Some small thoughts, like droplets in my mind.

Certainly, the emotion that most impedes progress in any endeavor is the emotion of fear. When I feel fear, it is a quickening in my heart, a sharpness in my in breath, a closing in of my mind. The world becomes smaller as my fears expand. Lately, I’ve been turning to the trees, looking up to the highest leaves and beyond to the clouds and sky. The world starts to expand again, and my breath slows, and my heart stills.

Certainty is what we seek. The feeling of uncertainty is most, most uncomfortable. When I’m uncertain, it can be incredibly difficult to elucidate 1) what I’m uncertain about, specifically; 2) how to handle myself in my uncertainty; and 3) how to feel certain once more. Maybe it’s impossible to ever really feel certain, but it’s important to attempt.

A realization from last night’s walk: when my dog runs up to me with her tail circling wildly, her eyes bright and wide, and her tongue launching wet gobs of happy saliva, it is briefly impossible to feel uncertain.

Next year I will be thirty. My friend Claire calls it “the magic of turning thirty.” I think I know what she means. There seems to be a noticeable difference between those women still meandering about in their twenties and those regal thirty-something ladies lounging on self-confident sofas. Six more months of aimless wandering before the beautifully consistent straight-and-narrow. Am I being too optimistic?

“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.” – Pema Chödrön

Photo credit here.

A flesh-colored bubble

Imagine you are naked, floating in a peachy flesh-colored bubble. The bubble is tough and strong, like skin stretched tight for a drum head, and is semi-transparent. You are warm and safe in this skin bubble. Nothing can hurt you, there is nothing to do, and you are free of all concerns.

Outside the bubble there is an inviting, soft light. It is irresistible, but you aren’t sure how to experience this light. After some time, the curiosity about the light beckons more and more strongly. You very much want to be in this light, and this desire begins to erode at your immaculate contentment. This peachy bubble is warm and safe, yet it is so small. It is so confined. You know every square centimeter of this bubble, your little womb.

You reach out a finger and press against the bubble. It stretches, yet it is very strong, so you pull your finger back after a minute of resistance. You look at the wall of the bubble, you focus beyond to the enveloping light, and you poke your curious finger again into the wall.

This time, you push harder. The urgency of leaving this small world grows with the pressure against your finger. It hurts. Your finger feels as if it might break, yet the light grows ever more brilliant, and your bubble ever smaller. Tears stream down your face as you apply more and more pressure, and when you can’t bear the pain and the confine of the bubble any longer, your finger breaks through.

It feels So Good. The feeling of your finger, such a small part of you, out in the light is so pleasurable that you almost can’t bear it! You feel as if your entire hand must escape into the light, followed by your arm, shoulder, head, belly and back, other arm, butt, legs, feet, and toes. Each body part takes an incredible amount of effort and pain to push through the bubble womb, but the feeling of goodness makes it all worth it, the whole thing, until your entire naked body is in the light! You are free in this bath of delicious light.

After floating around in ecstasy for some time, you see something in the distance. It looks familiar. As you come closer, you realize it is another peachy flesh-colored wall, another bubble. Another distant, brilliant light. You look down at your finger, then at the wall.

This is how I experience life. Happy within the confines of my experience until I see such a larger world I can participate in. The pain of reaching that place can be intense, but it is necessary to escape and expand. Bubbles will always be reached, and breached, ever expanding.

Changing the habit pattern of the mind

She woke up this morning before her alarm, as she often does. The loud birds were chorusing outside the window, tiny birds perched on oak branches. She lay there for some time. When her alarm sounded, she knew she wanted to lay in bed longer. She thought about coffee, and she felt happy. The unexpected voice of a dear friend was traveling its way from the kitchen to her bedroom, and she got up to investigate. The friend’s voice explained that he didn’t in fact drive home last night, as there was a tree on the road near the locked gate. All her friends drank coffee. The friend with the voice watched her as she stood on an outside table and played music, as he had watched her many times before. She thought she saw deep emotion in his eyes.

