Exploring the discomfort of Life…More of That

Walking on the edge, and not fitting in, that would be me.  I became a student in the art of fitting in, just enough to make life work. But that meant living a life of discomfort: a life of separation from myself that came from the attempt to connect with others at the expense of losing me.

Life seems to be made of discomforts; the discomfort of not getting what we think we want, not getting responses we want, the discomfort of a break in a friendship or partnership, the discomfort of not knowing, the discomfort of displeasing people and trying something different, taking risks, the discomfort of being on FB or other social sites and starting to feel pangs of envy, and a sense of being left out.

These discomforts unsettle my soul and teach me.  “What’s learnin’ ya?” my teacher Angeles Arrien would say.  Well, I have learned a few things about these discomforts.  I have learned about my completely unconscious and automatic ability to turn away and become distracted from them.  I have also learned about the power of listening and turning towards the discomfort, pain or fear. I have learned that doing that, actually makes the discomfort less uncomfortable, less potent and more manageable.  When I see the turning, my soul looking, there is a too tall dark shadowy being and I am saying, “I see you.  I know you.  I hear you, you are there”.  The darkness gains a small bit of light, the shadow fades just a bit.  The discomfort and the barely acknowledged fear subside for that moment.

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” ― Leonard Cohen, Selected Poems, 1956-1968

A lot of my life has been about turning away from all the discomfort and fear that has met me each day.  I am an expert at distracting myself, I think I am not alone in this.

The distractions are innumerable; for each and every disquieting thought, every discomfort, pain or fear, I dare say that there are at least 6 distractions and some aren’t even articulated. They just show up and I find myself somewhere else, not feeling what has caused me distress and that lasts maybe a second, maybe more, until I resurface in the land of discomfort again. In this country, I can distract myself again or turn and face it, stare it down, let it know I am not afraid of feeling the discomfort it brings. At least for that moment, I am not afraid, I am courageous.

As distractions go, they are often made up but seem very, very important and needing my attention. Needing me to turn to the story and/or drama that is much more urgently demanding of me, than the discomfort that I am afraid to face.

The White Queen in Alice and Wonderland was an expert at distractions:  “Alice laughed, “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

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Maybe she should be called the Queen of distraction.

I guess the complicated part here, is that some things we turn to are creative, and do need our attention.  The question is when do we do that and why, at that moment, is it appropriate timing?

Sarah Blondin has a way of speaking to my soul, deep and clear.

Listen to her PODCAST – EXPLORING THE WILDERNESS OF YOUR DISCOMFORT

 

You Are Not Confused!

 

Let’s be clear, here in America, the land of the “free”, nearly, or I dare say, every woman has experienced some degree of degradation because of her sex. According to the very adult, mature man, who I met at the dog beach, he claims that EVERY man has done some kind of sexual or other assault on a woman in his life.

So what is there to be confused about.  Certainly, not that it happens, rather, the confusion is rooted in the “when” it happened and the “how” it happens and our culture and our personal histories.

My teacher, Angeles Arrien, would say, “You are not confused.” and I would add, I just didn’t really want to know what I knew.  Angeles spoke a truth to me, bare, open and clear. There was the permission to know what I knew, what I had spent years pretending to not know or be confused about. And the most difficult thing was that I believed I was confused.  And, I was!  Because when you are asked to mask or hide a very important part of yourself, you become confused.  You can’t find your allies or anchors, you are not sure who will believe you, understand you, or hold you as an upstanding human being who only wants to speak her truth.

What happened over the years I was pretending? The years I sacrificed some part of myself or a lot of myself to get through a moment. The years I had a complete and utter inability to ask to go to the bathroom in elementary school. Which always led to a mad dash home when school got out, sometimes getting to the back of the tall bushes in front of my house on Oak Street, and against every struggle to hold it, peeing in my pants as I fumbled for my keys.

There were the boys that would chase me home every day, thinking it was fun to terrify me.  Oh, just “boys being boys”, right!? ( Isn’t that the same camp as “It’s just locker room talk”.)  I ended up with nightmares about figuring out where my mom’s friends were on my way home so I could stop just in case the “boys just being boys” were really going to catch and hurt me.  Their names sting in my memory like an allergic reaction to a bee bite, Tim R., T.and J. Sawyer.  I knew a few things about them, they weren’t Jewish and I was/am. In class, they seemed pretty nice except Tim. I think all 3 had military buzz cuts which frightened me though I didn’t know why. The Sawyer twins were a bit more finished than the Tim guy. The twins were less rough around the edges.  I was certain the Tim guy came from a house where there were guns. But what if I hadn’t been so afraid, so intimidated? Might I have turned and faced them, faced my fear, and yelled, “Leave me alone!”  Definitely risky, and it certainly would have taken some gumption which I had learned to pack away many years earlier.

