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

1913234_602724436472480_607816166_o

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.

Day 5: Failing Forward

I haven’t succeeded this week at writing every day. I am choosing to see this as an experience of failing forward. I failed to live up to my intention, but I am moving forward to try again without beating myself up or giving up.

There are two culprits at work in missing writing days thus far: it hasn’t yet become a habit and my current Fibro symptoms.

They say it takes 21 days to make a habit. I haven’t set a scheduled time for writing because with a toddler in the house and a family to manage time with, it’s difficult to set the same time every day. I put a reminder on my phone, but I think I set it for too early in the day because it goes away before I’m ready for writing. I just updated my calendar with a new time and multiple reminders. We’ll see if that leads to better results.

My Fibro symptoms have increased over the last couple weeks because I’ve had to wean myself off of one of my medications. The State of Oregon doesn’t recognize Lyrica as treatment for Fibromyalgia and we can’t afford $300 a month. Coming off of the Lyrica has brought me fatigue despite full sleep, as well as more pain. It’s the fatigue that challenges my writing because it diminishes my brain capacity. I only have a few hours a day where I feel clear headed enough to write, and even then I don’t always have full use of my intellectual capacity. If I miss that window, it’s incredibly difficult to try to make writing happen later in the day when the exhaustion has accumulated.

I am grateful I know of writers who succeed at writing books while simultaneously managing a chronic illness. It shows me that it can be done. It will be slower than I might like, but if I can manage an hour a day or a few hours a week, it will eventually lead to a finished work. A book in two years is certainly better than not writing a book at all, just like 5 days of writing out of 7 is better than no writing at all.

Day 4 {A Day Late}: What Do You Long To Say With Your Life?

“What do you long to say with your life?”asks by Patti Digh.

I long to say that women’s stories need to be heard, playful girls and raucus teenagers, young mothers and wise teachers.

I long to say that women’s bodies need to be respected rather than raped in the bedroom, in the street, in the doctor’s office, in Congress.

I long to say that women’s emotions are powerful. It is our deep passionate love, our empathy, our desires for our Earth, for our children, for our lovers, for the struggling, for the suffering that lead to our great acts of kindness and service.

I long to say that holding people is one of the most important things we can do. Whether through touch, something most of us are starved for, or through holding space for each others stories, providing witness for the great emotional adventure that each of us are living, it is in holding each other that we experience the deepest connections.

I long to say that we all belong to each other.

Day 3 – Letting Them Go

How to describe the paradox of joy and grief a mother feels while letting her child go out into the world on their own?

Two weeks ago my daughter moved into her first apartment with her girlfriend. We’ve been living apart for three months, but her future still had a question mark until the apartment was secured. Now she’s signed a six month lease in the San Francisco Bay Area and will be attending Aveda in a few weeks.

Letting my son go was different. While we were close and connected, we aren’t great friends the way she and I have become. Whether it’s because she’s a girl and/or similarities in our personalities and/or because I was emotionally healthier while raising her, she and I have something special that I anticipate will grow richer as she grows into herself. She’s also the last child I’m committed to full time parenting. My role as a mother is changing in every way.

Also, my son had the security of a full ride scholarship to college. I had no worries about whether he could pay for a place to live or food in his belly for the first four years of his adulthood. But she is risking it all for love – love for her girlfriend and love for her dream to become a make-up designer in a city that feels right to her. She’s taking loans for school and to give herself a financial foundation to build from with a job. I am proud she is following her heart and a little worried things won’t work out. I know how unpredictable life is and I don’t want her to be disappointed.

She’s bold and courageous…and she’s afraid and overwhelmed by “adulting.” Who can blame her? I still get overwhelmed by adulting, too. I imagine everyone does. All the things to remember and the responsibilities we have to meet for ourselves and whomever we join our lives to.

I am proud of her…and I want to keep taking care of her. I know the independence is good for us both…and I miss my girl being a part of my daily life.

They are mine and not mine. My children, a piece of myself, and their own persons. The world will have it’s way with them. All I can do is keep loving them and supporting them in whatever ways are healthy and possible with young adults who are hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Day 2 – Mental Health and Spiritual Crisis

Culturally, because of Robin Williams and others before him, we are talking about bringing mental illness into the light. But I am reminded by reading Caroline Myss this past week that there is also the possibility of spiritual crisis, an aspect of being human that is even more ignored and taboo than psychological/brain issues.

We don’t only need to talk about and learn how to address chemical imbalances and mood disorders, we need to do the same for spiritual crisis outside of traditional religions. Not all depression or addiction is physiological and/or psychological in nature. Not all that we call madness is actual insanity. There are thousands of years of spiritual traditions in cultures around the world who recognized the difference and had mystics, priestesses or shamans to take people through their dark nights of the soul the same way a therapist takes a patient through the psychological healing of old wounds. But now many of us are without a guide through spiritual crisis because we reject traditional religions and fundamentalism.

Maybe some people can’t find their way out of the darkness and choose to die because we as a culture don’t even recognize the fact that the Dark Night of the Soul exists, let alone hold and guide people through navigating it. I realize today that this is what makes me different from so many other people I know who struggle with mental health and long term physical issues. I’ve always looked at my journey through a spiritual lens. Because I’ve always believed in something bigger than me I’ve always seen the potential for meaning and purpose in the Darkness, even when feeling battered and broken in the midst of it. I overcame a mental illness that “they” say is virtually incurable, with deep behavioral therapy being the only way out. Yet I’ve never had deep behavioral therapy. What I’ve done is deep spiritual and psycho-emotional work, mostly on my own and consciously through my relationships.

This is why despite all I’ve learned about both sides, the argument between science and spirituality doesn’t matter to me. Believing in God – whether the Christian God in the Sky or the Pagan Goddess or the All-is-One of Quantum Consciousness or the God of Life/Universe – believing in something bigger than me has made me sane and whole and led to me to deeper experiences of love and joy. Meds and therapy didn’t do it, a mystical perspective on my experience did. I don’t need any more evidence than that.

And this leads me to understand something about the work I truly desire to be doing with people. I have immense desire to hold space for people going through spiritual crisis, transformations that bring on the Dark Night. Because of my own experiences, I know that not everything big and deep can be addressed through traditional models. Yet when I think about my “work,” what I will get paid to do for the next 20-30 years of my life, I’ve limited myself to more practical options. Non-profit leadership. Coaching. Creating community spaces. These are culturally acceptable versions of what really calls to my heart – working with people in the spiritual dimension. Applying mystical sight and spiritual tools, in addition to practical psychological resources, to people’s lives, most especially their experiences of the Dark Night. Meds and therapy will work for some. Spiritual guidance will work for others. We need to transcend our rational fundamentalism (our belief that only the rational is right) and recognize that there is something deeper going on for some people.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 383 other followers