I think I already understand about life: pretty good, some problems.
Sam Lamott, at age seven, from Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions
I am just coming out of getting caught up in "some problems", or rather some other people's problems and had been forgetting the "pretty good" part of life. Their distress had become mine and since it was never really mine in the first place I couldn't fix or heal it and I found myself opening kitchen cupboards and eating what I found, a new one for me. Perhaps it was the very newness of it that caught my attention and broke the spell.
Not only had their distress been my problem but it had felt like a problem that I was having a problem! After all, good girls who are doing it right don't have problems, that is the whole purpose of being nice and good, it protects you from all evils, or so Baby Janet grew to believe. With her old line of reasoning I spend too much time blaming myself for problems rather than embracing them as part of life, part of learning and growing, a juicy part of my life story, (spices up the ol' check-in, and gives me my session topic).
Realizing my adapted girl had been in charge and getting back to my adult self got my mind off their distress, my head out of the cupboard, and my attention back on the pretty goodness of life. YES!
Being the Holiday Spirit
God bless you merry gentle women, let nothing you dismay. The holiday image you carry was created in mid-18th century when the Victorian women were full-time homebodies and began preparing for the holidays in July! Women have been conditioned to do the holidays: the card writing and mailing, gift buying, gift wrapping, gift sending, tree buying and decorating, cookie baking, party giving, turkey roasting, managing of family dynamics. It is not surprising that the holidays are the height of flu season. We have been conditioned to "do" the holidays, to make the holiday miracles. Now days women have lots of roles besides doing the holidays, so for many of us this is the season of tears and tantrums, hustle and bustle, comparing and competition, not-enoughness.
Let us bring ourselves good tidings of comfort and joy and do the holidays our way, what ever that way be this year. Let's consciously decide to be playful, loving, fulfilled, spiritual, at ease, flexible, curious, present and connected to the special people in our life this holiday season. We can bring ourselves back to what is important when we start to spin out, when we catch the holiday rush.
How will it be this year? We know how it was last year...what will be right this year, with this year's health, finances, time and energy, with this year's age of participants???
Let us remember it is a decision: wreck or relaxed, struggling or enough, always something more to do or get or gratitude. We can not do everything, so we shall choose to let what we love best about the holidays remain and cross out some old "musts" that don't apply this year. Let's talk with friends and family and design a heart-singing holiday together with what is special to each and all.
How do you want to be this holiday season?
I Can Do This
I was beginning a drive the other day, something I am not wild about. I enjoy being a passenger. I am great at looking out the window and at making conversation and at day dreaming. I am directionally challenged, so a trip to Live Oaks High School to pick up Erin was a bit of a stretch. I wanted the time with her alone coming back, I wanted her to want me to watch her play, I wanted to stop at the outlets on the way back, all reasons that led to going. I had packed layers of clothing , water, (Skittles my latest craving), and a couple of cds and was heading towards Castroville when I was aware of the anxiety building. First urge was to turn on the music and distract myself, "Don't think about it." Trying to ignore it made the anxiety increase. Since that wasn't working I had the good thinking to try something else. Second thought was to reassure myself by repeating: "You can do this." To my surprise my anxiety continued to grow. There was disagreement to you-can-do-this. " No I can't;" " Yes, you can;" "NO, I CAN'T." And then I got it. Instead of yelling even louder, "YES, YOU CAN" I switched to "I can do this." Pause and response, "Oh, You can?" Answer, " Yes I can." Instant relief.
Adult Janet was now telling the scared young (unlicensed and unprepared) Janet that I, of 47 years, can do this. I reassured her that I, as an adult, was prepared to do the trip. I told her I had clear directions. I had maturely asked for help. I gotten the phone number of the high school and asked the high school for directions. I also reminded young Janet I had the cell phone if my directions or my 16 month old car failed. She relaxed completely.
I encouraged her to enjoy the view and to be in charge of the Skittles. We had a great trip.
If you were not holding back in your life, what would you be doing now?
Work and career jumped to mind first, but right behind came thoughts of fun and laughter and creativity. My mid-west farm work ethic was drawn to bigger work thinking but what about the play ethic which was so poorly modeled in a family farm world? If I were not holding back there now much more would life tickle me, how much more would I linger over touching connections, how much fuller and even longer would I live?
There is a sister question here, "If I were not afraid, what would I do right now?" It is fear that I allow to hold me back: fear of wasting time, fear of being judged unworthy (lazy), fear of having regrets, fear of being childish (when did that become so loathsome?). I learned that work was most important, "You are what you do," "Good people are busy people," "She is a hard worker" (the highest praise possible). I added the fear-based negatives to support the messages I had gotten around work. So, if work is so important..... then play is so unimportant; work is good, play is bad. My young brain liked it simple.
Fortunately my present day brain is more complex and, dare I say, playful! Slowing down to session on the old messages that I received and that I formulated, gives me back my choices and therefore my aliveness.
