You give me freedom, freedom
Freedom I’ve been looking for
You give me freedom, freedom
You give me freedom, freedom
Freedom I’ve been looking for
It’s that time of year again – new beginnings, fresh starts and leaving the old crap behind. As is my tradition, instead of New Year’s resolutions, I am picking a word for 2018 to guide my year and set my intentions.
Last year’s word was co-create, which I defined as “co-creating my life’s purpose in partnership with my inner knowing. For the record, my words for the previous 5 years were light (2012), joy (2013), fierce (2104), stretch (2015) and release (2016).*
Gotta say, it took me til about September to get off my butt and get moving. I sometimes do a mid-year check-in on my word and in July I think I had even forgotten what my word was! Somehow, I wasn’t actually working my word and so, well, not much was happening.
So, after a pretty crappy and unsatisfying summer, I starting some slow and tentative steps towards putting in my side of the partnership work. I applied for a teaching job because teaching fires my soul. I joined a step group to do another run through the 12-steps in order to get some honesty around my deteriorating relationship with food. I started journaling again to try to articulate and release the blob of messy feelings that I was carrying around daily.
And I started to ask myself, what is blocking me from the process of co-creation? One definition of co-creation I found was “co-creation happens naturally whenever your soul or inner knowing inspires you to take action and follow your passion or pursue your life purpose.” Well, it was not happening naturally!
This is the image I used for last year … I certainly did not feel like I was cracking open or that there was any light shining out! In contrast, I felt blocked up by layers of clay and more and more trapped.
It became increasingly clearer that what was blocking me from co-creating my life was my increasingly dysfunctional relationship with food. Unhealthy choices, motivated by using food to comfort me from feelings of tiredness, loneliness, depression, stress and feelings of failure was resulting in more of my energy being focused on food and less on staying connected and healthy.
Which led me to my first idea for a word for 2018 … freedom. Specifically, freedom from food. I wanted to focus on freeing up all the time and energy I spend on having crazy-brain around food and having that available to co-create my life. I want to feel physically less tired and emotionally less sad.
For me, this is a very scary thing to say publicly (well, semi-publicly) because so often my intentions around food have left me feeling like a failure. Which is just not true. My physical and emotional relationship with food is SO much better than it was ten years ago. Ten years ago, I would not have been able to write any of this let alone share it.
So I am summoning up some courage and some hope and some optimism, and I am striving for freedom from food. I’m not sure what all this entails. I know I want to get out walking more and have sorted out some steps to making that happen (heh, steps). I know that I need to journal more often. I know that meaningful spiritual rituals are my keys to self-knowledge and connection. And I know that that I need the support of fellow travellers on the road to a healthier relationship with food.
I was all set to pick freedom as my word for 2018. And then I realized that at the root of all of this is the need to foster a deep sense of self-worth. That spending time on freeing myself from what blocks me from my personal goals … food obsession, behaviours that trigger depression, Facebook, iPhone games, over-service to others … is worth it because I am worth it. Not because I am special snowflake but because I am worth my own time and I need me to treat myself with love and take care of myself. That each healthy choice I make is worth it because I am worth it.
So, there it is, my word for 2018 … self-worth. It’s a scary word for me, exposed and vulnerable and honest. Let’s see where it takes me …
My word of the year for 2015 was stretch and it was a good word. A hard word. A rewarding word.
Hard because it required me to keep striving, to keep reaching, to keep working towards my dreams, my potential and to remember to rest but not to backslide.
Rewarding because I moved closer to, and achieved, so many things. I am in the full swing of being a novice glassblower. I’ve made friends to blow glass with, I’m practicing regularly and I’m near ready to take my “test” to move from Novice to Student. I have even sold a few pieces.
I bought a new condo in a neighbourhood where I’ve always wanted to live. It enables me to ditch the car and bus, walk or water taxi just about everywhere (ironically except the glass studio!). I am a 5 minute walk from the beach and seawall and can do most of my grocery shopping at a farmer’s market.
I made difficult changes in my spiritual practice that have resulted in moving away from the status quo, freeing me from rules that weren’t working for me. I spend more spiritual time outdoors, connecting with the earth and the land and the sea, and less time trying to colour within the lines of a picture that is not a vision I share.
And as I said in my mid-year stretch, I am “hashtag blessed” with good friends, meaningful work that pays me well, and a wonderful home. I lost two very dear friends to cancer this year and I am grateful for the time I had with them and for the love that rushes in to fill the empty space where I am missing them.
