All things change; so, too, the blog

Featured

This has been neglected for a while, no? I come here for my long-form stuff, but there isn’t much of that, since my output falls in small droplets, mainly on Facebook, occasionally on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, sometimes in chats with friends and family. For a while now, I’ve been looking to rebalance my input/output: given I am everywhere, there is a tonne of input. Especially on FB, I’ve trimmed and cut and modulated my follows until the timeline is on the tighest focus so I don’t lose uncounted hours reading it. I have turned Tumblr into an image-only feed (almost); Instagram is full of art, tattoos and magick; only Twitter contains the text-heavy stuff, also rage. It’s still not enough, I’ve been feeling for months that I want to increase my output, because streamlining input hasn’t, by itself, done that: it is still my default procrastination strategy to look outwards for change inside.

One thing changed last month: I found myself some new tools for facing myself, for asking myself what I’m feeling, and for responding rather than reacting. These responses are focused on action: moving, eating, sleeping, breathing. I am learning my limits and boundaries, and gently cajoling myself away from staying stuck in inaction and overthinking everything. It’s hard, but nothing else has given me more hope in recent times.

Something else is changing this month: almost by accident, I have signed up for two writing-based practices for the month of February. One is Eat My Stardust by Tanya Markul, a writer and teacher I’ve been aware of for years, since the Rebelle days. The other, a chance recommendation to “28 Days of Self-Love” over on Grace Black’s site. I have no idea why I would add these on when I am also studying hard on other courses and sometimes struggling to keep my head above the water with life in general, and why I would choose TWO, not one, and not throw out other stuff for it. But here we are, let’s see how this experiment turns out.

I am planning to post the results of the writing exercises here; that means I will turn the blog from general-purpose, factual writing to intensely personal experimentation with creative writing. Expect it to be messy, and vulnerable, and violent, and dark at times; I make no promises, of anything, except that I will keep going. Now is a good time to unfollow if that isn’t your jam (looking at you, readers who found my Han piece and hope there will be more); conversely, to follow if you want to watch this one unfold. I’m going to check whether email notifications are possible, and otherwise, there will be posts to FB and Twitter, so keep your eye on one of those (all of them are public).

Here’s to feeling scared but doing it anyway; to tremendous excitement about the unknown: what will my guides give me to work with, and what will emerge in response?

May all beings be well, including myself. May all beings be happy, including myself.

Advertisements

2/12: save your life

Today’s writing exercise is on healing: not just knowing the wounds we carry, but figuring out a way to find wisdom in them; and connecting our self-healing with our effect on those around us (very Chironic, this).

Name three aspects of your life you struggle with, and describe how you can begin to offer those aspects in the form of healing to yourself.

I struggle with poor self-image.

I’ve believed I’m faulty in various ways, wrong, not good enough. Too fat, too lazy, not athletic enough, incapable of changing, unable to follow through on my plans or stick with them once made.

-> I will believe in myself.

I will counteract these messages whenever I hear them – whether they come from me or others. I won’t believe them, I will instead believe the image of myself as whole and capable, and I will look for evidence to back this up.

I struggle with being/feeling nurtured.

Due to a bunch of my personal history going back to birth, it’s hard for me to feel truly and deeply nourished, both in the physical and the emotional senses. It seems to always be either too much or not enough, to involve “taking” rather than “receiving”, “giving” (too much) and not “sharing”.

-> I will nourish myself.

I will provide my body with good, nourishing food on a regular basis. I will listen to my body to understand what it needs and how it digests what I provide, which will teach me what is the right nutrition for me. I will listen to my heart and its needs, and I will learn to provide for it, too.

I struggle with dependence.

Another collection of personal history to do with relating; I feel there was an unfortunate coming-together of poor boundaries, of prioritising needs in maybe not the best or fair way, which I have continued to act out as a pattern. I have tended to either function as a support for someone else, or to be demanding myself, i.e. dependent models; and attempting independence in between. Broadly connected with this, I also struggle with vulnerability.

