Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bring It, Boss

Some fears you can move through singularly, like a minor boss in a video game. You meet it, you kill it, you find more treasure. Some fears are Big Bosses, and the battle with them is cumulative. Everything you do up to that point trains you to meet the Boss Fear, you fight it, you get your ass kicked (and, hopefully, win) and then you level up. Those kinds of fears must be moved through; one you’re through, you’re simply not in the same landscape anymore. Same game, but new turf.

I’ve dealt with all the minor bosses I can. Met them on the noble field of internal combat, won (well, mostly) and now it’s time to level up. The Big Fear is up next.

For me, that means becoming a verb. The little fears I’ve been able to deal with on my insides, using my tools, my process skills, everything I’ve learned over the years. I’ve been training to meet this Boss since I got back from Cuba in ’05.

The two times in the last 10 years that I can remember someone asking me what I was most afraid of, the answer has been the same: getting my PhD. No, I don’t need it to legitimize my knowledge. To a point, I don’t need that sort of credential to teach, either. But I desire it. I need to know that I can commit to a dream, take the baby steps involved and pursue my Personal Legend. Her name is Dr. Addington. She dreams of social justice through religious literacy. She strives for a better world by becoming the change she wants to see in it. She aches for all this to make sense, somehow, to broaden her awareness of assigning meaning and value to a life that’s over in the space of a cosmic sneeze.

And here comes the Boss Fear. It means moving—both figuratively and literally.

We leave in 2 days to go seek housing and employ. We seem to need to be on the ground there, where the chi most needs moving. An angel brought us a car perfect for living there, at a price we could afford. An angel offered us lodging while we go look, til July1. One thing at a time, we’ve found the magical objects needed to meet this Boss and win. I still think that I could use some bonus armor or magically enhancing objects or special spells, but who knows what’s to be found on the way.

That’s the thing: hafta be on the way now. I’ve processed. I’ve moved through my innerscape. I’ve done all the footwork from here that I can. For some reason, I was under the delusion that if I did it “right,” I’d have moved through all my fears so that I could go un-gently into that good night, fear-free and ready for anything. Not quite. This fear has been distilled to its essence: a fear of the unknown, which can only be properly dealt with by moving into it, by acquiring knowledge.

I’m ready. I have to be. If I tell myself I’m not, I won’t ever go. I’m not fear-free in the way I thought I’d be, but I’m not being animated into action by my fears, either. They’re like the smelly hippie hitchhikers in the backseat that I know I get to take with me a little way along this path, and then they’ll get out, hopefully without leaving stains or a lingering, nose-whapping scent.

Here I come, Boss. I’m ready for you. I’m naked, vulnerable, exposed. I’m spacious, loving and grateful. I’m unarmed and waiting to embrace you into non-existence. I’m looking forward to what you have to teach me about the pursuit of my Personal Legend.

Bring it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

It Ends at the Beginning

I am so sick of my own process that I could just about puke. I place enormous value on self-reflexive methods of growth and evolution, but seriously. All things in moderation, right?

I’m doing the least I can—check. Moving through fearwads as they arise—check. Dealing with my shit the best way I know how--check. Remaining engaged and present, open to what is—check.

Great. Could we do something else now, please?

I crochet. It started when my chiro suggested that a handcraft might help me move more energy into my creativity. I figured, okay, what can I do that’s cheap? I had two old crochet hooks and one knitting needle in the bottom of an old sewing kit. I had some interesting leftover yarns from making hairfalls for Burning Man. Seemed ideal. I got a book targeted at 9 year olds or so and taught myself basic stitches.

Then I got another book and learned more. Then I went out on the net and learned how to read patterns (they’re written in glyphs, not words, so some learning curve there).

I started by following directions, learning the “rules.” Then I kinda went off on my own, making simple things according to what I’d learned about the rules. Then I got bored.

I got tired of doing the same thing repetitively. Then I found freeform (also called scrumbling which the urban dictionary defines as "blowing a raspberry on someone’s testicles" (go figure I'd have a hobby that has a connection to doing odd things to people's naughty bits, huh?). I started to paint with yarn.

I’m only a beginner. I’m still learning about how different weights of yarn and different stitches can dance with each other harmoniously. I’m still learning how to make it lay flat, how to get it to do what I want. I’m still using the rules and stitches I learned early on, but now I’m having my way with them.

I’ve been working on my learning piece for 2 months. Not every day, but steadily, and some days for hours and hours. Creating beauty calms me. Struggling with creation centers me. Watching a something emerge form a not-bloody-much fascinates me. And I now have concrete proof that I can start a long-term project and finish it, even knowing for a fact that it’s utterly imperfect in more ways than I can count.

