The Gift of Adaptability

I am grateful that one of the tools I was born with is adaptability. Change is rarely difficult for me. I do not fight it. I do not suffer because of it. I adapt to new information and new situations very quickly. It can actually be a source of frustration for those close to me, because sometimes my mind changes on the spot and they’re still reacting to where I was a minute ago.

The gift in adaptability is less resistance to what is, which equates to less suffering. If I don’t resist change, then I don’t suffer. That doesn’t mean change isn’t painful. It often is. But there is a difference between pain and suffering. While I may have to live with pain, I do not have to create suffering out of it by resisting change, fighting what is, or wishing things were different.

Today I am adapting to new ideas about where Radical Mystic is headed. While I’ve had frustration with my lack of writing lately, I have also experienced multiple epiphanies regarding my next creative project over the past few weeks. I realize now that I am in a state of pregnancy – forming something new that has yet to take its full shape. It takes time, patience, and a lot of work in the unseen to birth something new into the world.

I believed I wanted to write a memoir, yet I’ve been struggling with getting into the nitty gritty of planning a book. I thought I was merely experiencing typical resistance. However, now I believe I’m in incubation and a bigger idea is just starting to take a distinct shape in it’s development.

When I was a young University student, even though writing was my primary form of expression at the time, I always desired to do something more complex. To combine styles and forms and create in multiple dimensions. To bring writing and theater together in performance art. To bring theater and visual art together in a community art experience. All of my former projects were multi-dimensional. The Yoni Endeavor was sculptures, digital paintings, web design, poetry, essays, creative non-fiction and blogging. The Conspiracy of Blessings was multi-media art, blogging, and community building. The Impropriety Society was multi-media art, graphics and web design, writing, blogging, event production, leadership, and community building. After these years away from actively creating something other than a child and family, I needed to remember that I am turned on by complexity.

Another factor I needed to remember – I’ve always been an immediate gratification artist. I enjoy creating a collection of small creative projects that take hours or days each, leading to a larger creation based on the cohesion of the pieces. The idea of taking months or years to produce one object is really rather horrifying to me.

So the idea of writing a book – words only, crafted over months or years of time – does not ignite a fire inside of me. But planning a project – designing a website and graphics, writing content in a variety of styles, discovering the possibilities of video and audio and collaboration with others, all with an on-going production schedule – this ignites me. The last few days have seen pages of development notes, full of inspirations from nearly everything and everyone I engage with.

Developing a project, in real time online, without a direct intention to make money from it, is also in line with my super power of Creative Generosity. I have never and will never create with the intent of getting paid. I can’t. That’s just not how I work. That doesn’t mean I won’t develop ideas for exchange or accept money for creative work that I do; it just means that I operate from generosity first. I create and give away what I create because it makes me happy to do so. Generosity is both my bliss and my rebellion, a significant aspect of my radical mysticism.

I am rediscovering and following my passions. In response, I feel the Universe dancing with me through serendipity. In adapting to the Divine’s lead in our dance, I am experiencing the magical support so many teachers have claimed is out there, waiting for us when we get clear on our creative desires. It’s been a long time since I felt this way and it feels fantastic.

Next step: my own domain name.

Living With Integrity

I am embarrassed to admit that I have utterly failed at establishing a regular writing practice. While I have good reasons, like giving most of my energy daily to holding a dear friend in grief and transition the past four weeks, I have failed to align my actions with my words. Which is why this post is about integrity. I need to find my way to integrity in regards to writing; which I say – in my heart and with my lips – is really important to me for a multitude of reasons. Yet I am letting resistance and lack of discipline win.

On the other hand, I am a finalist in a position with the Department of Integrity at Oregon Health and Science University. I feel a lot of potential in this particular position and it’s rather incredible how it lines up with my pursuit of integrity in my personal and professional lives. Despite occasionally feeling fearful about survival and my dependence on the Mamas, I have maintained my integrity in my search for work, only pursuing non-profit and education positions that align with my core values. I am grateful that my family supports my integrity in this way. No one has pressured me to broaden my search just so we have more money coming in or can get into a house sooner.