-> I will depend on myself.

I will improve my dependability, I will honour my promises to myself, I will continue to learn how to become interdependent. I will continue to seek out people who are not dependent or make me dependent on them.

 

2/11: healing perfectionism

Hello again. I got caught in the problem of paid work taking up writing energy, as well as issues of essential survival near the bottom of the Hierarchy of Needs: managing eating, drinking, sleeping, breathing; trying to understand more about them, experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. I’ve needed to deliver a lot of work with short deadlines, and am a step closer to burn-out with that – so I am now carving out time for other things again that are not consuming media, but give space for feeling and thinking for myself. I also notice strongly the change of the seasons: the winter weather is persisting here in Berlin – it snowed on the first day of Spring – but the underlying change is making itself felt. I appreciate Winter’s energy of withdrawal and rest, composting/decay, and not rushing to grow too soon, and have been deeply in that. Spring is not my natural forte, but I am listening carefully to what does want to rise, grow, show itself.

The writing exercise I’m engaging with today is around perfectionism.

What is the relationship between…

… self-sabotage and perfectionism?

Not achieving perfection leads to abandoning all effort, and even undoing previous attempts, towards anything, but especially all self-improvement (since it’s notoriously hard). Perfectionism sends a strong message that such attempts are futile, stupid and pointless, and therefore also undermines future attempts, no matter how strongly motivated, useful or authentic these may be.

… self-limiting beliefs and perfectionism?

Not doing things perfectly leads to self-limiting beliefs, as the attempt appears to signal that this is not a skill I have, nor should I keep trying to learn it. This also feeds into existing SLBs, “proving them right”: used as evidence for faulty beliefs rather than dismantling them with new ideas and the corresponding evidence.

… shame, guilt, disempowerment and perfectionism?

All failure to achieve perfection feeds feelings of shame, again “evidence” for my inherent worthlessness. I’m less sure about guilt: maybe there is some for having used resources/time on something that ultimately didn’t pan out. Perfectionism causes disempowerment: I cannot develop without making mistakes; I can’t/won’t take proper responsibility for myself.

A. three ways I strive to be “perfect”:

  1. following the “right” diet and exercise plan/s, and doing so consistently/to the letter
  2. being a calm/non-emotional source of support for others
  3. creating “real art”

B. how have each of these blocked me from…

a) my authenticity

  1. listening to the actual needs of my body (rather than some idealised or normed version), responding appropriately
  2. voicing my own emotions, even feeling them. Expressing doubt, fear, need for support.
  3. expressing my actual interests and passions, standing by my creations, judging my attempts to try new things -> killing creativity

b) self-care and self-love

  1. not being perfect leads me to abandon even trying, since I can’t “succeed” anyway. Straight-up self-sabotage, therefore not learning to nurture or care for myself; not progressing far enough to learn about my body, what works or doesn’t
  2. I end up suppressing my own feelings to be there for others, then erupting terribly days/months/years later and/or becoming unable to feel anything. I lose touch with my innter world.
  3. I cut off avenues for self-expression, so things remain unsaid and eventually creativity dries up.

c) living the life I want to live

  1. I’m making slow progress towards giving my body what it needs; time/effort taken up with spinning my wheels, fixing problems, having no energy, rather than being able to work towards my dreams
  2. it’s hard to build support networks and/or practices that enable me to process my feelings, so I spend a lot of time feeling awful without knowing what to do to move through it
  3. I’m treading water with what feels “safe”, because it’s too scary to move forward. And I devalue what I create as “not real art”, which removes some pressure but also stifles me

C. what can I do to shift my mindset?

I can remind myself that messing up is okay, in fact, it’s good: I learn more this way than when I do everything perfectly.

And I can be okay with starting again and again, every day if I need to, or pausing and continuing (for daily/scheduled practices)

And I can be gentle with myself and remember that harsh judgements and criticism don’t help me – better to quietly get on with it instead.

 

Stay tuned for the next exercise, whenever I get to it…

1/22: Confidence. 2/10: Learning.

