Thursday, June 15, 2006

Don't should on yourself

I've had a major breakthrough over the past couple of days and needing to get it into ink. I've been journaling, but the inner wisdom has been coming at me too fast and furious to quite capture as yet... I have a feeling it's not quite through, but will put a wee post on to capture this moment.
For as long as I can remember, I've felt I should be something different than what I am. While I don't fault my parents for their parenting, and feel incredibly blessed to be raised in the loving way that I was, I know that the combination of my personality and the parents I chose resulted in this feeling of yearning to be other. I won't go into that, because it's neither here nor there (though is worth me noting to myself in an attempt to not repeat the process with my own babes) at this point in my life -- it's behind me and what I can change is my here and now attitude, not where I've come from.
And it's also worth noting, for my own sake, that because I am, by personality, a sponge to the world around me (are we all? i'm not sure) the culture in which I grew up as also played a large role in my shaping (duh! but bear with me, i'm going somewhere with this). Also, for as long as I can remember, I have been exceedingly uncomfortable with put-downs, gossip, and people being made fun of just for sport. This fact may also seem redundant (who among us is comfortable with any of that now, of course!) but this goes back to my earliest memories and I have never been one to join in on this sport even when I was in the catty-girl stage of grades 6 through 9. I have always felt it my duty to speak up in these situations and this has caused me a great deal of confrontation over the years. I don't include discussing a mutual friend with another mutual friend, as long as everything I say I would be happy to say TO that friend, and as long as the conversation is respectful to all parties... I see our negativities as simply the other half of our completeness and don't attempt to see ONLY THE GOOD in people, because I find this harmful in itself (which feels like another post altogether, but in essence, I feel that when we try to ignore the shadows of ourselves and our friends we start to become uncomfortable with that other half of ourselves and thus begins a negative spiral downwards of hoping nobody ever notices any of that in ourselves -- when it's just THE OTHER HALF of our beautiful selves! more on that, perhaps, at a later time).
But back to how our culture has shaped me. I believe that every time I heard someone judging someone else, I internalized that judgment against myself (and I actually believe that we all do this to some extent). I wasn't aware I was doing this, but the image of myself that I felt I should live up to became so perfect (thin, beautiful, sporty, smart, kind, good at everything, etc.) and so complicated that I could no longer decipher JUST what it was I felt I should be. This led to a feeling of frustration and deep-seated anger at not BEing able to hold it all together in the perfect way I held in my mind...
I went through a long stage of thinking that if I just visualized myself as the being I really wanted to be, then I could perhaps manifest this alter ego. After all, I had gotten quite good at manifesting all other manner of lovely things and people into my life, why not a new and more perfect ME?
Only, of course, I didn't quite see it that way.
But the other night at my NVC empathy circle, the wise sage in the group stopped me when I was speaking to correct my "yes, I should..." into a "yes, I could..." I glossed over it at the time, but it stuck with me. She simply said "I really try hard not to should on myself" and in her English accent the should came out as shit in the most beautiful eloquent graceful way.
It took about 24 hours and an honest, poignant, loving email from my seaJay before it all came together for me. I had written to SeaJay that my vision of my life simply didn't match my reality and was causing me deep anger and frustration. I wrote pages and pages, but that simple statement was the one she cut and paste and sent back to me. And so with the shoulding on myself ringing through my mind and that statement sent back to me, I got it.
My vision is not my reality. Period.
My reality is my reality. I am who I am. It is what it is. My relationship is what it is. My mothering is what it is. And that's all that matters.
I am me. I am not always beautiful or fit or clear-headed or patient or loving or kind or a good writer or a great cook or environmentally friendly or tidy or clean or gentle or healthy or considerate or a good friend or a wonderful mother or a loving wife. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I'm not. This is what I've always told my children. When Annika says to me "I'm so kind to Pedar, aren't I mumma?" I say "Yes, love! Sometimes you are and sometimes you're not. and I love you when you are and I still love you when you're not."
And so I am extending this love to myself so that I can heal my life. And in so doing I will be able to REALLY MEAN it when I say it to my children. Because anything we cannot give to ourselves, we cannot possibly give to anyone else.
And so last night in the darkness I reached over to my husband and told him firmly yet gently that I had decided to let myself go! There was a big silence while I smiled in the night at his confusion. Then I explained that I'm actually picking my REAL self up, but letting all the other selves who I've been struggling to be, GO. I am no longer going to try to be anyone but who I am. I am no longer going to should on myself and I asked for his help to remind me of this when things begin to get stinky again... as I'm sure they will.
And so today I've just been me. Not striving to be better. Not striving to be more. Just BEing me. When I'm impatient I don't should on myself. I simply state the obvious "goodness, Annika! Mummy is feeling really impatient right now!" and then I realize that I have an unmet need that I can choose to fill in any manner of ways. And I find a way to meet it. And tonight I will give myself a hug and a kiss and go to sleep instead of laying there wishing I could've been all the other mummies that I used to know I was supposed to be...

