Learning to Play

photo courtesy of Niklas Morberg at https://secure.flickr.com/photos/morberg/
photo courtesy of Niklas Morberg at https://secure.flickr.com/photos/morberg/

Sunday morning, we went to church. At least, what I consider church. Tom and I met some friends for breakfast at Black-Eyed Susan where among other things we discussed our beliefs, and afterward we went inside to play some music, which always lifts my spirits. Isn’t that church?

It was not an easy morning, by far. But it was worthwhile for me. I knew going in that I wasn’t up to the task at hand. I am a beginning ukulele player. It’s a difficult thing being a student at this age. Many people feel that you should know what you’re doing by now. I’m one of them. There’s a lot I don’t know. Playing the ukulele is something I’m determined to learn. It’s a good starting point for me in the world of stringed instruments.

I met with a couple of world-class musicians. Taylor Pie, who is a professional musician living in Tennessee, was one of them. The other was Emma Tyme Brown-Shaklee. She’s my neighbor, and an up and coming world-class musician. At twenty, Emma knows much about music, having learned the ins and outs of many different instruments. She has graciously volunteered to teach me more about the ukulele. She is a patient teacher.

Funny thing about that, patience. I took one of those facebook quizzes the other day, which determines your prominent emotion. I was certain mine would be love, of course. But the one that arose for me was patience. It’s true, I have much patience. I consider it a form of love. I must learn to be more patient with myself.

As we played together, both Pie and Emma encouraged me. I asked a few questions. I asked about the difference between 4/4 time and 3/4 time. Mind you, I’ve been writing songs myself for twenty years. I write from my heart, rather than from a musical background. I am a poet. As the words arise, I also hear the music that goes with them. I have the melody in my head, and a passable voice. So I sing them. I was fortunate enough to find accomplished musicians to accompany me. Finally, I figured it might be a good idea to learn how to play so I could accompany myself.

Emma patiently explained that four beats to a measure is 4/4, and three beats to a measure is 3/4 time. I understood that, but I said it was the bottom four which confused me. What did it mean? It was my mathematical brain looking for a logical answer. In 3/4 time, the beat is on the quarter note. “But what does that mean?” I wanted to know.

I simply couldn’t understand what Emma was patiently explaining. I asked another question, frustrated with my own lack of understanding, losing patience with myself. At one point, someone in our small audience called out, “The beat is on the quarter note,” echoing what Emma had explained earlier.

“I must be thick-headed.” I murmured. And I dropped that line of questioning. I’ll get it. I will. I understand that music is what fills my heart and soul, if not my brain. Although it’s found its way there, since I wake with a song in my head nearly every morning.

Image courtesy of Austin Kleon at http://austinkleon.com/
Image courtesy of Austin Kleon at http://austinkleon.com/

Pie and Emma played some folk tunes in the key of C, so I could play along. My fingers fumbled on the frets, working hard to keep up with them. G7 to C is not a smooth transition for me. At the end of our first song, Pie exclaimed “You played a song!” My face was flushed with success and embarrassment. I should know this by now, shouldn’t I?

I understand this is why people quit learning. This fear of making a mistake and embarrassing yourself in front of others who are far more accomplished. It has nothing to do with my teachers, who are wonderful, and everything to do with me. So I don’t quit. I plug away, learning from videos and practicing with others. I fumble, and feel myself starting to get better. I am patient.

I’m very aware that my competitive spirit is at play here as well. I like to compete. I like to win. I remind myself, in today’s world competition has turned us all into winners and losers. And competition was not formed for that reason. The person in first place is meant to encourage the one in second place to try harder, who in turn encourages the third placer to try harder. Competition teaches us to strive, making it a cooperative venture, which is quite the opposite of how most people compete, I know. The older I get, the clearer it becomes. Life is a game. I am not here to win. I am here to play.

The song in my head this morning when I woke was “Tin Man” by America. The lyric with today’s message must be “Oz never did give nothing to the tin man that he didn’t … already have.”

The music is already in me. I will play on.

Ready for a slice of Pie? You can buy her music at cdbaby.com or listen to her at ReverbNation. Follow her here on facebook.
You can listen to Emma Tyme’s sweet voice on SoundCloud. Please, become a fan on facebook to find out where she plays next.

