Accountability

“Are you okay?”

An innocuous question but for me, it comes tethered to my husband’s emotions, and has done for many years.

It has always been my job to make sure that he was okay.  It would take many forms; making sure dinner was ready when he came home late, tired and grumpy.   Putting the kids to bed so that he could close his eyes for a while; taking care of the house, and just generally making sure that he had no responsibilities within the family unit such as school paperwork, groceries, sex, anything at all.

In these ways, I made sure that he okay.  And if he was okay, then I was okay but I really wasn’t, and I never knew how to express that I wasn’t.

I am learning to loosen my grasp on the honesty of my answer.  I don’t have to hold in the truth.  Don’t be afraid to say no, I am not okay, but I’m working on my shit and I will be okay in some form or another.

I am not responsible for how you feel, and I will not apologize for how I feel.

My husband is a lovely man, and would never make me feel badly about myself, but I know that when he asks me this question, there is an underlying reason for it.  He may not like what he hears from this point forward but opening up to the truth is not an easy thing.

We are accountable for our own emotions, not anybody else’s – not our children’s, not our parents’, our partners’, or our friends’.  It’s such a liberating thing to realize and become aware of and yet, we feel so intertwined and buffeted against each other, it’s easy to lose ourselves in those closest to us.

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So, I say this is my emotional well.  That is yours.  Mine had run dry for a while but it’s filling up nicely now.  Yours is, too, I see.  If you feel yours is murky from time to time, or dipping below the plumb line, do not look to me to clean it up or refill it.  We can share from our wells as long as it doesn’t compromise the depth or quality of the water.

 

 

Pieces.

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What courage have I?  In the moment, it is simply a thing I have to do.  Tired of picking up pieces; the result of others’ choices, I made my own, and scattered my marriage, my life and his life to all points and corners.

I had envisioned months and months of civil side-by-side living while I cultivated the desire to live away from him.  I was shut down, closed off, impenetrable, had made my decision and dammit, I’d had enough.  I loved my children but I did not love my husband anymore.  Even the little, familiar things we shared seemed inconsequential and did not affect my ambition.

Six weeks later, I find myself rummaging for all the pieces.  Slowly, deliberately, even perhaps letting them come find me for repair.  As in Kintsugi, we are reconstructing in new ways.  Our marriage from before is dead; exploded, and the new one is beginning to look much different.

With this slow repair though, comes a devil on my shoulder.  The doubter, nagger, and all around pessimist.  She is obstinate and doesn’t want to move forward.  She is petulant and refuses to show any kind of affection.  She throws emotional grenades that make me break down in counseling sessions.  But what she fails to realize is that her work aids progress; she is part of the yin and yang of me.  However, she’s been the larger of the two for a long time and she’s not keen on sharing power.

So, I am struggling with conflict.  The desire to move forward and to not.

These are interesting times.  I see my husband in a new light but I don’t yet know who I am, or who I am in this relationship.  It’s a new thing, but not.  It’s not like a new relationship that’s thrilling and butterfly-inducing; it has a history.

So, I work on myself.  Or sit with myself.  Do nothing.  Think nothing.  Feel nothing.  Other times, I do, think and feel it all at once.  It’s still choppy waters.

But that devil…..boy, she’s had her way for so long.  I mustn’t fight her, but allowing her just to be makes my life quite challenging.

 

On dead things, and anger, and boats.

He said to me, “our marriage is dead.”

And, I agree; three weeks ago, I cut the head off.

In truth, our marriage had been a ghost of an idea for a long while, and I had exhausted myself being the one to propel us in whatever direction we could go.  He was a ghost of man; an invisible husband whom I recognized every now and then when we shared funny things, or when he would fly off the handle at something.  Mostly though, he was unrecognizable underneath his shroud of bitterness and resentment.  It was so heavy, it burdened both of us.  I tried for years to help him exorcise it but he seemed determined to hold on tight.  As if letting go would expose him, would force him to see outside of himself and thereby, see who he was on the inside.  Perhaps he was afraid of who he might discover?

