Category Archives: Creativity

Extrication — and… Integration

chain-broken

I have been working for…(I don’t like to hear it out loud) years now to extricate myself from habits, relationships, ways of thinking, situations that tear me apart… This morning I lay in bed, still, like so many mornings, feeling heavy like a boulder…not feeling like I have the energy for life. And then my reflection mechanism kicked in, as it does more and more these days. That mechanism questions my immobilizing sensations and thoughts, helps me stand back, give those reactions space and attention.

I was able to consider what situations have actually made me feel truly like I did not have what I needed to get up, to live on a particular day… The situation was always people around me who were not supportive, not perceptive, not receptive, not ‘present’, not personally responsible, not connected really, to me or anyone else. And the situation was also my thinking that I had no choice but to share time, space, even a life with them…

As I lay in bed and reflect on that elsewhere- or other-time reality…(because at that very moment I was not in that situation) I reflected on the appointment had with my therapist yesterday morning. I had come to the question, how do I ‘be’ with someone who is the kind of person I want…how do I be…healthy and content and good deep inside and still face the fact that I was so damaged…Face the fact that I am struggling still with not living a ‘damaged’ life? How do I be authentic about who I am, what I have behind me, and happy at the same time? And happy alongside someone. Not weighted down, or dependent in unhealthy ways, or seemingly bitter or scared or controlling, or ‘intense’ for no reason?

And how do I live as a Shantelle who is true to herself and everything she was before people treated her like shit, and live around family members who (may) still be shitty…to me and to themselves? How do I live happily and with momentum and optimism and free spirit and spontaneity and joy around people who are still trapped? Those types of people usually don’t like really joyful people around. They usually think something disparaging about them, or feel sorry for themselves…(I know because they taught me to live like that…And I pretend to be in a shittier (feeling) situation when I am around those people so that I don’t ‘bother’ them…).

I feel like there is an irreconcilability in my path to personal health. I believe that this is just a scare tactic…But I still don’t know what is meant to come next… Just my decisions, I guess…no matter how bold…?

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What Do I Want To Feel?

I’ve been in a holding pattern for months now. A holding pattern as I am exploring how to make changes to my life, how to live differently. How to change the habits both conscious and unconscious that have been holding on for decades… And I am tired.

Literally, I am tired. Because I haven’t been able to sleep restfully in any consistent way for years. For so long I have been experiencing ups and downs with this. When I began to stay away from my alcoholic ex there was relief. I could enjoy the peace and quiet for a while and sleep with some calm. But then my body and mind got restless…afraid of my tendency to invite that chaos back, afraid of my naivete, of my weakness when it comes to thinking that I am any kind of solution for HIM feeling better or doing better.  The guilt is just debilitating. And my body didn’t trust that some other chaos wasn’t impending.

Spending lots of time on my own has been excruciating in some ways. But I have had the feeling for a while now that the personal solitary time is important. Important because I escape change, whether I notice myself doing it or not, by looking elsewhere for rationales and explanations for how to do things differently. I think there are answers elsewhere, from other people, but others perspectives of thinking about life and love and…everything.

That is true to a degree. I think I’ve needed to get out of my own head for a long while now. And listening to explanations about how to live differently or ways to think about relationships or other life experiences differently have been invaluable. But they are just practice. They are supposed to bring me closer to being able to explain MY own perspective on MY life, how I feel about it, and how I want to feel in the future. And THEN what I need to DO to support myself in feeling that way.

This afternoon the question is: How do I want to feel in the morning?

Usually I feel like everything is futile. When I wake up I often feel already defeated, before I barely move a muscle. And it has escaped me for the longest time, what I am supposed to do with this feeling… Yes, I need to listen to myself. Yes, I need to know that I want to feel differently… But what comes after that?

Whispers have reached me lately. About different things, but especially this morning (well, and also the going to bed feelings at night).

