Iliad

this was written for Rabbi David Zaslow on his request for poetry dealing with light and darkness. Thank you, Rabbi David – 

 

Iliad
By Rivkah Raven Wood

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fire dancer – photo by Rivkah Wood

today i hold the sun
on one shoulder,
my arm curled around it
painfully; it burns, but i blaze joyous – I can.
a woman walking to the river
with a bright jug- lush colors painted
to hide the cracks, the scars, sunlight gilding the mended places;
ancient traumas survived, traced and mapped in molten fire.
I breathe and lift my head to the light- this is the heaviest task.
Always the desire in art is that it seem easy,
effortless, simple.
I am Achilles of Troy
triumphant
defiant against that early darkness that comes with my choice.
Tomorrow, perhaps, I’ll lay down the sun;
its glory trumpeting scarlet, oranges, shading the mountains in luminous gold
may I shine my life so unabashed; may my releasing burn so brightly
as I sink beyond the horizon –
letting go never came quietly to me.

 

JeffreyS

Jeffrey Staver, New Year’s Eve 2000 by me (in the mirror behind him.) 

 

 

 

Power of a Word

(*note: if you use this facebook app thingy, after you’re done, go right away into settings – apps – and delete it, because apparently it accesses a ridiculous amount of information.)

I did that Facebook word collage thing. My most used word was “love.” It’s a pretty nifty way to check in with the “word of the year” one-word new year resolution.

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Yes. 2015 has been about love. Finding out what love is. Learning what love feels like (dear wounded young-me: it doesn’t feel unsafe. It doesn’t feel like longing. It doesn’t feel like lack or pity or regret. It doesn’t feel like fear and danger, scrambling to prove your worth, make up for someone else’s accusations and blame. It doesn’t feel like lack or  inadequacy. You only thought it did, so you found, allowed, and created those things. Love feels like safety, peace and growing. Love feels rooted in honor. Love feels like questions and risking only in that it might be time to shift the status quo, It might be time to leap and listen to someone else’s perspective. Love feels like respect – for one’s self and one’s own needs and boundaries, and for the other and their needs and boundaries. Love feels like home. Love isn’t the games you thought you had to play in order to be interesting, or the manipulations and power plays that left you so confused, shaking and dizzy.  Love feels intrinsically interesting in simply being authentic with another, and learning their true self. Love feels like trust – and when the Demons of fear come up to tell you to distrust, love feels like completely knowing those are just fear and damage voices from your own past. Of your own creation. Love feels like being trusted, and holding your head up with shining heart, knowing your lover believes in you – love feels like choosing actions that show love and gratitude for his belief in you. love feels like abundance. Love feels like an energy flow of giving and receiving, not hanging on and holding back. Love feels like loving yourself, nurturing the relationship entity, and loving him are all in harmony and a constant flow.)

I’m so grateful to the counselors, healers, teachers, hard work, and examples in life who all helped me see completion of that particular broken place, that Groundhog Day lesson on endless repeat. Over. Finally.  2015, thank you for realizing my one-word intention in life. I taught myself how love feels through the long, slow and difficult process of becoming whole. Of loving this flawed being that I am – as I am.

look- I’m not perfect in this. I’m still struggling with the idea that I can be beautiful to him even though I’m not blonde and tall. I still struggle with perfectionism and fear. I always will, because I am human. The difference is, I am now safe to know I’ll be true to myself  I’ll walk away from anyone who tries to crumble my self-worth by telling me I’m not honorable and not trustworthy. I’ll walk away from anyone who tries to tell me I deserve unkindness and lack-mentality living. I love my life and myself enough to let go of anything that dims my light  and doesn’t appreciate my heart.

When the self-talk becomes kinder and more compassionate, what we accept and allow in our lives shifts, too.

This is how to make room for love. Teach ourselves how love feels by having the courage to practice love-in-action.

2016: I’d like to see love still infusing the collage, of course; it’s a garden that needs watering, and it’s a joy to nurture. I’d like the central word to be: writing. Completion. It’s time to see my novels, my babies finally born. I’ve worked on them so long. Time to laser focus. Love makes this possible – it’s a solid foundation from which to build. Success will be what form it needs to take. I don’t know what it looks like, but I know what it feels like: completion.

