Sometimes, social media makes me feel pretty stabbity. The last few days have been intense, with stupidity ranging from Caitlyn Jenner is not a woman to we shouldn't let refugees into our countries because TERRORISM.
I just. cannot. even.
I unfollow people who post shit like that, but that thought that we might still be connected in any way makes me itchy. I know that everyone has a right to their opinion but there are some things that I just can't abide. I won't bother hijacking someone's post to tell them how ignorant they are, because the Internet is not a place where one attempts, through shaming, to change minds and hearts. What I can do, though, is focus my attention where it will be most useful. Loving. Listening. Uplifting where I am able.
My glorious tribe is full of compassion, kindness, empathy, and love. My glorious tribe, a tribe that I've been building since 2000 when I started penning my on line diary, is glorious. My glorious tribe doesn't post shit that makes me stabbity. They inspire, uplift, offer succor, care passionately. They are a tribe of leaders-by-example. They don't crap on people for disagreeing with them. They don't practice boundary violation in their attempts to make sense of a senseless world. They hold their own.
They make me proud to be one of them.
Today, I don't want to focus on the stabbity stuff. I want to focus on how lovely my tribe is, and equally on how important it is *for me* to remember that these moments that feel somehow gross and unpure, these times in which we come face to face with our shadowy recesses, when we are triggered, when our self-righteousness rises up within us and threatens to choke off all kindness, are necessary.
They grow us. They refine us. They allow us to tend to unknown parts of self - parts that lay in wait to be discovered, and loved into the light.
Sometimes I think I am too much like the Princess & The Pea. You know the story. No matter how buffered she is against that pea, she can feel it. Pile on the mattresses, and it won't matter. That pea will still leave her bruised, and sore, and sleepless, and miserable. I have to remind myself over, and over again that I have the privilege of filtering out the things that make me stabbity - I'm so fucking lucky in that I can walk away from ignorance, hatred, rudeness. I have to remember that there are many people for whom the hatred, and ignorance, are a part of their every day existence, and that sometimes that hatred, and ignorance leads to their very death.
They can't just turn it off and walk away. They are in it, eyeball deep, and there is no escape.
So, averting my eyes *entirely* is not an option. It isn't just. I must contend with the things that hurt and bruise and wound and rend. I *must*.
But not all at once, and not all the time. Today, I'm taking a break from world to do some self-care - art, journaling, therapy at 5, a talk on the Camino with a new friend (Hi, Rosemary!). Today, I will rest my eyes on what is good. I will believe in a softer world, and lend my energy to its emergence from the mud of what is happening out there all around me right now.
I like to cook. More to the point, I like to feed people. There is something very spiritual for me in the process of preparing, and serving food. I love the noises people make when they spoon my soup into their happy faces. I love the silence that comes over people when they chew, savour, swallow. I love the thought that what I prepared will serve their bodies, will become a part of them.
I love a house full of the scent of something savoury simmering on the stove.
(I love alliteration, too, but that's a post for another day.)
Sometimes, I post what I've cooked on my Instagram feed, which autoposts to my Facebook wall, and I get a lot of lovely comments about how delicious it looks, followed by a "can I have the recipe?".
Sometimes people remind me that I'm multifaceted, multi-talented, that I'm a polymath. That's a lovely thing to tell me. Did you know? Did you know that when you reflect me back to myself with such lovely compliments, it soothes the part of me that is continuously questioning my value? Well, now you know.
Here's A Thing I Cooked
This is a gorgeous autumnal soup that I threw together out of things that were needing to be used up. It's a curried chicken and lentil bowl of tummy warming goodness, and here's the recipe.
1 large chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
1 acorn squash, peeled and cubed
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 can lentils
1 can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp commercial blend garam masala (or make your own)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 thumb of ginger, minced
If you like a little heat, 1 jalapeno, finely chopped, discard the seeds.
Water to cover
Add oil and butter to a deep pot and heat on medium high
Add the garam masala and cook until the spices begin to release their oils.
Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and jalapeno (optional) and cook until translucent.
Add the chicken and cook until there is no visible pink
Add the tomatoes, drained lentils, sweet potatoes, & squash, and then water to cover.
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Allow to bubble and toil for ten minutes.
Reduce heat medium low and simmer for two - three hours. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.
Taste and add salt and pepper to your palate.
Yesterday, I eschewed adulting in favour of curling up in bed with the dog and letting someone else feed me. It was delicious. It was also completely necessary, because all the stuff that's been stirred up within me over the last seventy two hours or so rendered me a useless pile of weepy goo.
I generally do not cry without obvious provocation. If I'm fighting with someone I love, I cry. If I'm watching the "Chasing Cars" episode of Grey's Anatomy or the finale of Six Feet Under, I cry. If I am sitting with my therapist and she hits home (every fucking time), I cry. If I revisit a beloved Mary Oliver poem, I cry.