After all that noodling yesterday,  today is a two-fer again: not by design, it’s just how my day worked out. Mercifully short tasks as well.

1/22:

Feeling blank, I discover what I know

2/10:

please, give me tighter restrictions

with them I reach my convictions

2/9: self-limiting beliefs

“Write a Screw You Letter to your self-limiting beliefs. Self-limiting beliefs are assumptions (not truths) that we form about ourselves as a result of emotional pain and trauma — abandonment, rejection, betrayal, bullying, abuse, etc.”

1a Screw you, “you can’t finish anything”, for making me feel bad and guilty for pausing in my plans or changing my mind about them. Screw you for making me doubt myself and sometimes not even starting things.

2a Screw you, “you’d be so pretty if you lost weight”, for making food, exercise, nurturing and self-love unnecessarily difficult, complicated and doomed to failure.

3a Screw you, “nice girls are quiet and calm”, for suppressing my anger and rage, even if they were justified, and for making it hard to assert my boundaries.

4a Screw you, “you just aren’t athletic and you don’t enjoy sports”, for taking all the fun out of moving my body.

5a Screw you, “housework is dirty and beneath you”, for making my home messy and unpleasant to live in.

 

1b Screw you, “you can’t finish anything”: I was born sensitive and with the ability to choose the right path for me.

2b Screw you, “you’d be so pretty if you lost weight”: I was born beautiful and caring.

3b Screw you, “nice girls are calm and quiet”: I was born with vocal cords and something to say.

4b Screw you, “you just aren’t athletic”: I was born to dance.

5b Screw you, “housework is dirty and beneath you”: I was born with the ability to find beauty and truth in all kinds of tasks, and I was born to create a beautiful home.

 

How does my pain connect me to a healing world?

How can my pain translate into soulful purpose?

How will pain reveal an empowered story of my life?

I am reminded that what causes me pain is the thing I will learn the most about in my attempt to solve it, becoming an expert in the process. What comes easy goes unnoticed, and my knowledge of it may remain superficial; but the things that feel deeply wrong are an invitation to engage deeply, to get to the bottom of them, to understand them so thoroughly that I could teach someone else how to manage them. This kind of pain is the grain of sand in the oyster.

1/21: Balance

In line with my previous post, the content of which actually fits very well with today’s prompt in stream 1, I’ve decided to pursue the two streams independently, and number posts accordingly: x/yy, x for the stream and yy for the relevant prompt number. I have read prompts 1/9 to 1/20, and decided to skip them all, although I might come back to some later.

Anyway, here’s what came for 1/21:

sunshine

gold glitter

pause for reflection

And now I shall go work, at last. More from stream 2 later.

 

Writing prompts: this can’t continue

I think I have come to the point where pursuing both sets of writing prompts just isn’t possible: while the first week or so featured gentle exploration, and I could generally contain the introspection and the act of writing to under an hour, both paths are going deeper, and diverging rather than running in parallel. I took some time off because I had a lot of paid work to deal with, which taps into a neighbouring reservoir and can eat a lot of time and energy in a day. When I came back, I started to feel the pull in two directions: a kind of upward, uplifting, sweetness in the first set (appropriate for self-love), and a different direction for the second, “the way out is through” kind of thing. Deeper into pain. Both are good and valid paths but I can’t contain them both so close together, much less in a morning before work (that context switch)… and that’s aside from my mornings spreading themselves out over the day as it is.

I’ve wondered whether I can do one in the morning and one in the evening, an up/down movement to bracket the day, which I like. All the same, I hit prompt after prompt that just doesn’t feel right to work on today, and most require movement in the world to accomplish: where to put it? Tomorrow, maybe, but this doesn’t answer my problem today. Maybe I can skip a bunch until something clicks?

The answer that is arising now is to treat my “backlog” as a pool of prompts to pick from and do what I can on the day, and indeed what meets the energy of any given day. Deviate from the set path and forge my own. Perhaps try out set 1 in the mornings, and set 2 in the evenings (and perhaps stick closer to its path, as well).

