Deep Surrender

From my journal.  At the end of March I had no definite diagnosis for the pain in my back which was making it very difficult to walk, bend down, lift anything heavy.

Saturday, March 30
I’m sore all over. Nothing has changed. Nothing I do makes a difference. Erica helped a lot by telling me this is very deep work. Especially the work with helplessness. I see that the only antidote is to trust the process.

I’m almost at the end of Wahl’s book. Over and over he talks about changing from the belief in separateness to belief in connectedness. He actually talks about his experience of unity in a council circle with talking piece. I always feel like my work on myself is intended to get me to the point where I can make a contribution. Occasionally I can see that my work on myself is a contribution. Now I’m coming to see that, if we are all connected, then I’m not working by myself for health, I’m working with everyone for a fuller, more meaningful life for all of us. When I really get that, I’m able to relax completely. It doesn’t matter if I ever “succeed” or “get better.” It doesn’t matter if I ever teach dance again, or astronomy, or start a circle, or a memoir group.  I can join them if they happen.

I feel an astonishing sense of relief. There is a huge process going on, and I’m part of it, carried by it. I don’t have to make anything happen.

Sunday, March 31
That realization led into a wonderful relaxation. I went back to find Daniel Wahl’s language. He talks about the “narrative of separation” and the “narrative of interbeing.”

Post about Daniel Wahl’s book.  I had a moment of felt sense of interbeing, something more than just being connected.

Monday, April 1
I ended up going into a state of complete apathy, first lying on the couch, then going in to bed. I ate some blueberries, but then wanted “comfort food” and there wasn’t anything available. If I could have had anything at all? Couldn’t think of anything. I just lay on the bed and got no sense at all of anything I wanted to do.

No sense of what to do next sounds to me like total surrender.

Tuesday, April 2
Jean Sonder called and suggested I call Vreeland.  It’s interesting that I’ve had people pushing me along all the way, suggesting I call my doctor, have an X-ray.  On my own, I take longer to go for help.

Wednesday, April 3
I’m supposed to see Dr. Vreeland today, for a follow-up and to have him help with my sacroiliac.  I hope it all works out.  “I offer myself to this process.”  As I say that, I feel and accept my helplessness. 

Dr. Vreeland is a chiropractor in White River Junction, Vermont.  I was already seeing him for help with my lack of energy.  I was pretty sure he would be able to help me, but not at all sure what that would look like.  He did an adjustment, and gave me some exercises.  The adjustment helped right away, the worst of the pain was gone.

Thursday, April 4
I feel like I’m emerging from a long heavy winter.Cleared out, stripped for action, my old life gone, burned away.No sense of juice or fertility, of anything new pushing to emerge.But that feels OK.No hurry.

Friday, April 5
Erica says: Your body is telling you “I’m going to really show you what surrender looks like.”Getting in touch with the helplessness without connection to trauma.Traumatized helplessness carries hopelessness, untraumatized helplessness allows for help to come from an unexpected place.

She said I had never been able to truly surrender, because I had never been held in a container large enough to really feel helpless.  I realized that in the past, when I called it “shipwreck” or “surrender” it was really just giving up, and counting on myself to pick myself up and go on.

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Step 2 Again Again

I have been in constant pain in my left hip for a while now.  Mostly it’s down around 2, but when it really hurts, it’s a 10 on a scale of 1-10.  Fortunately, it doesn’t last long.  But it’s very confusing.  For example, it hurts when I put my full weight on my left foot, then hurts again when I bend my hip to lift my foot.  There’s no consistency.  Sometimes I feel better when I’ve been sitting with the heating pad, sometimes not.  Nothing I do seems to make any lasting difference.

So I’m helpless and frustrated.  Talking to my therapist yesterday, she defined the situation as “Your nervous system is completely overpowered from outside,” and went on to say that that was my earliest experience with my mother.  It’s also the definition of trauma.  My own image for it, when I was in the state of frozen terror and didn’t know it was about trauma, was that I was lying in the road, at night, nobody around except that a steam roller is rolling down the road toward me.  I am unable to move and the driver can’t see me.  Obviously I am going to be squashed flat.  Not until I understood that I had been traumatized as an infant, did I understand the feeling that gave rise to this image.