A focus of my evolution in recent years has been moving towards living with complete integrity; agreement between my words, my actions and my values in all areas of my life. If I claim to be eco-conscious, then I need to make my choices based on that value rather than convenience. If I claim to prioritize meaning over money and doing good over ambition, then I need to find work that reflects those values rather than going where the money or prestige is. If I claim to love myself, then I need to make choices that keep me from emotional harm rather than carelessly put me in the midst of it.

In my professional life, integrity became the theme of my last position. Integrity was one of the core values of the company. As the Operations and HR manager for a behavioral health clinic, it was my job to maintain our division’s integrity with our funders, our corporate office, our families, and our team members. It was also my job to enforce integrity, in that I had to coach and sometimes discipline when team members were not following the policies and/or procedures they were responsible for. I strove to do so with kindness and a generous spirit, while at the same time treating everyone equally in enforcement of the rules.  This is why working for a Department of Integrity seems perfect for me at this point in my professional evolution. I imagine my conscious pursuit of integrity would be an asset to their work.

Now I need to find a sustained writing practice that brings me in alignment with my integrity around writing. I know writing improves my emotional health, exercises my brain, and feeds my soul. I know that I am being called to write, to share my/our story, and to deepen the concept of a Radical Mystic. Though I haven’t been writing, I have been struck with epiphanies and inspirations regarding both the book and community building. Though it’s been mostly internal, there has been significant forward movement, including identifying the specific message that takes my memoir from personal to universal.

I am doing my best to trust the process and uproot the fears that feed the impulse to resist. I’ll continue to work toward establishing a disciplined writing practice, but I’m letting go of the idea of posting a certain number of posts in a certain amount of time. While that strategy seems to work for others, it did not work for me. What’s new? A lifetime pattern, one that I mostly appreciate, is that I have to find my own way of doing everything. The Rebel archetype is strong in me. And I can only find my way to integrity by being true to myself.

Day 12: Going Numb & the Unheralded Effort to Return

“That we go numb along the way is to be expected. Even the bravest among us, who give their lives to care for others, go numb with fatigue, when the heart can take in no more, when we need time to digest all we meet. Overloaded and overwhelmed, we start to pull back from the world, so we can internalize what the world keeps giving us.

Perhaps the noblest private act is the unheralded effort to return: to open our hearts once they’ve closed, to open our souls once they’ve shied away, to soften our minds once they’ve been hardened by the storms of our day.” ―Mark Nepo

A friend of mine posted this quote to my wall on Facebook a few weeks ago because it made her think of me. I imagine she thought of me because I went numb with fatigue, pulling back from nearly every thing and everyone in my world two years ago.  And I hope because shenow sees how I am opening my heart again.

Fall 2012. The D/s relationship ended that took me on a dangerous trip with demons and addictions in the driver’s seat. I saw Daddy’s addiction to taboo sex early, one of the red flags I chose to ignore,but I didn’t realize I was addicted to the havoc his sadism wreaked in my heart. It wasn’t until I found myself on my knees on my living room floor in the middle of the night, sobbing because he only gave me 5 minutes of his attention that night and I was desperate for more. I would have done nearly anything for more. It was a few days after that night that he ended it and something in me broke.

I stopped writing. I stopped talking. I stopped spending time with people, or when I did spend time I wasn’t as intimate, affectionate and open as I had been. Friendships suffered. My relationship with Chris suffered.

I suffered from too much pain, both emotionally and physically. The Fibro was flaring up for the first time, taking away my sleep andmy physical and mental capacities. More significantly, my heart was battered and bruised from a series of challenging relationships that ended badly, the one with Daddy being the final straw. I hit bottom in my addiction to masochism and playing the martyr. I was giving myself to people who used me, neglected me, and treated me carelessly. I used a quest for spiritual evolution through vulnerability as justification to put myself in harm’s way. While I can’t accuse anyone else of outright abuse during that time, I abused myself by making myself vulnerable to people who took advantage of the gifts I offered and treated me badly.

The withdrawal started just before the news of my pregnancy. Then I withdrew further into myself in order to give our baby the optimal conditions for life. The combination of Fibro and pregnancy wasn’t aschallenging as I feared it would be, but it was far from easy. And the emotional roller coaster of giving our baby for legal adoption (not yet knowing how beautifully we would become co-parents) took allof my emotional resources to process. It took everything in me – my strength, my grace, my patience, my love for the baby – to care for myself both physically and emotionally so as to keep the baby from experiencing too much stress. I could only allow bits of feeling at a time in fear that my heart would be crushed if I let it all in at once.

