"Learning To Birth Myself"
It took them three days to pry me out of my mother. She said it was because the amniotic sac had calloused after she had this big fall a few weeks earlier. I think I just didn’t want to leave that warm watery comfort. The doctors and nurses didn’t notice that I had been born a little bit different. They didn’t see that thin layer of outer skin that was added on backwards and inside out so that all my nerve endings and tiny blood vessels were exposed and violated with that first smack and rush of air.
I grew into a thin reed, all limbs on my shiny new swing set in the backyard. God and I would just shoot the breeze, back and forth, laughing and singing together. He knew me beyond my inside out skin and the heart that was too big for my body. He and mother Mary knew me from before and no, they didn’t ask me to eat the thick and slimy mud pies I made like that little neighbor girl who came over and didn’t understand it was all only pretend. I was horrified when she smiled back at me with her brown teeth and that little piece of grass sticking out of her bottom lip. Or that other mud-eating girl who became a saint, that Bernadette, from the fiery film they showed us in 4th grade.
And even though my parents didn’t understand why, they instinctively went about protecting me as I grew up, holding my cotton candy for me so I could eat its stickiness with just the tiniest touch of my fingertips. When I demanded a paintbrush while all the other children finger painted in kindergarten, my mother didn’t understand my tenderness. She just thought I was precocious! And when the teacher asked us to draw a person, all the other children in my small Catholic school classroom drew a big smiley face with round eyes and stick limbs. But I drew a whole woman, anatomically correct with good detail for a five- year old the nuns didn’t appreciate when they called my mother to meet them in the principal’s office.
I learned to wear a cloak of invisibility so I could remain an observer, a spy around the grown ups in order to try and understand how others experienced the world. I was an outsider amongst the other children and a clever, straight” A” investigator around the adults. I allowed myself to be defined by my grades and good behavior and I kept myself tucked in tight, too quiet for some, too intense for most. I listened over and over to the whale song on a tiny 45 my parents got from the National Geographic, and I could close my eyes and swim alongside, feeling the protective warm depth of the water around us.
At St. John’s, I was a member of the class sprinkled by colder holy water in the 4th grade by a nun who wanted to drive the devil out of us, and taught Algebra in 6th grade by another who threw her chalkboard eraser at anyone who dared ask a “stupid” question. I learned to be small, to always be kind but meek, for it was said that the meek that shall inherit the earth. I unwittingly sought opportunities to make myself fit in that small box, to be who I was told I was; like the light coming in from the stained- glass windows in church, exposed, vulnerable, and fragile.
By the time I was in high school my parents, moved us to Sarasota, Florida and away from that tiny NJ suburb and my snowman, cool Joe with the big sunglasses and twigs for limbs. I walked the halls as the quiet one, but Oh, she can draw! I carried my journals with me like newly found armor, my pencils as shiny swords. And I wrote down all the “too muchness” I felt so as not to be seen as so intense from the outside.
My parents sheltered me as much as they possibly could and I obeyed my 11 O’clock curfew right up until the day of my wedding when I was almost nineteen. My new husband was 6ft 4, enveloping me easily, and I gladly shrunk inside his arms. We raised each other, and then our children, and I was safe and comfortable not having my own identity. I loved being his wife, their mother, her daughter, Mr. so and so’s employee, and so on and so forth. I didn’t miss an independence I never had and I wore my many roles as new layers of the armor I had learned I needed as a child.
I worked hard to never disappoint anyone and I lived quietly behind my mini van steering wheel and my subdivision white picket fence. And it was just fine, and the system worked fine, until it didn’t.
When I woke up at 35 and remembered my songs with God on my backyard swing set, the layers and layers of protection that I had clothed myself in began to drop away. I suddenly felt like I had grown too big and nothing fit anymore. I began making changes in my life, no longer just panicking from disappointing one person, but my whole family and small circle of friends all at once. I became a tornado, with every new realization and decision tearing apart an old belief system, another door key to finding my authentic self.
I painted my truths to myself like clues in secret coded language, even I was only beginning to understand and the realizations circled into spirals of heavy, watery depths. Much of my art work now still refers to my breathy God songs, and those stained-glass stations of the cross, with their vibrant colors, light, and lyrical line. My expression is my way of cutting myself out of the box, tearing through the layers of heavy clothes of protection, and marking my existence. I often paint as prayer, as intentions initially set in charcoal, hoping that energy is perceived through the layers of added color.
I am learning that I am my own goddess of protection and my fragility and vulnerability is part of my secret power. I am so much more than I was taught to believe. Now I know that my capability to love with my skin inside out and a paintbrush in my hand are tools that helps me unlock my truth. It may have taken me four decades, but I am finally learning to birth myself.
