You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2009.

 
Operating Table by MikeIsNeat on flickr

“The body never lies.”

Martha Graham (famous dancer/choreographer)

  

 

Practice what you preach…it is essential, no?  It is a bit of a duh, if I do say so myself.  Well I just had a moment of sorts over the last 72 hours—a long harsh moment of reality thrust upon me, necessarily and with excellent timing (in the script of my life this is just where I would put such a revelation).  It was a moment—call it a “duh” or an “aha” or an “epiphany” if you will—that reminded me of the importance, non-optional and crucial nature, of holistic living in my own life. 

 

I talk about it with passion until I’m breathless and I vocalize it to anyone who will listen—a complimentary medicine and holistic approach to life is vital for full mind, body, and soul healing.  And although I work towards my own holistic health in baby steps I am not quite the vibrant enactor as I am the vocalize—I am a bit sluggish, sometimes even a bit resistant for all of the reasons I know that people are. 

 

I am stagnant in my old ways of thinking and living.  I am full of negative learned behaviors cultivated with great art over the years.  I am sluggishly lazy about making the alterations in full that would be necessary for living a truly clean, green , and healthfully mean life.  It is a scary prospect—to so drastically change our life patterns.  Yet at the same time to do so is so logical and such a small concession in the grander scheme of things—taking into account a longer, healthier, and less painful existence on all levels.

 

This week has shown me, that like the diabetic person that has not option of whether to take care of their body and their diet as they must do what is necessary or suffer serious, even life threatening consequences, I too must look at my holistic health from a more serious perspective.  Every move I make, or don’t, every substance, hormone, and edible thing I put in my body affects the state of it. 

 

I have (as much as I have been trying to ignore the severity of it for some time) a very serious and chronic illness which only becomes more pervasive and debilitating with time.  I am in a crucial stage of “change” or “be changed for the worse”.  I am on the precipice of a life and a body that could go either way and I have to treat the care of this bodily casing as if it were a life or death situation—it is at least the life or death of my womb that is at stake (not to mention the surrounding organs that are often ravaged by endometriosis like the bladder, bowel, appendix, among others–two out of the three I already have scar tissue on from fusing of organ to organ , by endometriosis growth, prior to my first surgery). 

 

I can no longer say, “Tomorrow I will live better,” or, “Just one more bagel can’t hurt,” or, “I’m just too tired for yoga today.”  I have to effect a lifestyle commiserate with the seriousness of my health, the necessity for self-care as a priority, and an active holistic approach to healing that I know to be so vital.  I can no longer sit on the sidelines of my body and wait to see what happens.  Proactive is the only way. 

 

It is hard, we all know, to shift so drastically the things that inhabit our daily lives, routines, and ways of being.  I know mine is somewhat of an extreme example of how everything we do, consume, imbibe and how it affects our internal and external health, but in some ways this drastic perspective on living is something we should all work harder to enact—and no one knows better than I how much of a struggle it is to do that. 

 

But I know, too, that my every moment and lifestyle decision affects me holistically so I must live taking my whole self into account.  I know that when I have steak, dairy, soda, and white bread my cramps worsen.  I know that and I ignore it quite often. 

 

My body gives me all the signals I need of how to care for it and thus far I have been very capricious with this precious and delicate physicality that I have.  But I can’t be a sideline player in the game of me versus endometriosis.  I have been reminded and reinvigorated by the knowledge that this illness will get worse—how fast and how much is really up to me, every day, and in the choices I make. 

 

We have much of the control over our living, but so often we don’t enact proactive (w)holistic health because it seems too hard or too much.  Well, I can say from experience that the alternative, what can happen when we don’t care for this precious container for our mind and our soul, is much worse than working hard to live well.

 

I hope that this–my life, my body, my situation–can be a reminder to everyone of how precious this life is and how precious these bodies are we have been given.  We owe it to ourselves to take the best care possible of it before something (and something can happen to anyone) happens that makes us realize it is too late to effect changes and damage has been done.  I, myself, am at my own precipice, facing my own “duh” moment and I have big changes to make to create a life  not just of forethought and promises of change, but a life of making that change—I am the one who loses if I don’t.  Life is not a sidelines game and our bodies are vital in the holistic care of ourselves—body, mind, and soul.

 

Daily yoga, clean eating, and beginning active courses of acupuncture will be my first steps to getting my body to a better place to fight the internal enemy that waits, biding  it’s time to eat away at me, from the inside out.  I can create a defensive line that can really save or at least preserve my internals for a longer time, not to do that would be dangerously capricious.  I no longer want to be dangerously capricious. 

 

This blog, this move, this timing of beginning yoga school soon and actively working towards a more yogic, meditative, healthier lifestyle seems (as I said above) to be almost a scripted path I am on.  What a more perfect time for me to be forced to take seriously the severity and vital nature of this life path I am treading on and the life health I am preaching to others.  “Practice what you preach!” my life is yelling at me from every angle imaginable–or beware the consequences. 

 

I prefer to listen to what I have been given and make the necessary changes to myself and my lifestyle that have been a long time coming and necessary to have a long time yet to come.  Endometriosis may be the internal enemy but I would rather to be fighting against the enemy, not aiding its troops with my every action.  I know for everyone effecting changes of any kind is a huge undertaking and no easy task–change is hard.  But change will come whether you enact it or something else does.  Proactive living is much more empowering.  I hope to finally be able to say, with no wavering, or equivocating, that I truly, holistically, practice what I preach.  I must, my body tells me so.

 

 Acupuncture heart by Sharon Pazner on flickr

“The body is your temple.  Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.”

B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga: The Path To Holistic Health

 

My Childhood Pumpkin Art

 

 

THE WOMAN INSIDE

It is the eve of all hallows eve and mischief abounds, except of course on the street that cannot be found.

 On a little sandy road, in a house at the end, a hobbled woman lays with no way to bend. 

She has a crooked grin and walks a crooked line, and her belly, inside and out, looks like Frankenstein.

But don’t worry children, do not have fear.  And ignore, if you please the clawing and growling you hear.

Inside these dark narrow halls, behind the cracked yellow walls, lays a woman who is not to be feared at all.

Her insides may be red and her outsides may be blue, but she is a therapist, and would never hurt you.

So if you pass by, on this dark sacred of nights, just be sure to tread softly, not to give HER a fright.

 

 By Teresa Bennett-Pasquale, “Mischief Night”, October 30th, 2009

 

 

Yes, in leu of a quote tonight I thought I would cobble together my own little post-operative ditty and homage to one of my favorite holidays—Halloween.   I am home from the hospital and have finally nestled myself into bed after much struggle against my “restless person syndrome” which compelled me to get up for something every five minutes until my surgery soreness and exhaustion couldn’t take it anymore.