What will your collage look like in 2016? What is your central word intention?

Apparently, we don’t have to know how to do it, or what it will look like. We just have to set the intention and leap.
Loving and living into it : now. Today.

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Making a Change for Good

I’m so grateful to be alive this day and about to begin work on my books.

We all have so much – it would be easy to focus on the things we lack, the little complaints- they can fill our consciousness.
I’ve grown so allergic to complaints, I will actually walk away if I hear them. Life force and time are far too precious to me to spend focusing on the things that come along with being alive.

I had an awesome boxing session last night. Instead of “it’s too hot,” we enjoyed a shorter warmup time and the benefits of bikram boxing.😉

Seriously! I know it sounds “Pollyanna,” as our world is addicted to complaining, goissiping, criticizing and whining – behaviors that keep us stuck in a lack mentality- (focusing on what we lack, operating from what we perceive we lack)

I dare you- on this day I dare you to begin the mental shift. Let’s focus on what we have. Beginning with life.
It can be actually physically painful to carve new neural pathways – but with persistence and practice, life will shift in profound ways.

And if you’re talking and I walk away from you, gently reminding you first that I’ve taken all the victim-talk I can tolerate, the choice is yours…scoff, get offended, insist on your complaints, or step up with me.

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Start Again, I Heard Them Say…

The birds, they sang at the break of day

‘start again,’ I heard them say – ‘don’t dwell on what has passed away

or what is yet to be.’

Ring the bells that still can ring

forget your perfect offering

there is a crack, a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in

Anthem, Leonard Cohen

High Holy Days took me by surprise this year. I had gotten off the plane at 3am from visiting my new love, opening door after door into a new life that holds both promise and challenges; trembling with fear and a last-minute feeling of unreadiness,

my center hadn’t arrived home yet. My body had, but the rest hadn’t caught up yet.

“I’ll go to this service tonight just to catch up,” I thought, not really defining what “catch up” meant.

“To get centered again in my community and spiritual life.” and then, the famous last words I have said every year so far: “It’s just Slichot. That’s just the threshhold of High Holy Days – not one of the heavy services. I can handle it.”

It’s “just” Slichot.

Slichot – when we do the heavy work of forgiveness. I don’t know about you, but forgiving is sometimes far more difficult for me than owning my sh*t and apologizing. With apology, I can do my own work – I can use compassion, which is my strongest muscle. I can take accountability and it doesn’t matter whether someone accepts my true apology or chooses unkindness in response – I have done my work. I keep doing it. I take responsibility and work toward closure.

Forgiving others isn’t so hard, either…

except this year. This year, I have been thrown with jarring force against some boulders in the stream.
One who has taken his own life by his own choice,

and one who left me years ago without a single word of apology or explanation.

These both I am having trouble forgiving.

On a deeper level, I am having trouble forgiving myself.

What for? What did I do, that I cannot forgive myself for these losses?
It’s not always rational, the way the heart cries out.

So, I just listen. I listen and sit with the grief this year. The grief, the anger, the incomprehension.

The name that keeps repeating itself in my life – all three men bear the same name –

Friend who killed himself. Teacher who betrayed. Love who has become in many ways my guardian angel, for better and for worse – they all have brought me deep challenges.

As I grow older I am learning we aren’t always blessed with answers, with closure. Sometimes we just have to sit with what is, as wild, messy and incomprehensible as it may be.

So I find myself this year in a dark wood, the right road lost …

and yet, I know I’m exactly where I need to be.

Sitting with the anger, the mourning, I breathe in simple gratitude for my life as it unfolds around me. In the stillness, which is really the sounds of my neighbors coughing, shuffling, a whisper here, a sigh there – the usual sounds of stifled laughter markedly absent from this service, although there was laughter even this time –

I call in courage. Courage to grow larger than this grief, so I may contain it;
courage to expand and adventure bravely, and laugh again around the sharp edges of fear –

Courage to open my heart yet again to someone who, simply because he’s human, is given the power to cause hurt –

Courage to shift into a new rhythm that means traveling, being open to change, sitting with the fear every day and moment it arises, as it is hitting me hard and fast now in the shock of such deep changes –

“I work on forgiveness,”
not
“I forgive,”  as the rational mind can’t set a timeline for the heart.

