Thursday, December 15, 2016

Four Years, Three Souls, Two Stories, One Coat of Many Colors


I've been ruminating lately on the essence of story. I don't mean the awesome novel or great poem, but our story, or to be more specific, my story. The intricacies of the story I tell myself and the story I tell about myself to others. I've been thinking about how the existentialist in me makes meaning in this world and how I create meaning in my life. I have been examining my 49 years of weaving and the coat of stories I wear around my shoulders.

To me, story is how I connect with others. It is the thread that weaves and hums itself into and out of the events that shape my life. How do the colors change when I bring in a new shared thread? What is the story I tell myself when someone I love abruptly disappears and their part of the weave goes silent? How do I learn to weave my story alone, when once, two threads danced and a shared pattern together in my personal technicolor dreamcoat?

Tomorrow will be the four year anniversary of losing one of the most important threads in my weaving. I see my coat now, and it doesn't glow quite as brightly. It feels like one of the threads that always seemed to tie the colors together, is gone.

The disappearance of that thread has changed my weave. New, beautiful threads have come into my life. Threads that are weaving joy, sorrow, responsibility, love... some threads shine all the brighter and are so important to me, I listen to them as they hum with color. The hum of the universe.

I run my finger over the thread tracing her pattern beginning to end, feeling the weft and weave. I listen to the old voice messages on my phone that still hum with her sound. With how she vibrated in the world. And I know I have this small hole in my weave. I've lost part of the words to my story. I catch moments of her in my other threads. In a smile, a crinkled nose, a series of words, or a photograph by my bed. But I can't figure out how to rewrite my story to lessen how much I miss hers. How is it that the dreamcoat I wear, feels heavier without her thread? Shouldn't its absence make the coat feel lighter?

I wrap myself in my story. I curl up at night with my coat. In my dreams, I see the entirety of my weave and I realize how beautiful my coat is, how fortunate I am to have so few frayed ends, and so few silent threads. I can only tell my story. I am the one writing it - no one else. I am the one who runs her fingers over the strands grateful for the ones still humming. Grateful for the bright, beautiful thread that reflects my soul and the souls of those who are part of my weaving. Even the ones that are only present in my coat for a brief moment, who for reasons I may never understand, go silent.

I'm getting better at tying off those threads. The ones left hanging without an answer. Tying them and tucking them up into the weave so that they don't get caught and unravel the work. Stories are meant to have conflict, weaves aren't always smooth, but the beauty comes in the working through the conflict, and the eventual softening of the rough spots in a weave.

But there are some threads, like her thread, that even though they are tied up and tucked neatly into the weave, I can't stop teasing them with my fingers. I don't think there is a day that goes by that I don't in some way revisit that part of my story. It is integral to how I relate to the world. And even when threads have been smoothed over and tucked away, even when there is some resolution to their silence, even though I am so aware and so blessed for the time they were part of mine, I miss their active presence in my story now.

Maybe one day I will write my story differently, so that the ache of that missing thread isn't as acute.

One thing I know is that my story, and our story, is worth telling.  I need that part of our shared weave and even when this time of year comes around and I find myself running my fingers over the rough spot, I still treasure that tucked up thread. And even as my coat grows with each telling, grows with new threads and grows with time, maybe the beauty and value of story is in the telling. I can't imagine that there will come a day when that part of my story, that adventure, that beautiful part of my coat, won't bring me joy and wrap me in the softest warmth - and won't make for a great retelling.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Yogatta be kidding me...


I went to Yin yoga tonight with my good friend Barb. She has told me over and over what a great experience it is. The last time I tried yoga, I couldn't walk for two days... so saying this was going to be a great experience is like telling myself to try sushi again. No, really, THIS time I will like it.

But I don't like sushi. And I can try it a hundred times more, and I am not going to like sushi... but with an open mind and heart, I drove to the yoga studio.

I met her in the parking lot. Yin yoga was going to be 'good for me'. It wasn't going to push me to a place of feeling uncomfortable. It was going to slowly get my body moving in ways it hasn't moved for a while (or I don't know, maybe ever). I walked in and was greeted by the instructor. He was a very kind man - older than me, curly hair, calming in his very nature. Unlike my last yoga experience, I could tell from the moment I walked in the studio, I was in a good place. He showed me around the building, had me take off my shoes (I wore tennis shoes... you know... noobie mistake) and my friend and I went into the studio. There was no talking and I set out my yoga mat (which I bought and have not used ONE single time in 5 years... well I used it that one time I said I would NEVER try yoga again... so I used it *one* time... but this mat still has that new mat smell) and I stretched out a bit.

