Tag Archives: distraction

The True Shape of Things

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I love autumn, and autumn in New England is particularly poignantly beautiful. The leaves, oh the leaves! It’s as though the trees release their passion in one final gasp of ecstasy before their long sleep. The colors stun the senses with their beauty; it’s almost too much to absorb. Yet the trees’ splendor is fleeting. Inexorably, the leaves fall like golden tears, like blazing sparks, and as they fall the greatest power of all is revealed: The true shape of things.

The green and fiery sea of the forest and fields recedes. Lichen-covered rocks bare themselves. Trees stand or lean in bony beauty, gnarled and hollow, smooth and upright, each species clad in its own color and texture, but now the colors are russet and ivory, shades of brown and grey touched with black. Thorns and stems become semi-transparent cover for winter-colored birds and animals.

The bare forest is everything it is and nothing it is not.

I, too, am becoming reduced to my essential self. Confusion, guilt and shame are loosening their hold on me and drifting away, and I make a resting place for them in my writing. I look back in my memory and, for the first time, begin to see the true shape of things. All the words that weighed me down and kept me small, all the gaslighting and controlling, all the lies and distortions, are responding to some miraculous internal seasonal shift and slant of light. I am bursting into triumphant understanding, and then letting go, letting all that does not serve me fall away. My true shape emerges, and it’s strong and clear-seeing and wise. It always was.

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Now I begin to see the true shape of things. Now begins a season without pretense, unencumbered by expectations. Now the lineaments of my feelings lay bare. The landscape of my life becomes stark and uncomplicated, a walk through winter woods where a feather is a feather, a quill a quill and a swatch of fur on a thorn exactly what it is, not more, not less, not something else entirely. I reclaim the dignity of my own perception, intuition and experience.

It does not surprise me that traditionally this is the time of year when the veil between the worlds thins, ghosts walk, legends come to life, ancestors are honored and we acknowledge that which haunts us. I do not fear my ghosts. Indeed, they’re old friends and companions. My bogeymen were flesh and blood concealed beneath dazzling costumes of false power, fearful only as long as their true shape was hidden from me.

Some fear the fading light, endings and truth. Some prefer the riot of distraction and confusion. Some refuse to see or know the true shape of things. My own courage is not strengthened by distraction, no matter how beautiful or seductive. My courage is a thing of unadorned simplicity, spare and clean as bone.

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The leaves fall, ravishing, rapturous. At last, the true shape of things emerges from the blaze, pure and indestructible, and I embrace it like a lover.

Photo by Vanessa von Wieding on Unsplash

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

uncovered, pure, tough, strong, solid, undeniable, tangible, unembellished, unpretentious, honest, genuine, elegant, restrained, understated, clean

 

River of Stone

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

The Glamour of Gaslighting

Glamour: Enchantment, magic (archaic)

Gaslighting is the manipulation or twisting of information. To be a victim of gaslighting is to be an audience at a magic show where the magician carefully and skillfully distracts and controls our attention and perception. Gaslighting seduces us into believing in a particular reality.

It’s all fun and games until the glamour doesn’t match our experience and we try to hold two realities. Trying to hold two realities is like being torn in half. In a very short time we feel forced to choose. If we’re in a primary relationship with a gaslighter, we might choose their reality over ours, because we love them. We trust them. We have a history with them, a commitment. We’re loyal to them.  We need them. They have power in our lives.

Gaslighting is abuse.

Let that sink in for a minute. To be with a gaslighter is to be with an abuser.

Gaslighting can and does kill people.

Some of us are sitting ducks for gaslighters, because we’ve already been trained to doubt our feelings, thoughts, perceptions and memories. We’ve already been shamed for expressing our experience. We’ve already been silenced. We know that we’re damaged, broken, ugly and wrong.

It’s a match made in heaven for a gaslighter.

I use the word glamour because being in the power of a gaslighter is like a magic spell. It’s like a mind-numbing drug. It’s an emotional cancer that gradually saps your strength, your ability to think, your joy and your power. The more you struggle, the more exhausted you become. The harder you try to understand what’s happening, the more confused you are. You fall into a dark pit of madness.

Think I’m exaggerating? Think I’m dramatic?

Well, lucky you. You’ve never been with a gaslighter, then.

Fortunately, there is a cure. There’s a way to take back our power and our lives from a gaslighter.

We have to turn on the lights. We have to twitch aside the curtains, look behind the props, get close enough to see the greasepaint, the wires, the hidden tools and tricks. We have to go through denial, humiliation, pain and loss. We have to consent to see what’s been happening, and then, just like that, it all dissolves and we realize…

It was all just an illusion, a glamour.

