Writing this blog is, in some ways, one of the most frightening things I’ve ever done. I’ve set two challenges for myself with this project: (1) to say what is important, and (2) to speak the truth.
Saying what’s important requires a clarity of thought I don’t always pursue. Because speaking and writing have always come so easily to me, I can sometimes get lost in the mechanics without really focusing on the message I’m sending. Style without substance is something I need to be on guard against at all time. It doesn’t matter how cleverly you say something, if it’s not worth saying.
But the second part of that challenge, the speaking of truth, is by far the harder of the two for me. It’s not that I am inherently a liar (although my wife insists I’m a master of the well-spoken untruth). But telling the truth is not simply to avoid lying. Telling the truth involves risk. Telling the truth involves commitment. Telling the truth cuts off escape routes.
Without going into the dysfunction of my youth too deeply, let’s just say that I grew up in an environment where secrecy was encouraged. There is privacy, and then there is secrecy. There is discretion, and then there is paranoia.
One of the hardest parts of growing up for me was learning what was socially acceptable to talk about, and what was not. The social rules concerning this were (and remain) incomprehensible to me. It seemed that 99% of the trouble I got in as a child was because I spoke an embarrassing truth in front of the wrong person or persons. The trouble I got in was severe enough that I learned to guard myself fiercely, learned when to lie and how to do so eloquently and efficiently.
I internalized that the default setting on life was to hide the truth as deeply and carefully as possible, no matter how much you wanted to tell it, no matter how much better things would be if you did. Secrecy was the norm, and telling the truth was the aberration.
it took a long time for me to break out of that norm. I had to work hard to learn first how to recognize my truth and then how to safely speak it. it took a lot of pain and error and courage.
Recently, I’ve found myself in a space where I’m forced by circumstance back into that place of institutionalized secrecy and paranoia. And it’s eating me out from the inside. I’ve discovered that once I broke free of that type of life, I never ever wanted to go back to it. I’ve quit jobs to avoid it. I’ve ended friendships.
And here I am, back again in this space.
Sometimes, circumstance forces you to hold your tongue. But I will never hold my tongue on this blog. I will never hide my truth here. I am angry about my current circumstance, and I will get out of it. But I will keep this space honest, no matter what.
I thank you for reading, and I hope I earn your trust.
Peace and good dreams to you–
Tonight’s background music
When I spend a lot of time in the Real World™, sometimes I get a little freaked out. Sometimes, I look around and see how much I am not like other people. It unnerves me that things that seem so obvious and true to me don’t necessarily resonate with others.
This sense of otherness can be distracting and even discouraging at times. it makes me question whether I am up to the task I set for myself. Sometimes, it even makes me question whether the task I set for myself is worthy and even wanted in this world.
Fortunately, I have a very practical wife who is perfectly happy to use me as a life-coaching guinea pig as she goes through training. She reminded me of something tonight, something very important.
The truth I tell is my own. I do not have to evangelize. I do not need to convert the masses. I do not need to save a single soul. All I have to do is tell my truth, because to not tell my truth is to let it burn inside of me until I am a husk of a human being.
I ask you, my readers, to join me on this journey of discovery. But participation is not mandatory, nor is agreement. I’m just sharing in hopes that I may reach the eyes and souls that need this message the most.
We are in the middle of a tumultuous time in history. We are all standing on shifting ground.
I send you love, I send you peace, and I send the wish that you may always speak your truth.
Sweet dreams –
Okay, so I’m reading Debbie Ford’s book. Honestly, I’ve known about it for years, but I’ve avoided it like the plague. Why? There is a wonderful Dana Ivey quote that sort of applies here. On the 80s television show Easy Street, her somewhat self-involved character Eleanor is struggling to show compassion and empathy for husband Quinton (played by the awesome James Cromwell). At one point, Eleanor shows her true colors:
“I know that in the past, I have not been very sympathetic to your needs. That’s because I didn’t want you to have any.”
Well, in the past, I’ve not been very sympathetic to my dark side. That’s because I didn’t want to have one. But, as Eleanor found out about Quinton’s needs, I do have a dark side and I do need to pay more attention to it.
All you have to do is look around to see that our culture here in the west is becoming more and more polarized—Left and Right, Conservative and Liberal, Faith and Secularity. And while it’s lots of fun to play Us vs. Them, deep inside we know that all this divisiveness is not good for the country, society, or the world.
So why do we do it? Why do we insist on the illusion of separateness?
Last night, I saw this amazing video online that states that every single atom in our body changes about every five years or so. Atoms don’t go away (unless they’re split, with unavoidable repercussions). So what happens to all these atoms that are no longer in our bodies? They recycle, of course. Now, where on Earth do you think all those new atoms that you get every five years or so come from? Maybe I’ve got my science wrong, but I don’t think we’re constantly creating new atoms. Nope, our bodies are shopping at the Atom Consignment store.