So I’m back at AA’s Step 1 again again: My life is unmanageable, I am powerless over the pain.  I’m facing Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than myself can restore me to sanity.  My earliest experience of a “power greater than myself” was my alcoholic mother, and my experience of her was essentially to be annihilated.  She didn’t actually try to kill me, but she didn’t see me as a separate being.  She couldn’t tell when I was hungry or tired or needing comfort, so she was unable to respond to my needs.  This makes it very hard to believe in a higher power that would help me.  At Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health they gave me an affirmation: “I offer myself to this process.”  It took me awhile to begin to say it.  I knew that “Thy will be done” was one of the most effective prayers (there’s actual evidence for that) but the closest I could get to it was “I offer myself to this process.”  Eventually I even got to where I could say “Thy will be done,” and mean it, but that’s a capacity I keep losing and regaining.  This recent loss of any sense that a greater power could help me is revisiting Step 2 on a deeper level.

Eventually, with the help of my therapist  and my friend Elizabeth, I have been able to see that I am in a process of transformation, made possible by being here at Kendal where I’m in a container and my basic needs are taken care of.  Erica says that my whole system is re-configuring.  This sounds a lot like my old image of when I went to pieces, it was to have the opportunity to put them together better.

So here I am, once again, on the journey to “come to believe” in that Greater Power.  I want to, but it’s not something that can be done on willpower.  In fact, it’s not something you can decide to do, it’s something you have to want to do, intend, and be open to and then it comes by grace.  At least that’s what it looks like to me now.

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Hope Again

I am beginning to have hope for humans and for our planet for the first time since Thump was elected.  I’ve been in a place of despair about whether my beloved planet would even survive.  It looked like we were on our way to killing her.  This book has given me hope that we can survive and even thrive.  There are groups of people all over the planet who are exploring the idea of sustainability through cooperation, and many actual examples of that sort are actually in operation.

From Daniel Wahl, Designing Regenerative Cultures:  p195

“What is being called into question here is not the overall process of biological evolution, but whether competition for scarce resources rather than symbiotic networks in which life creates conditions conducive to life are the main drivers of speciation and evolution of life as an interconnected process.  New insights in biology, neuroscience, and evolutionary theory are offering a perspective that helps us to retell the story about who we are as biophysical beings.

“Truly understanding ourselves individually and collectively as ‘being in and through relationships’ is the conceptual/perceptual meta-design shift that underlies the cultural transformation that is under way.  We are transforming a globalized but fragmented humanity based on the narrative of separation and competition into globally cooperative networks of locally adapted cultures sharing a unified narrative of interbeing.”

Wahl’s speech at Findhorn

Wolves restored to Yellowstone  

The Enormous Regenerative Power of Mother Earth

The Enormous Regenerative Power of Mother Earth

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Positive Learnings from Being Immobilized

Looking back, I can see that the whole sequence cold —> cough —> back pain has given me time, space and motivation to see some good things about myself and my life.

From my Journal for Saturday, February 16
It was good to talk to Erica.  I told her that being sick has shown me my lack of resources.  I really had imagined that when I got here, I would be able to teach astronomy, etc.  Now I’m understanding that I don’t have enough energy to teach astronomy.  I don’t even have enough energy to find a way to share the new ideas that are coming out that show how wrong are the fundamental myths of Western Culture — competition, “survival of the fittest,” etc.  I wish there was something I could do to help counter the idiocy of these times. 

February 17
I asked my guides what I should be doing now.  I was going to write, but they answered right away.  “Take care of yourself.  What you are meant to do will appear when you are ready to do it.”  I asked about the cough.  “The cough itself is not dangerous.  What is dangerous is pushing yourself before you are ready.”  “All things do work together for good.”

February 18
Feeling the very quiet clarity again.  I’m wondering, if all were relatively well in the world, would I be as concerned about what to do with my life?  There wouldn’t be the same urgency, but I would still need to do something meaningful, to be of service in some way.