Shift your Fear

"Fuel Tank on Retro Motorcycle" courtesy of Viktor Hanacek at picjumbo.com
“Fuel Tank on Retro Motorcycle” courtesy of Viktor Hanacek at picjumbo.com

Your life is exactly as it should be.

During an argument, I once said to my daughter, “You’ve been upset with me for a while.”

She asked, “Why wouldn’t you bring it up and talk to me about it, if you knew?”

In that moment, I realized this is the very question I’ve asked my husband many times. But when it was asked of me, it was clear that I am not responsible for expressing her feelings. I am only responsible for expressing my own. That was my lesson during that heated discussion. Each of us is responsible for expressing our feelings, and only our own. It is not fair for me to expect Tom to know that I am feeling hurt or angry. It is not fair for me to expect him to pull those emotions out of me until I feel better. It is my responsibility.

If you ignore the lessons in your life, you will continue to be taught until the message gets through. Do you see the patterns in your life? What are you trying to learn?

I love the learning. I love the recognition that I have learned something of value. My most recent lesson is about fear.

Fear. It drives us. It moves us to make a choice, good or bad. It irritates, it denigrates, it denies. Fear sucks you in and takes control, unraveling your world, derailing your train of thought, unwinding the mental floss that you have worked so hard to organize. And it’s sneaky.

It doesn’t even have to be your fear. It can be the fear that someone else feels for you that works its way in to your subconscious and undermines the progress you’ve made. It can be collective fear of a generation, a country, the world. Fear is insidious, and subtle. It’s tricky and does not care if you feel it or not. It is something that you can use to change your life, to grow your life, or it can stagnate you. It can freeze you in the land of indecision.

I’ve been riding a motorcycle for four years. I felt fear when I was first learning. I wondered why I’d even entertained the notion that I could learn to ride a motorcycle at the age of forty-seven. I almost quit.

Then, I placed my feet firmly on the ground on either side of that bike, took a deep breath and learned how to do it anyway. It is one of my great joys. But it doesn’t come without a certain amount of fear. So many people are afraid for me, citing all the accidents that occur, and all the things that could go wrong. Most of the time, I brush the fears away. But every once in a while, something gets through. It’s the beginning of the riding season, and my back tire needs to be replaced. The tread is worn down. I’ve ordered new tires, but I still ride when I can in spite of the worn rubber on the road.

A friend told me I could spin out with that worn tread. It happens. I was visiting my parents and my father pointed out the bald tire, urging me to be careful. I wasn’t aware of how I was incorporating these fears until I rode down their gravel driveway. There is a grass path in the middle of the drive, and as I pushed the brake pedal to come to a stop before entering the roadway, my rear tire slid off that slippery grass and gravel, and the bike went down. I was not hurt. Not a scratch. But I was mad.

I had unconsciously made the fears of others my own. I had physically expressed those fears. My body tightened up, and I was not relaxed enough to react properly. I felt the fear in my body for a couple of days. That slipping tire almost kept me from riding the next day. It was eighty-five degrees out, a beautiful sunny day. I had to drive a couple of towns over, and I went outside and got in to my car. That never would have happened before fear crept in to my soul. I backed out of the driveway past my little red Rebel. It was a half-mile to the bottom of the hill. I drove three-quarters of the way down that hill before I said, “What the fuck am I doing?”

I turned around and moved my gear to the bike. I grabbed my helmet and started my journey again. This time, I acknowledged the fear, but rode anyway. I wasn’t being reckless. I was driving with care. I was feeling the joy of being on my bike. But I was pondering the level of fear that I had felt, and why I felt it.

It is always a choice to let fear control you, or recognize and acknowledge that you feel it, then ground yourself firmly in reality, and make the choice that is best for you. You may choose to listen to your fears. That’s okay. In fact, it’s good. That’s the reason that we feel it. It’s an early warning system for your intuition. But listening and blindly following through on whatever the fear prompts you to do are two completely different things.

Listen, and open your heart and eyes to the possibility that your fear may not be as big or monstrous as you assume. It’s human nature to turn what begins as a minor fear into a big, bad boogeyman hiding in the closet. You close your eyes, and delve beneath the covers, hoping that it won’t escape the confines of its enclosure and come out to get you. You picture it opening the door and peeking toward the bed, then gently stepping out into the room. As it nears, it gets bigger and nastier. The closer it gets, the more afraid you feel.