Other losses this year have been more difficult. Especially the friends who have just stopped talking to me. I never expect that people will agree with everything I do. Or that people won’t say “no” to my suggestions and requests. But I always find it difficult when friends choose to stop communicating rather than talking and explaining and understanding and resolving. I know that there are those who would say that those weren’t really friends if they do that. But, to me they are. Or, were, I suppose.
Which brings me to this year’s word … release. In order to move forward, it means leaving some things behind. To stretch, then release. As I start to do more walking, I have to be careful with my Achilles tendon, which can become quite inflexible and painful. I have to actively stretch and release, stretch and release, in order to keep moving.
Isn’t the heart a muscle, as well? As I stretch emotionally and in my relationships with myself and others, don’t I also need to release that which holds me back? To be conscious to take the time to process and let go. Actively release.
Release sadness and grief.
Release dreams and desires that are not going to be fulfilled.
Release anger. And expectation.
Release what weighs me down, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
That is my aim for 2016. To release so that I can soar.
I spent this weekend doing the kind of cleaning that only I am likely to notice.
I moved furniture and chased down a whole burrow of dust bunnies.
I went through drawers and cupboards and got rid of things I don’t need. Even that stuff way at the back where you have to get down on your hands and knees to reach.
I took care of tasks I’ve been putting off … cleaning the window sills, sorting through the treasures that had turned from “a few highlights” to “a pile of stuff”.
I said goodbye to energetic anchors, remants of projects long done or never to be finished, gifts from old lovers or friends that chain me to the past, clothes that will never be worn again.
I can tell I did good work. My body is pleasantly sore and I can look around and feel proud at the tidying up. I look around and I am happy.
But if you knew my home and had visited me here, I doubt you would notice. It’s subtle and it’s easy to miss.
It strikes me that self-care is a lot like that. The time spent sweeping the cobwebs from my mind, sorting through emotions to clean up the yucky mess, the sifting of memories to keep the good and move past the bad. Breaking energy connections that leave me sad and forging ones that highlight the treasures of friendships. And the sometimes heart sore feeling at the end of the process.
It’s easy to forget in the mess of the big things in life. But the invisible – or maybe just hard to see – cleaning brings and equal sense of quiet contentment at the end of the day. Peace of heart and home.
You might not notice if I didn’t tidy and if I didn’t work at self-care. But I sure would.
The last 5 days have felt like dancing on the edge of a pothole.
There is a really great poem called Autobiography in Five Chapters in which life is described in 5 beautifully short chapters of the process of learning to make changes. From falling into a pothole, learning to get out, learning to avoid the pothole and then, finally, learning to take a different route.
I love this poem because so often depression feels like falling into a pothole for me. Last week, the pothole opened in front of me and I have been dancing on the edge of it ever since. I keep trying to figure out what causes the pothole to appear. I know that depression and loneliness are doing their own little dance around the edge, intertwined in their downward spiral that often takes me with it.
I try to pull them apart, to separate their co-dependence. To convince my heart that the depression will pass no matter how much it hurts right now and that loneliness is not proof that I am unworthy of being loved.
And then I try and do my own dance of healing. Staying away from numbing comforts that sideline me in my own life (hello internet!), reaching out for support, writing about it, getting out for a walk, eating well. Trying to be gentle on myself and reminding myself that I am not a failure as I do each of these things imperfectly.
Trying to take the word “just” and “should” out of my vocabulary. Cracked.com had a great article recently on the 5 most useless pieces of advice ever given. Number 5 was adding the word “just” to your advice. You know, “you just need to snap out of it” or “you just need to eat less and get more exercise”. If it was that simple, trust me, I would have done it by now!
I know that this will pass. And, that like a dance, it is complicated and dynamic and changing. It is a chance to understand myself better. A chance to figure out how to adjust my sails in the wind.
As I dance around the edge of the pothole, I know that this time I didn’t fall into its depths. And, if I do, I know I can get out.
Maybe someday, I will know how to walk down a different street.
There will be bad days.
Loosen your grip.
Understand that by tomorrow,
today will have ended.
The word that I picked for 2013 was joy and, I gotta say, I’ve spent most of the year feeling I was stood up for a date. I invited joy into my life and felt like I was left with a big no-show.
I am not talking about happiness or contentment, both of which are in my life, but the pure joy that makes me feel 100% alive. That makes me feel entirely present in the moment, spirit and body passionately united in perfect purpose. As I think back over the year, it was mostly a tough slog to heal my heart and get my feet back under me again.
But amidst that incredibly powerful healing journey (of which I am very proud) there were, in fact, a few moments of pure joy.
