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Posts Tagged ‘healing’

wake-up

I saw the phrase recently on a t-shirt:  Wake Up.  The t-shirt is part of a fundraising initiative to help bring the message of mindfulness to youth worldwide. Wake up. It’s a powerful phrase, isn’t it?  It can come in gentle, like a loving caregiver whispering their slumbering loved one awake. It can also come in like the bratty sibling who flings open the curtains, jumps on your bed and slams pot lids together until you open your eyes. Either way the phrase perks you up.  You become conscious, alert and engaged with your circumstance. And yet, so often, we live as if we are asleep. We engage in behaviours that numb us out. Not enjoying the sensations that course through us as we experience certain thoughts and feelings, we aim to banish them from our personal domain, only to discover that, over time, we feel less and less until, nothing at all.

I started to really work with the idea of waking up about a month ago when I decided to stop consuming alcohol. There was nothing particularly distressing about my enjoyment of the substance. I would come home at the end of the week, pour myself a drink, and sit down with my loved one to talk about the day.  The ritual was comforting and the taste of the drink was pleasant. But always, in the background, there was a certain disturbance. There was the fear of becoming an alcoholic like my father. There was the knowledge that alcohol contains no nutrients and, therefore, is useless to the body.  What’s more, it is poison to the body. Even more threatening to me was the fact that alcohol converts directly into sugar, a frightening prospect for someone who has diabetes running on both sides of the family.  How much of a risk was I willing to take? Apparently quite a risk.  Week after week I would continue with the behaviour, strengthening the habit.

It wasn’t until I started working with petitions before and after my practice – May I be happy…May I be healthy…May I awaken – that I started to feel deeply unsettled. May I awaken? How awake was I feeling? Practice after practice I would utter the words.  Week after week I would drink, and suddenly I noticed that I wasn’t feeling awake at all!  Alcohol, upon consumption, was dulling my mind.  Now I was getting concerned. Upon reflection, as I drank, I would feel more and more as I did when I was overtaken by depression.  My mental faculties were clouded.  I felt as if I existed in a bubble; I could see the world around me but I couldn’t directly connect.  I couldn’t connect with my environment and I couldn’t connect with my loved ones.  I wasn’t really there.  My capacity to corral the energies of thoughts and feelings diminished, so I found myself riding the tumultuous waves of mood swings, and uttering words I would never otherwise speak.  The monkeys had taken over the circus and I was nowhere to be found.

wild-monkey

This week, before class, two of my students were talking about a difficult situation.  One student said, “It’s enough to make you want to drink.  Just make it aaaaaaaall go away.”  I’m not sure what my face did, but it elicited a response, “What?  What are we supposed to do?  Just skip tra la la down the road all happy all the time?!”

No. Not in the least. But the invitation is to wake up. To wake up to the searing sharpness of life. To the pain and the ugliness. To the things that scare the shit out of us. To the things that confuse and distress us. To the things we’d much rather go blind to.  Why? Because, as Bessel Van Der Kolk writes in his book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma:

While numbing (or compensatory sensation seeking) may make life tolerable, the price you pay is that you lose awareness of what is going on inside your body and, with that, the sense of being full, sensually alive.

We cannot pick and choose our numbness.  We cannot say, “Oh, hey, I can’t stand the sensation of anger so, you know, block that out but keep the rest.”  No.  If we make the decision to go to sleep, we go…to…sleep!  

A year ago, at this precise time, I was standing in the Critical Care Unit as my step mother-in-law lay dying. That time is burned in my mind as one of the most agonizing, profound and beautiful times of my life. Nothing will call you to awaken like death. We need that contrast, the complete extinguishment of vitality, movement, connection, uniqueness to show us what it means to be alive and to live. 

I don’t know about you but I want to live! And if living means I have to endure the sharp pains and the distressing bits, well, I will buy the whole package, because it’s all precious and beautiful in some way or other, even if we can’t see it right now.

I won’t be the sibling who tears back the curtains and scares you awake.  Life will deliver enough of those messengers to you and to all of us.  Instead, I will be the soft whisper:  Wake up, friend. Come.  See? Look at all that’s out there.  Isn’t it grand? As my dear friend reminded me once, “We’re a long time dead.”  Come.  Live with me.