You can hide away, hoping that it won’t find you, or you can throw back the covers and pull out your courage. You can face the fear that threatens to overwhelm you. You can take action and vanquish it. Fuck it, anything’s got to be better than waiting for it to overcome you.

In taking action, you suddenly realize that you feel better. The fear is still there, but it’s not sending you into a panicked retreat. You remember how it was taking over your every thought, but your focus returns to the task at hand and it fades in to the background again. Action sends fear into a tailspin. It helps you see that the boogeyman you thought was coming for you is merely a shadow cast by the moon.

Action is the answer. Make a decision and take action. No matter the decision, as long as you are following your heart rather than your fear, it is the right decision. Believe that. Believe in yourself. Your life is exactly as it should be.

That’s right. Your life. Is exactly. As it should be. Even when you are cowering in fear of something that threatens to consume you. You are constantly learning, and you are constantly teaching. There is a lesson in everything we do, especially if it raises passionate feelings. Anger. Fear. Love. Hate. There is always a lesson. Are you learning yours?

Practically Imperfect

What She Knows

The first novel I published wasn’t pretty. It was edited well, up to a point. The writing style was relatively unpolished compared to the works of others whose work was published by major houses. I am a self-published author, relying on my own editing skills and the opinions of friends. While my skills are fairly decent, I am inexperienced in the world of novel-writing.

My book was written in the month of November for NaNoWriMo, and I highly recommend it to any aspiring authors. It gives the opportunity to experience pure writing without stopping to think or edit on the spot. Those things are saved for later. Sometimes the words you get are gold, sometimes not so much.

My story started out as a search for self, but half way through I became supremely bored with my main character. I knew if I was bored, my potential readers would lay the book aside, marking it as eminently forgettable. It was a conundrum. Someone had to die. Suddenly, my book took a turn into the raw world of cat and mouse thriller. My writing became edgier, my words more profane. By the time I finished the novel, it was something that I would have read, but I was a little embarrassed to have written it. I have a bit of a puritanical streak hidden deep in my rebellious bones, and I was shocked by my own language.

My husband read it, and took no issue with it. He liked the story, and liked the way I put bits and pieces of myself in it. He wasn’t concerned with the language. He lives with me. He knows I love to watch shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Deadwood.” When I had friends read it, I got some good responses, along with some strange looks. Perhaps they wondered if the emotional damage I portrayed in my characters lived inside of me. Maybe they were concerned that I might grab a knife and start spouting profanities at my … oops, don’t want to give too much away.

I wondered if Stephen King had the same problem. Could it be that with his first novel, he got weird looks from his readers? Did they grow afraid of the oddities that lurked in his mind and grew to live in the pages of his books? Ruben V. Nepales quotes King in an interview:

“When people ask about my childhood, I feel like it’s always a masked question—‘What screwed you up so badly?’” Stephen said, still grinning. “I had a fairly normal childhood [but] I had a big imagination. I still have nightmares. The nice thing about what I do is kind of psychoanalysis turned inside out. If you have fears and anxieties, you go to a psychiatrist and pay maybe $120 an hour to vent those fears.”

Laughing, he added, “I put my fears down on paper and people pay me to have a scare alone at night. So it’s good. I’m just there to enjoy scaring the s**t out of people.”

Not that I’m comparing myself to Stephen King, mind you. I have a long way to go. I have a lot more reading and writing to do. I’m willing to put that time in. I practice every day.

I am working on a second novel, and it’s very different from the first one. But it’s not finished yet. Who knows what will happen if my characters should begin to bore me. That’s the lovely thing about writing. It doesn’t have to be the same as real life. When I write, I immerse myself in another world until it wraps itself around the tendrils of my brain. I live in the world of my characters for a while.

I continue to learn about writing from other authors, most notably Holly Lisle. I take classes to improve my writing and my world-building skills. I have learned more about character development. My world is richer for it, and my characters are more complex. These new skills are subtle, and I’m aware of how they effortlessly bleed through in my novels. I can feel myself learning, and I love that feeling.

It’s like playing the ukulele. I started out knowing nothing. After a few lessons, I could play some basic songs. Each day that I pick it up, I learn more about it and I can feel my skills growing. That’s what practice does.

I practice writing daily. I practice playing my ukulele, but not daily. I practice yoga. I practice love and forgiveness. I’m not perfect at any of it, but as my friend Christie Inge says, it’s a practice, not a perfect. I’m still growing and I plan to continue until the end of this life. How about you?