There is more to this story; Like the guys in high school who I dated just because they wanted to date me, or the story about the train conductor who was about 20, and I was 15. He was black and he started to make out with me without asking and without me saying yes or no. It was 1965 and god forbid I would look like a racist, or mean girl, and reject him.  It was a long ride, a really long ride. The whole time, not know how or where to escape to and disliking him for intruding on me and hating myself for letting him.  And, after…well after… I didn’t tell anyone. The thought of reporting him didn’t even come to mind. That would be very scary. I thought I was responsible for this happening.  I mean I was the one with no words, no NO’s, no voice.  I never did say No, not even quietly, not once.

It amazes me that I wasn’t more hurt by my inability, my incapacitation to speak up, to form the word No in my mouth even though NO was shouting from every pour in my body.

To put a finale to my adolescent years, there was the very sweet, kind guy, I dated my senior year of high school. This put all the popular girls in a knot.  I wasn’t cool, I was Jewish, and I was dating the Varsity football captain and President of our class. A few of these “know it all” girls, in the gym locker room, said with a sneer, “Are you dating him?”  I quietly said, “Uh huh.”

Then, there was his mom who told him he shouldn’t go out with me because I was Jewish and would get fat after we married. It might be important to note that she was a complete alcoholic but I feared she could be right anyway.  Not because I was Jewish, but because I grew up with Barbie Dolls and was certain I was fat at the age of 7, especially when I learned that food had calories and my comfort food, Jay’s Potato Chips, had a lot.  And, oh, my dad’s very affectionate nickname for me was Tubby O’Neil.  I loved my dad and desperately wanted his attention, and learned that even a weird, really bad nickname could be a way to connect with him.

I married the first time at 19 and we stayed married for 7 years because I couldn’t utter the word No. I was afraid.  I was afraid of my life alone, my life ahead, MY life.  The couples therapist we went to told us about her problems living with an alcoholic, so we quit and then, I quit the marriage.

No wonder I thought I was confused and my head was swimming with confusion.  I couldn’t find my voice and I was certain I was alone in this.

 

FEAR. THE DARK ROOM WHERE NEGATIVES ARE DEVELOPED

 

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Is This The Place?

Is This The Knowing Place?

Is this a place to talk about dreams?  A dream that I had last night. As if staged for a film, the light shone brightly on a printed, typed page with rough, worn edges, surrounded by dark ominous lighting. And my thinking was about how I could transform the work into a piece of fiction for HerName Blog.

Is this the place to ask these kinds of questions?  The questions about where to write about a dream, or tell a dream about one’s life. To wonder out loud for other’s to witness?  To ponder what is true, what I know and what I don’t know? To know things just under the surface of not knowing; Waiting one minute after the words, “I don’t know.” and then to know what I really do know.

I had a teacher once that seemed to not believe that people were confused when they said they were.  Angeles Arrien, with a edgy, soft touch would say, “You are not confused.” and I would add silently, you mean I am not confused, I just didn’t really want to know what I knew.  There was the truth, bare, opened and clear. There was the permission to know what I knew, what I had spent years pretending to not know or be confused about.

It seems a timely topic given all that is going on these days.  Given all the people that seem to not know, all the people that forgot something very important, all the women who have come out from under the veil of pretending confusion or not recalling or not remembering, all the women who have found the Voice of Knowing! These times call on us to know and know what we don’t know and high time to be dropping the veil of confusion.

 

Name Change @ https://wordpress.com/posts/hername.blog

Nellie Evans was having another crisis of identity.  It was time to change her name, again.  She was re-raveling herself into something else.  She didn’t know what yet, but she knew Nellie didn’t speak to who she felt herself to be.  After trying on names like Melinda, just Nell, or Augustine, the name Maime seemed to speak to her.  It was an old fashioned name, but it spoke a strong, yet quiet peace to her soul.

She found out that the meaning of Maime had a Japanese meaning of real, genuine. “ma” meant dance or flax, “i”meant clothing and put with “me” meant bud, sprout, shoot.  The name seemed to mean something of the earth, a dance with the earth, something real with roots.  That would work just fine for her.  So she let Nellie drop away, which wasn’t difficult and she began to recognize herself as Maime.

 

 

Family, Friends, Donald Evans and Things Part 1

Travels within the phases of life. I have no idea when Part 2 or 3 or anymore will arrive but it just seems like this is a Part 1. I find myself in a mix of darting thoughts about family, friends, possessions, my current role with my kids and others, my personality and everyone else’s.