But, I was tired; I couldn’t carry him, or us any longer and I let him go from my heart.  I didn’t know what to expect when I went home that day to tell him that I was unhappy, and that I wanted to leave.  Had no expectations for the future except that I knew I didn’t want to be in this union anymore.

He will crumble and wither away, and I will be the cause of it, I thought. Seeing him weep in front of me, alternately wishing to hug me and push me away, was horrible.  I didn’t know how to help him.  I only knew that this was the path I had chosen and I was resolute in my decision.  That first week was incredibly painful for both of us – sleepless nights, tearful talks.  I cried so hard that I thought I might puke, and I knew I was crying for the loss; it felt like grief, the sudden first stage when all you feel is heartache and sorrow, and all you can do is stand in the grocery store wondering what the fuck you went down this aisle for.

We both started seeing a counselor separately (ironically, and I think now, universally intentionally, the same one) during the second week.

My resoluteness remained.  I had clarity and peace of mind, and I attended the first two sessions with a sense of “I know what I’m doing, so why am I here?”

Then something happened to him that I was not prepared for; he discarded the shroud. After the initial flood of emotion had subsided, he saw clearly, and for the first time how he had been living his life.  And, how it had affected me and our marriage.  He talked, he wrote, he opened his heart and his eyes.  Within these three weeks, he has almost made a 360 within himself.

At first, I was glad for him.  After all, I had tried many, many times to remove that fucking shroud myself.  I had suggested, cajoled, tried to help find ways for him to be who he really was meant to be.  But my efforts had been fruitless, and I knew that only he could do it for himself.  So, yes, I was happy to see this man emerge, become brighter, happier – in just three weeks.

Yes, as he grew, I felt myself deflate.

I went away by myself for a weekend in the mountains to hike, and to contemplate…things.  But it didn’t go as planned.  On the Saturday, I got sick and ended up unable to move from the bed or the couch.  I was quiet all day.  I stared out of the window at distant bare branches and trees writhing in the wind; it was a gloomy day, reflective of my mood, and I thought nothing at all.  I missed my family, I knew that.  Not necessarily him, but my kids definitely.

The next day, I came home and felt no leap for him when I saw him in the driveway.  And, it wasn’t until we were alone that I felt absolute sadness again.  I cried and cried, thinking I was grieving still, but the words that came to mind were filled with the disbelief that we’d gotten things wrong for so long.  How could I have spent the last fifteen years like this?  How could we?

Since coming home this Sunday, I have been skating a well of tears.  Every act of kindness he shows me, every thing he says, everything that proves he had discovered his truth, pushes me over the edge and I couldn’t figure out why.  Until today.

My session began before she even opened the door because I sat in the waiting room in tears.  Here he is, my husband, becoming the man I’ve always wished him to be, and I am angry.  I am so angry that this didn’t happen sooner.  That he didn’t hear me all these years.  That he didn’t have the strength to do this before I let my love for him go.

I know quite firmly that this could not have happened any sooner; I wasn’t prepared to make the choice, and he wouldn’t have been prepared to deal with the fallout.  It would have been contentious and ugly.

So, what do I do with this anger?  I have to let it go, too.

I don’t know how yet.  And I don’t need to know yet.

What will become of our marriage now that the old way no longer works?

I don’t know yet.  And I don’t need to know yet.

My heart is sore.  My eyes prickle with tears a lot.

I have set my boat afloat.  It was a bit rocky at first whilst it found stability, but now I’m on open water.  I need to learn how to sail by myself, and how to judge my environment before I plot a course.

Where will I go?  I don’t know.  And I don’t need to know yet.

 

 

Not Forcing

The Summer of Me took a turn down a different road; the things I had hoped to achieve physically, thwarted by health issues. Perhaps the barriers were raised because the roots of planning grew from negative soil. Soil in a field rife with self-judgment, and skewed views of the way things needed to be in order to be pleased with myself –  if I could just be the weight I want to be; if I could be shape and size I want to be, things will be much better; I will feel better about Me.

