Besieged No Longer

***(Written on the page:)

“As a child, I was an explorer of fields, catching grasshoppers in the sway of grasses.  I was a wanderer, drifting off with the wind to connect with friends; getting lost, but continuing to knock on doors.  I dared to enter the dark night to seek what I needed.  I was a singer of songs of my own imagining, a dancer who circled the air, her arms stretched wide.  I danced with the particles floating in a beam of light, delighting in watching them swirl.  I was a creator of beauty from scraps, weaving allure for gazing long.  I was a lover, full of smiles and tears, leaving love notes on your pillow.
ImageAs I grew, I was besieged by your messages to shape up.  Listen up and perform.  Compare and compete, see how you measure up.  Have purpose.  Stack up accomplishment.  Besieged by lines created, imaged by our fear.  Locked up in a cardboard box of our making, besieged from my light.  Shape-shifting by ingesting the white lie – a lie that perfection exists if you fake it long enough.

I am the butterfly!  I flit, I float, I flutter, I dance.  Dance in the winds of chance and possibility.  Sing in the mist of early morning rainbows. Grounding on stability in curiosity, for rest, for wonder, to shine my color – feeling drawn to yours, only to alight again playing in the shadow of my reflection.  Traveling far, carried by faith.  Lifting higher in the winds of a dream.  Besieged no longer.

Be free.

Be seen.”

Robust Humility

Isn’t it strange that as you begin to focus on an area in your life, the Universe begins throwing you darts of information, repeatedly asking you to look again as if to say, “Okay, yes, and what else?”

My life seems to have blossomed into a discovery of living fully into myself, noticing how I’ve fallen short of this for a good part of my life.  Today there’s an intentionality of staying aware and living my life with a robustness that throws a middle finger to fear and doubt.  And a passion, as well, to inspire that in others – especially women – to re-awaken this child-like robustness.  To live life with a confidence in knowing our inner light; that life steals in it’s shaping us up to form.

And then, I get messages that send me the opposing message and I’m left questioning.  Wondering.  Trying not to be judgmental about it, but wondering how it all fits in.  At the risk of being redundant with my learning through art, this story helps to conceptualize the issue.

It was the first weekend of Expressive Arts training; quite possibly the first few hours getting to know a handful of various feminine personalities.  We were positioned around a table after having been facilitated in a dance experience.  “Holding on to that movement that calls to you, keep repeating it in air”, she instructed, “then bring it down to the paper.”  My motion was a large infinity sign, wide across my body, my knees bending so that it seemed to envelope all of me.  A robust action, full bodied.  She asked us to keep our eyes closed as we brought color and motion to paper.

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Without vision, I allowed my marks (in my favorite blue color) to reach wide, over and over.  With instruction to then open our eyes, I could see how my lines reached way into my neighbor’s space.  I looked around the paper and could see how respectfully all my classmates were keeping within their boundaries, while my childish and seemingly disrespectful scribbles confined my neighbor to a tiny space.  I was embarrassed and shamed for taking the instruction too literally; that perhaps my repeated motion could be brought to paper in a smaller box.

I find this is where I struggle at this new stage of my life.  As I re-awaken into myself, I can look over my past and see how I’ve shut myself down, repressing myself for the sake of other’s expectations.  I know I’m not alone in that.  We all tend to  sacrifice that delightful, robust child living into her fullness, to the messages of “Simmer down!”  ‘Be respectful!” “Be quiet!”  “Don’t make a spectacle of yourself!”

And then recently, in an e-course, we talked about the ancient sacred teaching of “Humility” and I laughed.  Here we go again!  How does one live robustly yet maintain humility?  Not occupy too much space or overstep boundaries?

I’m powerfully moved by Marianne Williamson’s quote of not doing yourself justice by playing small, as your light shining gives others permission to do the same.  Being robust, living into your fullness offers an opportunity for others to be brave.  So where does humility come in?  How do I let go of old messages to SIMMER DOWN, by loving this robust full colored, full bodied woman….yet be humble?

I don’t know that I have the answer today.  It’s something that I believe the Universe keeps throwing at me so that I keep wondering.  Noticing without judgement.   Right now I believe that humility has to do with a deep respect for others.  Respect for their own talents and inner wisdom.  I think this has evolved from experiencing this from the other side of another’s robustness and being irritated with their over-stepping a boundary.   I think it’s about staying aware that we’re all part of a whole, a Divine Intelligence that sees a bigger picture.  And being confident  enough in the strength of your own light that you don’t have to blare your high beams to prove its shine.  Certainly, as you gaze upon the finished piece our group jointly completed, stepping into one another’s place to add our own unique offering, you can see the Divine bigger picture at play.

