The Spiritual Synergy of Women

A group of women can come together as sister-warriors forming an immense and bonding force; or, they can swarm and fatally sting at each other, as would a beehive inhabited only with queens fighting for a single thrown.

We are perceived as the latter in the world culture and rarely are free and often discouraged in our journeys to discover and utilize the former.

I was blessed to share this past weekend with a group of my sister-warriors. I almost missed it.

I desperately need female-friends-companions. And, I desperately fear this type of intimacy with women. I have the same relationship with my Higher Power. I’m attempting to grow in both relationship areas.

And yet, I almost missed this particular opportunity in several ways – I let work infringe on my vacation time, I rushed around before leaving trying to prepare and preparing much too much, I got there 3 hours after the weekend began. And, I was tempted throughout the weekend to leave early – the night before, the morning of, when my pain got too intense, and so on. I missed this gathering last year for the exact same reasons. This year, I got a do-over.

I want to share only my experience this past weekend; especially those obstacles I was enabled to overcome through the synergy of  these spiritual women.

Each year this weekend has a new group of women attending – whether they are repeat participants or first-timers. I have participated (loose use of that word here) three times in the past 12 years.

I believe this year was the most powerful and welcoming force for me personally, and allowed me the strength and courage to work through some of my fears and resistance.

Was that because of who showed up this year? Yes!  And, because of the chance of synergy and the power of serendipity, too!

And, also because I showed up this year. The first time I participated, I superficially showed up – because that is as far as I was able to go. I did the activities as instructed but I was in too much fear and anger to actually be there. The second time, I was there a bit more. But not completely.

This time, I feel I was able to be present close to 98% of the time. (I think that 2% of the time my mind went off to its “own private Idaho.” That’s pretty good for a sober woman with OCD and ADHD and any other letters I might combine to spell out ESCAPE! or RUNAWAY!)

I need to acknowledge my parents before I continue. My parents are dead and gone. I am now cut free of the twisted ties I had with both. Yet, I am the person who re-ties or re-binds myself to my parents and their fears, angers, emotional needs, fears, and disappointments. Very early on, I took on the job of making sick people feel better. My recovery consists mostly of learning that I can be free of them; I don’t have to keep reacting to ghosts.

I’m not completely free…. not yet.

So, the fear and hurt and anger I felt at times throughout my warrior-ess weekend were manifested in the mirror these spiritual women held up and reflected back to me so that I might see myself more clearly.

I could see the fear that I would be hurt or even more terrifying to me – that I might hurt others, the fear that my mistakes made me a mistake and bad, the fear that I was not truly wanted or needed, that I wasn’t the person I was supposed to be. I saw the underneath-anger at being denied myself to myself, the compressed-anger from not being heard or seen, the panic-anger from being invisible.

I recognized my own hurt that lies beneath both of these stronger, more powerful feelings. Everything I saw in these other women was my own. Including the courage to change and the aspiration for a spiritual life.

I saw in the woman who said something cruel, my own withdrawal and fear of connection. The sadness and confusion one woman carried for a lost child was my own grief for my own lost child and lost family. The grief and anger of the woman struggling through separation from her husband, I also felt when my marriage failed.

I am also the woman who was sexually molested and the woman who was beaten. I know and have had these experiences – not exactly in the same way, but the emotional damage very nearly the same.

So, I have to embrace the realization that the woman who is so spiritual, so wise, so compassionate is also me.

One kind and beautiful woman told me that the heart I see now as a broken-down shack abandoned in the deep cavern of my chest, she sees as a heart as big as a house.

When I got home, I focused on the woman who said something cruel and I felt mad. I felt like I could understand but I did not like  this woman anymore. And I decided that I would have to talk to my sponsor about this.

Luckily, I continued to process this experience and came to the understanding that that is who this woman is today – just as I had been and could be a person who said cruel and mean things. My attitude evolved into compassion for her on her journey and a prayer for her to find more love and compassion for herself.

I felt more at peace with myself then.