Self, the all-knowing Mother, so calm around the bouncing, impatient child Ego, says in translucent tones, “No honey, this is not what you should be doing right now.”

Impetuous child. She pouts, thinks she knows better and does it anyway.

It has been “settle down time” for a while. In it, gentle daily lessons and reminders of self-acceptance. Doing as I please in moderation, even though it is often accompanied by a certain unease; breathing into being with the transitory nature of now.

Soon, when I am confident of my health, I will return to the road I had started upon. I should take Self with me; she will be an invaluable guide and a steadying force in the company of a headlong kid.

Mother and Child; Self and Ego.

Well done burnt bridge.

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For a long time, I have fought a battle that can never be fully voiced. It can never be laid out on a table for all to see. It is a private war. I have danced around it in my blog, written about hard-won skirmishes, and weary defeats. It’s a sort of thing that I have treated alternately with a delicate hand and a closed fist.

Its presence is exasperating, like an annoying mosquito that won’t quit buzzing around.

No matter what I have done to abolish it (think on it, write about it, fight it, silence it, meditate on it, drink, eat), or didn’t do (let it be, accept it) it has had me chained to a merry-go-round. I, a colorful filly with great stems raised, ready to gallop, but unable to.

Recently, I burned the bridge to the battlefield that I alone had maintained. It was done with confidence, and without intention of returning to the precipice pleading for the link to be restored.

But, the ego is fearful. It knows I am stronger, and it bombards me with thoughts and questions, and the same old worn out lines. The crackled movie on a fading loop starring the old witch opposite Snow White, except my apple gift is dented, and browned.

What is it afraid of? I think on it….and have to laugh a little because I simply don’t know.

I have everything I need inside and out!

It could have been a sad thing to burn that bridge, but by deciding to stop the fight; I am forced to face the truth.

And the truth is acknowledging the dark side of self; specifically emotions such as anger, aversion, and dislike. No more sweet frosting. No more battles. No more black and white, or tussles between good and bad. This is it; the beginning of true healing begins with the belief that negative feelings are as much a part of self as the positive. In this way, the ego has little left to live for, and that’s what it’s afraid of.

Without the dark, there can be no light. And, the more I calmly let in the dark that’s practically barging down my front door, the sooner I will be free of these shackles.

 

 

Growth in the negative

Criticism given is also a form of taking away. And a way to the truth.

Recently, I participated in a One Act Festival with the theatre group I belong to. I performed, and I also wrote and directed a piece. At the end of the festival, a few adjudicators summed up their thoughts about each play; gave their advice and opinion. The play that I wrote and directed received high praise, won a few awards and will move on to the State Festival with a few tweaks as suggested by the adjudicators. The play that I performed in, and specifically my role was highly criticized. Apparently I couldn’t be heard, and my diction was unintelligible. I may have an accent but I resent the notion that I speak as if my mouth were filled with marbles. They belabored this point with me and my castmates for a while. Ok, I thought, ok, but was there absolutely nothing else good to say about my character? Nothing? The play received mild feedback as a whole but since I played the main character, I received much of the criticism.

Since then, I’ve felt edgy. I was raised up with one hand and struck down with the other and I cannot shake the deflation, the frustration.

The truth is (and this became clearer to me on that last day) that I have come to dread being onstage. This feeling might have grown from a seed planted last Spring when I completely clammed up at the State festival. Or perhaps, I’ve simply come to prefer the almost anonymous, beaver-like workings of writing, of seeing the story in my head, instead of being the story for everyone to watch.

It appears that my spiritual discoveries are enabling me to outgrow certain things.  Like a snake releasing its skin, the talent for acting may very well be leaving me. What remains is a bright, exciting new talent that has been nurtured and is about ready to blossom.

