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.”

Alice_a-dressing_the_White_Queen

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

 

Light on the Aging Adventurer Archetype

The First Person Blog morphed into a Third Person Blog ( Both will still be working Blogs from Different View Points)        For Third Person Story see: “Her Name”

The Personal Stuff stays right here.

“You are a guiding light for us all, a symbol that (at this entrenched age where we get more and more attached to our routines) change is liberating and courage abounds. Thanks for holding that adventurer archetype!” ~From A friend on my journey

“The concept of the archetype, which is an indispensable correlate to the idea of the collective unconscious, indicates the existence of definite forms in the psyche which seem to be present always and everywhere.” (from Carl Jung’s 1936 lecture on “The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious,” Collected Works, Vol. 9.i, pars. 87-110.

The friend’s comment made Nellie pause and scrunch up her forehead. She did not own being a guiding light for anyone.  And what does getting older mean?  She was puzzled by the idea that we become “entrenched”.  It was hard for her to wrap her thinking around becoming entrenched or held by routines that go unexamined.
Entrenched brought to mind her fight with the idea of “hunkering down”. She bristled at the concept, a concept that people, she knew, only wanted to hunker down.  It just made her feel squirmy, depressed, stuck, enclosed. It made her feel as if she was curled up with a blanket pulled taught over her head and she was pretty sure she would never, ever emerge again. In fact, she was certain that was true.  It brought to mind a life sentence of submergence, possible severe depression and in this case, the opposite of freedom and therefore the opposite of Nellie’s life

She knew life was that hard, from too much experience, and she was always trying to find ways to make life easier.  She was a seeker, a healer and a Scorpio who wanted to understand the dark, death, life and The Mystery.

“In the sweet territory of silence, we touch the mystery. It’s the place of reflection and contemplation, and it’s the place where we can connect with the deep knowing, to the deep wisdom way.” Angeles Arrien

Hunkering down made Nellie feel as if she would be surrendering to the difficulty of living and she, the Mountain Climbing Goat Woman, Capricorn rising, was not interested in succumbing, or surrendering.

She had so many questions about aging. Do people just get tired of how much work life is, so a routine is something they don’t have to think about? Do people decide that sticking to all that is familiar is the best bet, no more adventures into life, because who knows what could happen?  Or is it just about our beliefs and the stories we tell to make sure our beliefs are real. Perhaps it is simply the character we come into the world with. Or perhaps something about karma?
Nellie could feel her brain darting around to comprehend this aging business. She grew up with Aquarius parents, at one time young socialist, always interested in the new, the different, the interesting, conforming enough to live very comfortably and generously, which suited Nellie well.  Among the things that made up family life were jokes made about aging bodies but always there was due respect for elders, their wisdom, gifts, and talents.  There was something of a tongue and cheek acceptance about aging and criticism for those complaining too much.  So watching people age in her world, was not about slowing, hunkering or being entrenched.  Nellie learned that aging was yet another adventure; the wrinkles spoke wisdom and sometimes there were difficult, challenging and upsetting times, sometimes heart warming, sweet and loving experiences.
Nellie was indeed an adventurer, mostly solo, and sometimes a person might come along for a bit.  Her dog, Henry or The Mr. was always with her.  Her life journey was never about safe and this current stretch was a lot about the opposite of safe.  Nellie knew she had a propensity for wanting to do things differently.  Her character served her well this way.  She wanted adventures, she loved statements like Life is Art because it suggested embedding creativity into every moment of every breath.  With this, she was reminded to keep things sacred, stand outside, watch with new eyes, breathe, move to get a new angle or perspective and let the moment change her, even if for one second.  And that brief moment could be an adventure.
The forethought, which many people were naturally inclined to have, often eluded Nellie, which made her life both rich with adventure, including some necessary and some not so necessary drama.  When she was younger, she thought she should do something just because it scared her.  Now, she does things a bit less recklessly, but still trying things that aren’t about staying or doing the same as what she has known.
Nellie was a young girl when her family took the 2-3 hour drive to Lowden State Park, Il where her father snapped photos of her, her mother, brother, and cousin at the Black Hawk Statue.  Of that trip, she remembers being with her family, enjoying her father’s sense of adventure, the cigar smoke blown into the backseat which made her vaguely nauseous, the cool jackets her mom had made for her and her cousin offering the cozy comfort Nellie took in wearing what her mother had made.  And there was the angst Nellie remembers over wanting to play with her brother but thinking he just didn’t like her all that much.
                                      floellen056-lowden-state-park-ill.jpgRobert, Ellen Michael Lowden State Park, Il 1956?.JPG
Life, then, was hard for Nellie. And, why was that? What happened? What didn’t happen?  Was this story necessary to tell again? Really?

