Feeling

I have embarked upon the KonMari method of tidying my home and my life.  And it is a lot of damned work!  To collect all of your things is, in itself, a huge task.  To go through all of them is even more of a struggle.

But it is also a gift.

This morning, I went through all the stacks of paper that have accumulated on my desk as I sought to cleanse the past from my file boxes.  When I initially began this project, I had five stacks of paper:  theology stuff, philosophy stuff, sexuality stuff, resources, and the pile where things I couldn’t decide upon waited for further consideration.  And I fully intended to neatly file the remaining papers, and felt proud that I had accomplished creating a big bag of items to remove from my space.  After I began the art of tidying, and touched every item, and considered whether or not it sparked joy in me, I took those five stacks and narrowed them to about eleven pages, leaving two huge bags that I cannot carry for the trash heap.

Eleven pages.  That is all that sparked joy out of the mounds of items that I had previously thought I must or I wanted or I needed to keep.

The KonMari method is a way of choosing what you love.  And you do this by physically handling every item.  When I first began the process, and began touching each sheet of paper, I thought this would take me years to get through just the items on my desk.  But I was wrong.  I began to know immediately the things that I touched which touched my heart.  I sprinted through the process of cleaning my desk.  It took less than an hour to find the beautiful Wonder Woman covered work surface, and to feel free of all of that paper.

Just touching it let me know whether I loved it or not.  Just the feeling.

I’ve spent most of my life repressing one feeling or another, and in the process became an unfeeling being—untouched by what surrounded me and dissociating from the world and from myself.  Distance from feelings is sort of the norm for a lot of people in my history.  Somehow stoicism and “strength” have been placed in honor and to not show emotion or break down or cry have been ways that people around me approached life.

But that way of approaching life sucks.

Once those walled off places in my being where all the emotions were being stuffed began to crack, a flood of emotion happened.  And with that flood of emotion came care and compassion and love and passion and desire and purpose.  All of those things are good.  But in pushing back the anger or frustration or fear or confusion in my life, I was also making it impossible to wade in the waters of all those beautiful things.  They are all mixed together.  You can’t hide one and hold another.  You either feel or you don’t.

Feeling things can be really difficult at times … especially those times that bring up the anger or frustration or fear or confusion.  But feeling things can also be amazing and awe-inspiring and utterly fabulous!  And understanding that both are natural and normal, and that judgments of “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong” are not helpful or correct, but embracing all of them as a part of the human experience, brings great freedom and joy.

I am finding joy in eleven pages today.  I am finding joy in letting go of what doesn’t help me and embracing that which does.  I am finding joy in accepting that things serve us well for a time, and then we must send them on their way.  I am finding joy in touching and feeling and embracing and releasing.

There is another method that I am reminded of during this process.  Morita therapy is something that my daughter introduced me to, and it has become a great help, which parallels my experience with the KonMari method in some ways.  Morita therapy is based in accepting emotions—recognizing them and honoring them, but not necessarily needing to act upon them.  You feel all of the things, and judge none of them as good or bad, right or wrong, but just let them be.  Then you hold what you wish and release what you don’t wish to hold.  You just let the feelings come and go.  You needn’t act upon them.  So, when you feel anger, it is valid, but you needn’t punch people as a result.  You simply feel the anger, let it be present, and then send it on its way.  When you feel anxiety, or happiness, or fear, or peace, or whatever emotion may be present, you let it be felt and validate its presence, and then choose to act or not to act upon that feeling.  This is a rather simplistic explanation of the method, but explaining more fully would take up too many words and too much of my time.  You can easily find more information on Morita, just Google that shit. (Technology is fabulous sometimes!)

So, I sit at my very clean desk, and I think about feeling.  I think about touching my belongings and how easily I can feel whether a thing brings me joy or not.  And I think about touching my soul, and how it should probably be just as easy to know which emotions and thoughts and actions will bring me joy.  But for some reason it isn’t.

I blame conditioning by a patriarchal heteronormative society.

I blame lots and lots of things on conditioning by a patriarchal heteronormative society.  It deserves to carry that blame. It really screws up a multitude of things.

Somehow “strength” became synonymous with not showing emotion—that stoicism that I mentioned earlier.  And that meant building walls.  And even after they broke and the flood happened I kept trying to rebuild the walls.  Society wanted me to, after all.  Seeing and experiencing someone else’s flood makes your own walls crack a little.  So, avoiding anyone’s emotions seems a safe route to keeping your own walled in.  And when you fight for such a long time to patch walls, it becomes a struggle to do anything but … even when you know the patching is futile and robs you of the ability to fully experience joys and passions and loves.  It becomes a struggle to know yourself and accept your feelings.  It becomes a challenge to keep the walls down.  You keep feeling like you ought to put them back up.  And you feel vulnerable when you are walking around town without walls while all the others around you are locked behind rows and rows of brick and mortar.