This post will be brief, for reasons including stabbing CO2 aches in my right shoulder and hand as well as the aforementioned soreness that takes quite a bit out of even the fidgetiest of people.  I just wanted to wish, via poem, a wonderful Mischief Night (be good) and Happy Halloween to all and than everyone, both bloggers, bloggees (?), and friends and family who have poured out of every corner a heartfelt thanks. 

I also wanted to say that all my many tids and bits appear to be in good working order and there was little surgical removal of anything which gives me great hopes of a future for my organs and any potential use I might want to have for them.  I will write a lengthier post on the whole endeavor when body and mind allow.  This is as much lucidity I could muster tonight.

Thank you again to all and enjoy your Halloween Weekend!

 

 

 “Hold on, man.  We don’t go anywhere with “scary,” “spooky,” “haunted,” or “forbidden” in the title.”

From Scooby-Doo

Early pink dogwood flowering heads by Martin LaBar on flickr

Expect the unexpected. 

 

I had an entirely different post planned for today and then I found myself in my new doctor’s office this afternoon and all that changed.  I guess I should have learned this far into the living process that we can never assume, never predict, always just be prepared (like a good boy scout). 

 

It is always difficult to find a specialist for a chronic illness that does not have its own day or pin or charity of note.  So I held my breath as I waited to meet my new endometriosis specialist especially as I was at a particularly frustrated point, having spent the last week in fairly severe pain (or, medically speaking, about a 6 on a pain scale).  I had a constellation of thoughts sparking and shooting through my brain.  I was not sure what my next step was but I was fairly certain decisions would have to be made. 

 

I had my exam, lets pass over the details, and then I met with the doctor in his office to discuss things in a fully clothed state.  I found this doctor to be a refreshing anomaly already.  When dealing with a male doctor dealing with female issues I tend to walk with trepidation, assessing for a complete lack of empathy or bedside manner, but he had a jovial quality and a softness with a side of humor.  I already liked him.  Then I walked into the office for the “serious business” and sat down in the typical dark wood  office chair.  He began talking to me seriously, frankly, and in a way that was both frighteningly and refreshingly honest. 

 

“Endometriosis is worse than cancer, really.  It would be preferable to have cancer.  You treat it and it’s gone.  With endometriosis there is no cure it just continues to grow and all we can do is manage it long enough so that you have the time you need to have children, if you want them.” 

 

The follow-up inference of that statement is, “Before it all disintegrates in a painful sequence of  internal explosions till, like a building with detinators in the foundation, the entire structure collapses into dust”. (My paraphrasing of the inference later discussed at length with the doctor)

 

I sighed, maybe even audibly.  Finally, someone just said it how it was, and understood what it meant to have and live with this condition.  I needed a qualified person to validate my own hypotheses I had been mulling over this week. After not even a year following my first laparoscopy procedure my pain was returning to the same pinnacle point and I knew it was not a sign of internal wellness. 

 

After finding out in my first surgical procedure that the past 15 years of being told “it’s just your normal cycle, you get bad cramps is all,” was completely lazy diagnostics, I got the official stamp of “Endometriosis, Stage IV“.  There are four stages of the illness and four is the most severe and pervasive.  I knew even a year ago that, that was not a prediction of good to come but I had hoped for at least a couple of years between surgeries.  Now, sitting in that office, hearing the realities I knew I needed to know what was going on in there and there might be more decisions beyond just surgical maneuvers that would follow the “knowing”. 

 

 So, here I sit at home with a bit of medicine meant to mollify the pain beginning to make its way into my system system, along with the bread I use so that I don’t vomit from said medication.  I am preparing for my second laparoscopic surgery on Friday and pondering the information confirmed by my new doctor/surgeon.  I knew it would come to this but having the internal conversation that follows “knowing” is really frightening.

 

How badly do I want to physically have children? How soon am I willing to do that to keep it a possibility? And how do I discern both these things with a clear head and not rash sentimentality? 

 

The first question is: How long do I have before my internals liquify to use my inner pieces to procreate?  The follow-up question is: How soon am I willing to begin trying to have children to prevent losing the chance altogether? 

 

People sometimes ask the theoretical question, if you could know the day you might die would you want to know?  Is it better to know a fate or not.  If you can predict your potential for life, or to create life, would you really want to know?  I find the knowing that I have limited time is like a huge weight pressing on my airway, making it impossible to breathe let alone think clearly on the matter.  At least tonight it feels that way, full of bread, medication, and pulsing pain surging through my abdomen, back, and legs. 

 

Babies.  What are my thoughts on babies?  I am definitely of two minds.  They are messy, and poopy, and needy, and wake you up all the time, and need, and want, and must be constantly watched, and even if you do all the best for them there is no guarantee they will be ok.  They are so much responsibility, but conversely, they are so much love.  They smile, and laugh, and play, and love life in a way that could, potentially, remind you of how much there is to love in life. 

 

Why must I decide now though?  Part of this decision process makes me uncomfortable as an adoptee in a family that is mostly not genetically related.  There is no reason why my decisions, or my body, needs to prohibit babies just because it inhibits procreation.  And is making a decision with such importance about procreation diminishing to all the other ways to have and love a baby?  I never wanted to be a pained and yearning woman amid fertility treatment where it was biological or nothing, but conversely I feel a pang at the idea that I may never have the option for the biological even if I were to choose the non-genetic version of a family regardless. 

 

So, I have surgery the day after tomorrow and my husband is rushing his return to Florida to be here Saturday morning.  I have to get through one night of post-surgery pain alone.  That I can do.  The rest of it, perhaps, I will also leave up to my post-operative brain to coordinate.  After I find out what the present state of carnage is in my potentially womb-less womb. 

 

Make way for ducklings by shoothead on flickr

“True stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced. A truly stable system expects the unexpected, is prepared to be disrupted, waits to be transformed.”

Tom Robbins

 Old Sidesaddle from Early Montana days by Bitterroot on flickr

The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire. 

Sharon Ralls Lemon

  

As a little girl I was in love with horses.  I was mesmerised by dark beautiful flanks and haunting equine eyes watching the films Black Beauty and National Velvet and ached for a horse of my own and wide open fields to ride her in.  I remember from as little as five going to the reservation near our house and running ahead of my parents on the trail so, away from their sight, I could mimick the sound of hooves on dirt, creating a  rhythmic beat of feet on paths and with my imagination, as I stared straight ahead, I could believe I was sitting atop a horse of my own, meandering down trails on a Saturday afternoon.  But I was a suburban girl from an area where reservations were as close to fields as I got and where riding was too expensive to really be possible. 

 

Right before entering middle school I saved up an entire year of allowances and odd jobs money for summer camp  riding school which my parents promised I could take if I could earn enough to pay for it.  I made just barely the allotment, maybe a little less (and my kindly parents pitched in the remainder) and I remember the heart pounding glee of walking into the barn on that first day of class–the smell of hay in the air and the sound of hooves on the dirt.  This was the closest I got to really being anything like the “country horse girl” of my dreams. 