For now, I am still smarting from the whipping (which if my theatre friends knew I was feeling, would say that it wasn’t that bad). I also pay heed to the intuitive voice that urges me to disconnect from social media, and this is quite freeing. I thrust myself into living, feeling, observing, and walk away from scrolling, posting, and updating. There is nothing I need to share with anyone and nobody has anything to say that is more interesting that my life, right this very moment.

Harnessing the wrong horse

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Doubt. I named it. Immediately after an impromptu inner pep talk. During the talk, a fact so certain and real lit up my heart.  It brought forth a brief, and not often felt certainty and acknowlegement. Couldn’t help but smile. Was allowed to view truth.

Doubt is crafty; often barely heard or seen or felt. The inner dialog hums like the continued strum of a guitar chord and doubt weaves its way in and around the sound.

Doubt is devious. It grabs like a wretched Granny with a bony claw at memories it knows will capture your attention, and throws a harness over the neck of that ill-flogged horse. This only serves to stall progress.

Doubt seeps into life in some form or another. Sometimes it’s palpable, “I don’t know if I’ll have the strength to carry anymore moving boxes.” Sometimes it’s trivial, “Hmmm…I don’t think the chicken’s gonna turn out the way I wanted.” And sometimes it’s a whisper, “Why can’t I…?” “I’ll never be able to…” “What’s wrong with me…?”

The self-doubt prose is so finely honed that we only become aware of it when we question the wheedling whine. We have to confront it, and shove it aside to reveal the treasures it doesn’t want to be discovered. It has no choice but to step aside when faced with truth.

The trick then, is to remember that fleeting feeling of gloriousness from a potential met. That solid gold in the heart like light pouring from an open book.

Remember it. Feel it. Doubt will reel from it. And that worn historical horse can go live out its days in pasture.

Sometimes I believe I hate you.

At this time of physical low, when I feel torn between leaving my work early to go to bed, and call off rehearsals in favor of tea, blankets, my family and couch, I am prompted by an inner voice to remember the reasons for feeling so great and light in recent weeks. It’s a natural part of living this life that you experience the tos and fros but it’s the manner in which you allow it to happen that makes it a good or bad experience. For instance, you could wail like a banshee and feel tense or you could close your eyes and let your soul waft around, dipping into the highs, the lows, and all the places in between. Of course, some midway point between banshee and ragdoll seems to be the norm.

Recently I took a step forward in healing, and in forgiving myself. In so doing, there became an opening of the heart toward certain circumstances. This situation is far from being healed or on solid ground and it doesn’t take but a hiccup for it to cause distress. There is a connecting thread that binds me to this; barely seen but its presence colludes with the mind to seek out any news. This causes thoughts and emotions to furl up the beach like an incoming tide to wash away whatever work I had done to smooth things over.

In my Warrior training, I have become more aware of thought so instead of pushing away these needling contemplations, I imagine opening a door. And, like Buddha to Mara, I invite them in and make them welcome. This is not to say that I engage in their frivolous, flighty ways; I just allow them space and perhaps a cup of tea. In my imagination, they are gobsmacked and don’t know what to do; with no mental wall to push against, they have no will to fight, and fade away.

I must remember always, and moreso when I’m feeling under the weather (because that’s such a vulnerable state) that whatever I read or see or hear or imagine is not truth. And that I really don’t hate you.

Because the only truth that matters is my own.

“There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.” Ruiz

All About the Goat.

It’s been a ‘taking time’ sort of year. That sounds wrong, as if I had snatched time away. So I guess I’d rather say I have been working on ‘being with time.’

Monsieur Goaty Goat

Monsieur Goaty Goat

This goat is the perfect example of my being with time. During soccer season, my husband drove our son to practice and to coach, and on alternate nights, I drove our daughter. The fields were located at the end of a long driveway that wound through a place stuck in time. I thought it was the coolest thing: decayed buildings with worn pictures of what looked like British Colonial Indian men wearing turbans and holding rifles. We drove by an abandoned miniature golf course, and just past that, a large penned in structure with peacocks, chickens, horses in a field beyond, and this fat goat.

