Tag Archives: being

River of Stone

Photo by Andrew Montgomery on Unsplash

I often imagine life as a river and myself in a boat of my own making, floating on it. I don’t picture a sailboat, having no experience of one, but a small boat that glides with the current and can be paddled. I don’t imagine a single river, but a vast network, far more than I could ever explore in this lifetime. Sometimes it’s a river of water, sometimes a river of stars. Sometimes it’s a river of green moss that carves a path through thick forest. Sometimes it’s an air-borne river of leaves and feathers and pieces of sky.

Sometimes it’s a river of stone.

The thing about rivers is they take me where they take me. I can paddle and steer, but whatever river I’m on at any given moment is a living thing in itself. I’m not its master and it doesn’t ask me where I want to go.

Of course, I don’t have to surrender to this kind of movement. I can refuse to make a boat in the first place, refuse to learn how, refuse to try. I can take a short cut and buy a premade boat or jump in someone else’s boat. If I do manage to create a boat, I can still make my way to the shore at any point and stop.

I can always throw myself out of the boat, too … but then I’ll never find out where the river is taking me.

I can also fight with the current.

I know a lot about this.

In the last few days, I’ve been floating on a river of stone.

Photo by Tj Holowaychuk on Unsplash

Photo by Paul Van Cotthem on Unsplash

Stone is very, very, v…e…r…y slow. Oh, it moves, in the deep foundations of life. It shifts and compresses, slips, breaks down, heats and cools. It tells an old, old story, whole volumes of which are faded and weathered into illegibility, or hidden so well I know I’ll never read them. Now and then, though, a period of grace arrives in which I inadvertently enter a river of stone and have an opportunity, which I reject, avoid and try to escape, to hear whispers of stone stories.

During these times, others on the river are out of sight and out of hearing. My calls echo back to

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

me off stone canyons and cliffs. If I reach out for another in my sleep, I wake with bloody knuckles. On the river of stone others do not respond. They don’t follow through. They don’t keep their word. My password doesn’t work. I can’t log on. There is no clarification or confirmation. I’m alone, in my little boat, and I feel adrift and forgotten, unseen and unheard, left behind.

The river of stone tells me a story of foundations, of beginnings, of layers of time and events, of family and tribe. My agenda, my insistence on movement and progress, my puny frustration with things not done, makes less impression than a fragile-winged dragonfly that flung itself into the stone’s embrace uncounted aeons ago and flies now forever in the river of stone.

The river of stone is inexorable. It forces me to slow down. It provides me with no distraction and no easy entertainment. Creativity falls into sleep from which I cannot wake it. Those tasks and activities I call “productive” cease. Frantically, I paddle my boat, one side, then the other, until my hands are bloody blistered and my shoulders are a block of pain. All the old demons in my head leap into life, jeering and heckling, joining hands in gleeful celebration, and they have their way with me because I’m trapped in a river of stone.

I accomplish nothing on a list. I write no pages. Plans fall through. I wait too long to walk, and then it rains. Dirty dishes sit on the counter. All I want to do is get lost in an old familiar book–if only I could stay awake long enough!

Then, gradually, frustration, panic and fear exhaust themselves and lie down to rest. I rediscover the beauty of emptiness. I begin to see veins and gems and stardust in the stone around me. I remember the difference between doing and being, and the delicate balance they must maintain. The stone speaks to me of strength, of endurance, of centering and grounding. I give myself to the pause in communication, in creative work, in the forward movement that I crave. I put down the paddle, the oar, and stretch out in the boat and rest, dreaming of stone-lipped wells refilling with spring water, dreaming of a spray of words leaping off waves or trailing behind stars in a river ahead, dreaming of friends whose faces I haven’t yet seen and broken connection repaired.

I doze, rocked in a cradle of stone. I rest, floating on a river of rock. I sink into the slow, deep, stony heartbeat in the center of all things, imagine inhalations and exhalations that last 100,000 years.

Photo by Brent Cox on Unsplash

I surrender to the river of stone, and in doing so I float out of it.

All content on this site ©2017
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted

Pseudo Self

A reader asked me, after my last post, what the difference is between engaging in reciprocity and people pleasing. This is a great question, and it gave me the subject for this week’s blog.

First, I want to answer that question.

Reciprocity minus authenticity equals people pleasing.

If we’re engaged with others authentically, we naturally have things to offer out of our true selves. At its best, reciprocity is a dance between real people with real-person strengths, weaknesses and needs.