And now it is complete. I finished it last night—wove the loose ends in, tidied up, that sort of thing. Imperfect as it may be, I did it and it’s mine. I learned a lot from it. Each time I look at it-even though I made it-I see something new. That seems improbable to me, but there you have it. I journalled and photographed its becoming; I’ve never done that with art before. It was interesting, and a definite exercise in discipline for me.

So my first try ends here. Completion achieved. The work even inspired me to write a poem (which also helped when I was facilitating the writer’s group for the Emma Center, because my cowriters got to watch a piece get written, worked on, change, and be finished--it's down at the bottom of this post). And I got to go through the process of writing as a process. This is good for me because I have a nasty, sabotagy tendency to quit if something doesn’t come out perfect and finished on the first try (a lethal habit I am striving to unlearn).

My fingers itch already for something new to work on. I’m lying on the grass of my brain, looking up at the moving cloudforms of my thoughts, becoming willing to let an inspiration find me and light me up. I have no doubt it will, and I have no doubt that the more practice I get in doing that the better off I’ll be as I walk off into my own new sunrise.
approx size = 2.5x2.5 feet.

Crocheting a Poem

I pick up my pointy stick and begin to inscribe patterns:
loops, lines, stringy language;

each row builds on the last and becomes the next.
I hope the one before makes sense
or the followers are lost.

Tension is critical. If I make the next word too tight
or too loose
the other words will have a hard time figuring out where they belong
and the work won’t lay flat on the page when it’s done.

If I don’t balance creation with control,
it will curl around the edges:
that makes a poem harder to wear.

If I can craft this poem,
allow it to become,
witness the tango of colors,
pace my hands and feet,
weave a rhythm,

I will have made something that might
clothe a naked form,
or offer nice, warm beauty
on a cold, blocked night.

I cut the working strands
and weave in the ends.
Good finishing is invisible.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Changing the Story

Stuff happens. As it turns out, the stuff that’s happening is very seldom the cause of any pleasure or distress I may experience. Pleasure and distress come from the stories I instantaneously (and far too often unconsciously) tell myself about the stuff that’s happening.

Take moving from my 20 year home to a whole new place, for example. Not such a big thing, really, especially when I look at people like my friend Inge (see previous blog post), and when I observe the different ways things like this are handled in other places in the world. Were I Bedouin, I’d nut up about staying on one place!

I’ve been telling myself some hella sketchy stories. I think I’ve moved through a lot of the tangly threads in the fearwad an am now hopefully moving on to dealing with less fearsome, paralyzing things.

I’ve been using Dave Berman’s Manifest Positivity motto: What’s the least you can do? It’s really been helping; some of these fearwads and their constituent chunks have been so seemingly gimonstornormous that I haven’t been able to work with them as wholes. In pieces, though, I can manage to chop wood and carry water.

We took a big step yesterday.L & I sat down and crafted an ad to go out on Craigstlist and some other places where, hopefully, the person(s) who need us will see our beacon shining against the clouds (evokes Batman, dunnit?). It took us a couple hours, and we had to get past the stories behind some the of the kneejerk reactions that can make it difficult for us to co-craft, but we did it.
It’s here:


We think it turned out pretty good. Hopefully, you’ll go take a look at it, offer us comments, maybe put it on your Facebook where more people can get at it, etc.It really is rather lovely.

To find the stuff that went into that note, I had to change some story. While the details in story vary for me, many of the little ones share a common theme: This is HARD. Moving is hard. Moving to the Bay is hard (oh, yeah, and don’t forget expensive). Packing is hard. Letting go of what I know is hard. Finding a place is hard.

What if I told myself a different story? Like, moving is challenging, but doable. This is a chance to learn even more about managing my personal resources. Packing is a bitch, but it gives me a chance to sort out the detritus I’ve kept that isn’t me anymore. Finding a place to live might be tough using conventional methods, but I live in a place of boundless hope with almost infinite other ways to try and do things. Being me isn’t a detriment to doing what I desire—it’s exactly what’s required.

Just one different story can alter my perceptions; a combination of other stories can alter my perceptions significantly enough to allow me to become aware of other, previously invisible, options.

So today, this Note from the Universe comes in: "Never compromise a dream, Deborah. Always compromise on how it will come true." The story I was telling resulted in a worldview that I would need to alter my dream to make this happen. Bullshit. It’s the story that needs altering, and that part is way easier than, say, packing.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tying Up My Camel

The more I wrestle with this, the more I find it to be a complex, Gordian set of fears, not just one or two that I can deal with quickly, detangle and move on. I keep finding the smaller fears that make up the big, scary looking fearwad and am dealing with them as I find them.

Somehow, I expected this to go faster. Silly me.