I recommend sessioning and journaling on these two questions: What is holding me back? and If I were not afraid, what would I do right now? I also recommend asking yourself at the end of the day, "What tickled me today?" and upon waking, "I wonder what will delight me today?"
Try it, it's fun!!
How Do I Love Me?
Let Me Count The Ways...
Loving ourselves well is the basis for loving all others well. As I know my value and lovability I can relate to you cleanly and genuinely. I no longer need you to make me feel good, enough, important. I maintain my own value. My energy is freed from watching your reactions, to expressing my uniqueness and living my creativity. As I love myself well, I naturally attract others and extend my love and self-acceptance. Love is very contagious! Let's all get really good at spreading it.
Remember the writing "Imagine"? I am putting it up again as a reminder of loving ourselves well as women: embracing and acting on our Inherent nature, who we really are, outside of past hurts and conditioning.
Imagine a Woman
Imagine a woman who believes she is good. A woman who trusts and respects herself. Who listens to her needs and desires, and meets them with tenderness and grace.
Imagine a woman who has acknowledged the past's influence on the present. A woman who has walked through her past. Who has healed into the present.
Imagine a woman who authors her own life. A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf. Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and to her wisest voice.
Imagine a woman who names her own gods. A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness. Who designs her own spirituality and allows it to inform her daily life.
Imagine a woman in love with her own body. A woman who believes her body is enough, just as is. Who celebrates her body and its rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.
Imagine a woman who honors the face of the Goddess in her changing face. A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom. Who refuses to use precious energy disguising the changes in her
body and life.
Imagine a woman who values the women in her life. A woman who sits in circles of women. Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets.
Imagine yourself as this woman.
Growing into who we really are... We must insist on nothing less. We are too valuable, too intriguing, too rare, too diverse to risk missing any of our juiciness. Growing means Going For It. It means breaking free of stereotypes, categories, marketing, and competition. Growing means recycling the boxes of gender conditioning, throwing open the cages of our adapted child responses, and embracing our aliveness.
Fortunately we already know it all: it is all inside us, we are simply reclaiming our fullness. Those wonderful belly laughs of children that we resonate to, those delighted, sparkly eyes, they are still ours today. As we grow in our healing and trust of our intuition, as we bring ourselves into the possibilities of the present, the laugh and delight come rushing back. Here we are, here we are!!
SARK is a colorful, expressive wild woman role model and writer. "Growing means separation from: being victims, passive-aggressive participants, unwilling caretakers, lying lovers, fake friends, or nice girls." She goes on to write "Growing means letting go of: what others will think, of narrow possibilities, of tight clothes and uncomfortable shoes. Growing means: accepting power, telling the truth, creating miracles, and making the most alive choices."
Let each of us lead in growth and follow as well, we need the support, encouragement, and modeling of other Big, Alive Women. Growth is contagious because it feels so right, so true to our nature.
Lead and follow; Follow and lead.
'99, Won't It Be Fine!
Why not pick an inherent nature quality to go after this year? The Year of Vulnerability, The Year of Forgiveness. We can incorporate them in our check in, to make them real and to remind ourselves. The Year of Ebullience! We can share our theme with friends, getting their support and exposing them to the contagiousness of a great idea. "Of course I'll go, it is the Year of Spontaneity." Year of Aliveness. Year of Honesty (with myself and others.) Year of Creativity. "I need to pass on that opportunity, it is the Year of Peacefulness."
For me it will be the Year of the Pause.... pausing to enjoy my mounding baby's breath; pausing to fully take in George's goodbye kiss; pausing to savor a smile and stretch out a laugh; listening not just preparing an answer; pausing to see the fog roll through our many horizons; waiting for the end of the song, not just jumping out of the car the minute the wheels stop; pausing to ask myself if I really want to, not just is it physically possible; pausing to appreciate all that I am and all that I have; think of all I will gain by pausing....
What will you pick? How will you choose to enrich your life and therefore the lives of others? What will you focus on this year? Think Big, trust that first thought, share your self with others. Happy New Year.
"Let It Shine in'99"
"YOUR SILENCE WILL NOT PROTECT YOU"
Long ago now, when I answered the question, "What would my life be like without sexism?" one word came up fast and clear, BIG, my life would be Big. It has been a beacon for me since.
Having my own reality: thoughts, opinions, feelings, perception, desires;
Voicing my reality with connection to you and your reality;
Developing and trusting my intuition;
Embracing my sexuality in all aspects of my life, in all it's juiciness;
Celebrating and connecting with my uniqueness;
Staying present in the moment and in my body;
Assuming- and operating from- connection;
Delighting in differences;
Remaining true to me no matter who walks into the room;
Continuing to design and redesign my life as I grow and learn;
Welcoming opportunities to heal;
Loving my particular body;
Challenging old limiting beliefs: can't sing, can't dance, not athletic...;
Embracing new opportunities;
Leaning into conflict;
Treating myself to special pleasures;
Protecting time for me;
Including myself in conversations, gatherings, opportunities;
Confidently voicing my opinion and listening well to yours;
Taking time to relax (I am enough, I have enough, I do enough);
Making noise, taking up space: whistling, singing, humming, strutting;
Unleashing my enthusiasm;
Including me in all my decisions and actions;
I wrote this list on Bigness while sitting in a doctors office. It can, and will, go on and on. Basically, Bigness is reclaiming my value, importance,
lovability. It is operating outside of all the adultism, sexism, bodyism, classism, homophobia, racism, all the -isms, and letting our True Nature emerge. We were born to be Big, Sparkling, Expressive, Loving and Loved.
