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Monthly Archives: December 2012

looking ahead

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looking ahead

Sometimes life is like a puzzle. But being as tricky as life is, it is just as we think that we’ve got it figured out that we realize something is amiss. Some piece is out of place. It becomes the time to start rearranging. Sometimes this rearranging can be so overwhelming that it feels like complete meltdown. I’ve been told that its better to call it profound insight.

In that case, 2012 has been a year abounding with profound insight. My universe has rearranged more than once and in so many dimensions. When it felt like the floor was pulled out from underneath me, the only thing I could do was find something to hold onto. In the desperate grasp to keep from falling, I managed to drop all those puzzle pieces on the floor. All I was left with was one. The one piece that likely needed the most attention.Slide1

I had neglected myself. Ignored my own needs wants and desires. This wasn’t new. It was an ongoing pattern, that I was just beginning to uncover. I had made a habit of making decisions based on what I thought like I was supposed to do. I had all but silenced my inner being. I took the time to start listening. I began to find and sort the puzzle pieces and identify the cornerstones of my foundation: without a doubt, my husband, children, home, and health.Slide2

Each of these aspects of my life are what make it real. This is what I encounter on a daily basis. It is what is left when everything else is stripped away. I could not asked for a better mate in life, but our relationship needed nurturing. My children are amazing gifts, but I needed to learn how to experience joy with them. My home is my haven, but I needed to learn how to function within it. Even though I am young and always considered myself healthy, my health was in need of immediate attention and care.

As I worked (and continue to work) on these aspects, I gained a sense of what I appreciated most in the relationships. My inner core was speaking, giving me the tools I needed to branch out a little further. To embrace the beauty of interacting with others and the world.

What I bring to my relationships with myself, my husband, my children, my home, and my health are so common in my own being that I often forgot to value them. We’ve all heard communication is key. It is what I value so much in my marriage. My husband and I knew each other for several years before we became interested and involved. I was his waitress and he was my customer. I served him coffee nearly every morning during the summer in a little Rocky Mountain cafe. At one point I said to myself, I would just like to have a serious conversation with that guy. Well, once we started talking we never stopped.

Nature has been the highlight in my life for as long as I can remember. I know the names of trees, the feathers of birds, the bones of mammals, and the seeds of vegetables. Growth and beauty is in every sunrise and every stone that has not yet been overturned. I share that with my family as nature permeates our lives.

Creativity is the root of my connection to others. I believe we all have the aptitude to create something beautiful in our lives. In this paradigm, I believe in so many people. This year, I took the time to believe in myself. My creative self now, my creative self when I was nineteen, and my creative self when I was twelve.

Food- we all eat, right. But, what about those meals that are so good they are intoxicating? That’s the kind of food I am talking about, all natural goodness in flavor and texture and imbedded in culture.

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These elements are my bread in butter in life. They are what makes me. This is my foundation for happiness.

What comes next is what I do to connect with the world. In a sense, this is the skin of my core. My buffer.

It is the point at which what is near and dear to me becomes part of the larger world.

This is the interface is what I have been exploring through this blog. It is what I have been nurturing each day to become more fluent in my daily life. Writing, drawing, exploring, and cooking. These are words of doing, words of experience. Engagements I’d like to embrace everyday of my life. Elements of play that I am learning to allow myself to celebrate.

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This layer also provides the opportunity to branch out. To use my talents. To nourish my core. To reach the world. To live. To be alive. Each of these areas are in need of attention of me. Or perhaps I am in need of attention to them. They are my goals. They are my vision as to what my life can be– lively. Call it a web. Call it a medicine wheel. Call it a conceptual model.

In sorts it is all of these.

There is no distinct lines of connection. All the aspects are related to the core. More that anything, it is a portrait. My hopeful portrait of the year ahead. I hope to share aspects of each of these branches in 2013. May the new year ahead bring you much joy and happiness.

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of wine and wisdom

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Some people have a tendency to avoid the opportunity to enjoy themselves. With quite irrational reasoning, they are convinced that they don’t really deserve it, want it, or need it, they are afraid the let go and share themselves with others, or they are certain that something bad will happen. I am one of those people. My upbringing influences this tendency to deprive myself of good times. But in the rare chance that I let go, the latter reasoning runs pretty strong, especially if enjoying myself involves alcohol.

Living in small town, there really isn’t a whole lot to do when it comes to date nights. My husband has tried to encourage me more than once to go out to the local establishment for dinner and a drink. But the moment I hit the door, my sensory alarms go off—fried food, cheap beer, stale smoke, dim lighting, classic rock—the entire feeling of a bar tells me that this is NOT a place that I want to be. It tells me that this feels like a place that something “bad” could easily happen. I have a very low tolerance for drama. I’m one to cut right through bullshit and tell everyone involved how they are wrong. I’ve been there too many times. So I opt to stay home, where I can cook up just about anything that we can’t get in town and enjoy drinks in a comfortable space.  But still, young parents need date nights! What’s a girl to do?

549356_115586761905745_246648430_nI have been slowly tuning into the local community activities and events. I have been hearing an increasing rumble about wine tastings that are going on every two months or so. I figured that would be a different atmosphere, and while I regrettably know very little about wine (a shameful confession of a self-proclaimed foodie) I might just find some folks to fit in with.  I have an allied relationship growing with the one who oversees the wine club and tasting events. So, I was sure it wouldn’t seem completely foreign and I had a pretty good sense that at least one person likes me enough to be glad I had come.

We arrived fairly early, which is completely out of character for me… but seeing as our babysitter was there, the kids were ready for us to go, and we only had to walk 2 ½ blocks, being early only seemed logical. The atmosphere was so elegant, with tables set up in bistro fashion. But, the feeling was casual. And even though I missed the hidden step in the seating area TWICE, I felt comfortable with being me and meeting other people. This event was a special one in the works, in that only one wine was featured, a common table wine from Spain. But, the wine was used to make three very different drinks. Kalimotxo, Mulled Wine, and Sangria.

After sampling all three, we were entitled to a full glass of one of the featured wines or a selection from the bar. Since this experience is about trying new things, I opted for a selection from the bar and had Vinho Verde.  We returned to our seats (and yes, that is when I stumbled down the hidden step for the second time!) and chatted for a while. Then my husband left to get another selection from the bar and GASP! I was alone. I gathered up some courage and went over to a crowded table of ladies who were busy chatting and giggling to introduce myself.

I felt like the awkward high school girl approaching the popular table. I suddenly became aware of my lack of self-esteem. Little did that inner critic, full of cynicism and lies, know it was about to get a jolt of a lifetime.

In some of my previous posts, I have eluded to the dysfunctional families in which I grew up. I use the plural form of family because the two sides were so extremely different from each other, that it is no wonder I often felt bipolar. But as I learn more and more, I see that fundamentalism and alcoholism are not that different from each other.

The denomination of Bible Believers Baptist that predominately influenced my understanding of spirituality had some very distinct “rules” when in came to women, family, and obedience. The underlying theme of self-sacrifice was apparent in the dressed down “modesty”, the simplicity of wool and denim fashion, and the common mannerisms that made me feel like I was going to burn in hell for using the slightest element of slang. Dancing was a path to temptation and drinking is not even spoken of. I learned that as humans we are worth nothing without the light of Jesus to guide us. I learned that any other version of spiritual understanding that did not align with the gospel of God’s word was as good as evil. I learned that it was my responsibility to help those who were lost on the path of life become saved. That is an overwhelming amount of responsibility for a child to bear. Especially, when deep down I wasn’t comfortable with living the way of life that was set before me.  I could not accept the rhetoric that said enjoying oneself led to the temptations of Lucifer, that being submissive to men is the best place for women, and that disregard to the worldly things will bring eternal happiness in the glory of heaven. Amid the promises, something was missing. Something very important was missing.

And the same thing was missing on the other side of the spectrum.

In alcoholic systems the rules were more complicated, they were not written. In the mind of a child, they felt something like this—life is miserable, drinking makes it bearable. But don’t drink too much and don’t get angry, because that is when things get broken and people get hurt. And don’t ever tell anyone else if that happens, because we don’t talk about our mistakes. Don’t call the police, because someone will get taken away. Don’t state the obvious. Don’t try to ask for anything to change. Never ever try to argue with someone who is drunk. I could have easily fallen into that trap as well: as humans we are not worth the possibilities of life, being destructive is the only way to maintain control, and silence is the only way to ensure that no one gets hurt.

Now that you know the rules, lets go back to the wine tasting event, shall we? I was approaching the table of ladies, feeling nervous, scared, and certain that something was about to go wrong. Instantly, I connected to a woman who has lived here in town just a little less than myself. We shared a little about ourselves, talked about the wines we liked (or maybe didn’t like so much), we joked about how bad we were at organizing and maintaining a routine. I teased my husband—“If I ever have her over for afternoon tea, I’ll be in trouble… the house will never get clean!” She chimes in, “Yes, but we would have a wonderful time! And that is what is most important to me is the relationships and the connections.”

That was what was missing in the dichotomies of my early existence, the value of relationships! That’s why I studied anthropology and ecology! That’s why I fell in love with my husband! That is what I wrote my thesis about! That is what kept me going when I was burning out! THE VALUE OF RELATIONSHIPS! Even more, the value of myself in relationships! I still want to scream it to the world and drown that cowering self-esteem forever.

The rules have changed. The rules never applied. I didn’t believe in them, but I was still grossly in tuned to them. What shattered all this in the moment was not just what this woman said, but who she was. She had come to our town to serve as the pastor at a church, she had worked as a missionary in Japan, she was drinking wine, she valued relationships, and she was beautiful and vibrant. She did not preach to us. She appreciated us for who we were. I wanted to hug her at that point. (And maybe would have if I had one more glass of wine.) She gave me another version of reality that I didn’t fully realize was possible. She gave me permission to enjoy myself and my own spirituality, in a way that worked for me.

We walked home, unchilled by the subzero temperatures, enlivened by the world around me, and holding on to the words that kept me afloat as I bounced between dysfunctional extremes. Grandpa Pepper would tell me, almost every time I saw him, “You are so special to me, Rachel. God made you special because he loves you.” I didn’t understand how that would all work out when I couldn’t foresee myself going down the paths ahead of me, but it gave me a secret weapon against that inner critic of mine, some bit of truth that I could believe in. And even now, as I am getting more and more comfortable with being myself and sharing that true self with the world, Grandpa’s words remain in my heart. I am worth something. I am something worth sharing.

“Recovering a Sense of Integrity”

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It has been a rocky road that I have been traveling on. I have passed the familiar landmarks and feel as though I am perched on the edge of the rabbit hole. I feel a great sadness for all that I have lost along the way, but more than anything I feel fear of what I am to do next, what is down this road, and whether or not I am ready. Fear grows like a weed, choking out the acceptance of possibility and putting in roots that take the form of illusion and denial. I broke it off with denial some time ago, but its idiosyncrasies remain like a thick resin. I try desperately to scrub it off, unaware of what is yet to shine underneath.

I’m not so certain that these emotions and images have as much to do with my current position on my life path as I portray them to. I think they have been there for sometime, but I have become too comfortable with keeping them silent. My weeks continue with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. She is not a fool. She knows too well that people who have neglected their creativity have been ignoring so much more, something waiting to be encountered.

“Art lies in the moment of encounter: we meet our truth and we meet ourselves; we meet ourselves and we meet our self-expression. We become original because we become something specific: an origin from which work flows.”

She knows that we have developed habits that enable us to continue ignoring the bits of ourselves that desperately need to be heard. That’s why this week my assignment is to undergo reading deprivation. Yes that’s right, no reading.

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Cameron explains,

“For most artists, words are like tiny tranquilizers. We have a daily quota of media chat that we swallow up. Like greasy food, it clogs our system. Too much of it and we feel, yes, fried. It is a paradox that by emptying our lives of distractions we are actually filling the well. Without distractions, we are once again thrust into the sensory world. With no newspaper to shield us, a train becomes a viewing gallery. With no novel to sink into (and no television to numb us out) an evening becomes a vast savannah in which furniture— and other assumptions— get rearranged. Reading deprivation casts us into our inner silence, a space some of us begin to immediately fill with new words— long, gossipy conversations, television bingeing, the radio as a constant, chatty companion. We often cannot hear our own inner voice, the voice of our artist’s inspiration, above the static. In practicing reading deprivation, we need to cast a watchful eye on these other pollutants. They poison the well. If we monitor the inflow and keep it to a minimum, we will be rewarded for our reading deprivation with embarrassing speed. Our reward will be a new outflow. Our own art, our own thoughts and feelings, will begin to nudge aside the sludge of blockage, to loosen it and move it upward and outward until once again our well is running freely. Reading deprivation is a very powerful tool— and a very frightening one. Even thinking
about it can bring up enormous rage. For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction. We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own.”

The first two days were interesting, kind of like getting orientated to new surroundings. No reading books, articles, and blogs. I kept my email and social media to a minimum. On Christmas Day, I gave myself leeway as I perused the cookbooks that we unwrapped from under the tree. Today was the hardest. I wanted that tranquilizer. I wanted that little piece of imagined peace to envelope me and give me some sort of false promise of what the future holds. As if anyone or anything really knew.

Tomorrow, I know not what to expect. I guess it is during this point when we find ourselves in the dark that we are holding the hand of faith, and with it we shall overcome the fear.

more being, by less doing

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Yesterday I had a business meeting scheduled to go over and update my resume. I needed help navigating, documenting, and presenting the responsibilities of my previous position. A friend agreed to take the time to help me with this task. I called her about an hour before our meeting and realized what an amazing friend she is.

I was calling to reschedule. Immediately she asks, “Is everything ok?” I actually surprised myself, “Yeah, everything is good!” I wasn’t rescheduling out of procrastination, fear, or some impending crisis. I rescheduled because I wanted to spend time working on Christmas gifts. It might not sound like it, but this was a huge landmark in my recovery. I didn’t force myself to do what I felt like “should” be done. Even more, I allowed myself to do something I wanted to do.

Much of my time has been consumed by doing the things that need to be done. As we all know, there are more of those “things” growing on the list than we can keep up with. But what we don’t always realize is how our perspective forces those things into seeming important. The result is an overload of tension and frustration, leading to a tendency to ignore our own true desires– which in reality might actually be more important. My friend recognized how significant it was for me to shift my priorities. I was making a responsible choice based on my own wants.  The result of my decision continues to unfold as I let go of the drive that pushes me to do and causes me to miss out on being.

I spent the morning packaging and decorating gifts. I had a wonderful time, wrapping jars of homemade preserves in paper bags and ribbon, making cute little bird shaped labels, finishing Christmas cards, and venturing out to deliver the gifts and mail the cards. The joy was in doing, rather than getting done.

Later in the evening, I found myself sitting in the chair by the tree, just thinking. I wasn’t doing anything or thinking about anything in particular. I was just being. And being in the present is a necessary prerequisite of experiencing joy. I’m looking forward to holding onto this wonderful sense of being throughout the weekend and into the Christmas holiday. Nothing is more important than enjoying the time we have and the people we share it with. I wish each of my readers such exquisite moments of joy, peace, and love.

Happy Holidays, from Pages of Paradigm!DSCN7650