6/18/17

The ritual of graduation was the subject of a short debate, to walk or not to walk. Nellie Evans didn’t make a lot of request of her kids to do things they weren’t keen on, but this ritual felt very important as there were so few in their lives. She felt it important for her youngest to claim her spot as a scholar as she had worked hard at being a student and it was important to Nellie for her youngest to be honored just as her eldest had been. The ceremony of honoring all the work done and an acknowledgment of a path that will curve and change, wind back and go forward was of consequence and not likely to be forgotten. Nellie felt it important to hold the significance of this ritual even when her daughter wasn’t so sure it was that “big of a deal” and even with the complaining about the dreaded and mandatory suffering of a 3.5 hour long ceremony.

The graduating daughter decided to walk, pleasing her father, Nellie and maybe herself. With this graduation came a celebratory backyard BBQ with cousins, and friends.  They were people known to Nellie and unknown.  Some socialized in ways that she wouldn’t and others she felt quite comfortable with.  All the while, having a propensity for seriousness, her mind kept being drawn to the nagging question of what really mattered?

Nellie’s perspective had shifted and changed about how she held people, places, and things. People who she held very close, she now felt the relief of distance from, others remained very close and she found great fulfillment in the connection. Things that had felt so very very important to her really didn’t matter now and that was strange. But not so strange that she would want to do anything about it other than watch it.

What really mattered? The move from the West Coast to the Midwest gave her pause to think about all the things that had transpired since April when she started the road trip East.  She thought about the relationships that were transforming without knowing how they would look, the artwork which she sorted through that was inherited and valuable, some she stored, some she sold.  There was the furniture which passed from one generation to the next and now outfitted her two daughter’s homes as well as a few friends’.  The jewelry was held safely in a family jewelry box waiting to be chosen by the daughters. And placed around the jewelry box for padding and protection were the wonderful sofa pillows that were made by Nellie’s mother.

Life as she had known it was now memories and the trip to the Midwest seemed something of a karmic sorting.  At least that was how she could make sense of it.  It brought to mind Harry Potter’s sorting hat and she wished she could just don it and know what group she belonged with whenever she doubted or feared.

The letting go of so much of this became Nellie’s job along with trying to figure out what matters? Who matters?  Which memories would get lost in the letting go, which would remain, how close would those memories be held by the upcoming generation and how close to the truth would they come and did that matter? What relationships would hold and what would drift away?

Of the many things that had changed, was Nellie’s need for an aesthetically pleasing environment. She had been a person who couldn’t be too long in surroundings that didn’t suit her aesthetic or around people very different from herself.  She liked things and relationships to be copacetic, and beautiful to be around. She had been known to talk about things in her surroundings that didn’t look right and how those things made her mind work too hard or hurt her eyes.  Her home had been of great pride, making it warm, inviting, and easy on the eyes.  She grew up with that and felt it the quality of being a good enough mother to help her kids carry it forward into their homes wishing them a comfortable life.

She currently resided in a wonderfully roomy room in a house and though the aesthetic was not what she might have picked, it had grown on Nellie.  It gave her comfort in that she did not have to start accumulating things to decorate her living space by purchasing again all the things she had just let go of. The dark maroon of the 4 walls at first looked just dark, but now she saw it as Buddhist maroon and took comfort in that. The color fed her spiritual need for a partial monastic life.  She found she was opening to things and people she would have judged and not come very close to in her past, though those who knew her would say she was always a very open person.  This move had shown her how much more open she could be.

“Give up your homeland— this is the practice of Bodhisattvas.” This is because the moment you leave the circumstances you’ve grown accustomed to, you are in foreign territory, and it’s easier to realize how much narrow-mindedness you are carrying around, including all your opinions, judgments, habits, and so on. Get yourself out of your comfort zone. By Dawa Tarchin Phillips, the resident teacher of the Santa Barbara Bodhi Path Buddhist Center and the Director of Education for the Center for Mindfulness and Human Potential at UCSB.

All in all, she continued to ask if any of the aesthetics or “right” people to be around really mattered?  If it did, what part mattered? And, why? Sometimes she could see her life and what matters fitting so nicely in a room like the one she had stayed in at Spirit Rock Silent retreats.  The rooms were simple, some might say barren.  The 125 square foot room contained a sink, a few towels, a large window, a small place for clothes, a single bed, a small table with a lamp and a clock on it,  That was it and it seemed to Nellie that it was complete. Upon arriving for a retreat, she would position the small table by her bed, and make the bed so she could look out the window and see the greenery.  She went to the retreats for the silence and so she only got to know people and be in relationship to them in a very particular and peculiar way.  At the end of a 7 or 9 night retreat, and silence was broken, she was always wondering who of the 90 or so people she would want to know more about.  She paid careful attention to the instruction given at the end about how to break silence, who to speak to while being mindful, questions she could expect from friends outside the retreat, and how to drive home safely. Sometimes, the awkwardness of starting to talk just gave her more permission to be quiet.