1/26/18 Shifting Priorities and Learning to Be IN My Body
Don't you love it when the Universe conspires to teach you the same lesson from many different sources with a similar message?
I watched a documentary the other night on Highly Sensitive People, or "HSP's" for short. Apparently, approximately 10% of the population has this personality trait, which is characterized in part by thinking deeply, feeling deeply, having strong intuition and empathic abilities and being sensitive to the environment. One of the first characteristics discovered through the research and which is talked about in the documentary is crying easily. Duh! Does it count that I was sitting on my couch crying softly just watching the movie? I think I cried because I did not understand this was actually a thing and I wasn't alone or could be diagnosed as crazy for the way I felt, but I also found myself crying just seeing other people crying out of empathy. Yup, I cry during various commercials too..I can't help it!
I'm the chick who always wants to be informed but ends up needing to avoid most newscasts because it is too much. I am so easily overwhelmed by the suffering in the world. Sometimes I think I want to just travel the world and hug people to comfort them like Amma, "the hugging saint." I heard recently that Amma is going to retire from touring soon and pass her gifts of compassion to someone else, someone younger. So, wait...even SHE takes care of herself??
Interestingly, I am also listening to an audio series on "Becoming An Intuitive Healer" by Judith Orloff. I downloaded it because I am interested in honing my skills as an intuitive of sorts and I also am just beginning to learn myofascial release techniques to practice on patients for my day job. One of the things that Judith says that literally stopped me in my tracks was about NOT holding onto other people's stuff. She said that if you somehow believe in even a tiny part of yourself the myth that taking others' pain away and carrying it for them makes you a better healer, then you are dooming yourself to martyrdom. I knew on some level that not only have I had that belief system for as long as I can remember, but also, that yes, I understood there was an almost contractual agreement that I was, energetically at least, killing myself in the process, and I accepted that as part of my lot.
In other news, the instructor in my myofascial course last weekend spoke about the importance of being present IN your body in order to more effectively do this work. I hadn't given much thought to how much I actually am not genuinely present in my body and how that can be detrimental to my own health. I have been focusing on spiritual development, on my love and need for deep connections to others, but I neglected to see the importance of being energetically connected to the vessel I've been given. Hmmm.....
All of this information found its way to me within a two week span. And there actually were others which felt less jaw- dropping so in the interest of not making this blog entry a novel, I'll leave it out. In the end, my takeaway is this: I am NOT crazy. There are lots of people like me out there and it is totally ok to set boundaries and take care of myself. But here is the best part. Are you ready? The image and title for my newest painting, "Releasing What No Longer Serves, " had already "popped in" and was already on the canvas before learning any of the above!
Alright Universe, thanks, point taken. I hear you and I will do my best.
I have some new ideas waiting to get onto the canvas. Plan to start birthing them tonight!
2/18/18 One Heartbeat
It's been a tough few days for me. My last post was all about not taking things so seriously and just being joyful for the sake of being alive. I had started a new abstract after that last post and was really feeling the unity of all of us here on the planet right now. It's working title was "One Heartbeat" as I imagined us all walking around as one connected heartbeat, carrying on within our own individual lives, but pulsing together. And then the shooting at the high school is Parkland Florida happened on Valentine's Day and I am fractured one again. I'm sliced open not just by the obvious horrific actions and loss at the school, but by being reminded again and again how divided we think we are, how we let political ideologies get in the way of our unified humanity. And the sorrow sets in deep and then the anger and I am at a loss of what to do with all of the emotion that I am walking around saturated in. And so I went out to the studio and kept going back to this painting. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and consciously slowed down my thoughts and my breath. I started a small poem on the importance of prayer and meditation. And I kept painting, letting the journey pull me in and push me out, like the dilation and contraction of a heart, pulsing in prayer.
This is the beginning of the poem I think I'll get back to eventually:
"On Meditation and Prayer"
The sticky thoughts lick my cheeks like a playful puppy hopping around on hind legs, hungry for attention.
But I turn away. My eyelids burning like hot coals when they close.
I can't tune out the crying and screaming of the bloodied and suffering.
We are a mass of cruelty and sickened with the illusion of separateness.
Where can I turn and who do I listen to now as I twist and curl inward at this crossroad?
Thy voice rises from the fires and directs my gaze upwards. My body unravels, turns to dust and floats away.
Suddenly, my soul is alight with your flame. My breath cools to a wispy smoke, a soft gray and blackened ember.
I repeat this over and over, especially for those that no longer can.
I am choosing to remember to breathe.
I finished my painting today too. I like my little Kandinsky references in it. I felt him counseling me a bit while I painted. There is so much contained within and so much that can happen in the time it takes for one heartbeat to occur. I pray we can all give that a bit more thought today.