I work on forgiveness.

Midnight Moonlit Confession:

“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
― Ray Bradbury

From time to time, I write to a particular agent in Jerusalem to check if she’s still alive, and if she’s still waiting for my book(s).

She writes me back within a few minutes. In my mind, she’s sitting there, tense over her computer, in complete readiness to spring forward into the world with my books. It’s childish and vain, but there it is: this vision of an agent who, like Miss Havisham, wears a cobweb veil, waiting for The Day, is the only thing that keeps me writing, on the more difficult days.

I try on first sentences like I’m searching for a wedding gown; I cry with the pain of it, sometimes, when it’s beautiful, which sounds arrogant but I believe it’s simply growing pains…
not really. Let’s be honest.

Beauty, a particular ache of perfection that hints at something vastly magnificent that we can’t ever quite grasp, has always made me cry. It’s in certain musical intervals. It’s in the reaching of a dancer’s leap. I even tasted it in a beer, once, on a hot day in Cambridge with the memory of the Bridge of Sighs lingering with the bitter sharp cool wetness of beer and river on my tongue.

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photo by Kyle Cassidy – taken in an Arroyo, Somewhere

I never cry when blocked- that’s a horrible dull numbness, searching the unchanging dense foliage, pushing with aching fingers at the gate, longing for a pathway back into the seductive, dangerous, sometimes incomprehensible forest that has wildly overtaken my life. I feel in dizzy in love, some days. Other days, it’s Duty, and a coiled urgency in my belly tells me I am writing too slowly.

I don’t talk to anyone about it. I have a superstitious fear that I would talk out my books, and they would no longer need to be given life.

I could not write when I was lying to myself, insisting I was happy in a relationship in which I didn’t feel safe, understood, valued or adored. The words (my soul, really – my life force – my heart beats between the covers of so many books) deserted me, disgusted with my betrayal of self.

When I finally faced the truth and left, the words burst through the gate, yapping, leaping around me, licking my face, wagging their tails so hard their furry butts wagged too. I fell down under them- covered with glorious, panting, dog-breath laughing, stiff-pawed, floppy-eared, roll-around-on-their-backs-waving-their-paws-in-the-air words. My heart bursts with the reunion. About 1/3 of myself – I sobbed in relief. I wept with remorse that I hadn’t known so much of me was locked away; I only knew an awful numbness, an endless barren ache of longing and self-hatred.

My hands no longer shake; I no longer feel afraid, now that I’m whole again. What the heck was I doing in my moldering wedding veil, waiting for someone else’s approval for my life, self and work to be astounding? Waiting for someone else’s permission to shine – just because they said they loved me? Stifling a third of myself in order to fit with what someone else desired?

While an agent who has never met me in person but only knows my words waits for years with incredible, steadfast belief in my work.

The writing is writing me, now –  it’s creating my life. I no longer force or strain. It flows like the River Cam under the Bridge of Sighs. This is my marriage – a true marriage of soul to the soul’s purpose. I have dug myself so deep into these books, there’s no returning –

This is just to say: we have this life here – right now. What is the purpose of fear and hiding? What if we each had the trust and love in our Mad Creator, the Artist Formerly Known as God (or Life Force or Breathing or Time or Shakespeare or multiple Creators, whatever it is that makes you tick)

To be our weird, incredible selves that are works of Live Performance Art and damn what other people think, be wide open to them anyway and let them criticize if they must (which is a great detox, when they show off the furniture of their minds, likely mass-produced at Ikea, and weed themselves Out of our unique cottage, mansion, mausoleum, hobbit-houses) love us if they Get It, and basically have their own experience? What if?