The yoga studio was hot. Not stifling hot, but sitting on my yoga mat I felt myself getting warm. The instructor walked in right on time and we started doing some stretch poses. So far, it felt nice. Arms up, breathe in, meet hands above the head, breathe out, bring down the arms to heart chakra. Repeat. I could do this. My mind quieted. Then, the first real pose. Bend the right leg and sit on it, keep the left leg out straight, put the bolster behind your back and lean back.

I could not do it. I could not come close to doing it. I got so angry at my body, I felt so much shame. Everyone was going to look at me. Everyone was laughing and obviously staring at me in the mirror. And WHY WAS I DOING THIS AGAIN??? The instructor, seeing me struggle, came over to help, but I was awash in so much shame it only made things worse. Tears slipped down my cheeks, every part of this hurt. My body was in full revolt and I turned my head and looked at the door. We were fifteen minutes into the hour class. I kept trying to stop the tears escaping down my face. They mixed with the sweat, I told myself at least no one would know I was crying like an idiot. I looked at the door again. I could leave. I could get up and just leave. But I kept hearing the instructor say, "Breathe. Remember to breathe. More important than any pose, more important than any desire you may have right now, the most important thing you can do is breathe."

So I kept taking in deep breaths. And in a moment of silence I remembered something one of my great teachers, Ted Andrews, told me. He said to me once, "MaryKate, don't ever fear tears, you cry when you are closest to spirit."

And I knew I wasn't alone. It didn't matter what one other person in that room thought. Even though I knew no one was laughing at me, I had to move through every moment of shame I have felt in this body. Every fear of being humiliated that I've struggled with (which is why I don't go and sing karaoke), every thought that 'if I just hadn't let myself get so fat, I wouldn't be having these problems right now' and other thoughts that are actually too embarrassing to write here. But they all came flooding at me a million miles a second. From the depth of my own struggle I heard the instructor say, "Gently switch sides and let's hold that pose with the other leg under you."

My leg wasn't under me. It was flailed to the left of me and looked like my knee was broken and my leg needed surgery. But I stopped eyeing the door. I kept breathing. I let every moment of shame and fear pour out of me and I let that room hold it. I let it go. I kept breathing. I kept crying. But the tears no longer felt like humiliation - they felt like release. I realized how much shame and embarrassment I have held in my body for so long, I realized how unkind I have been to myself. How I have punished myself for not being beautiful, for not even allowing myself to think I was attractive. How long I have blamed my body for failing me. And the tears fell and I moved on to the next pose. 

The rest of the hour passed uneventfully. Occasionally, I felt shame rise to the surface, but this time it was met with compassion. Compassion for allowing myself to believe such negative thoughts about who I am, and worse, for letting others in my life reinforce those ideas. Over and over during yoga tonight I just let it all go. I reminded myself that I am worthy of so much more than I believed in the past. And while the rest of the hour wasn't easy, I just kept breathing and releasing.

When the hour was over, my friend asked me how it went. I was still so emotional... so on the edge of everything tumbling out. I told her it was good...  and that it was confronting. She smiled and seemed to understand.

I walked up to the front desk and the instructor was there. He asked me how it went, and I said, again, it was confronting. He smiled and talked about how it can be hard the first time trying yoga and I nodded unable to really respond. He kept talking and I sort of heard what he said, but there was a man sitting next to the front desk with the bluest eyes I have ever seen... and I have really blue eyes. And he just sat there and smiled at me. It was the warmest, kindest smile I think I have ever seen. His eyes never wavered. He just smiled and looked at me, into me I suppose. I felt so... 'okay'. I felt like there was a message in his eyes. He didn't say a word to me, he just held my space and honored where I was without ever saying anything. He hadn't been in the class, I'm sure he was waiting for the next class to begin. Honestly? At this point I'm not even sure there was really someone sitting there. 

As I walked out of the building, I said to my friend, "So, Thursday night?" She laughed and reminded me I am going to the Peter Gabriel/Sting concert. I smiled and we agreed to either go again on Saturday or next week. But I knew I would be back - because much like sushi, I may not like it in its raw form, but I have learned that there are types of sushi I can eat that I do enjoy. And tonight, as frustrated and embarrassed as I felt, I knew that the only way to change my experience with myself and with yoga was to push through it and go back.

So, here's to not giving up. To going back. To pushing past the past and breathing into the future.



