This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Who Knew Taming Could Be So Fun?

I've been settled this year in the way the once "wild" West was settled.  The tracts of untamed prairie and forest within me have had roads cut through and little building put up.  A few acres have been cleared and where there used to be clumps of conifer, deciduous, fern, vine, and shrub there are now orderly rows of nourishing plants.  In this metaphor fantasy the settlers are not violent.  They have basic needs and do not seek to outgrow their abilities in time and space.  They do not shoot whole herds of animals or feel threatened by the wild calls in the night.

In 2006 or 7 I took on a side job as a brochure designer for a woman who was beginning a life coaching practice.  She had been doing higher education tutoring for some time and wanted to transition to working for herself.  I must have given her some amazing bullshit spin about my experience or abilities because I had no idea how to use the Adobe programs she wanted me to use.  No, I only had a girl friend who did and I begged for her advice and tutelage.

I met with this budding life coach a few times in her North-side apartment.  She literally had zero pieces of furniture.  She had a shoe rack, a big and heavy hula hoop, copious amounts of plant life, tea strainers, and a Mac with a huge screen and a semi-vertical keyboard contraption to help her troubled wrists.  I found this job, as I found most everything at the time, through Craigslist.  A week after I met this woman for the first time two of my day-job co-workers were sniggering together during lunch at an ad which specified it was for a personal assistant to do some design, editing, and miscellaneous work "including peeling, slicing, and steaming carrots."  That was my lady.  I had answered that very ad.  For some reason I didn't tell them that.  For some reason I was embarrassed to be associated with a persona they were giggling about.

One thing this lady did was to draw her "parts."  She drew human stick figures with emotive postures and faces, furry looking animal blobs, quick doodles on small squares of paper that she then labeled with a word or two. "Sad." "Impatient." "Goofy."  The practice of singling out the various emotional energies within her as a means to process her feelings and actions has an immense impact on me.  I immediately began thinking about my own parts and mentally labeling them.  That same year, or the following, I was in therapy, talking about my parts.  I remember that therapist fondly and love to think that she found me fascinating and brilliant.  She introduced me to the author J. Ruth Gendler.  In The Book of Qualities Gendler lays out regular feelings as everyday characters and gives the characters common practices, likes, favorite articles of clothing or dances.  She starts with the wind, an emotional concept I have loved since the first second I laid eyes on it.

I have continued to practice noticing the varying parts of me and what they'r doing as a means to understand my feelings and reactions. Over the years some of these parts have taken on a story line all their own.  One of my most potent qualities is the one I've come to call Frustr.  Here is a pastels drawing of Frustr that I did over a year ago when I was feeling particularly stuck.  She has no arms.  She is not in the flow.

I've gotten more and more fluent in naming what's going on with me as I've practiced this game over the years.  Another character, prevalent enough to warrant a name, received one recently.  She is called Pippi Snotstockings and she's a challenging, spritely, wench.  You know how Tinkerbell seems all cute and helpful, but is also jealous, possessive, and cruel?  Yep.  Pippi Snotstockings.  She's imperious, petulant, and hawkish.  She's giggling the whole time she's flinging shit in your face, until suddenly she feels bad for doing it.  In a moment of consciousness she sees, picks up and flees, often leaving Guilt, Embarrassment, and Pity to clean up her mess.  

Part of the settling that has occurred within me has led to a long needed sharpening of focus on my actions, how they affect others, and where they come from.  Part of the settling has called into question the degree to which my truths are detailed.  Am I leaving out important bites of my truth because some fear of repercussion or hurting others' feelings makes me think I aught not to share?  How much shame am I wrapping around my own emotions and how can I let that go?

I used to lie like a bandit, like a rug, when I was a youngin'.  At some point I realized that was a dishonorable way to behave, but I don't think I rooted all the way down into me to find out what it meant to be true to myself.  Part of that, I think, came from the reality I found myself in.  The idea of options, in my childhood, was quite limiting.  Here are your choices, A or B.  If you don't like them, you get C: I choose.  If you protest too loudly you get D: go to your room.   I don't blame anyone for this perception of my vistas as a kid.  I know those around me were doing their best, myself included.

It's been almost two years to the day since my arrival in the wild West.  I spent much of the first year freaking the fuck out over the fact that everything was different, absolutely everything.  Really, I should have seen that coming.  (Thanks, Pippi.)  This last year I vowed to start less and finish more.  I think I've done a pretty good job of that.  I'm pretty sure having a baby has helped.  I don't have much time to start anything new once the basics have been taken care of.  The main focus for turning my wilderness into something more manageable is discipline and that is the key word for 2012.  Discipline and fun.  Key words.

