How I got my Roar Back (part one)

So I’ve gotten my authentic roar back.  Spirit/genius woke me up super early to share about the bumpy growth ride to get here and she wants to make certain that I can still write. 

This summer I’ve been a loud tigress a couple of times as an embodied choice.  I even scared myself it was so LOUD in my own head and being!  Now my Peaceful Parents in the crowd may cringe and worry about my ability to regulate but let me assure, I am actually functioning in a far more instinctual and embodied way.  I woke up this morning because I read something yesterday on a Peaceful Parenting post that made me restless.  It was about how kids raised in kindness without discipline show up bad.  The comment was made by a nanny who had a horrific time taking the kids she cared for out into the world.  There were all kinds of helpful comments about strategies and understanding that a child raised with peaceful internal strategies may show up badly to more authoritative onlookers as they are figuring things out and this takes more time than simply obeying out of fear.  Absolutely true said my internal voice and then the nanny said one child is aggressive and attacks other kids and the mother told her this is how he is working up and out his big feelings.  

All the Peaceful Parents in the room are now thinking uh oh… that’s not it and that certainly isn’t what I am doing…

In full truth, my own child was allowed to treat me badly occasionally for almost 2 solid years.  I thought I was showing him boundaries and clear communication through kind understanding as he was figuring out how to treat me, trying on ugly behaviors, discerning from an internal place how to treat those he loves. YES, AND I was also unconsciously allowing and processing the repetition of my own abuse trauma. As a younger one he was sweet and this never came to the surface.  I never allowed him to hit me or others but he would hurt his father physically.  Confusing for me was this type of roughhousing as I had no father play in my own life, I couldn’t help guide my spouse.  My child sometimes left marks on my husband’s body. The abuse recipient repetition was there for my partner too. Despite the many neuroregulatory benefits of rough play, trauma from his abusive past was echoing through as well. 

My kiddo wasn’t beating up strangers in the park.  These were nuanced leaks of the transgenerational trauma. Attacking outside of our family would have been obvious for us.  Instead, he was beating on us. I don’t share this to shame either myself, my partner nor my kiddo as we are so clearly a learning/healing/growing family.  No one has done any permanent damage and we get to clean up from where we slipped off track.  

I am motivated to share this growing awareness because it can help each of us who are dis-integrating cycles of abuse move more lovingly and with more freedom as we choose to parent differently.  If someone would have told me this stealthy part of my trauma was showing up a few years ago, I would have defended my child’s behavior and my chosen kindness parenting strategy to the death.  And I have defended a few of his behaviors over the past couple of years that were absolutely disrespectful.  I have developed the protect part of motherhood beautifully over the years, dis-integrating the lack of my own protection as a child…and now it follows, that I get to extend this protection towards myself.

These leaks of the past I am describing came to a head this spring while home hiking with a friend. She noticed the way my child was talking to me and reflected it back for me.  She leaned in with utter CARE and asked, “Is he ok? I’ve noticed a real change in him toward you.”  The way she loves me and the way I trust her as a mother had me listening and observing.  It was true.  I’m tired.  I’ve been alone so much. There were so many reasons that I had not reeled him in this year.  Devastatingly, the instinctual part of me that had once existed to protect myself was misfiring. In addition, for my partner the instinctual stand for the protection of mother was dangerous territory in his own home growing up and was certainly not modeled.  Trauma blocked him from the assist I needed.  It’s in these wobbly places where our painfully paired traumas with our partners line up that rough waters form.  Thanks to a year separated from our village combined with homeschooling, this year’s isolation has surfaced the leaks to where we could get ahold of them and begin to ask questions and then take them to a professionals for help. Without the support of our village, we could see ourselves more clearly through the unmistakable change in our child’s behaviors.

This necessary function of self protection was literally beaten from my body as a little child.  The compiling power of neglect from being partnered with someone in surgical training for so long had seduced me back into an older historical version of myself that relished the painful familiarity of neglect, the repetition of someone who should love me making no time for me.  Three fathers taught me that I was not worth their time.  The decade of neglect in my marriage had refreshed these ugly stories of my worthlessness. Without my friends and village to turn to, my marriage was also on full display this year.

Ya’ll I thought I had beaten these dragons already!  I bet by now you are seeing how difficult it could be to peacefully parent from this place missing this integrity inside myself.  And yet, I recognized the pattern and I am doing something differently!!!!!!

This is turning into a book. I am going to stop here so now that means you get to stay tuned for part two of: How I got my Roar Back…..

The Mirror

Copyright SNL

I was recently asked by someone I trust to gaze into a mirror and sense what I see there and to create, write, draw from the experience. I have done versions of this exercise over the years with different groups and each time I immediately start laughing as my mind heads straight to the safety of an old Stuart Smalley Saturday Night Live skit where he sits poised in front of the mirror affirming, “I’m good enough.  I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me.”  It still makes me laugh because like all good humor it helps me safely traverse into a core space where I am not fully comfortable.  Humor can be a safe and excellent vehicle to ride into bumpy unconscious territory.  However, the place of growth and the deeper work of comedy requires that we stay for a moment in the place where the laugh touches us.  

