Yesterday I was at Taekwondo practice with my firstborn.
When he asked me to join the group, after his first training, my heart dropped into my stomach. I thought of the legion of attentive parents, watching the lesson. Tentatively I said:
“Nobody else’s parents are joining in.”
“So what?” asked my son, guileless eyes wide.
So what? I thought about being systematically sought out, bullied for being ugly. Too ugly to live. I remembered moving my leaden body to the rhythm of shouts and taunts, drawing myself so far out of it in shame that I kept bumping it into things, this unwieldy mass of limbs. The pit of dread in my belly was wide and real. But looking into my son’s eyes, I could not tell him that the opinions of others was more important than my willingness to take the leap and try it out.
So I am a thirty-eight year old beginner in the Martial Arts.
“Perseverance means having patience. One of the most important secrets of becoming a leader in Taekwon-Do is to overcome every difficulty by perseverance. Confucius said, ‘One who is impatient in trivial matters can seldom achieve success in matters of great importance.'”
Our instructors are great about teaching us the same. Their steady, intent and straightforward feedback builds a structure that makes forward movement filled with ease, although this is one of the most difficult things I have ever tried to learn. So I just continue.
(And I need not have worried. There is absolutely no time to think about anything while training.)
What in your life needs your perseverance right now? That you just continue practising, leaving thoughts to move at their own pace.
It’s been a bit quiet for a while here on the blog. I have been dealing with some suprising and sudden changes. So I thought this blog post could be about dealing creatively with adversity.
– Allow yourself to feel everything, uncensored, no matter how conflicting, crummy, hateful, wallowy, self-pitying or bitter the thoughts may seem to your rational mind. Let the feelings move. You do this by simply observing and feeling. When you feel tempted to judge yourself, go back to sensing what your ear feels, what you see around you in the room, how the soles of your feet move on the floor or in your shoes.
– When your thoughts are racing over hurful comments or rehashing what has happened over and over in a hamsterwheely fashion, choose a word that’s neutral to you and doesn’t awaken any strong feelings (oatfield, cucumber, rice or truck work for me) and repeat it to yourself, fast, over and over again. This reboots the thinking process for a while. You may need to do this a few times to change tracks.
– Allow many versions of reality to be true at the same time. The adversity you are facing may be a closing door and an opening window to a new opportunity, at the same time as it pisses you off.
– Take lots of naps, use all of your relaxation techniques and tools, read uplifting books that you can connect with, listen to angry music, break a few dishes in the sink, watch movies where people go through big challenges and come out on the other side.
– Move your body. It doesn’t matter if it’s yoga, running, dancing, walks or horseriding. Your body wants to help you get through this.
– If the adversity you’re facing pushes your money buttons, try two things: Write a to do list about everything you need to do financially, the bills you need to pay, the people you need to contact, everything. Then take a time out. When panic hits, look at the to do list and reassure yourself that you are taking the situation seriously and responsibly. Then, with a conscious choice, move your awareness to your now moment and your basic needs. Are you bodily safe? Is your belly full? Do you need to sleep? Take care of your immediate needs and reassure yourself that this moment, you are in a safe space.
– Ask for support. Dare be vulnerable. Say no to obligations first and then share as much as you want about what has happened and how you feel about your situation in this moment. People will support you more than you can ever believe.
– To the people closest to you, describe what you are doing to cope. Sometimes we look perfectly competent on the outside, although every moment is a struggle. When you tell your loved one what you are doing to remain active solving problems and not crashing, it is easier for them to support you in loving yourself, because the inner work you’re doing becomes visible to them.
– Remember that your point of power is in the present. No matter what has happened, right now you can choose to be your own friend. You can appreciate yourself, take care of yourself and let yourself feel whatever it is that is happening in you.
– Last but not least, remember that you can always draw, paint, write, mold, sing, dance, vocalize or in other ways express what is happening inside of you. The mere act of getting it outside of yourself can give you clarity.
Do any of these tips resonate? Is there anyone you know, who is facing difficulties who could find this blog post useful?
Yesterday I had the most extraordinary experience. It was time for my final presentation at the Business School for Creatives. Very exciting! I had prepared a speech, with Powerpoints and all, polished up my business plan and made a fine looking portfolio to present. Everything was done in my very own style, as you can see below. Rational, thought out, standing firmly on the ground with my head just as firmly in the clouds, putting all cards on the authentic vision.
Present in the meeting were two evaluators that I had picked from my own business circles and one from the school. The school evaluator was a gray haired, very official looking gentleman, who looked somber and efficient.
So we started out with scrapping my power points, because the memory stick had a different sort of file system than the school system. Wonderful! Then I started out with my presentation, only to be firmly put in my place by the official, who took charge of the situation. Oh well. But when he asked me if I would mind him interrupting me (which makes me slightly crazy), I was already full of bubbles.
There’s this rule I have – the more that goes wrong in the beginning of a presentation or workshop, the better it is going to go. I have had zippers on dresses open in the middle of a presentation, huge tables bolted to the floor in a dance workshop, keys lost, alarms on.