I need to ask myself and talk about, describe, declare, how I want to feel when I wake up in the morning. Without being afraid to declare that. Without talking down to myself or saying or thinking I am ridiculous…. hehe. I need to really sit with myself and imagine feeling this new way, imagine the moments, the minutes of waking up in the morning and what kind of expression is on my face, what kinds of feelings I have in my body, what kinds of thoughts I have and things I look forward to and habits I have in the morning that are great for me.

Then the reality is almost complete.

And then I can do the same with the night time.

See my next post for my description of how I want to feel in the morning…

What If I Like the Work?

I had the feeling last week, that I wanted to do the consulting work I was assigned to. I realized that at moments I was having fun doing the research. Perhaps, I thought, the anxiety is coming from getting to a place where I like it, where I am good at it, and I feel good at it. Perhaps I am worried about being happy because someone else who isn’t always wants a piece. It was bad, around Jessie, to enjoy things. To be just plain happy. I couldn’t  have fun, silly reckless abandon fun, integrate joyfully into the world, because she felt she couldn’t. And she had me and kept me and it would be so terribly unfair if I was giddy…before she was.

I Thought I Was Unfeeling

For so long I felt unfeeling. I felt like I needed to be ashamed. I listened to others’ assessment of my behavior, to others understandings of how I act, and to my fears of what they would say, or worse what they thought they would ‘know’ about me… All of the disparaging things they would know… I rediscover that about myself all the time. That I continue to feel fearful and ashamed of a reality of me that others construct. I notice it now. And rediscover that that version of me is not the true one. It is not MY truth. Unfortunately, every time a little time passes, life drags on, and I fall back down a muddy slope in my mind, back into believing that I am not safe here, back to believing that I must defer to what others see and that any of their negative experiences of me absolutely l MUST be who I am. And THOSE are things I put my energy towards.

This will stop soon though. I am feeling that there is some more accurate truth about me. And it is not to be found in the woes and fears of others. And my energy has gone into what feels like a black hole for much too long. I am going to learn to tell MY story of feelings. Not others’ stories of my feelings.

At the end of 1999 my grandfather died. I didn’t get to know him especially well – like, I mean have long adult conversations with him etc and get to know his feelings on politics and his deepest secrets. But he was one of the people in my life that I didn’t have to worry about feeling that feeling of insecurity or impending doom around. I enjoyed sitting beside him, cuddling with him if ever I got to. He had farmers hands and rolled his eyes at ridiculous things (when no one was looking). He was so knowing and sensible and sensitive, but like me reserved himself for moments when that side of him would not provoke others who weren’t quite as reflective.

My aunt and uncle brought him to visit me in Ottawa during the months before he passed away. I saw the look in his eye, even more deeply tender. Like we were both hiding love but both swimming in it together at the same time. I wanted to say goodbye more tenderly. I wanted to share more of my experience of him with him. But I let other things, what I thought were more pressing but were simply more imaginary obligations, get in the way. I didn’t allow space for my loving expressions toward him. And of course, that meant I did not allow space for my grief…

My mother asked me to go be with her at his house during his last couple of days…to support HER. It was a few months after his visit with me in Ottawa. She didn’t just ask me to go with her. She felt she needed to use guilt me into it. Without realizing it, like I had my whole life, I said yes to my mother because I saw her approach to me as proof that I was I neglectful and unsupportive, uncaring daughter if I didn’t go with her. I look back at how incredibly scared and uncomfortable I was of being in that place – around only her and my aunt (her sister). My mother has almost always been a person from whom I felt I had to hide my true feelings. I learned she would steal them all away…or she would express her judgments and I believed I was exactly those judgments. I had to go with her and be this empty terrible person around my sweet sweet grandfather, in the moment that he would move on from us.

Until about now, in my head, the story of my grandfather’s death was one about me not feeling, being a cold, emotionally frozen, frigid daughter, who was not compassionate enough.

I am amazed to discover that that story is note accurate.

I lay in a bed on the floor of my grandparents’ farmhouse, the night he passed away. When he left us my mother came into the room. She came close to me and said he was gone. I pretended to be asleep. And she tried to cry on my shoulder…she tried to use me as her pillow…

Why.