 

Because, as a suburbanite raised person, I am not a country girl.  I may be one in spirit or musical orientation, but I have never been able to qualify myself as a bona-fide, born and bred, workin’ boot wearing country girl.  I aspired with great adulthood imaginations during my time living in Fort Collins, Colorado, surrounded by pickups, cowboys and horse ranches, but I was never able to bring it to fruition–I lacked any of the practical skills and I could never two-step.  The closest I got were a few wonderful rides on horseback through the mountains of Estes Park, care of the local tourist ranches. 

 

I have also, for quite some time, been a great proponent of animal-oriented psychotherapies.  I know from personal experience (much the way I do with my own practice of yoga) the healing benefits that can be derived from a relationship with an animal–their silent acceptance free of judgement, their love without conditions, and their quiet ability to intuit emotions and pain in another. 

 

It was my greatest hope to be able to combine my therapeutic practice with an animal oriented approach and even throw in body/mind elements to create innovative holistic practices.  The idea of truly being able to bring this to pass just seemed a bit too much to hope for.  Well with recent fortuitous events it seems that I may be able to find a way to enter into the amazingly inspiring world of Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP), which I spoke about briefly in my Friday list from last week. 

 

In this pursuit and active research into the is therapeutic area (I am perhaps a compulsive researcher) I have learned about and ran into some passionate and wonderful people involved in EFP.  One thing that I have found, overall, as I explore all of the holistic realms of the complementary therapies is how many amazing and vibrant people there are out there and I am only lucky to have fallen into their path.  I am forever grateful for where my passions have led me so far and where they continue to lead me.

 Angel Smile Farm Grazing

I happened upon, this past week, a wonderful little patch of heaven called “Angel Smile Farm” in a rural area of Southern Florida right on the periphery of the metropolitan cities of this Southern tip of the state.  This farm is something that replication images could barely do justice to and radiates the kind of beauty and calm that leaves one breathless–at least this “one”.  It smells like freshly cut grass and stallions and looks like something out of a glossy equine photo shoot.  The front corral is edged with crisp white fence posts that stretch out into the distance.  A long sandy path takes you down to an equally crisp white barn with bright mexican blankets and splashes of turquoise and leather that feel quintessentially country with a touch of softness and feminine decor. 

 

The owner is a woman, Maurette, with a friendly laugh, a bold personality, and a passionate heart.  She is one of many people I have discovered in a short period of time with a passion for working to heal through horses.  She, like myself, is full of hopes and plans and dreams for where this work can go and I only had to see her farm once to fall immediately in love with expanses of blue skies and green fields speckled with palms and rugged Floridian trees.  It takes little imagination, even for someone like me who teems with imaginative wells, to imagine such a place being  a site for emotional healing or for someone like Maurette to be a person to bring those hopes to fruition. 

 

I am enthused at the prospect of becoming intermingled into this equine world that seems inexhaustible in this area of the world.  I have found my home in Florida, in the work that I am doing, and the professional and personal adventures which are following with each step I take. 

 

My dream is to find a way to bring all of these worlds together into a cohesive whole.  My teeming imagination envisions a center built on an expanse of land much like the one I discovered and fell in love with this week.  A center under which someone could find all manner of holistic treatment–where psychotherapy, yoga therapy, equine facilitated therapy, creative arts therapy, and so many others can work hand-in-hand, collaborating and overlapping at points for the most complete therapeutic healing approach.  A place that could help those in emotional need of effecting changes in their whole selves–mind, body, heart, soul. 

 

The more I meet amazing people with passionate hearts full of the same yearning to make change and healing happen whatever it takes, the more confidence I have in a future that includes all of these things.  Having met people like Maurette of  Angel Smile Farm, Michele of Heal My PTSD, as well as Geri and Penni of Kula for Karma, I become more confident in the potential shifts for the better in the future of healing both locally and nationally. 

 

I wrote in my prior post titled Elephant Tears about elephants experiencing trauma and finding healing again.  This post I’ve explored how animals, particularly horses, can assist in human healing.  One thing I know, there is something magical in both large majestic creatures–horses and elephants. 

 

There is something intrinsically wild and free watching a herd move.  The earth rumbles and they beat out a rhythm only nature could write.  Their intrinsic freedom provokes the same in the humans they touch–evoking a strength and invoking a freedom in a person that is potent.  Both animals have done muchto help me understand healing in a multidimensional way.  Both make my heart race and my soul ache for a taste of what they have inside of them. 

 

 

Below are some Links to Lists of Therapeutic Riding Centers around the nation enacting this fantastic work of equine facilitated psychotherapy. 

*I have no formal knowledge of these centers, this is just meant as a general reference list for those that are interested. See the NARHA website for a comprehensive listing of accredited horse therapy centers.*

 

NARHA (General Website address: See “CENTERS” link for all variations of links to accredited centers):

http://www.narha.org/

EFMHA (Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association):

http://www.narha.org/SecEFMHA/WhatIsEFMHA.asp

Maryland Horse Country Comprehensive Listing of Psychotherapy and Physical Therapy Equine Programs:

http://www.mdhorsesource.com/therapy.htm

NARHA Premier Accredited Centers: (National and International)

http://www.narha.org/Centers/center_status_search.asp

NARHA “Horses for Heroes” Program (for Veterans) with links to nationwide facilities:

http://www.narha.org/Horses%20For%20Heroes/NARHAHorsesforHeroes.asp

 

Angel Smile Farm Barn  

Where in this wide world can man find nobility without pride,
Friendship without envy,
Or beauty without vanity?
Here, where grace is served with muscle
And strength by gentleness confined
He serves without servility; he has fought without enmity.
There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent.
There is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.

 

Ronald Duncan, “The Horse,” 1954

 

 

1  …My husband’s move to Florida. 

Dog care and maintainance issues aside, I miss him.  I miss shared dinners after a long day of work, I miss taking the dogs out or exploring something new.  I miss watching a movie side-by-side either inside in the warmth and on a couch or shivering amid chilly theatre air.  I am excited to explore Florida together and create new memories under palms and sun.  I am hoping to find time to take a short trip to Marco Island which sounds like a lovely place and I have been hearing great things about it as a place to take a quick reprieve–from what I’m not sure, we do live in Florida, but I would love to explore.

 

 

 Horse and Fog by Claudio Ar

2  …The NARHA 2009 Conference! 

I am beginning an amazing new adventure involving complimentary therapies and horses and I am so excited.  One of the fantastic new avenues that has opened up due to postponing the yoga teacher training by two months is giving me the time to go to a three-day conference for specialized training in the area of Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy.  I will be beginning my first pilot program in late November and am so excited for where this new path will lead and how I can cross and blend multiple holistic approaches.  I may be incorporating some seated yoga on horseback during programming!  I am very excited about all these prospects.  If only I had a charitable financier to help afford all this here learnin’.  For now I will try to make it work any way I can because I know, somehow and in some deep place, that this new equine arena of study and practice is meant to be part of  a more cohesive therapeutic whole. 