So when I was allowed to start talking, I did. I knew my material and answering the tricky questions was pretty easy. And then we got to talking about the art, the growing one fourth of my company. I felt my passion ignite, I felt the mood in the room change and the gray official numbers man burst into a huge smile that shone up the room as he burst out: “What a magnificent vision you have!”
After that, the tricky questions, stern demands and other rhino kinda stuff didn’t stand a chance to the air of magic that was swirling around the room. I passed with flying colors, pats on the back, and an even more powerful conviction in the power of the open heart.
How are your dreams doing today?
P.S. It wasn’t until today that I heard what kind of experiences the other people in my class of 2013 had in their presentations. Let’s just say that “magic” is the right word to describe what happened with my business plan and how it was received.
While painting this picture, I was playing around with techniques from the lovely Corey Marie, I love her website! I also wanted to apologize to my subscribers, a plugin had accidentally gotten turned off and that is why you didn’t receive posts in your inbox. I’m sorry!
Sandy Talarmo and her shame are honored guests in our tea party, and she graciously agreed to share her authentic and vulnerable drawing & photo here in my blog. Thank you Sandy <3
Limits and Borders as a Doorway to Who We Are
Yesterday I took a break. Napping away my flu, shame and I took a day of self-care, away from everything. Today, I synchronistically stumbled upon this video from Amy Purdy. She lost her legs, just when she was about to fly out into the world and talks about, not just recovery, but about how her life was transformed through the struggle & creations that followed.
She talks about how she feels more free when she is who she is, walking openly on her bionic legs [as she calls them] than if she were pretending to be someone she is not. Amy suggests our borders are what we can use to push away from. She asks if it is possible to see our challenges and limits as blessings, that ignite our imaginations and help us go further than we ever thought we could. As I look at Amy and her pictures of all of her different legs, I feel this deep joy inside of me – what variety! What a creativity in the midst of the unpredictability of life.
The Source of Our Shame is the Core of Our Beauty
Amy inspires me. My challenges are different, but equally vital to how my life has turned out. Since I was a little girl, my emotions have been racing up and down. Highly sensitive to stimuli, like sounds, scratching clothes, smells, lights, colors and even more sensitive to the moods of others, their reactions to me – life has had an element of the unbearable. Added to this I was born with an emotional intensity, where I can go from a feeling of bliss, through all the nuances in between, all the way to suicidal desperation, in a time span of ninety seconds, no matter how calm I seem on the outside.
Feeling life in all of its nuances can be exhausting and talking about feeling so crappy you just want to die freaks everyone out. I learned to push my feelings deep inside of myself and use the great social pacifier of a smile to put everyone at ease. Inside I felt completely and irrevocably broken. There was no amount of squeezing that could make me fit into the role models I saw around me, no matter how I numbed my feelings.
Living with this kind of an internal reality can be difficult to fathom. One way to describe it is this: Imagine you are severely sunburnt throughout your body, wearing a scratchy sweater. There is loud heavy metal music playing all around you, you can hear what others are saying, but you need to strain a bit. Behind every person you see, there is a billboard, with different kinds of emotional information showing (Anger! Irritation! Sadness! Joy! Suspicion! Enjoyment!) in blinking neon lights. There is the smell of too strong, musky perfume in the air. You have a test ahead that you are unprepared for and your hopes and dreams are riding on it. In the midst of the intensity, you. must. perform. well.
[And I would really want to go hide right now, rather than be writing this blog.] The turning point for me came when I sat with my second therapist and incredulously asked her: “Do you mean that getting well from depression means that I need to feel all of my feelings? ALL of them?” Slowly I learned that wanting to die was a signal from inside that could mean different things. That signal could be listened to, befriended, seen, said aloud, encountered compassionately. From recovering all of my feelings and my search for a life that wouldn’t be just bearable, but worth living, has sprung art, coaching, entrepeneurship, poetry, friendships, a marriage to a soulmate, two beautiful children. A life that is handmade, tailored to embrace my sensitivity, my dancing emotional weather and my need for freedom, as well as built on the strength that lies in all of this vulnerability.
I am not broken. And neither are you.
At this point of this tea party experience, I believe shame can be a pathway to self-compassion and to the very core of who we are. We can trust ourselves and we always begin exactly where we are.
How do your challenges and limitations ignite your imagination today? What is the color of your longing?
I lie in your arms
I long for you so I ache
and I know it is important to keep breathing
in the crisp air of our marriage.
There are no words for what I sense
Just that we are at the cusp of something
but is it a transition or an end?
So I breathe and keep myself in the moment
although I am frightened
I breathe to keep blame out of the
raw & precarious intimacy between us
its heart so easily broken by your anger and my need to flee.
You turn, to get some sleep.
I escape to our brown fortress of a chair
and hide in a world of music and tears.
you collect me.
back into your arms.
we share poop jokes &
laughter, both defiant and brittle.
Our love is fluky
our connection capricious at best
That’s okay, husband of mine,
at least all kinds of bodily fluids
In unexpected places
keep us together
tittering like girls.