I borrowed the above title from a line in a guided meditation and I wish I could remember which one so I can properly attribute it. Nonetheless, it reminds me that building more space into my weekly time for reflection and writing my own work is more challenging than I thought. I am seldom the wordless person. I have lots of words. And I share them freely.
When you write your “morning pages” in your journal, you are the only one who can give yourself praise for getting your work done. Social media and the clicks and likes can be an addictive little “hit” for affirmation. As a writer, I write every day no matter what. It is like oxygen for me. But I am susceptible to that buzz that comes from others receiving the work well.
I am comforted to know that there is brain chemistry and neurobiology behind this, of course. Those clicks and likes produce a little hit of dopamine in your brain, and because we are social creatures, approval is important to us at a primal level. There is nothing wrong with that, and it is very natural. Please have some compassion for yourself if you worry sometimes about what other people think. Being part of a tribe or pack was how the mammals of today survived.
As a person who loves words, and who loves the ease of publishing that blogs can offer, it is even harder for me to be the “wordless” person. I joke to my husband that this blog is my little soapbox, so that I can express my ideas freely without subjecting him to all of my opinions. 😉 So he is grateful that it exists.
Some days, I am better off going into observer mode rather than writing publicly. It reminds me of meditation, noticing what is going on in my body, and in my mind, while not attaching to it. Emotions come and go, as thoughts do. Ideas float through and sometimes I want to grab a pen. But I sit, and allow things to flow through. My ego-ic mind can be quite impressed with my thoughts sometimes. But my higher self, the watcher, just observes and allows. No thought is better than another, they just are.
Is it challenging to be the wordless person? Heck yeah, more than I ever realized.
Happy Tuesday, peeps. It is dark as I’m writing, and I am getting through the DST transition, even though it is not typically my best week of the year. At least I am being kind to myself and others. That goes a long way.
In only 24 days I will head to Arizona for a weekend event with two favorite authors, Martha Beck and Liz Gilbert. In honor of that event, I downloaded the audible version of Finding Your North Star, by Martha Beck to give it a re-listen. Years ago I read the book (many times, and annotated it) and then later gave it to a friend who was in a place of transition.
Martha’s wisdom is amazing, and since I am in another place of transition in my life, the audio provides just the right level of humor and perspective to help guide me in this next journey. I am working with a coach from the Handel Group, and that homework has been helpful as well.
Martha makes a distinction between the “essential self” and the “social self” in terms of helping us know our core interests and desires. I remember at that time it was a huge discovery for me, the fact that we have these different parts of ourselves that work together in our lives. When we ignore the essential self (aka our soul) in favor of doing only what the social self wants (more ego-driven, people-pleasing), we end up unhappy and unfulfilled.
On the other hand, when we use the faculties of the social self, like pushing ourselves sometimes when we are in a difficult place, in order to achieve the dreams of our essential self, we can create the lives we want. I think there are actually a lot of “selves” that exist within us, and Handel method refers to them as “character traits” that we can identify and then evolve.
A couple of weeks ago, I identified a trait I will refer to as “Mary the Martyr” as a voice talking in my head. She’s the one who tells me I should be grateful for what I have, that it’s greedy to want more. She’s the one who sacrifices for everyone and does not value her own wants and needs. I thought I had rooted her out of my life years ago, but she made an appearance when I worked on the dreaming exercise. Effectively she blocked my dreaming process for a bit.
Her voice sounds a bit like family members (parents perhaps) and she was pretty certain about what she was telling me. It was funny when I actually named her, and began to recognize how she asserts her influence in many areas of my life. There are certain qualities I like about her: generosity toward her loved ones, a desire to protect the people she cares about, and a sense of independence. She never wants a hand-out and believes she should work hard, but she also has difficulty receiving.
When navigating toward our North Stars, our true purpose in life, it can be difficult when these familial or societally-programmed voices start interfering with the journey. But in recognizing those as not our essential selves, but rather the social selves we evolved to keep us “in a tribe” then we are able to see whether these serve us. It can be a little painful to wake up to this realization, and know that we have been putting dreams on hold.
Sometimes we must find different tribes that support our new journeys. But this is possible, and we must create this support for ourselves. It can take the form of authors on our shelves or people we admire. We do not even need to know all of these “virtual” supporters in person. The web makes this process much easier than it used to be. But the internet sometimes induces other problems, like the tendency for comparison, which is not always healthy.
In any case, navigating toward our North Stars is a scary and exhilarating process. It makes sense to get as much support as we can muster. There is a Hero’s Journey part of the process, and while we may be okay with slaying a few dragons by ourselves, having a posse can make the journey a lot more fun and interesting.
The Vikings had awesome playoff game and though I am a fair weather fan, it sure was fun to watch!
My hubby loves football. While I have always thought it was kind of a violent sport, I have gotten a little swept up in Vikings fever. It is an interesting phenomenon, uniting around a team, just because I live in Minnesota. But the thing about sport is that it can unite people of different religions, political beliefs and ethnic backgrounds.
Perhaps that is what makes the sport so American in its popularity. Of course, it is catching on around the world. Several of my Mexican colleagues are NFL fans. They also like soccer, but that requires more patience because it does not tend to be as high-scoring or action-packed as American football.
