Tag Archives: distraction

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

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

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