What if it could get better?”

That tiny shred, and the realization in the moment that followed that I was reneging on a promise I’d made to my two cats – whom I loved desperately – that I would always look after them, that they would never know fear or be homeless again after their difficult early lives feral on the streets of NYC, saved my life that day.

I have written about coming home to my own core within myself in previous posts Dormant Child and Cutting the Cord.

The work of healing my fractured soul has been profound, difficult and beautiful. It is on-going work, but I have come such a long way.

To re-connect with and then feel a permanent connection to my own core self – to know my own essence – has been at times a shockingly powerful and painful process. And at the same time, the most intricate, exquisite and intimate experience I have ever known.

One of the greatest gifts of this this connection to my core, this freeing of my inner selves (every age I have ever been) and this healing of the traumas of these selves into wholeness, has been a growing love and appreciation for my self.

I have learned to love my body for what is does, not how it looks. I have grown a gratitude for my physical abilities and strengths, and try to find joy in moving my own body, using my own voice. Today, I have reverence for all that my body contains. It contains multitudes and is wise beyond my mind’s own wisdom. It holds the Truth, and it never lies.

I look for the miracles within and without, and because I have cleared away what I can of the detriment that is not of my true essence, I find them. The detritus that remains from my past does not clog my joy as it once did. I love the detritus, too, for it holds important information. There is often even gold to be found in what remains.

I genuinely enjoy my own company today. I like the way I experience the world: my own peculiar sense of humor, the unique way I think and feel. I am no longer tortured by my own thinking. I am no longer tortured by being me.

This is huge. Not to say I do not experience anxiety, racing thoughts, negative or critical thinking (the Inner Critic, the Critical Mind, the Ego, whatever you want to call it.) I do experience all of those things and more (panic, depression, the pull towards self-destruction.)

But I am no longer a tissue blowing in the wind.

I am a mighty tree, strong and constantly expanding into the world around me. Yet I am flexible and can withstand whatever weather comes my way because I am rooted, and those roots go deep. I take nourishment from the elements that support my growth. I no longer look for sustenance from sources that can not provide what I truly need to thrive.

I live in light today. There is darkness, yes, but it is a different kind of darkness. I no longer fear the dark places, because I am always there. I trust myself to see myself through whatever comes my way.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: peculiar

With much love and thanks to the gifts and work of Suzanne Connolly.

Inhabitant

This body o’mine

Through her I’ve met the world

She’s been gentle with me

But her, I’ve pushed and hurled

She’s taken hard knocks

From without and within

I’ve treated her rough

Lived a life full of sin

She’s asked little of me

Given me all that I’ve asked

Less-than-loving I’ve been

At times, she’s been trashed

I’ve wasted so much time

Hating parts I deemed flawed

The time has come to make peace

And to treat her with awe

I see her now as she is

A miraculous home for my soul

I thank her daily and nurture her

She’s a beautiful part of my whole

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: inhabit

Harmony

There was once a cacophony

Of thoughts that were in other people’s heads before mine

A terrible discord of voices

Some loud and bullying, others plaintive and pitiful

Others I could not identify (that was the most frightening of all)

I thought I was losing my mind

But I could not yet hear my own voice

Or discern my own thoughts from the din

So I got very quiet and began to listen to all of the voices, one by one

Until I finally found my own

Now there is a symphony

I still hear many melodies in addition to my own

But there is music where there once was just noise

 

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: symphony

Control Much?

I developed a disordered relationship with food practically from birth.

Food and eating have long since been very complicated for me.

Food was never just food. Sustenance. A source of energy.

The act of eating was never just a means to satisfy physical hunger, fuel the machine, fill the tank.

It was security. A best friend. My lover. My mother. My father.

Relief. Comfort. Excitement. Joy. A distraction.

A way to protect my self. A weapon. A protest sign. A lockable door. A “Fuck you, world.”

It gave me a sense of well-being. It gave me something that felt essential to my very ability to exist on this planet.

But above all else, and most importantly, it have me an illusion of control.

And this, above all, was crucial to me.