 A Young Teresa Psychotically Happy On Her Horsey

 

 

 

3  …My upcoming speaking engagement at the “Let’s Talk” Adoption Conference at Rutgers University in New Jersey on November 7th. 

I will be speaking on Trauma and Yoga for adoptees, their caregivers, and for social service agencies working with adoptees and foster children.  I am so honored and happy to bring this information on mind/body healing to a large audience of people involved in the care of children who may find such great benefit from yoga.  I have purchased, via my good ol’ pal Amazon both of the following books to put out for attendees to flip through:  Babar’s Yoga For Elephants and My Daddy Is A Pretzel: Yoga for Parents and Kids.

 

 

 Merry Christmas to All my Flickr Friends by duane schoon on flickr

4  …Christmas in Florida. 

My lovely sister will be coming to visit and so I cannot wait to show her my new home state and enjoy the Holiday Season sans dirty soot colored snow.  New memories, new visual delights, and a reason to decorate my home thematically and “hang stockings with care”–just for a moment though because I have a feeling in a three dog household they will be dismantled and removed with very little care and much expediency. 

 

5  …My first wedding anniversary this New Year’s Eve. 

 

6  …Beginning my yoga teacher training program.

Hopefully, I will have cultivated some added manner and method of contemplative practice, meditative mind, and calmed spirit before I even walk through the door on the ever-nerve-wracking First Day of School.  I have, in the spirit of that effort, gone my first week without any television whatsoever.  Now this used to be, once upon a twenty-year-old, a very easy endeavor but I fear I have gotten into the “plopper” practices I discussed earlier this week and have to work my way back to enjoying the silence with nothing surrounding me but the tapping rhythm of puppy nails on wood and crisp pages turning in a good book. 

 

7  …Learning how to let go. 

Let go of the illusion of controls.  Let go of the illusion of “knowing”.  And letting go the self that expects so much but explores so little of the internal space of my own inner spaces–a funny irony for a person who, as a therapist, spends my days delving into the psyches of others and encouraging their self exploration.  No more holding on and holding in–I am giving over to letting go.  Tiny step by tiny step. 

 

8  …I am looking forward to seeing where this writing exploration will lead. 

I feel that all my internal archeology both starts and ends with this writing I am doing.  I have always felt like I explored myself most honestly when I wrote.  This is first time I share that journey in an outward way.  This is the first time I take this inner archeological dig into a public forum.  I am hoping it brings a new ripened and raw dimension to the journey that both enriches my own path of discovery and helps another on their internal and external quests.

 

 

Stairway to Heaven by Lyrical Time Wastrs on flickr

 

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things   that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

Firey Sunset

“Each of us has a soul, but we forget to value it…We don’t understand the great secrets hidden inside of us.”

St. Teresa of Avila

 

 

One thing I am enjoying as I delve into reading Stephen Cope’s memoir is his reference to mystics of all religions and philosophies as there are so many corollaries between their practices–all meditative, contemplative, and instilled with devoted faithfulness to their chosen practice and spirituality. 

 

He has referenced, also, some of my favorite Christian mystics (although I have favorite mystics from every tradition and honor all of their intense dedication to their life paths)  including the anonymous monk author of  The Cloud of Unknowing and Teresa of Avila

 

Saint Teresa has always had a little place in my heart and soul–and a huge place in my name and naming.  I was named twice.  Once by nuns in the orphanage in Bogota and once by my parents in New Jersey, but both with the same name and for the same reason.  I was born on Teresa of Avila’s Saint’s Day, October 15th, and congrats to us both having celebrated our co-anniversary–mine of life and hers of recognition of great works as a contemplative and mystic within her faith tradition of Christianity. 

 

 Something about the fortuitous and coincidental nature of my naming–twice with the same name no less– has led me to believe that I was in some way meant to be a mystic heart.  That and the fact that I was always drawn to her writing both for its poetic force and for the meditative content found within.

 

Contemplatives and mystics the world round talk at some point (and through different linguistics) about the concept of “unknowing”.  The book The Cloud of Unknowing perhaps the greatest, at least one of the greatest, literary tomes to this concept was also one of the first, written by a monk in anonymity during the 14th century.  It’s focus and much of mystic exploration before and since is on the concept of getting beyond the known, the certainty, the ego, the pride– all of the inherent humanness we learn to cultivate through years of schooling and indoctrination of how we must be certain

 

Especially in the modern world we must, above all else, KNOW.  Not knowing is weak, not respected, and considered a sign of idiocy.  You will be trampled by the powerful and the charismatic if you don’t know.  But what if you intentional unknow?  What an unfathomable concept.  We must know who we are, put our stamp on the world, preach, and shout, and tout what we believe with irrevocable certainty otherwise who will want to listen?

 

Some of my favorite authors, teachers, philosophers, intellectuals, and spiritual persons in recent years are the ones who have the capacity to be passionate leaders, mentors, and advocates for a cause without touting certainty.  They, in fact, vocalize uncertainty–which often makes “the certains” of the world very nervous.  But what I have learned as I try (and I emphasize try) to cultivate a more contemplative and meditative mindset is that admitting to and embracing unknowing is one of the most spiritually mature and brave things a person can do. 

 

Unknowing is something we should all work to cultivate.  Sure, we have spent a lifetime cultivating knowing, but to be able to let that go, let our hold loosen on what must be certain and leave room for the uncertain would be a brave thing indeed.  It would also leave room for all sorts of mystical  and meditative surprises that we might have been closed to before. 

 

I know with myself, as well as my trauma clients as a whole, control is one of the hardest things to let go of in trauma healing.  After you have endured the worst life and the world has to offer all you have is your personal control–of yourself, of situations, of other people.  But, what is essential in learning in attempting to heal from trauma is that, that control is an illusion.  We have very little control over things in our lives, and with trauma often the things in ourselves are so out of control we can only maintain them to some small extent.  Control is an illusion as is, in many things, knowing.

 

I will admit it.  Giving into unknowing in life is one of the hardest tasks.  I study those that have a better grasp on it intently to try to master it piece by piece.  I know I have trouble–as I sit latching on, with whitened and braced knuckles, to the little control I like to believe I have over my life–letting that control illusion go. 

 

I know I have trouble, through pride, ego, and learning, to say it is ok not to know and to let go of that mental dynamic I have imprinted in my mind that we must know to be better or more wise.  I have a lot to unlearn to become one who can effectively “unknow”. 

 

Unknowing is, perhaps, the hardest part of cultivating a contemplative life and a more yogic sensibility. 