Yesterday felt a little like some inner part, who has been standing around with her finger in the dyke for a billion years decided to wander off and do something else for once. Boom crash went the walls. Tears, and tears, and tears.
I had therapy, too, so that was a thing.
Soup was delivered. I was taken by the hand and desposited in the car so I could have the cobwebs blown out of my head by a brisk wind. Two hands of Quiddler ensued and I won them both. (We're now even, suckah!)
I was snuggled to sleep.
And, because my therapist was all "You don't have to hold everything on your own...", I asked for all of the above and did not feel one little tiny lick of guilt over needing it.
Today, I am adulting. I submitted a thing that was due. I did dishes, including an archaeological survey and subsequent dig in the fridge. I made an avocado, cucumber, tomato, and Havarti salad. I cooked store bought but fragrant garam masala in oil and butter until the mustard popped and my house smelled like an Indian market, and then I tossed in onion, garlic, ginger, sweet potato, squash, chicken, lentils, and tomatoes. Clear, clean water. Bring to a boil. Stir. Bring to a boil again. Leave it alone.
It's simmering on the stove as I type.
I swept. I wiped. I painted a background by way of inviting my muse to play if she wanted. She didn't just then, so I wandered off and installed Windows 10 on my alternate lap top. I sat and listened to the creek for a while so that watching the install process didn't make me batshit. I ate something. I washed my face. I submitted an application for something that really matters to me.
Later, I'll feed someone and let them bend my ear.
I like adulting. Adulting is good.
I wrote on my FB wall yesterday that life is not a series of pure moments of bliss, but that it does contain them. This is a knowing that drives me. Every shitacular day includes the possibility of sheer, unadulterated bliss. Every one.
This knowing reminds me of a poem I wrote once when I believed myself to be a poet:
Bliss Among Ruins
Something old shoots through bliss like sparks through smoke, rising.
Coffee dregs in a blue tin cup serve for scrying.
I sit among ruins.
I could stay right here to watch green shoot
through ash and stone, make a garden of my own,
learn how to dig.
Bitter flies the night as I empty the cup in a swinging arc
over the place the roses would grow
if I wanted them.
I gaze into the chipped blue depths, spy
bliss shot through with hope enough
to make or break a heart.
I rise, a winged thing,
to douse the fire, leave ash and stone
and journey on in search of home.
That's what I woke up thinking - that writing all that out, copping to the sense of disconnectedness, loneliness for a sense of family, sadness, grief, was an unburdening.
Which doesn't mean I've actually solved or resolved anything, but it does mean that I feel like I'm not *holding* it anymore. It isn't sitting like a huge weight in my body. It's as though I've dumped my impossibly heavy, crap-filled purse out on a table in front of me, and it's all still there, and it's all still real, but it isn't something I'm holding on to like so much writhing, squirming, impossible weight.
That's the power of journaling for me - even this very public version of journaling,
I think every now and then, I forget that. I start to get all 'business focused' - especially at this time of year when everything is so goddamned shiny and fresh and beckoning all the people to sign up for all the things. I always feel like I'm so totally not up to it. Not ready. Not (here it comes) enough in the face of all that slick, perfect, beautiful marketing. So I start trying to knuckle down, buck up, market, promote, get some money flowing into my life while everyone is pressing those 'buy now' buttons...
Except, this year, I haven't really been able to do that. I got mowed under by my own excavation process, which isn't a bad thing at all - it's a necessary thing, but it did shine a very bright light on how difficult it is for me to PROMOTE while I'm excavating, and since I'm all "GOTTA RUN MY BUSINESS! CAN'T GET MY STUFF ALL OVER EVERYONE!!", the latter sentiment wins, and the blog just sits here getting all dusty and forlorn. Same with the newsletter.
I can still do Facebook, though, because I feel connected there, but still...blogging is my thing. It is so vital. I did the very best thing I could do for myself yesteray, and 'emptied my purse' all over the table, and once I hit 'publish' I walked away from it for a day, and I sang Karaoke on my iPhone because it delighted me to do so.
And it dawned on me that what's been happening for me with relation to blogging is that blogging has become a marketing platform instead of a way to save my own life. It's become a part of my job instead of a part of my healing journey. It's become very separate from my *life*. It's a thing I have to do if I want to make money. And if I want to make money, I have to be honest, yes, but not TOO honest. I have to be open, yes, but not so open that I risk alienating anyone. I have to be vulnerable, but not so vulnerable that I might turn someone off.
