Tag Archives: transformation

Things Falling Away

Photo by Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash

I’ve lately been revisiting David Whyte’s work, including one of his audiobooks titled What to Remember When Waking. He suggests that one might have faith in things falling away.

It caught my attention because usually we speak of faith in what we judge to be positive: Courage, kindness and the sun coming out tomorrow. Having faith in the shadow side of life suggests a deeper wisdom to me.

This coincides with my current personal focus on shame, which I discover (to my chagrin and sorrow) is a burden I carry every day and can’t remember being without. I knew it was there, in the roots of me, but generally speaking I try to hide it and look the other way. I’ve never had any idea how to eliminate it or transform it into something less painful and more effective, so it’s become firmly and almost invisibly established.

Whyte, a magnificent poet, prompted me to think differently about feelings and experiences we typically cast as negatives and try to avoid, ignore, hide or minimize. Have faith in things falling away.

What kind of things fall away?

Leaves in autumn, innocence, comets, people, memories, time, feelings, others beloved by us, and our own lives. Flowers drop their petals. Snakes shed their skins. Seconds and years fall away, one by one. The sea ebbs from the land and then returns. What we can see of the moon wanes and falls away to nothing before it waxes once more. A fertile woman watches each month’s possibility of new life fall away when she is not pregnant. The dark falls away before the light, and the light before the dark. Cell by cell, lash by lash, hair by hair, our bodies fall away during our lifetimes.

Sometimes we fall away from others, or tear ourselves away from jobs, relationships or places.

Some things we are glad to let go of and leave behind us. Other losses are so terrible we feel permanently maimed.

Then there are things like shame that are forced upon us by others, that cripple our joy and our ability to love ourselves. We long to be free of such burdens, to let them fall away, but we don’t know how to do it. Even if we find a way to loosen their grip upon us, we are sometimes unwilling to cast them completely aside, because then we would become strangers to ourselves, strangers in our own lives, and we fear that change more than our familiar suffering.

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Faith in things falling away. Trust and confidence, in other words, in both loss (things we don’t want to lose) and relief (things we do want to shed).

Could it be that the way through shame, longing, fear, anguish and the like is to turn toward it, embrace it, kiss it on the mouth? Is that what must happen before it can fall away? I wonder.

Can we trust in the approaching storm as much as we trust in the sun coming out tomorrow? Can we trust in the unraveling, the fraying, the slow decline, the darkest shadows of our hearts and actions, as well as healing, vigorous new life, and our kindness and compassion?

I suppose what I’m really asking is if we can trust in all of our experience and feeling, whether comfortable or agonizing, in any given moment. Can we trust in change and suspend our judgement about whether it’s good or bad? If our world is burning around us and everything we know or have is falling away to ash, can we have faith in the purification of that terrible loss?

Taking it further, am I willing to have faith in my own frustration, anguish, scars and shame? Am I willing to explore these things, talk with them, allow them to teach me, even love them, and then let them go or transform? Do I possess the courage to let an outdated version of myself fall away while I enlarge my soul?

Inevitably, inexorably, things change and fall away. As human beings, how do we choose to live with that fact? Faith or resistance?

Tonight I will sleep with my worries through dreams dark with soil
and the heaving cataclysm of the spade
turning earth round me
not speaking of air
or light fused with greenness
but of darkness
and the first leaves
like hands in prayer
clasped inside the seed.

— David Whyte, “Inside”

Faith in things falling away. My daily crime.

Photo by Trevor Cole on Unsplash

All content on this site ©2019
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted

Boundaries 3: The Chaos of Transformation?

I’ve been thinking about this week’s blog for a couple of days now.  There’s a lot more to say about boundaries, and maybe someone else can shape the many complex pieces into separate, coherent blogs, but that person isn’t me.  I can sort out a few points, but the rest is just chaos, and that chaos contains all kinds of inflammable issues, such as parenting, corporal punishment, our justice system, religion, sexuality, morals, ethics, rape culture, racism, entitlement and patriarchy.

There’s no doubt in my mind that these are important discussions and ideas for all of us, but the purpose of this blog is not to have a shouting match or explore the different ways we can criticize, judge and belittle one another.