Heart on the Mend

Waterlily by Schicka“Heart on the Mend”

by Nanna Aida Svendsen in Of Water Lilies and Warm Hearts

You are not here, a wise woman said,
to fill the hole
in other people’s souls.

You are here
to find the joy
in being who you are
and expressing
what you love.

You are here to find and Honor
the wisdom of your heart
the knowing of your soul,

and in the presence of your living love
others are more likely to remember
to find and to mend themselves.

Expectations and Acceptance

"Unchain Your Heart" (photo courtesy of Mommysaurus75 on flickr)
“Unchain Your Heart” (photo courtesy of Mommysaurus75 on flickr)

Happiness is a choice. Simplistic? Yes. Simple? No. But nevertheless, it is true.

This is not meant to belittle the problems that any of us face on a daily basis. Problems can pile up and overwhelm us. Issues can lead to chaos and clutter that overtake our lives, becoming an endless battle against imminent depression. Or you can take action, and choose to be happy. This is not at all simple. No.

I’ve written about forgiveness before, and the importance of forgiving yourself. I forgive myself daily. And I continue to learn. I once ended a friendship because I was appalled with my friend’s inability to learn. I wanted to fix her. I saw the deep issues she was facing, and denying, and I wanted to help. Ending it was a necessary step for me, because until I was out of that cycle of ignorance and want, I could not see that the only person I was capable of fixing was me. The end of the friendship led me in to the light. It helped me realize that I, too, had lessons to learn.

I struggled with my desire to fix her. At times, I struggle with my desire to fix everyone but me. Ultimately, I know that the only person I can help is myself. So I forgive myself. And I continue to work. I continue to learn. I still see her issues clearly, as I do with many of the people that I love. But I am aware that I can not fix her, or anyone else. I can see it without trying to fix it. The big lesson for me is to work on my own stuff, and let others work on theirs. Which leads me to expectation and acceptance.

Once I understood the lesson, I realized that what got me there in the first place were the expectations that I placed on our friendship. I believe what people tell me, and I expect that their actions will support their words and vice versa. I thought it was okay to have that expectation.

There’s a tricky thing, that. Expecting others to be what they pretend to be leads to disappointment when they can’t possibly live up to it all the time. It’s a slippery slope which takes me down the path toward moral outrage and the belief that I am right. That belief never lasts long. Often, merely seconds. Funny, I’m still waiting for the day when it no longer happens at all.

When I remove right and wrong from the equation, I also remove my expectation. When I remove expectation, disappointment and outrage are gone as well. What remains is what I started with in the beginning. Love.

Love is always there, but it gets masked by the expectations we have of the people that we love. I can clearly see the damage I was causing myself by staying in that friendship now. It was not so clear when I was in it. My overwhelming need to fix another person was hurting me. The anticipated loss of our friendship was more painful than the actual loss. I was surprised at the relief I felt when I allowed myself to express my mixed emotions, in spite of the pain I was pushing aside. I was even more surprised at the relief I felt when the dust settled. I was no longer tormented by jabs at my spirit for knowing too much.

I remember old friends with love. I have no control over how they remember me. In forgiving myself, I have also forgiven them for residual pain I felt because I expected what they could not give. In accepting this truth, I learned that I don’t need validation from anyone else. Is this knowledge powerful enough to rekindle old friendships? I doubt it. I have changed. I have no expectation of change from anyone else. A difficult and worthy life lesson.

Cynicism is the New Trust

“When you were young and your heart was an open book, you used to say live and let live (you know you did). But if this ever changing world in which we’re living makes you give in and cry, say live and let die.”

~ Paul McCartney

Odd, it happened for many years. My live and let live phase. I didn’t get cynical. I believed. I believed so much that I thought parents always looked out for their children’s best interests, because mine always did. I believed so much that I thought people told the truth when they sold you something, because that’s what I do. I believed so much that I thought friends were exactly who they appeared to be. Was it naiveté? Was it stupidity?

My inner critic shouts yes to the second question. “Stupid, stupid girl,” he says, because of course he’s a man. “For such an intelligent woman, you are taken in by an awful lot of people. Why is that? Is it perhaps because you’re not quite as smart as you thought you were?”

That’s enough of that. He’s had his way long enough. Shut the fuck up, mr. inner critic. You’re not even important enough to warrant capitilization.