This practice of evolving my emotional awareness is what I have learned from these women and their own spiritual practices. They have taught me to come to a place of compassion for them – and, mirror it for myself.

They brought me to the understanding that fear is the problem and love is always the solution.

The freely given sharing and encouragement of these women helped me believe that I can once and for always let go of the binding ties that trip me up and hold me distant from others.

I don’t know if I’ll go back to this gathering next year, but I believe now that I can go forward more freely in my life.

Expressionist

What am I? I’ve been writing this blog in an ongoing effort to figure that out.

Actually, I’ve been blogging not to find out that I am a writer, an actor, or any other type of person. I’ve been trying to find that “true self,” the person who lies even further beneath a descriptive life’s work-related label.

I came up with “I am an expressionist.” I must express the inner workings, thoughts, ideas, gifts within me, and I must express my unique take on the world around me. (That does not obligate anyone else to receive my expression.)

(Damn it.)

Okay. It’s a start but still not what I am looking for.

I am starting or perhaps re-starting a practice of prayer and meditation this morning. I lit a candle (someone else’s practice) and read from my daily reader of choice. The reading today challenges me to “face the person I fear the most”. It states that this person is my “true self”. The person I fear the most is my true self. From there the reading goes on to explain that my true self is “the person God intended me to be.”

I fear the person that God intended me to be.

That really sucks.

I grew up in an environment of extreme invalidation. Got that from the DSM-IV.  And it’s true. But why am I trapped in mouse-wheel where others may process through to find validation? Oh, yeah, that other trait I share with my fellows – self-centeredness in the extreme. Seals the cage.

Okay, I know the problem. The power of God and the willingness to ask Him for his Will, Guidance, and Grace is the solution.

And, yet, here’s another obstacle – who the heck is my true self? Or rather, what is at the core of me that scares my life out and away from me? Because that is what my fear of true self has done, frozen me in a state whereby I avoid my life.

This is frustrating as hell!

Okay. I sense that I may be complicating a simple idea. For one, the idea of “self,” looking the word up, checking the thesaurus, ah, true nature, character, identity, and person.

(It’s what writers tend to do…“look up” words. I guess that is what an Expressionist does too – try to find the right word or understand the meaning of the word. Or, hell, it’s what anyone with a dictionary/thesaurus nearby does.)

See, now, I take away the use of “self” and I replace it with “nature” and suddenly my mind can wrap around this idea. True nature. What is my true nature that I should fear it so much?

(Not that “self” is the wrong word it just makes it all so, what, Freudian? Which makes it scary and mysterious, mystically un-understandable. Sorry – it’s a habit – making up a story or drama out of a personal conundrum.)

(Ah! Part of my true nature – drama queen?)

I am grateful and blessed to have a friend named Leah in my life. She is awesome in all ways and she is married to a man I love and respect, which is saying a lot. They are both very spiritual and seek within themselves to find answers on a daily basis. I used to wish I could be just like them. To some degree I am, but to the degree that I’m not, it’s okay with me right now.

Anyway, Leah will tell you that her true nature is that she is a perfect child of God. That she was born that way. Then all that junk that gets piled onto us depending on who birthed us, and the people we lived with until we can live without them creates this illusion of who we are. And, we grow up believing in that illusion. Until, if we are lucky enough, we learn how to dig our way back to our true nature.

Or maybe the best we can do is shove it away for a while, or each time we realize we are under it again and need to push.  Because what you get from birth to age (about) 5 really sticks in that part of your brain that is so unforgiving and unfortunately not located in the part that could be lobotomized.

In other words, you’re stuck with that illusion.

That really sucks.

Is there a conclusion here? Not today I am afraid. So, I have to look within at this true nature and discover why I fear it so much that I bend and warp myself to avoid it. I’m going to have to explore that beyond this particular expression of my thoughts.

This puzzle of fearing my true self (or my preferred choice of words – true nature) makes me wonder if Shakespeare knew all of this long before Freud or me or anyone else who could write down their thoughts did.

