mindingmybiz

This blog is my shared process in working towards integrating self-awareness with all other aspects of life, while on my way to becoming more authentic and whole.

Life Ownership

life-keyesWe esteem Home ownership status in our society, but what about Life ownership?

Currently this is a major theme of mine that’s been coming to the forefront, thanks to pain and discomfort that accompanies crises life.

Seriously – I’ve been known to say this before — pain is my greatest teacher.  It’s incredibly effective when I don’t numb it out, but instead honor it, because I’ve learned to recognize the wisdom it brings me.  I cheat myself out of receiving this deeply personal wisdom when I numb out to it through blaming others.  When I won’t look squarely at how I’ve contributed to any of this mess – either by acts of omission or commission, in an honest and compassionate way, I miss out.  Big time.

When I resort to blaming others for all the hard things in my life and about all the circumstances I don’t like, I am also welcoming their future return.  I’m not setting boundaries with them by taking responsibility of what I did or didn’t do that somehow left my life open to these hardships, albeit through the back door.  This is not about self-blame, because that involves shame and usually leads to blaming others.  It’s about taking ownership of my life which involves respecting my own power, not misusing it.

Having self-compassion is the foundation for practicing this essential adult life skill.  Practicing self-compassion is nurtured through being in relationship with others, even if it’s just one person to start with, who values this practice and supports mine.  This notion of being healthy and strong translating into me not needing others to support me has been exhausting itself.  This belief that I shall dismiss my own desires and needs for another to affirm and validate me is incredibly American.  By American, I mean it’s new and trendy (our long history of human culture doesn’t reflect this), it’s manufactured by a masked fear of vulnerability, hyper-independence, and glamorized isolation.

There is a word of caution to take from this fear of vulnerability though.  That word is balance.  You don’t need ALL of your support to come from others, and you don’t need NONE of your support to come from others — you need SOME of your support to come from others.  Interdependence.  Not independence or codependence.  It’s about balance, allowing for fluidity and flexibility in the middle while staying away from rigid extremes of the all-or-none whiplash.

I am waking up.  I am no longer taking the bait of blaming others for the exchange of false security.  There’s nothing secure about relinquishing my personal power and hitting the replay button on all of my painful experiences, only to play out in a slightly different scenario later on.  The cost is too much to not own up and grow up.  I really can afford taking responsibility for my life and owning it, while not taking the results so personally.  I can’t control results and outcomes.  Life ownership has limitations too because I’m part of an ecological environment, a larger than me reality.  I can only influence outcomes the best I can by taking responsibility for my choices, and then letting life unfold, the best I can.

“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.”  – Epictetus.

 

 

My Story: The Foreword…

my-storyI don’t know where this will lead, but I can hear the voice of Lady Gaga saying – just dance. just write.

I. Must. Write.

Write about what I know, which is my unfolding story as I go.  Of which I don’t know the ending or sometimes where I am in the midst of that story.  I don’t have the time or luxury to wait and edit it a thousand times before I click the “Publish” button, and as the hyper-self-critic and digressing kind of blogger that I can be, it irks me.  Yet there’s also this wildly defiant and ambitiously wise voice inside of me saying, “Go for it, Kristen — who gives a shit”.  That voice has been getting louder and louder.  Oh the paradox.

That is my life in one word: Paradox

So, I don’t know where this will land.  It feels very much like I’m writing my story to fearlessly make sense out of it for myself.  A key ingredient in that process is sharing it with who knows who.  I see myself writing as I go, while attaching my writing to a balloon, and releasing it into the sky, or a glass bottle and placing it in the river and — letting go.

A-ha.  That’s it.  Right there.  THAT must be why I need to just write without much forethought or agenda other than to just get it out – to let it go.  Huh.  Imagine that.  In order to let it go, I need to — let it go.  Huh.  Profound.

But that means I am letting go of control.  And in looking around at my life I see that control is how I’ve seemed to try and remedy my fears of what I cannot control.  I’ve had the propensity to try harder to control what I cannot control.  It’s hard being so human sometimes.  Especially when I am admittedly, a bit of a free-spirited tight-ass, so this is really reeeeeeally hard to NOT do.

I’m trying to tease out for you and me, why I do such seemingly crazy things, like write about my life in an open book format.  So vulnerable, yet so powerful for the giver and receiver of such vulnerability.  Well, this is somehow healing and empowering to me, though it is also scary hence the vulnerability factor.  What I write could be taken out of context and misused.  Something I fear yet cannot control.  I need to write anyway.  I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired with clarity right now.

Here I go…brace yourself.  I am.

Currently, I’m primarily a stay-at-home mother.  At this moment of writing I’m home with my 3rd baby-girl after sending my 6 yr old and 11 yr old off to school.

Deep breaths.