This is something I've written before, and I am aware, even while I'm writing it now that it is a part of my pattern. I get swept up in business stuff, money stuff (because I *have to pay my rent*), and then the blog becomes a part of the business and then blogging becomes this chore I have to do, and sometimes I push through that and I keep blogging shiny, sparkly offerings OR I stop blogging altogether, forget why I ever blogged in the first place, and let a layer of dust build up on the whole thing before, one day, I come in and dump my entire purse all over the table.
This blog is not a marketing platform in disguise. It is a journal. It is a diary. It is how, since I discovered blogging in the late 1990's (when one had to hand code entries in HTML and FTP them to the server along with the images you wanted to include OVER DIAL-UP,) I began to save my own life. It is how I will continue to do so.
So, the purse has been dumped.
The thing is out and it's on the table before me. It is a massive thing. It feels completely overwhelming. It's made of my childhood shit and my family of origin shit and all my fucked up relationships and all my batshit crazy coping mechanisms. It's made of isolation and loneliness and denial and escapism. It's made of eight hour Netflix binges and fried chicken and boxed wine.
But it's on the table, now, and though I am completely exhausted from having carried it around for a few months without letting it go, I am also relieved. I am overwhelmed just LOOKING at it, but I am also relieved because now I know I no longer have to do the work in isolation. I no longer have to pretend I'm JUST shiny art journal class teaching glitterific Effy. I am not ONLY that. I am ALSO dealing with her shit Effy. I am unraveling Effy. I am 'I have stuff' Effy.
And also, I art journal. But that is not all I do.
There is a temptation to 'other' myself right now, by which I mean to say that I am trying to self-soothe by distinguishing myself from everyone else out there who, on the surface, appears to do what I do.
"I am not like the others. I am not an artist - not really. I am not teaching art journaling - not really. I am demonstrating how to live with a sucking vortex of damage that is continuously threatening to pull me under. I am demonstrating how to move through it. Art journaling is NOT THE POINT. Art journaling is just one of the tools I've found that works in all my striving towards finding some kind of sense, some kind of meaning in a lifetime of very hard things..."
And, you know? That's all true, except the the part where I say "I am not like the others." and the part where I insist "I am not an artist - not really."
All of my peers are fighting battles of their own. I am not a special snowflake. I have peers who are art journaling through life threatening illness, chronic illness, bereavement, spiritual uncertainty. I have peers who are art journaling through early childhood parenting stuff, early childhood abuse, marital difficulties, loneliness, addiction, pain.
My peers and I are a family of sorts. We're all doing the same. We are sharing what works for us. It might look a little different from artist to artist, but at the core of what we're doing out here with our soft bits hanging out all over the place in our videos and written musings is SHARING WHAT WORKS.
And also, I am SO an artist. I make art. That's all one must do to qualify as an artist.
I have no idea if any of what I'm purging is helpful to anyone reading, but here's a thing that's really shifting big time for me right now as I survey the crap I've been carrying around in my 'purse' in an attempt to avoid getting my life stuff all over my business:
I really can't concern myself with whether or not my purging and sorting is helpful to anyone but *myself*.
I am completely out of fucks to give over whether or not I'm alienating someone in my own attempts to heal.
And here's an even finer detail:
I *know* that those of you who read me here WON'T be alienated. That whole internal struggle over whether or not I'm alienating people is NOT my story. It's my mother's story. It's old tape. It's crap in my head that sounds like I might be saying it, but in reality, I don't actually believe it.
You are a wonderful collection of misfits and storytellers and mystics and warriors
You are like me. We are like one another. We are all fighting our own battles, doing our own work, and I *know for sure* that you *get me*.
Because if you didn't get me, on some level, you wouldn't be here.
So, that's enough with the attempts to 'other' myself. That's enough with the completely FALSE beliefs that my blog must be a pristine, shiny marketing machine. That's enough with the unfounded fear that I am alienating people by dumping my purse out in my own space.
Purse, dumped. Now begins the business of sorting it all out.
I've started getting letters - "Are you okay? You aren't quitting are you? Where did you go?"
I took my last post deeply to heart and worked with all those feels for a while, which is where I've been. I've been in the thick of it. I've been unraveling, untangling. I've been sitting with myself and asking myself some questions about value and worth and not-enoughness.
I've been doing my work.
It's unusual for me to post about things that I'm in the middle of sorting out because I am very conscious of leaving difficult or negative feelings out here for all the world to read with no resolution in sight, but you know what? Life is like that sometimes. We are in the middle of something difficult. We have no answers, no solutions. All we have to offer is the truth about where we are, and when I'm in a place like that, I have to choose. Do I speak of it and leave loose ends all over the place? Or do I isolate and keep the lid on what I'm experiencing? I worry that loose ends are frustrating (or worrying) for the reader, but keeping the lid on it is unhealthy for me. It is an act of self love when I opt to do what is healthy for me.