*raising my jar of tea* May I awaken.  May you awaken.  May all living beings awaken.

May we be free!  🙂

All my love,

Tabitha

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Dog-Bite1

I’ve been paying close attention to sarcasm lately.  I grew up in a world soaked in sarcasm so it wasn’t something that ever really blipped on my radar; it was commonplace.  Didn’t everyone everywhere throw these cleverly disguised statements around?  No, apparently not.  It took a student of mine to reveal that to me.  There have been times after class when everyone’s together, putting on their coats, and someone throws out a zinger.  Four of five people would be heartily guffawing while one sat looking confused.  In the most beautifully innocent way she revealed, “I don’t get sarcasm.  It goes over my head every time.  I just don’t understand it.”  That one statement gave me pause and invited me to really observe this thing we call sarcasm.

Growing up, my father was a very sarcastic man.  I would watch him throw out statements at my mother that silenced her instantly, made her cringe, and seemed to make her grow smaller.  All the while he laughed and seemed to expand.  The same thing would happen with me.  He would toss out a line that caused him to chuckle but hurt when it landed in my ears.  You see how that can be confusing to a child?  I desperately wanted to please my father, to gain and sustain his attention, so I picked up his habit of sarcasm, met him on common ground, and never gave sarcasm a second thought, except to know that when I used this verbal tool, I felt good.

What I never really solidly considered is that my aim to feel good was making someone else feel bad.  Not until recently, that is.

A short time ago I was wasting precious moments of my life on social media, scrolling through meaningless memes, trying to get to “real” posts written by people I care about, when it became glaringly apparent to me that everything I was reading was dripping with sarcasm.  All of it.  Political posts.  Current event posts.  Memes filled with cute little cartoon characters backing acerbic sentiments.  It was overwhelming.  Sarcasm seemed to be everywhere.  Strangers on the street spoke to one another sarcastically.  Friends would have exchanges over the fence and out came sarcasm.  It seemed inescapable like that clingy, freaky person on the bus who’s decided you’re their best friend.  I felt like I was going nuts!

My vision broadened from there and things became even more real for me.  I noticed two things:  1)  how sarcasm feels when it lands in the body and the psyche, and 2)  how often I used it as a tool.

When I am at the brunt of a sarcastic attack, I feel pummelled.  When I use sarcasm, I mean to pummel.  It is as simple as that.

I’m not sure sarcasm is as innocent as we make it out to be.  I don’t think it warrants cutesy little cartoon characters to back it up.  I think the picture above is far more suitable because sarcasm not only has bark, it has a serious bite.  Although it’s used as humour, I’m not sure the true nature of sarcasm is funny at all.  I think it’s a weapon.  The whole basis of sarcasm, if you look at it honestly, is to strip someone down, to humiliate them, to cause pain.  Sarcasm is a verbal sucker punch.  I know when I use it I’m operating from the lowest, most base part of my person.  I am feeling small and trapped and angry.  I am feeling helpless so I will use what I advertise as my intellect as a way to spin a web, to trap you, to slam you in your tender parts, to make you look stupid so that I can feel good about myself.

There’s nothing funny about that.

I know that when I am sarcastic what I really want to say is, “You’re an asshole/a bitch,” “You’re an imbecile.  In fact, you’re so stupid you won’t even know I’m publicly calling you stupid,” “You are inferior.  I am superior.  I am better than you,” “I feel helpless so I’m going to lash out at you,” and “You made me suffer.  Now I will make you pay by making you suffer.”  Of course, I know saying these things is wrong so I twist things around, I come in through the back door and I use innocent words to hide a vicious ambush.  No canned laughter can mask this underhanded reality.

One statement, “I don’t understand sarcasm,” leads me to a line of inquiry that ensures I will never look at sarcasm the same way again, and I will do my best not to use it.  I have made a commitment to myself to make my use of sarcasm conscious.  It will be a long road.  44 years of use will not end overnight.  What I do know is that every time I use it as a tool, I will feel it land inside of me, it will hurt me the way it hurts the recipient.  And if I can’t say what I mean directly because I know it’s a horrible thing to say, coming through the back door is also not an option – I will work to say nothing at all.

What shadowy parts of yourself have you discovered lately?  Are you willing to sit with it, to work with it, or are you shoving it back into the dark corners?

I wish us all the courage to dig deep, to shine the light into the shadowy corners of our Selves, and to heal.

Blessings,

Tabitha

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regal queen Aggs

This is Aggs. Aggie in full. Agnes in her later years.

I was 18 years old when I separated myself from the Catholic church, the church of my upbringing and my family.  In all honesty, I never resonated with Catholicism as it was presented to me.  I never understood the concept of God, the Supreme Being, as an angry, vengeful, spiteful entity.  Atoning for sins, being born essentially evil, condemning people for coupling and living in love differently from the mainstream, never made any sense to me.  This felt like fear-mongering and I, for one, could find no solace in the teachings.

The day I made the decision to leave and never go back was an unusually sweltering day.  The Catholic school I attended had monthly masses at the local church, so off we went, scratchy woollen uniforms sticking to us, to sit in a super-heated, poorly ventilated building and have “holy” shoved down our throats.  As the mass went on (and on), and the building became hotter and hotter, several students became woozy and started to pass out from being overheated.  Our minds were foggy and our egos were as fresh and shy as our teenage years, so our responses to the priest’s call-out were timid.  This was not up to the priest’s standards so he went on a tirade telling us we would not leave until we responded appropriately.  Over and over and over again he called-out and we responded, louder and louder until we were practically shouting in the name of God, and not in a good way.  That was it for me.  I had no intentions of ever again being bullied by some out-of-his-mind “representative of God”.  There was no peace there for me, so I shot the building the bird as I left and never went back until a few years ago when it was a Christmas present to my mother.  I still don’t feel comfortable there.

I walked out of that building and away from established religion, and walked back towards what had always made sense to me–finding the face of God in nature and in animals.  I could find peace there and peace was what I needed.

Fast forward almost 10 years and you will find me deep in the pit of the belly of the beast–the dark night of the soul.  My grandfather was dying and was moving to and from ICU and the cardiac ward at an astonishing pace.  My 3 1/2 year relationship disintegrated before my eyes and out of the blue, leaving me shocked and breathless.  My cat was diagnosed with cancer.  I was beginning to seriously question my sexuality.  I was unemployed and had no idea what path to take.  A number of friendships hit the rocks and drowned.  And my parents weren’t quite split yet but they were certainly heading there.  To say I was a train wreck would be a gross understatement.  I was unanchored, unhinged and drifting through fields of pain and confusion.  In the midst of all of this, I decided I needed some time and space on my own.  I needed to breathe.  I needed to see if I could drag my bloody stump of a Self back to some sense of peace, so I rented a family friend’s cottage for a week.  I packed my car with every spiritually-based book, every art supply, every tarot card, and every journal I owned and off I went to find my mind and to heal my heart.

What happened instead was that I got sick.  Unbelievably sick.  Out in the middle of nowhere, sitting on a Muskoka chair, staring off into the Bay of Quinte, I felt a scratch in my throat.  The scratch progressed quickly to a throat full of razor blades and a deliriously high fever.  I was beyond miserable; I was wretched.

While I was on my own, the cottage was closely surrounded by other homes.  One of these homes belonged to Russell, an interesting man who always seemed to be picking up and adopting stray animals.  The day of the fever, sitting like a lump on the deck, I happened to glance over at Russell’s and saw a tiny orange kitten sitting on his deck.  Russell and his wife had gone out so I decided to steal a moment and to say hello to this creature; I needed some animal time.  Reaching Russell’s deck, what I saw before me was a perfect mirror for my own Self and it made my stomach drop.  This tiny handful of a creature was a wretched soul as well.

She actually looks better here.

She actually looks better here.

There was green goo coming from her nose and her eyes, she was emaciated, and her ears were full of mites.  She was sneezing. She was coughing.  She was very obviously dying. And my heart hit the dirt when I laid eyes on her.  Her saving grace, I thought, was that Russell had found her.  Knowing how much he loved his animals, I knew he would take good care of her.  I knew he would save her.  I spent a bit of time with this beast and then, feeling like crap again, I turned back towards my cottage and walked away.

Following me, tail high and at a good clip, was this wretched little soul.  I didn’t want her getting comfortable at my location since it wasn’t my place so I marched her straight back to Russell’s.  Again she followed me.  And again.  Three times I attempted to return her to her home and three times she followed me back to the cottage.  By the third time I had had enough.  I gave up, sat down on my chair and stared off into space again, only this time I had a dying orange cat on my lap.  We made quite the pair.

The weather turns quickly on the Bay of Quinte and it wasn’t long before the wind picked up and the afternoon sky began to grow dark with storm clouds.  Russell had yet to return home and this left me in quite the quandary.  Not knowing whether the owners of the cottage allowed animals inside I was reluctant to take this creature in with me, but I certainly couldn’t leave her out in a raging storm.  When the heavens opened up and still there was no sign of her people, Sick Orange Cat came inside.  I laid out for her a bowl of water but no food; again, I didn’t want her to get too comfortable.  I knew she would be going home.

At the height of the storm, when the windows of the cottage were shaking from the force of thunder, I heard Russell’s car crunch up his driveway.  With a sigh of relief, I packed Sickness in close to my chest and made a run for it across the grass.  Soaked, sick and holding this equally soaked and sick bundle, I knocked on Russell’s door and met them with, “Here’s your cat.”  Except, it turns out, she wasn’t theirs.  She was from a barn up the road, a barn I had seen before, packed with pathetic, uncared for, disease-ridden cats.  The sight of them had always broken my heart.  This little stray had shown up on Russell’s porch and out of the goodness of their hearts, they had fed her and had intended on sending her back up the road.  Which is what they did.  Taking her from me, they drove her to the barn, and to certain death.

I can’t say I understand what happened next.  Free from the waif cat, I was in the shower hoping to steam the sickness out of me when I was suddenly rocked by violent waves of the most hideous sounding, gut-wrenching sobs. They took me over and brought me to my knees.  Naked, vulnerable and kneeling on the bottom of the bathtub, with snot running from my nose and hot water streaming over my skin, I begged God, the entity I had not named in nearly a decade, to bring her back to me.  “Please, God,” I cried, “bring her back and I promise you I will do everything I can, I will use every last red cent I have (and I didn’t have many) to either give her a good life or a good death.  Please.  Please bring her back to me.”

No more than a half hour after the shower collapse, I was sitting in my chair, alone and terrified as the storm outside intensified.  It was black as pitch with the wind heaving and beating up against the cottage walls.  In the midst of all this mayhem, I thought I heard a different sound outside the patio door.  I thought I had heard the tiny meow of a cat.  I also thought the fever had made me nuts.  How does one hear a tiny kitten meow when Nature is waging war outside?  I have no idea, but I heard it again and proceeded to walk towards the door.  There she was, Sick Orange Cat, staring at me through the glass, soaked to the bone having run down a country road in the dead of night, during a psychotic thunderstorm, and back to me.

I kept the promise I made to God that day.  For the next 16 years I did everything I could to give this little creature the best possible life, and in the end, I almost used every last red cent I had to give her a good death.  No words can ever explain the connection I had to that cat.  She was more than a cat, more than a companion, more than an animal–she was my pathway back to God and she showed me, without a doubt, that “someone” is always listening and loves me enough to respond.

When I met God, She was wearing a red fur coat, and my life has never been the same.

lounging Aggs 1999

I miss you, Aggs.  Be at peace.

All my love,

Tabitha

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Dragon-91

I had this dream, as a child, that my Grandfather and I were being chased by a fire-breathing dragon around the nursery school I attended.  We were running for our lives through the labyrinthine hallways, narrowly escaping the monster.  With the shadow of the beast reflecting off every wall at every turn, I could hear my Grandfather’s laboured breathing and I knew, in the end, we wouldn’t make it–the monster would win.

As an adult, this is how I’ve led my life, running from one dragon or another, only now the dragon has shifted from the green, scaly beast to invisible entities with names like Shame, Rage, Fear, and Love.  Any “large scale” emotion gets my feet feeling like hot potatoes and, before I know it, I’ve busted out along the road, running and wheezing, although not really sure why.

This past week delivered me to the shores of the poisonous lake of Shame.  Shame of my body.  Shame of womanhood.  Shame of aging.  Shame of sexuality and relationships and body hair and simple everyday thoughts.  Whatever it was that was going on in my life, it seemed to be coated in the corrosive slime of Shame.  I knew it was there, I could feel it in my body:

– rapid pulse

– shallow and quick breathing

– a sense of constriction in my chest

– interrupted sleep

– reduced appetite

– feeling a need to wretch

(Do you know any of these?)

And my mind followed after my body, becoming cloudy, with thoughts trying to move through a thick, pudding-like fog.

Shame.  Although it could have been Fear or Love or anything.

What do you do when you get triggered by large emotions?  Me, like I said, I run.  I run like crazy and I run in all sorts of different ways.  I become obsessed…with ANYTHING.  I feel the need to keep doing, and what I do tends to push my body to an unhealthy edge. I push too hard in the garden.  I push too hard in exercise. I feel it’s utterly necessary to dance, and then I push too hard once again.  I simply push too hard…in my relationships, in my body, in my mind.  All of this in the simple attempt to outrun the beast, the thing I don’t want to face, the thing I am convinced will kill me if I stop for even a moment to look around.

A person cannot run forever.  I, for one, am super tired.  Yesterday, as I was beginning to lose steam and was starting to think, “This thing is going to catch up with me.  I’m doomed,” a new thought entered my mind, “What if I just…stop?”  What would happen if I just stopped running?  If I know, in the long run, I cannot sustain avoidance, that avoidance will ultimately kill any joy and vitality in my life, what’s the risk in stopping?  If I don’t, I will lose everything anyway.

Many schools of martial arts teach that, instead of engaging in a conflicted relationship with an opponent by pulling away, soften the interaction, make connection by stepping towards the threat and into the situation.  Channel the energy inwards. Yesterday my friend emailed me this gem, “Shame only says these things because it fears that you will figure out how truly awesome you are and leave it behind for good.”  Something about that broke my heart.  Nothing likes to be abandoned.  Why, then, do I abandon that part of me, the dragon, that clearly wants to make contact, that is asking for something from me, that is asking for my time and my love?  Why not move inwards and make a connection with the thing I fear the most?

So I stopped.  I put on the brakes and fixed myself to the spot.  And the dragon stopped with me.  Soon I will drum up the courage to turn around, to sit down, and to observe this thing that chases me.  I will give it my time and my attention. Eventually, I hope to approach the beast (perhaps with a yummy slice of pie) and to give it a hug.  This is the woundedness in me that begs to be touched, to be comforted, to be heard, to be healed and there is no one in the world but me who can do this.  And there’s no one in the world who does not have this woundedness within them–we all have it; no one is alone in this experience.

I think we’re given these big emotions as tools to break open our hearts.  How can we shame someone else when we know the crippling pain of shame ourselves?  How can we actively threaten the safety of another when we know abject terror?  How can we not extend love freely when we’ve fully taken love into our own hearts?

So the next time you get the sense that you’re freaking out, that you’re running away from something that is making you uncomfortable, take out this tiny little note that I’ve sent along to you and with you:  This may be the tool, the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.  Stop, breathe, look, love…and offer it pie.

Maybe we’ll both get the chance to see that the dragon just isn’t all that scary.

cutedragon

If you catch sight of me the next time you’re running, screaming, down that road, stop and come grab a seat beside me.  We’ll breathe together.  Maybe we’ll do lunch.  Just know I will be there, that I have been there, and will, no doubt, wind up there again. This learning is forever.  😉

May we be happy.

May we not suffer.

May we know peace.

All my love and blessings,

Tabitha

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manFallingOverSculpture

 

Standing yoga balances–the art of standing on one foot–are known to increase concentration, to strengthen the legs, knees, ankles and feet, to calm the nervous system, and to increase mental focus.  That’s what they’re known for but the reality, as I consistently witness in my classes, can often look like something else.  Nothing seems to get the majority of my students more riled up than standing balance poses.  This is where I most often witness anger, frustration, despair, and “giving up” as bodies teeter, with feet and legs working hard to keep an upright, balanced position.  This is where my students are more likely drop out of practice after only a few short moments by leaving the body and entering the realm of speech.  Instead of doing the pose and experiencing the challenge in the body, they will turn to me and exclaim in wonder at how hard it is, at how they simply can’t do it and don’t understand why; in short, they will run away.  And this is where it all gets interesting.

We humans hate like hell to feel off-kilter.  We don’t like to feel wobbly.  We don’t like to feel out of control.  We don’t like to feel vulnerable, especially when other people are around to witness our struggle.  So why, then, would we take a standing balance pose and purposely put ourselves in a position where we are constantly at risk of falling over?  For precisely the reasons we resist:  to feel wobbly; to feel out of control; to feel vulnerable, especially when other people are around to witness our struggle.  We take these stances and challenge our comfort zones in a contained way so we can learn more about ourselves, so we can understand our chronic responses to feelings we often label as “less than desirable”.  In trying to stand on one foot in a yoga class, we may discover that we get right pissed off when we lose balance and fall over, and this leads to us wanting to give up.  Or we may find out that when we feel vulnerable, we begin to talk…A LOT; we try to escape the feelings in the body by moving into distracting speech.

All of this acts as a signpost to how we behave out in the world.  Life is an endless stream of events that work to throw us off balance.  How many times have you had your day set with all the tasks perfectly spread out and timed, and then the curve ball came crashing in–your car has a flat tire, you get an emergency call about a family member, you wind up in bumper-to-bumper traffic getting nowhere fast?  Disorienting, isn’t it?  Can you come back to balance when things have thrown you for a loop?  Can you maintain your composure and stay calm?  Can you allow your mind and breath to settle before deciding on how to proceed?  Can you take a few breaths?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

I always hear the voices of my teachers when offering standing balances to my students:  Teacher One:  “It’s not about whether you will fall out of balance, it’s about what you do when you get there.”  (Will you try again?)  Teacher 2:  “Ah, not today.”  (Some days it’s just not working.  Some days you need simply to stand still…on both feet.)

Trying to find centre in the midst of the chaos that can erupt when thrown off kilter is an amazing way to break your heart open and to find compassion, both for yourself and for all the others out there who are working to do the same.  So the next time you fall over (and you will), whether it be physically or otherwise (like when you lose your composure and your temper), instead of scolding yourself for failing somehow, offer yourself compassion for your humanity; say to yourself, “Ah, not today.  Today, in this moment, I cannot achieve balance,” and take 3 deep breaths.  See how that one simple thing can change your life.

And when you’re out in the world and you witness someone else losing her balance in some fashion, feel your heart open up.  If you can, offer assistance.  If you can’t offer assistance, perhaps offer compassion in the same way you did for yourself:  “Ah, not today.  Today, in this moment, she cannot achieve balance,” and take 3 deep breaths for her.  And if even that feels like a stretch, because sometimes people, in their loss of balance, can act in ways we just cannot understand or soften towards, just breathe and see how that one simple thing can change the world.

I’ll be seeing you, face-planted, on the mat and on the mat of life.  Maybe, when we lock eyes, we can smile at one another; we won’t be alone.

 

Until then, much love and many blessings,

Tabitha

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th_Pointing_Finger

We humans like very much to point the finger outwards when things in our lives aren’t going exactly as we’d like.

Have you noticed that?

You’re getting fat because your job is stressful and doesn’t allow time for any kind of physical activity.  It has nothing to do with shoving piles of restaurant food in your mouth and driving to the corner store.  No, no!  It’s out….there.

Your relationship busted up because your ex is emotionally stunted and refused to do anything to help the relationship.  It had nothing to do with your sitting, glazed-eyed, in front of the TV for hours playing video games instead of helping a bit with the housework.  No, no!  Again, out…there.

You have no friends.  Nobody calls you or asks you to do things.  You’re so alone.  Of course it has nothing to do with your refusal to reach out to others, or that you’re a compulsively negative, unpleasant human being.  No, no!  Go ahead, guess where.  You’ve got it!  Out….there.

How many of us actually stop and take a cold, hard look at what we’re doing to help create the painful situations in our lives?  How many of us actually have the courage to look truthfully and admit to our contributions when we see them?  Acknowledging that you have a large part to play in your own misery feels like a heart-stopping, stomach-clenching shot in the face with a pail full of cold water, but is has to be done, folks, if any real change can take place in your life.

Go ahead, take a look.

venus_mirror_silver_1

Trust me, it only gets better from here.

My real work began the day the light turned on in my head and I realized that I was an abusive partner.  I was using the circumstances of my life as a (weak) excuse for my horrid behaviour.  I was dealing with my own abuse history.  My Dad was chronically emotionally unavailable.  I suffered from depression.  I thought I might be gay.  Blah, blah, blah.  Admittedly, all very stressful things to contend with, but as an excuse to use my partner as an emotional punching bag?  About as useful as saying, “I shot the guy because I didn’t like the weather.”  There was no valid excuse for my behaviour.  True, I was acting unconsciously up until the time consciousness smacked me in the face.  Then there was no going back.  It was a terrifying and nauseating feeling to realize I had been as abusive as my own abuser, only in a different way, and it was the best thing to ever happen to me.

If, according to you, your life sucks right now, I encourage you to take a deep breath, grab that mirror, sit down and have a hard look at yourself.  What are you doing to contribute to the muck?

Here are some of the muck-stories I’ve heard:

1)  There are no good available wo/men to date.  Really?  Is this true?  Beyond the very easy question of  “Have you put yourself out there,” I encourage you to dig a little deeper.  How available are you?  Are you clear and open to the possibility of love, or are you still hung up on, and bitter about, all the things you believe your ex did to you?  If you’re even a little bit hung up, my friends, you are not yet single and available.  You are still dating the ghost of your past partners.  Break up.  Don’t you think it’s about time?

More interestingly, ask yourself if you stand in this world as a quality partner.  If you were a stranger looking in on you, would you want to date yourself?  Do you have the kind of personality and attitude that draws people in, or repels them?  If you wouldn’t date yourself, you’ve got some work to do.  Become the partner you wish for.  Develop and harbour those qualities within yourself.

2)  I wish I had a friend to hang out with, but no one calls me or asks me to go places.  The friends I do have are all into games; nobody communicates. When was the last time you asked someone out for a coffee, or invited them over to your place just to chat?  Have you initiated contact with someone in your life just to see how they’re doing?  Are you playing games with the people in your life, dropping little emotional bombs on their doorsteps and then running away?  Are you communicating with your friends? Honestly, are you?

As you did before, ask yourself if you would have yourself as a friend.  Are you the kind of person others would like to befriend?  Are you warm, approachable and engaging?  Do people feel safe and energized in your presence?  Are you able to reach out, to communicate, to give?  If not, and again, you have some work to do.

3)  I can’t stand drama, but I have so much of it in my life.  🙂  Do you really hate drama?  I mean REALLY?  I used to have a good deal of drama in my life, although I lamented that I couldn’t stand it.  It took some doing, some gluing myself to the spot until I could see that I sucked drama towards me just as powerfully as my lungs suck air.  I used drama as an excuse, as a cover-up. I used drama to hide my fear of doing the work I wanted to be doing.  I used it as a way to avoid the painful reality that I was dissatisfied with the quality of the relationships in my life.  I created a whirlwind of drama when I felt bored or stagnated in my life instead of creating art.  I used it as an antidote to depression instead of working to figure out the root cause of my depression.  I used drama like a drug to anaesthetize myself, to numb me out so I didn’t have to actually make any changes in my life.

So, from one who has been there, I ask:  For what purpose are you using drama?  I’ll bet the farm that you’re at the centre of that maelstrom, conjuring up the forces to keep you from seeing something you don’t really want to see, or to get in the way of your doing something constructive about an uncomfortable situation.

mickey2

What are you avoiding?

4)  My life would be so much better if…  Would it?  If you sincerely looked into yourself right now, is your internal environment receptive, even slightly, to things that are good, or are you committed to seeing nothing but the dark side of life?  Because, let me tell you, if you are hanging strong to the idea that the glass is perpetually half empty, there could be a conga line of good fortune parading in front of you, and you will smack it away as if it was an annoying insect.

Try this instead:  My life would be so much better if I realized how good my life is right now.  My life would be so much better if I realized how much I actually have.  My life would be so much better if I learned how to say thank you for simple wonders and small mercies.  My life would be so much better if I realized I’m here because of the decisions I’ve made so, if I don’t like it, I can choose differently and create change.  My life would be so much better if I allowed my life to be so much better.

Shadow-reflections

It hurts to take an honest look at yourself, to see where and how you create your own misery, but it’s the only way to freedom.  To skitter around trying to change external circumstances, things over which you have no control, is positively futile and will only lead to exhaustion and collapse.  You cannot change the world; you are not that powerful.  And the world owes you nothing.  But you can change yourself, and maybe you owe yourself a little bit of peace.  The only way to do that is to look deep into the looking glass and to fall in.  There is magic in that space and your world will never again be the same.  You wanted change, right?

Now, dive.

Believing in your ability to float,

Tabitha

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Venus of Willendorf

Venus of Willendorf

It was a scene all too familiar–me standing in a changeroom, fluorescent lights casting shadows in a most unappealing way, cringing at the sight of myself in the lilac-coloured t-shirt I was trying on.  I could see rolls.  I could see belly.  I could see that I was no longer 16.  I heaved a deep sigh and decided that I looked too grotesque in the t-shirt and needed to put it away.

The sales associate, an attractive, funky, fuller-figured woman asked me how it went.  I could hear the whining in my voice as I explained how I couldn’t possibly purchase the t-shirt.  “I understand, hon,” she said.  “You’re having one of those days.  You’re feeling depressed so nothing looks good.”

“No,” I replied, “I’m not depressed.  I’m coming to terms with the fact that my body is not 16 any more and I’m having a hard time with it.”

“HONEY,” she said, loudly, “I’m 44!”  And she spread her arms wide for all to see.

Damn, she looked good in her loose royal blue top, black leggings and high boots.  There were curves there, and wrinkles, and, no doubt, her boobs would sneak down towards her waistline if she let them out of their sling, but she wore it all very well.  She wore it with pride even though, as she confessed, she wasn’t feeling so hot about herself that day either.

Why do we, as women over 40, do this to ourselves?

Then I saw this trailer and it explained so much:

Middle-aged women really are invisible, aren’t we?  TV is stocked with ads focusing on cute little baby girls, young women obsessed with buying the “right” tampon, and women over 50 who are smiling joyfully because their diapers held up when they pissed themselves in public, or they didn’t hoark their dentures into the birthday cake, thank you Poligrip!  So where are we, the perimenopausal queens?

Oh, we’re there and we’re horrifying.  Actresses whom I admired when I was a teenager, women not much older than I, are still showing themselves on the pages of magazines and on TV screens, but they’ve mangled themselves, all in the name of beauty and youthfulness.  Blindingly white porcelain veneers, facial skin stretched tight like plastic wrap, lips Botoxed into life preserver status, and boobs packed full of things that just can’t be good for you.  Yes, we, the middle-aged women, are the Frankenwomen, hacking ourselves to shreds so that we can go back in time, back to that 16 year old body.

Hate to tell ya, ladies, but it ain’t gonna happen.  No amount of mangling yourself will ever make you 16 again.  (I know.  That’s a hard one to take.)

So then, again, why do we do it?  I think it’s to be seen, to have a presence in this world, to be acknowledged again.  I understand that.  It’s horrible to feel like you don’t exist, like you could run down the street naked and on fire, and no one would see you.  Feeling like a non-entity is a certain kind of torture, yes, but attempting to make your mark by playing into a demented, youth-oriented, culture that sexualizes women, and throws them away when their “worth” expires, is equally as demented.  I say give it up.

Here’s the thing:  We can’t change anyone’s mind about us, but we can change our own minds.  Maybe the world refuses to recognize us but we can recognize ourselves.  We’re never invisible when we can see ourselves.

This morning I had a fantasy about starting a project (I love my fantasy projects.) In this fantasy, I would issue an invite to middle-aged women everywhere to send me pictures of their soft, scarred bellies with rolls.  Bellies that have held (and sometimes lost) babies.  Bellies that have grown and shrunk, and grown and shrunk, from persistent dieting.  Bellies that have undulated with laughter, and have folded in excruciating pain.  Grown woman bellies, the houses of grown woman stories, for the world to see, and if not for the world, then, for ourselves.  I think I would call it The Belly Project.  🙂

Here’s my middle-aged belly:

belly

And how about yours?  Have you looked at yours?  Have you seen it with eyes of love?  Can you dare to?  I pray that, some day, you do.  I pray that, one day, I do too.

With much love from the full-bellied, middle-aged sisterhood,

(Chubby) Tabitha

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You’re gonna carry that weight…”

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