Day 8: acceptance, fear

1. Acceptance – Anaphora

Today, I seek

Today, I abandon

Today, I am gentle with my friends, with their messages, with their love

Peace flows, love flows, I flow in creation, with creation, by creating

2.

1. Write down your biggest fear.
2. Write down what it would be like if it happened.
3. What then?
4. What then?
5. What then?

I’m having a hard time with this: I am pushed for time, but want to write. I’ve tried to postpone but I can’t concentrate until I’ve looked at this. Then also, I don’t really “do” fear – I am chronically unaware of my fears, and in consequence throw myself into all sorts of improbable situations that I then have to resolve somehow.

My advantage today is that I’m writing much later than the rest of the group, so I got to read their responses, and see if anything prompted me: but not very much sparked. I’ve said a few times that I don’t fear death, only dying, and I guess that’s true – I’m not a big fan of sickness and pain, but at the same time, I have experienced those things and continue to experience them, and actually I am growing most by learning to be with them rather than push them away. Pain is hands-down, easily, my biggest teacher.

I’ve been luck (or unlucky, I guess) that not many people close to me have died yet: my parents and siblings are alive; my grandparents are not but I either never met them or wasn’t close to them (at the time: some I am close to now). As far as I know, everyone I’ve dated is alive. Last year, I lost two acquaintances to suicide, which was tough for a few days, but nothing like losing someone close. And I have already faced other kinds of abandonment and endings. My nearest thing is that my cat, who has been my very close companion for almost 17 years, is coming to the end of her life. It’s impossible to know how long she has, and actually, allowing myself to imagine her death, while it makes me very sad, has also meant that every minute I enjoy with her now is all the sweeter. Our relationship has actually improved year on year, and I continue to learn so much from her.

So that’s death, abandonment, sickness… oh yes, I don’t have children, so that’s a whole category of fears out. I’ve discovered that my life is about my ancestors, and they’re already dead: I can’t lose them, in other words, I can only get closer to them. What else? Loneliness: I come from co-dependent relationships and therefore challenged myself to be single and live alone, and it’s going great; at last, I can live out my own path, I can give space to my emotions (or not). What I have learned is that I won’t give up on myself for anyone, and even my time and attention are more precious to me than ever, so that only high-quality relationships are worth pursuing. Yes, I could fall and break, but even for that, a mutual support network is emerging with others in my situation.

I’ve moved countries and started again, and I know I could do so, even if the energy it takes is considerable. I have picked myself up after sinking all my energy into someone else’s depression. I have lost jobs and clients, and have every confidence in my ability to pick up after that. I have been poor, and it isn’t fun but I know how to change it. So it is with pretty much every fear I look at: I have either lived through it, or I have tools to deal with it and an unshakeable faith in myself.

What is left is to look at what there is I avoid for a clue to what I fear. I sometimes avoid my feelings, which is an old pattern for me: I taught myself when I was young that it was up to me to represent the calm centre, even if I had to stuff down my own challenging feelings to do it. Eventually, I got a bit tired of being so one-dimensional, and opened my heart to more complete feelings again: I still wear the brand I had made on my wrist as a reminder of that year. I don’t always excel at feeling my feelings right away, but I get to them, and I am doing bodywork to release all the old stuff I can no longer access consciously. I’ve gone through a ten-week meditation process on this subject, and will do so again, probably this year. So these days, my calm in the face of strong emotions isn’t only a mask, it’s real.

So here’s another thing I don’t talk about much, but it feels pertinent here: I was lucky (or unlucky, I guess) to experience total unity with All That Is when I was about 21. So I was very interested to read the quote from the Isha Upanishad in today’s prompt:

“Who sees all beings in his own self, and his own self in all beings, loses all fear.”

… again I am not perfect in this, but my experience rewired me very deeply, and my life for the last 22+ years has been about integrating what I learned in that one moment half a lifetime ago.