Join me in Bigness. The list will get bigger.
"Why not go out on a limb...
that is where the fruit is."
Our basic assumption is that it is the unhealed pain of childhood that limits and confuses us today. As we go after living our lives authentically, we must continue to feel and release and heal all those negative messages that want to keep us small, and safe, and under control, and with the majority. It is those negative messages, and the decisions we made in order to make sense of our painful experiences, that limit and deaden our lives.
We must explore the verbal and behavioral messages we received from our family, the gender conditioning we received from our culture, and the way we tried to make sense of all that painful nonsense. If my mother isolated herself I decide people are scary, if my father had little time for me I decide I'm not interesting, if I was unprotected from abuse I decide I'm not valuable. So it is not only what is said or done or not done to us that hurts and limits us but the way our minds struggled to make sense of the events in our childhood.
So now as we move forward the fruit can feel elusive. It's too high, too far, probably already gone, for someone else. Being realistic becomes settling for less and calling it being adult. We give up our dreams, our naturally instinctive high standards, and call it growing up, being mature. Positive visions get labeled unrealistic, childish, being a Polly Anna, naive. We stop questioning, envisioning, dreaming.
Yet inherently we are all tree climbers, all alive acrobats delighting in the stretch for the next limb, all gleeful devourers of ripe fruit, the juice dripping from our chins as we grin. In our hearts we know and remember the bliss and our connection to all of life. The drive to reclaim our aliveness, uniqueness, goodness is a persistently strong one, waiting for us to allow it to lead us to our greater glory. Why not respond to it? Why not go out on a limb? Why not have the life I really want? Why not settle for more.
In our culture women and men are given a separate and arbitrary list of human qualities and told that these characteristics and behaviors are female or male qualities. As women we were systemically rewarded for submitting to this female conditioning, as well punished for exhibiting behaviors on the arbitrary list of exclusively male qualities. If we escaped this gender conditioning at home, we experienced it at school, in the media, from our peers and other adults.
The message of sexism comes at us in two ways: external and internal oppression. The external sexism is messages and behavior coming to us from outside, through institutions and individuals, e.g. "Women are too emotional to be in positions of authority." Internalized sexism is taking in and believing the stereotypes and misinformation that our sexist culture tells us about being female and what it means to be a woman, resulting in e.g. "What do I know..." , "Who am I to speak..." Both external and internal avenues of oppression are painful and limiting for women as individuals and as a group, and deprives the world of our best thoughts, decisions, and actions.
Too often the focus has been on going after external oppression with its' rewards and waves of hopelessness, frustration, and anger. Internalized oppression is equally deadly, it holds women back. It causes us to hold back our excellence to protect men from embarrassment, to go quiet, to stand by and watch children get ravaged by it, to judge and undermine other women, to lower our standards of leadership, and to assess our worth on the basis of sexist conditioning. In order to be true, loving, allies for each other, and to reclaim our power, we each need to go after facing and completely freeing ourselves of internalized oppression.
Freeing ourselves of internalized oppression means first increasing our awareness of the messages we give ourselves regarding limits, and secondly and equally important, the way I respond to other women. Am I living my life with an awareness of what I really want and who I really am or trying to sniff out where they want me to fit in? Am I championing other women who are coming from their bigness and appreciating the room they are making for me and all women in the world or responding within the internalized oppression, thinking and saying, "Who does she think she is...."?
Internalized oppression is alive and well when we criticize women who speak up, who have an opinion, and when we avoid women who show their own unique style, who dare to be different. These women make us nervous because they are acting outside the female conditioned box, they are reconnected to that place we once reveled in and became estranged from in our painful conditioning. We are consciously or unconsciously jealous of these women for returning to where we abandoned ourselves in the name of being good little girls, nice girls, and succumbed to the dreaded what-will-people-think conditioning.
Past female conditioning with its focus on having a man as the goal, as the indicator of success, pits women as rivals for " the few good men." Liberation involves moving the focus from getting and keeping a man, to celebrating the goodness of women and men while living the fullness of our potential to express and embrace life in all its succulence.
Let us have the courage to hear the voices of internalized sexism, the decisiveness to purge and dismiss them as the fear-based drivel they are, and the love and connectedness to live in the truth of the fullness of life. Let us support and celebrate any woman any time she acts as a dynamic, playful, outspoken, laughing deeply , fully alive human being. Let us say YES! and express, feel, and live You Go Girl!!! Who said we can't have our cake and eat it too and what were they afraid of? No Limits.