Do you remember how it feels when you’re laughing wildly and at the same time you’re trying to run? Having been lost in love land, forgetting everything else and then coming back to everyday life and work feels a bit the same way.
Last week in Helsinki, the children had a week’s vacation. Our kids chose to spend most of their vacation at their grand parents and for the first time in seven years, the Engineer and I spent four days and nights together.
Although every day love has been good, I had forgotten how it feels when he looks at me like I’m the only one in the world.
Now, Monday feels like a very far away creature.
Wishing you a week seen through the lense of love.
We often think about change as something coming from outside of us. But, if you listen closely, change starts way before that. There is this antsy feeling, a restlessness, yearning, an inner sense of urgency, yet there is nowhere to go. This pressure can sometimes get very uncomfortable and be projected outside on different more or less deserving subjects like loved ones, family members, work situations.
I’ve started to grudgingly appreciate these bombastic signs of impending change. This Friday, I put on lipstick and wheeled my little turquoise suitcase to the hotel across the Hakaniemi market, feeling like a little girl playing dress up with Mommie’s clothes. It was nice, though, to have a room just for myself. The internet refused to work, so I had ample time to play around with markers, dance, write, read through notes starting from 2006 and choose what I want to take with me into the yea 2014 that is coming closer.
This way of art making allows for a way to move with the Unknown. There is no need to be poised, suave, skillful. What matters at this point is the inner experience, letting the next step emerge in the moment. Step by step, something tangible starts to take form. A space for receiving inner information in a grounded way has been prepared.
So, after writing about this experience, I suddenly had an impulse to paint with the kids who jumped in, both feet first. We got some clean card board from the trash, put on some lovely music from Sås och Kopp and started painting. Magic. Instant. magic. A mentor, long ago, said if I’m ever stuck in painting [or anything] just to paint with our children. He was so right.
All the pompousness, seriousness and weighty stuff poofed in the air, in our dancing to a song about an imaginary jungle, the rhythm of the colors. Aliveness, exuberance and clarity. So easy.
Which activity could makes something you’re pondering right now hilariously easy?
Sometimes I just need to lean on you
quitely breathing your scent
You are here.
In the midst of cooking pasta, picking up
pet shop figurines, peeling carrots,
going through home work,
the warmth of you
has a special flavor of home.
with expensive piña colada ice cream
like snow and breathing
Is enough for now.
These fifteen minutes
allow me to revel in our love.
Strong and luminous.
This summer, an old pattern between myself and the Engineer slapped us in the face, again. As a rule, I abhor fighting about the same thing more than a couple of times. I believe fights should lead to change, ideally and as swiftly as possible.
The pesky little sucker of overgiving had followed us for a long time though. I gave too much, he gave too much – we concentrated on what the other was doing, instead of taking responsibility of our own wellbeing and at some point got angry “for getting nothing back”. Useless, useless fights of the kind that swirl around in Foggyland and lead nowhere, until they kind of die of their own, until next time.
Oh Man, Boundaries Again
In a moment of clarity I remembered the saying: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. For a longer time already, I had been butting heads with the concept of boundaries in both work settings and personal settings. It seemed that everyone was throwing the word around, but I for one was always aware of this sense of confusion during those discussions. Now it was clearly time to start understanding, so I googled “boundaries”. Here’s what Wikipedia said:
Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for him- or herself what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how he or she will respond when someone steps outside those limits.
Yes, that was the definition that I had gotten until now [and implemented in my life]. But there was something missing here, so I read on.
Personal boundaries define you as an individual, outlining your likes and dislikes, and setting the distances you allow others to approach. They include physical, mental, psychological and spiritual boundaries, involving beliefs, emotions, intuitions and self-esteem.
Here was something that made instant sense to me. I immediately started getting nauseous and flushed all over. Until this time in my life, I’d used boundaries like I would use a paint by numbers model, tongue in cheek, not understanding what I was doing. My reaction to what I was reading, told me I had hit the jackpot of personal change and it was going to get uncomfortable soon.
Back home, I informed the Engineer of my plan. Always the intuitive master of all things internal, he got it immediately and the practice began.
Sounds so easy and harmonious, doesn’t it?
The truth is, it was and is the most frightening interpersonal project I’ve ever done. The only thing keeping me from bolting, is the trust and love that has deepened over the years between us. Like many others, I am terrified of being abandoned. Down to my toes, bone grating, alone pressed under an avalanche in white silence petrified. So I have given everything that has been mine to give, been sweet, warm, understanding – to draw people closer and create the connection that keeps the feelings of abandonment away.
Understanding that makes me nauseous all over. There is also another thing that is true. Being alone with myself is not the same thing as being trapped under snow anymore. Being alone with myself is sweet and safe, these days.
Implementing Boundaries in Our Relationship
We have been on new ground, in our love. Staying inside of our boundary circles, as two separate people, has at times felt distant, cold and boring. It has also led to amazing communication, learning to know him as a new person, going out on half hour dates every day of the week, increased intimacy and hilariously – it has lead to a clean house.
When I am not constantly looking for ways to please him, keep him happy and nurtured, I have energy to go for a run, play with the kids, tidy up, eat well, cook beautiful fragrant food. What I do is not in any way tied to his stuff anymore. And vice versa. Both of us are nicer to be around and the need for alone time decreases dramatically. Not being emotionally tied up in his inner world (are you okay? what are you thinking? how are you feeling?) creates space to seek him out and want to spend time together.
