abundance · authenticity · deprivation

The Junk Man Cometh

6.17.18

When I moved into this apartment, I was a 28-year old, about-to-be-graduate student.  I came with a free-to-me mattress and boxspring that lived on the floor, and “night tables” that were actually cardboard boxes draped in colorful scarves.

The coffee table (dubbed the “Earthquake Table” for its seismic gyrations everytime you knock into it), the pull-out sofa (from craigslist with cat scratches down to the wood), and the kitchen table (with one sloping leaf) came with me.  Each piece was free.  They were “from the Universe,” they were “manifested”!  And they were junk.

Over the 8 years I’ve lived here, I’ve traded up a bit, but on the whole, much of the broken and battered that came with me is still here.

At one point while still in my SF apartment, a man/boy/living-on-the-floor-in-a-basement-literal-dumpster-diver (don’t ask) reflected as we ate dinner off my curb-find, chipped dishes: “I love how everything you own is in a state of decay.”

Good lord.  What am I doing with my life!?

The man/boy and the dishes had to go.

For a very long time, I’d identified with “Second-Hand Rose.”  I thrived on and cherished the idea that I was “getting away” with not spending money on what I could get for free!  (“The Universe is totally listening!”)  Or extremely cheap at a thrift store.  My thrift store plunges were always post-scripted with a breakdown to friends about how many pieces I got for such little cost!  I even made specific trips into San Francisco just to go to my favorite Good Will.

Now, believe me when I say that I still find nothing wrong with thrift, as an adjective or noun.  However, when a few years ago I was at my women’s new year’s retreat sharing about what my just-glued vision board meant to me, I began to well up at describing how I didn’t want to be Second-Hand Rose in Second-Hand Clothes anymore.  That yes, a core value of mine is still not to add more consumption to the machine, but did everything I own have to be in a state of decay??

It didn’t make me feel powerful or high on thrift anymore.  It made me feel less-than.  It made me feel like I didn’t value myself.  I wasn’t taking pride in the 5 dollar shirt anymore (with just one hole that no one could see).  I was feeling shame.  I was feeling like hiding.

While I am absolutely still a reusable item junkie (I just purchased organic cotton coffee filters that I can rinse & reuse when I’m in Amherst … as there will be NO COFFEE MAKER!  Cue song from How to Succeed.), I do not have to make a sacrifice for everything that I own, consume, or purchase.

Self-deprivation isn’t hot.  And I’m allowing the pendulum to swing a little closer to center, a little closer to balanced.  I can buy something that I’ll use for a long time.  I can buy at the trendier consignment (not thrift) shop.  I can sleep on a bed frame.  I can even continue to grab up street finds, though I am much more judicious in what comes into my home.

Every day I choose to make a purchase that aligns with my values — about the earth and about myself — I feel closer to who I truly am:  Not. A. Hider.

 

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deprivation · fulfillment · truth

What are you hungry for?

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This month marks 5 years from my final chemo treatment for Leukemia, meaning this month also marks the 1st month when I can stop counting months!  To explain, the general thinking around cancer survivorship is that if you last for 5 years after treatment without a recurrence, then you become as healthy as the next person (assuming that person is healthy).  The Sword of Damacles that hangs above the survivor’s head begins to fade and vanish (assuming you let it).

But what strikes me today is the following question: What am I doing with the life that I fought so incredibly hard to keep living?

A brush with death (or a defensive line-backer’s full-frontal gory smash-up with death) will bring anyone to question what it is they want out of life.  And so, when I am now listening to Oprah and Deepak’s new 21-day meditation challenge about “Hunger,” and they ask me what am I truly hungering for … well, I better have a good answer!

While I am extremely lucky enough to not have a (permanently) unbalanced relationship with overeating (or undereating), I do have an unhealthy relationship with my couch.  It’s the lover I can’t leave, the fuzziest, comfiest and thread-bariest socks I still wear, it’s the oblivion I crave.  I love my couch.  I love the sunshine streaming over it in the afternoons after work, I love the smooshy feeling of cuddling beneath the blankets, and especially the rich middle of a book I like.  (I like the middle best.)

But.  I’ve fought the demons of Hell and my own blood cells to earn the right to lay on that couch — is this truly what I fought for?  Well, no.  Somewhat, but not entirely.

Oprah asks, What am I really hungry for?  What is it that I’m trying to attain by saturating myself with words?  What comfort or distraction?

Several years ago, near about the time I moved to San Francisco from New Jersey, I was laboring on some inner work that was raising extreme discomfort within me.  I was renting a room in a house owned by a lady who worked for a hotel chain, and she would bring home any leftovers from the “continental breakfast” they served there.  This included fruit, yogurt… and muffins.  Hordes of muffins.