I see that there is a shift from trying to fix myself, unlearn dysfunctional behaviors, heal the wound, to finding something meaningful to do.  I realize, as I write it, that I’m still seeing myself in isolation.  I want to do something in community, to be part of a community, to not be the leader.

February 19
Etty, after reading Kropotkin on how to live in a prison cell.  “That account can still teach us how to cope with the measures by which our own freedom of movement is increasingly being restricted.  To take what little space we are left with, to fathom its possibilities and to use them to the full.”   p400   

Etty Hillesum was a Dutch Jew who died in Auschwitz.

What can I still do with what is left to me?  First, I don’t know what I’ve got left until I have recovered from this cold.  That could take weeks.  During that time I have to take care of myself as best I can, which is actually hard work because I have to push against the conditioning that I’m not worth taking care of.  That conditioning gets stronger when I’m sick and exhausted because I also regress.  There’s less of an adult to help discern when to push myself — e.g. to take a walk — and when it’s more important to rest.

February 22
Last meeting of the writers group.  The first prompt was “Picking up the pieces.”  There were words and images and colors available.  There was a way in which I felt that the pieces were all out there.  The pieces were all out there.  That’s what I’ve been feeling.  The odd sense of being at the end of one path and not sure what comes next.  But the pieces are all out there.  There’s nothing hidden.  One of the things I came to in group was the sense that instead of putting the pieces together like a puzzle, I needed to stitch them together, create connective tissue. What hits me right now is that what is needed culturally, socially, politically, is connective tissue.  The diversification process has gone as far as it can, we are entering into the chaos realm and will destroy ourselves and our planet if we don’t succeed at integrating.

When I repeat something and underline it, it’s because I’ve just seen the importance of the idea.

From Daniel Wahl’s talk on regenerative culture:  Evolution is a process of differentiating and then integrating on a higher level.  I see that integrating is not forcing conformity.  Forcing conformity leads to fascism, not movement to a higher level.

February 23
Learning to not push.  Learning to let things happen.  Learning to let my body tell me what is the next right thing for me to do.  Truth is an ongoing conversation about things that matter.

Parker Palmer: ‘Truth is an eternal conversation about things that matter, conducted with passion and discipline.’

March 2
The session with Erica was really pretty amazing.  She said something about a “rich life” and I recoiled.  It certainly hasn’t felt like a rich life.  But my felt sense of helplessness and frustration, the drag and bleak coloring of depression, were like a dark grey fog that concealed mountains of riches, so all that I could see were a few little islands in a sea of fog (the “black cloud” that followed me around.)  The work with Erica is dissolving the fog, so I can see more of what’s there.  Of course other people just see what’s there, they don’t see the fog at all.

The other thing that I have been learning from Erica, and just now coming to how huge it is, is the number of talents/skills and knowings that I seem to have been born with.  One was the scientist’s curiosity that kept me from getting trapped by various boxes, kept me from retreating into intellect.  I could always tell when a particular therapy had got me as far as it could, things started to plateau, and I had to find something more.  Alas, I too often made it that I wasn’t working hard enough.  I know there are more skills, and I don’t see them because I take them for granted.  I remember the time when I saw the pattern of a circle dance I was learning, and when I asked for clarification from the teacher, she didn’t know what I was talking about.  That was when I first got it that I had been gifted with all the skills for teaching folk dance.  I had assumed everyone had those skills, but I was wrong.

March 13
OMG.  After checking email I was just going through my most recent blog post, and I suddenly saw that God’s answer to Job — “Canst thou bind the sweet influence of Pleiades…” is the Universe’s answer to me.  It does want what’s best for me, but its knowing of what’s really best for me, is not necessarily what I would think is best for me.  I feel brilliantly guided toward this knowing.  Thank You!

March 14
I can’t believe that “Canst thou bind the sweet influence of Pleiades…” has been on my wall, traveling with me, since 1964.