 

I find comfort in exploring other’s journeys on these paths–from the ancient mystics to a fellow psychotherapist and eloquent author like Cope who quotes the same mystics I have quoted, and whom I can watch, through his writing, take his own contemplative journey into self. 

 

Another contemplative for whom I have the greatest admiration is Thomas Keating (a modern Christian contemplative) is perhaps one of the most centered people I have ever encountered personally.  His presence is one which evokes calm.  Meditating in his presence somehow induces a feeling of being closer to something warm, radiating, and sublime.  My experience in meeting him was one of the most spiritually profound I have ever had.  He is someone from whom I constantly garner, through his writing and his speaking, more and more insight into myself. 

 

Father Keating once said, “Just by the very nature of our birth, we are on a spiritual journey.”  I would add to that, from my personal experience, saying that, “Just by the nature of my naming, I am on a mystic journey.”

 

 

“And so I urge you, go after experience rather than knowledge. On account of pride, knowledge may often deceive you, but this gentle, loving affection will not deceive you. Knowledge tends to breed conceit, but love builds. Knowledge is full of labor, but love, full of rest.”

From The Cloud of Unknowing

Vibrant Skies at Water's Edge

Maginfying Glass by athena1970 on flickr

“I discovered that for many of us, the developmental tasks of the second half of life are primarily spiritual.”

Stephen Cope

 

According to author, yogi, and psychotherapist Stephen Cope midlife is a time to find our truer selves, the ones we are shrouding with perceived rich lives that when rattled, crack and required a rebuilding on a more solid internal foundation. 

 

According to Carl Jung (whom I have quoted before and Cope references in his book Yoga and The Quest for the True Self) I am now, as I have officially headed into my 30’s, considered to be in midlife.  Now some of that ideaology of midlife can be attributed to the era of Jung and less lengthy lives, but in point of fact I think it rings pretty true–at least relative to myself.

 

I have discussed on this blog some of the moves of my life–uprooting for the wrong and then the right reasons.  I have talked about my history of trauma, told my own story, and talked about the painful journey to get past that and start a life that was whole and real for myself.  I have talked some about the journey that brought me to a trauma therapist from the plight as a survivor and about how I feel professionally and personally imbued with a passion for trauma healing and the avenues of complementary therapies.  I have talked about what got me here, but where is here?

 

It seems to me that Jung and Cope have it right. 

 

I feel like my current path is a very deep and winding ravine.  One that I could not have traversed had I not gone through and overcome many of the obstacles that got me to this point.  I feel at a place professionally where I am established enough to vocalize myself with a dollop passion matched with a dab of authority on what I speak.  I feel like the storms of my life have quieted enough to allow me to take a deeper journey inward and find a depth of self and of life that I did not have the luxury to do before. 

 

I think wherever people are or whatever their life circumstances, the reason Cope and Jung talk about the 30s and 40s as that place of searching for a new meaning is due to those quelled oceans and those calming of life circumstances–perhaps as a result of facing the very worst demons in our lives or in our minds that we could imagine to get to a place where something deeper and more internal has some value. 

 

Lately I find myself pondering more than ever the inner workings of myself.  I said to my husband the other day (on his visit this past weekend for my birthday) how something feels like it aligned for me in this move.  It was not intentional and it did not result from trying to flee something, but it happened spontaneously and with unexpected mysteriousness. 

 

I felt freed from something invisible that I had not known was constraining me–whether it was just the simple stagnation that comes with familiarity of place, state, and life or it was something  bigger than that I cannot be sure. 

 

All I know is that something shifted in my move and for the better. 

 

And maybe it was also a confluence of circumstances leaving me with an abnormal amount of free time to ponder–with only the clicking of doggie toe nails on wood floors to distract me from my thoughts as I sit day after day in a new house, new town, and new life in a solitary kind of routine. 

 

I feel exploratory of my inner self in a playful and simultaneously intense way that leads me to want to explore further. 

 

All of this also leads excellently into beginning a yoga teacher training program.  Initially, I was pretty melancholy over the idea of having to wait two months to really get into the meat of this meatless excursion into self but as I have had time to digest (am I hungry?) the idea I realize that, that too has been a sort of blessing in disguise. 

 

i could be there when you land by harold lloyd on flickr 

 

I am a person with a huge inability to enjoy delayed gratification or wait for anything–I am a “Do it now!” kind of personality, for better or worse.  But in this forced state of expectation I have been able to pause, breathe, and even prepare for this next huge step of full immersion into a monastic training of ancient proportions. 

 

And in truth I think it is an undertaking that deserves this certain pause for a bit of reverence and a lot more preparation than I have been able to give it so far.  Not to mention a lot more required reading that I have been able to muster up to completing thus far.

 

I am doing fairly well on my plan to remove television or distraction (visual or auditory) from my sleep regimen, as well as being able to ease out of meaty delights (really I use meat, mostly, as a mandatory additive to a sandwich, more perfunctory than satiating so I hope this will go smoothly).  But fish and eggs might be harder as I am going to have to learn to live without so many of the staple additives to a meal that just come easily. 

 

The  next is overall distraction and noise.  I need to get out of the habit, that so many of us have, of coming home and switching on the television and just plopping.  I am, as my husband says (usually in reference to mail and clothes) “a plopper”.   I just come home and plop things, including my own body, down wherever they fall and then find it hard to recoup and reorganize, let alone motivate, once I have gone into full plop mode. 

 

I need to work on more intentional living as that seems a core root of a more spiritual and deeper existence.  Putting on a television is usually just a way to distract ourselves from inner self and thoughts and it is an easy solution to a few hours after work and before bed–but essentially unfulfilling.  So I am going to try to, gulp, spend less time plopping and more time focusing on something, anything.  Reading more and playing with my puppies and writing, writing, writing. 

 

I know we all do this.  We live easily more than we do intentionally.  We perceive ourselves superficially rather than below a surface level.  And often it takes a catalyst of some kind to shake us out of our daze and into something much more profound.  A move down some 1200 miles and a home echoing with silence (or NCIS–I know bad habits with the TV!) for me was a great catalyst to an internal state of wonder and self exploration that led to, among so many other adventures of self, writing this blog. 

 

I am excited to see what the next few months will bring and honored to be able to share that journey as it unfolds with whoever ever is willing to log on, click in, and listen. 

 

And, by the way, I find it to be no small coincidence that the man who wrote the quote below was also the same man who explored yoga and psychology and the potential healing effects of this particular moving art. 

 

“Among my patients in the second half of life–that is to say, over thirty-five–there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a spiritual outlook on life…and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his spiritual outlook.”

Carl Jung in Stephen Cope’s Yoga and the Quest for the True Self

 

 the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being by harold lloyd on flickr

Pain by Michelle Brea on flickr 

“What is truer than truth? Answer: The story.”