Perhaps it’s just the noticing, the wondering that brings us more fully into awareness.  No need for answers, knowing today’s understanding will likely change tomorrow as I integrate my robust child with humble robust womanhood.  Growing in compassion for others who invade my space with their robust shining, giving light and compassion for my own struggle.

Unapologetically Unfinished

I was at a meeting this morning in which I heard a woman talk about the inability to get a hot dog jingle out of her head, trying to identify the brand name.  When she’d finally identified it, “Armor”, I was immediately sidetracked into my own metaphor, the conversation blurring as I contemplated that word.

Upon walking into the meeting, I had noted that I seem to stand a bit taller now that I have, in my perspective, a “worthy purpose” in this world – ignoring the fact that my “other” purpose, motherhood, is of the utmost value.  Despite my not being entirely clear with how my new business will manifest itself in the world, just being a part of the professional world and  gaining my professional certification back makes me feel a bit more proud.  Able to stand before these women who I’ve admired over the years, indeed, my mentors, and know that I have worth and value purely for the sake of my present goals.  And then, immediately recognizing that for the ego that it was; jotting it down with a smile as I noted its presense.

And then, laugh out loud, the word “Armor” arrives.   OK!  I hear You!  I do take note of how much I am still highly defended.  My most notable suit of armor?  Looking good.  Being productive.

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Showing you how valuable I am.  Jumping through your hoops, and lots of those of my own creation.  I can also see it’s double sidedness, though.  At the same time that I note that the  act of becoming part of a productive, helping structure makes me feel valuable and thereby feeding my ego, I can also acknowledge that being purposeful, in service to others, helps keep me from navel gazing.  And becoming mired in the muck of my own doing, having more time on my hands than is good for my mental wellbeing!

My common default is feeling “less than”, doing whatever I can to help you see that what I feel is false.  I am indeed every bit as good as you.  I wear the armor of looking good; being attractive, keeping fit, attempting style.  I’ve found I feel my best when looking “put together”, sounding as if I got it all together.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve been so drawn to Brene Brown and living authentically.  She reminds me that the more I struggle in that armor, the more it literally weights me down, it hides my true creativity and value behind steel.  At the same time,  I can just as easily flip into the “better than” armor when I’m especially proud of myself; staying on track with diet and exercise, finishing my professional requirements for certification and licensing, reading my blog thinking, “Damn! I’m good!!  More people should read this!!”

Yesterday, I was reading an email about “playing small” from Lissa Rankin, an online personal development guru.  She talked about our ability to easily see those who are the braggarts, the name droppers, as having a big ego.  But I was shocked to find that those who play small, who are in constant self doubt, feeling less than and questioning, are playing the other side of that same ego.  Feeling that we are separate from All that Is, making us feel that we are somehow distinct and always in comparison as better or less than. Instead of the recognition that we are part of the Ocean, the Great Divine, just another beautiful wave and undeniably human in our similar but different journeys.

I remember one of those mentors saying to me at one time, “ those defenses are likely always going to be there” and thinking, “WHAT?  Are you KIDDING ME? Aint that the shits?!”  As a kid, I can remember thinking that I’d truly be grown up when I didn’t get in trouble with my parents. I think I’m still in the same mindset, that when I truly grow up I won’t beat myself up side the head with my continued faults!

I realized that the answer to our stumbles is forgiveness.  Noticing where we’ve hurt another, namely here, myself, and ask forgiveness.  I am so quick to forgive my neighbor, but offer myself a gang beating for repeated offenses.  We can take notice of where our defenses continue to show up and have compassion for the journey – in doing so, it teaches us compassion for others in their struggle with the weight of their own  armor.

I recently heard a friend describe herself as, “unaplogetically unfinished”.  I like that.  To be authentically “in progress” – not with the attitude of a slobby resignated “I am what I am, so take it!”  Moreso, being aware, open, embracing  the shadow and showing up to your best self in the moment – which at all times is human.  Failing sometimes.  And armored….to different levels at any given moment or situation.   Curious and acknowledging….and then moving forward.

Stuck

One of the brave women in my group talked about the word, “stuck”, that came up for her from one of her art pieces.  How difficult that word felt, thinking that starting over was not an option.

