Life is messy

“Life is supposed to be messy. Being human means you will get your heart broken and your fingernails dirty.”

― Kaitlyn Jane Mauro

It’s been a rough holiday season for me. The road has been bumpy, and I’ve often been off balance. At the beginning of this month, I was just moody and tired, like a bear. Shorter, darker days contributed, I’m sure, as well as some serious work stress. Then, my mom got sick, and 20 young children (not to mention 6 adults) were killed in an elementary school on the other side of the country.

Psychologist Carl Jung founded a theory of the collective consciousness. The idea is that we are all connected in our subconscious minds, kind of like we share one giant dream-mind. I believe it, because I’ve had too many weird dreams and psychic waking moments to believe otherwise. So, when I get moody for no reason, like I was earlier this month, I sometimes think it is because I am tuned into the experiences of the people around me. I sometimes feel and take on other people’s pain without realizing it.

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Boundaries are good. I am a firm supporter of clear boundaries. But, sometimes, life is just messy. At times, you have to realize we are all connected, and if one person is in pain, we are all in pain. And if one person is liberated, we can all feel a small undoing of tension inside our souls. Nobody can live alone in a castle on the hill forever. Eventually, it all comes back around.

Take a breath now. Inhale, and exhale. Realize you are sharing this air with all life on this planet. You are sharing this moment with an elder in a small village in Guatemala. You are sharing this moment with a young man in Hong Kong. We are all here on this planet, now, swirling and whirling and melding and separating and reforming and coming together, again and again. And we are affected by the blessings and curses laid on every single person alive, now. We are a cosmic stew.

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Now, onto lighter topics. For those of you who read my last post about my mom (https://foolishsagewisdom.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/my-mom-is-dying-of-alzheimers/) with Alzheimer’s, I am so overjoyed to report that she is getting better. She started eating again, though she still cannot walk, and probably won’t, ever again, honestly. She has also perked up a whole lot, which means she’s good and irritable half the time. It has been a good reality check to see how easily she can go, and I am so grateful that it looks we are going to be able to enjoy another Christmas with her.

And a brief follow-up on my post on generosity, I hadn’t seen the homeless man I wrote about for a few weeks, and I wondered if he was gone for good. Then Friday morning, I was running home in the pouring rain from a morning yoga class that is around the corner of my house, and there he was standing on the steps of the business next door to my house. He asked me if I could help him out with some breakfast, and I pulled out a few dollars. Then, I went inside, scrambled some eggs, threw them in a box of leftover home fries and a muffin, grabbed a napkin and fork, and ran the package out to him. I even made myself late for work doing it, but it made my day. Seriously. It was the absolute best part of my day. Here is the link to the original post: https://foolishsagewisdom.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/generosity/

May we all be blessed with abundance in the coming year. May we learn to live together peacefully. Here is to the coming of more light. Image

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Accept Myself. All of myself. And drink the damn coffee. Or don’t.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.”

                                                      –Walt Whitman

I’ve been noticing a lot lately all of the ways I judge and castigate myself. How I somehow have this underlying belief that I need to be perfect in order to be worthy. How I often “should” on myself, about small things, actions that don’t matter so much in the long run. I think it must be a holdover from my Puritanical ancestors, but all I can say is, I am ready to stop.

And I think I may have an idea about how to do it.

Do you sometimes find yourself doing this? Maybe berating yourself for that extra bite of chocolate, or shaming yourself for having feelings of neediness? What is it for you?

I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee lately, and recently decided I need to cut it out completely. Whenever I make a decision like this, I immediately start obsessing on whatever it is I am not letting myself have. I convince myself I am having withdrawal symptoms, I get depressed, lonely, I WANT. I fantasize about the taste, the warmth, the giddy caffeine rush I will feel after drinking some of this godly nectar.

And then, when I break my promise to myself (which is eventually inevitable), I feel ashamed, like I don’t value myself enough to be 100% controlled and basically…perfect.