It took 5 months after Lake was born for me to stop feeling the heaviness of grief. There were many ways I felt numb and hardened, unsure that I could be, or even wanted to be, vulnerable to anyone again. But that time was also a time of deep healing. In the months I had off from work I processed everything. I found the gifts and meaning in my experiences. I recognized my addiction to masochism and decidedto make different choices for myself. I also experienced tremendous gifts of love and friendship during the pregnancy, birth and after. Ilearned that I don’t have to suffer or hurt to grow. That I don’t have to work or serve to earn love. That relationships don’t have to be boxing matches between each other’s wounded places.

The biggest surprise in my unheralded effort to return is falling so deeply in love with Chris. Our relationship changed and deepened withthe birth of our baby and the process of orienting to this new familywe’ve co-created. Somehow our time apart the last few months has brought us even closer, deepening our desire and commitment. With his love as a foundation, I am opening my heart.

Now I am here, making myself vulnerable again. The walls are coming down as time goes on. I am practicing how to reach out with affection. I am letting the right people back into my heart and learning how to set boundaries. I am learning to manage my energy instead of giving my power away and moving at everyone else’s whims. And I am writing.

I feel strong and brave and rooted in love. It’s a grand place to be.

Day 11: I Am

“To run with the wolf was to run in the shadows, the dark ray of life, survival and instinct. A fierceness that was both proud and lonely, a tearing, a howling, a hunger and thirst. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst. A strength that would die fighting, kicking, screaming, that wouldn’t stop until the last breath had been wrung from its body. The will to take one’s place in the world. To say ‘I am here.’ To say ‘I am.” ― O.R. Melling

This week’s writing exercise for the Heart Manifesto workshop I am participating in (I was gifted entry!) is to write out everything that I believe “I am” without inhibition…

I am here. I am wild. I am fierce. I am emotional. I am contradictory. I am serious. I am generous. I am a Mother. I am Amma. I am Friend. I am Heart-Sister. I am heart. I am Water Brother. I am water. I am fire. I am stardust. I am a bright light. I am full of shadows. I am a family nurturer and community builder. I am non-violent. I am an advocate for social justice. I am a writer/poet. I am an artist. I am a singer. I am tired. I am in pain. I am enduring. I am thriving. I am loved.  I am Lover and Beloved.  I am a radical mystic. I am a believer in the heart. I am intellectual. I am a phoenix rising from the ashes. I am transparent. I am present. I am holding space. I am happy. I am missing my Man. I am held. I am supported. I am abundant.

I am a professional nonprofit and community leader. I am in the right place and right time to find the perfect work opportunity for myself and my family in Portland. I am patient…most of the time. I am frustrated with the Universe and its timing…some of the time. I am paradox. I am tentative to trust and I am deeply faithful.

I am a child dancing in wildflowers, blowing bubbles and giggling.

I am a teenager unwilling to accept the status quo in how I look or how I think.

I am a young adult experiencing my freedom for the first time in my life.

I am an Amma learning how to share parenthood with others. I am learning how to be someone other than Mommy.

I am matriarch in a tribe grown from love and the deep work of intimacy rather than blood.

I am an empath that feels the emotional experience of those I love in my heart.

I am a mystic, a priestess, a Divine Child. I am head over heels in love with the Universe.

I am bruised and scarred but never broken.

I am vulnerable.

I am open.

I am wide open, reaching deeper and further into the possibilities of who I am and who we are.

Ubuntu – I am because we are.

 

Intermission and Adaptation

I’m discovering that due to my physical limitations and prioritizing the energy I do have for family, I am not able to write every single day. I’ve written 10 days out of 15, so I met 2/3 of my goal for the first two weeks. I consider that a win. That’s 10 posts I didn’t have before, as well as the beginnings of a few more with ideas that I want to take the time and effort to explore without selling myself short for the sake of publishing something to meet a public goal.

