Day 6: Unconditional Acceptance

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This particular meme touches me deeply. I actually learned a life-changing lesson about my propensity for martyrdom from a situation where I was excluded from a gathering in my own home, seemingly because I wasn’t “happy” enough.

While in the midst of the initial Fibro insanity a few years ago, I threw a holiday gathering at my home. Setting up and cooking used up nearly all my energy and my pain started early in the day. I was struggling to be social. I wasn’t grumpy, just low energy and quiet.

Not one person other than my partners initiated a conversation with me at that party. No one approached me. No one greeted me, thanked me for cooking or hosting, or said goodbye to me. The only interactions I had were when I approached a group and inserted myself in conversations.

I talked to a close friend about it afterwards. She asked me if I had considered that my low energy had put people off, that maybe I wasn’t approachable. I asked in return if I have to be in an visibly good mood for my friends to talk to me, especially when I’ve welcomed them into my home?  And if so, why weren’t others who were more prone to have low energy and complain about their challenging situations excluded? We had people in our midst who used their suffering as currency to gain attention and concern. Some of them seemed to be the most popular in the group. Why was it different for me?  I still don’t know the answer to that question.

It was a sad day, as is usually the case when our illusions are stripped away. It was one of the necessary situations that pointed me towards my addiction to masochism. It was also the last gathering I hosted for more than a year. I realized I was regularly giving myself away to people who did not value the gifts of my service and love.

It’s not an accident that I’ve maintained few friendships from that period of my life. I examined every relationship for reciprocity and genuine interest in one another. Only a handful survived the scrutiny.

The people in my circle now are truly unconditional in their acceptance of me. They do their best to work with my limitations. They help me find physical comfort to optimize my potential for enjoyment. They understand when I can’t commit or have to back out of plans because I have too much tired and/or pain. And they like to spend time with me no matter my energy level.

I’ve since realized that I had a belief that I had to earn visibility, love and affection through service. Somewhere deep in my heart I came to believe that I had to give as much of myself as possible by serving others happiness in order to be seen, let alone receive friendship and love. Love was something that had to be worked for.

I know better now. I know that I deserve to be loved and belong simply because I exist, just as everyone does. I now experience belonging and unconditional acceptance in my family life every single day, with people who choose me and to share this life with me wherever it leads us individually and together.

Because of these experiences, both painful and beautiful, I will strive harder to build communities with radical inclusivity. I desire to find ways to help everyone experience belonging.

Day 5: Failing Forward

I haven’t succeeded this week at writing every day. I am choosing to see this as an experience of failing forward. I failed to live up to my intention, but I am moving forward to try again without beating myself up or giving up.

There are two culprits at work in missing writing days thus far: it hasn’t yet become a habit and my current Fibro symptoms.

They say it takes 21 days to make a habit. I haven’t set a scheduled time for writing because with a toddler in the house and a family to manage time with, it’s difficult to set the same time every day. I put a reminder on my phone, but I think I set it for too early in the day because it goes away before I’m ready for writing. I just updated my calendar with a new time and multiple reminders. We’ll see if that leads to better results.

My Fibro symptoms have increased over the last couple weeks because I’ve had to wean myself off of one of my medications. The State of Oregon doesn’t recognize Lyrica as treatment for Fibromyalgia and we can’t afford $300 a month. Coming off of the Lyrica has brought me fatigue despite full sleep, as well as more pain. It’s the fatigue that challenges my writing because it diminishes my brain capacity. I only have a few hours a day where I feel clear headed enough to write, and even then I don’t always have full use of my intellectual capacity. If I miss that window, it’s incredibly difficult to try to make writing happen later in the day when the exhaustion has accumulated.

I am grateful I know of writers who succeed at writing books while simultaneously managing a chronic illness. It shows me that it can be done. It will be slower than I might like, but if I can manage an hour a day or a few hours a week, it will eventually lead to a finished work. A book in two years is certainly better than not writing a book at all, just like 5 days of writing out of 7 is better than no writing at all.

Day 4 {A Day Late}: What Do You Long To Say With Your Life?

“What do you long to say with your life?”asks by Patti Digh.

I long to say that women’s stories need to be heard, playful girls and raucus teenagers, young mothers and wise teachers.

I long to say that women’s bodies need to be respected rather than raped in the bedroom, in the street, in the doctor’s office, in Congress.

I long to say that women’s emotions are powerful. It is our deep passionate love, our empathy, our desires for our Earth, for our children, for our lovers, for the struggling, for the suffering that lead to our great acts of kindness and service.