As a child, my world was out-of-control. Everyone in it seemed out-of-control. Every thing happening seemed out of my control.

Inside of me, good gravy, things certainly felt out of control. Feelings, thoughts. Wants. Needs. All felt huge and to a small person who felt they had no voice and no power, they were simply more than I could comprehend or cope with.

Enter food.

The one area I felt I had any say in was with food. What I ate and how much.

Especially how much. Any hint of the slightest suggestion that I might begin to think about considering becoming open to the idea of portion control still brings up a deep revolution within me. A protest begins without my having to even rally the troops. Big signs flashes in my head: “Fuck you!” “Over my dead body!” “Not while there is still breath in my body!”

You’ve got to be kidding. I’m supposed to let someone else tell me how much I am allowed to eat? What?!

Seriously, I get so defiantly enraged at the concept I literally feel nauseaus.

To a non-disordered person, it may be very hard to comprehend. It may seem or sound absurd.

But trust me when I say that my being able to eat or not eat what, when, and how much of something I wanted was (and sometimes still is) of incredible importance to me.

Almost feels life and death to me to be able to choose and act as I want in this one area of my life. It looks very much like addiction and obsessive-compulsive behavior because it is very much both of those things.

As you can imagine, such a relationship is doomed from the start. It is not healthy. It is instincts gone awry. It is a coping mechanism that brings an initial and momentary satisfaction followed by an ever-deeper, never-to-be-satisfied longing.

Such a relationship with food and eating skews all other relationships. It is a poor substitute for a real solution to the problem. And the problem, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with the food or eating. They are merely the symptom.

So the solution, for me, has not and never will be portion control. I do not weigh and measure my food. (That still sends waves of dread through my body.) I do not label foods good or bad, or blame dieting or fad diets for my problem. Fad diets and the “diet” industry are only potential triggers or tools for my own kinked relationship to food and eating.

The problem was not and never will be my willpower.

The problem is how the funky-ass relationship to food and eating developed the first place. What was missing that led to the kink in my connection to regular eating?

There were circumstances. Maybe something ancestral, genetic, sure. But truly, there were circumstances and my response to them. My best solution for coping happened to be really distorted and led to many years of suffering.

Around all of that, I have done a great deal of work. But in terms of healing, it has come  down to this: addressing the part of me that developed such a relationship in the first place.

What did that part really need? How can I help that part trust other ways of meeting those needs? (The second question is almost more important and takes a great deal of patience to answer and to implement.)

I began asking these questions, and learned to really listen for and then to the answers.

The needs and wants came first.

The answer I heard most is that part of me wanting something for herself, just for her, that no one and nothing can interfere with. In unlimited amounts.

This seemed key to the whole thing, this need.

This longing for something just for me, that no one else can have, that only I can have, that no one can take away, mess with or hurt.

Woah. Logically, it is clear when I really lay it out like that that food and eating never had a chance at solving that problem. They do not contain the ability to solve it.

But that part of me was working from a different logic that makes total sense to the information it had at the time. Given the limited resources and the level of maturity of that part of me at that time, I can see how the dots were connected to the one thing that was available and that seemed to work.

Problem is, that part is hungry for something that food and eating can never satiate.

But that is where the real work lies. But as in all things, hard work does pay off. Yes, it does suck to have to do anything at all about a problem that I wish had never started in the first place. But that is just reality and once I accepted that, things began to get better.

That is my job now. To give myself that indefinable…something…and to give it in unlimited amounts.

Sometimes it is my own attention. Support. Kindness. Comfort. Bolstering. Appreciation. Soothing. Excitement. Stimulation. Fulfillment. Fullness. Rest. Recovery. Quiet. Peace. Stillness. A sense of being ok. Safe. Whole just as I am.

These I can give myself whenever, however I want in whatever quantities that part demands, cries for, deserves. I get to pour unlimited amounts of these things into myself, and no one and nothing can interfere or mess with that.

But what about the act of eating? What about that part of it all? That part of me wants to consume, wants to be filled, wants to take in and become one with something.