But vulnerability is strength.  It brings happiness.  It offers you a more fulfilling life. And it frees you to feel all emotions, and to experience the fullness of humanity.

So, today I am vowing to touch all the things, and to feel everything—every part of my life, both internal and external—and to release what isn’t helping me and to hold what sparks joy.

And it is going to be a lot of damned work!

But it is also going to be a gift.

Impression

 

I was talking with a friend a while back—one who became a friend after a couple of dates and still occasionally gets a “benefit” or two when I’m in the mood, but who doesn’t want to date me any longer. (Which is fine, because I don’t want to date him now either.)   But I asked him what it is that made him certain he didn’t want to date me, and his response was that we didn’t “click”, or that he wasn’t “feeling it”.

Yesterday I had a lovely lunch with a cousin.  He is the cousin I hold most close and have more than a familial pseudo-connection with in the great web of cousins that spreads out across the country (even though we only see one another once every 8 to 10 years).  We talked about how his punch to my shoulder in our childhood, and my calling him out on doing so and not letting him bully me, was somehow the starting point and the bonding moment that glued us together and kept us loving one another throughout the many years since.

It got me thinking about the ways we judge people.  It got me thinking about first impressions.

I have a friend, whom I love, that I had negative impressions of when we first met.  She was often late to class, and she was always behind on assignments.  She often sat alone in a corner and seemed distant and in her own world.  And later I discovered the reasons she was alone and fighting to keep up with things.  She was suffering one of the deepest and most challenging losses one can suffer, and suffering it without the love and care and attention she deserved at that time. Had I let my first impression be the thing that defined her, and not replaced that with something more or deeper, I would have missed out on a wonderful friendship with a beautiful woman.

I had a co-worker that was convinced I was having an affair of some sort with another co-worker.  She was certain that the treatment I received from him was different from that which others received.  She was right that I had connected with that co-worker in ways that others had not, but her first impression—the one that said him liking me better than some others was akin to romantic interest—was completely unfounded.  We just got along well, because we were both honest and supportive, and we had mutual concern for those whom we served at work.  We were a lot alike, and we developed a lasting friendship.  Now I often claim that I wouldn’t be making it through life without him, but we still have no romantic interest in one another.

One day a friend of an ex-lover was over visiting me.  She mentioned something about being jealous of him and his interactions with me.  I said she ought not have been jealous, because I would have enjoyed a similar relationship with her. This led to a lovely evening of eating and drinking and laughing and kissing and spending wonderful moments together.  Had her first impression not been corrected, we might have missed out on that fun night.  That one night was the extent of our flirtation, but it broke down the false impression of me that she had held for years. She finally discovered the queer side of me.

So, today, I remain fascinated by the ways we frame things, and we create identities and scenarios based solely on first impressions.  Our cognitive biases cause us to connect or disconnect based on one moment or characteristic or idea.  And I can’t help but think that this often causes more harm than good.

I don’t want to be known as who I am in only one moment.

We are more complex than can be demonstrated in one moment, or one interaction, or one day. The whole of our identity and the depth of our own scenarios cannot even be grasped by the self without careful consideration, so we shouldn’t conceive identities for others based on a glance or a short and impersonal first interaction.

I dare bet all that I have that each of us has moments that we are not proud of.  I would also dare bet that the moments we would like to have everyone see as the “real” us are not complete representations of who we are.  I think that none of us wants to be considered only from the point of a first impression.  None of us is wholly what we are in one moment.

I had a good friend who saw me at one of my worst moments.  I rarely break in such a deep fissure sort of way in front of people.  I try to hold those moments in until I am alone with a pillow over my face to muffle the sobs and screams.  But once in a while they slip out while in the company of others.  And this particular time that I broke in front of someone, that relationship was immediately and irreparably harmed.  That moment began to color all the other moments—the “better”, clearer, more comfortable moments.  We still wish one another hellos and happy birthdays and the occasional missing yous, but we aren’t close like we once were.  That brokenness became who I was, and that became too much to deal with.  It is a common occurrence, and I never lay any blame on the other person, because I know my pain is too deep and strong and heavy a burden to bear.  I know that I don’t want it on my own shoulders, so I won’t think less of anyone who doesn’t want it placed upon their shoulders. But I sometimes miss those people.  I sometimes wish I hadn’t broken into pieces then and there.  I wish I hadn’t let that impression be.

But I am all of me.

The false impressions are crap.  Stop making people one thing from one moment.  It isn’t helping any of us.  Let people be complex and diverse and dichotomous and incongruent and broken and good and loving and deep and broad and beautiful.  Let them be all that they are.

Let me be all that I am.