To thine own self be true.

He also said it beautifully and in fewer words.

(When I’m tired and need to respond to a friend’s email, I write a few words and end with “more later” before hitting send – so they know I got their message but I can’t fully respond yet.)

More later.

PS: I have to post a longer version of the above quote (because I love it):

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82

Returned not Found

Where have I been??

Not here writing Betsy’s Blog that is for sure.

So, I’m breaking my silence finally after 2 years! It’s 2013. How’d that happen?

Ok so what have I been doing, you might ask, in the last 2 years? Or maybe you don’t care. That’s fine, too.

But just encase you are a bit interested…the biggest thing I am proud of is the fact that I participated in and completed a whole novel last November during National Novel Writing Month. Wrote just over 50K words.

I didn’t think I could do it and probably never would have attempted it but for my friend Von who just days before November 2012 told me she’d entered. Whatever Von does, I want to do? Maybe…but I hadn’t written much of anything up until then beyond extremely long emails full of fancy.

It was my attempt to restart my writing engines. And, it felt really good to meet the word goal by the deadline.

Needless to say NNWM does not require one to polish a novel in 30 days – only finish a very very rough first draft of at LEAST 50K words.

Truthfully, I didn’t think I had it in me to do. And, once again I was wrong.

Now, what I need for continuing work on this novel is something like, National Novel Revisions Month!

Dead-heading the flowers

so that more energy will go into the new flowers…that’s what I spend my early mornings doing when I can. I take a cup of coffee with me (has to have real half-n-half in it!) and the cats are out following me, sniffing the flowers, rubbing their chins on the my lone and dying cactus plant.

I usually get up early and go to a meeting. But lately, I have indulged in my love of slowing waking up.

The first I do when I get up, is feed the cats – no, pamper and pet them or play with them. I need to pray but sometimes I forget until after the girls are taken care of. What does that say about me?? I think we all know. So I feed them. They sit as I put their collars with name tags and my cell number on them. And then they go out onto my deck. My older cat goes slowly out the door, aggravating the younger one, who would just jump out into the new world. Because when I watch them, it seems like it is new every day to them.

I have a wind chime a friend gave me that has a glass ball in the middle that rotates colors when it’s evening until the wee, dark hours in the morning. It’s solar power (along with a rechargeable battery). When I discovered that the ball was still rotating colors in the darkness of morning, I got a cuppa and sat out on the deck to meditate on the changing colors. It doesn’t hold my interest long enough to meditate so I usually end up going down the steps to the grass and the little 6×6 raised garden I put in after my first work layoff.

I watch the cats sniff their new world and wait for a little bit of light to dead-head my flowers by. It’s a necessary pruning in the cycle of natural life.

And, that makes me think about my own “pruning” process. Some of which, was very painful. Some of it full of an awakening awe and acceptance of my truth. All of it a necessary path I must travel – but not alone unless I choose to be alone.

And I have chosen to be alone more often than not. But that comfortable habit is going to have to go under the pruning knife as well. Because I have spent too much of my time and mind looking back over my decisions – were they right? if they were, how come I’m still alone? – as if this would enhance my current day or life.

How come? Because I chose it, that’s how come. Why come? Because I was graced with God’s Will and healing. No doubt about that.

Now, what do I do from here? As I discover that, I’ll get back to you.

A million hugs…

My last post was entitled “Shining lights” and I realized later that I meant to call it “A million hugs.” The title yesterday was supposed to describe how I have seen my 12-year-old nephew over the last week. Every step of the way, he has tried to be comforted by his positive take on life. Thankfully, he does allow the people around him to comfort him as well.