I was listening to a friend talk about his addictions the other day.  I asked if he planned to not drink for a specific amount of time, since he had just come off of the first bender in a long time.  He said, "Well, I didn't drink today."  When I didn't respond he said he didn't want to get to "program" for me (meaning AA), but all he could do was take it one day at a time.  The goal today is to not have a beer and we'll wait for tomorrow to see how that goes.  That simple idea was a revelation for me.  Too many times I have told myself I'm going to lose five pounds by X-date, I'm going to exercise every morning for three weeks, I'm going to give up sugar for six weeks, and so on.  It's too much.  Too many beginnings and not enough finishings.

There are two blocks on the road to where I want to be heading.  If I can move them I can continue forward and not only that, I'll be a thousand or two miles down the road once I've found I have really moved the damn things.

I have been fighting a battle with my busy mind and heavy body for two decades.  My stories are so affected by how I feel physically, how flexible I am, how energetic I am, how high I can jump or far I can run on a whim.  I am a child at heart.  I need exercise to help me think properly.  I will always be that excited kid, propping up her arm because it's about to come out of it's socket because ohmigod i have a question!!!  Why? I want to know! What? I screech! WHEEEEEEERRE!!! I am off and running.  Except. I'm not, because ohmigod I'm so tired. Ohmigod I'm so fat.  Ohmigod I'm so SAAAAAAAAAD and it's so far awaaaaaay.  I have to go eat ice cream now because I hate myself and that's all I can think about.  For example.

My most recent therapist (god, I love therapy) used the phrase "core wound" once and it got stuck in my head.  What an apt way to put that, I thought, about the thing, the major life altering thing we all have that has shaped the biggest part of our own insecurities.  Mine has something to do with being loved.  When I was really little I became deeply, unquestionably, sure that I wasn't worth loving if I wasn't doing the correct thing.  And so I lived the first third of my life as though it were a standardized test and I had to get a top score or else I would die. Death by disintegration for sure.      

The other block that needs attention is my writing practice.  There is still a lot of fear to be worked out in this arena.  A lot of long distance looking ahead as a distraction to what I want and need to be doing tonight, right now.  I haven't figured much of it out yet except Just keep doing it.  I know for sure that I can sit and write for hours on end.  I can be totally engaged and time ceases to exist. Writing is the only thing that does that for me.  Time disappears only when I write and that seems like a pretty fucking good indicator.  That has been true always and it must be.

I would not have been able to map out my wilderness and begin taming it if I hadn't come out here, where everything is different.

I'm not sure how to end it now.  It's been a long day of being busy.  I made applesauce and apple butter.  It took a lot of time.  Salamander has gotten really good at making messes but doesn't yet understand what cleaning them up entails.  I can't believe I haven't written more about that little boy.  I want to be carrying a notebook and jotting things down all the time, but it just doesn't work yet.  He's doing so many things I could prattle on about.  The main thing he does is make me feel like my heart is going to burst several times a day.  Several times a day I hug him and I say, with my teeth clenched, "squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze" and some weird desire in me actually thinks he could pop and it'd be the best thing ever.  I don't know what that's all about, but I bet you other parent readers know what I'm talking about.  Obviously I don't really want to squeeze my kid to death, but I imagine some other joyous magic.  Like he does pop and it's all glittery confetti and it rains down, but we're both still there, our arms up, letting it snow down on us and laughing like crazy people.  Or maybe he pops into a thousand tiny Salamanders and I laugh like a banshee trying to scrabble and collect him all back into one place.  It's fascinating, loving someone so immensely.  It has taught me so much and challenges the narrow limits I thought I had daily.

Writing about him is somewhat dissatisfying unless I can truly capture the feeling of a moment with him.  If I don't have a specific story to tell about us together, then I fall into these pillows of sentences that feel trite and offensive to the amazement he brings up.

People point out his smiling to me a lot.  They exclaim at how much he smiles.  Is it odd for a ten month old to be smiling so much?  Have said strangers looked at me? Do they see that I too am covered in drunken, blissful, idiotically fly catching grins?  Do they see how free he makes me, specifically by binding me to the self I always wanted to be?


a said...

I can't believe I didn't read this until now! Because it's really lovely. I think we struggle with some of the same issues, or at least with issues that are closely enough related in terms of the work that needs to be done surrounding them, and reading your words helps me to clarify my own thoughts. Thank you.

Unknown said...

So great to hear from your "inside" Shana! Really it is. You write beautifully. You inspire me.