I think that is what we’re here for. That’s what love means.
It means valuing so much what we have to give, that we give it to ourselves, too.
It means trusting in our own strength enough that we no longer silence ourselves.
It means believing in the power of Love enough that we endure any kind of ridicule for not fitting in, so that we might bravely shine our lives because somebody else might need a candle in the dark sameness, to be inspired to let their own shine forth –
It means to not stay around arguing with those who do not understand us, to not let those cobwebs of Expectation, the veil society mundanely dreamed for us, dull our senses, blot out our purpose –

It seems like far too many glorious people shrink themselves for fear of criticism.

It’s time for a Revolution of outrageous, courageous, radical self-esteem. Because I want to see your weird soul colors, friends. I’m selfish like that. I want to see ’em shine. Open the floodgates. Let the dogs out. Write those songs. Weave the poetry. Paint the fucking walls in legends and fairytale colors. Burn that wedding veil. Smash the cake. Stop waiting to live. It’s here now – it’s time.

I’m arrogant enough tonight to proclaim this, to anyone who reads this far.

With the luscious Capricorn moon singing in my veins of letting go, closure, healing, release and rebirth, I set my veil on fire.

Not waiting any more for it to finally be safe to be myself. Not shrinking myself so another person will approve and “love” me.
I owe it to the words. I never want them locked up again. It was far too painful.

(The agent who waits, believing in my magnificence…God bless her. I’ll send her cake.)

If Miss Havisham had had enough courage, generosity of heart and love for the world and her own weirdness to throw that wedding cake AWAY, set fire to her white clothing, dance with gratitude that the groom left her, she could have spun, with her life, a masterpiece. (instead, she lives in one, immortalized in cobwebs. Let’s not share her fate…)

Speak Truth

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Speak the truth – respect me, respect yourself.
I no longer have room in my world for less
(Both coming and going)

Passover — I know what I am choosing to take with me, and what I will leave behind.

It is so clear.

This is the time when change can happen in an instant, clean and irrevocable. This isn’t the time of slow inward change, that mirrors the trees in winter. Like the natural world that surrounds us in the Spring, we burst forth into blossom. Action, movement, life – it is time to trust that we have done the work during the long slow winter, and seize the change – catch the rising tide- now!

Quick- there’s no time to ruminate! What will you take with you- you’ve only room to carry one thing.
One thing that will define your future life- one thing that is your expression in the life to come

Other years, there maybe other things- what Is it this year?

What do you leave behind?

No one said the leaving would be easy. It is fast, but not necessarily painless.

But : “the shell must break before the bird can fly.” (- Aristotle)

We burn the chametz, the remnants of our ego, our puffed-up places of illusion

In fire –
In candlelight.

Beautiful, purifying, painful – depending on how close you are to the flame.

Chag sameach. This year is the first year I can say : I am ready.

Going the Distance: Boxing and PTSD

There’s an interesting thing that happens during boxing training sessions.
Invariably, I’ll reach the point where my arm muscles say very clearly “Nope. Can’t move.” They feel utterly weak, as though I couldn’t possibly even lift my arms in the 12-14 oz. gloves, let alone hit a target with speed and accuracy.

When I’m working the bags alone, this is often when I stop. “Okay, I sweated, my muscles won’t move any more, I got a good workout, time to stop.”

When I’m with my trainer, I push through.  I take that one minute break and push on to another round.

Then another round.

I find that my arms WILL lift. They will lift by force of will alone, then from my feet to my hips to my core, they’ll hit hard.

Then, magically, the weakness disappears.  The muscle exhaustion and soreness is gone, like it never existed. A feeling rushes in that I could go another hour. I could go another 30 rounds if I had to. I could “go the distance.” I could get through every round, and do it with strength and speed.  I am unstoppable.

It’s an incredible feeling. sparwbrandon

This PTSD battle has been challenging in ways I could never have imagined. It’s been fascinating, too, when I remember to turn on the “observer” and distance from it.

So much is unfolding, it’s taking a strength of will very similar to that required in boxing in order to simply get through the day, some days.

For those reading this who also struggle with PTSD,

here are a few things I have learned.