No, I cannot actually physically have the experience of filling myself with something, taking a substance into my body and becoming one with it.

That is the physical aspect of the whole, and there is another series of solutions to address that part. That I can satisfy in other ways. That is a different blog for another day, perhaps.

But the rest of it, I got in spades to give. Unlimited amounts.

It took some experimentation to help that part of me trust that letting go of the old mechanism for the chance that something new would ultimately be better and actually, really work, for real. That is where patience and gentleness and compassion pay off.

But it is all worth it. The meeting of those needs of my self by myself — that, my friends,  I am in control of.

At long last, I have the power that I have so craved.

 

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: portion

For JC and anyone else who hates the idea of fucking “portions.”

On Being “Childless”

via Daily Prompt: Ruminate

There are things that I ruminate on, like the way my tongue cannot keep itself off of the sharp, spiky tip of my left incisor.

One of those things that I touch on again and again despite its spiky sharpness is the subject of being childless. It is uncomfortable terrain, but I go there again and again anyway.

I hate that term, “childless.” As if by not having a child, you are less somehow, than those who have had them.

Some people prefer “childfree.” That doesn’t quite feel right to me, as if children are something that I wanted to avoid for health reasons, like gluten, or sugar.

I love children. I think they are the greatest people on the planet. I have many children in my life.

But no, I am not a mother.

And boy, is that complicated. For me, and for most people in the world, it seems. So I must, in sensitivity to other people who do not have children and have their own personal relationship to this issue, offer a disclaimer.

I, in no way, speak for other people who do not have children. There are many reasons why people do not have children, are not parents, do not give birth. I cannot speak for anyone but myself. And I cannot know what anyone else’s feelings and experiences around this issue are, and would never attempt to represent them.

I am also not writing here about all the experiences I have had over the years around this issue and my decisions. I am not trying to explain or defend in any way my choices. (I actually am not even going into the reasons for my choices.)

I am writing about what still can get to me around the whole “childless” thing.

It is a continually odd experience to be in the world as a person over a certain age, married, and not to have had a child or children.

I have come to terms with my choices to the best of my ability. I stand by them. They are mine, and they make absolute perfect logic for my unique-to-me life.

Usually, I do not feel less than around this given, this fact that I have not had/do not have children. I do not feel odd. Being the one living my life, my choices are perfectly normal to me.

Yet. There are those moments, when people ask me, “Do you have children?” when I admit that sometimes I doubt myself. That self-doubt can be devastating, for it is as if I turn on my self without meaning to because of my own social conditioning. Let me explain.

Someone I am just meeting or have been getting to know asks me if I have any children. I calmly say “No.”

Well, today I calmly say “No.” There was a time when I would be so uncomfortable leaving it there out of such fear of what they might say, that I’d make an attempt to avoid it by sort of explaining without explaining (as if I owed anyone an explanation!)

“No, no kids. Just didn’t…um…nope.”

(I learned in time that that seemingly small abandonment of my self to avoid the discomfort of answering the question carried way too high a price. That it actually chipped away at my soul. I learned that tolerating the discomfort that followed my simple “No” was a far better choice.)

Back to the story. To recap: they ask “Do you have children?” I say, simply, “No.”

Then it happens.

You see, there is always a small pause before they say something polite, like “Oh.”

In that pause, I can hear the wheels of their mind turning. I know that they are quickly scanning for possible reasons for my lack of children and that they then jump to conclusions and judgements about this fact, this given.

In that pause, a part of me suffers a little as I sense one of three experiences they are having around this information they’ve just been given.

In scenario one, it is as if they are considering I may be/have been barren (what a horrific word) as in there may be a biologic reason for not having had children. I can often detect a hint of pity and sometimes even shame on my behalf. If there was a thought bubble above their head it might read, “Oh, poor thing. She was defective in some way and could not conceive.” “Oh,” they say, in a somewhat reverent tone.

Ahhhh. Message received. So I am less than a woman – a normal woman, a woman who’s able to bear a child – a mother. I am not that. I am somehow not able to be THAT, to be a whole woman. I am lacking. I am deficient. I am tragic.