People pleasing is an indirect plea for love, acceptance, approval or attention. It’s all about trying to get something back, not about giving out of the abundance of true self. We people pleasers don’t believe we have anything authentic to give that anyone wants, so we watch and listen carefully and try to play a role that we think will please.

The opposition to authenticity is pseudo self. I really explored pseudo self when I went through life coaching ( http://ourdailycrime.com/ready-for-a-change/ ), but a Google search will provide you with the history and background of the term. Wiki has a good page about it.

Essentially, pseudo self is a survival mask that many of us start making as very young children. The construction of pseudo self is so deeply rooted in pain and fear that by the time we’re adults we can no longer tell the difference between the mask and our authentic selves, and the mask has all the power.

This kind of pseudo self is not like the superficial mask we all wear occasionally for social occasions, work occasions and family reunions. For the most part, we know that mask is a mask. Everyone around us wears one, too. Those masks are called manners and social skills (at least in polite conversation).

The survival pseudo self is a much darker mask. Think man in the iron mask. We create it and don it to survive, but over the years it becomes so much a part of us we can’t tell the difference between our flesh and the iron. It tortures us, but we don’t know how to take it off, and if we did know, how could we dare to do it?

Our culture in the United States is deeply committed to keeping that mask firmly in place because our culture is based in capitalism and conditional love, and the foundation of capitalism and conditional love is the belief that we need to be different than we are.  We need to buy things to be. To be what? Fill in the blank. Just to be. What do you want most? Love? Sex? Money? Power? Whatever it is, a half hour of commercial television will help you start a list of the things you need to buy to achieve it. Everything on that list is another rivet in the iron mask of pseudo self.

We are so brainwashed by this as parents, teachers, partners and human beings that we unconsciously perpetuate a paradigm of conditional love. We relate to one another through competition, power over, and all the things we need to be okay. We withhold love, affection, friendship and the “like” button. We’ve created a culture of pseudo self.

Being does not arise out of buying. We’re all born with the power to be. We have access to that power all our lives. Nothing can take it away from us, but we can be trained to surrender it. We are trained to surrender it, and we do.

Many of us are actively taught from childhood to create a pseudo self. Telling little boys not to cry or play with dolls, telling little girls to be “nice,” telling women to sit down and shut up, telling anyone they should say, believe, eat, vote for, wear, be interested in, or want anything is supporting construction of pseudo self.

However, the pseudo self can be challenged. The iron mask can be broken down and removed. There are people who show us the way to authentic self, but it’s a stony path, because it means challenging the foundations of our culture and beliefs. It means challenging a lifetime of behavior and the expectations of others. It means breaking rules, and most people are not tolerant of those who break rules.

The blog I wrote last week is an example of challenging pseudo self. Think about this. I’m a perfectly ordinary middle aged woman living in central Maine. My stats show I have about one hundred readers. Not even half of those readers know me or have ever met me, and I don’t know them. Only one or two readers have actually commented on the blog, and I have seven subscribers, most of whom are not friends or family.

Yet it took every bit of courage I had to post that blog. I broke just about every rule I’ve lived my life by when I did so. I challenged what I was taught about being attractive, being intelligent, being kind, being nice, being a peacemaker, being womanly. All this because I dropped the mask and expressed my frustration, my anger and my passion and used the word “fuck.” Repeatedly. In front of around one hundred people, most of whom are strangers.

I had a sick stomach and crying jags. I felt panicked and anxious. I didn’t sleep well. I haven’t been able to sit still or relax. For three days, I couldn’t even log on and look at stats and so forth, or do any behind-the-scenes work on the blog.

Letting the iron mask of my pseudo self slip was horrifying, but I also noticed a feeling of relief. The rebel in me celebrated. I dared. I allowed myself to be. I wrote the real truth about how I feel. Everything on the blog is written from the heart, but only the civilized half! The last blog came from a different part of me, the strong survivor part, the primal female part, and that’s the best part of who I am. It’s also the least socially acceptable.

I usually feel like a mess. My life often feels like a cluster fuck, to use my favorite expression.  If that’s too much for you, then substitute car crash, train wreck, or something you feel is more appropriate! I try really, really hard in life and my intentions are wonderful, but I’m not perfect. Not a perfect daughter, mother, sister, friend or partner. Not a perfect writer, blogger or anything else. But I am. I’m someone real. I refuse to live the rest of my life in my iron mask.

At the end of the day, when I’m dead and over, I don’t want a wake, a funeral, a party or a nice obituary. I want someone to be able to say:

“Damn, that woman was real!”