I have grown distrustful of doctors and lawyers, police and politicians alike. Funny, those last two. They derive from the Greek word polis which means city. Probably why I live in the country. I recognized that I have a problem with authority figures a long time ago. My problem lies in my trust and belief in them. So I started questioning authority. But my respect for authority has been so deeply bred in to my bones, that I used to say “yes, sir”  more often than not.

Not necessarily a bad thing. But to be in total agreement with someone without questioning their motives has taken me five decades to overcome. Even after significant betrayals in my twenties, I still trusted people at face value — or at uniform value as the case may be.

The army loves people like me. “Do it, because I said so.” Like an overbearing parent. Ineffectual without something to back it up. But the army also hates people like me, because although I may be slow in coming to full realization, eventually it hits me. At which point, I passionately and vigorously fight the status quo.

When someone is something other than what they appear to be, my instincts kick in. Some people are very good at it, hiding in plain sight. Politicians have become masters of this skill. Being what others want, hiding what they are. I have always had difficulty with that particular set of skills myself. Love me or hate me, I am who I am. There’s no going back. I live in the present and move on. Is there really any other way? Some people prove there is, but it’s not the life for me.

As the years have passed, I have become more outspoken. My opinions are my own, and though I will listen to what you have to say, I keep my own counsel. I have learned that those who take on the opinions of others risk losing themselves. I have learned that those who say yes to everything, find that nothing is left. I have learned that friends who wish you to be someone other than who you are, are not true friends. I have learned that while sometimes you should believe in magic beans, you must always be wary of trading the cow. I have learned to create my own magic.

These words seem simple. The lessons in them were difficult. I am still learning. And that is the key, really. Never stop looking for answers to the questions. Never stop forming questions. Always wonder if what someone is telling you is for your own good, or if it is for theirs. Either way, it’s okay. As long as both of you are aware of what is really going on.

I choose to agree with someone because I want to believe in them. Not because they have swayed me in any particular direction, although that does happen. I am like a tree, with branches swaying in the breeze. No matter how big the storm that blows, my roots are deeply grounded. And the older I get, the harder it is to knock me down.

For better or worse

Seventeen years ago, Tom and I chose to blend our five children into one family. It was with lots of love and patience that we did this, because at times it was a rocky road. I remember speaking to my mother about disagreements Tom and I had on raising our children. Mom said she didn’t think it had anything to do with the differences of biological offspring versus stepchildren. She recalled similar disagreements with my father on child-rearing.

Money and children are two of the biggest hotspots for disagreements in a marriage. Of course, there are plenty of other stressors that sideswipe your once happy relationship. Poor communication skills often send your marriage into crisis mode. Given time, some issues could lead you down the road toward divorce. Before you consider that, you should ask yourselves if either of you are interested in saving what remains of your relationship. Or would you prefer to take the investment you’ve made and throw it all away in favor of beginning again with somebody new? If saving what remains is your choice, read on.

The complications and stressors in a marriage are comparable to soup through a strainer. If you have ever strained liquid through a screen in hopes that all the free floating particles be strained out of the liquid, then you’ll understand this analogy. The liquid being clarified is the love that you feel for one another. The solids represent the stress. All the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life. Arguments about money, about how to raise the children, about work, about love, about life. All of your disagreements are represented by the stuff that’s floating in this brew.

What you need is the nourishing broth. That’s what really heals. But all the other stuff gets in the way. And when you strain it, the screen clogs up to the point where no love gets through. It can’t make its way through all of the stuff that’s blocking it. The way through is to remove some of the blockage and stir that stuff up.

That’s the painful part of it. You have to question whether or not the relationship is worth stirring all that stuff up. You both have to be committed to communicating with each other, and try to convey your feelings without taking it personally. This is incredibly difficult. You are talking about things which have far-reaching meaning. Intimacy issues. Parents. Children. Finances. Self-worth. Blame. Control. Right and Wrong.

You both have to be willing to be nice to one another. To consider each other’s feelings. To learn how to communicate with out creating a sar-chasm. To listen with out taking it personally. Because that is what happens. There is an infinitely vast space between you created by the bitter words that you’ve both spoken. Sometimes that bitterness is sneaky. You may think that what you are saying is reasonable, but you could be pushing buttons in your partner that you didn’t even know were there.