Photo by Andrew Loke on Unsplash

I suspect that most of us agree that boundaries are necessary, but after that point I see potential for endless violent disagreement about how and why we create and manage them.  I do believe it’s safe to say that our understanding of boundaries is heavily influenced by our experience of childhood, by our culture and family, and by technology and media.

I have no answers.  I notice that what I call my boundaries don’t work very well at times.  I notice the conflict between what works for me, what others expect and what I’ve been taught.  I notice a generation gap around boundaries.  My 20-something sons see the whole issue differently than I do.  I think some of this is due to differences in our relationships to technology, but I don’t know how much.

I also notice that a lot of my boundaries are around fear.  As a single woman, I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of being hooked into GPS and map information via technology.  It doesn’t feel safe to me.  Likewise, I’m uncomfortable discussing my spirituality, my parenting beliefs, my political beliefs, my dietary choices and the color of my underwear.  I’m not ashamed of who I am—I’m afraid of being victimized.  I don’t want to deal with mean people, hateful people or dangerous people.  I don’t want to attract the attention of a psychopath or a sociopath.  I don’t want to lose connections and relationships over something like religion.

Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash

Then there’s the part of me that simply isn’t interested in what I call oversharing.  I mind my own business—why can’t everyone else mind theirs?

On the other hand, surely we have a right to be who we really are.  But where is the line—the boundary, if you will—between that right and violating someone else’s boundary?

A highly topical example of this is the debate over Native American team names in the public school system.  Many Native Americans find this offensive and racist–and say so.  The other side hotly denies they’re racist and cites tradition and their intention to honor the Native American people.  It’s a ding-dong argument.  I’m hurt and offended and this feels racist versus I am not a racist, back and forth, on and on, with both sides becoming further divided with every iteration.  Broken connection, broken relationships, divided communities, hurt and rage are the result.

At bottom, it seems to me these are all boundary issues.  Our boundaries don’t appear to work well.  What do we do about that?

This very morning, I had an interesting discussion with one of my sons about this.  We were talking about privacy in regard to technology, and he suggested that soon we may have to accept the idea of 0% privacy because of our increasing reliance on and use of technology.  Everyone (at least in this country) will be equally exposed and we’ll have to figure out how to live with that exposure as a culture and move on, or we’ll simply self-destruct.  I’d never considered this point of view and I’m fascinated with it, as well as slightly appalled.

Perhaps the chaos around boundaries is present because, as my son suggests, we’re in transformation.  Transformation is inherently chaotic, after all.  Maybe my generation’s ideas and beliefs about boundaries aren’t working because they’re outdated.  Our world, our culture, our understanding of life, technology and science are dynamic, always changing, always correcting and expanding.  Perhaps the world we live in today requires different boundaries and we’re struggling to shape them.

At the risk of sounding like an old granny, however, I think healthy, effective boundaries must contain elements of respect, compassion, authenticity, dignity and kindness, not only for others but also for ourselves.  I think it’s important to remember that boundaries are about ourselves and what works and doesn’t work for us.  It’s not our job to choose boundaries for others.   We may have to defend our boundaries and others will certainly try to violate them, but that’s the only place our power is.

Interestingly, I’m reading a book right now that relates to this.  It’s called Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz.  It’s a great book—well written, funny, intelligent and thought-provoking.  I highly recommend it.  The reason I mention it is that so many of our rules, expectations and yes, boundaries, are based on our beliefs and we have a tendency to make our beliefs universal laws.  We all do this, one way or another.  But take one of your central beliefs, a hot one like politics or diet or religion, one you argue about on Facebook, block and unfriend people for disagreeing with.  Now just imagine, if you can, for one minute, only 60 seconds, that you’re wrong.

Pretty uncomfortable, right?  Now everything changes, including your rules, expectations, stories and, inevitably, your boundaries.

Photo by Alessio Lin on Unsplash

In other words, effective boundaries need to flex and change as we learn and grow.  Otherwise, all we create is a jail cell for ourselves.  We can’t change, we don’t admit new information and we keep ourselves small and rigid.

On the other hand, if we have inadequate boundaries our power is leaking all the time.  We fall prey to all kinds of dysfunctional relationships, our integrity is broken, we fail to take care of ourselves and our lives don’t work very well.

I’ve been talking with people about boundaries lately (in the real world) and reading about them online. If you know of helpful resources around this subject, please share!

 

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

Ready For a Change?

A year and a half ago I left everything I knew and traveled halfway across the continent in a U-Haul to start a new life in Maine.  I’d never even bought a plane ticket for myself before.  I’d never taken a road trip.  I’d never lived anywhere but Colorado.  I’d never been to Maine.  I rented my little house, which I’d never intended to leave, and I’d never been a landlady before.  I had very little money, and in fact had to borrow money to accomplish the transition (which I’ve since paid back).

I was 51 years old.

As you can probably imagine, this decision was not met with enthusiastic support from all sides.

How this impacted my relationships will be a subject for future blogs.  Today I want to answer the question no one quite asked, but everyone wanted to.

WTF?

Photo by SHTTEFAN on Unsplash

It’s complicated, of course.  It always is.  The short version is that I slowly realized I was living a life that didn’t feel like my own.  Nothing fit right.  It was as though I’d been wearing clothes and shoes from someone else’s closet.  My life was a tiny room that got a centimeter smaller every day.  I lost a relationship, the neighborhood diner and my dearest companion.  I woke every morning knowing I would fail, no matter how hard I worked at…everything.  I felt like a character in a play someone else had written and I began to drop my lines.

The most remarkable thing about that time wasn’t that I was having an unusual experience.  I’m certain many of you reading this blog can relate to my experience.  No, what’s remarkable is that few people knew how it really was with me, which was exactly how I wanted it.

Photo by Hailey Kean on Unsplash

I had a beautiful little house that everyone loved.  I had friends.  I had a garden.  I lived in a lovely place that had been home for nearly twenty years.  I was financially independent—as long as nothing unexpected happened.  I had my music, my movies, my books, my early morning walks, my comfortable bed, my dance group, my small luxuries.  I had a good life, and I wasn’t happy.  I was deeply ashamed.  I was also unbelievably, unbearably, terminally lonely.

I began to write more, not with any plan or hope, but because I had to.  Because it was the only thing I really enjoyed.  It was the only time I felt real.  For various reasons I felt unable to seek support for my writing locally, so I went online and connected with other writers.  One of the writers I connected with was a life coach who teaches emotional intelligence.

I decided to work with him, and that’s when it all began to change.

I’m not going to try to sell you on life coaching.  You’re online right now—research for yourself.  There are lots of articles and sites to look at.  I’ll let the coaches sell themselves.  What I want to do is give you reasons not to do it, because if you hire a well-trained, certified, experienced coach and you’re serious about the work your life is going to transform, and an exhausting, bloody, terrifying experience it is.  Creating new life is damned hard work.  Ask any mother.

So here we go.  Don’t do life coaching if:

  • You don’t want things to change, both internally and externally (good luck with not wanting things to change, by the way!).
  • You’re not really willing to invest time and money in yourself.
  • You’re looking for a therapist or prescription medications, or you’re struggling with serious mental illness.
  • You don’t want to take responsibility for your power, life and choices.
  • You don’t want to deal with your feelings.
  • You’re perfectly happy with your current role of victim, martyr, addict, people pleaser, passive aggressive, etc.  (But in that case you might recommend life coaching to someone you’re in relationship with.  Perhaps they could use it!)
  • You don’t want your creative life to blossom.
  • You don’t want to be honest.
  • You don’t want to learn new language, strategies, coping mechanisms and communication skills.
  • You don’t want your relationships at work, in your family and with your friends to become healthier, more honest and more effective.
  • You don’t want to become a more effective and loving parent.
  • You don’t want to cut out of your life the habits, relationships, behaviors and beliefs that are holding you back.

And so how, you ask, has it worked out so far?  The coaching, the move, the new life?

Guess what?  It’s not perfect.  I miss parts of my old life.  But I live with meaning, learning, creativity, humor, curiosity, joy, love and companionship.  I recognize myself.  I like myself.  I feel useful and successful.  I’m learning to be more honest.

The coaching, the move, the new life?

Best thing I ever did.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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