Life unfolds.  I never thought I’d be in this place of being a mother to 3 children.  Holy shit, I just said 3 children.  Yes, I have 3 children – all daughters.  I’ve found myself saying this in my head many times – “holy shit, I have 3 children!”  It’s not like that accidentally happened without my permission.  I know this.  It’s just that my conscious awareness is awakening and gradually catching up to the safety of grace by me granting it permission to do so after being in a long time-out of covert shame.

I’m grateful for each of my babies, they are gifts wrapped in many layers of emotions I need to unwrap within my heart.  I’m grateful for what life has been teaching me, but that gratitude is something that’s sometimes very hard-fought for.

Breathing still…

I am a woman who is divorced, and living with my current partner I’m engaged to.  We have one baby together.  My 2 oldest daughters were born in my first marriage of 10 years.  I am having a hard time identifying with some of the labels that are thrust on me, and that I thrust on myself.  I assign the struggle between shame and grace to rigid religiosity that declares my soul was born deformed by sin, and God is waiting for me to let him fix me so I won’t need to fear life and him so much.  That was a loaded sentence.  I’ve lived that sentence for years and it wore me down – thank god, it wore me down.

Labels are exceedingly confining and disguising.  Sometimes the disguise is welcomed and sometimes, it’s just an unwanted side effect of simplification.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll throw out some labels I find myself associating with, some very loosely and some more intimately with.  There’s a varying degree of ambivalence I have with these labels, which are associated with different parts of what make up me, but nonetheless here they are – for simplicity’s sake.

  • female
  • korean-adopteed-twin
  • divorcee
  • feminist
  • sinner
  • saint
  • ex-wife
  • fiance
  • stay-at-home mom
  • intermittent employee
  • minority
  • generation y
  • Human

I edited the first letter of all those labels and de-capitalized them, with the exception of Human.  They are mere labels that I can identify with, but they are not my ultimate identity — other than being Human.

The story of my humanity looks different from everyone else’s.  But at the end of the day, I am human, and my story is incredibly evident of that – being human.  It is through this thread of a shared humanity and making sense out of it, that I am coming from.  All else is mostly just background noise.

Chapter One coming next…

Growing by Choice

butterfly growthIn all kinds of relationships between equals, there will be times where the “right” choice, or the “best” choice is not so clear-cut.  But I will always have the choice to either grow or not grow.

Relationships often present opportunities where the grey area becomes fertile soil for exploring what feels right – in the moment.  And when you’re not certain if this choice will result in an outcome you desire or not, there is the opportunity to grow – either way.

One of the choices that may present in a relational conflict is how to use your voice – either through speaking up and engaging, or refraining through conscious silence or having minimal engagement. When I am being mirrored back by another through their words describing me, to me, which involves assigning motives and a story-line depicting me in a way that feels utterly foreign to my soul, I often feel compelled to speak up and defend myself.  Yet, I am learning this is not always the most helpful action to take.

By making the choice to grow through this relational ambiguity, I am realizing that in relationships there may come a time when it is determined that it’s definitely time to walk away and conversely, when it is definitely time to stay in the mess and try to mend things.  But sometimes, it is not so clear up-front.

The way to determine this difficult decision is to dial inward first.  Starting with asking myself some important questions –  Is there room for the real me in this relationship?  Is my voice given respect and being sought out with receptivity, or am I being disregarded and spoken for on behalf of another who is defining me in ways I do not identify with?  If I am drowning in another person’s definition of my reality and of my character to the point where I feel the need to speak up in order to breathe, that is a big red flag.

In times past, I would often speak up loud and clear, with gusto and often with aggression.  It felt like there was so much at stake for me – like the very ground I stood on was being tampered with, tied in with my sense of self.  But as I take the time to reflect I notice a gradual shift taking place.  I find myself peacefully pausing first and feeling a lesser degree of urgency to speak up.  I am more mindful and self-aware now, and in that place I’m noticing more.  I allow and welcome this new feeling – a feeling of hesitation to engage.  I used to think that was a sign of weakness, I feared that if I didn’t speak up immediately I was giving away my power – it felt threatening to not speak up.  I now see an alternative way to experience this.  Though I notice I’m being defined by another in ways that clearly feel misaligned with who I know myself to be, I can pause and am not so reactive, albeit this is a work in progress depending on the relationship.

My sensitivity and focus is pointed internally and I feel more grounded.  Before, my sensitivity and focus were pointed externally, towards the other person’s perception of me.  No wonder I didn’t feel grounded.  When I recently I experienced this, I noticed I felt intruded upon by the other who presented with such an air of definitiveness about my character, all without me having say in how I was being defined.  Yet – I saw I had choices in how to respond – before I responded.  Hello growth!

Engaging, by explaining and defending myself is one choice — but not the only choice.  This feels very freeing and empowering.  Although the struggle to resist being reeled in towards engaging defensively is present, I also notice it is gradually losing its grip on me.  I can pause and find myself being inwardly curious and wondering – Is this battle for me to vindicate myself worth the investment of my time and emotional/mental energy?  I do not have a limitless supply of those resources, so I want to invest them in ways that will most likely add value to my life and relationships even though there is likely some risk, is it worth it?