I am the same woman when I connect well with someone as I am when I don’t click with another.  I am the same woman when I break as I am when I look like it is all together.  I am the same woman kissing my male ex-lover as I am making out with his female friend.  I am the same woman when I display strength and wisdom as I am when I fall to my knees and break down in desperate sobs and self-loathing.  I’m not one of those moments, but a compilation of all of those moments.  And there are even more parts of me that I have yet to discover and to share.  There will be many more new impressions to make. And I will continue to become.  I will be more.  Let me be so.

The greatest mistake that we make, when we frame our lives and our interactions, is to believe that a moment makes a lifetime, or that a year makes a decade, or that a decade makes a millennium. We are not a moment.  And the way we frame things needs to include the opportunity for continual reframing.  We must not take a single impression and make it the definitive truth about a person or a situation.  We need to leave room for complexity and deeper understanding and change and discovery.  We need to let people have this space to be all and become more.

So, my musings of this morning leave me in a space where I am working to be open to more and more moments, and to reserve judgment, and to not give my initial impression and interpretation more power or weight than it deserves.  My goal is to be and let be.  My goal is to become and let become.

I want to be known for all of my parts and moments and impressions and connections, and I want to know others in that same way.  And that is difficult, because we are so accustomed to framing things in one way, and we are not accustomed to being open and honest, and we are very accustomed to presenting an image that is pleasing to the rest of society rather than letting the whole of who we are show.  So, being known for all my parts and moments means being exceptionally vulnerable.

Being vulnerable is very difficult, but it is a requirement if I want to be known for all that I am.

I said to my cousin yesterday that I have never “come out” as something because I don’t really have a definitive way of expressing what it is I am coming out as.  But today I realize that I need to come out as proudly broken and queer and brilliant and challenged and disabled and strong and beautiful and angry and calm and loud and insufficient and overflowing and amazing and growing and awakened and stubborn and addicted and stressed and fighting and accepting and loving and good.  I need to proudly wear the banner of all of the things I am.  And doing so is a vulnerable act, but one that I am willing to perform.  Because it is worth claiming and calling out these things if the result is being known in all my complexity.

Be all you can be. (Not necessarily in the army, but just in general.) And let others be all that they are.  That is a beautiful thing.  That is a way of connecting to one another that allows us all to grow and have more interactions and more beautiful interactions and more truth and more love in our lives. And who doesn’t want all of that?

I want all of that … and more.

 

In the Name of Love

I was doing a bit of reading last night, in an attempt to fill insomnia time with something that makes it seem less like insomnia and more like productivity or entertainment.  The book is one I am almost ashamed to be reading, because its pages are covered with philosophies of giving = getting, and those philosophies almost always include a measure of victim-blaming and exclude concepts of systemic or institutional factors and their influence upon one’s current situation.  So, I usually get annoyed with such philosophies quite quickly, and sometimes I even get really angry with these types of books—yelling at no person in particular about the ways that my bed was not made alone, so no, I don’t have to “lie in it” unless those who victimized me have to lie in a bed far worse. (The number of times I have been told that I made my own bed, and should now lie in it makes me shudder.)

What I gave to the universe was NOT equal to what I received.  Innocence and autonomy lost at a young age cannot be blamed on the innocent who do not choose their victimization.  Did I make some unsavory choices in my lifetime?  Absolutely.  But did I make them without any influence of childhood trauma?  No, I did not.

I gave the universe love and empathy and kindness and creativity and beauty.  It gave me a lot of terrible crap in return.

But, I kept reading the book with the really messed up philosophy of giving = getting, because the thing it kept saying I needed to give and receive was love.  And as I read, it occurred to me that at certain points and in particular situations, I have stopped giving love.  The reason I stopped giving it, was likely because I wasn’t seeing a return on my investment, and because I have complex PTSD and suffer from chronic pain and am an addict and have all these reasons that the world became a place that hurts you, and not one that loves in return.  So, my choice to be mistrusting and build walls and shove my earbuds in my ears and blast Kesha instead of listening to my seatmate on the bus is a valid one, considering all the aforementioned reasons.  But, it isn’t getting me what I want.  And, let’s face it, what I want is what every being on the planet wants:  LOVE.

The challenge for someone who has been so deeply wounded that the scars will never heal is to continue to offer love and trust and vulnerability, even after doing so created the conditions for your wounding to happen.  When you offer someone your trust, and they betray it, or when you offer your vulnerable self, and someone takes advantage of that and uses your openness to harm you, it makes it really difficult to keep offering up your heart and mind and body to another—hoping that by some miracle this time is different and that this offering of your heart doesn’t add brokenness upon brokenness.

In some ways, we should never expect victims to trust again.  In many situations, the one who has been wronged should never give pardon and should never offer another the chance to wrong them in a similar manner.  Why should they?

The answer, again, is love.