Historically, my reflection has taken me for such unpleasant rides that the new house in ABQ simply doesn’t have a full length mirror.  So when I was invited to this exercise I immediately felt great relief because guess who’s 1950s medicine cabinet mirror stops at her neck?  Thus far my hair and my face/neck have been a relatively safe place to see.  I will occasionally stop and ponder the gray hairs and the newly forming desert wrinkles but then somehow I can just laugh and say,”This is what a desert witch looks like!”  And that’s enough to stop the meanness in its tracks.  South of my neck things get a lot harder and the stories get nastier.  I know in my heart that not one of these narratives I am utilizing to hurt myself is mine.  No child is born thinking this way.  I have been programmed.  I am immersed in that programming of self hatred on the daily. Patriarchy and capitalism both depend greatly upon women hating themselves.  This way we are easier to control and to sell unnecessary treatments, products, clothing, diets etc.  If you doubt me read the following from Research and Markets:

The global market for weight loss products and services should grow from $254.9 billion in 2021 to reach $377.3 billion by 2026, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.2% during the forecast period of 2021-2026.

As an investor this may help you know where to put some of your money over the next few years.  As a woman, this fact ought to open your eyes up to what is happening and why it is so hard to look at ourselves naked.  Our culture perpetuates self hatred as a commodity.   If you think weight loss products are about health, reach out to me so we can discuss that lie.  They’re not.  Awareness, intuition, clarity, self loving are the products/sources of actual health and it is a precious few folks who will sell you the treasure maps to get to these sacred places because each of these makes you less vulnerable to outside control.

In continuation of my work on the Norse Goddesses, this moon I am currently studying the goddess/valkyrie Eir and it is within her battlefield surgical clarity that I choose to bravely meet my reflection, below my neck.  I recognize today the complex social war on my ability to love my body and myself fully.  I am more fired up than ever to reclaim my birthright, my body EXACTLY as she is this day.  

I am beautiful.  I’m good enough.  And doggone it, people like me.  I choose me. 

(my secret hope is that you choose you too)

Happy Valentine’s. Show YOUR body some LOVE today. Tell her the truth. I’m going start doing the same.

Gratitude is a Radical Act

Life and people can take certain things away from you, and a lot of that is out of your control — but no one can take away a grateful heart and mindset of abundance. -Thomas Oppong

Human beings are currently culturally programmed into fear-based thought and action.  If you doubt the validity of this sentence look at the reality of the world we are living in currently.  Resources are being grabbed and seized from one another and our Earth with such rapidity that we are beginning to secure our own demise.  Gratitude is not a natural state for an adrenalized human.  Gratitude is a radical act and requires cultivated skills to hold against the tide of I’m gonna get mine.  Also, what if what you already have is enough to fill your heart?  What kind of consumer would you become? With utter clarity, I say that capitalism doesn’t love a grateful heart. 

Gratitude is a radical act. Today I have sat myself down and made time to explore this critical subject.  In an attempt to understand the way gratitude moves in my body and being I am creating a gratitude wheel.  Slowly as I form the words of this wheel, gratitude is growing within me and I am beginning to feel my entire being shift from my baseline sympathetic to a more relaxed parasympathetic state.  I’ve noticed today that for true gratitude to arise, a decent size pause is required.  In the busy to-do list machinations within my mind, gratitude has insufficient space for its long languid legs.  Very interesting to me there were some tears that came when I allowed myself to truly embody my gratitude.  Grief moved within me as some of the things I am most grateful for I am preparing to move physically away from.  This makes sense when I remember that grief is praise as Matín Prechtel teaches. Praise and gratitude place me in a space of deeper vulnerability than I usually inhabit in my day to day.

When I am in my baseline critical mind there is a nice porcupine shell of antipathy that forms all around my heart that helps keep me safe from anyone getting to close or hurting me.  It also cuts me off from any chance of meaningful relating.  It’s a choice at some level and I would love to have a bit more conscious awareness around this decision.  Over the past year, I have had to develop the skills/be coached into learning how to celebrate the wins in my life.  There is plenty to celebrate in my life. Yet, in my German protestant upbringing celebrating others and God forbid, celebrating myself is utter heresy.  I have found clear evidence that without the ability to celebrate self, the likelihood of being able to celebrate others slides to a near zero.  In my growing ability to self celebrate, I react and act differently with others I am relating to and have become markedly less critical.

Cultivating gratitude is a conscious choice.  What I am recommending isn’t a spiritual bypass.  I can fully embrace the value of my porcupine critical voice and create a gratitude wheel in the same moment.  In fact, I am grateful for my critical mind. That same sharp mind is what allows me to communicate in a meaningful way. What I am working towards in my life is greater balance.  Can I soften into gratitude as easily as I can identify what is not working in a situation?  This conscious awareness, this mindfulness, is what it is all about for me.  

I hope you get a chance to create a gratitude wheel.  It has been an amazing journey this morning.