When I become mindful of these probing questions within, I’m less occupied by the external perceptions of me.  I may still choose to address those perceptions externally with the other person(s), but it comes from a different place within.  The subtle difference is noticed by the feeling that there is less at stake in trying to adjust someone else’s perception of me – something I have little, if any control over.  I can afford to take a more mindful and conscious approach, my ego’s survival doesn’t seem to be driving this – big difference.

Respect is a huge thing for me.  Not superficial respect where someone is being “nice” or “polite” while I’m being dismissed and minimized as I share my inner reality with someone or while I seek to mend a relational injury.  Real respect for me is being treated as though my experiences, thoughts, feelings, and words truly matter.  When I feel as though I’m being diminished by how another is treating me – I take notice.  If this persists after I’ve tried to assert myself, the relationship then becomes an unsafe place for me and I will at minimum – need to take a temporary break.  I can walk away and set my boundary in a respectful but straight-forward manner.  If I am further diminished as a result – again, I take notice.  It becomes evidence straight from the horse’s mouth confirming that this relationship indeed needs to end for now – leaving me at more peace with my choice to walk away.

Ending a relationship well, on my end is important.  I don’t need to feel justified in ending a relationship by identifying myself as the victim and pointing the finger at some “perpetrator”.  I can forego the witch-hunt – there really doesn’t need to be a “victim” and “perpetrator” identified in order to justify ending a relationship unless someone truly had no power or choice in what contributed to injuring the relationship in some way.  In many situations, the need to identify as a victim at this point often backfires for years to come because it leads to blame shifting with feeling entitled to vindictive behavior when a relationship is ending or down-shifting.  Unfortunately, this happens way too often and it burns bridges.  Bridges that otherwise could have opened the door for a relationship to be healed and rebuilt in the future.

People can always choose to grow and change.  By leaving relationships through blaming and self-righteously lashing out, it flicks off any hope for the relationship to possibly be recovered.  I specifically have family relationships in mind here – it is especially bad news when things implode at the end of a relationship where there are also family ties.  The impact is far-reaching, especially when there are children and other family members touched by this.  There is often unforeseen collateral damage when this happens between family members -it’s really sad.

In the midst of the passing storm, I am awakening to the amazing truth that I have choices!  I make peace with them by being more mindful and less reactive as I learn to discern whether this is a time to tear away or a time to mend, a time to be quiet or a time to speak up, or a time to just reflect more.  I make that choice the best I can, and I’ll make peace with it better when I do take the time to pause and don’t impulsively react.

Bottom-line: It’s my choice – whether I can say I made the “right” choice or not matters, but is secondary to the fact that regardless of the end result, I made the choice to grow while trying my best to make the best choice.

 

Innocent Bystanders of Parental Wrath

poison injectionThe unfortunate phenomenon of kids being poisoned by a parent’s (or any adult caretaker’s) rage towards another adult in a kid’s family is so nasty, but all too common.  Why are parents so oblivious to the damage they are inflicting onto their child out of their anger towards someone other than their innocent child?

Seriously.  Wake Up.  Open your eyes and look at who the recipient of your rage really is -your innocent child.  Such seething and reckless anger dangerously injects the wrong target – your children – when it is acted out by them being dragged into something that is really none of their business.  Please – for the sake of these children, own your anger, work through it in conscious, productive, and healthy ways.  Find it worthy to muster up enough courage to get help as needed in order to do this.

Common scenario:  A kid’s parent (or adult caregiver) becomes embittered towards another adult in their child’s life — perhaps their other parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc., and the embittered parent responds by injecting the CHILD with harmful anecdotal accounts portraying the other adult as not loving the child in some way.  This is done to rally support, garner sympathy, and often in older children can nurse a grudge or put a wedge up in between the child and the other adult where there otherwise would not be one, while simultaneously coercing the child to choose loyalties and protect the parent who is in fact the one injecting them with this poisonous vengeance.  This is often done in the guise of being a victim.  It’s highly effective with children because it exploits their innocence, vulnerability, and dependability on the adult who is initiating this tactic.  It’s sickly manipulative when it continues as a pattern after chances to correct and amend it have been neglected.

I realize there are indeed incidents where a parent in a child’s life truly makes the outright decision to abandon and abdicate their rights and responsibilities that come with providing care for their own child.  That is not what I am referring to in this post.  When that happens, the adult(s) that remain in the child’s life who want to support that child need to intentionally provide healing for the abandonment and neglect of the parent that fled.  This often involves sharing the hurtful truth in a sensitive way that is focused on the child’s feelings and self-concept following parental abandonment.  This is not done by emphasizing how the parent who left did not love them or want them.  That is not why a parent fleas, it is because a parent does not have the wherewithal to be a parent.  This has nothing to do with the child’s loveability or worth.  It is about the parent’s extreme limits, not about the limits of the child’s worthiness of love and care.

