Monthly Archives: August 2015

1234 take a breath….then back for more

“Rescue yourself from saving another and knowing what is best for them and you just might find humility, kindness and what love truly means” – Amy Larson

I finally understand fully the concept of putting the air mask on yourself first before trying to help another. You’ve seen it, the diagram that is displayed on every aircraft, of the mother with her small child and the weird-looking plastic gadgets attached to a few strings. They magically fell out of the plane ceiling for the purpose of saving your life? This familiar awkwardly drawn diagram has become quite emblematic for me this year, as I’ve devoted an enormous amount of time to self-resuscitation methods. I am writing about it now as a means to accept and release any residual guilt or anxiety around allowing myself the necessary attention.

Last year I found myself in serious need of an air mask, yet nothing magically appeared above my head when I pressed the panic button. I was hyperventilating, living with an on call daily emergency, playing the role of the caregiver for my very ill and aging mother. This was a role that I had never thought I would intentionally choose. At this point in my life, I had specifically chosen not to have children, pets or even a home to take care of. I give great value and respect for my ability and desire to live a very simple and solo lifestyle choosing an existence that does not require an excess to sustain. For many reasons I was very happy living on my own. Moving in with my mom was a drastic change and shock to the system to be once again living under my mother’s “roof and rules” as an adult.

For the first time in a long while, I was extremely uncomfortable. I felt a stranger in my own skin. It was difficult to be with and see my mother sick, depressed, angry and in pain on a daily basis. It was also difficult to live outside of my personal habits and daily routine. The environment and neighborhood itself also was a new change. Moving from a tropical island to suburban PA took some getting use to. For the first few months, I did not fully process or understand what was even happening. I was going through the motions of being between resisting the scenario entirely and accepting it even remotely. I was definitely dealing with a state of denial.

I’m a person who thrives on social engagement but felt as if I was radiating a vibe of shear dis-ease. This made me not want to be around other people. I retreated, easily pointing out to myself the difficulties stemming from the surface situation. My living scenario was not the only problem though, there was something more deeply rooted causing me to struggle.

I was not unhappy because I was living with my mother or in suburban PA. I was unhappy because I, at that point really could not see clearly or accept truly what I wanted for myself. I made the choices that I thought I needed to (and was expected) to make. I came back to care for mother and play the role, I did not want to play. I was unhappy because I had made my choices out of obligation and guilt rather than love or compassion. Leading with my head instead of my heart, I handed over my power of decision-making to an external expectation rather than listening to my inner guiding compass.

Being faced with the reality of what I didn’t want, was not something that happened by mistake. It was not something that I was forced into by my mother or anyone else, it was something that I chose independently. I realized that I alone had made the decision to move in and that I could either accept the time together as a lesson and opportunity to learn or I could continue to squirm in my self-created misery. It was time to not only to accept my reasons for entering the situation but also time to prepare for and accept what my reasons would be for leaving.

If I chose to put myself in a stifling situation, I could also choose to take myself out of it. I needed to lead my steps with compassion first for myself before being able to be compassionate to my mother or anyone else. By allowing myself room to breathe, I stopped starving my own desires and needs. I started prioritizing my own health over trying to fix hers. This reintroduced balance back into my life, giving me enough strength, energy, and resources to meet my own needs and share with others.

It became very clear that I was not the one and only (and/or the best) person that could help my mom. It was also very clear though, that I really was the only person that could help myself. It was time to do some tending. So somehow, without jumping ship or suffocating myself, I settled into the act of seeking balance and eventually another solution for the situation emerged. In the act of acceptance and self-preservation, I found not only freedom from the struggle, but new solutions to the problem. The slight shift into acceptance and the diligent act of following through opened my airways and provided me with new survival skills that I am still utilizing today.

Don’t forget to keep breathing.