Melancholy Light

Every fall, I am moved by the changing cycle.  I feel it, this soft type of grief. There is a palpable shift from the joy and freedom of summer to the dark and quiet corners of the coming winter.  Beautifully today, I was able to sense this heart/throat squeezing sensation.  This is my body’s way of expressing the discomfort of suppressed grief.  There’s a big part of me that would rather just drink a bit more caffeine, grab a bit of dark chocolate and just rev past this uncomfortable feeling all together.  (I tried both to no avail.) Thankfully, my writing has the magic ability to pull me toward the tough feels rather than away. Writing gives me courage to wander in the darker spaces. Writing helps me to slow down and sit with what’s there and work it outward from the ethereal emotional body into expression.  I know that autumn affects more than just me and writing this for you, helps me be a better friend to us both.  

Today I became super aware of the diminishing light and the increasing darkness.  The new moon put me to sleep in darkness and I woke in utter darkness. And yet, I find myself participating just as intensely in our modern world.   Unending demands and fluorescent lighting help blunt any chance of a natural responses to changing seasons.  What if as the light changes I allow myself to slow down? Less light meaning, way less production and way more resting. What if I were to intentionally lower my overhead, lower the demands I put on myself in respect to the changing light?  What if I were to sync myself with the coming change? These are the questions that came to me. But, not one of them would help me escape the deeper lessons of the darkness this time around.    

Fall is a predictable teacher of decay and death.  We are offered a simple practice run at our own release from this body, Every. Single. Year.  If we choose to look in. I will admit, I’m not terribly excited about my own mortality. And yet, what I have found is that my resistance to this space takes more energy than just freaking looking at it.  Taking the moment to pause, to feel that ache in my heart as I remember that my life in this body is not permanent. I too will will fall, like these leaves. And, yes, I will leave those that I love dearly behind.  Uffffa. Tears. Ugh. Yes. This is the heart of my autumn blues.  

I have spent years trying to figure out what was wrong with me this time of year.  Turning on more lights thinking, “Oh this is seasonal affective disorder.”  When in fact, it is just this light brush with mortality that brings actual, palpable grief.  What I have learned is this: There is nothing to heal, change or subvert. Grief is simply another teacher that I am learning to welcome.  This one needs a bit more space. This teacher needs for me to slow time way down. This teacher requires deep tenderness. And then, together standing authentically and kindly with my grief, I can be present to the beauty of this colorful play of transition before me. 

The Smell of Rain on Dust is one of my favorite reads on grief.  In this gorgeous book Martin Prechtel writes, “Grief is praise for this life.”  The more willing I am to allow myself the tenderness I need for grief, the greater my praise for this life becomes.  So if you see me this time of year, my radiant smile may be on pause, and my hand may be resting on my heart, so that I can truly be with this season of my life.

Anxiety and Clarity

thai forest

I am raising a sensitive child.  He’s beautifully aware of so much all at once.  I see myself in him sometimes and it triggers the remembrances of the hardships and pain that being a deeply feeling being in our world can lend the soul.  I was recently listening to a Zen podcast that was gifted to me by a friend on the Buddhist concepts of samvega and pasada. Samvega according to Thanisarro Bhikkhu is this:  the oppressive sense of shock, dismay, and alienation that come with realizing the futility and meaninglessness of life as it’s normally lived; a chastening sense of our own complacency and foolishness in having let ourselves live so blindly; and an anxious sense of urgency in trying to find a way out of the meaningless cycle.  So in other words, when we turn off laptops, pull out our earbuds and put down our phones, and we allow ourselves to become aware of the depth of suffering and pain the world contains, we get appropriately anxious. The beauty of the unrest of samvega is that this discomfort can become the driving force to deeper practice and spiritual investigation.  And eventually if enough of us do this, I think humans may have a chance at survival. “For saṃvega to be an effective drive to practice, it must be accompanied by another emotion called pasada, a “clarity and serene confidence.”  Unexpectedly, we find if we trust and appreciate our anxiety that it can become a rich source of energy for developing our own clarity and confidence.  In my life, this has absolutely been true. Developing this flow between samvega and pasada has taken time and great amounts of mindfulness practices.  I write this piece as a warning because I think there is so much out there attempting to lead us away from our anxiety and fears. Pharmaceuticals, alcohol, meditation retreats, Facebook, shopping, religion, righteousness, (this list goes on forever) all offering us a chance to be free from fear and dismay. There is simply so much in place culturally to numb us to the extraordinary force of our own discomfort.  I am working daily to simply recognize when it is there and to not run. I currently take tiny sips of the news and human suffering. I feel for my planet, her waters and all her children as I can handle in any given moment. It’s pretty intense for me still. And, thankfully, I have my practices to bring me mindfully back to what is in front of me in this very moment. The feeling of the keyboard beneath my fingertips, the support of my chair.  My warm cup of tea next to me. It sounds so simple right? But my ability to pull my mind where I’d like it to look has been much like training a wild horse. Sometimes I get to ride and more often I get to simply observe the beauty of my wildness.

In closing, I want to see us as a culture learn to trust our fears and discomfort. For me personally, I am working to not immediately turn away from pain and yet, be gentle with myself when I need to do exactly this. This has been my experience of these beautiful concepts.  This is what I am teaching my child to help him navigate this crazy world with a tender, open heart.

 

Deep tenderness to you.  To our fears. May they serve our highest good.