When one parent is hurt and angry by the other parent, and they turn around and tell their child that daddy or mommy doesn’t love them and want to see them, that is injecting the child with poison because you’re angry at the other parent.  The child is an innocent bystander that has now become the recipient of your wrath.  How is this loving and fair to the child?  It’s not at all.  It is harmful, and though it is hard and often requires a ton of courage and help to avoid doing – it is completely preventable and up to you to take on, for the sake of your own child as well as your own well being.

I get how difficult it is to not act out of spite when you are hurt and feeling completely wronged by your ex or some other adult in your child’s life.  But your child shouldn’t be expected to be so understanding as they get dragged into something they didn’t cause.  They are innocent and do not need to get dragged in the middle.  So please – get help to keep them out of it.  Get honest with yourself.  If you’re struggling to protect your children from your own pain and bitterness, no matter how valid your pain and bitterness may be, it is never valid to throw your child in the midst of it and inject them with poison as you seethe with anger towards your ex or whomever the adult is that you are actually angry at.

 

Calculated Vulnerability

bleeding heartsVulnerability.

This word is attracting a lot of attention lately.  And it’s earned it.  By its presence, vulnerability has a unique potential to expedite deep connection and intimacy within your closest relationships.  But just because you’re stripping yourself down and risking yourself by becoming vulnerable, doesn’t mean you’re practicing vulnerability in the way it’s earned its due respect.   I believe I’ve got enough personal experience to base this conviction off of.  I have explored venturing out into the territory of vulnerability.  And overall, I have had enough good experiences of becoming vulnerable, to counter the painful experiences, to give vulnerability much respect.  But at the same time, I’ve had enough painful experiences to teach me to avoid practicing vulnerability in a reckless or uncalculated way, albeit I’m continually learning as I go.

I’ve learned to practice calculated vulnerability.  Even though I’ve experienced wounds after being vulnerable with people, or within certain contexts which were not suitable for me to do that in, it’s undeniably still worth it to me.  The small but growing evidence of experiencing vulnerability’s dividends paying off are so rich and rewarding, that the wounds cannot override the rewards.  It doesn’t mean I don’t feel the fear or am acutely aware of the risks, or it wouldn’t even BE vulnerability in action.  I still feel the fear, yet I can do it anyway.

Vulnerability is a very rare and indispensable quality when a trusting connection is valued in a relationship.  Even if the word is heard and talked about a lot, the actual embodiment of it is not commonplace, but there’s more to it than just becoming vulnerable for the sake of becoming vulnerable when bringing conscious awareness to it.

Conscious vulnerability comes from a place within, where there is enough inner strength and courage to take that calculated risk within a relationship, for the desired outcome of moving closer and feeling more connected.  This is what makes it worth it.  If it doesn’t go the way you want though, you will feel some pain, to varying degrees depending on the context.  If you would not feel any pain, there is nothing to risk and therefore you are not being vulnerable.

Calculated vulnerability is not demanding that you relinquish your personal power.  A conscious choice to make yourself vulnerable and take a risk with someone stems from your personal sense of power and courage.  This is one reason I believe, many people avoid it, at least it was for me.  When there is a void within, there’s no footing to provide the solid grounding to hold one up when the storms come.  Like a tree with deep roots, the wind may blow hard, but it will not uproot it because of its deep, strong roots underground.  Without being rooted in your own personal power, you are rooted in something else, perhaps subconscious fear, which likely will result in you feeling like a victim if it doesn’t go the way you want.  Self-resentment is likely to ensue, as well as feeling resentful toward this other person for victimizing you.

I used to think people were weak for being so “needy” or when they seemed to have emotional pain and needs or longings.  I see things differently now.  Vulnerability takes great inner strength.  Knowing, seeing, and accepting me and my human needs while surrounding myself with others who are pursing that for themselves and others, nurtures inner strength.

I have been vulnerable with others, not always from a conscious place that was rooted in my own personal power though, and I felt like I needed to control the outcome and the other’s response.  It rarely went well, if ever.  But when I am making the conscious choice to uncover a covered part of me and to bear my soul to another, while it still renders me feeling vulnerable towards being rejected in some way, I can do it with receptiveness to seeing how the other person receives me.  I don’t take it as personally, even though I can still feel an initial sting, it isn’t so much about just me anymore.

Relationships involve taking risks.  I am learning how to take calculated risks when I’m being consciously aware of two dynamics coupled with each other.  The first is what I want for and in the relationship; my desires and longings.  And second, what I’ve observed myself experiencing within the relationship thus far with said person.  Meaning how much I trust and feel this is suitable to warrant taking this risk.  Nothing is for certain but I am consciously calculating these two dynamics and self reflecting as I go.