Oh, how I understood this sentiment.  Especially in midlife, don’t we all know the feeling that we should be a certain place by now – whether it’s financially, spiritually, psychologically, or in a particular relationship?  Liking possibly parts of that situation, but feeling more and more trapped within a piece of it.  Unwilling to let go and start over this  “late” in life, or perhaps fearful of upsetting the status quo for the pieces that we are satisfied with.

It reminded me a lot of playing gin rummy.  Finding myself close to going out but never having enough for a discard.  Seeing the solution DEEP within the discard pile, but knowing I’d practically have to pick up the entire deck of cards to get to that desired one.  The risk and fear involved with such a big move, of essentially starting over with a full deck in your hand when you’re down to just a few.   Sometimes, it wasn’t a great move – I ended up losing.  And sometimes, I’d find a number of solutions in my hand; in one turn, placing one grouping after another down which weren’t obviously apparent until I held them in my hand.  And surprise, winning the game!

I recently intuitively painted a picture – it’s a new process that I’m working on that is still difficult for me.  The idea is to allow yourself to paint from within, feeling which color, stroke, or brush – or hand, finger – needs to be used next.  It’s difficult for me to let go like that, wanting to “prove” that I really have some artistic ability in my completed pictures.  I can copy well.  Emulate and add to.  But this stuff from inside, it’s a letting go and a willingness to make ugly art that is just daunting to me!

So this painting, I started with my favorite colors of blue, green and purple and intentionally let go into the finger painting of my childhood.  Lots of swirls and making designs.  But I couldn’t let go there.  I wanted to find something in the swirls.  Make something.  Turning it this way and that, I thought I saw a profile – and honestly, I wanted to experiment with girls’ faces and figures as I see in so many other intuitive painter’s work.  So a profile emerged, and then a beautiful blue eye, which seemed to be crying….so I elaborated on that.    Image

Yet after that, I wasn’t sure what it needed.  It didn’t seem finished.  I tried to let go my need for symmetry, thinking that the face in the far left corner was the need to say it was incomplete.  A wise teacher recently told me that working with dislike in a painting can be a great practice for acceptance in ourselves.  Wanting to continually re-work may well be that nagging sense of perfection, not wanting to share, or even take time to personally look at the ugly, before we “cleaned” up our aestethic.   That certainly hit home with me!

But I still felt a desire to add to her.  So, upon hearing a prompt to “paint with your feet”, I decided this was another great practice for me in letting go.  And an excellent way to get out of that “stuck” feeling with this painting.  Surely, it was a bit scary to think of messing up what I already had, yet on the other hand I thought, it’s just a painting!  That I’m not entirely in love with.  So, go with it!  I loved her eye, her tears.  I’d hold onto that and let go of the rest.

On went droplets of color that spoke to me that morning,  adopting the “warrior” archetype in Angeles Arrien’s book, The Fourfold Way.  The Warrior, she says, is about just showing up, choosing to be present.  So, yes….let’s just march forward and do the work at hand!  The colors I chose: red, black, and purple began to swirl around my feet, squishing between my toes.  And the more I swirled, unintentionally covering her eye, the black began to take over.  Momentarily saddened that I’d totally messed it up, I stood over the picture and began twisting my entire body in a jig over the paper, as an African beat danced out of my speakers.  Giggling at the release.  Giggling at letting go.  Do you remember that feeling of destruction as a child?  It was that kind of feeling.

Oh well!  Here we go again…!

I tried scraping off the black with a knife, knowing the beautiful colors that remained below.  It made some interesting marks, but not enough.  So I added color to my knife and just kept scraping it on.  Beautiful.  Then chaotic!  Sometimes I get the notion I’m going overboard with what I love – and I love so much about color – that it just becomes too involved to see the good stuff!  So, I added black to further define the movement of my knife dragging and a tree? tentacles? sea anenome? began to emerge.  And light.  And more growth in the green below.

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The result to me speaks of just that: growth.  Growth in letting the old story of my tears go and grasping hold of the strength, bravery and power I see in me today.  Being willing to step into the present moment and face the fear, being willing to let go of everything in faith, trusting that what will emerge is what I really need at this moment in my life.  My final piece is not like one of the perfected paintings that I have hanging in my art studio in the basement,

but it speaks to me of beauty and vibrancy and power.   I’ve found that letting go and starting over can really be a place of awakened confidence.

And I’ll take that over perfection any day.