It became a ritual for my daughter and I to hope that the goat was hovering at the entrance gates. Most nights he was, and we were the only ones to stop the car, get out, and say hello. The goat didn’t give a shit, of course. Merely sniffed an outstretched hand, turned and trotted off to his perch. But I loved that we did that, even as other soccer moms raised eyebrows driving by, I loved it.

Being with time was sometimes a struggle; during our moving crisis, it felt narrow and tense. Many other times, I argued with it; wanted it to speed up so that healing could be done faster; anger and resentment would fade quicker. But time goes at its pace, and we must go with it. Like the one lane road we often find ourselves traveling on, stuck behind the slow driver with no passing allowed.

In the roominess of the space I sit when I’m feeling at peace, I see how valuable this particular year has been. I will admit to clinging to certain sufferings and still, I’m not sure why. They aren’t ready to be understood yet, so I am still…always…continually…learning to accept them. But when they rise up I can lash out; I’m working on that. But mostly, time for this year has been so beneficial to the most loving relationship next to self, and that is with my husband.

Bidding adieu to 2013, a time of learning, growing, stretching, understanding, loving, fearing, anger, detaching, resentment, judging, wishing ill-will, forgiving, apologizing, making peace, reaching out, hoping, wishing, hugging, kissing, making love, creating, writing, expanding, thinking, separating, dancing, crying, seeking truth, breaking, sitting, mindfulness, meditating, thanking, gratitude.

2014 will no doubt, bring more of the same, although with a little less financial crunchiness, and that’s just fine.

Now for a little bit of visual feastiness:  My favorite video of the year. The song by itself is ok, but when I watch it with the video, it makes me so happy.

Lose Yourself to Dance. Why? Because, really, it’s just a wonderfully, uninhibited, freeing, soul-reviving thing to do.

Peace to you All.  Keep Dancing!

Fortunate.

This blog was forged at the beginning of the year; it began lightly, dancing over a veneer, oblivious of its purpose beneath. I remember at the start trying to be witty; ad-libbing funny in a thought out manner, writing about me, me, me. It felt narcissistic and full of ego and I don’t mind saying that although I enjoyed the act of writing, of sharing, it felt awkward and sometimes embarrassing; the attention-seeking sense of it all.

It is known now that this was not created by the part of me that is offered to the world; the funny, make-em-laugh girl with an easy smile and helpful manner. I know because it has become something much deeper, as if the words themselves have carved away the inside of me allowing spaciousness for soul, allowing room for spiritual growth and development.

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Journey. I love that word –  an odyssey, a quest, progress, adventure. Life is this journey. The goal is clear in that eventually we will leave our bodies, and since this is already figured out for us, shouldn’t we make the most of our journey? We have no idea of the length of time, or what the surface will be like along the way. It’s wild and woolly sometimes, heartbreaking and filled with sorrow. Other times it’s so joyous we could burst, sometimes simply quiet and comforting.

This place here has become a proving ground, a learning ground, a welcoming hollow to write about the highs and lows. All the valleys with their dark undergrowth that seemed to go on forever, and through which I stumbled, weeping and blind. The peaks that looked out onto sunny skies. Over there, the roller coaster rides that rocked and stunned. All around, moments, people, situations…life. 

I am fortunate to  have this place, these pages, and as this year closes I acknowledge the time I have spent digging down to truth, making way for self.

I tip my hat to my friends who read. I hope I have helped or maybe *pinches thumb and forefinger together* inspired a tiny bit.

A lesson I have read many times, but only recently truly taken to heart is sitting with emotion. Thanks to Tara Brach by way of this lovely group, I am learning this: Whatever comes up, and whenever it comes up – take pause. Breathe into the feeling, allow yourself to feel it, give it room, acknowledge its presence, and it will pass. By doing this, a wiser choice can be made.

I hope to practice this during the coming year, and all the ones beyond.

Merry Christmas!