I also have learned that I have a role to play in how this may turn out by how I approach the other person.  How can I be honest and true to myself, while doing my best to set them up to get it right with me?  If I am hurt or somehow put off by something the other person has done or left undone, do I approach this with harsh criticism, passive-aggressive jabs, or stonewalling (an extreme avoidance)?  Or, do I approach this with opening up from a curious (giving the benefit of the doubt) and vulnerable position, sharing how I am struggling and feeling this out, while trying to more fully understand what’s going on.  When I am afraid, angry, confused, and set off, it is very hard to come to the other person from a vulnerable place.  My tendency has been to come out with either my boxing gloves on or to resentfully withdraw with my middle finger up, in an attempt to protect myself.  Yet I am learning that is how intimacy is usually sabotaged, not protected and grown, in the inevitable midst of conflict.

Owning my power by being vulnerable, which is actually more emotionally honest and straight-up, I can then move forward and not fall back into wanting to either fight or shut-off.  I am putting enough trust in myself to handle whatever comes and being ready for it, even if it stings for a little while.  I don’t do this with all of my relationships to the same degree.  No, I’ve learned I need to exercise discernment based on those two parts of the equation for calculated vulnerability to show up – 1) My desire for the relationship 2) How much I trust this other person and the capacity of the relationship to carry this, even if it gets messy.  It’s a calculated risk.

Calculated vulnerability comes from a place of empowerment, not helplessness and it takes both courage AND wisdom.

 

A Conversation With The Present Moment

now signDear Present Moment,

Why are you so hard to stay engaged with?  Hey, I just thought of something….why do they call it A.D.D.?  It’s not an attention deficit, it’s an internally elaborate attentiveness to external stimuli.  And why am I starting out this blog presenting myself with subtle self-deprecating humor?  Well, that’s often been my alter ego I suppose, it’s been comfortable for me.  You either laugh or cry about your inhibitions, right?  Oh well, I’m not sure how many people actually read my blogs these days, I haven’t written much lately.  Life happens.  And I have no denial about being hard to track with in my writing for some people.  My writing can be extremely intricate and may come across to some as enlightening and refreshing, or a bit convoluted, but it is anything but drab and dull.

Present Moment- are you still there?  Sorry I keep wandering off and leaving you.  Wait.  Why am I apologizing?  You are not offended, you are not expecting something from me, and so you are not disappointed in me when I do not deliver.  You are not a hard to please or impress authority figure or peer in my life, and I owe you nothing.  Yet, you just exist on a moment by moment basis, whether I am with you or not.  I want to engage with you more, I want to learn from you more.  I want to give and receive from you.  The invitation to do so is always there for me.  Sometimes it feels good to be with you, and sometimes it doesn’t because there’s fear and uncertainty that if I am not attending to interpreting the past or preparing for the future, I will fall.  It is how I’d learned to survive, albeit much of it not in a very conscious and awakened state until the past few years or so.

I find that intentionally staying engaged with the Present Moment feels like an incredibly vulnerable and spiritual experience.  It also feels very much like a discipline.  It does not come naturally for me, it doesn’t come when I’m running on auto-pilot, at least that’s not what I am finding in this present moment.  So many other thoughts are vying for my attention, and they know how to distract me from you.  All they need to do is persistently push my alarm button with very rational and logical analysis of the past and future.  Pause. I gotta be careful here, to not get rigid and fall into the all-or-nothing trap.  The world is colorful, not black and white.  There are definitely times when my rational analysis has rescued my ass from ongoing bullshit and prevented me from taking that route.  Like a hammer used to build a house, it is one of many tools, but it is not the ONLY tool needed in building a house.  I have relied heavily on that tool of logical analysis though, and in some cases it has served me well, but not in all cases.

This Sunday, I am planning to attend a Quaker meeting for the first time.  I am searching for other resources to help me engage with the Present Moment in a way where it serves me well.

Words to describe what I am getting from this Present Moment – Stability.  Expanded limits.  Acceptance.  Peace.  Simplicity.  And I that I have to pee.

Engaging in life and fully living in this Present Moment has a richness to it, it’s not expensive.  Allowing the Present Moment to unfold and to trust that it is as it is meant to be in the present moment empowers and frees me.  Resisting and rejecting the Present Moment by psychologizing and pathologizing it and me imprisons me.  I can open my hands and give in this Present Moment, knowing that bigger hands are holding me and won’t let go of, even when I struggle to trust that I am being held in this Present Moment.  I’m learning to hear here.

Purity Is…Just Being You.

pure heart…which can be the hardest thing to do in a society that sells self-denial, the unconsciously selling out of parts of who you are to be OK.  No.  Love yourself.  Be yourself.  In that place is where you will feel god’s love and presence.  It’s there, perhaps you just need to uncover it from all the additives from shaming religion or whatnot.  A pure heart is where there is nothing added or taken away in order to feel accepted and OK.  You don’t need to earn love, just freely receive it from within, from god.

This is what I believe a pure heart consists of: all of you. nothing more. nothing less.  period.