It’s a strange game to play with myself, this all or nothing. What ever happened to moderation?

As I went through this internal battle, this back and forth talking in my head, I suddenly remembered something I learned from a training I attended with Bill O’Hanlon, called Resolving Trauma without the Drama.

And I said to myself, “It’s okay if you drink the coffee. It’s okay if you don’t drink the coffee.” So simple, yes? And I felt immediately better, because really, the more important thing in my life is not whether I drink a little bit of coffee. The more important thing is feeling okay with myself, accepting the decision I make, realizing it is a choice, not an action I am forcing myself to take. And then, surprisingly, my obsessive thoughts about how I just NEED some coffee lighten up a little, and I start thinking that maybe I don’t really need that coffee after all.

Think about it. Someone tells you that you HAVE to do something. Do you want to do it? Of course not, even if it is the absolute best thing for you to do. And the more passionately someone tells you that you HAVE to do it, the more deeply you dig your heels in and decide that you most definitely do not.

Then, imagine that person saying, “Well, of course you don’t have to. I just thought you might like to try, but it’s up to you.” And then maybe something shifts inside you. You may start thinking that maybe, just maybe, you want to try what this person is suggesting.

The time to use this inclusive validation work is when you:

  1. Find yourself saying you “can’t, shouldn’t or won’t.”
  2. Find yourself saying you “have to, should, or must.”
  3. Encounter resistance (internally or in relationship).
  4. Experience inner conflict.
  5. Struggle with compulsions or obsessions.
  6. Feel ambivalent about something.
  7. Feel shame or a sense of devaluation.
  8. Encounter bigotry, negative stereotypes or negative projections (internally or in relationship).

This is how you use inclusive validation: 

  1. Give yourself permission to do or not to have to. For example, I tell myself I should really exercise more and eat less. And I get down on myself for having such weak will-power and being so lazy. Then, I stop, and tell myself, “I can exercise today and eat smaller portions, or I can live with the extra pounds and indulge in some yummy, healthy food, and I can stop worrying about hitting the gym today if I really don’t feel like it. And that’s okay. There ain’t no shame in this game!
  2. Include seeming opposites. This whole practice may seem hypocritical and non-committal, and it is, but at the same time, it’s not! It looks like I’m copping out and will never meet my goals and therefore never feel good about myself. But, really what I am doing is giving myself some breathing room. By going away from my goals, I move closer to them. This also applies to emotions. If you feel stuck in an emotion you don’t want to feel because it doesn’t feel good, or because you don’t think you should feel that way, you can say to yourself, I can be mad right now, and I can be sad and scared, and I can be happy at the same time.” Because life is complex. Nothing is cut and dry. Consider this quote from poet Adrienne Rich. “Anger and tenderness-my selves. I can believe they breathe in me as angels and not as polarities. Anger and tenderness-the spider’s genius. To spin and weave in one moment anywhere. Even from a broken web.” 
  3. Exceptions: That’s the way it is, except when it’s not. For example, it’s always good to have a healthy diet and exercise and get plenty of sleep. Except, sometimes I need to stay up all night drinking and dancing, and eating whatever I want. Why? Because this renews me. It’s a break from the ordinary. Another example, it’s important to be open with people, and not hide parts of yourself. Except when you have a secret you want to keep. Because it’s yours. Because it represents that other part of yourself, that shadow self that we all have, and that’s okay. You can keep it a secret as long as you want to. Because it’s yours.

And that is essentially what this work is all about: bringing light to the shadow.

Your shadow. The shadow as termed by Carl Jung coined, referring to all of the disassociated, unowned parts of ourself. The devalued, inhibited, suppressed, should-nots. The parts that, undealt with, turn around and bite us, acting as intrusive thoughts or compulsive, self-destructive actions. The parts that, when integrated, give us great strength and wisdom, that thank us for finally recognizing them as something other than monsters, the parts that, when finally un-shamed and re-valued, make us whole.