I am highly adaptable. I am adapting my writing practice. I am changing my goal to 30 posts at the rate of 4 posts per week. That gives me freedom not to write some days and freedom to write extra on others. I am seeking to establish discipline that is kind and gentle rather than over-bearing and shaming. It feels more appropriate now that I understand why kind of limitations I am working with.

Day 10: Self Exploration through Archetypes

“Archetypes have been around since at least the time of Plato, who referred to preexisting ideal templates as Forms. Plato believed that these eternal Forms were reflected in material objects. The Form of Beauty, for example, is abstract and applies to all beautiful things. As different as the individual manifestations of Beauty may be – a beautiful person, horse or flower – the Form itself never changes. Other philosophers referred to the concept in passing, but it was the 20th-century Swiss psychologist Carl Jung who put archetypes on the map of modern consciousness. 

In essence, most archetypes are psychological patterns derived from historical roles in life, such as the Mother, Child, Trickster, Prostitute, and Servant; they can also be universal events or situations, such as Initiation or Death and Rebirth.” Caroline Myss, Archetype Cards Guidebook

I have found archetypes to be a highly valuable tool in my self work. Myss has a book called Sacred Contracts in which she talks about how each of us are made up primarily of 12 archetypes. Every archetype has a light side and a shadow side that we can manifest in our interactions. Four of these archetypes are universal to everyone – the Child, Saboteur, Prostitute and Victim. Eight are a combination unique to each of us based the strongest ways we relate to the world around us.

As I play with the idea of format for a memoir, I am thinking about exploring my story through my archetypes, at least some of them. I know that the Mystic, Mother, Lover and Child are all significant aspects of my journey. I am playing with the idea of including others, but first need to determine how significant they are to the specific story I want to tell. I am not going to try to write a memoir of my entire life. The arc of my story is the family we have created through our Magic Baby.

The other archetypes that I resonate with are the Artist, Healer, Heroine, Rebel, Servant and Martyr. This is one more than eight. The Servant and Martyr are similar but I haven’t been able to tease one out as more “me” than the other. All of these play into my story, but some much more prominently than others. The entire story is a Heroine’s journey. I’ve thought about my propensity for emotional adventuring as a thread that binds the story together. The Artist is expressed through the act of writing itself. The Rebel and Healer are expressed in many of my choices, but I’m not sure it’s appropriate to separate them out as explorations of their own.

I’m just beginning to piece this together. I know that I want to do something unique in my story telling. For as long as I’ve imagined writing a memoir I have also imagined doing so in a non-traditional format. When I was young I considered a combination of writing forms – poetry, prose, and creative non-fiction. Now I think about a series of essays, each centered on an archetype. Perhaps something else altogether will come out of process.

I am excited. The momentum is building inside of me to bring this project into the world. Writing nearly every day for the last 13 days is breathing new life into the Artist in me. That brings a particular happiness I hadn’t tasted in a long, long time.

Day 9: Losing My Mind

Losing My Mind

Losing My Mind from pritistudio.com

I’ve had the beginning of a post sitting here for two days, but have been unable to complete it due to lack of coherent thought. Tonight it seems appropriate to write about my greatest frustration with writing instead.

With Fibromyalgia I am often working with a diminished capacity of mind. I have literally lost some of my mind. Between exhaustion/fatigue, the distraction of pain, and Fibro fog (symptoms include difficulty with concentration, memory deficits, and confusion), I do not have the same brain capacity that I did 3 years ago or more. Being someone of high intelligence for whom almost everything thinky was easy, especially writing, this is the saddest and most frustrating aspect of this disorder/disease/whatever-the-fuck-it-is-that’s-messing-with-my-brain.

Now, some days writing is hard. Having a series of coherent thoughts that deepen in complexity around the same subject is hard. Putting those thoughts into words that are both expressive and accessible is hard. (I’m actually astonished I succeeded at writing and re-writing this post tonight!). Thinking creatively is near impossible.

This means that committing to writing is a much greater feat of endurance that it was before. I used to be able to thousands of decent words in a day. Now it’s a good day if I can fill one page with something worth keeping. Let alone the background work that needs to go into a book: recording memories, digging through all of my journals and boxes of memorabilia, doing research, establishing an outline of the pieces and their flow, writing a book proposal, maintaining a blogging presence to build an audience prior to book submission, etc. So many things! It’s intimidating.