And, though not a million, I would guess that over 100 people showed up to comfort him. Teachers, administrators, and support staff from both his elementary and current middle school came to the visitation Tuesday night to see and comfort him. His Boy Scout leader and some of his troupe members were there. Many, many neighborhood members came. Not to mention the congregation from his church. I felt deep gratitude. After meeting the Pastor of their church at the hospital and seeing how much of a support group my nephew has, I wrote the following email to her and the congregation:

“When I lost my sister this past weekend, I was given the gift of being comforted by the knowledge and realization that her family have had your love, support, and compassion for a very long time. I know that they will be held up by the congregation of their Church and their Pastor. I couldn’t pick a better Pastor to guide us all through my sister’s funeral and burial. I couldn’t ask for a better and more supportive family for them as they grieve. And, I thank all of you more than I will ever be able to express with words.  I am eternally grateful that my sister is with (her) God. I am eternally grateful that my brother-in-law and nephew will continue to be with all of you.”

I have realized and come to believe that I experience a Source I choose to call God in my times of meditation, and also very strongly through my interactions with people. For a long time, I cut this channel of strength off because I was hurt or disappointed; felt neglected and unloved. In my effort to protect myself, I also cut off the people who showed up to love, accept, and comfort me. Under my imaginary and righteous shield, I became judgmental, withdrawn, lonely, and miserable.

Through healing and listening to the wisdom of my loving friends, I have become stronger and more confident in the love I receive from them and am, myself, more able to give love. And, I accept that I am not that good at it yet, that I have a long way to go.

I felt a quiet core-strength last Saturday when I walked into the hospital knowing that my sister’s condition was critical. I noticed this strength, knew where it originated from, and, though not surprised by it, was astonished and grateful that it belonged to me. Not by any work or gift of my own.

My nephew is an amazing, spiritual channel and he is only 12-years-old. I am so glad he can receive a million hugs from the people around him now. I understand what he means by this, and how he feels.

I am held by a million hugs today. I can hope. I can grieve. I can try to help and love someone else. In my sorrow, I can heal.

My God, it’s November

Someone just said to me, yesterday, that time goes faster the older you get.

Well, that seems like a rip-off.

Time is slow when you need less of it? When you’re in a diaper of your own mess, the minutes crawl? Seems backwards.

So, what do you do as you age and time flies on and on? How do you catch some time?

I have no idea.

I am just writing this to get some writing in. I was supposed to meet some people for coffee this morning but no one was there and the coffee shop was mysteriously closed. Not a typical Wednesday morning. The point being, I got to work about 35 minutes too early. Well, too early for me!

So what to do with a 35 minute extra start to my day? Well, of course, I first did some job searching, email answering, daily meditative reading, etc. And, then I remembered my blog – which is my outlet for writing while I have my Writing Block on.

Like many people, I usually put off doing the thing that I want to do and do a bunch of other stuff. Some of the other stuff is important – like finding a job – some of it is more on the lines of playing Mahjongg Dimensions (my favorite online game right now). Eventually, if I’m sitting at a computer long enough (like an 8-hours-a-day job), I may get to this blog.

What is that? Procrastinating my “art”? A friend gave me a great book – The War on Art – which is all about this topic of putting off the one thing – your art – that you want to do. I’ve read about half of the book. It’s really good. I need to get around to finishing it. But when will I find the time?

I’m joking, of course. The craziest part of my life is that it is wide open with time for “art.” I don’t have family attachments or holidays or kids or a dog. I do have cats. I do have a job. I do have friends and meetings and recovery. But really, that doesn’t take up that much time. I don’t even have to cook or clean unless I want to. So, what the hell am I doing?

So far, I am writing this blog. I am making piles of books at home that are “haven’t read, ain’t gonna” and “haven’t read, really want to,” and sorted through stuff I could possibly sell on eBay or Craig’s List or Replacements (because I need the cash). I have spent a lot of time worrying about how to make ends meet – like a lot of Americans are right now because of the lag in the economic upswing – must be newborn with a really heavy diaper because of its excruciating slow movement through time.

I also spend time praying about the things I worry about. Do you know that saying? “If you worry, why pray? If you pray, why worry?” Well, just in case, I’m going to continue doing both. While I have the time.