Pleiades” is a silk screen by Ben Shahn.  I bought it in 1964.  I loved the quote, and used to imagine declaiming it.  As I understood it, God was saying to Job, “who do you think you are?”  But actually, that’s not what God is saying at all.  She is saying “You ask why these things happened to you.  Can you make good luck happen, or break the law of gravity?  My complexity is far beyond what you can understand.”

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Siege of Poor Health & Bad Luck

On February 10 I got the bad cold that’s been going around.  I had it for two weeks.  Then I developed an endless cough.  The cold was over, and there wasn’t any infection.  The doctor prescribed an inhaler that’s used for asthma, and it helped a lot.  But by the time the cough diminished, I had developed a muscle spasm in my right hip, and my sacrum was affected.  It hurt too much to walk far, so I had them deliver dinner to my room.  For which I’m extremely grateful.  I saw a woman, who is very good, for physical therapy.  She’s an independent practitioner, with an office up the road.  She said it made sense that the cough could have caused something like that, which was comforting.  What she did felt good, but it still hurt the next day.  She said it would take 3 days.  But the fourth day whatever was wrong with my sacrum suddenly got worse.  I could barely walk.  Back to my doctor, who prescribed a muscle relaxant and PT.  At first the muscle relaxant didn’t help — I thought it would help with the pain, but I also needed to take a painkiller.  Because I was having pains down the outside of my leg, I found it very difficult to sleep.  They gave me some patches that could be put right over the affected area.  Thank god, I could sleep! 

The woman from PT here at Kendal came to my room — again enormous gratitude that there’s someone right here — she did some work on my lower back, and gave me some exercises.  She also said I should be walking a little, and increasing it a little a day.  The first day I did the exercises once, and took a short walk outside.  The next day I did the exercises three times and did three short walks.  That seemed to help, so I did it again the next day.  But it must have been too much because the other side of my sacrum began to hurt, and again I could only walk very slowly.  My pattern is to push too hard and do too much, so I’m working on trying to discern how much to do.  Also working on patience and acceptance.  Very difficult.

I went back and read Ram Dass’s book Still Here, about his experiences after a stroke.  He had to learn a lot of difficult things.  He called it “fierce grace.”

This morning a young woman came to walk Mocha, and Mocha was impossible.  Barked and barked and ran away.  I have no idea what’s going on for her.  She’s been barking much more than she ever did, and I don’t know how to make her stop.  I feel terrible and frustrated that I don’t know what to do.  I actually sat here crying for a little bit.

I guess I just have to accept that I can’t handle this, accept that I can’t get Mocha to stop barking, accept that I have no idea why the other side of my sacrum is now hurting, that it’s possible that I pushed too hard — well, it’s just a really tricky balance.  I have to forgive myself for having difficulty, find some compassion for myself.  I’m doing the best I can.  It’s not good enough, but that’s simply got to be OK.  There must be tons of people out there who are also caught in this frustrating place.

From “Tattoos on the Heart”: “God looks beyond our fault and sees our need.” p52.  I see that I’m back with the “one false move” god.  I’m angry at myself for hurting, for not knowing exactly how much to exercise, for not being able to find compassion for myself, for being angry at Mocha for barking, and then angry at myself that I don’t know how to stop her, and hurt because she’s not spending a lot of time next to me, and she must dislike my energy…

I’ve actually gotten pretty good at hanging out with emotional pain, and finding compassion for myself.  At this point I have a pretty good idea where the painful feelings are coming from.  Physical pain is another story.  I have a very hard time with not knowing why things are happening.  Both lack of control and helplessness are major triggers for PTSD.  In this struggle with my body, I’ve hit the place where I don’t know what is going on and don’t know what to do about it, and I freak out.  I also think I’ve regressed to an earlier state and lost all my new and more functional coping skills.  I’m very grateful that I’m in a place where so much help is available.

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The Story of my Life that Works

From my journal for June 3, 1996

But the truth is, going over the whole thing in detail again again, writing down exactly what the fear feels like and then seeing how it matches my childhood, results in me feeling much less fearful, much more stable, seeing beyond the shoulders of my parents’ shadows to the possibility of a real Universe, big enough, wild enough, creative enough, compassionate enough, to meet my Soul’s need.

I hardly can believe that I wrote that so long ago, while I was in a state of hypervigiliance from the bad experience on Paxil.  I wasn’t yet on an anti-depressant that worked, I had no idea about the trauma, and yet I was able to state exactly what my life is about: the search for Truth, for that real Universe.

This is more of the excerpt from my journal for June 1996.   I posted the whole thing back in 2010.  I went back to look for it, because I had a sense that it was an important overview of my life.  In fact it’s the description of the work I’ve been doing for the last twenty years.  I have a lot more information I want to add.

I had an insight, a while back, that consciousness, consciously holding a vision, was a kind of strange attractor that could — not control the chaotic forces of life — but direct them in some way, or at least move them closer to the desired outcome.  So therefore, holding on to a vision is important, even if there aren’t any “good feelings” or any hope that the desired outcome could manifest.  I’d feel better if I were more in touch with my own vision. What do I want?  I want to feel connected to my life, engaged in it, involved with it.  I want to have some sense that my daily activities are meaningful even if I don’t know what that meaning is.  I want to feel my rootedness in the divine, so I can move from a place of peace and wisdom instead of fear.  I want to feel connected to my friends, and to be able to support them to the best of my ability.  What about my creativity, the books I was going to write?  I guess what I want is to offer my creative gifts to the Great Powers of the Universe to be used as and when they see fit.  And I would also like to have some sense that those Great Powers are — what? I hate to say “good” or “beneficent”, that seems too limiting, as though the Great Powers were concerned with my material security and happiness, as though the Great Powers were constrained by human ideas of “good” — when I know they can be wild and unpredictable and demanding of larger visions, bigger efforts than would be consistent with “security” or “happiness”.  I think I want to be reassured that the Great Powers are not blind, unintelligent, malicious, mean, but that they are tending toward some vision of greatness, wholeness, divinity, some dazzling truth or beauty or compassion that would call forth my reverence and willingness to sacrifice my health or happiness or life for such a cause.  When have I ever had that sense, of a Universe big enough, spiritual enough, to enlarge my soul and lift me out of my petty concerns?  I can’t think of anything recent, but I know there are times written in my journal.  I think of thunder and wind and fire, and the hands of God, at the time of Fiona’s death.  I think of the “blazing and storm-shattered” maples at Kripalu and my sense of wanting it all, wanting a whole life, both the glory and the pain.  But mostly my experience of the universe is that it’s at best unhelpful, at worst malicious, that it’s set me some hard and difficult assignment, refused to give me help with it or even make it clear what the assignment is, it has some expectation of me that I keep failing to fulfill, it’s just waiting to punish me badly for every mistake and sneer at my attempts to do something “good”, to make something “beautiful”.  Well, I see that I’m not describing the Universe at all, but my childhood experience of Mom & Dad, where I kept failing to satisfy their expectation, and got no help or guidance at all, just sneers and invalidation when I ran into trouble.  I can’t believe that the Universe is like this.  Surely the One who made daffodils is capable of more compassion and support than that.  It seems like I’ve got so entirely caught in the world conditioned by my parents that I’ve completely lost my sense of some bigger wider universe, where compassion and support and abundance are available, and especially support for being one’s “big self”, living one’s big life, really using and living out of one’s creative power and strength.  I see how afraid I am of being punished and abandoned if I dare to live out of my real power.  Gosh that makes me mad!  I see why my advice to Alice showed up in my dream — I too am being restricted by my parents’ “post-hypnotic” suggestion to live the kind of life that would have made them comfortable, not the kind of life my soul is capable of.

It makes me mad that I have to keep coming to this insight over and over.  I stopped thinking of the fear states as being related to infancy with my mother because a) if that was really it, they should have stopped with the realization, b) I’m wrong to blame my spiritual failures on Mom, c) I’m tired and bored with the whole thing, d) Valerie Hunt says the fear comes from soul problems stemming from past lifetimes not from childhood trauma in this one.  But the truth is, going over the whole thing in detail again again, writing down exactly what the fear feels like and then seeing how it matches my childhood, results in me feeling much less fearful, much more stable, seeing beyond the shoulders of my parents’ shadows to the possibility of a real Universe, big enough, wild enough, creative enough, compassionate enough, to meet my Soul’s need.