I am posting this on Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. I do not have particular activism plans for the holiday this year. I just got back from a visit up north to my folks, so I have errands to do before returning to work. I will re-watch the movie Coco with a friend, because it is a beautiful movie. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it. If you are not into animated movies, make an exception and go see it. I am serious, you will not regret it.
Visually it is a beautiful movie. It is all about pursuing your soul’s purpose no matter what your family wants you to do. It is also about the role of music and family in Mexican life and culture. I was heartened by the fact that, while we have a President that hates Mexicans, this movie feels like a delightful tribute to so much that is amazing and unique about Mexican culture.
This MLK Day I am reflecting on the past year and on the fact that I enjoy a great deal of privilege in the community where I live. Last year on January 21, 2017 I participated in the Women’s March here in Minnesota in order to be part of what I felt was a long-delayed movement for change. I met all kinds of people who seemed to be as committed as I was to making sure our political landscape will not look like it did in 2016. It was energizing and exciting. People made some pretty awesome signs and even though it was chilly out (it is Minnesota, and St. Paul tends to be very cold in January) the crowd warmed my heart.
After the march, I had to consider what role I wanted to play in the next phase of feminist activity. I decided to make a monthly recurring contribution to Planned Parenthood. I had donated money to Hillary’s campaign on a regular basis, and respected her career in public service. Even though I agree that she made some fatal errors in her campaign, I found it incredible that the Republicans endorsed a person with zero public service for President.
Obviously it felt like a cruel blow to feminists everywhere, and I was especially concerned that we preserve reproductive freedoms many of us have taken for granted. Many women in their 30’s and 20’s do not fully appreciate the contribution that our mothers’ generation made to the movement. It was not until 1974 (the year I was born) that single, widowed or divorced women could access credit on their own without having a male co-signer (Equal Credit Opportunity Act).
I strongly believe in a woman’s ability to make choices over her own body without interference, safely and for what reasons she deems necessary. I find it incredible how many male lawmakers believe that it is their responsibility to police women’s bodies and choices. But regulating reproduction, far from an innocent wish to “protect the unborn” as they may have you believe, is an effort to dis-empower and control women.
My Mexican grandmother on my father’s side had 7 girls, 4 boys, and probably another 2-3 pregnancies that resulted in miscarriages. If it were not for her insistence that her children receive as good educations as they could afford, they may not have succeeded in the way they did. I find it fascinating that Dad’s two youngest daughters both became nuns rather than having children. My Dad always told me, “don’t get married young and start having children. I want more for you than that.”
I want more too. And something different. I have one sister, and neither of us have aspired to having children as part of our life goals.
I respect and honor other women’s choices for their lives, their bodies and their families. We should expect nothing less.
Bringing this post back to the original excitement about Vikings fever, I was thinking through the women’s roles in cultures throughout history. Grandma on my Mom’s side was Swedish in origin, a tough, smart and stubborn woman who lived to be 101. She went to college in her 50’s after raising three children. She was principled and strong, and she never backed down from her beliefs.
The spirits of my grandmothers are with me now, as I honor their sacrifices and continue to protect the legacy they fought to establish.
Some days I struggle with being kind to myself. I have a pretty strong inner critic, and she has high standards for me. She tells me I should be brave and find the courage to leave my corporate job and leap into my next thing (whatever that means, I’ll let you know when I figure it out). Or she wonders if my ambition is too spread out between too many things, and divided in trying to fulfill others’ expectations of me. She complains that, if I were more organized, or more focused, I would be achieving my potential. She spins tales of doom and disaster about my periodic insomnia, and chides me for not yet learning how to take better care of myself.
Then some other, deeper part of me reassures me that I am just fine as I am. I need not worry about paths not taken, plans not completed. All of these life experiences and decisions I make are here to teach me and guide me to what is next. I just need to be here, and make the next decision, in the time it is required. There is no “wrong” choice that is made out of love and generosity, just the next step toward the next phase. There is always some fear – change requires our brains to figure out new things, maybe new ways of being or acting in the world. Because it is unfamiliar, our brains tell us “wait, wrong move, be careful!” But as Elizabeth Gilbert reminds us during creative endeavors: it’s okay, it’s just a poem (or a story, or a piece of art). It’s not going to kill anyone. Thanks for keeping us safe from predators and harm throughout our evolutionary history. Now you can ride in the back seat of our journey. You do not get to drive or choose the music.
When I start getting whiny about my job and down about the fact I have a lot less writing time than I want, a re-focus on gratitude can pull me out of that. I begin to embrace the gift of what it means to be alive today, in a time when we can start our own blog, write every day, and share our thoughts with the world. We do not need to have published a book in order to share our stories. We get to create, and shape and develop ideas and thoughts on paper, and on the internets. We get to create communities around our interests if we want to do this. We get to try and fail to get an idea across, to try again, and see what works, see what resonates. We get to be here, those of us who have enough food to eat, clean water to drink, shelter to keep us safe. We get to use our time how we choose, if we have the privilege of living free in a democracy.
How amazing and rich to be a human being on the planet living this life right now. May all of us embrace it, and realize it to be the gift that it is.