Keep your heart from becoming anything other than what it is, a resting place for you and god to connect, unconditionally.  Conditions muddy up a pure heart and make it hard to connect to a god of love who is inside of you.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see god.”
Matthew 5:8

Wanna Tango?

tangoIf you ever want to evolve and grow into your most authentic self — show up in your intimate adult relationship and highly VALUE the relationship and the other person, while valuing yourself all at the same time.  If you devalue yourself, your partner, or the relationship when you face adversity, it won’t grow you much, it will only stunt and restrict your growth.  If you’re OK with THAT- then be OK with not valuing this process enough to jump into the puddle when it rains and pours.  And then at least have the decency to communicate this to your partner – that you are signing up as a casual partner, not an intimate one.  If you want more – then jump in, the rainbow will come.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a romantic relationship either, as I’ve experienced deep growth in reciprocal friendships with my closest female friends, but romantic relationships sure heighten the intensity and turn up the heat like no other.  It may feel like an excavation and demolition project at times, but that’s when you know…you KNOW you’re dealing with REAL potential for true healing and growth if you and your partner can hang in there while staying emotionally present and honest, albeit doing it imperfectly along the way, yet not giving up on the relationship.  It’s worth it, but it ain’t for the faint at heart.

This is where iron sharpens iron like no other.  I cannot do this while being in a relationship where there is little to no reciprocity, or where there is inequality, because that is not much of a partnership.  There isn’t a superior or inferior position in the relationship, both partners and their experiences are equally valued.  An intimate relationship is much like an intimate dance between two partners, like the Tango, and it takes two – not one – to Tango, or it’s not a Tango, it’s a solo dance with a passive spectator.

As much as I like to dance solo from time to time, to feel free to move to the music in the way my body feels compelled to do without anyone else disrupting my flow, that is not what I want my intimate relationship with my romantic partner to resemble.  That is not an intimate relationship to me, though it doesn’t mean solo dancing never happens either.  Tango dancing is different from line-dancing, they both involve more than one person, but the interpersonal dynamics are much more riveting because you are vulnerable and so is your partner because of the interdependence involved in Tango dancing.  I am not a dance expert, but it doesn’t take an expert to notice how intimate the Tango dance is.  Line-dancing is two or more people dancing without deep interdependence, synchronicity -yes, interdependence, not so much.  When I think of Tango dancing, I think of integration that involves each individual’s uniqueness.  I don’t think you lose your uniqueness or distinct person-hood, you own it and incorporate it.  There is a unique type of unity in the Tango that shouldn’t be confused with conformity, which is what line-dancing is about – conformity, which is beautiful and takes skills to achieve, but it achieves conformity, not intimate interdependence.  In line-dancing, the other person can mess-up without it hugely impacting YOUR own dance moves, but in a dance such as the Tango, it will to varying degrees, impact YOUR dance moves, YOUR rhythm, YOUR groove and balance because there is up-close interdependence involved.  You cannot get away with playing the cavalier avoidant without courting disaster.

I’ve heard that good couples therapy can be as simple as taking Tango dance lessons with your partner.  The body talks without mincing words and it’s all about trusting your partner and yourself with both the right and left hemispheres of the brain (intellectually AND somatically/intuitively).  An intimate romantic relationship is all about giving and receiving, and the ripple effects of BOTH partners either moving or standing still.  This requires trust and repairing ruptures on a continual basis, while growing closer and closer together in the process.  It’s when this doesn’t happen for an extended period of time that the big betrayals are more likely to take place.  I personally don’t believe that major betrayals are immune from being repaired, but I think it’s in the “minor” or every day accumulative interactions that built, protect, and restore trust with major ruptures needing much more intensive actions and care than smaller ones of course, because the wound is much deeper.

A Tango dance – this is what mirrors an intimate relationship to me, a healthy one at least or the kind that I want.  Where I see and FEEL highly valued and relevant and so does my partner.  The relationship gets attention and nurturing or we lose track of each other and start stepping on one another’s feet, dropping one another when they need to be securely held, or leaving each other hanging.

I am learning all these things, sometimes painstakingly, because I have the gift of being in love and being loved in return where it looks like we are doing the figurative Tango with one another in how we relate or dance with each other day in and day out.  Being in tune with each other, and being conscious about nurturing and protecting this relationship while not having to carry the load on my own because it is a shared responsibility (not an obligated one) with my partner.  This is what makes adult romantically committed relationships work for me.  It is a gift that I thank god for every day – I have a partner to “Tango” with.

My Luv ~ You Are Re-Defining My Normal

heart on wooden floorI’m in the midst of going through a major transition, both interpersonally and intrapersonally.  It’s been a long time coming, but for the past few months I feel my upper limits have shifted and reached a new climax I did not know was possible for me, and had only dreamed about and longed for from a distance.  Much of it has been a long time coming, but recently there is an element of my own journey of healing and growing that has not been able to fully come alive because I’m realizing, it needed just the right environment and context to facilitate this change – a growing, healthy, reciprocal, intimate, relationship with the opposite sex.