Scenario two. I sense in that pause that they jump to the conclusion that I chose my career first, because why else would a perfectly healthy, “normal” woman not have had a child? The bubble might read, “Oh. You were too busy putting yourself first to have a child. Hmmph. Yep. Selfish.”

Ahhhh. So they think I am self-absorbed because I did not procreate as expected. I did not do my part in populating the world, in completing God’s will for me as a woman. I am hard, selfish, self-absorbed, self-involved. Perhaps it is better than I did not procreate since clearly I am missing the mother gene. Tragedy averted – perhaps I am not fit to have been a mother, since I clearly lack the generosity and the ability to put someone else first ahead of my ambitions.

In that glance after the voiced “Oh,” I sense a subtle aggressive relief. They are glad that they have put this together and can “place” me in their minds. Now I make sense. I am one of those career women. Hmmph. They can relax again, calmly feeling their own subtle superiority over me. Again, I am somehow deficient. Some genetic aberration made me not want kids enough or at all. Again, I am not a real woman. I am someone to perhaps forgive for her unwomanly ambitions, like a quirky aunt or an eccentric character.

Scenario three is the worst of them.

In those instances, they say, “Oh,” with a quiet tenseness, a slight narrowing of the eyes as they size me up. In their “Oh” is the sneaking suspicion that there is just something wrong with me, not biologically, but morally, ethically, mentally. That I am some sort of deviant.

The bubble reads simply in those times “Oh.” And I literally feel them slightly withdraw physically from me, as if what I have may be catching. I am categorized as a kind of leper, a social misfit. I am not to be fully trusted as I must be off in some way that is perhaps even dangerous because these people cannot fathom my “otherness” without finding it wrong on some level.

I have experienced all of the above multiple times on my own, and as part of a couple, in the world. Nothing is ever spoken aloud. But the messages are there, nonetheless. And they are affecting.

I find it interesting that it is rare that anyone goes beyond the initial question – pause  and “Oh” response to actually ask me or me and my husband “Why not?”

To me, that is proof of the social stigma placed on people who choose, for whatever reason, not have children.

In that lack of further questioning – that invisible social moat that is suddenly drawn separating them and me/us – there seems to be an unspoken agreement that this subject is something to be skirted. Further questions are to be avoided. Suddenly, my/our privacy is to be respected, as if I/we have a chronic condition.

It’s as if it’s just been discovered that I/we had recently lost a loved one and it would not be polite to ask how. It is something for people in my/our lives to query behind closed doors but never directly to me/us.

Worse than my own self-betrayal that can happen in the moments of these interactions, is the fact that I am guilty of this stigmatization against myself and others, sometimes even simultaneously as I am a victim of that same stigmatization.

In my own mind when I meet people who have not had children, I find myself making the same search for reasons to explain their status, the same judgements and conclusions to be able to categorize them in my mind.

I am guilty of judging my own relatives who fall into this category in the same ways that I have felt judged. How disturbing is that?! I find myself thinking of them what I hate feeling others think of me.

I hate this most of all.

But I know that this is a result of deep, almost cellular, societal encoding that I, like all of us, have been surrounded by and immersed in since birth. These aren’t conclusions that I have come to, they have been absorbed by me from others and nurtured via cultural messaging on every level. So through no fault of my own, I am pre-disposed to a bias, even against my own self.

And I have come to understand that those who respond to me the way they do have also been born into those same pre-dispositions.

When I wanted to select a graphic to include in this blog, I could not find one. All that I could find were either pictures of couples or singular women looking down as if sad and shamed being without children. Or oddly aggressive attempts at someone’s idea of humorous art: an image of a child in a red circle with a line drawn through it. Or that yellow yield sign for car windows that says “Baby on Board” re-drawn to read “Baby Not on Board (so you can destroy my car!)” A very sad-looking empty nest. “Child-free by choice!”

None of these images reflect my truth. I cannot find popular culture that reflects my story. I don’t fit any stereotype. There is no club to join.