Strange attractor” is a term from the mathematics of complex systems.  It describes a process which cannot predict, but is how many real things behave.  My favorite example is the standing wave that appears over a rock in a stream.  If you watch it for a while, you see that it never repeats the same form, but also that the shapes never go outside a particular limit.

Holding a vision, as a way to manifest what you want, is from the teachings of Robert Fritz.

Fiona was our first dog.  We had her barely a year when she was hit on the road and died.  This is from my journal a few days after she died:

From the beginning I had the feeling that we were in the hands of god, and that Fiona was in the hands of god, even in the midst of all the grief and pain. …  God is not about security, god is thunder and wind and fire.  Fiona’s death cracked us open to the realization that we are all suspended over the abyss, just a hair’s breadth from annihilation.

My first weekend at Kripalu, there was a snowstorm on Sunday, so I had to stay an extra night.  I wrote this on October 6, 1987:

 The sun was just breaking through the clouds and the trees with their glorious colors contrasted sharply with the snow all over the ground.  There were broken branches everywhere and as I walked I thought about how this is the price we pay for being here. …   But now it seems like this is the price we pay to live at all, this is what it costs to stand there with glorious colors.    So as I walked down the road I said “Yes, all right, I accept the challenge.  I’ll take the bad as well as the good and try to learn to be joyous and grateful through all of it.  And I too already have some broken branches.” 

The books I was going to write.  The most important was “Written in Blood.”

This is a story that keeps me stuck.  “I stopped thinking of the fear states as being related to infancy with my mother because… a) “if that was really it, they should have stopped with the realization.”  Intellectual understanding doesn’t end a belief unless it’s very recent.
b) “I’m wrong to blame my spiritual failures on Mom.”  I never blamed Mom for my difficulties, I always saw that it was my job to heal the damage.
c) “I’m tired and bored with the whole thing.”  Because I can’t see how to go on.
d) “Valerie Hunt says the fear comes from soul problems stemming from past lifetimes not from childhood trauma in this one.”  What made her the expert?  I think my acceptance of her statement is me being willing to trivialize my experience.  It will be about 5 years before I understand that I was traumatized.  The story that I was traumatized in infancy makes sense of my life and gives me a way to work on healing.

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And What Remains?

I read what I had first written to the group, and said something like “I have no idea what remains.”  One of them said “What is not yet discovered,” which was a huge help.  I remembered and added: Eve and LeeAnn saying “I love you so much.”  It wasn’t until I had written the revised version that I remembered Rose Marie saying “Oh I love you.”  What remains?  I know there are at least 5 people who love me.

I know something else, even more important.  I know that I can love.  My mother taught me that I didn’t love her if I wouldn’t do what she wanted.  I never understood what she wanted, so I wasn’t able to carry it out.  I didn’t realize this until I rewrote the notes I kept on my last visit to Cincinnati before my father died.  I extrapolated from that inability to understand that I didn’t care about anyone or anything if I wouldn’t do what they wanted or needed.  So I’ve felt most of my life that I wasn’t a loving person.  

Some of the things that have helped me most are: my husband teaching me that it was possible to care and not do anything for the person.  So I would eventually be able to recognize that I did love somebody, even though I wouldn’t do what they wanted.  On the other hand, sometimes I did something to help another person who I loved, but it was either too much of a sacrifice for me — what comes to mind is when I disconnected the solar power system hoping to help my tenant who was sensitive to electromagnetic fields.  It didn’t help her at all that I could see, and it ended up being a mistake because we lost our backup power if the electricity went off, and it has turned out to be impossible to get it hooked back up again.  The other thing I have done is to allow other people to exploit me because I cared about them.