Why did I pretend to not be there.

I pretended because I had nothing left to give her. If I gave her another ounce I would break entirely.

It was not because I didn’t care.

I pretended so I would be able to grieve, so that my existence would not disappear into her, so that I would exist. So that I would exist. Sleeping and keeping my affections to myself kept me in existence.

By going with her I pretended to be what she wanted. I pretended not to need to grieve. To not need her attention to my grief, to not feel.

That was the only way I knew how.

But now I know…I felt I had to choose. Her or me. I thought I had to choose.

The thing is, we can’t choose. It’s impossible.

I feel whether I choose or not. I feel whether she likes it or not. I feel whether she agrees, or sees, or supports me or not.

I hid my feelings out of fear of being told they were less important than hers.

Importance is neither here nor there.

Feeling is all.

A Spring/Summer Day

That’s what this is.

I am in a scary yet exciting place.

The negative energy I am carrying around in me…I have been too scared to leave it somewhere…like, at a bus stop or something…you know, like I would leave my wallet or my phone. To scared to let go of the anger, defensiveness, hardness… because I have always thought it was THAT much of a life saver. I have believed that I would be bare without it when I come face to face with that evil somewhere.

The belief that one must fight evil with evil, defend ourselves from evil with evil. That has made me a walking puppet. Like a cut-out soldier that marched out of my fathers’ depths at a very young age. And just marched. And that fear, that irateness, that defensiveness has attracted so many fearful, angry, sad, “ouch” people into my life. Tumultuous, turbulent relationships and situations. Because I was marching. Not being.

Let go of that, on a Spring/Summer day. Fighting evil with evil doesn’t really feel good. Even when you win. Because who wins!? You’re right back where you started. Fighting is no fun. I don’t like what I look like, what I sound like, what I feel like when I fight with the evil that terrorized me as a child. I feel scary. I feel threatening. I don’t feel like a safe place or a safe person.

Evil goads you into “fighting” it. Do you get caught up in the dare? Or are you in a different place?

 

Famous

If you have read through my blog at all, you may have come across entries about the fact that I have a really difficult time in the mornings. If I am tired or worried at all, I wake up with a dread or fear of something that I can’t even put my finger on.

I have been working on that a lot lately…Just trying to pay attention to that sensation (a la Presence Process, a la Tara Brach’s r.a.i.n, etc)… My gosh it is so excruciating to pay undivided attention to feeling sensations in the body.

But this morning I had a(nother) breakthrough!

I know that I am kind of trying to defy life by making it wait in the morning. I don’t want to get out of bed because ‘something’ hasn’t happened. ‘Someone’ hasnt shown up. I can’t be assured of ‘something’. I began to realize this waiting tendency…and have thought to myself, is it because G (my ex) has not changed his ways, has not ‘realized’ something and decided to the make the change for himself and for us?

And then this morning…I noticed an inaccuracy in that. I am not simply waiting for him to look at himself and make the change. I am waiting for him to finally tell me and act like I am everything to him that I said. And THEN I realized (!!!) that THAT is what I have been waiting to receive from my mother… I have been piecing this together…For her to make a decision – a decision that she did not whole-heartedly make when she decided not to give me away for adoption as a baby – the decision that I, exactly as I am, when I arrived, in all of my humanly needy glory, am someone she wants to commit to caring about.

I have been waiting for someone to truly CARE about me!!

I have been waiting my whole life…to escape my mother’s expectations of me being ‘everything she bargained for’ when she decided to keep me instead of give me away when I was born. It was like she made a contract with the powers that be…”if this little girl does ______ for me, makes me look good, reflects well on me, it will all have been worth it.”

I have been waiting my whole life for someone to accept me as whatever I am going to be, however I am going to act, whatever I may ask for… And the reason why I have such incredibly difficult times in the morning is that I have reached the end of my rope.  I have worked my self into the ground trying to fit my round self into the endless number of different un-round holes that people decide I should fit in to prove I love them, or to prove that they love me like they profess to.