Writing a book now will require great strength, endurance and discipline. As a mother I am familiar with this qualities. But a book doesn’t have the same sense of urgency, of need, that children do.

Maybe I need to imagine this book as a literal child as much as I’m able. I know this is the happy ending to the first part of my story, a real life fairy tale come true that is calling me to be told. I believe in it just as much as I believe in my children. I love it as a part of myself like my children. People say they experience callings. Writing is my calling. I hear her song in my head. I feel her pull in my cells. My soul aches when I ignore this call the same way my heart would ache if I turned away from my babies.

I can’t put this piece of myself aside any longer, no matter what it takes to keep the writer in me active. Much like the disciplines for my body, I need to do what I can for my writing every day. Sometimes it’s a few stretches or a few sentences. Sometimes it’s taking a walk or a couple hours of research. Once in awhile it’s an all day event with the family or a couple thousand decent words written and rewritten. From this perspective, every day is a potential success.

Day 8: Shifting Visions of Work

I wrote a few weeks back about a job opportunity that looked like a dream come true. It turns out that while the packaging was sparkly and appealing, the core was not coherent with the packaging. I was not treated well or with the values that they espoused. They brought me into an experiment without my knowledge and held me to expectations that were never communicated. It was not a good fit for either of us.

I am back to the resume hamster wheel, getting 10-15 applications out a week for non-profit and education jobs. I’m getting a decent return on my investment. I had two first interviews last week and found out I moved on to a second interview this week. Due to the responses I’ve received and my progress through multiple pipelines, I know that I have a solid resume and cover letter and that I interview well. It really is just a matter of fit. The Universe has had my back with every job search so far; I trust that it has my back this time, too.

What’s interesting is my expanding view of meaningful work. My most recent interviews are for positions to teach young people office administration skills with Jobcorps and a national operations manager for a nonprofit in education, including leading the cohort of state operations managers. I have a second interview for the operations gig. I dig their mission and I like the idea of growing into a higher profile nonprofit with national reach.

I never anticipated the wide range of possibilities both in service providers and position responsibilities for the diverse skills that I have. I can fill an operations, office management, project management and/or HR function in just about any non-technical organization. I’ve applied to work to support the Make A Wish Foundation, families fighting cancer and people with physical and/or mental disabilities; multiple universities and charter schools; and healthcare organizations. I could find the work meaningful in any of those environments as long as the culture and leadership are healthy.

But I’m starting to think about more than just meaning. I’m really starting to think about the trajectory of my career and where I might be headed. I’m starting to think about growing my career as a community leader. I’ve been a slow trajectory from administrative support to management. I hope to have another 20 years of work in me. There is still so much potential I have yet to fulfill.

It’s exciting to be here after so many years having to choose work based on my children’s needs rather than my desires. It’s exciting to have choices and opportunities I could have never imagined on my own.

Day 7: Home

“Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself. So that might be creativity, it might be family, it might be invention, adventure, faith, service, it might be raising corgis, I don’t know, your home is that thing to which you can dedicate your energies with such singular devotion that the ultimate results become inconsequential.” Elizabeth Gilbert

I used to think writing was my home. Or art. Or working for social justice. I used to think that I was a mother by accident rather than design and that maybe I wouldn’t have become a mother if I really had a choice in the matter. I thought I kept my first two children because I had to in order to do what was best for them. The people who would have taken custody of them were not viable options in my mind and heart.

Before Lake was born, I was talking about working toward a year of freedom. I wanted a year to be free of obligation to any other human being, including a job, and I wanted to travel, living independently and following my heart. Maybe it would take me to spiritual and eco communities where I could trade work for a place to live and opportunities to learn. Maybe it would take me to developing countries to work with communities healing from war and terrorism. Maybe it would take me to collaborations with other artist-activists. I wanted to save enough money to be free to discover the possibilities.

Now, as my second child moves away from home and I move toward a shared life with my son’s co-parents, I realize that my home, my dream, is something very different.

When I was a young single mom, my dream was to find intentional community. I envisioned living in a community with others who shared work, resources, parenting – who shared life. And because of this sharing could make life sustaining decisions; there are enough hands and enough hours to create the life we desire.  Imagine living in a community where all of your needs are met – love, family and touch; support through challenges; creativity and meaningful work; healthy food and sustainable housing.