For more on pseudo self, check out this link: http://www.becomingwhoyouare.net/true-selffalse-self-part-2-the-false-self/

I’ve also updated my resources page.

All content on this site ©2016
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted

Consent

Last month I posted about our power and ability to say both yes and no to others.  This morning I’m thinking about another level of yes and no; that is the yes and no we say to life.  At this level, the term ‘consent’ is useful.  Consent means to “give permission for something to happen,” according to a 2-second search on Google.

Consent is a huge and complex topic and there’s a great deal of discussion about different aspects of it.  For the purposes of this blog, I’m using consent in the widest sense; the way in which we approach life.

Several interactions this week have made me think about the mysterious difference between people who consent to learn and grow and those who don’t.  When I think about my observations, and people I’ve known, it’s clear to me that the difference between these two kinds of people has nothing to do with age, sex, money, gender, education, employment, intellect or family.  It has nothing to do with the color of your skin or the God(s) you worship, or where on the planet you live, or what kind of horrors you might have endured.

I’m acquainted with a writer who sent me a piece in praise of stubbornness, a quality she admires (as do I) in herself and others because to her it means a determination to survive and do well, regardless of limitations, real and perceived.  (Thank you, A!)  We might mean the same thing by consent and stubbornness, or close to it.  I see the ability to consent to learning and growth, over and over, no matter how many times we’re knocked down and cut off, as a kind of stubbornness—a refusal to give up, to close down, to conform to something that doesn’t work for us.

Without even trying I can identify seven people in my life, past and present, who don’t consent to the experience of life, the flow, the dance, the mystery and uncertainty, the synchronicity and the billions of invitations that arise for exploration, connection, understanding, growing and being.

These folks are easy to spot.  They resist.  They argue with what is.  They deny, distract, fall into various addictions.  They don’t communicate well.  They care about winning, being right and power over.  They have rigid stories and expectations.  Everything that happens to them is a personal insult or a crisis.  They’re victims.  A good, deep question is a grave threat.  To my eyes, they look miserably unhappy.  They repeat the same patterns, over and over, dying a little more with each fruitless repetition.  They do not consent.  They refuse.

Every single one of the seven people I’m thinking of has had opportunities to learn, to grow, to change, to make different choices.  They all had people in their lives who loved them and had information, tools and skills that might have enriched them.  They all had people in their lives who valued them and wanted their contribution.  They each had at least one person in their life who would have done anything to support them in learning and growing, and that person was me.

Most of those relationships are behind me now, because I have this unforgiveable quality of consent.  You might say it’s my daily crime, in fact.  My life now is based on the why, the what if, the whose rule is that, the help me understand that.  My life is about teach me, show me, share with me and what do you think?  My life is about doing more of what works and letting the rest go.  People who refuse and people who consent invariably have friction, because their needs are opposite.  There’s just nowhere meaningful to go.

People who consent are not perfect or perfectly happy people.  On the contrary, their lives have been filled with mess and miscalculations, abuse, addictions and other painful experiences, but they’ve learned from everything and everyone.  People who consent don’t look at their lives with bitterness or frame things as mistakes.  They see teachers, opportunities and fascinating things learned and yet to learn.  People who consent are endlessly curious.  They’re always thinking about what they don’t know and questioning what they think they do know.  They’re always seeking the hidden thing.  They’re more likely to ask questions than proselytize or lay down the law.  They’re not interested in power games or being right or winning.  They seek to understand, to explore, to exercise choice, to manage their own power.  They can laugh at themselves.  They can and do say no, but they say it to protect their integrity and needs, not to shut out or control life.

People who consent choose happiness.  That’s the most important one for me.  I’m still reaching for that.  I’ve always been a person who consents, but I’ve also chosen to stay limited in many important ways.  As I’ve learned to discern between refusal and consent, I see that living life from a state of consent results in joy.  Again, it’s got nothing to do with age, beauty, money, status or any of the things that the culture says we’re defined by.  Joy, at the end of the day, is a simple thing, arising out of being at peace with this wild ride we call life.  Joy is consenting to surrender, consenting to feel and experience, consenting to feeling fear and doing it anyway, consenting to give up trying to control all the things we can’t control.  Joy is composed of tears, blood, loss and disappointment, pain and growth.  We already have it.  It’s here, sitting on your shoulder as you read this and mine as I write.

All we have to do is consent.

All content on this site ©2016
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted