Happy Thanksgiving, fellow U.S. dwellers! (Everyone else, I hope you had or are having a nice day.)
I feel off-kilter at the moment because my family isn’t celebrating until tomorrow due to the work schedules of some of us. That said, to preserve the day as it was intended when it became a national holiday, I’m taking a few minutes to be publicly grateful.
I am strangely grateful to my most recent job for putting my back against the wall on a (nearly) daily basis, thereby forcing me to locate my metaphorical backbone and put it to use. Also, it is pushing me to my edge in mindfulness and compassion practice, making me face my shadow, and acting as a catalyst for further clarifying what I truly want to do with my life, little by little. It’s not pleasant, but sometimes the teachings we need aren’t.
I am grateful for family and friends, and for my co-workers-who-have-become-friends, without whom my life would feel empty.
I am grateful to have a warm home, a “just right” bed to sleep in, and that all my other basic needs met.
I am grateful for every beautiful and/or interesting thing I capture with my camera, for the power in all the arts, and that the arts persist, that people still hear the call to create and make those creations available.
There are so many things I am grateful for, this is just a taste.
Now, time to get offline and sink into the restfulness afforded by a long weekend, something else for which I’m grateful!
Today, I found myself focusing my little point and shoot (still no macro lens for the fancypants camera, and won’t be until I’m again gainfully employed) on the extremely small (the bee), the discarded (the feather, the leaf), the utterly common (grass), and the unloved (the slug).
I seem to gravitate toward these sorts of things, the sort that people overlook or find, in one way or another, undesirable and/or unlovable. I have quite a few pictures of weeds in my photo files, because they were visually interesting: quite graceful in line, or flowering, even dried out, dead, or wilted. I spent some time photographing the slug this morning, studying the way the light hit it (love how said light hits its antennae), and how its body seemed to flow. Most people I know would have plunged it to its drawn out and painful death in a bowl of salt. Earlier in my life, having been taught to do so, I would have, too, but not now. Having spent time with it, I sort of feel a kinship with the slug.
Maybe my artist’s statement should hearken to the Statue of Liberty: give me your tiny, your discarded, your utterly common, and your unloved ones, and I will show you simple beauty.
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Semisonic, “Closing Time”
The end came June 24th, under an extremely blue sky, lit beautifully, with perfect cotton clouds scattered throughout. My boss entered the final stages of retiring and closing his law office, and he no longer needed me, as he will only be seeing a few clients by appointment to tie up loose ends and will begin the process of moving his things and over 25 years of files out of the office.
I received a grand send-off, with gifts and a few tears. As endings go, it went well.
The first thing I did was take my cameras out for a spin in that magical light–my point-and-shoot for macros, like the one above, and Canon Rebel XS for everything else. (I don’t have a macro lens for the Rebel yet.) It seemed like an auspicious way to begin again.
After all, I’ve wanted a clean break and a new beginning for quite a while.
Now that it’s here, though, it’s nothing like I expected.
For a variety of reasons, it became clear that my original plan, what I’d hoped to make happen, wasn’t and isn’t going to work for me right now. Plan B didn’t and doesn’t feel quite right, either.
I’m back at square one, which is a terrifying place to be because I feel like I should have more figured out by now about where I want to go and what I want to do and how to make those two things happen. The local unemployment office is breathing down my neck, repeating these sentiments, along with a few family members and other outsiders looking in. At the same time, though, there’s so much possibility, even though I may not see it right now.
Things end, and new things begin. Confusion happens. Plans fall through. Sometimes we don’t want what we thought we did, or the timing isn’t right. Sometimes we don’t have immediate answers. Sometimes we need to take some time to just get quiet. These things are natural, and okay, I think, despite what some may say.
So, right now, I’m concentrating my efforts on making time and space to go back to the drawing board, on writing and photography (likely to help with the efforts at the drawing board), and on trying to avoid sinking into the darkest of my fears.
“Square one, my slate is clear…Took a long time to get back here.” – Tom Petty, “Square One”
Fear and anxiety have been coiling tightly in my belly, my whole being recently. Change is afoot, speeding toward me (set to arrive the 24th of this month), and what lies beyond the change is, at least in large part, unknown. I tell myself it’s a field full of possibility in my more lucid, centered moments. But the fear of the myriad of unknown details, the anxiety of knowing it’s coming, and feeling–despite years waiting for this very thing–like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming big rig, have had me tensing up…Tensing up and feeling angry with myself for feeling scared and anxious.
There has been, as morning pages and pre-bed mental dumps into my paper journal over the past few days reflect, a lot of not-so-nice self-talk going around and around in my mind. I mean, really, what kind of sense does it make to direct anger at yourself for feeling scared and anxious? It doesn’t. It only furthers the suffering.
Also today, it really hit home how much I’ve cut myself off from people. I knew when I arrived back here from university graduation that I didn’t want to stay, so, as the years have gone along, I’ve isolated more and more, keeping people at arm’s length, trying not to put down roots so that it would be easier to leave. Unfortunately, I discovered I have put down roots, and, on top of that, I’ve been increasingly lonely. I can be so good at fooling myself sometimes.
With the internal upheaval around endings and new beginnings on the horizon, a new life for myself needing to be born in the near future, I decided that this evening’s yoga practice would be this YogaGlo class by Elena Brower.
I didn’t know quite what I was getting myself into, but I am so, so thankful for that 45 minute practice session.
I’ve heard of people dissolving into tears during their yoga practice. I’ve sniffled a little a few times myself, but this evening brought a flood of the cleansing variety. The main focus of the class was softening the belly and allowing for possibility. When the tears started, I felt all the gut-level tension start dissolving. Those knots from the fear and anxiety came untied. I saw how downright cruel I’ve been to myself, not just recently, but across decades…Never satisfied with what I’ve accomplished, always angry at myself for not being better or doing more and doing it better.
No wonder I am so scared! When anger at self, and, though it pains me to say, little pockets of self-hatred, along with the resultant self-doubt, are taking up so much mental and spiritual space, how can you believe yourself capable of making your dreams reality?
The short answer? You can’t. Or, at least, I haven’t been able to.
This is what makes all the good advice in the world useless, all the support from friends and family seem like it’s not enough. This is what keeps me standing still. It’s nothing outside of me stopping me. It’s just me, standing in my own way because I tense up in every way possible, because that anger at myself, that self-hatred and self-doubt, formed a Fort Knox-worthy vault around my heart, locked down so tightly that even faith in the Divine, self-trust, self-acceptance, and self-love couldn’t really get in in measurable, effective quantities. It happened so gradually over the past few years, that I didn’t notice exactly how closed-down I had become.
Something about this evening, something about the quality of the light coming in my window, something about that particular combination of yoga poses, breath work, and the soothing words and tone of the teacher blasted a hole in the side of that vault. Tears came rushing out. Love and acceptance began flowing in. It’s true, what Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said in one of my favorite quotes: “Do your practice, and all is coming.” I’ve been practicing, but what came wasn’t quite what I expected. It was what I needed.
I’ve got a-ways to go, but the opening is there if I’ll let it stay. I want to let it stay, but that’s going to take lots and lots of practice and probably relapses. But I can’t give up this time. I’ve had a taste of feeling okay, of feeling enough, like, hey, yeah, I really can have that life that calls to me without the self-flagellation. I want more than a taste.
Here’s to softening and opening to possibility, dipping my toe back into opening up to other people, and many, many more evenings spent figuratively “hugging it out” with myself on the yoga mat.