Monday, May 23, 2016

Moving from Diminishers to Enlighteners


I was talking with my sister recently and telling her about moving to a new space where I no longer felt the need to accommodate Diminishers - the people in my life who habitually strive to take away from my joy and confidence. People who are, by nature, light dimmers. Like that kitchen dimmer switch that when pushed down, makes the lamp light go darker and darker. Push it down enough and the light goes out.

As we talked, I asked her what the opposite of a Diminisher is... what is the type of person that comes into your life and uplifts you? That person that helps you up when you stumble, gives you heart-centered feedback when you seek direction, but comes to you from a place of love, not a place of competition and negativity. That person that doesn't disappear or go silent. That person that when upset or confused reaches out to you to talk about it, instead of shutting you down and shutting you out. I've had many of those people in my life - the ones that checked out, disappeared, or went silent when the relationship turned difficult.

As my sister and I talked, we could name several people in our lives that we knew wouldn't shut us out or shut us down.  Candace was one such person in my life. I realized, Candace was an Enlightener. She made my heart lighter whenever we talked. She brought joy and peace just in her presence. I was fortunate to have learned what friendship meant from someone so beautiful. She wasn't perfect, nor does an Enlightener have to be. But an Enlightener is someone who loves you for you. It's someone who loves you for where you are in your journey. They don't cut you off at your knees - they help heal the bruises. Candace and I had many a long night talk - not all of them were of dancing unicorns and happy dust. But at the end of those conversations, I felt lighter. I felt heard. I felt loved, and I'd like to think she felt the same. With her, I knew I was good enough. She reminded me with each smile, each conversation that I was full of light and love; I hope she felt the same. Being uplifting doesn't mean being happy every minute of every day, but uplifting people, even when depressed or angry, work hard not take those feelings out on those they love.

I had a moment Saturday night when I realized how very much my world is shifting - as is the circle of people close to me in my life. I am fortunate to have an amazing sister who is my best friend, she is the rock in my life I know I can stand upon and root myself to the Earth... I don't think I realized what a void Candace left in me when she was no longer a phone call or a touch away. And I think I immersed myself into being a mom as a way of not knowing how to fill the loneliness of being left behind. But I'm coming up for air now. My daughter is healthy, strong, beautiful, and still learning. I will continue to be part of that process, but I recognize that she is ready to make that transition from being close to me to being close to others and moving past that safety net of having me always there. It's beautiful to watch and a little sad, but I realize it is time. And it is time for me to do the same.

Recently I've had new Enlighteners come into my life and I will always appreciate the ones who have been there all along. I am not as close to some of them as I used to be, and I realize that is okay. Life is a journey and I am sure it will all cycle around as it will. I recognized this weekend that I have to take a risk to find new people to connect with even when it feels scary. Because life without the risk, means an isolation that is suffocating.

So, I am stepping out of my safety net and stepping into whatever comes next - care to join me?

peace and love,


Monday, April 11, 2016

Am I good enough to be good enough?


"I just feel like no matter what I do lately, it isn't good enough."

My daughter said that to me on the way home from a cookout last night. She was crying and had curled into a ball in the passenger seat. There is nothing harder than seeing your teenage daughter cry and knowing there isn't really much you can do other than listen.

I wanted to assure her that she *is* good enough. I wanted to tell her all the amazing pieces of her I see. How proud I am of her working so hard at being a good lacrosse goalie, how excited I am and how amazing I think it is, that for her 16th birthday she wants to put together a list of 50 random acts of kindness and then have her friends run around and do them with her to celebrate. How wonderful I think it is that she volunteers at *least* once a month at the food bank, and on her vacation days she does more. How impressed I am that she is so kind and welcoming to new kids at our school. How much people respect and admire her for *her* not for the things she does, but because of who she is. How funny I think she is, and how much I love how often we laugh with each other. How I respect her dedication to doing well in school, and that even when it is frustrating she doesn't give up.

But I didn't say any of that. I was in protective mode and I knew that by saying anything I would likely only make things worse. Sometimes, it doesn't help that your mom thinks you are amazing.

I think the hardest part, was driving in silence and while she blew her nose,  thinking about all the times in my life that I have felt not good enough. How many times I have looked to others to like myself - and chosen poor reflections as mirrors.

I have come to the realization that some people in my life are what I call, "Diminishers". Diminishers are the people who remind you that you are good... but not quite good enough.

I have a history of dating and having Diminishers in my life - they reinforce my own fears that I am not good enough. Not all, but many of the guys I have dated have been that way. "You're really nice, but I'm just waiting for you to be crazy like my ex." or "Why should I say nice things to you - it will only increase your lack of self esteem." or "You know, you are a terrible story teller." or  "Here is a list of things if you just changed, I'd love you more." or "Do you know who sings this song on the radio?" (I say something like 'Madonna') he'd laugh and say, "Let's keep it that way."