8/13/15

 

finding the flow

“If I have weaknesses, don’t let them blind me or camouflage all I am wary of. I could be sailing on seizures of laughter or crawling out from under the heel of love.  Reach in the dark. Reach in the dark. To overcome an obstacle or an enemy. To glide away from the razor or a knife”

Rhythm of the Saints Paul Simon

I spent the full year after living out and sharing chapters, refraining from expressing any inner experiences or written reflections publicly. With intent, I chose to withdraw socially. Engaging with only a few people, no particular community and retreating from professional pursuits. I directed my attention away from external obligations and focused inward with new intensity. What did this look like? What are the repercussions of a year focusing internally rather than externally? I am choosing to share, now a year later, as a means to help understand the answers.

Prioritizing this kind of time for one’s self is rare. If ever taken, we are taught that it’s selfish or unhealthy to do so. For me, I found the opposite to be true and landed upon some valuable lessons. I learned how to hear, listen to, rely upon and share with myself. Becoming my own boss, audience, motivator, accountability, critic, fan, and foe, I learned to accept my ebb and discovered my flow.

Without outside obligations to abide to, what would I do for myself on my own? Could I stay in step with my own beat while learning to live without evaluating or understanding everything I did and felt? Could I feel and be within my natural rhythm of time? Yes, in fact, I could. After finally releasing the reins, I stopped trying, flailed about and stumbled into my flow. What I found was an infinitely deep pool of water and words waiting to rush in. Meditation is the practice that directed me off the diving board.

At first, sitting with myself in silence was a strange and sometimes difficult thing to do. I had issues with the physical effects of sitting still and felt resistance in finding “the time” to do it in my day. The most difficult part of meditation though was simply facing my own thoughts directly without distraction. “Empty the mind. Silence your thoughts. Be in the present moment.” were the directives. I came nowhere near those outcomes in my first meditation experiments. Instead, I did a 180 and flooded my brain with thoughts at full force on high volume. All the questions and concerns I stored away bubbled to the surface and rushed into the room to sit with me in the “silence”. Racing questions with no answers were anything but calming or relaxing. How could I experience the present moment when all these questions from the past and future kept interrupting my here and now?

In my two years of practice since, I’ve learned to accept the thoughts and questions as a part of my present moment. The queries are no longer distracting, and I no longer seek answers. I simply listen in, welcome the thoughts and then let them leave. Living by a creek, I focus on the sound of rhythmic water to float these passing thoughts onward. Now, sitting in “my silence” is satisfying. Instead of distracting questions rising to the surface, there is a wide-open space of stillness that repeatedly is re-filled with breath and heart beat. In this rhythmic dance from past moment to future moment, there is constant motion and no time or room for hesitation or judgment in between. In these intervals of silent space, I now hear the answers before questions arrive. My moments in meditation conduct and orchestrate new movement and action in my day. And above all else bring creative energy that is flowing forth into spontaneous and free-flowing writing sessions.

I now spend hours allowing words to come as they want to, in ways they intend on coming out. I stop thinking, start breathing and feel into the process. Often I’m surprised by what emerges. I write about topics I had never thought about, and create characters I didn’t know existed. Thoughts move through my head and come concretely together on their own, in a way that is fluid and automatic.

I believe the origin of this flow comes from the space I have given it to grow from in meditation. I have broken down the walls where it once was contained and have not pin-pointed or directed a final destination or outcome. Releasing the reason to write, the specific audience to write for, and topics to write about frees me up to feel into my own natural current and move forward.

My sailor friend Jeffrey says, the key to sailing is to utilize the best of what you have access to: current, wind, tools and the structure of the vessel. Lean in and allow for the natural elements to do their work. Use observation and technical skills to make minor fine-tune adjustments to shift your direction along the way. This is something that I think I have been trying to learn my entire life. How do I release myself fully while making technical and observational adjustments along the way without heavy-handed control?

It’s a bit scary at first, like being on a sailboat alone without knowing how to utilize the assets and tools you have. Floating freely in foggy open water, not knowing if you will hit the shore or if you will be lost at sea.   At this point there is no other option then to release into the current, utilize the wind and learn the tools at your disposal. If you don’t want to ebb, it’s time to learn to flow.

Reach in the Dark.

8/1