Impossible…IMMMMPOOOOSSIBLE. I am done.

My devastation is ok. Because who would not feel devastated at this?

Hard work is ok – it has not been foolish – because I did not know that I was working for nothing.

My naivete is ok…even endearing. Because I trusted. I am trusting. I look for reasons that someone deserves understanding and compassion, patience.

My disorientation and exacerbation is ok, because I am now going to arrive in a land where I have never lived before. I have never lived in a land where I am unconditionally me. Where I create and decide the holes I fit into, if any at all. Where I decide whether someone else’s expectations of me are acceptable to me, are ok for me to be around. I already know if I love someone, if I am loveable, if a person is someone that I could be in a relaxed and loving relationship with, if I respect them, if I am scared, if I am off-put, if I feel insecure. And deep down inside I know what to do when I feel those things. There are always small signs at the beginning.

I have my own roadmap.

In the mornings there is nothing left to wait for. All there is is to carry out plans I have made, or make plans in order to have things to do that are fun, adventurous, productive, prosperous, etc.

I make me, from the inside out. Love it or leave it.

Gratitude for all of the places and times and people with whom I can do that.

Yes, Make It My Own

I am at the point in my life (my life with less drama) where I can begin to make my days my own. It is quite uncomfortable still, because I have a long history of being reactive and working my life around others. But the plain truth of it is, I am more free and able right now to create my own routine and have the freedom to keep up my routine without guilt or huge catastrophe.

Coming into one’s own routine is a real exercise though. I have been trying for ages to come to a clear realization of what I do every day that is really me, that I personally find really necessary, both the work and the play… I think that is why I began, a little while ago, keeping track of what I was doing day to day (filling in my calendar as I went, instead of only filling in my calendar and trying to stay strictly to that that ‘regimen’). I deserve to acknowledge what my activities are, haphazard or not, and pick out what my genuine needs are desires are and make sure I have those in there somewhere throughout each week so that I don’t feel like I am pushing myself too hard for too long with work, and depriving myself serially of ‘fun’.

Taking a close look at those calendar-documented days though has been super hard to do. Not wanting to really face (my perceptions of) how…disorganized, or unskilled I am at conducting my life. Once I began really dealing with my relationships and codependence issues I became also self-conscious of how inundated my life is with those feelings, thoughts, habits, actions that ooze codependence, indecision, fear, reactiveness, exasperation, victimhood, resentment, procrastination. Those things are written all over my days, weeks, months, years… Not easy to sift through.

But if I do sift through them, I find a desire to make my time my own. To break through a barrier of feeling like I am always running from time like it is a tidal wave coming up from behind, or running to finish dozens of things so that I can catch up to a moment in my life where I am supposed to be.

In my mornings I need to wak up to something nice. (This is the little poster I put beside my bed yesterday.)

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In the mornings I also need to settle into my own headspace by exercising, coming into my body somehow. As a result of my childhood and of being in relationships with unsettled people and addicts my reaction to waking is usually a traumatic one. My mind races almost immediately…Maybe trying to escape something, maybe trying to anticipate something, maybe, regretting something from the day before…I don’t know. But it is not relaxing to wake up.

So, lately I have allowed myself to cater to that awareness that getting into my body with exercise is going to reduce the anxiety that is triggered through that morning mental rollercoaster ride.

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Even after less than 10 minutes of yoga or stretches or walking it is like I can feel my ‘feet fall gently back to the ground’ and I get some traction for my day. Even just a little feels good.

Ideally I “Om” for 3 minutes at 8am (at the same time as some friends who also do the same wherever they are). And ideally I do a 15 minute meditation. I have had a difficult time sticking to these lately because I pressure myself mentally “You have already taken the time to be happy and exercise! How much more time do you need for yourself..!?” That is the voice of my mother, the disregard of my father, the neediness of some of my addict exes that I am still, for some reason, kind of jarred by.