She was full of energy this morning, and happy. Life felt easy. She knew this wouldn’t always be the case, that one day she would feel challenged again, but she nevertheless enjoyed the moments of the morning: the shower and the coffee and snuggling a squishy, heavy, five-year-old girl in her arms.

Lately, the habit pattern of her mind has been of great interest to her. The curiosity is centered around fear of failure. The fear of failure is deep, deep. It has controlled her life for a long time, a menacing pilot seated in the nut of her consciousness. She has faced that fear in a very intimate way many times since the beginning of the year. She has woken up terrified that she would fail. She was perhaps more afraid that she would fail because she was too afraid to really try.

Letting habit patterns out to breathe is how she relaxes them. For weeks now she has gently massaged this habit pattern of the mind, talking with trusted friends, writing it all down, trying to logically piece this puzzle together. It is important to her to feel that she has tried her best. It is important to her to learn how to fail gracefully. It is important to her to recognize the gift of perseverance. And she is realizing that she can consciously change the habit pattern of her mind.

She sees that fear and love are two sides of the same coin, that failure and success are two sides of another coin, and that effort and ease are two sides of a third. She knows that comfort with failure means bravery in pursuing opportunity.

Overall, she is so grateful to be growing older, and learning more, and loving more. She is even excited by the gray hairs inspired by all this experience!

She felt radiant, clean, and well-fed. She left her friends and came into town. She tried on clothes with a dear friend, lots of clothes. She looked at herself in the large mirrors and noticed: her butt, her legs, her belly, her hair, her nose and smile and eyebrows in profile. She found an excellent pair of jeans. After dinner with yet another friend, she flew northward and reflected on her journey, how much can change in such a short time while nothing really changes at all.

mind art

Morning story; enjoying the process

She woke up to Beethoven, the soothing yet startling strains of the woodwinds unraveling the edges of her sleep. The violas and cellos continued the unwinding, and suddenly, she was up. She checked in with herself. She knew she wanted pancakes.

Downstairs, she pet her beautiful dog. She put on water to boil for coffee and melted butter for the ‘cakes. She let herself out to pee, as well as her dog, and marveled again at the April warmth and the earliness of the light.

She decided to eat each pancake as it came off the pan, to save time, she thought, but also because she didn’t want to wait. She listened to a story about people wanting to see their loved ones’ bodies after they had died, and then a story about a man whose mother was having a heart attack and how he managed his mentally ill brother. It was time to make a smoothie. She got blueberry juice on her knuckles from the freezer bag, creating a nasty faux bruise.

She got in the car with her dog and her things and drove to the trailhead for a quick walk. The dog needed to get out the wiggles. She thought about being enough, she looked at the different colors in the spruce trees, and she wondered when these trails would inevitably become a swamp, impassable until next winter. She turned around earlier than normal to give herself enough time to get to school.

The drive was a treat; dry roads. She arrived to animal quarters at 7:50 am and learned that her help that morning wasn’t needed.

There is a certain feeling she gets when she has planned a plan and that plan is cancelled. It’s like floating. It’s like a balloon released from a child’s hand.

She goes back to her office, in the quiet, empty building. It’s been a hard couple of days for her. It often feels like her days are hard. Her friend last night told her she wasn’t too much, but she feels like that. Anyone who touches her will eventually hear the stories of feeling lost, feeling afraid, feeling sad.

But, she remembers, this blog is called Positive Affirmations for Women. So, she wants to leave whoever is reading this with a positive idea, one that connects with her little morning story. Keep on trying. Keep on trying to find lasting peace and happiness within your heart. Remember those who love and support you. Find safety in their embraces and in their words. Keep getting outside and be there, really be there. Enjoy the process.

Be Seen

Today is a wonderful day: International Women’s Day. Women all over the world are speaking up, speaking out about where work still needs to be done to foster equal representation and to encourage courage in the face of those who wish to make us small.