It is actually not good for us to do things like guided meditations. It seems like it would be a great thing, yeah? For many people, it is. But for PTSD, closing the eyes, telling one’s self to “relax,” these actually can be harmful practices and cause deep triggers in the subconscious. It can also strengthen a component of PTSD: dissociating.**

So here’s a helpful and good practice:  grounding.

There are three types of grounding: Physical, Emotional (or Mental), and Safety.

Physical grounding is simply looking around one’s environment, naming very specific details, noticing them, feeling them. My fingers are on the keyboard. It feels smooth and a little warm. My forearms are resting on the desk. They’re in soft, warm sleeves. My feet are on the floor…

Name each thing. feel it. Get very specific. What colors do you see? Name them. It may feel elementary, but try it a few times – it has the effect of immediately bringing one back into the present moment, this place and time. It is *impossible* to be triggered and grounded at the same time.

There – that’s it – The antidote.  How to turn the kryptonite into a superpower! This may seem very elementary, but the practice of staying present every moment is a very challenging one. Our minds are like puppies- they love to run off and play with butterflies. When you have PTSD, it’s an added challenge, as our minds leap to anxiety, or ruminating over the past in order to try to “protect” us from it happening again.  The mind continually wants to “warn” us. The mind will also dissociate, or completely detach from the present moment in, again, another effort to protect.

If you’ve ever tried to train a puppy, you’ll know that chastising really doesn’t work. praise does. Gentleness and patience are required. It’s the same with the brain. When it wanders off chasing butterflies, even if it’s been a whole DAY of dissociating, notice. Whenever you finally notice, notice. Then name your present surroundings. Name what you are doing.

If you’re deep in dissociation, maybe set an alarm – every hour, if need be. When the alarm goes off, just check in. Where am I, What are my surroundings, what have I been doing?  Notice, don’t beat yourself up – save your strength for the real fight…

other types of grounding:

Emotional (or “mental”) grounding.  What am I feeling? Does the feeling have a place it’s living in my body? does it have a shape or a color? (note: VERY important – do NOT ask “why” you are feeling something. The rational mind would like to label and understand every feeling, but with ptsd it is vital simply to allow the emotional mind to be heard and recognized without needing to rationalize it. This is how the emotional mind will heal – and this is how ptsd will eventually understand that it is safe now, it doesn’t need to “warn” or “protect” us any more!)

Scan the body during emotional/ mental grounding. Name how you feel inside. If it feels safe, close eyes.

And the last technique: “safety” grounding.  This is coming a little closer to dissociation, so use with caution and keep checking in to make sure you’re in the present moment, in the room, in your body.

Safety grounding: What is my favorite color? really picture it. What is my favorite animal – is there a specific pet?  Who is my favorite person? What is my favorite place, and what is it like? Imagine details.

This is a great way to feel safe again, but do make sure to stay present.

There have been times during the day when I will say “Ok, enough. I want to bury this again; I lived with it for years, I know how to hide and bury it. I don’t want to walk this ‘warriors’ path’ of fire any more. I don’t want to heal this.”

But I look into the eyes of my friends, loved ones, parents, and I know I have to keep going – because if I don’t heal this, I’ll cruise along just fine and then there will be another storm. An argument I can’t handle, that makes me want to abandon everyone; a fear-attack that leaves me shaking and crying, inexplicable onset of worry and lack of safety…

yes, it would be easier to put down my gloves and stop battling to stay present every day and to ride out the painful attacks that are coming because I am actively treating and curing ptsd.

Yes, it would be easier for me.

But I’ve got to push through one more round. Because of the people I love – because they deserve to know me without this creature who is inhabiting my bones right now, who tells me to fear.
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Also, beyond and underneath that, because I deserve it. I deserve every second of life I get to have – and I deserve it without shaking hands, without heart-stopping fear, without insomnia, without anxiety, and without self-sabotaging, hiding, isolating, dissociating or “checking out” so I’m not really experiencing my own life. I deserve to experience my own life and to really be here for it!  We all do.

i deserve to relish this life. Every day, I live in the gratitude that the moments of reveling are stretching to hours, that beautiful adventures have come my way the moment I chose to step into the ring, put on my gloves and fight this monster –

You can do it. Go one more round. Just one more.  Ground yourself in the moment, revel in the present moment, in the feeling and complete certainty that you are safe. In this moment, you are safe.