Even some of my former friends were diminishers. The ones that would always find that ONE thing and point it out - "Cute dress, but you seriously need to get your toes done!" I had one female friend, who would start every letter telling me why she loved me, then would spend the rest of the letter telling me all the things that I did wrong that hurt her feelings and how I needed to change to 'meet her needs' as a friend. I was friends with her for almost 20 years when I finally had enough - every letter made me cry and every letter made me doubt myself and my place in the world. There is obviously a reason for the word 'former'.

A Diminisher in your life is someone who can't ever *quite* be kind to you. Can't love you for who you are. Someone who, I suspect, is actually envious of your place in the world and wants to 'knock you down a few pegs'.

To be clear, that doesn't mean I don't want feedback. My sister is queen of telling me the truth, but when she tells me the truth it isn't to tear me down, it's to build me up. True friends help me see a behavior or habit that isn't helping me further my goals. That is different. I want people to be honest. What I don't want are the habitually negative people in my life who want to make sure I know I'm 'almost' good enough.

I know my feelings of 'not good enough' stem from a complicated childhood, and this article in Psychology Today explains a lot of the reasons people struggle with not feeling good enough.

What I have realized in my life, is that I am done with Diminishers. I am done with people who are narcissists and people who by nature, tear down - not build up. But more importantly, I am done with needing someone else to confirm my own worthiness. Because people you love sometimes go silent after telling you they love you, people leave, people change. But by building up my own self awareness, when those people come and go, my sense of goodness, my sense of place in the world, my sense of my own power doesn't diminish with their leaving.

I will continue to help my daughter build up that strength inside to know that she is an amazing young woman. She has her faults - we all do, but my hope is that when someone teases her or is mean to her - she will have the fortitude to recognize that the cruelty of another person is a reflection of THAT person, not a reflection of her. It's a lesson that took me much too long to learn.



Saturday, January 02, 2016

To control or not to control... that isn't even the question! (could someone tell me the question - that'd be great)


I am terrible at letting go; I struggle at being still, listening, and not trying to control a situation. I went to my favorite site and did a reading for myself from Joanna Powell Colbert's Gaian Tarot, her cards and website are simply amazing. This is what I received:
My favorite line? You are no longer in charge of your life. Really? Because the Universe has made that abundantly clear.

This week, on the spur of the moment, I came to visit my dad in Ohio. My Aunt is living in an assisted care apartment in Mansfield, and I very much wanted to go and see her. I had a few other plans for this trip as well, but not ONE of those plans worked out. Instead, when I let go of all I hoped for and dreamed about, time opened up to see wonderful friends from college and my family. I've had to let go and accept that from the moment I got on the plane in Seattle (after a two hour delay which caused me to miss my initial connecting flight to Toledo by 15 minutes) nothing has gone as I tried to force it to go. I found none of the answers I hoped for, mostly felt out of touch, and as the card says, "turned upside down".

I keep reading this:

I'm reminded that my value isn't determined by how someone treats me. How someone treats me is a reflection on how that person treats him/herself. It is the same for me. How do I treat others? Do I show the kindest, highest form of myself, or do I show the controlling, anxious, demanding part of who I am? Do I treat others with respect and love, or do I treat them with indifference and don't consider their needs?

Which leads to the question: How do I treat myself? Am I kind to me? Do I love me? Do I trust me? Do I believe I live the best life I know how to live? Do I love in the best way I know how to love?

Anxiety has caused a lot of upheaval in my life. For the first time, I am actually acknowledging it and learning new ways to deal with it instead of reacting from a place of control and fear. It isn't easy and I stumble a great deal... but I'm getting better and that is an accomplishment.

I don't know that I will ever reach the moment when I don't react at all, is that even human? I hope in the next year I will better reach the moment when I stop trying to control others in order to feel safe and secure, and instead find those qualities within my own heart. I hope in the next year I will love others better because I love myself better. I am reminded that those people in my life that are kind and respectful toward me are the ones I want to be around. Those people are the ones I love and want to embrace, and curl up with, and eat popcorn with, and spend my time with - because they are the ones that show me how to embrace myself, curl up with myself, and be kind, loving, and respectful of myself.

Here's to an amazing 2016 - for all of us. May it be full of adventure, letting go of control, discovering happiness, and welcoming the unexpected joy and delight that life has to offer!