Old Jewish Saying and repeated by Isabelle Allende in her TED talk.

 

There is a lot of my life from 18 to 20 years of age that I just don’t remember.  Most of it in fact.  In retrospect and following therapeutic training I know that to be a form of trauma related repression.  I just hit overload and shut down.  I remained on autopilot for two very self-destructive years during which my rampant PTSD symptomotology took a front seat and my conscious self was somewhere locked in the trunk. 

 

I built a shell around myself so I could block out anything hurtful or scary at a moment’s notice by shutting down, but in truth the shell was a mirage of my own making–because instead of feeling nothing I felt everything–I was so sensitive I was raw.  I shut down constantly and in that I lost a lot of my current day perception of what happened when and many details are lost altogether. 

 

I would block out and black out (technically known as dissociation) and not really be sure what happened after: it was like watching a blurry movie of myself from a short distance–sound was dulled, images were faded, it was often like living a half life.  It helped me survive but not live.  I was nothing but shell with nerves exposed underneath. 

 

I was raped for the first time somewhere between 18 and 19 (again time is not so clear during that period).  The second time, by another perpetrator, was somewhere between 19 and 20.  I no longer blame myself for the second rape, but I know professionally that my downward slide following the first incident made me more vulnerable to another assault and my autopilot living added to that vulnerability.  Following the second assault I could no longer regulate any part of myself: I was up and then down, I was isolative and then explosive, I was spiraling and dizzy and petrified of the world. 

 

Escape, escape, escape.  That was all I did.  Long before I fled New Jersey I had fled myself–the Teresa from before my assaults was somewhere deep inside and the shell grew so thick and heavy that I could no longer remember what came before it.  I was hiding inside myself and from myself.  I was locking my memories so far down that I choked on them. 

 

My trauma clients often reference the visual of a “box” or a “closet” where everything painful and traumatic is crammed in and locked away and when it accidentally opens you push it back in with all the strength you have–that is definitely an apt description. 

 

When you are stuck inside your trauma all that seeps out is your traumatized symptoms and all the unhealthy and unpleasant behaviors that follow, all you can see is survival.  You want to make it to tomorrow without snapping and that is the only goal.  You cannot live.  You cannot love.  You cannot think about moving forward.  You are locked in the “box” you created living under the illusion that you have somehow contained the collateral damage. 

 

From 18 to 20 I was in the thick of it all.  When I moved to Colorado at twenty I thought I was making a big step and a change that would change my brain and free my body.  The only thing that really changed was scenery. 

 

I loved the mountains that rose as if heaven bound.  I loved the clear, crisp air and views of horses running wildly in fields, but inside my mind–when I paused too long or closed my eyes–there I was, still in my box, still petrified, still clinging to my shell. 

 

I woke one day. 

 

I woke in a loud clap of thunder and a moment full of sound and fury and everything I had been avoiding.  I was sitting in a class on Front Range Community College Campus in Fort Collins.  I had decided to go back to school and finish up that bachelors degree I had abandoned during the period of my first rape—part of me thought, since nothing else had worked, if I could just pick up where I left off I could erase the past that had taken me so far from anything resembling a future.  I was sitting in some Sex Ed type class and tapping out my boredom with my pen.  It was one of those banal required courses in the degree curriculum and my anticipation was learning something akin to high school health class.  Then it happened.   

 

The teacher began discussing sexual assault and sex crime “victims” (can I mention I still hate the word victim and all the implied vulnerability and helplessness it imbued in it).  He spoke about acquaintance rape and the incidence of sexual assaults in college aged women. 

 

After that I don’t know what he said because all I knew was that I felt dizzy and nauseous and my extremities went numb.  I couldn’t breathe.  It was only by the time I reached the bathroom, leaning over the toilet bowl with my knees on the floor and my hands shaking and pale, that I realized I had, had a panic attack. 

 

That was the moment I woke up. 

I realized this trauma thing I had tried to avoid was real.  The rape was real.  My state of frozen-in-symptoms-rampant-PTSD was real (although I could not identify it diagnostically at the time I knew it was trauma).   And most of all I realized with a great oomph of panic attack finality that I could not avoid any of this thing inside of me anymore—not even in a benign antiseptic classroom environment.  I realized I didn’t want to spend my life wondering when I would have to fall onto a bathroom floor again.  So I went home that day, looked up a Sex Trauma Therapist, and, still somewhat skeptical and grudgingly, I went to the appointment. 

 

The night after my first session with that therapist I had the worst nightmare I have ever had.  

 

It is for that reason that even before I knew much about the therapeutic process, early in my graduate school internships, I would forewarn my trauma clients about a potential “outbreak” of sorts in their PTSD following their first session.  Opening the box held tight and controlled for so long can create a sort of allergic initial response.  Your mind is a clever thing that often has a mind of its own when it comes to trauma—it has been protecting you for so long from your own memories and emotions it becomes startled by an opening up of all that was hidden.  Before I knew enough as the trauma therapist, the trauma survivor in me knew to warn my clients of this occurrence.  Since then, the trauma therapist in me learned and now understands the many onion-like layers of “why”.  

 

I woke from my nightmare shaking with the vision of a shadowy figure moving in front of me through my bedroom.

 

All I could feel was the moment following my first rape.  I was lying in the wet grass on the earthen floor of a park in New Jersey, afraid to breathe.  I was nauseous and numb and my hair was wet with dew.  My insides were shaking but my body was frozen and my fists were clenched.  I could hear the frogs and the crickets and see the dirt path that led out but I couldn’t get there.  I could smell his breath and see his smirk and hear his mocking voice saying words I’ll never forget, “You’re not going to tell people I raped you or something, right?”

 

I closed and opened my eyes and I was back in my apartment, in Colorado, 4 years after that night in the grass.  Tears were on my cheeks and sweat was covering my body.  I began to tremble and cry as if I were purging all the memories of those nights I had held from my conscious memory for so long.  My eyes adjusted to the dark and the shadow faded from view.  I steadied myself against the large oak posts of my bed. 

 

I jolted up, turned all the lights on in my apartment, and spent the rest of that night on my bathroom floor. 

 

I knew something cataclysmic had occurred.  I felt like these ghosts that had been following me had to be exorcised out of my mind and out of my internal closet before I could start fresh.  Something about the palpable nature of that nightmare made me believe that was the door to my locked closet swinging open and something new opening up inside of me–something alive.   

 

 Ego is not a dirty word by Michelle Brea on flickr

 

I have had nightmares since that night, but never one like that again.  I have never had to sleep on the bathroom floor or see shadows that weren’t there hovering over my bed.  I never went back to that park distilled in my mind or had to find myself lying in the grass without warning. 

 

I never had to go back to that park, until I wanted to, and then I did. 