Love is the reason I give pardon for past offenses.  But, that hasn’t put me, in some automatic fashion, back into a space where I can receive love with ease.  Because I try very hard to protect myself from further injury.  And that protection requires shutting people out and keeping people at a distance and creating walls and not opening up too quickly.

A friend once told me that I was not vulnerable.   And I was shocked by that statement, because I have been candid about my struggles for many years.  I feel like I share readily with people.  And I do share my story, but I do not share myself.  I don’t put my heart where it can be harmed.  My story doesn’t need to tell about the ways I feel vulnerable today.  I can offer a history without opening myself to others.  And that was the distinction that my friend was seeking to make.  He wanted me to understand that I couldn’t be known and loved if I had an alligator-filled moat around my heart.

I’ve improved a bit at letting people into that space.  The drawbridge goes down for my dad, and for my friend Luke, and for my daughter.  But, as time passes and I read books with terrible philosophies that tell me I get what I give, I realize that there is a tiny crumb of truth to the chapter that tells me I am not receiving what I am not giving.  Because I cannot expect love and trust and vulnerability from another if I won’t offer it to them as well.  And maybe one of the challenges to opening up is that I want the other to do it first, but their wounded parts want me to open up first—we do a dance of waiting and hoping and not receiving because neither of us wants to open up a space where a sword strike might land.  We all wait to remove our armor until the other has removed theirs.  And that gets none of us any closer to the love and trust and vulnerability that is required to further the relationship (be that a friendship or a familial tie or a marriage or whatever).

Yesterday, I was talking with my dad and said that my website seemed aptly named when I started posting online.  I really thought that I was learning to be whole.  But now I am realizing that I instead need to accept that I am broken, and that I might continue to break, so I ought to have chosen a website named “accepting that I am broken”.  He and I both, as though it had been practiced, said at once “Maybe, accepting the broken is how you learn to be whole.”  And I believe that may be the crux of the matter.  I need to accept breaking as a part of offering love.  And I need to acknowledge that offering love first is the best and fastest way to connect to others and to receive love in return.

I will get a few jabs from the protections (or even weapons) of others in the process.  I may increase my scars.  But, I will also be in a position to encourage others to let down their defenses if I have already dropped mine.

So, “Vulnerability” goes on the list of things I am working to improve.  And the shameful book of giving love to get more of it will probably be read to completion in a first attempt at finding the vulnerable self hidden deep beneath my strength and intellect and independence and lack of eye contact and background noise-removing earbuds.  I won’t paint a target on my chest.  But I will try to lower my sword, at the very least.  And hopefully, that won’t injure too much, and I can move on to removing one more bit of protection and psychological isolation.

I anticipate that this process will take years.  I’m heavily guarded.  But, it is a step in the right direction, I am sure, so I am committed to heading down that path.

I know that honesty begets honesty.  I know that trust begets trust.  I know that openness begets openness.  I even wrote a paper on such connections in an undergraduate communications course.  But, for some reason (or for many valid and obvious reasons) I stopped believing that love begets love.  It does.  It doesn’t always and instantaneously, but it will eventually bring you love in return.

So, here is a start at being open:   I don’t have enough love in my life.  I’m deeply wounded, in ways I am afraid to express, because many people in my past have shut me out rather than deal with the depth and breadth of my pain.  All the times I have allowed that pain to surface and become evident, people rejected me, avoided me, or insinuated I was some form of “crazy”.  But, I am trying very hard not to let the response of those people be shaped in my mind as the normative response to pain.  I am trying very hard not to let others shame me for expressing my suffering.  I am cutting out of my life the people that are gangrenous and make my wounds deeper and more affecting.  But, to the rest of you, I am going to try to open myself up and let down defenses.

This blog might get uglier before it becomes more beautiful as a result.

No amount of good grammar can make what ails me seem like entertaining prose.  Some of it—much of it—is a horror story.  But, I’m going to start letting it be such, and not sugar-coating struggle in ways that I believed protected me from harm.  I can’t be protected from what was.  But I can look with hope at what is yet to come.  And I refuse to believe that my story is a tragedy.  There will be a happy ending, but before that happy end, I need to find my way to vulnerability, and unceasing love … an epic goal, so maybe my life is an epic tale.  I like that idea.  I think I shall embrace my life as an epic story, with a glorious end yet to be written.  In the end, as with most epic tales, the main character finds love and peace and good, so I will embrace those, and perhaps emulating them will actually bring them nearer.

I hope I haven’t just agreed to the terrible philosophies of giving = getting.  But, I will at least admit to believing that proximity to good brings about more good.  In the moments when all seems lost, there is a good guide, or a good friend to carry you forward, or some good to fight for after a rallying, inspiring speech.  I need to start finding ways to trust in the good.  I need to find ways to start believing in love, once more.  And one way to believe in it, is to give it.

So, here I stand, ready to give more love.  I’ll let you know what I get in return.