I long to say that holding people is one of the most important things we can do. Whether through touch, something most of us are starved for, or through holding space for each others stories, providing witness for the great emotional adventure that each of us are living, it is in holding each other that we experience the deepest connections.

I long to say that we all belong to each other.

Day 3 – Letting Them Go

How to describe the paradox of joy and grief a mother feels while letting her child go out into the world on their own?

Two weeks ago my daughter moved into her first apartment with her girlfriend. We’ve been living apart for three months, but her future still had a question mark until the apartment was secured. Now she’s signed a six month lease in the San Francisco Bay Area and will be attending Aveda in a few weeks.

Letting my son go was different. While we were close and connected, we aren’t great friends the way she and I have become. Whether it’s because she’s a girl and/or similarities in our personalities and/or because I was emotionally healthier while raising her, she and I have something special that I anticipate will grow richer as she grows into herself. She’s also the last child I’m committed to full time parenting. My role as a mother is changing in every way.

Also, my son had the security of a full ride scholarship to college. I had no worries about whether he could pay for a place to live or food in his belly for the first four years of his adulthood. But she is risking it all for love – love for her girlfriend and love for her dream to become a make-up designer in a city that feels right to her. She’s taking loans for school and to give herself a financial foundation to build from with a job. I am proud she is following her heart and a little worried things won’t work out. I know how unpredictable life is and I don’t want her to be disappointed.

She’s bold and courageous…and she’s afraid and overwhelmed by “adulting.” Who can blame her? I still get overwhelmed by adulting, too. I imagine everyone does. All the things to remember and the responsibilities we have to meet for ourselves and whomever we join our lives to.

I am proud of her…and I want to keep taking care of her. I know the independence is good for us both…and I miss my girl being a part of my daily life.

They are mine and not mine. My children, a piece of myself, and their own persons. The world will have it’s way with them. All I can do is keep loving them and supporting them in whatever ways are healthy and possible with young adults who are hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Day 2 – Mental Health and Spiritual Crisis

Culturally, because of Robin Williams and others before him, we are talking about bringing mental illness into the light. But I am reminded by reading Caroline Myss this past week that there is also the possibility of spiritual crisis, an aspect of being human that is even more ignored and taboo than psychological/brain issues.

We don’t only need to talk about and learn how to address chemical imbalances and mood disorders, we need to do the same for spiritual crisis outside of traditional religions. Not all depression or addiction is physiological and/or psychological in nature. Not all that we call madness is actual insanity. There are thousands of years of spiritual traditions in cultures around the world who recognized the difference and had mystics, priestesses or shamans to take people through their dark nights of the soul the same way a therapist takes a patient through the psychological healing of old wounds. But now many of us are without a guide through spiritual crisis because we reject traditional religions and fundamentalism.

Maybe some people can’t find their way out of the darkness and choose to die because we as a culture don’t even recognize the fact that the Dark Night of the Soul exists, let alone hold and guide people through navigating it. I realize today that this is what makes me different from so many other people I know who struggle with mental health and long term physical issues. I’ve always looked at my journey through a spiritual lens. Because I’ve always believed in something bigger than me I’ve always seen the potential for meaning and purpose in the Darkness, even when feeling battered and broken in the midst of it. I overcame a mental illness that “they” say is virtually incurable, with deep behavioral therapy being the only way out. Yet I’ve never had deep behavioral therapy. What I’ve done is deep spiritual and psycho-emotional work, mostly on my own and consciously through my relationships.

This is why despite all I’ve learned about both sides, the argument between science and spirituality doesn’t matter to me. Believing in God – whether the Christian God in the Sky or the Pagan Goddess or the All-is-One of Quantum Consciousness or the God of Life/Universe – believing in something bigger than me has made me sane and whole and led to me to deeper experiences of love and joy. Meds and therapy didn’t do it, a mystical perspective on my experience did. I don’t need any more evidence than that.

And this leads me to understand something about the work I truly desire to be doing with people. I have immense desire to hold space for people going through spiritual crisis, transformations that bring on the Dark Night. Because of my own experiences, I know that not everything big and deep can be addressed through traditional models. Yet when I think about my “work,” what I will get paid to do for the next 20-30 years of my life, I’ve limited myself to more practical options. Non-profit leadership. Coaching. Creating community spaces. These are culturally acceptable versions of what really calls to my heart – working with people in the spiritual dimension. Applying mystical sight and spiritual tools, in addition to practical psychological resources, to people’s lives, most especially their experiences of the Dark Night. Meds and therapy will work for some. Spiritual guidance will work for others. We need to transcend our rational fundamentalism (our belief that only the rational is right) and recognize that there is something deeper going on for some people.