So what do I do, to become aware of my boundaries? Sometimes I fill in the drawing above. Who am I and who am I not, in this particular situation? I listen to signs of nausea, a foggy head, shallow breathing or irritation as pointers that I’m about to go over my boundaries. I say things out: “Would you give me a hug?” “Can we go on our date now?”, instead of expecting him to initiate or insinuating what I want. I slow down my reaction time to requests until I have a clear head and calm breathing, the answer always comes. I move physically every day.
This is what I love about inner phenomena, awareness and recoding the inner programming – even though the psychic work sucks and may be frightening, it leads to increased ease and to always being more of who we really are.
How are your boundaries doing? What’s easy? What’s difficult?
I painted the first version of this picture on a t-shirt, almost twenty years ago. That was the year I put in an ad on a newsboard [on text-tv, laughing at that a bit now], so I could find out the truth about men. Were they simple beings who could not think, as my mom was fond of saying, or was there something more out there? My soulfriend, the Engineer who would become my husband many years later, bought the t-shirt with this turtle on. He wore it everywhere. The memory still makes me smile.
In addition to musing over that memory, I have been reading and translating parts of this important book about self-harm for a youth project I work in. The book is written compassionately and the text validates the inner reality of anyone who self-harms. Punishment in order to dissolve feelings of shame and guilt, search for emotional relief, making emotional pain clearer and more tangible are just some of the functions that self-harm can have. Most often, in our outcome directed, fast-paced world, an understanding for inner phenomena is lacking. Not so in this book.
Loving ourselves is a skill that is learned when our needs and feelings are heard and responded to, when we see people close to us love themselves and take care of their own needs responsibly, when we can express what is inside and have that received. It is never too late to start learning this skill and building habits that support loving self.
I was out on a working lunch with the Beloved Engineer I’m married to. We were both bouncing up and down on our seats, excitedly talking about our jobs, building concept-bridges and loving each other’s enthusiasm. I don’t know what the heck he’s talking about half the time, but I can understand the creative structures beneath his words, I get his energy, I connect with his passion for what he does. Love is like that and so is creativity.
For a forthnight, I’m sharing stories with The Scintilla Project, choosing one of two prompts that arrive daily during the project.
#Scintilla13, prompt 2:Tell a story about something interesting (anything!) that happened to you, but tell it in the form of an instruction manual (Step 1, Step 2, etc.).
Step 1. Live as an outsider in your family, in school, sometimes in your own mind. Take comfort in imagination and the woods. Observe everything.
Step 2. At thirteen, find The Bridge Across Forever, written by Richard Bach, feel understood, seen and heard in depth for the first time in your life. Read the book seven times in three languages and become obsessed with finding your soulmate.
Step 3. At fifteen, become thoroughly tired of the vacant eyed teenage boys near you who think you’re toooo deeeeep and wish you would just shut up.
Step 4. Become even more tired of your mother’s stories about men not having the capacity to think (mostly because you are so scared it might be true).
Step 5. Spend two days writing a penpal ad, where you outline every topic of discussion you would like to spend time on, direct it to men only and put it on the text portion of Finnish TV in the youth section.
Step 6. Wait.
Step 7. Open thick envelope with thirty letters from beautiful men all over Finland. Start conversations, write letters, learn to know new people, learn that it is possible to connect on a real level with men.
Step 8. Receive a surprise letter, from the friend of one penpal, who had seen your ad first but been too lazy to write to you. Now, having read your reply letter to the slightly less lazy friend who had written to you, lazy guy wanted to write to you as well.
Step 9. At seventeen, go abroad for a year. Write thousands of words in letters, among others to lazy guy. Read The Bridge Across Forever again. Become who you are. Find soul friends, soulmates in their own right. Renew intention to find soulmate, while suspecting there may be many of them.
Step 10. Come home. Break your heart thoroughly while lying that it is okay and not happening. Hope fervently that there are many soulmates for everyone.
Step 11. Break up with your whole life. Go to art school for a year. Befriend kindred spirits. Learn to tentatively accept yourself a bit more.
Step 12. After not being accepted to any art colleges, in desperation go to business school. Quit after being told you do not belong there. Work at crafts store. Go to Idaho. Come home with renewed courage. Decide to dare all and follow dream of singing, writing, dancing, painting as long as it takes.
Step 13. At twenty-one, be invited to a motorcycle ride with lazy penpal. Bask in the sun, eat chocolate and bread. Fall irrevocably in love.
Step 14. Read all journals, musings, descriptions of soulmate, in the middle of the night, with a thunderstorm inside and out.
Step 15. Next day, after another motorcycle ride, declare your love.
Soon fifteen years later, I’m still grateful to Richard Bach for the book he wrote.
You sweep away the ants
eating away at my skin
One at a time, when needs be
Inviting me into
our bubble of intimacy
From the heights of my rushing steed
But it is me who is bucking
and throwing my head
Not wanting to stop
You ride my tempestuous
dig me out of the ant stack
awaken my connection
hold me when I weep with the enormity
of life and all its overwhelming sensations.
And throughout it all I feel
beautiful to you.
The journey from being the freak
and becoming the Loved One
has been a miracle to me.
I so love you.
Even when you draw me down from my high
so I can feel your skin again.