We’re using used atoms for the construction of our own lives.
You are within me, and I am within you, and we are all connected to this Earth we live within, which is then connected to the sun that we depend upon, which is part of the galaxy that created it, etc., etc.
Everything. Everything is connected.
And that sort of makes the whole polarization thing kind of—well, for lack of a better word, stupid.
If we are all connected, all part of an enormous entity experiencing life together, how can we be polarized against each other? Do the nerve cells mount campaigns against the encroachment of blood cells into historically nerve-occupied territory? Are the arms afraid the legs are getting too many jobs and asking the brain for sanctions against new leg development?
Of course not.
But we, as humans, forgetting our connectedness, fight each other all the time.
Light vs. Dark
It only takes a hop and a skip to bring this argument to the battle of Light vs. Dark. We’ve been conditioned in our lives to seek Light and avoid Dark. I have, you have, the guy down the street has. The things in the Dark are scary, ugly, uncomfortable, and we all want to be happy, beautiful, and relaxed.
The thing is, what we push against pushes back, and becomes stronger with the effort. What we embrace becomes part of us, and all of us become stronger. As long as those of us seeking light and wisdom push hard against darkness and ignorance, those forces will only continue to push back (and grow stronger).
But what if we stopped pushing? What if we just said, okay, there’s darkness and ignorance and cruelty and inhumanity in the world? What if we stopped fighting and just started accepting?
I don’t know what the long run answer would be, but I know that in the short term we’d have more energy to focus on what we love. We’d have more energy to do what we feel is right and good if we stopped worrying about what The Other People are up to.
This is all good and fine for the outside world, but what about the inner world? How much am I pushing against what’s bad and dark and uncomfortable within myself? And by pushing against it, how much power am I giving it?
- I’m stupid (sometimes)
- I’m gross (sometimes)
- I’m annoying (sometimes)
- I’m ignorant (sometimes)
- I’m petty and mean (sometimes)
- I’m lazy (sometimes)
Ford tells us to look at the things that annoy us the most—the personality quirks that drive you crazy in other people. These are the shadow aspects of yourself that you are denying, pushing against, giving power to. And the Universe is going to continue to bring reflections of this shadow into your life until you embrace, accept, and even love that aspect of yourself.
So I’m digging deep. I’m watching my reactions to see who drives me the most crazy, and why? And then I’m turning it inwards.
It’s an uncomfortable process. I’m pretty sure I’m not enjoying it much. But I know at the other side of this, if I’m brave and persistent, I will find a sense of wholeness and peace I have not known for years.
What pisses you off, FaFa? What annoys you the most? Do you have the guts to ask yourself where these traits reside within you? Do you dare look inside your own shadow and see what’s lurking there?
Hope to see you there!
A week or so ago, Fey turned to me and asked what I considered a strange question. “Are you reading a self-help book?”
My instinctive response was, of course, I haven’t read self-help in an ice age. Of course, I gobble up “personal development” books with startling frequency. The difference is between self-help and personal development is subtle but important.
Self-help books, as a rule, tend to offer a step-by-step plans for improving a specific area of your life. Quit Smoking in Three Weeks, Lose 5 Pounds Without Dieting, Ten-Day Power Boost for Your Career – that sort of thing. Personal development books, from what I can tell, are a little more indepth. These books, which can range from philosophy to psychology to spirituality to social networking, nudge the reader out of the cookie-cutter solution mentality towards a more self-directed path.
My actual answer was, “No, I’m not reading anything at the moment.”
To which my insightful wife just nodded and said, “Yeah, I can tell.”
The moral of this little anecdote is this: When Debbie doesn’t work actively on her self-development, she tends to fall into a negative funk that is clear to those who love and know her.
The Process of Personal Development
The urge to self-examine is very strong in most people. We love quizzes, from Cosmo quizzes to personality profiles, we can’t get enough of them. But personal development goes far beyond “Which Harry Potter Character Will You Marry?” Personal development requires that you take a deep look at yourself, both good and bad, discover your truth, and then find a way to live that truth in a positive and productive way.
For years, I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on in hopes that I would stumble on to the key to happiness. I was looking for a silver bullet, that tested and true ten-point plan that would make me Rich, Beautiful, and Famous (as well as Stoopid Happy and Worshipped as a Benevolent Goddess).
Poor authors! Who on Earth can fill that order?
Eventually though, I gave up looking for quick fixes and just started reading about personality and life and living. Not because I thought it would help, but because I found it fascinating. And over the years, I’ve come up with quite a list of recommendations.