And so I ruminate. I soul search. I practice forgiveness of my self and of others for our lack of expansive vision.

And often I am able to see the Truth that is beyond the narrow expectations of the social norms that so shape the world. I can see who I am and know that I make sense and that there is nothing lacking in me, no aberrant gene or deviant peculiar twist in my making.

The truth is that I love my life and have no regrets. I mother other peoples’ children as an aunt and as a friend. And I mother the world as best I can.

The question, the “Oh,” and its aftermath gets easier and easier as I get clearer and clearer.

I am whole and healthy and as normal as anyone, but I am not the norm. That is all.

#onnotbeingamother #wholeandhealthy

In response to Daily Prompt: Ruminate

 

 

 

 

Translated Psyche

via Daily Prompt: Translate

When I was a kid, something very traumatic happened to me. The details are not important. Suffice it to say that it was something soul-shattering.

As in, as it was happening, parts of my soul literally broke off and went somewhere else because the pain was too great. Being so young, 5 years old, I simply had no way to cope with what was happening to me.

So my psyche did what it had to do in order to survive. It translated parts of itself. It sent the most vulnerable parts of itself to safer places and left the parts of me that could withstand the trauma better behind to live through and manage.

That’s pretty amazing I think.

Now, at the time, of course, and for decades afterwards, I had no idea that this had happened, that parts of my soul had translated to other climes.

I went about my life, growing up, maturing as best I could as a person with crucial parts of themselves off somewhere else. I cobbled together a way of coping, and moved through childhood into adolescence and into adulthood.

I managed to make a life. A life held together by skewed logic and broken-hearted, suppressed pain, but a life nonetheless.

My pieced-together life was less than ideal. On the outside, it may have looked pretty good. I had a loving family, friends, education, opportunities galore, and the resources to live well and pursue my dreams. I do not want to minimize my gratitude for these.

However, my soul was missing core parts, so my experience of life through all those years was lacking in ways that are hard to explain. I was always feeling slightly off. I had generalized anxiety all the time that I could not define or understand. A seemingly bottomless well of sorrow and a constant sense of an inner hysterical feeling just below the surface accompanied me through even the happiest of experiences.

Suffice it to say that when your soul parts have translated elsewhere, and you don’t even know it, there is an internal confusion that can be terrifying, complex and, at times, overwhelming. It can feel like you are suffocating or in danger of disappearing into nothingness, into the void.

Until I understood this, I did my best to drown out this overwhelm. This led to some pretty messy behavior and a great deal of “lost” time.

Thankfully, I was lucky.

One day, in a voice lesson with a very wonderful man, I happened to mention to my teacher that I thought a part of my soul had been destroyed by what had happened to me. He told me that the human soul could never be destroyed, was beyond human touch.

Something in his words struck me to my core. I literally felt as if I had been gently punched in the gut. And though my mind was cynical, my body resonated the truth of his words.

My journey was forever altered for the better that day. I eventually found assistance and came to understand what had happened to me. With that assistance, I have been able to heal the wounds from the trauma. And grieve. Not only for the original trauma, but for the lost time and the years of moving through life as a kind of ghost of my former self. That kind of loss is real, too. And worthy of grief.

I have learned how to create, over time, a strong and loving core from which to invite those missing parts back. And in time, they have come. Not all at once, but bit by bit.

It is an astonishing thing to actually feel a part of your soul fly back into your psyche.

For me, there is a rush of sensation within my heart and solar plexus accompanied by a kind of flutter of excitement in my belly, followed by a warmth that spreads throughout my body along with a rush of intense emotion, a blend of ecstatic bliss at being reunited and tremendous grief for having missed it for so long. I imagine it is like being reunited with a long lost parent or child.

I cannot adequately express the sensation. Maybe it is what being touched by an angel feels like.

I am left with a sense of wholeness. In time, the new part integrates with the rest of me. I feel more and more like who I really am meant to be. These parts that have returned contain elements of my spirit, my soul, that I haven’t lived with in forever: bubbling joy, innocent playfulness, open curiosity and more. The difficult parts have come back too: rage, terror. But I’m equipped to handle them, unlike the child I was. I can honor those parts too and find compassion and healthy ways to address them.