When the fear comes, keep going. Go one more round, and you will be unstoppable.ring

**information in this article is from the (work)book Seeking Safety by Lisa M. Najavits

It’s Launch Day! Drawn In by Sioux Trett

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone.  Today I’m thrilled to be hosting a friend who is launching her new book today!

Happy birthday, Drawn In, and congratulations, Sioux!

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I’ve been a beta reader for this book and I must say – it’s a lovely book. I can’t wait to see Sioux’s creation out in the world, (March 17 is the date!) and I know people will love her characters as much as I do.

So – without further ado, here’s Sioux!

1. Hi Sioux! I’m going to jump right in with questions.
Do you have a special writing ritual to get you into the world of your story?

Ooo interesting! I think maybe I should more than I do, I think it would helpful to adopt one as I move deeper into sequel-writing! But I do find it helpful to have a quiet environment. I know a lot of writers thrive on creating a soundtrack and having music to write to, but that is definitely not me. My scenes always start as dialogue, and I have to be able to listen to the characters. A cup of tea doesn’t hurt either.]

2. Tell us … are there any major changes in your book from the VERY FIRST version? And how do you feel about those changes?

So very many changes… so so so many. In the very first version I started in the wrong place, I focused on the wrong elements, I had an interesting premise, but very little plot. So I gave it some time to gel, and I passed it through lots of beta readers’ hands, shelved it for a while… it’s been through the wringer. After many re-writes, it’s finally in a place where I’m happy with it, and I’m so proud of the changes that have happened. I think it’s come a long way, and I’m excited to share the final product with the world!
3. Any advice for those of us who are still plugging along on our novels? (I’m deliberately leaving this vague so you can say any old thing that is important to you!) What helped you finally reach completion?

Finishing that first draft is so daunting, it can feel overwhelming at times. I’m diving back into that now with the sequel! But there’s really only one piece of advice that’s worth anything, and that is: Keep Writing. Don’t edit as you go, just write. Get it out, and save that inner critic for the editing phase. What finally made me get to the finishing point for the rough draft was NaNoWriMo, and that’s solely because it forced me out of my head and made me just get the words out. What made me get to the finishing point where I feel I’m ready to publish was hiring an editor for an “outsider’s” perspective, taking those notes, and finally fixing things that I’d been shying away from.

4. Do you have adventures up ahead for your lovable main character, Rennie, do you see an end, or is this ongoing at this point?

The sequel is in the works now, and I know of two novellas that I definitely see happening in Rennie’s world. As far as seeing the end, I’ve known the ending point of her story since I started writing, so I’m just having a great time getting there and I hope that readers will enjoy the journey with me.
5. I love Rennie … she feels like someone I’d love to be friends with. Is she drawn from anyone in life?

Thank you! I’m sure she’d love to hang out with you as well!🙂 Rennie has a lot of me in her… her sense of humor is mine, and her geek tendencies are all mine. People who know me REALLY well can see the similarities, for sure. But she is her own person. She has some deep insecurities that I don’t share, and she shows some real bravery that I’m not sure I would have in her circumstances. I think she’s probably a good mix of me and several of my nieces.

Thank you for joining me today, Sioux – and congratulations! I’m sure everyone will love Rennie and her world, and I’m excited for them to read your book. 

here’s Sioux:

siouxSioux Trett was born and raised in San Luis Obispo, California (the setting of Drawn In). She graduated from college in Oregon, and now makes her home in the beautiful Ozarks. When she’s not writing or reading, she can be found traveling, playing with the cutest puppy on the planet, or obsessing over things like Doctor Who, manicures, and Starbucks. Find more at her blog siouxtrett.wordpress.com.

places to find her book:
Amazon Kindle pre-sale

Goodreads

places to find Sioux:

Blog!
Facebook
Twitter

Coeur-age

The other day, my therapist, Annie, said: “Do you know what ‘courage’ means?”
“Acting in the face of fear?” I faltered.
“It comes from the French – coeur – heart, and Latin: cor. Choosing from the heart in the face of fear. So: good job. You were courageous. You are courageous.”  Deep breath. Relief.