Another thing that helped was Elizabeth Goudge.  In The Scent of Water, she has one of the characters say “Love is not some nice thing that you feel, but some hard thing that you do.”  I rarely feel loving.  If someone tells me about their pain, I can feel my heart open immediately, and I usually give them a hug.  Since I have started working with Erica, I have begun to understand the toxic effect of my mother’s inability to be happy, despite my attempts to please her.  And I have started to feel my loving toward many people.  This is what remains: knowing that I can love, which turns out to be more important and more satisfying than whether people love me.

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What is Gone?

I’ve been going to a writing group about loss.  I wrote this at the third meeting.  But it was a clumsy scramble, and brought up contradictions that I didn’t have time to explore.  I want to explore the whole process of dismantling a negative belief.

The prompt was “What is gone?  And what remains?”  and I wrote:  “What is gone is the feeling of being loved.  I only felt it once when Dana hugged me in the kitchen of my house in Brunswick.  He flung his arms around me and said “I love you so much.”  I felt like I had come into a warm room from a cold snowy long trek alone through a freezing desert.”

But there were a number of experiences that led up to my being able to feel loved.  I used to think to myself “Nobody ever loved me and nobody ever will.”  It was true that I never felt loved by my parents.  But I didn’t know that.  What I wanted was a boyfriend, and what I meant by “love” was that the boyfriend would love me.  Unknown to myself I believed that if I had a boyfriend I would feel OK about myself, it would “prove that I deserve to live.” 

It wasn’t until I was 30 that I said out loud in the presence of a friend:  “Nobody ever loved me and nobody ever will.”  At the time I meant “no man has ever loved me.”  That was my very narrow belief about “love.”  But my friend Trudy said “What about me?  I love you!”  I didn’t feel loved, it conflicted so totally with that old belief.  But the scientist in me created a page “Evidence to disprove the hypothesis that Jenny is unlovable,” and began a list.  1. Trudy loves me.  When I said the same thing in front of my friend Ron, he said “What about me?  I love you.”  So I added 2. Ron loves me.  But I didn’t feel it.  I added names of people I knew loved me.  I recited them to myself on a regular basis.  I stopped saying “Nobody ever loved me and nobody ever will.”  It was after that, that I met Dana, married him, moved to Franconia.  But gradually our lives went in different directions.  When we finally divorced, I thought we would stay friends but he cut me right out of his life.  That hurt more than the divorce.  I began to realize that he was not the person I thought he was.  Once the memory of that hug in the kitchen could reawaken the warm feeling, but that had finally disappeared.

Writing and thinking about it brought back the memory of my friend Rose Marie, another friend I met while I lived in Brunswick.  She would often say “Oh I love you!” after I had done some stupid little Jenny thing, something small but that was very individual.  It surprised me so much, and her tone of voice was one I had never heard before, it sounded like she was enjoying me being me.  I think it somehow cut through all my negative stuff about being loved.  It was my first inkling that I didn’t have to do something spectacular to be loved.

A number of years after the divorce, in the same year, two friends flung their arms around me and said “I love you so much.”  I remember thinking at the time that it was the direct antidote to that loss of feeling so warm and welcomed.

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The Falcon’s Story

January 10

I joined a group to write about loss.  When we entered the room, there was a table covered with images which we could use for writing if we didn’t want to follow the prompt.  I saw a picture of a falcon, soaring high above an indistinct landscape.  There was a small movement in my heart, so I picked it up.  While the facilitators were telling us the ground rules, confidentiality, etc. I looked at the falcon again.  My heart swelled and my eyes filled with tears.  As soon as we could write, I started.

I look at the falcon, soaring so high above the landscape that it’s hard to see what it is. My first thought is ski areas, but then I see what might be water. The words that come are “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” My eyes fill with tears. I was supposed to be a falcon, soaring above the landscape, seeing the planet as a huge world, one world. But somehow, just after I broke through the shell, I was crippled. I don’t remember what happened, but my wings don’t work. I am forced to walk, slowly, step by step, across a landscape of which I see only the tiniest little bit. At first there’s a pain in my heart. Then I look closer. There is grass, moss, tiny wildflowers. There are basins filled with sand, with odd succulent plants growing in them. There are ants, marching in a line, and here’s a huge white rock, full of crystals, yet smooth as though it has been scraped clean. I keep going and come to an odd place that smells bad. There are strange shaped objects, some colored liquid has spilled, there are ants all over it. The ants must be finding food, but nothing looks natural, none of this stuff belongs.

