Sometimes it’s good to look back and be reminded of just how far you’ve come. Carry on darling…
Fear is a slippery little fella. Sometimes you need to hang on to it so you don’t get damaged, and other times, you need to set it adrift on a flaming raft with an over-zealous shove and a one-fingered salute.
This past weekend, fear crept in and tried to snuggle up in my heart. Good thing I can be a cold-hearted, logical gal when I need to be. Good thing I have friends who remind me not to let my imagination get the best of me and conjure up all sorts of possible ways that my happiness can be sabotaged. Good thing I didn’t turn tail and run. Good thing.
Regardless of what we identify as being bountiful or lacking in our lives, we live within the comfort zone of the known. We live rooted in the identities that we have crafted for ourselves. We cling to our wounds until they no longer serve as shields.
The truth is, we often cling to our wounds long past their expiry date, and we do this because that is the only way we know how to go on living. We do this often without knowing we’re doing it. We fear leaving what is known and comfortable to seek what is meaningful.
During the past 48 hours I have received calls, and had coffee with friends who have all experienced some sort of crisis rooted in fear. I was an addict. I’m drinking too much. I keep winding up in toxic relationships. Today I heard all of these symptoms, and I offered as much compassion and humour as I could. After all, being fearful is normal. We need to tell and re-tell our stories. We need to be the storyteller, and we need to be the witness to the life-stories woven by others. Change is scary, and we need our friends to walk beside us when we don’t know if we have the courage to take another step on a path that leads to goodness-only-knows-where-but-there-had-better-be-margaritas-and-a-bed.
Fear of feeling, dealing with the here and now, or not having someone to prop up an ego seem to have been served up a la carte over the weekend. It’s a menu everyone eventually gets served; long in the planning and very bitter. It keeps popping up on the menu until you get tired of the bitter aftertaste and are inspired to take over the kitchen.
The most curious of fears is the fear of getting what you want. It means letting go of an identity that was defined by lack of the thing itself; career success, loving relationship, independence, you name it. You have to be brave enough to break down the walls protecting your own kingdom of fear.
While trying to shake off the snug embrace of a well-known-and-outlived-it’s-usefulness-fear-of intimacy which had slithered it’s way into my mind, I had a rather synchronistic encounter.
After zenning out and treating myself to some self-care paraphernalia at an over-incensed and herbal-tea’d hippie hang-out, I wandered back to my car completely and utterly distracted. Rationalizing with oneself can be very engrossing, and I was neck deep. I was not going to half-ass this one. I was going to face this thing down even if it meant a haze of incense, tantra-drumming, and Buddhist-throat-singing loud enough to scare the bejeezus out of the neighbours. While I was getting all bad-assed and spiritual with this fear, I was being watched.
Two men of questionable intent approached my car, one wedged between the driver’s side door and the car next to me, pulled on my door handle and banged on my window while the other stood at the right side.
Thanks to good habits, my door was locked, and the car was started. Thanks to a friend who was texting an invitation for a drinky-poo, I was head-down-distracted, allowing these two men to target me.
Hours after I had safely pulled away and caught my breath from the initial shock, I sank into the corner of my couch and cried. I sobbed and relived those few seconds of that man’s face just inches from my own.
But why? I was safe in my own space now. I was ok.
I cried because the threat of harm pulled me back into the rational fear I had developed throughout years of abuse and assault. It was like someone tossed me back into the arena to face another hungry beast after I thought I’d finally made it out alive.
What I did next was remarkable. I reached out. Well, I reached out the best I could. Via text of course, because I couldn’t bear to speak and have anyone hear my voice tremble. My pride wouldn’t hear of it. “I kinda need you.”
It’s rather ironic that my fear of letting someone in was challenged head on by someone literally trying to get in.
Part of healing and kicking fear in the ass is learning that it’s ok to be vulnerable sometimes. It’s a lesson that I have found extremely challenging. But with true self-compassion, vulnerability can be the greatest warrior in the battle on the front-line of fear.
There is a spiritual alchemy exchanged every time we offer support or receive it. This alchemy is grace in action, mercy in motion, the very human breath of compassionate and spiritual living. It is the greatest enemy of fear. It’s ok to kinda need someone, they kinda need you too. Trust me, if you show them yours, they’ll show you theirs.
Subtlety has never been one of my shining qualities, nor do I wish it to be. It makes for hearty discussions that can be uncomfortable yet rich. Being with people who can admit that they are afraid of the dark, yet have the courage to explore it are the best kind of people.
I’m a fiery gal. There are no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. I am not for the faint of heart or the timid.
But I’m also soft-hearted to a fault, and love nothing more than to take people in, feed them, make sure they’re safe, and take care of them.
For many years, like many women, anger was not my friend. It’s ugly, and doesn’t accessorize well. It chewed me up from the inside out, and boy oh boy, did I suffer for ignoring it. Once my practice matured, I was able to let it in, give it room to breathe it’s fire, and finally burn off the dangerous edges.
This post was inspired by my incorrect perception. Some might even say, I was wrong. But let’s not get carried away now my sweet little peaches. Being wrong is such a bitch and entirely not sexy.
The human smorgasbord of emotion is fascinating, with a little of this and a dash of that sprinkled through the entire menu. What I’ve discovered, and I believe to be true, is that the plethora of negative emotions are all rooted in the muck of fear. To be fearless about exploring those negative emotions, well, that my darlings, is interesting stuff.
I will be the first to admit that relationships scare the hell out of me. Commitment is a word I actually had an issue saying ( it made me stutter). Yet, I’m a devoted, loyal, stick-with-you-to-the-end friend and colleague. What gives?
Well, after years of learning and practicing, I came to understand just how healthy it is not to deny myself all of the ugly-step-sister emotions; anger, jealousy, shame. They are all rooted in fear, and we, as human beings all experience fear and the offshoots of fear every day.
After a thoughtful discussion with my sweetie last night about anger, communication, and perception, I came back to an article by Jules Shuzen Harris, Sensei; Uprooting the Seeds of Anger, (Tricycle, Summer 2012 p44-47);
We’re going to keep getting angry. It’s going to come up. It has come up in our lives before, and it will come up again. This practice is about becoming more mindful, becoming aware of how we are getting stuck. With care and work, we find ways to get unstuck. But we also know that the moment we get unstuck, we’re going to get stuck again. That’s why it is called a practice – we never arrive. So when you find yourself upset or angry, use the moment as apart of your practice, as an opportunity to notice and uproot the seeds of anger and move into the heart of genuine compassion.
This passage speaks to me of impermanence, the Five Skandhas, and the importance of self-compassion as we practice mindful living/self-awareness.
When I first sought out meditation practice and the wisdom of the monastic teachings at a local monastery, what I really was doing, was running away from fear. I thought that I was doing something wrong, and that being happy all of the time was what being a spiritual being was all about. But, surprise, surprise, the Goddess-of-Everything-Delightful was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Ick.
Denying oneself the full-spectrum of emotion is like plastering concealer over a nasty pimple. Eventually it wears off, and it just makes the problem worse.
Our daily practice consists in running away…We are afraid of the suffering that is inside us, afraid of war and conflits…But we do not want this fear to manifest, because it hurts, and so we repress it. We try to repress our suffering and we invite other energies into our ‘lving room’ to fill it up so that the negative energies will not be able to make their appearance there…We should not adopt this boycott policy. On the contrary we should open our door so that our suffering can come out. (Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love)
I have committed to my practice, and I feel it slip when fear enters uninvited, tracking mud through my heart. But I won’t pretend it’s not there. I will not kick it out, or wash away the dirty footprints without taking a good look at how it got in, and what I might do lovingly acknowledge it.
I watched the shape of my legs as they were lifted by the salt water in the spa pool today. My pink pedicured were pretty there in the blue pool. I took the sight of them in, the callus on my right foot that developed since beginning a backward trek in my career which requires standing for twelve or more hours every day.
I haven’t been taking very good care of me, I thought to myself as my head leaned back to rest on the cool, curved stone of the pool. My shoulders were starting to relax and I began to understand the degree of tension that I’ve been holding onto.
My mind was racing. I decided to focus my thoughts; first would be the very difficult decision about what to wear to lunch Friday. It’s a grey-area-lunch-date. Personal-professional, whatever. That must have taken a whole two minutes. Then I focussed on possible scenarios about the conversation, and figured out some questions that would be important.
Next, my thoughts turned to my new sweetie. For the love of all that’s holy, what the hell is going on with that?
This morning I was searching for a case for his reading glasses. I’ve decided that I’ll keep a pair in my purse just in case. So far he’s forgotten them and lost a pair. I reached for a pile of glass cases and remembered that I have another woman’s identification in one of them. The I.D. that fell out of the pocket of the last man who weaselled his way into my life. I found it on my bedroom floor.
Shortly after that I decided that I would dismiss said weasel from my life. But why do I still have that damn I.D.?
It’s the same reason I still have legal papers from an abusive parental relationship in my filing cabinet. They both serve as a reminder to protect myself.
But it’s a fine line isn’t it? This being wise and being vulnerable. We need to be both. Wisdom helps protect our health, and being vulnerable is the only way to be nurtured.
As my body relaxed in the perfect warmth of the pool, I knew that it was time to let go. All of it.
Ok, so I got distracted from my love life, but I had a chance to analyse my brand of fear. This also takes me back to taking care of myself. I need more quiet time. Away. To think. To make sure my old body knows how much I appreciate it.
Time to move on to item number three on the must-give-this-some-focussed-rational-thought-list. I sipped my pomegranate -detox-whatchamacallit, and made a list of pros and cons about the man of the moment.
Then I did something terrifying. I held those attributes up to my world famous and ridiculously high expectations. Is it possible to laugh yourself to death in a healing waters pool? Just to be safe I moved to the steam sauna.
Clearly my first two-minute dilemma about what to wear to a semi-professional lunch on Friday that could lead to dinner, points it’s gnarled finger at my inability to let things go, let people in, and let myself be cared for.
While I spent the day being pampered, soaked and massaged into a puddle of self-loving-rational-thinking woman, one of my best friends found out that her father had died.