 

I was in graduate school when I went back.  I had come so far and I felt so unburdened from so much of my traumatic past.  My life was no longer governed by rampant symptoms, but rather by the course of my chosen path: A life path that had taken me through an undergraduate degree in English with a Minor in Women’s Studies.  I had explored all my man-rage via feminist courses, empowered myself in my womanhood, and come out a very healthful, non-raging feminist at the end. 

 

I had written out my story, written both my stories actually, and realized after I finished that much of the details didn’t matter.  I realized that I was the story—the testament to my own survival and I didn’t have to write every painful minute of rape I could recall to prove that to myself.

 

I had found my way into graduate school for a Masters in Clinical Social Work.  I fully immersed in the coursework and quickly found my focus and passion—traumatology and trauma therapy. 

 

I had found a way to master my pain and give my experience a meaningful purpose.  I had found that my empathy and understanding of trauma as a survivor, without all my own symptoms to bleed all over myself and others, brought me to a place of usefulness in the field.  I understood trauma from the inside, from the belly of the beast. 

 

This combined with my intellectual and academic capacity to absorb all the psychology, biology, and behavioral aspects of the disorder made me both trained and intuitive, simultaneously, when it came to working with traumatized persons.  I was passionate about the work and I knew it was going to form my life’s professional pursuits.

 

I had begun to live.  I had begun to love life.  But I had not yet begun to love anyone else, at least not a man.  And every time I was in South Orange, New Jersey I always drove every way I could to avoid going past that park.  The park where so many things began and so many more things ended. 

 

And I had one of those moments of epiphany where I knew I had to go back.  I didn’t want to remain afraid of anything—not even one solitary park in a small town in New Jersey. 

 

Of all the things that had gone from my memory in a blaze of anguish, like what time of year it was when the assault happened—was it Spring or was it Fall?  Or what year was it—was I 18 or 19 when it happened?–I remembered the park. 

 

I remember how he parked his car on the slight slope on the side of the hill.  I remember walking on the dirt trail that wove through the brush into the open field.  I remember the tall grasses tickling my ankles and the sounds of night turning into early morning. 

 

So I went back. 

 

I walked down the dirt path and felt the grass on my legs.  I walked into the clearing to see not a dark early dawn, but a bright sunny afternoon.  The sun hit my face and grass tickled between my sandals.  I walked into the field to approximately the spot where he had put his blanket down for us to sit on. 

 

I sat in the grass and then I lay down.  I looked up into the sun and heard the sound of cars pulling up.  I heard a child and her mother laughing.  I smiled and I breathed in the grass scented air.  My hands touched the earthen floor and I felt the soft tickle of wildflowers under my fingertips.  I made a fist and pulled a few up from the soil.  I pulled them to my nose and breathed in and then breathed in deeper.  The air and scent of flowers filled my lungs and I smiled.  I could breathe again.  In that grass where I lost my breath years before, I could breathe again. 

 

I may not have returned to who I was before that night, we are always changed by our experiences, but I found something there in the grass that I had lost.  A piece of softness and bliss that I thought I could never retrieve. 

 

I felt a freedom in my own breath as I let go of one last strand of that petrified fear—I opened the box and let it all go.  I let the park go and I walked out the way I came—into the sunlight and into my future. 

  

(Below) Photo of me as a child, breathing in the scent of park grasses and enjoying the bliss of wildflowers.

distilled

 

Although the world is full of suffering,
it is also full of the overcoming of it.

 
Helen Keller

 

 

   

 

Moon Silhoutted Trees Mosaic by ctd 2005 on flickr 

        African proverb: “The ax forgets, the tree remembers.”

        Maya Angelou, Even the Stars Look Lonesome, 1997

 

 

When I left home for Fort Collins, Colorado at twenty I was running away.  Running away from my trauma, my memories of places, memories of the faces that had become blurred, and the history of a life that (at the time) I didn’t want to remember or own.  So, I went half way across the nation hoping for geographical healing and what I confronted was everything I left behind.  First, subconsciously, through painful mistakes, symptomatic responses in overdrive, and a very unhealthy and volatile relationship.  Then, intentionally, when two and a half years into my “new life” and many falls downward I realized that my demons, my ghosts, and my life didn’t disappear just because I did. 

 

I remember sitting in my first trauma therapist’s office and her making me do what I now know to be “The Empty Chair” Technique from Gestalt therapy and just crying all the tears I had been holding in for the person I was before my trauma, for the person I had become after it, and for all of the unnecessary years of guilt and shame I had bestowed on myself.  It was a first step on a very long journey that continued to include falling down, but at least it didn’t involve any more running away. 

 

Six months after the afternoon in that office I moved back to New Jersey—to confront myself and my memories in the place from whence they came.  I realized once I stopped hiding inside myself I no longer had to hide externally. 

 

On the brink of my move to Florida (just a few months ago) I wanted to make sure for myself that this was a move forward not a fleeing situation.  I find myself very attentive to my own self assessment—making sure I am making conscious decisions for viable reasons so as never to fall back into the trunk of my own car on the road of my own life again.  Most of me knows this will never happen, but the intellectual part of me just wants to think it through anyway.  I realized that in coming back to my hometown and confronting the faces and places that had haunted my mind I had been made free to find my home again.  Not home as a place on a map but as a space in my heart. 

 

I found home in my family, my friends, the new memories I created, and those I could let go of by confronting them.  I found home, most recently and most poignantly, in marrying my husband:  marriage being something I never thought I would do—some for feminist precepts that I held to tightly, but ultimately deep down I think I had cultivated a pervasive fear of trusting someone that implicitly with me—mind, heart, soul, and body

 

I found home in this past year in the most intimate way I could—In a family of my own, in love that gives all and allows the heart to receive all, and in learning in another that I could completely trust myself.

 

I realized in assessing my Florida move motivations that this physical move was essentially just shifting to another point on a map; the real move was a move forward to a life with my family of two plus (now) THREE dogs and an embracing of whatever is to come without fear. 

 

Trauma is like falling to the bottom of the deepest ravine or being pushed off a cliff’s edge into a frigidly cold ocean.  It is the hardest thing to climb out of and it takes all the strength you may have and often then a bit more than that.  You create new strength and new muscles you never had before in the process and it leaves you with a new sense of fearlessness.  Once you have seen the bottom of the coldest ocean and fallen from the highest peak the rest of life’s problems pale in comparison. 

 

Do you have weak points?  There are moments.  No one is impervious to life or feelings or memories.  There are moments when I wake up with a startle or I jump when someone comes up from behind or get a chill when I see a man leering at me, but they are identified and moved beyond—they are not paralyzing and immobilizing like they once were. 

 

 I don’t see shadows in my room every time I open my eyes or sleep with the lights on or numb out, block out, or space out to avoid the pain.  I do not fear life, fear love, fear touch anymore.  I do not hyperventilate and shake from some unknown triggered memory.  I do not hate my body (most days J).  I do not categorically hate men.  I do not wait for the day when the other shoe will drop or anticipate my world falling out from under me. 