Hey, yeah. I was courageous.

Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves, eh?
And from a TED talk by Brene Brown : “Courage – telling your story…with your whole heart.”
also this:
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
that’s what I’ve got for ya on this lovely wednesday evening.
Courage, friends! Sometimes it is wearing a disguise; it’s dressed like fear. Sometimes it looks like fumbling to speak and saying all the wrong things- but trying anyway. Sometimes it’s simply looking into another person’s eyes, trying to see them, *really* see them, let down your guard, and let them be different than all the ones who hurt you.
Courage. Coeur.

HEART

“YES, LET’S!” Or: When Kyle Cassidy Gave Me a Photo of Myself

First of all,

I gained about ten pounds, just by not living consciously. By feeling like I could eat anything since I boxed so hard about five days a week, not really noticing (except to be very grouchy and unsettled about it) when boxing went down to two days a week. I didn’t accept that boxing, my boxing, the particular boxing I needed which was not drills or punitive, but was joyous, a kind of dance, and also deeply challenging so that I could push myself hard until I got into a beautiful meditative space — MY boxing was gone. I didn’t move on and find something else to fill that need.
I also forgot about eating to feed my body, not my mind.
I developed a kind of inner-kid rebellion about it. There’s definitely a kid in me who wants to eat anything she damned well pleases, and it’s a luxury to her to know she’s in an adult disguise now, so no one can say “no” to her. (I need teach her how to feel good in other ways.)
I chewed things when I was stressed. I chewed when I was avoiding. I chewed things out of rattly plastic bags when I was tired (and really actually needed a nap instead.) I advised my clients about their own compassion and their own habits, and I didn’t notice mine…or when I noticed, I excused. “Well, whatever. I’m tired…it’s just right now.” or, (my favorite excuse) “it’s organic!”
Then, all my health coach training and maggid training and deep work on self-compassion and process and psychology didn’t just fly out the window, it completely imploded in a few hours of utter self-loathing. The battle was still here, and it hit me in the face with its intensity. All of a sudden I *needed*.  I needed reassurance from my boyfriend that he still found me attractive (whaaa??? this goes against everything I’ve spent years saying, about finding strength, empowerment and complete wholeness within ourselves alone.) The more I looked outside myself for words of comfort (which by the way I am blessed in that there were so many friends and a lover so willing to give me those words) the more frantically pulled-apart I felt.  I was coming undone.

This is not a story about ten pounds.

This is a story about being seen.

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A little while ago for my birthday, I did something utterly mad. I asked my Mom to go on a journey with me into the desert to take photos, because it was my birthday, and she is Pooh to my Tigger- she says “yes, let’s!” to the mad adventures I propose.  Also, she was the most important person that kinda made that day (my original birthday) happen. An artist and person I highly admire just magically happened to be there, taking photos of people, on the very day of my birthday. (I’ll have to write another story about this soon, as I can’t cover it all in this one, I seem to be saying “my birthday” a lot.)

This was a meaningful birthday to me – an important number. When I was a little girl, I said to myself, “When I reach THAT number, I’ll know what my life is for.”

So I felt like it needed to be marked. I had thought of getting a tattoo…but somehow, that wasn’t it.

No: I needed to be seen. seen as I am in the world. For a moment, completely just myself with no fears and no hiding.

I didn’t know that was what I needed. I thought I was creating illustrations and covers and things for my books, both to motivate me to work harder and faster, and to bring some joy and play into the book-creating process (which can be a very lonely process.)

Someone I showed these photos to asked me “Does it bother you at all, that your body can be seen, that it could be on the internet?”

“No,” I said, “Because this wasn’t a case of me being nude in some play, feeling weird about it but doing it anyway for pay. I’ve felt terrible in that situation because I was changing my own body to be more what people ‘wanted to see.’
When I saw this dress, chose it and put it on, I felt incredible. I felt for once completely at home in my body. This is on my terms. There is no shame here – there I am, with no hiding, no pretensions, nothing to lift me up, pad me out, make me look more like society would choose (but I wouldn’t), there I am on my own terms in my own skin and feeling more comfortable than I have ever felt.”

