Friday, December 25, 2009


 My stepson, Toby, introduced me to Rob Brezsny's "free will astrology" today. I don't know much about it yet but I've enjoyed going to his website and reading the horoscopes he writes. For 2010, he tells me

You will need to learn a lot in 2010, Cancerian. You'll be in a phase of your long-term cycle when it will be wise to enhance your problem-solving skills and increase the knowledge you have at your disposal. So let me ask you: What can you do to gently shock yourself into prying open your mind? What is it that you don't know but need to know?

While this horoscope could probably apply to anyone, I have no doubt whatsoever that I'll need to learn a lot in 2010. I have bucketloads of things I don't know but need to know. I think I've already harshly shocked myself into prying my mind open but I'm sure a little extra push on the crowbar won't hurt. Maybe I'll ease up a little, though.

I liked one of the quotes Brezsny includes on his website.

I'm not proud to admit it but I tend to lean toward making myself miserable. In fact, I've become quite skilled at it. I think I have felt most of my life like I'm "supposed" to feel miserable. If I felt good or positive, then it meant one of three things:
  1. that I was being callous to someone else's misery
  2. that I was denying the hurt and pain that I was feeling and if I didn't acknowledge it, mirror it and tend to it, who would? 
  3. that I was allowing myself to feel positive things that I didn't deserve.
I'm hoping that I've turned a corner on all three of these

For example, even though this is a difficult time for me, I found contentment attending the Christmas Eve service last night with Geoff, Toby and Maddy. My favorite parts each year are singing the Christmas carols and each of us holding a lit candle as we sing the last carol, Silent Night. I love the singing because I can belt out the harmony without fear. Everyone else is singing too and drowns me out if I'm a little off key. At the end of the service, when the sanctuary is lit just by the candles, I feel a sense of peace, softness and beauty in the world. We all look better when put in a softer light, I suppose.

On Christmas day today, my acquisitive side really enjoyed all the Graphic Design books and magazine subscriptions I was given. More than the material gifts, though, it's wonderful to have the support of family and friends in the new direction I'm exploring in life. So many stimulating, creative things to learn and new ways to see! These gifts will feed my creative spirit and provide a focus for my passion.

Contrary to what Castaneda says, I wonder if making myself happy will actually feel like less work rather than more. It's been exhausting to feel miserable. I'm ready to seek my happiness, hopefully with grace and compassion but with a strong determination to believe that I'm worthy of it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Stars Began to Burn

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice ---
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.
--Mary Oliver

It would be so nice to be able to write poetry that captures exactly how I feel about something. Luckily, since I'm not a poet, there are people like Mary Oliver. I've returned to this poem many times in my life. I suppose it means something different each time but in many ways, it's always the same. I lose my own voice. I get lost in the critical, ancient voices of my parents - or in most cases, I feel the void of any soothing voice at all.

The strength required to pull away from old patterns and dynamics sometimes feels impossible to muster. In my current journey, I'm feeling myself budge a little. I'm beginning to be able to soothe myself more easily. I'm learning how I rely far too much on others to find my own self-worth, how I am so threatened when I'm not the most important person in someone else's life 100% of the time. I had the right to hope for that when I was an infant and young child but as an adult, it's not reasonable to expect that kind of primacy from others. The time has passed. This may seem like common sense to many people but to me, I was driven by pure, primal need.

As a child, I learned that love was limited. I learned two options about love from a parent: the first, that the parent can focus only on themselves while you provide them with reassurance that they're all right or bear their rage and bitterness when they feel they aren't; the second, that the parent can love no one at all because they are so dead inside. I learned that love was conditional; that in order to deserve it I was not to have any inconvenient needs, much less express them. I learned to only expect crumbs and that even those crumbs would be spread around so I had to choose between greedily grabbing the chance crumb myself or stepping aside so someone else who may have needed it more could have it. Sometimes I took everything I could get and didn't care about anyone else (and still do at times, probably). It was never satisfying and still isn't because crumbs are never filling, they're only reminders of the constant hunger pangs. Other times, wracked with guilt for my selfishness, I would starve myself of even the crumbs for days and months in penance, noting how unworthy I was anyway. I've long understood the wounds that created these dynamics in my parents and even forgiven them to some extent. Decades later, though, I've still let myself believe this cycle was the only option.

In Trapped in the Mirror, Elan Golomb says, "Many children of narcissists go into the psychological helping professions, being well schooled to be sensitive to the needs of others." Got me pegged. Mary Oliver may not have had a narcissistic parent but her poem could be the anthem for those of us who did. I've known for some time what I need to do. For years, I've heard the voices asking to be mended and knew I couldn't keep mending, couldn't keep pushing my own needs away in the service of someone else's or in an attempt to deserve love.

Finally, finally I'm resisting the pull at my ankles to stay in that same old pattern. I can almost taste the freedom from self-loathing and self-denial. These horrible feelings require a certain amount of self-absorption. I'm so ready to let all three go. I'm so ready to trust that there are people who have enough love to share, that love is limitless, that there is enough for more than one person and that I am deserving of it. I'm so ready to stop putting myself in the victim role. I'm starting to trust that I, too, will see the stars burn through the clouds and will have my own voice to keep me company, even if I end up traveling that road alone.