It’s been a game-changer for me.  No amount of isolated self-help books, 12-step meetings, prayers, journaling, or therapy could bring this about, even though I wholeheartedly believe they in their own way played a role in preparing me to be in a healthy intimate relationship.  I needed a felt-sense experience with someone else who could be emotionally available with me, despite how vulnerable it felt for both of us, in order to get to the next place of growth.  So much bullshit I’ve believed about myself and about relationships is being confronted, not just intellectually or theoretically, but experientially, one risk taken at at time.  I feel more lucid and grounded than I’ve ever felt, even though the new experiences are scary and require tons of courage to go through and I sometimes fall down in the process as I try to make sense out of this emerging new normal, I can get back up faster.  I now see this kind of relationship for what it is – a rare gift that has immense value and I will treasure it for what it is.

I did not go out and expect this relationship to turn into what it naturally has on its own, not that we don’t take ownership of our contributions to being where we are and heading towards where we are heading.  It’s the compatibility and synchronicity on so many levels, which makes it feel just so natural and effortless.  I cannot take credit for being so ingenious and all-knowing for the impeccable timing of where we each were at internally on our own journey and how our paths crossed when they did.  I have been open and forthright within myself and others by consciously and persistently longing for this type of intimate relationship.  The pain of NOT having it only reinforced how much I longed for it but could not manufacture it on my own, no matter how hard I tried or how badly I wanted to.  An intimate and loving mature romantic relationship cannot be produced by one person alone, no matter how strong-willed and determined they are, just as one person cannot become pregnant or get a woman pregnant without the necessary participation of another in the natural process of coming together sexually to create a new life of a baby.  Outside of an immaculate conception or in vitro-fertilization which is manually or technologically assisted fertilization which still by the way requires both an egg AND sperm, one cannot create a new life alone.  Similar to the creation of a new life, the type of relationship I longed for could only be produced with two people coming together and connecting by both of their longings for this same type of relationship and deeply valuing the process and maintenance of it, and both owning the process and maintenance of it.

For us, it first started as a friendship that began a long long time ago when we were both little defiant adolescents, and not as a romance.  Now, it is both.  This is my best attempt at trying to describe the indescribable of how I experience this relationship.  I experience movement in this relationship towards having more safety and freedom to be me, to not have to cap my emotions or thoughts, even though I do experience fear while being vulnerable, more than not, the feedback loop is reinforcing that the risks are worth it.  I am learning one step at a time that I don’t need to hide those parts of me out of fear of being misjudged, mis-attuned to without attempts to repair, not that I am perfect and don’t need to grow and change.  Quite the contrary; it becomes more and more clear to me in this relationship just where I need to grow and change, but I am empowered to do just that, because I feel held, seen and heard and embraced – not pushed away in this relationship when my shortcomings pop-up.  When my vulnerabilities become felt and apparent to me and when I share them with my man, I am held in love.  The hiding, in order to protect myself does not call to me so much, I want to come out of hiding because my man wants to more fully see me, all of me and this gives me courage.

Partnership – that is exactly what my relationship feels like. It is a monumental part of what is redefining my new normal.  A deep friendship where there is chemistry, romance, trust, and love with a desire to welcome all the parts of one another, not just the ones that make us feel comfortable and at ease.  My man can take me, all of me.  Again.  Monumental for me.  He wants to take me.   All of me.  I can turn my more intense-complex inner-parts way up and I know he can take it.  He will not withdraw and shut me out in order to protect himself from drowning from all the parts that make up who I am.  He will draw me out more, even if whatever feelings, words, or thoughts are indeed a LOT to handle, he can handle himself while handling me.  It is imperfectly messy at times, and yet it is real – the mess is real and I want what is real, not a neat fake response.  This dynamic is irreplaceable and not able to be artificially manufactured by me.  Much of this comes within him, I may nurture it or call it out of him, but it is his.  I can grow, heal, change and learn to love myself and him more and more, it is freeing even though I can feel the risk-taking as very palpable at times.  I have many areas I need and want to grow in, and this relationship expedites that because my partner is willing to also take risks with me.  We have reciprocity, we are growing in our trust and our love towards one another and towards ourselves at the same time.  We are both learning so much from this relationship already, and I can’t wait to keep growing and learning with him, the struggle is worth it.  There will be uphill battles, no doubt, that is life and I fully expect those to keep coming, I am not ignorant of reality.  But part of not being ignorant of reality also means acknowledging the rewarding parts of reality, love that motivates me to fight the good fight.  I am in love and I am being loved.  No bullshit.  But when our inevitable bullshit surfaces and we become aware of it, we affectionately call it out and love each other out of needing to bullshit ourselves and one another, one step at a time.

“There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear.”  1 John 4:8.  Fear hinders love.  Love hinders fear, they are not partners.  I am finally getting this now, much thanks to being with an amazing man whom I deeply love and deeply loves me.