The idea that to change the world we must change ourselves rings very true to me. How can we bring peace into the world if we ourselves are not peaceful? How can we encourage loving relations in the world if we are not loving toward ourselves? Initially, this idea of changing ourselves can seem more manageable than changing the world. Physically, of course, the world is enormous, and it is indescribably complex. Yet, as we are with ourselves continuously, there is always an opportunity to change ourselves, any moment. However, women’s inner worlds are also complex. If you are like me, it can be difficult to look inside. It can feel overwhelming to unearth all the emotions, fears, preconceived notions, and anger. I believe that’s why we can spend quite a bit of energy trying to change other people, other situations, other modes of thought. Yet if we have hatred, how can we expect others to release their hatred? If we judge and discriminate against some others, how can we demand others to not judge and discriminate against some other others? It takes courage to change the world, but it might take more courage to change ourselves.

This year’s IWD theme: Be Bold for Change. Be bold for change in the world, be bold for change in yourself.

I’ve been spending a good deal of time this semester feeling small, not wanting to be noticed. I believe this is because I am in a new relationship, and I’m being noticed, and there is an excellent chance this person will notice aspects of my personality or habit patterns that I am not proud of, or that are holding me back, or that are contradictory, or maybe even harmful to myself or others. This is ironic, because I spent a good deal of time last semester desiring that someone would notice me, that someone would see me. What I realize now is that I wanted someone to see my good, but not my not-so-good. So I’ve been slowly shrinking myself in hopes that I just won’t be noticed.

But what an opportunity. There is someone who sees me, who is seeing me more and more deeply. I can show someone who I am, I can share with someone how I think, I can tell someone my fears, I can mess up and be afraid and trip over myself and that person can be a witness to all of that living. Someone seeing me so closely is really, really scary for me. But what can I do but to keep showing up, keep refusing to get small, keep encouraging the courage in myself? It hurts to be seen, it hurts not to be seen. Which do you choose?

Happy International Women’s Day. Remember not to focus only on how far we have yet to go, but also on how far we’ve come. Remember the freedoms that you experience every day in addition to where your freedom is restricted. Remember that you are not alone, and women all over the world experience heartache, jealousy, self-criticism, rage, and fear. Remember that we all want to be seen, we all want to be loved, we all want to feel safe, we all want to feel justified.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anais Nin

Kill the critic

Late last night, after symphony rehearsal, I was talking to my sweet boyfriend. He was asking me questions about what goes on in my mind, the habits of my mind. I told him about the inner critic, about how my inner world can be completely uncoupled from my outer world. How the outside can be so beautiful and fulfilling, yet my mind can feel so diseased. I had never been asked such pointed questions about my mind in such a curious, kind way.

Jason asked me how long the inner critic has existed, how long I’ve had to manage this voice to stay focused and move through my days. I said since the beginning of college, when I left home at 18.

He paused for a moment, smiled deviously, and said, “kill the critic.”

Ahh! Kill the critic, instead of manage it. Kill it, instead of giving it room to have a say.

He continued: “kill it with confidence.” Confidence in my ability as a student scientist, my violin performance, my physical body, that I’m a good person.

This feels exciting to me. External validation that my critic is unnecessary, and I can feel free to kill it. You can feel free too! I give you permission. It’s a total drag to have an inner critic, but thrillingly, you don’t need it. Imagine the possibilities!

 

lotus

Love

Today is Valentine’s Day. Last Valentine’s Day I was sitting in front of the fire in my Orange Avenue home, butt warm on a sheepskin. I was feeling lonely. I didn’t really care about Valentine’s Day per se, but the day was cultivating a mindset of wanting to be with someone, on the sheepskin, in front of the fire.

I don’t feel lonely today. My life is incredibly full, no time to reflect on feelings of loneliness.

However, I have been reflecting on love. Several years ago, a man named Johnny wrote to Cheryl Strayed when she was still doing Dear Sugar on The Rumpus. He asked what the definition of love was. This was her response:

“It is not so incomprehensible as you pretend, sweet pea. Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor and “loaded with promises and commitments” that we may or may not want or keep.

The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.”

Love…imbued by sorrow, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity. May we all experience all the forms of love and enjoy the ways that life colors our loves. May we learn to listen to our tender, tender hearts. May we remember that we all seek love, deeply.