It is like I was living with 3 crayons and now have 98 to use. I was a walking sieve and now I feel like a whole, flowing, glowing mass of life. I was a lone prisoner in my own skin, and now I feel connected to all of Life. I was blind but now I see. It may sound mystical or hokey, but it is my truth. I do not believe that I am alone in having experienced this, either.

I have come to view the human psyche as an intricate and miraculously brilliant thing. It has the power to survive the unimaginable and come through the other end with even more depth and richness than before. The soul cannot be destroyed or even truly touched by human hands. But it can translate. And return again. And for that, I am truly grateful.

#thebrillianceofthehumanpsyche

Daily Post: Translate

Triggers and Pink Pussycats

I have been hard-pressed to write a blog since before Inauguration Day.

Like many, I am still processing significant losses that were, for many, contained in the recent election: the loss of President Obama, the loss of the America I thought I knew: the loss of the America of my own personal dis-illusion.

It took until two days after the Women’s March for me to realize how triggering the Inauguration and ensuing Presidency have been and are for me. I think I was operating in a kind of denial until then. While at the march, after first feeling incredibly hopeful, I began to feel uneasy. And after seeing that the march seemed to have had such little effect on the administration, it hit me.

I was triggered. Feelings of powerlessness were flooding my system. I was feeling overwhelmed with the sense that my truth, my voice was falling on deaf ears and was of totally no consequence. That things happening were not of my choice, and I had seemingly no recourse to stop them. Reality mirroring crucial traumatic events from my past blasted open the floodgates of remembered trauma.

I know I am not alone. Anyone who has been violated at some point in their life may be triggered again and again in the next four years.

So what can we do about it? How do we survive the daily onslaught of confirmations and executive orders and hard-won laws being threatened from powers-that-be?

Thankfully, I have found some very helpful posts that address this very issue. And if I cannot bring myself to write about usual things right now, I can write about why and I can share what I am doing to address the problem.

One of the best I have read is “How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind
Self-Care Lessons for the Resistance” by Mirah Curzer. Some great things to consider as we move forward, together.

Another article has been very helpful to me. N Ziehl’s “Coping with Chaos in the White House”. The author shares their experience of living with a person having narcissistic personality disorder (NPD.) I am not diagnosing anyone here. But this article spoke to me. It made a great deal of sense and gave me some helpful insights.

What I have been feeling are awful feelings to re-experience. But it was a relief to recognize that they are happening: to know that though there is a present reality that is indeed traumatic to me, there are many other layers happening that are from wounds from the past. Knowing this, I can let the current situation be “right-sized,” and then process the past triggered pain so that I can take good care of myself today. From this place of awareness, I can then take actions to do what I can in order to stay empowered and able to persevere the next four years.

I am finding for me, in addition to practicing the best self-care I can, taking actions each day that help me stay informed and connected to the lawmakers that I voted for, as well as those I did not, is crucial. These actions – calls, emails, letters, non-violent protests and marches, donating to re-election campaigns and organizations that I believe in – they keep me sane.

I am careful as I digest the information that pours forth on social media. I check in with my body, a lot, especially after getting shockingly bad news, such as the “alternative facts,” the travel ban, the recent confirmations, the silencing of Elizabeth Warren. I never know when something new will spark a trigger. I take deep breaths and ask my body what is going on, and I listen closely.

And I lean on my communities. I stay connected to like-minded people who are also active, because it is too easy to begin to feel hopeless as all of this unfolds. We can remind each other that there is power in love and that our actions and our voices do matter. They can remind me of the headway that is being made in our causes when I am feeling low. Together we can persist.

My artist friend Laura Baran created the “We are One” illustration at the heading of this post the weekend of the Women’s March. I keep her beautiful image near to remind me to keep love at the center of all I do.