…and there’s no better reason to let it all go…
Life, as I often preach, is short and precious. Let it go, and let the good stuff in.
When I’m sad I buy flowers.
Today I bought a bouquet of pink tulips.
I wasn’t sad for myself, or suffering any great loss. But I have been the strong shoulder on which to lean for a few of my friends lately, and it got me to thinking.
There’s been a lot of talk about ’empaths’ lately. It’s the hip catch-word for empathy, and kind of an annoying one at that. Heaven forbid we feel empathy for one another any more. It’s so fucking depressing and inconvenient after all.
Who needs that?! Aren’t we all supposed to be hap-hap-fucking-happy all of the time? Isn’t it best to dilute our suffering so we can ignore it a little easier and be productive? Maybe a new purse would help? Oooh! And the matching shoes!
Empathy has long been trickling out of our culture like a slow leak in a milk bag. The only thing that it leaves behind is a disgusting sour mess.
Self-awareness has somehow eclipsed the sacred and ancient practice of being present. Fully present. As in, being as fully aware of your own actions and reactions in relation to the rest of the world.
I was sad today because I woke up to two phone calls from people who are suffering. I also woke up to a text message from someone rather new in my life. I knew it was thoughtfully composed, and I knew why, and that made me sad too. The collective ‘we’ complicate things unnecessarily, and all it really does is hurt.
“I’m an empath,” someone recently confided to me at a party. “I see,” I replied. It’s my standard response when someone’s utter oblivion catches me off-guard.
What I really wanted to say was, “We’re all empaths honey”.
We’re all human and we all feel a full spectrum of emotion. Remember that the next time you hold back. Whether you’re trying to play it cool in a romantic relationship, not break boundaries as a friend or colleague, or wondering whether you should defend someone in their absence.
Remember that we all feel deeply, this wild and wonderful bittersweet life.
Empath, schmempath! Enough pop-psychology drivel. Practice being fully present, and I promise, your heart will thank you for it.
Immediately after I turned off my bedside lamp last night, my phone lit up.
I was zenned out after having read a chapter in a Buddhist classic. To look or not to look. Oh, what the hell…
I glanced at the screen thinking a little dreamily that it may be a romantic good night message.
Not my sweetie.
It was a friend with whom I had recently connected. The kind of friend whose presence immediately shakes off ten years of cynicism and seriousness. He’s the kind of pal that makes me feel vibrant, silly and indomitable.
Our friendship was always one where we could be expected to find ourselves arrested, invited to an impromptu wedding, or making our way home at 10am, barely piecing our evening shenanigans together, with one shoe off and someone else’s shirt on.
We all need this kind of friend.
I was tired when the text came in, a bit caught up in my own head, and really, just not feeling as fabulous as our friendship warrants. So, what’s a gal to do?
That’s right. I picked up the phone and called him. We giggled about his upcoming rendez-vous. We shared stories about our love life and giggled about our foibles.
For those moments, we were young again, fearless, and ready to take the world by storm, with gorgeous unmentionables, and enough confidence to march right into our next affair with our heads held high and our pink and whites of the most tacky design.
When your phone rings, and it’s one of those people who keeps you young, giggling, and feeling like there are reasons (albeit superficial and decadently sexy) to carry on living, answer the call. Better yet, make the call. These are the people who inspire your laughter, and that my darlings is what makes life worth living
Let this be the year you giggle more. Let this be the year you succumb to silliness. Let the the youth that still grows in your wild and wonderfully fickle heart spring forth and surprise you. Toodles.
Today someone paid me a backhanded compliment. Their ex accused them of being just like me.
To which I say, ‘That’s right douchedrop, she’s just like me. Happy.’
I’ve been accused of being too passionate, too cold, too serious, too silly and just too much of many things. I am who I am in the moment. I feel deeply and think creatively and give big, warm, squishy hugs. It’s a wonderfully liberating way to be.
A lot of people can’t handle authenticity in the face of their own, long-ago-lost moral compass.
I know heartache greater than losing your true love. I’ve known regret, self-doubt, crippling fear and loss. I’ve known the depths of depression and despair.
Perhaps this is why I readily see beauty in simple things. Perhaps it’s why my definition of crisis is much more intense than the average bear. Perhaps it’s why tonight, with family and friends gathered at my humble table I felt a deep, profound, contentment.
This year I hope you have the courage to be who you really are. For some, you will be ‘too much’.
I hope that you are finally brave enough to take time to sit with your demons in silence, hear them out, let them have their say, and then graciously hold the door while they leave.
Be brave enough to use your heart for great love. Cherish your friends, fall head-over-heels in love, and don’t let the shadow of hurts-past darken the gift of getting to do it all over again.
Choose to be happy. Choose to be quiet. Choose to be alone. Choose to be whatever the hell it is that you need to be. But know it is a choice darlings. You, and only you, can choose.
Don’t whine and be a martyr for your lover, your family or your colleagues. Don’t waste your breath explaining away your shitty choices, or your crazy ones, or the ones that will make you smile a kazillion years from now when all you have left are memories of your misadventures.
My wish for everyone whose life I touch this year, is that I help them be at ease with themselves, in this wild and wonderful world.