I gave up on the dream. At the time I couldn’t find an intentional community that was both financially viable and would accept my children. I transitioned from college to full-time work and accepted the life of a mostly single householder. The only other long-term co-parent in my children’s lives has been my sister, who has provided various forms support for them from across the country. It was lonely much of the time and it was hard to bear the responsibility of two other human beings on my own.

I believed for the last 15 years that I traded my dream of intentional community for a dream of freedom from family obligation after my children left home. Now I am beginning to understand that Family is my Home. My children are my home as Elizabeth Gilbert defines it above. My singular devotion has been towards my children and chosen family, whatever shape it’s taken over the years.

I have a new child and while I continue to desire to be free of full-time parenting, and am content in giving that gift to the Mamas, I still want our son to have the best life possible. No matter what my imaginations has told me I want to do with the freedom I now have, my heart keeps drawing me back to my child and our shared family.

As plans for relocating to Portland solidified, I found myself doubting the decision with my partner to live on our own rather than with the Mamas, which had been presented as a possibility during the pregnancy. Shortly before moving to Portland, we changed our minds and committed to living communally with the Mamas for at least 3-5 years. My heart tells me that our son deserves the best environment possible for his early development. Sharing a home where there is financial abundance, resources for living a sustainable life, and co-parenting so that no one becomes overwhelmed with child rearing means giving him a home where he can thrive.

I put myself in a position to truly have a choice in how much I relate to my third child. And I’m still choosing him without any obligation or responsibility to do so. I finally understand that no matter what exciting ideas entice me now and again, with my family is where I belong. I can adventure and follow my heart’s desire in my creative work, but my devotion is to my child and the family we share because of his presence in the world.

Day 6: Unconditional Acceptance

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This particular meme touches me deeply. I actually learned a life-changing lesson about my propensity for martyrdom from a situation where I was excluded from a gathering in my own home, seemingly because I wasn’t “happy” enough.

While in the midst of the initial Fibro insanity a few years ago, I threw a holiday gathering at my home. Setting up and cooking used up nearly all my energy and my pain started early in the day. I was struggling to be social. I wasn’t grumpy, just low energy and quiet.

Not one person other than my partners initiated a conversation with me at that party. No one approached me. No one greeted me, thanked me for cooking or hosting, or said goodbye to me. The only interactions I had were when I approached a group and inserted myself in conversations.

I talked to a close friend about it afterwards. She asked me if I had considered that my low energy had put people off, that maybe I wasn’t approachable. I asked in return if I have to be in an visibly good mood for my friends to talk to me, especially when I’ve welcomed them into my home?  And if so, why weren’t others who were more prone to have low energy and complain about their challenging situations excluded? We had people in our midst who used their suffering as currency to gain attention and concern. Some of them seemed to be the most popular in the group. Why was it different for me?  I still don’t know the answer to that question.

It was a sad day, as is usually the case when our illusions are stripped away. It was one of the necessary situations that pointed me towards my addiction to masochism. It was also the last gathering I hosted for more than a year. I realized I was regularly giving myself away to people who did not value the gifts of my service and love.

It’s not an accident that I’ve maintained few friendships from that period of my life. I examined every relationship for reciprocity and genuine interest in one another. Only a handful survived the scrutiny.

The people in my circle now are truly unconditional in their acceptance of me. They do their best to work with my limitations. They help me find physical comfort to optimize my potential for enjoyment. They understand when I can’t commit or have to back out of plans because I have too much tired and/or pain. And they like to spend time with me no matter my energy level.

I’ve since realized that I had a belief that I had to earn visibility, love and affection through service. Somewhere deep in my heart I came to believe that I had to give as much of myself as possible by serving others happiness in order to be seen, let alone receive friendship and love. Love was something that had to be worked for.

I know better now. I know that I deserve to be loved and belong simply because I exist, just as everyone does. I now experience belonging and unconditional acceptance in my family life every single day, with people who choose me and to share this life with me wherever it leads us individually and together.

Because of these experiences, both painful and beautiful, I will strive harder to build communities with radical inclusivity. I desire to find ways to help everyone experience belonging.

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