In order to save your relationship, and create a more stable foundation, you must both be willing to change the way you communicate. Refuse to treat your partner as a whipping boy. Refuse to respond as a victim. And stop blaming yourselves and each other. It can no longer be about who is right or who is wrong. You must not point fingers at one another. You must open your hearts and your minds. You can be right, or you can be happy. It’s a choice.

You must be willing to take a look in the mirror and see the parts of yourself that you could improve. See yourself clearly. And forgive yourself. Let it be in the past. Once you have forgiven yourself for all of the things that you believe you may have done wrong, then forgive each other for all of the hurts, perceived or otherwise. Tabula Rasa. It’s time to wipe the slate clean, and take care of one another again.

Be willing to discuss all the issues, not just the surface issues. If there are money problems, including disagreements about spending or saving habits, be willing to discuss them without blame. If there are differences in raising your children, do not point fingers or castigate your partner for doing something “wrong.” You have lovely, strong, wonderful children. Believe it or not, they love you no matter what kind of mistakes you make, and both parenting styles have value. Allow each other to be human. Your children will see the good examples that you set when you are willing to concede that you make mistakes. They will also see that you support each other no matter what. That’s important.

If there are intimacy issues, then be willing to talk about those as well. Sex is one of the hardest things to discuss. But it is a necessary part of marriage. Intimacy is important. Sharing each others bodies is the same as sharing each others souls. Don’t be shy about sharing yourselves and your innermost fears and desires in this area as well. If you tend to hold back in this area, then be willing to explore. And if you would like more from your partner, either sexually or emotionally, then be clear about that as well.

Once you start to crack the communication door, the floodgates may open. Be gentle with each other. Be receptive. Be honest. Treat each other with respect and tenderness. Take care of your partner as if he or she were a two-year-old. We don’t blame a child for irrational responses to a situation. He is still learning, right? So are you and your partner. But don’t condescend. Support one another as if you were best friends.

Your marriage is worth saving because when you married you had this vast sea of love between you, and you swam in it joyfully back then. Remind each other of how you felt when you were courting. Find time to spend together outside of your parenting time. Plan to go out together at least one night a week. This is not an easy thing, because life gets in the way. We make up excuses why it can’t be done. Not enough money. Too tired. The kids need us. No babysitter. All of these things are easily solved. There are ways to go out without spending money, even if it’s just for a long stroll through town, holding hands and talking. You can trade off with another couple for babysitting. Drink more coffee to wake up. And the kids need you more together, rather than living in the same house apart.  Whether you realize it or not, you both need the same thing. Love and respect. Gentle reminders when you backslide in to old habits. A blank slate each day. Each minute, if necessary.

Remember the love, because that’s what it all boils down to. That’s why we are here in this world.

Unlocking Your Fear

It is not what is seen that we most fear. It is the unseen. The things we most fear do not lie outside of us, but inside. We create our own fears, sometimes out of something so small and irrational that it’s laughable. Anyone who has seen the fears of a very young child understands this. What is not clearly understood is how those fears are carried through life with us. Children recognize the drama in our lives big or small, and they respond to it with abandon.

Linda Wojcik is a Nutritional Kinesiologist and Spiritual Intuitive. She is a healer. I was working with Linda several years ago, and as she reads your energy she often will associate your current issue with a certain time in your life. This time, she told me I was very young — maybe three or four — when a trauma had occurred in my life. Of course, my conscious mind was unaware of what that trauma could have been. I immediately wondered if I had blocked something horrible, and now I was subconsciously attempting to work through it. I was terrified of what I might find. The only ones who could help me remember were my parents.

That summer, I had the opportunity to travel to China with my mother. We were there for about ten days, and we spent our nights sharing various motel rooms throughout China. It gave us plenty of opportunities to speak. One night under cover of darkness, as we lay in our twin beds separated by only a few feet of space, I bridged the gap.

“Mom?”

“Yeah?” she responded, her voice a little sleepy.

“Do you remember anything traumatic that might have happened to me when I was little? Maybe around the age of three of four?”