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I also reach for my “Don’t Sass the Cat” tee created by another friend, a clothing designer named Jacquie of jqlovesu. It reminds me to keep a sense of humor and to remember the power of love and of people who love people. I run and I sweat and I cry and I sleep and I work to stay hopeful no matter what by taking action.

I am a Lover of Humanity. I am an American. And I want to be a part of the solution. It will be work. But I have never been one to shy away from a challenge.

#neverthelessshepersisted #pussyhat #dontsassthecat #weareone #beapartofthesolution #loveaboveallelse

Altered

The course of my life was irreversibly altered in miraculous ways on a Wednesday night in January 2011.

The dictionary defines the word “alter” as the following: change or cause to change in character or composition, typically in a comparatively small but significant way.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you may have noticed that I am very interested in (aka obsessed with) the seemingly small moments that occur in life that often end up holding huge significance. Meanings that are unknowable at the time later reveal themselves. The course of history is changed in those small moments, the sometimes seemingly random decisions we make.

This is the story of one of those moments for me.

I had been having a tough time in the latter third of 2010. The whirlwind of my wedding and its aftermath had finally settled down, and the events of the years leading up to the wedding finally really hit me. I’d lost my mother, my brother and my father in succession, and I just sort of imploded.

That December, somehow, an email made its way through my inbox. (To this day, I am not sure how). Perhaps the angels sent it to me. It was about a movement class taught by someone named Erin Stutland. I had been unable to get myself to the gym for a year or so, and felt as awful physically as I did emotionally. Something in the description of the class spoke to me. It wasn’t just your typical workout class. There were affirmations involved. What?!

Something made me sign up. And on that Wednesday night of January six years ago, I went. Little did I know that meeting Erin would be the gift that just keeps on giving. Erin believes that movement in your body creates movement in your life and that all good things flow out of a deep self-love. I have seen and experienced firsthand the power of her philosophy in action.

Not only did Erin’s class start me on a new course in terms of movement for my body, but it helped me begin to make shifts in my relationship to how I thought about so many things.

And if that weren’t enough, I was welcomed into a community of women and men there, amazing people, many of whom I am still in contact with today. The work we did with Erin created powerful change for so many of us.

I have watched as people in that community made their dreams become reality. Major life changes such as weight loss (one woman lost 100+ pounds), career path changes (one woman fulfilled a dream she uncovered while in the class of becoming a minister), recording artist dreams realized, dream roles acted on stage and film, cross-country moves to dream jobs and cities, dream soul mates, marriages and babies born, and more.

One of my goals in the class was to find my inner athlete. Two NYC marathons and countless half marathons later, I can say I found her. It has been a deeply gratifying journey that continues.

My other goals had to do with my career as an actress, and finding more belief in my talents, in what I had to say through my art. I can actually say that the creation of this blog had its seeds in her class. Much of the positive movements I have made in the last 6 years grew forth from the mindset and the tools I found there, and were supported and nourished by the community there. That support and that community continues to this day.

I am so grateful for having met this beautiful, extraordinary and dynamic teacher, and for all of the gifts she has given to me.

I want to introduce you to her, too, because she is on the rise, and someone you should know. I am so proud of her and excited for her! (And for the many, many more people who will soon be benefitting from her expertise.)

You can find out more about Erin at her website here.

Erin is now a co-host on an exciting new show called Altar’d (perfect name!) that is set to debut this week!

Altar’d follows 6 couples who are looking to not only transform their bodies, but more importantly adopt healthy lifestyles and habits before they come together for the most important day of their lives, their wedding.

The first episode will be airing THIS TUESDAY, JAN 17th at 8pm on Z Living. You can read more about this show here. Take a look at the trailer below:

Here’s how you can tune in! To make sure Z Living is available through your cable provider, click here.

I cannot wait to see how this remarkable woman helps to shape the worlds of so many more as she gains exposure and continues to co-create the platforms to share her gifts.

I celebrate the growth and movement I have made in my life with Erin’s help since wandering into her class that fateful evening six years ago. I took a chance and I am so glad I did.

#erinstutland #altar’d #powefulchange #takeachance #loveisthekey