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I don’t know if these photos will be reported or taken down or criticized or lewdly remarked on…I don’t know, and I don’t care.

I felt so safe at Kate’s house. I felt seen, heard, and most of all, accepted for exactly who I am. I have never felt so un-judged in my life. I have never felt so free of anyone *wanting* anything from me. Even though no one knew me, I felt welcome … I have never felt this way since I was a little kid, when it was natural.

Remember that? How you’d walk over to join the game, and someone would simply shift over to make room for you? How little kids see other little kids and just … play? At very young ages before society has begun to make kids question whether they’ll be accepted, there is an unspoken and totally unconscious understanding.

It’s very matter-of-fact. It doesn’t seek to bind, hold, cajole or tell anyone who they should be. It simply accepts. Yes, play with us. You are seen here. You also get to change the story, since you’re here.

When I was in England, we played a theater game at RADA called “Yes, Let’s!”  It was simply this: someone would call out anything (within common sense safety rules, of course, keeping it innocent, as adults need those)
such as “Let’s all go pick up the umbrellas!” Then everyone would shout “YES, LET’S!” and we’d all follow suit with the greatest enthusiasm.  At first it was awkward; we were self-conscious and laughing…very quickly, it awakened the most beautiful, unbridled joy.  This was not an exercise of “following” or mob mentality ..this was an exercise of acceptance, of play, and of the beautiful thing that happens when you know if you call out “Let’s go look for the Wizard!” everyone will yell, “YES, LET’S” and they’ll bloody go look for that Wizard. With you.

Kate has a gift. First of all, she gathers people around her who have their own dreams.  Even those (like me) who somehow got a little lost on the way to their fairyland…who lost confidence, or started talking to themselves in stern ways, saying things like “You should grow up.”
She gathers dreamers. She enters into their fairyland and she makes it brighter. If they’ve lost theirs, she shares her own. “Look!” she always seems to be saying, “Isn’t this wonderful! Isn’t it beautiful!”

I had dampened my joy in many ways. I had become “practical,” (well, for me-) I had even stopped creating my Jules Verne bathroom – it sits there incomplete, hastily hung with paintings of Venice, without its porthole and giant cephalopod tentacle mural. I had shelved all ideas for creating my own beautiful, whimsical kingdom – just let them dwindle away in the focus on Making Income.

Truly, I didn’t know it, but my birthday found me in sad need of shining-up and repair.

Kate’s Place and Kyle Cassidy’s photos crashed through my inner ceiling which was getting lower and lower…

So here’s the thing I have been fumbling to say since then: (well, ONE of the things)

We all really just need to be seen.
Not really by anyone else: by ourselves.
We also need to be Accepted. and ditto.

Not many people have a Kate and a Kyle (and a Ryan and a Michael and a Doriot and a Judy and a Robin…I see you all, and you all Matter…)
So I want to help people do this on their own. We CAN do this on our own. It just takes a bit of waking up.

Standing there in my body that had put on ten pounds, feeling like it was just time I felt good about myself, really good about myself,

I wasn’t conscious of wanting to feel that way. I simply was that way. I was seen, I was safe, I was comfortable, I was completely me, shyness and all – because we aren’t just made up of the parts of ourselves that are Brave; we are also the things that hide, the wild creatures that peek out from behind trees with curiosity and a kind of wild, shy joy- we are the awkward parts, we are the angry parts, we are the wounded parts —

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We are ALL of those things. And if, for even one moment, ALL of those things can come sit in a circle together, just moving aside to let everybody in, and ALL of those things in us can be seen, can count, can be invited to make up part of the game, and all the other things can embrace each one,

then every single bit of ourselves, for once, can join in a joyous shout of “YES, LET’S!”

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all photos by Kyle Cassidy (www.kylecassidy.com)
settings by Kate McKinnon (check out her incredible jewelry. she’s a magic maker)