Babe- I love you, you know what this picture symbolizes….it symbolizes something that we did not manufacture on our own…it showed up for us when we least suspected it.  Thank you for helping to re-define my normal, you don’t even try to do that – it just happens when you’re naturally being who you are when we’re together.

Happy Valentine’s Day babe ~.^swans on lake

Coloring Outside of the Lines With My Questions

outside-the-lines 2014 is almost over.  In less than a month, I will hopefully be divorced.  This past year has been a long and bumpy road, but I chose to walk it even though I never hoped or planned for this.  Nonetheless, I am walking through this valley, be it as sloppy and imperfect as it is, I nevertheless made the conscience decision to walk through it the best I can.

My uphill battle is experienced mostly within, at the prompting of me taking in messages targeted at blaming and shaming me through upholding biased standards of perfection to my face that despite my best efforts, I cannot seem to meet or sustain meeting them for long.  The source of the pain that’s directed at me through blame and shame is real and valid.  It is human, yet I need to be mindful of what I will take on and what I will not.

I have gotten lost in the shuffle to gain approval from others, especially those who I thought were close to god and that god approved of, because that ultimately is what I was and am after – secure intimacy with the divine.

Who is god?  What is god like?  How do I feel his presence?  I want to feel fully known and fully loved, without feeling like I need to earn it or prove my loveability.  I’m trying to define what I am after, and it is this felt-sense of love and security that is just THERE, because that is the nature of love.  I do not need to fear being abandoned by love because of me being who I am.  I can rest securely in being me, and in being loved.  Why do I hunger for this?  Why is it so strong?  Why can’t I silence it without the painfully unwanted side effects of going numb inside?  This hunger for divine love calls me out and is relentless in getting met.  Why???  Is it because it is more available and accessible to me through experiencing and embracing this hunger for divine love instead of shutting it up?

In this current season of my life, I need to write out god’s name with a lower case ‘g’.  The uppercase spelling of god represents something to me that I am questioning because I fear it.  Love and fear at their core, have irreconcilable differences.  Love delivers security; fear delivers insecurity.  Love calms me; fear freezes me.  Love opens me up inside; fear closes me up inside.

What is love?  I read that god is love in the bible.  But what is the bible?  It is an ancient book written by humans who lived long ago, in a very different culture and historical setting.  What do I personally share in common with those humans who wrote texts that are included in the bible?  Well, for starters I share in common living on this planet called earth and interacting with the earth and all who share this earth through human flesh and blood.  So, there are some similarities that permeate through gender, racial, historical and other socio-cultural barriers.  But, how much of the writing in the bible is more of a representation of that particular culture’s context in which the writing came from, and how much of the bible’s writing is more of a representation of the timeless and ever relevant nature of the divine and of humanity?  Doesn’t god meet us where we are at?  But people in the bible were at a different place than I am at, due to a variety of factors like what they knew and didn’t know about the planet earth, humanity, neuroscience, human anatomy and other cultures and people far away from their own geographical locations. Many educated people in this time believed the earth was flat and that the earth was at the center of the universe, no?.  Yet, god still entered into the human race and met humanity where it was at within that specific time and culture.  That is what I take as the essence of the christmas story.  It was the divine entering into humanity as a fetus in a woman’s uterus and taking upon our limited human nature and experiencing that which only humans can experience through their human flesh and blood, no?  god had to enter into the human race through a particular culture (Jewish), at a particular point of history which enveloped their current understanding and discovery of science, medicine, politics, religion, culture, history, psychology, philosophy, etc., which defined and confined their understanding of what it is to experience being human and how the divine transcends those very humanly confined elements of socio-cultural/historical context.

I want love.  That’s all.  I want divine love, to receive it and redistribute it to those I come into meaningful contact with.  That is the artful masterpiece I’m envisioning within me.  It’s a work in progress, always.  I’m bringing it back to the basics, which is love.  Though I have areas of personal and unique weaknesses, strengths, wounds, talents, abilities, understandings, misunderstandings, shame, pride, fear, accomplishments, unfinished business – all which are still works in progress – I am totally human and I am a masterpiece because I was made by the divine, whom I call god, whom this book called the bible says is love and that seems to cross over sociocultural categories.

What does fear and love have to do with one another?  I keep finding myself coming back to a timeless and relevant message that resonates within me that I found in the bible:  “there is no fear in love.  but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment.  the one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  – 1 john 4:18

The masterpiece within me is my human heart which is fused with the divine, my essence is growing in perfect love, which drives out fear.  Divine love does not enlist or trust in the power of fear, because fear does have power; the power to coerce.  – Yuck.  I’m finding how repelling that is becoming to me.  That is not love, that is control based in fear.  Love transforms by driving out fear, not by eliciting it or by ignoring it, but by expelling it.

Jessie J’s song “Masterpiece” passionately captures how I interpret me in my current season with all that’s evolving within me.  I’m finding myself meditating on it and experiencing god’s presence.

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