I have a lot of trauma in my enormous pile of childhood baggage. This has led to a lot of difficulty around self-care, self-love, self-trust, SELF. My entire adult life has been spent trying on assorted healing modalities in order to overcome, rise above, get better, heal, recover, etc. What this has looked like/felt like is a whole lot of striving to be ok. To not self harm. To not drink myself to death. To not stay in abusive relationships - romantic or otherwise. To parent my kids effectively. To find some peace in the midst of horrible, continual anxiety. To know my own worth. To live out of a sense of that worth. To refuse to shrink to accommodate the preferences of my family of origin (who wish I would just fucking disappear already, with my loud mouth and my telling of secrets and my refusal to 'fall in' and toe the line). I have disconnected from my entire family of origin. My father, my mother, my step-father, my siblings - at least, the ones who are still alive - my aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. All of them. My whole body issues a big fat FUCK NO in relation to every one of them. I am a big bundle of DO NOT WANT when it comes to the idea of having any of them in my life.
This was a wise and healthy choice.
On the other hand, the result is that I am completely cut adrift from any sense of a 'family unit'. I mean, I have my kids. I am their family - in some cases, their *only* family. And my on-again off-again boyfriend of eleven years feels like family and calls himself family, but that relationship is pretty fragile. There is no sense of solid ground under me when it comes to that relationship.
So, realistically, my kids are it. And while there are no guarantees that my kids will remain in my life (after all, I didn't remain in my parents lives), I do feel some sense of certainty, that at the very least, I belong to them. I am theirs. They have me. I will always be there for them in whatever capacity I am able for as long as I live no matter what. That is my ultimate parenting goal. I will never forsake my kids. Ever. They will always, always have a soft place to land. Not necessarily in terms of financial support, because I really don't believe in supporting your kids financially beyond a certain point, but in terms of grace, witnessing, love, and unwavering faith in them, they've got me. And they always will.
I want that for myself.
That's where I'm at. And there's no solution to this problem. I can't have my parents. They are completely toxic. I can't have a sense of solid ground in my romantic partnerships, because we've all seen how well that turns out. I can be there for my kids because THAT'S MY JOB but I can't lean on them because THAT IS NOT THEIR JOB.
So, I have to find that sense of solid ground the only other place I know where to look - within.
That's where I am.
Turning inward. Turning to the places in myself that need this sense of certainty. Holding them tight. Holding myself accountable to myself to take care of myself as best as I am able. Battling a horrible self-care deficit that comes as a direct result of holding a lot of childhood trauma. Trying to love myself (and my shadow) into the light of a full and expansive life that comes with FUN and JOY and PLEASURE and not just striving and work and ducking and covering and hoping for the best.
I wrote an ode to enough not long ago, and I meant every word of it, but I also think there's something to be said for knowing that what you have is enough while ALSO *holding space for wanting more*.
I am working on being okay with wanting more. More certainty. More eyes that reflect my worth back to me. More love. More fun. More joy. More pleasure. More solid ground under me.
Which is bumping me right up against an entire early life of being told that I did not deserve more. I didn't deserve to grow up safely, in a loving family. I didn't deserve to be protected from boundary violations. I didn't deserve my mother's time, attention, or protection. Cognitively, we all know that I *did* deserve that and MORE, but the insidious result of childhood abuse is that we internalize these messages about our not-enoughness in order to survive. Children can *not* hold their parents accountable. They blame themselves. They believe that they deserve whatever is happening to them, and if what is happening is really, really bad, then they internalize the message that they are really, really bad.
This is what I'm up against in wanting more.
And it's hard. It's painful. I feel, some days, like I'm coming apart at the seams. But it is also an initiation into a new line of inquiry around enoughness and value and worthiness. It is awful, but it is also necessary to poke this particular bear. I hold false beliefs about myself that I inherited from the way I was treated in my childhood. I grew comfortable with these false beliefs. In some very crucial ways, they protected me. They helped me survive. But I'm 47 years old now, and there are skins I wear that need shedding. The false belief that I am not good enough. The false belief that everyone out there is measuring my enoughness and finding it lacking. The false belief that I can't trust anyone, ever because that way lies a world of pain. The false belief that I will never be okay, that I was born broken, and that I will always be broken. The false belief that I am broken *at all* when all evidence points to my wholeness and my excellence and my awesomeness.
So, this is where I've been.
Examining my false beliefs. Grieving my childhood, which should have been different. Digging into why I cling to situations and relationships that CONFIRM my false beliefs. Trying to carve new beliefs, new ways of being, out of the old.
I'm totally okay, though.
This is hard, but it's good work, and I'm ok. I have an excellent therapist, and I have a tool box full of skills I can use to see me through times like these. I'm not depressed, or in any kind of danger. I'm just digging in, turning inward, doing my work.