In the midst of my wrestling, I got to do a couple neat things this weekend. I had the pleasure of attending a lovely wedding and help a friend with moving stuff. All I really wanted to do was stay home in a corner sucking my metaphoric thumb and twitching, but I’ve learned that the best way to get out of my own crap is to do something for others. So I got up, dressed up and showed up.

After the lovely wedding, we headed for Inge’s. That’s the friend we were helping with moving. She’s amazing. She’s got more time in volunteering, community activism and social justice than I’ve been alive. She has health challenges, and this really neat wandering eye. She’s leaving her home of 18 years to move to the east coast, to live closer to her other kids and grandkids

She’s 75.


Isn't she delightful? So curious! So mischievous! So vibrant! She’s built a life here, and is giving it all up to do something else. Can you imagine? At that age? Packing it all in to go do something totally new and different? Hell, I’m having a hard time imagining it for myself and I’m only 45!

But she’s doing it. Her house sold at a good price (for this market) before it ever even got listed and she had 2 buyers standing by. Once she made the decision, she says, things just started falling into place. She’s very sad—grieving, even—for the life here that is ending. But she’s all sparkly and excited about the new life that’s about to begin. There was a book about love and dying on one of the boxes in the living room, which she enthusiastically recommended to me, saying, “Grieving comes from love, you know. We must risk the pain of loss to really love all the way down.”

I have at least two choices, here. I can look at her as a model, a way of helping me to comport myself in a similar fashion. Or, I can discount her entirely by drawing on specifics, like our lives are different, she doesn’t have the same issues I do, it’s easy for her, blah blah blah. That kinda crap. I have decided that, like her, I am not a victim of my chaotic existence but that I am an adventurer off to see what this next bit of my life is going to look like. I can make either option come true, depending on which one I choose to believe.

If Inge can do it, then I bloody well can, too.

This fine model may not help me find and detangle another fear; that’s my work in progress. But it does something equally valuable: it shows me that theses fearwads can be dealt with, and that there’s hope. Vast, boundless amounts of hope and the deep, fervent faith that if this is really what I’m supposed to be doing, doors I can’t even see yet will open to me right when I need them. That’s not to say that I’m operating under the assumption that I can sit on my ass and if the Universe wants me to go somewhere or do something that a magic carpet will arrive to whisk me off to my fate or destiny; it's up to me to take the steps that move me in my desired direction. It means that I’m abiding by a Muslim truth: Trust God and tie up your camel.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Suck By Association?

Emotional weather forecast for today: anxious and uncertain with patches of peace and tranquility. Internal squalls of debate and doubt with breakthroughs of clarity. When in motion today, be wary of high turbulence in areas of low ceilings.

I’m making headway.

Last night, while moving through some more of this very interesting internal weather, I ran across something. It’s thirty years old and subtly influential. I found myself saying, “…and the last time I gave up everything I knew and moved, it sucked.”

Well, of course it sucked. I got married and left home young. Really young. Fifteen. Shortly after I got myself into some wedlock, I moved. At first, it was only halfway across the country, to Colorado where children in Halloween costumes were making snowmen. I was horrified, and cold. A year later, it was the rest of the way across, to Virginia. I was horrified for different reasons, and I was hot and overhumidified. I didn’t know anyone, I’d never lived anywhere but California, all my family and my familiar stuff was gone, gone gone. That hellish phase lasted for two years. I’d never had to move in the world as an adult before, and I had not one iota of a thought about a clue about anything in life. I was miserable.

I didn’t realize I was still operating within that vintage misery, until I heard myself say the thing about last time and the suckage.

Sure, it sucked. I was basically a smartass teenager, using marriage in order to run away from what I didn’t like at home. I had no idea how to be in the world. I learned a lot about how I didn’t want to be in the world.

The similarity this situation bears to “the first time I did this” is actually minimal. I’m moving. That’s about it. I’m thirty years away from being a smartass teen. I’m not running from anything; I’m moving myself steadily, consciously towards something that matters a great deal to me. I have something of a feel for how the world moves, now, and a much better idea about how I desire to move through it. I’m not the same person I was then. The situation’s not the same. I’m leaving my home base to go somewhere else: that’s really where the resemblance between then and now ends.

And yet, I still have it in my head that “the last time I did this, it sucked.” That doesn’t make a lot of sense, really, considering that what I’m about to do (make conscious changes in order to pursue my dreams) is not what I did thirty years ago. There is no “last time I did this” because I’ve not previously done it. But damned if my saboteur isn’t trying to tell me it’s the same.

It isn’t. There’s a big difference between escape and adventure. Last time: escape. This time: adventure. It is not going to be all suck. There will be some suck, as it is moving, and moving, in general, sucks. But default suckage by association? Nah. That, I can leave behind.