Right now, I’m reading Debbie Ford’s The Dark Side of the Light Chasers: Reclaiming Your Power, Brilliance, Creativity and Dreams. To be honest, I’ve been avoiding this book for years. Not that I thought it was bad, but because I knew that I couldn’t just read the book. I would have to do the exercises, and I was never ready to face my shadow side. I don’t know if I’m able to do so yet, but I’m going to give it a go.
It took a lot to get me here. Like so many people, I don’t want to have a dark side. I don’t want to have needs and issues and bad habits and petty moments. But something Ford said in an early chapter really resonated with me: you have to find the gift in the shadow. If you’re a bitch, find the gift in being a bitch. (A bitch will stand up for herself when someone tries to take advantage. A bitch will not let herself get pushed to the side and ignored when she deserves to be heard.) If you’re judgmental, find the gift in being judgmental. (For example, a judgmental person knows what matters to them and is not afraid to insist on it. A judgmental person will spot a line of bullshit long before a non-judgmental person might.)
So, I’m going there. I am not sure what I’m going to find when I pull up the curtains and look in the shadows of my psyche. But I’m going there.
A Wealth of Opportunity
I mentioned a little earlier that I had some recommendations for great personal development writers. Before I close, I’m going to share with you some writers whose books have really changed my perspectives on life.
* Jean Shinoda-Bolen: When I first read Goddesses in Everywoman back in the 1990s, it was completely new to me. Shinoda-Bolen, a wise crone of the personal development movement, used the Hellenic goddesses as templates for Jungian personality interpretation. Through the eyes of Hera, Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter, Hestia, and Persephone, I found a new understanding of myself and other women. It still holds up as a break-through work and I recommend it to anyone who is interested.
* Clarissa Pinkola-Estes: It took me a couple of times to get through Pinkola-Estes’ ground-breaking book Women Who Run with the Wolves. Not because the book was uninteresting or irrelevant. The exact opposite – the book is so rich and dense with meaning that my poor Gemini brain could not go too far without needing a digestion break, preferably in the shallows. Her storytelling is exquisite, her insights are remarkable. Read it slowly, wrapped in a blanket on a cold night. It will change you.
* Brenda Ueland: Many, many years ago I read Ueland’s book If You Want to Write, and it humbled me. Back then, the thought of writing non-fiction, personal non-fiction, was so far beyond me that her book actually frightened me. But as a treatise on the hows and whys of a full life, even if you are’t a writer, Ueland’s work is unsurpassed. Her wisdom and spirit are inspiring to anyone wanting to live a purposeful and creative life. (Now, I look back and thank the goddess that Ueland penned this masterpiece before her death. It is even more relevant now than ever.)
*Anne Lamott: My dear friend Monique sent me a used copy of Bird by Bird a year or so ago as a surprise. I was unfamiliar with Lamott’s work, but trusted Monique not to steer me wrong. Bird by Bird is the kind of book that promotes living authentically and passionately. Her prose is eloquent, her stories insightful, and her advise golden. Definitely read this book if you get a chance.
*Michael Neill: Michael Neill is a practitioner of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), a form of therapy that emphasizes the connection between thoughts and the quality of life. His books are funny, smart, and contain many practical tools you can use to decrease stress and give yourself the courage to follow your dreams. He’s a little more self-helpy than the other authors, but he’s just so darned good at what he does, ya gotta love him.
*Steve Pavlina: Another estrogen-challenged member of my rec list, Pavlina is a self-made personal development guru. His website is enormous–the guy is hugely prolific and has a great deal of free content on a variety of subjects from raising consciousness to becoming your own boss. He can be a bit abrasive, especially if you are of the religious ilk, but the value far exceeds the annoyance you might feel at some of his more provocative posts.
* Abraham-Hicks: Esther Hicks, an impish woman originally from Tennessee, channels a group-being identified as “Abraham.” While their message is pretty tight (and Abraham/Esther is meticulously on-message, regardless of what questions are thrown her way), it’s a good primer for anyone wanting to learn more about the Law of Attraction. What their writings lack in diversity (yeah, Abraham, I know. Connect with Source energy–tune in, tap in and turn on or whatever), they more than make up for in charm and engagement. It’s hard not to like Abraham/Esther, and the message is positive. I know that Fey and I got a lot of benefit from their teachings, even if we are not 100% on board the Abraham-Hicks bandwagon.
* Thomas Moore: No, I’m not talking about the historical Thomas Moore. I’m talking about the modern-day author, psychologist, musician, blogger, spiritual seeker. His books on the soul and soulfulness are poetic and profound, bringing a lyrical quality to an often cut-and-dry field. His works are a must-read for anyone wanting to merge spirituality and soul into their daily lives.
So, these are a few of the authors I’d recommend. There are many more, of course, and I may blog on this subject again. I’d like to ask my readers for their recommendations, as I am always interested in expanding my knowledge. Who are you reading? Where do you turn for wisdom and advise? I look forward to hearing from you.