She thought about it briefly and then brought a memory to the forefront. Something that had bothered her, clearly. Every mother knows that guilt. “We lived in Dansville. We were getting ready to move, and I was pregnant with Theron. You were very whiny that day, clinging to my legs in the kitchen. We were packing to move to the house we live in now, and I had had enough. I yelled at you to go find something else to do.” Her voice reflected the exasperation she must have felt at the time. “You wandered off, and after a while I wondered where you had gone. So I went to look for you. I found you sound asleep on the couch. Your face was flushed. I felt your forehead, and you were burning up. I lifted up your shirt to check, and sure enough I saw the spots. You had chicken pox.” Her voice trailed off.  Then she said, “I felt so bad for sending you away. You were sick, and I didn’t know it.”

As I listened to this story from my childhood, a moment in time that I had no memory of, tears were streaming down my cheeks and onto the hard mattress beneath me. “Thanks, Mom,” I whispered. I knew. I knew it in my soul. This was the trauma that Linda had sensed. This small moment in time when I needed my mother, and she was overwhelmed and unable to deal with my needs for a brief while. It was not a big bad monster in my closet. It was a small fear that I had carried with me for years, and it had grown far out of proportion to the actuality. A fear of abandonment had grown exponentially until it overwhelmed me in subtle ways as an adult.

I thought of all the moments when I had to take care of myself as a single mother, rather than attend to my children’s needs. Like when I went in to take a bubble bath while Madison pounded outside the door, wanting desperately to be in there with me. I was overwhelmed, and I was afraid that if I didn’t get time for myself I would hurt my children. So I chose to do something which would cause less pain. I wondered what fears I had created in my children because of small moments in time like that. I judged myself.

But while I listened to my Mom tell me that story, I did not judge her. I empathized with her. I understood her. I cried for her as much as the little girl I had been. I knew that she had done the best she could. My parents took care of me and my brothers and sister to the best of their ability. We had a good childhood. Often strict, but also full of laughter and adventures galore. So why did I judge myself as a parent? Why could I not feel empathy for myself?

It is ourselves for whom we reserve the harshest criticisms and judgements. Anyone who has a tendency to be critical toward others is sure to heap criticism upon themselves in overwhelming amounts. They stuff it deeply away in the locked rooms of their soul, and let it pile up until it leaks out as more criticism toward someone else. And those small fears, those minor traumas we feel as children become something much grander in our subconscious minds. They are the boogeyman. They are the monster under the bed.

Those fears are what keep us from opening our hearts to the people in our lives. It’s not rational, but it exists. And if something truly horrible occurs, the guilt and shame, the anger and pain are all criticized and hidden away. Frozen in time and mind. Locked tightly up so that we don’t have to deal with it ever, ever again.

But those horrors also creep out in subtle ways. Damaging relationships and our ability to communicate with friends and lovers. We reject anyone who recognizes the damage, pushing them away before they can reveal the secrets. We refuse to speak to them, calling on anyone else who will sympathize. We fan the flames of our fears, and bolster our insecurities. Because they are safer than the memories that are locked away in time.

Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with your soul. Explore your fears, and put them to rest. They are not so big and bad. You don’t see them as long as you hide them away. And those unseen fears are hurting you more than anyone else. Open up those stuffed and locked rooms in your mind. Explore them through therapy. Explore them with trusted friends. But explore them.

Trying to control your hidden monsters, and keeping them locked out of sight makes them stronger. It is only when you choose to unlock the memories and set the monsters loose, that you learn how inflated they have become. What you thought was truly terrifying can only hurt you when you keep it locked away. So go ahead, release the monkeys. You may find that you are the one with wings, and the more fears you shed the lighter you become. You will achieve unimaginable heights if you have the courage to release your fears.

Does love equal trust?

Love and trust. A facebook friend recently posted a status which ended with the words Love = Trust. Something that a romance novel tells us must be true. It’s one part of the fiction that people tend to believe.

Love and trust sometimes go hand in hand, but trust is fluid when you love someone. For many different reasons. Sometimes it’s your baggage that makes it come and go. Sometimes it’s the actions of your partner that make it come and go. Their actions, and your reaction to them, determine the fluctuating levels of trust.

Let it go
Thank you to Penelope’s Pen for this image.

It’s a romantic fantasy to think that you will always trust everything that your lover says or does. The person who believes their partner one hundred percent of the time is either very foolish or very naive. The same goes for friendships. We all hold stuff back. For very personal reasons, known only to the keeper of the secrets.

But trust should not be taken lightly in any relationship. It’s the stuff that good fiction is made of. Broken promises litter the dramatic landscape of any story you read or watch on television. They also litter our emotional landscape on a daily basis.