Then eating is my next big, most amazing thing. I have really established an entitlement to regular breakfasts and good ones. My favorite things. Berries. Most often I have my smoothie (1/2 banana, raspberries & blueberries or strawberries or cranberries, or any berries…hehe…and peanut butter and ground flax, and sometimes greens, and maybe a date or two, and almond milk or coconut milk or cashew milk). This has gotten me through many hours of intense morning yoga training. I may or may not go onto the bigger breakfast right away, but I usually need, not long after, a bigger bite – oatmeal, or eggs, or pancakes, or granola…

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Then after that comes the most challenging part of my day. If I don’t have ‘something’ scheduled, like an appointment or a class or something like that, I risk experiencing the fear of my own work.

I often have lots of errands to run, lots of admin things to do (planning and advertising yoga, etc.) and I definitely have lots of home chores to do), and I end up putting off the most me-centred, long-term productive activities until ‘later’. It is one of those things that I ‘cannot control’. Investing the time and thought in things that are going to lift me up, make me money, make me seen are the most terrifying activities.

That may be one of the reasons I began to document my days in my calendar in the first place…because I felt like I was so busy doing things all day but I always found that the most crucial things (publishing a paper, finishing a chapter, etc.) were the things that got the least of my time. And I experience so much shame.

So, making a routine of my own…I guess I have gotten somewhere. And I must say that I am further along with working on writing or planning a class when I am terrified of it. I think the thing that is key is making a routine of the things that I need to do, to eat, to feel so that I can do what I am supposed to do. One can not do the work they need to sustain themselves, do what we need to do to serve others in the world, share our knowledge and our talents without feeling good in our minds and our bodies…

So I am on the right track. Gosh, glad to be writing this. Breaking down barriers. Thank you.

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The Affect Key

What affects you?

Is there one thing? Or more than one thing that you feel is really affecting you in an intense, distracting, disruptive, uncomfortably emotional way? And has been for a while? 

Are you dying for this to stop? 

Ok. Let’s make this easier. 

Whatever it is that is affecting you…let’s clarify it.

When you vent or share or complain about things that bother you, irritate you, piss you off, scare you, or cause you some form of pain, have you narrowed it down to the bottom line truth? The central issue(s)?

Do that. That inivolces shifting your focus about this irritating or painful thing from ‘what does someone else need to do about this?” to “I am feeling _______ about this, so I need a change.”

And then ask yourself what your feelings tell you ‘should’ happen next. 

Should some one hear you?

Should they ‘understand’. 

Should someone respond with words that back you up emotionally, so that you feel more justified in feeling bad?

Has that worked?

No?

Try this:

Guess what? You are not happy or comfortable in a situation, so describe it and clarify it, and then…

Hear yourself.

It is not wrong or stupid or unimportant, what you are feeling, and what you are saying. 

And, it is not necessarily possible to make a circumstance or especially a past event different than it is. So, what choice is left?

If you’re driving along and a tractor trailer coming the other direction pulls head on into your lane, what do you do?

There is a combination of skill, awareness and common sense at play. And bottom line self concern. The first thing you worry about is not how to make the truck change its path, but to process things in milliseconds and change yours.

It’s the same with relationships. 

An interpersonal situation may seem like it needs much longer periods of contemplation than the scenario above. But it doesn’t. No words necessary, no conversation, just a quick, wise move that will remove yourself from harm’s or hurt’s way.

Questions?

A Question

What gives me the highest value and satisfaction in my work?

I wrote this question down weeks ago with the understanding that the answer would come to me. I didn’t want to force it. Or answer the question intellectually.

And this morning when the question popped up as a ‘reminder’ from my calendar, I began to feel the answer.

Something that gives me the highest value and satisfaction in my work as a yoga teacher, and now as a personal yoga teacher giving personalized hot stone, yoga, and thai massage sessions, is the connection with people, the feeling I have about what they need and my ability to do something about that using a combination of my own personal experience with physical injury and pain, physical discomfort, injury, tension, wear and tear, neglect, and my years and years of knowledge about my body, and about others’ experience with  unnecessary dependency on drugs or 15-minute treatments rather than exercise and self-care (stretching, and other simple exercises).