Ok – so that’s the extra 35 minutes. Hurrah, I did not ignore my “art.” My “art” time is over for now.

PS – The reason I put the word art in quotes is because it feels very pretentious to me to even refer to my writing or acting as “my art” or “art.” Although it is creative expression, seems like anything like real “art” in is the MOMA or NCMA. But maybe it’s pretentious to feel pretentious about it?

Farmer Betsy

I’m the kind of person – fortunately or unfortunately – who gets an idea and then runs with it. For example, I wanted to have a garden to dig in and put flowers in, and definitely, to plant a butterfly bush in. I live in a really small townhouse with a deck off the back and just a small area of ground to work with. So, I worked with it.

I now have a garden with a two-stacked cement-brick border. It has a butterfly bush, some spices, and a few flowers. Last spring I also purchased two tomato plants from Whole Foods. I thought the description was dwarf tomato plants but it wasn’t. Those tomato plants grew tall – well over the deck railing, but none of the fruit was any good. So, I chopped them down and recycled the plants (threw them in some near-by woods).

When I started the garden area, the landscape company that cuts the grass and chops the evergreen into odd block or triangular shapes, came and did their thing. When they left – my garden had a top level of cut grass! Ut-oh! That would mean that I’d be gardening new grass – so, I got most of it out and cut a 3-foot deep path around the garden wall and along the deck pylons (which I added lattice work to).

I shoveled chunks of turf from this 3×16 L-shaped “path” or future walkway. And, tossed the stones and rocks into a pile. I made sure that I shook the turf free of all good-soil packed with earth worms. Worms are my friends. Plus, even though I will smash the hell out of any cockroach that enters my home, I am still loathe to kill outside bugs and worms and spiders. So now I had a dirt L-shape walkway that was deep enough to keep the grass cuttings out of my 6×6 bricked garden. The beginnings of a patio path!

I have learned – by walking around the gardening, etc., area of Lowe’s – that I will need to have some type of holding-border for this walkway. I will want to put paving sand down before I start laying whatever path material I decide on.

So, yesterday evening I went back to work on the pathway – there is no way I would do this work during our typical hot and steamy summers in NC. The fall weather is on it’s way and digging in the dirt now is still hot but not unbearable.

I worked on the edge and made the path a bit deeper – my thinking that I will still need some “throw area” so that grass cuttings don’t end up on the actual path. I thought about how I will have to make sure this path is level. I worried that I would ever have a job that paid enough so that I could actually buy the materials and finish the path.

I did not worry about the fact that I have no idea what I am doing. I did briefly wonder if there’s a book I could get on how to create a stone pathway (they have everything at Lowe’s).

I just use an idea, some tools, what I observed my Dad doing in his garden when I was a teenager, some information I gleaned while my ex-husband built rooms off the house, and what I have learned by listening to carpenters and other builders. Oh, I forgot – and what I learned from Norm and Steve.

But I really don’t know how to build a stone path. I should be intimidated or fearful of screwing this up.

I’m not – I have my great imagination, my ability to learn, and books, and all that stuff at Lowe’s. For a really insecure person, I have this attitude that I can do anything, lots of things I don’t know how to do or never actually did before.

Since I’m not from New England, I don’t consider this a “pioneer attitude.” I know I screw things up – mostly relationships. So, how can I think I can do anything I think I can do? I think it’s because, as I’ve told friends (the ones I still have), in my family you were expected to know how to drive a car even if you never saw one before in your life.

In other words, I have had to improvise all my life – without guidance – and gleen enough information to get the gist of something and then do my job, or project, or (hopefully not too much anymore) spout off at the mouth about it. Sounds like arrogance.

The humbling part is I love digging in that dirt, I love watching a butterfly light on that bush, I love honoring my HP by trying to add something, help something grow. And, I’m sure I will get a book or ask some friends who have some experience, strength, and hope in creating stone paths.

BUT – if you want to recommend a good book or tell me how you created an outdoor pathway – I’d love to hear from you!