“I’m going to finish this today,” she says. Yet it remains unfinished when the day is done.

“I’ll be working late,” he says, as he opens the door to another hotel room.

“Thanks, man. I’m going to pay you back.” he promises.

“I’m going to …” Fill in the blank. We say them and hear them all the time. The amount is up to you. The number of times that you make a promise, implicit or otherwise to another person, and then break it determines the level of trust that is felt in your relationship.

Think of the friend who promised to be there when you need her. Think of the lover who promised that he will be home on time. Think of the parent who promised to come to the big game or the big show. Watch how your children struggle as they learn to lie or tell you the truth. We all know someone who has broken a promise to us, either large or small. And we all love that person anyway.

One Person

Love and trust are not equal, nor do they go hand in hand. We do not need complete trust in order for love to last. We need communication. We need growth. We need the ability to understand the person standing next to you is as human as you are, and as capable of mistakes. Both big and small. With that understanding comes the chance to rebuild the trust. Without it, the trust fades and someone’s heart is about to be broken. Any given minute of the day.

Don’t believe the story. It’s the love that counts. You create the level of trust that you want in your relationship, whether friend or lover, parent or child, sibling or other, with every action you take and every word you speak. For the levels of trust to rise, you must each be willing to communicate and grow your relationship. Otherwise, it fails because the trust level falls. You choose the amount of trust that flows through the love. Make sure it’s at a level you can live with, or the relationship will be certain to end.

Broken Relationship

 

 

What are you leaving out?

What are you redacting out of your life? I love what Maggie Hollinbeck has to say, the profound questions she asks. The unflinching response. She works so hard to stay true to her Self and it’s inspirational. I know there has been much that I redacted, and each time that I do it I can feel it like a tap on my soul. It’s that gentle nudge that my spirit gives me to let me know that I’m being untrue to my Self.

Recently, I’ve learned to listen to that nudge. I’ve learned to fully express myself in the moment. I’ve learned to understand that when I’m being false, or justifying my reasons (which leads me to my favorite fallback position of martyrdom) if I take a moment to find the right words, it makes all the difference. The other night I felt that nudge with my husband Tom. I expressed myself and as soon as the words were released, so were the feelings.  As soon as we spoke about it, I felt better. Instead of holding in my resentment and allowing it to control me, allowing it to create a pocket of space between us — unhealthy space — I let it go. And I loved him more, if that were possible.

This is something that I’ve learned most certainly from my recent experience with a friend. It’s something that I profoundly wish that she explores, so that she may face the pain it brings to the forefront and release it. I’ve met many women in the past couple of years who have helped me in one way or another figure out what’s going on inside. Figure out how to be true to me, how to care for me. Without feeling selfish.

Sometimes that growth has been painful, because there were things — people — that I didn’t want to let go of. But those people aren’t gone. They’re following their own paths. They may  live with their eyes closed to the possibility of whole hearted living, or they may choose to open their hearts and see. That is what I choose. I will no longer cut those feelings out. I will explore them. I will feel them. I will pay attention to them. I will surrender to the honesty of who I am. I have no control over anyone but myself. And I will always choose to be true to my Self. Because I lived for far too many years listening to the voices of others, the opinions of others. People who told me I was wrong. People who told me that I wasn’t as good as, or as strong as, or that it wasn’t possible. People who rolled their eyes when I spoke of pursuing a dream. People who sniggered when I shared my truth. But I am very aware of what is possible. I believe.

Whole hearted living is exactly what I meant by living with my heart open. Open hearts and open minds are important, but there must be thoughtfulness that accompanies that. The intuitive nudges that you receive become louder and louder if you refuse to listen to them. They become stronger and stronger. They push you and pull you closer to your edge until you explode out of the circle that you’ve confined yourself in. I will no longer confine my Self. I refuse to be put in a box. I refuse to be labelled. I refuse to listen to those who would judge me without knowing the story. I choose to forgive. I choose to remember. I choose to love in spite of it all. I choose to accept all that happens with a complete and whole heart, knowing that I have done what I needed in each moment to take care of myself. That when I chose not to do that, the pressure built inside of me until it exploded out and once it was out, I was found again. I was not lost. I was found. I am here. I am whole. I am love.

For the first time in my life, I feel as though I am building my Self up, rather than tearing my Self down. A significant change in my patterns and behaviors. I intend to hold on to that change. It is my choice.