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

The Rocky Road of Listening Within

I always thought that listening within would be simple if I would just do it. Now I know doing it is hard, really hard, but as a good friend once said, “What else is there to do?”

5/7/17

The journey of listening deeply which started back in January,  moved me away from family and friends in California, back to the Midwest, back to the North Shore of Chicago. My purpose was to heal and reclaim something I may have left behind. It certainly was to re-feel life that I once new on the North Shore and see how it fit with me now.

The journey of listening deeply takes me to the nooks and crannies that lurk around the corners of my thoughts, where pockets of solitude lie. Sometimes I can think that I am doing nothing and feeling everything and forget there are pockets of solitude.

Just before I turn to listen deeply, and turn towards the whispering voice, I can experience nausea that makes me want to change channels or go do something else.  I am sure that the whispers I am hearing cannot possibly be directing me onto the right path, and it definitely must be wrong because I feel so riddled with a disquiet. But over and over, when I listen and just allow the discomfort, the nausea of anxiety goes away and I am happier and comforted by the direction I have turned.

Listening deeply has been a nagging desire inside me for too many years.

 

Then Things Seem Inevitable…

“First things seem impossible, then improbable, and then inevitable.”  Angeles Arrien

Angeles was a cultural anthropologist who took indigenous rituals and traditions and taught how to walk the mystical path with practical feet.  She gave more than permission to live a life of following what has heart and meaning.  In fact, she encouraged and expected it of those who studied with her.  She gave me roots in the learnings about treating life as sacred.  She taught the work of listening deeply, going from medium to slow, saying what’s so when it is so and asking, “What’s learning ya?”

I have set things aside in my life because they seemed impossible and I was afraid.  Then I went through a phase in my 20’s when being afraid meant I should just do it, whatever it was. And that led to some really stupid and risky choices, so stupid they aren’t worth giving attention to here. Then I had a family and I took being afraid as something to pay attention to. I heard fears as coming from my inner knowing, speaking to me and guiding me in my mothering and “wife-ing” and in my work as a psychotherapist.

Now, single with grown kids, and collecting social security, I am back to looking at what seemed impossible, a move to Chicago.  With the realization I wanted a change and wanted to move, the move has gradually become inevitable.  And, now with the rental of my home for a year, the mess of boxes, bubble wrap, and sorting, with bags labeled “let go”, this move has become inevitable. As my father said when I moved to CA, “What do you have to loose?”  The adventurer in him could say that with the deepest of confidence in me.  The confidence I am drawing on again, for a road trip back to Chitown.

First things seem impossible and I am sure they are.  Then they seem improbable and then with a push from here or there, they become inevitable.  When I get out of my own way, possibilities seem to show up and say, “Hey, notice me”

Almost Diverted 3/19/2017

Everything changes, always.

It is so interesting to feel the rush of energy when the possibility of change seems to pop up unexpectedly.  It is a mix of anxiety, fear, wonderment, terror, muddled thoughts about how do I make this decision. Do I want this possible change or do I want to stick with my plan?  What if I make a wrong decision, and hearing the voice that says there is no wrong decision but not believing it because I am certain it is not true, it is just a good idea.

My sweet neighbors with their very funny 18-month-old have come to live with me because their house was affected by a landslide caused by all the rains here in California.  It is a crazy time. They are having to figure out where to live and I am packing up the house, getting taxes together, and getting other silly things done before I go on the road to Chitown. All at the same time, my neighbors are deciding to live in the house next to the one that is sliding.  It is actually a very lovely crazy time.

And then, the alternate reality, the Possibility, with a capital P shows its beckoning head. My neighbors will have a studio/1 bedroom for rent in the bottom of that house they are considering and it is at a rent I can afford.  I could stay in the neighborhood that has become more congenial since I decided to move away.  We talked about it and all agreed it would be so nice. And then that anxious, fear, terror, wonder and curiosity rushed up from my knees to my throat. I am getting friendlier with that experience and know when I feel it, that it means stop and wait. It does not mean decide. Those feelings and sensations are red or yellow lights, not green.  It seems so much easier if it were just a green light.  So much easier!  I just want to pretend that the light is green so the decision is made. There…done, decided, finished.

I can easily be diverted from my decisions by something safer or cozier, and my reasons for making the decision slips away only to be remembered much later after I have gone down a different road.

I have to remember why I am doing what I am doing. I want to try my work in other parts of these lands, I want to get out of the Bay Area.  And most of all I want to go home. It only took me a few hours to have that come clear.  This is my practice.  This is my work. Listening and listening again.  Am I getting a green light or am I pretending to get a green light?  Am I keeping my journey sacred? Am I letting myself see that things always change, choices and possibilities, and when? Which bloom and which die? Which things are so sacred I allow them to change me?