I think I feel so satisfied giving people the simple self-care answers and guidance. And all it takes is for them to get used to the fact that there are simple self-care answers, and that when they are out of answers all they have to do is ask me, or research a little.

We are such a ‘bandaid’ society, that I can have a real niche here…

It is this personal understanding that makes me feel great though, that makes this a possibility.

 

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Inner Child Care

Yes – this is about taking care of me, the adult, by taking care of Little Me inside.

Although we have long been ‘adults’ on paper. Not all of us (maybe not most of us) have learned to take good care of ourselves, or more importantly take care of ourselves consistently, as a non-negotiable habit over the long term. Even as you read this things will come to mind about what you’ve been “meaning to do” about your sleep, your eating, your physical fitness, your moods, your relationships, and without skipping a beat your mind will jump to the justifications and excuses for not having been doing what you mean to do right away. I feel that too. That is what we live with every day that makes us feel no better than the day before and that makes us come to accept uncomfortable states of feeling, being, acting, and interacting. Feeling not our best has become normal.

I am deciding to go at my ‘Feeling Excellent Plan’ by going back to basics.

Once I started reading Taming Your Outer Child (Anderson), I didn’t learn, I was simply reminded that I have basic needs every day that I can satisfy. I am a parent taking care of my Inner Child. Whether someone took care of your basic needs as a child or not, you knew what your basic needs were, because if they weren’t met you were upset or unhappy, or uncomfortable. Going back to thinking about satisfying the basic needs of child makes this job appear easier, because hey, who can’t take care of baby, toddler, or little kid… (Well, that is a bit of a rhetorical question…hehe).

My point is that, in order to make myself feel better, all I have to do is start with the basics! Eating, sleeping, getting outside for exercise and socialization, stimulating my mind and senses, and creating boundaries for myself when it comes to my behavior (for me and for others).

Clear boundaries, expectations, and consequences work for us adults too. If I clearly and openly establish my boundaries for, say, working too long or too late, then I know that there will be consequences (I will be grouchy, tired, and not motivated to go back to it again later or tomorrow). As adults, we can trace our patterns and behaviors and make them clear to ourselves. Reflect on the consequences of our behaviors and change our expectations from, for example, “work is going to tiring and unrewarding all afternoon!” to “work is going to be exciting and productive today!” Once we change the expectations we can do what is necessary to change our behavior to meet those expectations and avoid negative, discouraging consequences all together. We don’t even have to ‘punish’ ourselves… The negative consequences are the punishment. And we can stop those from ever happening by ‘disciplining’ ourselves – which for adults is more like being aware and mindful and changing what needs to be changed for the sake of our need to feel good.

What we needed as children, we still need as adults, especially if we find ourselves unable to give ourselves what we need to meet our own basic needs. i.e. Love, Routine, Consistency, Repetition, Praise, Discipline, Assurance. (see Jo Frost’s Book, The Toddler Rules). We just might need to work on it more intensely or for a longer time if we did not have a great experience as a child. As adults we, without argument or excuse, are to afford ourselves Time, Commitment, Energy, Patience, Persistence, and Perspective. And automatically we gain Willpower, Education/Information, Understanding, Incentive, and a greater sense of Support.

My first step (which I have been fumbling with for weeks if not months) is to give myself a certain routine. I have been looking over my calendar planning and my patterns and I am going to establish a routine for myself – specifically because I am craving security, calm, predictability. On days where I feel like I can not seem to do everything I planned or envisioned I end up flapping all over the place like a fish on a dock.

Such basics.

The Feeling Excellent Plan — going back to basic, simple, small moves. That child in me is alive and well. And once she is fed, napped, exercised, and cuddled, the rest of me will feel A LOT better.

Well, I’ll let you know how it goes.