What have I done with my one wild and precious life? I have studied and learned how the sun happened, and the galaxies, how the planet Earth formed, and created its atmosphere. How one-celled animals transformed the atmosphere, how life created more complex conditions for more life, how the planet became so beautiful, so many diverse creatures, and plants, and rocks. Then humans somehow left the path of wisdom, and have started to destroy this life-support system on a tiny blue-green planet in the vast reaches of space. It’s looking as though we — because I am one of these destructive beings — will not be able to stop this process. I grieve for all the losses.

What will you do with your one wild and precious life?

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Really Doing OK Just as I Am

Tuesday, January 1

This morning I was thinking about a conversation with God, where I asked what I needed to do to fulfill “His” will, and God said “You’re doing fine just as you are,” and I said “No, I want something more,” and God said “PTSD isn’t tough enough for you?” So then I thought maybe I really am doing OK just as I am. Maybe I really am doing OK just as I am. I feel a huge relaxing. If that’s true, then I don’t have to push myself to do more. It’s OK if things get done (or not) when I can manage to do them, and it doesn’t matter if they are “late” according to some imagined standard.

Wednesday, January 2

The feeling of really being OK just as I am was stronger than it’s ever been. It was clear, as a felt sense, that even when I don’t do, or put off, “important” things, and judge myself for it, I am still OK. To whom am I OK? to my deepest self, and to Spirit who looks at me with an Erica smile.

Erica is my therapist, who looks at me with a special delighted smile when I say something good about myself.

Parker Palmer talks about making choices with ego, or soul. “Ego” for him is valuing status, praise, money. I have never valued those things. My ego judges me harshly for not fulfilling requirements for the bureaucracy, or to satisfy certain conventions. No, sometimes I don’t judge me but I’m afraid others are judging me. The whole business of washing hands after going to the bathroom, e.g. I don’t do it because I don’t agree that it’s important, and it makes my hands so dry. But if there’s someone else in the bathroom I imagine that they are judging me. They probably don’t even notice.

Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness
I don’t wash my hands all the time, because I don’t believe germs cause disease unless the immune system is down.  Here at Kendal I’m more careful because I know there are people here who are vulnerable.  I often use hand sanitizers instead of soap & water.

When I walked Mocha yesterday morning, there was blue sky, flying clouds, wind, it was warm, snow was melting in the sunlight, it felt like March. Really lifted my spirits. I was able to find the waning crescent, very faint, often hidden by clouds. It was good to see the Moon.

One thing Erica has pointed out to me is how important it is to me to be aware of the Sun and Moon, the planets and stars.  I think it has to do with orienting myself by the stars.

Friday, January 4

I emailed my brother Jesse to thank him for the book he sent me for Christmas and told him I hadn’t been doing well and sent a link to my blog. I got a lovely response in which he said he had read the blog, and he hurt that I hurt so much and he wished he could help me. I have to write and let him know how much he helps just by his response.

Note from talk with Erica:
Instead of making something happen, I’m allowing it to unfold.

posted by someone else on facebook:
I no longer force things.
What flows, flows.
What crashes, crashes.
I only have space and energy
for the things that are
meant for me.

Saturday, January 5

I’m not sure when it occurred to me that when people talked about “the gift of life” it always made me angry. I would respond with “the gift came to me smashed.” But now I’m seeing that what was really happening was the “gift” wasn’t a gift, it was conditional. It wasn’t freely given, I was expected to earn it. No wonder my deepest belief, and the one I find hardest to change, is that I have to “prove that I deserve to live.”

Today, January 9, I still feel OK just as I am.  I don’t think it’s ever lasted this long, or felt so solid.  Thank You.

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