We’re not crazy, after all.

It wasn’t love we were getting (no wonder it didn’t feel like love!). It was gaslighting.

Here’s my favorite example of gaslighting:

Two single people, Mary and Bob, age somewhere around 45, embark on a committed, monogamous relationship that will endure for eight (long) years.

Both parties have jobs, families and friends, histories and their own homes and activities. Both are financially independent.

Mary’s all about relationship. She thinks of Bob as her primary priority in terms of time and energy and looks forward to spending time with him. She assumes, without really thinking about it, that he feels the same way. In order to achieve maximum time together, she tweaks her schedule so she has as much time off as possible when Bob does and refrains from making plans during any time they might have together.

Time goes by and Mary and Bob see movies together, go out for modest meals, take walks and drives, go to art shows and concerts and generally enjoy one another’s company, including the occasional overnight.

Bob works long hours at a stressful job, so Mary is understanding of his needs for time alone on the weekends, and she gladly takes responsibility for planning some dates and time together, including sharing costs.

Very gradually, without really noticing, Mary finds she’s the one doing all the work of planning time together, and she notices what feels like resistance. Bob is late. He’s tired. He has to work on days off. He brings work home. He can’t spend a night together because he’ll be late at work.  Or he’ll be going in early for work.  Sometimes he really doesn’t want to go through with weekend plans at all.

This is hurtful and frightening. Mary is deeply invested in the relationship. She doesn’t want to feel the hurt and disappointment that occurs when Bob breaks a date that she’s looked forward to all week. She becomes less interested in making dates, but, ever hopeful, keeps all her free time open in case Bob should suddenly decide he wants to get together.

One day Bob expresses hurt and disappointment about not getting enough attention from Mary.

Mary is devastated. She loves him, but realizes she hasn’t conveyed it properly. She’s mortified and apologetic, and tells Bob (truthfully) that he’s her priority and she’d love to spend more time together. She realizes he’s very sensitive and does everything she can to express love and appreciation for him. She resolves to do better.

Strangely, in spite of what Bob says, he seems less and less available. Mary, knowing how he feels now, tries harder and harder to get it right.

A movie comes out that Mary wants to see. She knows it’s shameful and disloyal, but the idea of taking herself to a movie, sitting where she wants, being in time for the previews and just relaxing is attractive. She doesn’t think Bob would be much interested in the movie anyway, and he hasn’t said a thing about weekend plans. In fact, he hasn’t called her or been in touch all week.

Mary takes herself to the movies and has a great time.

Later, Bob says, “I didn’t say I wasn’t planning on seeing you! Why are you putting words in my mouth?” He’s deeply injured.

Mary’s ashamed. No, he hadn’t said that. She just assumed, since he hadn’t been in touch… Now she can see how hurtful and unfair it was to have assumed. Now she’s wasted an evening she could have spent with Bob. She doesn’t deserve such a good man.

Bob’s heard about that movie and he does want to see it.  He insists Mary go with him, and she does, conciliatory.

It’s the least she can do.

Mary, determined to do no more assuming, now begins to ask from time to time, “Are you planning on seeing me this weekend?”  She’s already learned that trying to make a date doesn’t work, and she knows if she says she wants to see him he’ll feel pressured.

For some reason, this question, like so many others, causes problems. Mary assures Bob she understands if he wants a weekend to himself, that she’s not trying to pressure him, put him on the spot, or make him responsible for the relationship. She just wants to know so she can make plans if he’ll be doing other things.

Grudgingly, Bob answers, “I’m not planning on not seeing you!”

Mary has a panicked moment of feeling crazy the first time she hears this, and every time thereafter. What does Bob mean? She can’t get it to make sense.

So it goes. Fast forward to the inevitable last day Mary sees Bob.

Mary, with the feeling of stepping off a cliff, looks Bob in the eye and says, “Will I see you sometime?”

He shrugs, grimacing.

Mary gets ready to turn on the lights.

“You’re not planning on seeing me again, and you’re not planning on not seeing me again.” She’s word perfect.

Shrug.  Grimace.

“Well,” she says quietly, “I’ll make some good plans for myself, then.”

The lights go up. The curtain comes down. The dazed audience gropes for coats, purses and other belongings. The eight-year-long show is over.

Mary walks out, feeling permanently maimed but free at last, and spends the next three and a half years putting herself back together. It’s the most painful breakup she’s ever had, far worse than her experience of divorce.

The glamour is broken.

For more information on gaslighting:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting

Gaslighting Is a Common Victim-Blaming Abuse Tactic – Here Are 4 Ways to Recognize It in Your Life

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