In January, being within 10 feet of molten hot lava as it poured into the ocean, creating new life in a burst of heat and steam and fire.
In July, overcoming my fear and walking through fire over a bed of hot coals.
In November, running along my favourite stretch of coast in the rain with the smell of the ocean and the trees filling my lungs as my body revelled in the opportunity to move powerfully.
And what strikes me is that in order for these moments of joy to come into my life, I must establish the pre-conditions that allow joy to manifest. I can’t just invite joy on a date. I need to prepare the meal, set the table and dress up for the occasion.
So, here are my pre-conditions –
Which leads me to my word for this year – fierce.
I want to be fierce about living my life to its fullest.
Fierce about allowing myself to be seen and heard and not silenced by fear.
Fierce about protecting my creative time and nourishing my passion.
Fierce about my self-care, treating myself with respect, exercising my body and feeding it well.
Fierce about my friendships.
Fierce about my connection with nature and the Sacred.
I want to be fierce about setting the table and being the person I know I am meant to be. I can’t wait to see how the Universe will show up to answer the invitation.
I like giants
Especially girl giants
Cause all girls feel too big sometimes
Regardless of their size
But then I remember you,
And the way you shine like truth in all you do.
Love is about all the changes you make and not just three small words.
Last night the fear that comes with vulnerability and the opportunity for connection came smack up against each other.
As part of my efforts to bring joy back into my life, I have started singing again in a band. A duo this time. And last night we performed some of our new songs in front of an audience. Dressed in costume.
I get nervous when we play gigs. Which is okay. I’m nervous because I care. Because it matters to me. It matters to put on a good show. To do justice to the music. To be solid for my fellow musician in the band.
Nervous is different from fear. Nervous can take your breath away but fear takes your voice away.
And singing is one of the most vulnerable things that I do. The most exposed. Emotionally risky. But one of the things that allows for the deepest connections and the most body-filling joy of breath and sound and sharing.
Peter Sellars (the theatre producer, not the comedic actor) said,
Vocal music is an attempt to take the whole human being and project it into space. It is the ultimate gesture of getting out of yourself. You take a part of you that is most private, most personal, most inward, and you hurl it out into space—you project it as far as you can. That gesture of opening this whole region of the body results in an enormous spiritual release, and is felt by other people with tremendous impact.
So I was nervous last night. Not unusual. I was dressed up, too, which I always find stressful. Also not unusual. But, I was also feeling hugely vulnerable about one particular song. It is a slow song which relies a lot on the vocals. It’s high in my range of singing which requires a steady reservoir of breath. The lyrics are beautiful and emotionally evocative and were written and gifted to the band by a dear friend. And, I was singing into a mic in a small room where every note seemed louder and bigger than usual.
I sang the first line of the lyrics and it comes out as wobbly and insecure as I feel. And I am immediately thrown back into a childhood memory. Except that the emotional state feels exactly the same; as though no time at all had passed.
I used to sing in church when I was little. My Mom and I were usually the only ones in my family who regularly attended services. But, one Sunday I was scheduled to sing a solo and my older sister and her boyfriend came to hear me sing. This was a big deal. Well, it was a big deal to me.
It must have been the first time I got nervous singing. And I got really nervous. My heart was pounding so hard that it shook my whole chest. And my throat. And my voice. My singing was wobbly and shaky and I remember being completely confused about this new experience. But I knew it wasn’t good. And I didn’t know how to make it stop.
No one talked to me about it afterwards. But I knew it was bad because no one complimented my singing like they usually did. It was clear to me that people were disappointed. And because no one said anything I never got to ask “what happened?”, “is that normal?”, “how do I stop it next time?”. And no one ever said “it’s okay, it wasn’t perfect but that’s okay, you did your best and we love you”. Instead, what I learned was that if it wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t okay. That if I wasn’t perfect, that I wasn’t okay.
So there I stood last night, feeling nervous and vulnerable yes, but it was that emotional flashback, that flashnow, that took away my breath and voice and left me with a first line that was as shaky and insecure as that little girl who didn’t understand what had happened. Who only understood that she wasn’t good enough.
And this is where the gift comes in. I am not that little girl anymore but I have the chance to change her story. My story. Because the opportunity in being vulnerable is to allow myself to be seen. With authenticity and honesty. With my very human imperfections. To be connected. With others and with myself. To release part of my spirit and let it be seen and heard. To know that I am enough.
And with that in mind, I found my breath and my courage and a little more of my voice and the second line came out a little stronger. And the third a little stronger after that. It may not have been perfect – whatever that is! – but it connected. And there was joy in that.
And, I think, a gift of healing for that little girl.