Hmmm. It hasn't all come out just the way it's fitting together in my mushy mind, so I'll think on it some more. But it feels good to be clear in some small but important ways.
So for now, join me: clear your own air. Accept who you are at your deepest level, remember "the most important thing" and stop shoulding on yourself...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Spring Cleaning

Oh! What a joyful feeling to have a fresh clean house! I've been rearranging furniture (in a big way) all day and washing walls and floors and windows... Things were SO dusty from all the construction we had building that retaining wall. But not anymore... All is sparkly and fresh now. I haven't been ready to do it until just today, but I woke up knowing today was the day and it's gone so smoothly! I did the kids' room which, of course, meant reorganizing and purging lots of stuff too. It looks SO good. I need to do my entire house but will settle today for "most" of the upstairs being done. WAHOO!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The view inside my soul...

"We don't own the earth. We simply belong to her and she will feed us as any parent would feed her children.... The [vegetables and fruits from my garden] teach me about the overwhelming, demanding, gorgeous love of [Spirit]. This is a love that places knowledge in our way, offering the chance -- which we must pluck for ourselves -- to grow up, with all the pain inherent in maturity. To be generous as earth herself is generous, and to share with one another. I believe [Spirit] was deeply proud of her rebellious daughter, Eve."
- Donna Sinclair
I have been contemplating the magic of VALIDATION the past couple of days and trying to get very clear on just what the word means to me. I want to say we all know the magical high we get from being validated, but the sad truth is that too few of us do...
I do. And I feel very blessed to be able to say that the feeling is very familiar to me. I believe that validation is one of our highest needs. And what it means to me is this: that someone who matters to me has taken the time to stop and quietly, purposefully, lovingly notice who I truly am at my deepest level. They've stepped out of their own world, stepped in to mine, they've taken a long look around the inside of my soul, and they've then given me the ultimate gift of reflecting the beauty they've seen there back to me. THAT is a beautiful gift. THAT is what makes our breathing come easier, our steps lighter, our laugh more joyful, our eyes more sparkly. It's so simple, yet so necessary. It's imperative to good mental health. It's crucial to healthy relationships. Children cannot grow up whole without it. Yet it's often the one thing that people regret NOT doing when they hear about the sudden death of someone they love. "Oh! If only I'd taken the time, the energy, the risk of telling them how beautiful their soul is..."
That was my regret on the morning of my brother's wedding in 1987 when I heard that one of my dear friends had been killed by a drunk driver early that morning. It was a very elaborate wedding. I was in the wedding party. I had just had my hair done for the first time in my life. My mum was a basket of nerves. My brother had already had too much to drink. I was wearing a bubblegum pink poofy dress and carrying a lace parasol in my white gloves. The scene was too incongruous with the news that I would never see my friend again. So incongruous, that my family had decided not to tell me until later. I was in a stall in the bathroom, and overheard the secret, tragic news. I cried off the mask of make-up that didn't feel right anyway, blew my nose as hard as I could into my pretty white hanky, took a deep breath, lifted my eyes and uttered this prayer:
Dear God[dess], help me never again miss an opportunity to validate the people in my life. Please tell Jodi, wherever she is, that I love her. And that I will never forget her."

And I haven't. Jodi had given me many gifts in our years of friendship, but the most precious one was that answered prayer. Starting that very day I began to tell the people around me what I loved about them, what I was grateful for because of them, and what I would miss about them if they were no longer there. And that love, extended, has come back to me one hundred fold. Validation is familiar to me. Thank you Goddess, I am truly blessed.

Which brings me to today.
I saw my dear friend sitting against the wall, a beautiful book in her lap, tied up with a white ribbon. Life has gotten in the way of my friend and I, and I was feeling the distance when I saw her sitting there, her new long! hair evidence of how much time had come between us. But then she reached out and handed me the gift of validation, tied up with a bow.
A lovely gift in my hand, but my heart feeling the deep hug.
Oh! WHAT a beautiful book! But even more so, what a beautiful gift it is to have a friend who's taken the time to step inside my soul, and in her own way tell me that she loves what she's seen... Just the solace my heart needed tonight after the exhausting (but wonderful!) past 2 weeks... I've been reading the book all evening (my children both fast asleep by 7pm tonight -- another gift!) and with each word, each photo, each quote, feeling the gift of a friend who really knows me and has reached out to hug my heart, giving me the gift of validation.

"I bind unto myself today
the virtues of the starlit heaven,
the glorious sun's life-giving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth,
the deep salt sea,
around the old eternal rocks."
- Celtic hymn
from "The Spirituality of Gardening" by Donna Sinclair