 

I can move and move on without carting all that past pain around with me.  I can talk about healing from my own perspective as well as from my “therapist” chair.  I can, when hard days come (quoting, randomly,“Sex and the City”):  “Breathe and reboot.”  I can find my center, find my quiet mind, find my yogic self that can take life in.  I can let the past go enough so that I can keep breathing, breathing deeper, and breathing in this new life, new move, new dog, and whatever else is next. 

 

I will never run away again.  And I will keep remembering to run without fear into my future.

 

 

An Arabian Dream by TAYSER on flickr

          Experience is not what happens to you;
          it’s what you do with what happens to you.

            Adlous Huxley

 

* MY STORY to be continued tomorrow with the post “Full of Sound and Fury: A Survivor’s Tale”. *

Ive got a brand new pair of roller skates by Indy Charlie on flickr

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature. 
 

Helen Keller

 

 

Having just returned from my viewing of “Whip It” with the amazingly endearing and engrossing Ellen Page as well as “riot grrl” inspiring portrayals of chicks that rock by powerhouse women in Hollywood like Drew Barrymore, Juliette Lewis, Eve and Kristin Wiig  I am feeling appropriately riotous.  I left wanting to do something bold and don some skates.  While the latter is unwise given bad ankles, bad balance, and all around equalibrium issues with as of yet undetermined origin the former feels like a healthy ambition.

 

I think we all should be inspired, on occassion, to do something bold, to be someone bold, and really shout to the world some truth of ourselves.  “Whip It” was an elbows out, skates on, face-your-fears-till-you’re-fearless depiction of someone forging their own path, finding their own truth, and doing it all to a rockin’ soundtrack.  How often I have thought how much easier it would be to be bold or empowered with a really amazing soundtrack blaring in the background.

 

It was the greatest infusion of filmic empowerment I had felt in a while.  I love that feeling of leaving a theatre feeling imbued with a sense of something palpable and translatable from the screen into my rapidly thumping heart and contemplating mind.  Perhaps it was a tinge of nostalgia for my alterna-punkish youth but I think it was also a sprinkling of something much more present tense.  The film was an all out, bruising to the bone reminder that you can be pushed down, punched out, and dropped on our face by life but our strengths are in bouncing back up, maybe throwing in an elbow of our own, and pushing forward to be the best of ourselves–courage despite fear.   And there is nothing like watching a woman literally throwing an elbow on screen, at least for me, to pump up the empowerment adrenaline. 

 

I was not quite sure what to do with this visceral motivation–somewhat torn between wanting to become a roller derby maven and create my own nonprofit I think I will settle somewhere in the middle for the moment, transcribing my internal invigoration via post as my own personal translation of empowerment.  As my method of “throwing elbows” (given aforementioned issues of balance and lack of phsyical skill) has always been literary in nature. 

 

And since I missed out on my Weekly List due to some technical difficulties by way of a busted computer adapter I think I will list about it with a bit of “Whip It” enthusiasm and some of my viewpoints on empowerment:

 

1) Be Bold.  Be Honest.  Be You.  These may seem like simple premises but I think, day-to-day, they can be the hardest to follow through on.  Being true to ourselves and honest about who we are both externally and internally is a life long journey but in that journey we should be able to find ways to be bold about who we are in any given moment.  Whether it be seeing “Whip It” by yourself on a Sunday just because you want to, writing into cyber oblivion because it feels necessary, or just saying how we really feel when our urge is to keep silent.  Being you in any given moment can be the boldest and most courageous thing anyone can do.

 

2)  Face Your Fears.  Whatever gives you chills or makes your stomach drop– stare it down.  Don’t let what frightens you rule you.  Now while I have not managed to do that in the arena of, say, cocroaches (yet) I actively try to push the limits of what I feel comfortable with and stretch for what might be possible right beyond my reach.  Stretch your reach.  Stop stagnation by grasping at something a little further than you think you can achieve–you might be surprised at just how far you are capable of going.  I have been, maybe more recently than ever before.  I hope I don’t stop living on the edge of the next seemingly unattainable dream–grasping at the air just a little bit further than I can see.

 

3)  Pull Yourself Up When You Fall.  So much of life is dealing with the unexpected and often unexpected blows.  Like Hellen Keller said above “Security is superstition.”  We can count on change and low points and failures but those things can be the foundation for something unexpectedly good.  The falls may change who we are and where we are headed but to be able to find the good, get back up, and throw elbows to make something out of what we have been given is real courage.  Being able to not just survive life but thrive and create something new and good. 

 

4)  (Once You’ve done #4) Help Someone Else Pull Themselves Up.  A crutial part of healing from our falls, recovering our souls and healing our aches from pain and trauma in our lives, is being able to hand some of that courage, skill, and the honesty of our own powerful story, to someone else who is struggling in their own ache.  I was discussing this very thing with the lovely and passionate Michele Rosenthal over at “Heal My PTSD” this weekend when (after finding out we live in close proximity to one another) we were able to meet up at a local Domestic Violence event.  Being able to give somebody hope and strength to pull themselves back up is just as important as being able to attain it for yourself–in my opinion–not just for the other person but for yourself. 

 

5)  Speak Out.  Speak Loud.  Be The Voice For SomeOne Who Can’t Speak For Themselves.  In an expanded follow through of #4 I think this step can be powerful for each of us and be a metamorphasis of all the prior steps into a holistic conclusion.  To be able not just to be our own journey to our own end, but to be able to move beyond ourselves to work for a greater good and a larger whole is something that is both personally fullfilling and an important contribution.  Not everyone can be their own voice, they may just not have the strength.  This could be advocating for a cause or population that brings passion to your heart or speaking against injustices in your midst or taking your own painful traumatic experiences and giving it up as representation for others that even pain can have a voice and falling is not the end of the story–teaching people that they can stand again, by example. 

 

 

In this last step I am only, thus far, a partial representative.  I am a huge advocate for PTSD treatment and am constantly trying to be a voice for those who are struggling in their own pain, but I have never yet used my story as the tool.

 

I believe in the importance (another issue I was discussing with Michele this weekend) of those who have survived and thrived in pain and trauma to come forth and stand strong for those who cannot yet do so, but at the same time I have never publically shared my story. 

 

Perhaps this is the next step of my journey and maybe in some strange confluence of events my wonderful discussion with a fellow survivor followed by a raucious “riot grrl” type movie helped to remind me that while the trauma therapist professional in me has important things to say about healing–the trauma survivor in me also has a voice that must be heard.

 

Female Boxing Champion 1926 on flickr

I do not believe in using women in combat, because females are too fierce.


Margaret Mead (a famous anthropologists and one of my first heroines as a child)

October 2009
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