Towards the end of a Fall retreat, the final silent meal, she broke into hysterics with a dining companion over a silly hat a participant had chosen to wear.  The hat had eyes that peered at her and a top knot of sorts, that ordinarily might have only made her smile. But these circumstances put the three of them in fits of gaiety which they attempted to make into silent laughter with little success. Finally, they left the dining hall to arrive outside and let blow the laughter barely contained inside each of them.  All the while she thought about the laughing Buddha, just to give herself permission to fully feel the hysterics bursting in her.

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Finding herself in a new phase of life, Nellie’s questions about importance got bigger and bigger.  All the things that had meant so much to her seemed to not be all that important. All the judgments of others was still somewhat there, but less so. She found herself quieter in her thoughts, quieter in her interactions, and she thought more accepting of what is, at least some of the time.

In a tongue in cheek way, she actually wondered if she was dying.  She would exclaim, shouting in her head, “Well of course I am! We all are dying, just some of us seem a bit closer by way of age than others.”  She wondered if she was psychic and in fact, her life was coming to an end.  Or maybe she was just in a new phase of letting go by way of looking at what really, truly matters?

She grew up with people who held onto everything and all of it seemed to matter a lot. Even as they approached the end of their lives and left lots for the upcoming generation, it all mattered. She felt a bit different from that. In fact, she was different from that but carried the collector DNA which she constantly fought.

She was very curious about how all of this would land, what her life would look like in 5 years.  What country would she find herself in? What language would she speak?  When would she arrive there? And who would she be in relationship with? She found herself thinking of Donald Evans, an incredibly creative artist who made up countries and postage stamps for the countries. She always wanted to travel to his countries, she always wanted to know him and hear how he thought.

 

 

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Over Coffee

Just as the Buddha recognized Mara, we need to recognize the Inner Critic not as the truth, but as a single voice among many. ~Jan Chozen Bays Roshi, co-abbot of Great Vow Zen Monastery in Clatskanie, Oregon.

“Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.Take down a musical instrument.” ~Rumi

To those following me, a heads up that as of now, now that I have landed, sometimes I will be writing in the third person. So, here is a taste of that.

She loved the absurdity of suffering over her coffee.  It lightened the load of the suffering she did over her decisions.  Just as it was too difficult to get the really good cup o’ Joe she yearned for, it was just as difficult to figure out how to write about the hard times. The critic from the dark side could arrive some mornings just as she rolled out of sleep. It had a volume turned way too high and it took up the greatest airtime. It could consume her no matter what was ahead for that day.

She was learning to recognize the critic’s presence; tangle with it, face it, eyeball it up and down, and put on her Joan of Arc armor to sword fight it and take it down. It was tougher when it was the very first thought upon waking. She was determined to take it apart and disempower it and she knew she was making progress a bit each day.  Day by day she walked feeling a bit more bathed in goodness and confidence, not critiquing her decisions. Now she knew for sure that the sword fighting combined with the eyeballing was the exact formula to combat and disembowel the dark side.

She had been in Evanston 8+ weeks.  Sometimes it felt as if she had already been there FOREVER? Other times it felt like she just got there and sometimes, in the most blessed moments, it just didn’t matter. There were times that she forgot her reasons for moving, which caused her to feel very muddled, confounded and unsettled. She moved away from her kids, her home, and her friends on the West Coast, so remembering why was of great importance. When she did remember what the move was about (the healing she wanted) the re-feeling of old places, she was fully exhilarated by her adventure.

After speaking with her psychic, because she was that kind of girl who did those kinds of things, he simply affirmed what she already thought and knew. He confirmed that she didn’t have to stay anywhere. The real issue wasn’t where she should be, rather the insurmountable task of knowing her life purpose…what was she here for?  She thought this question was way too daunting, though she knew it to be true.  She could only respond inside her private thoughts with a knowing that all would sort out.  He talked about the energy she spread which would lay the groundwork for all she did and would do. Again, she knew that was also true and she could feel helpless in relation to her energy, helpless in her ability to change her energy.  She was either happy, okay, or not happy and not okay, and in really good moments she was neither and that suited her beyond measure.

Coffee at Brothers K