I would huddle in my room, writing for 20 minutes, then step out into the hallway, pad down to the fridge, and grab a muffin.  Just one.  I’d pad back to my room and keep writing.  20 minutes later, I’d open my bedroom door again.  The fridge door again.  And on, until all the muffins were gone.  Just one more.

I was so uncomfortable.  When I recounted this discomfiting activity to my therapist at the time, she wisely asked, “If you weren’t eating, what would you be doing?”  I immediately replied, “Crying,” and thusly broke down into wracking sobs.

The writing piece ended soon enough, and so did the compulsive muffin-eating, but the question remains here:  If I weren’t reading, what would I be doing? 

Adventuring.

 

deprivation · meditation · worthiness

Worthiness

not-worthy

For the past year, I’ve been adding dimension and characters to a story entitled, The Town of Obligation.  This began as a piece of inner work to explore in a very different manner my relationship to Responsibility — and as “responsibility” came to me with a capital letter, I began to imagine her as a person … in a town … called Obligation.

At some point, I discovered that the town was under an illusion and delusion about “Worthiness.”  It was clear that worthiness was not a character, a person, in this play, but rather a stream running through the town, a source from which anyone could drink.  But at some point in their history, the inhabitants began to solidify and pass down the misinformation that only certain people could drink from this wellspring.

Worthiness was only for some.

Well, now.  I knew this to be bullshit, so I sent my meditating, imagined self over to that wellspring — by now in a different land than Obligation, a forest of different imagination.  I arrived at this pool of Worthiness, this golden viscous fluid, shining and beckoning, Midas’s own pond.  I knelt to drink.

But I could not.  I attempted to drink it through cupped hands, but that didn’t feel right.  It wouldn’t cross my lips. … Okay, how about a wooden scoop?  No, still it won’t cross my lips, fill my mouth, warm the insides of my chest.  Uh, okay.  Maybe I’m supposed to swim in it?  I dive in.  Splashing around in the golden water, it still doesn’t feel right.  What the F?

I come out of the meditation, nonplussed.  I talk to my mentor.  I go back to the pond later, and try again.  What’s the matter?  Do I not feel worthy?  Have I become so deluded by living in Obligation that I, too, have come to think only certain people are allowed to have it?

And so I try again.  I ask: How, Worthiness, am I to receive you?

The pond spills forth a rivulet.  The liquid flows into a pool within which a tree begins to sprout.  It’s a redwood, growing rapidly up and up.  … The tree is pulling the flaxen liquid up through its center, its bark glistening with succor, pregnant and laden with the stuff.

Up the massive, newly-grown pine, Worthiness glides, and then down across the boughs into waving branches and flickering leaves themselves.  Til Worthiness pulses out the stems, out the infinite pine needles, and begins to rain.

Standing, in my mind’s eye, beneath the canopy, I begin to be showered, lathed, bathed with the honeyed gold.  I begin to laugh, like a child caught in a sunshower — that sudden and miraculous moment of sun-warmth and chaotic drenching.

Under and inside the falling droplets of Worthiness, I laugh and dance and stomp.  I begin to feel filled and owned and embodied by the sense.  This storm of esteem inhabits me, fosters me, seems never to end its reign.

And –as yet– it hasn’t.

 

 

abundance · denial · deprivation · money

Use Water, Not Tears.

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I’ve been very specific about tracking my money for a few years.  Specifically putting a large portion each month into various savings buckets: Prudent Reserve, Vacation, Dental, Retirement.

Every month, I’ve poured some of my abundance into a bucket, but today I come to find that I have been hoarding it.  Like an off-the-grid nut job, I’ve surround myself with “In Case of Emergency” water buckets while my crops wither and die of emergency thirst.

Because of my summer of switching jobs, I only earned half-pay for August.  Instead of using my already-filled buckets of money (e.g. my savings) to make up for that gap, I winnowed every spending category down:

Food? Spend Less!

Home supplies? Spend Less!

Philanthropy, clothing, entertainment? Spend Less! Need Nothing! Go hungry!

I have a pattern for this.  No matter how much I earn, I live like a pauper.

And this morning, I realized what the hell is the point in having a reservoir if you refuse to use it during a drought?

Instead of using the gifts I’ve already been given to support me during a time of need, I tell myself to have fewer needs?

That’s what got me on the “very strict about money” train in the first place: Not acknowledging, honoring, and supporting my own needs, but denying them.  (You may by now realize that money is just one symptom of a pattern exists in the rest of my emotional life…)

Need less, be less, have less, do less, share less, laugh less, enjoy less.

And, indeed, joyless is how I’ve felt this month as I watched my field dry and crack while stubbornly refusing to look at the bountiful well that I’ve already filled.

I’m stubborn about that well.  I’m stubborn because I fear if I take anything from it, there won’t be more.  Ever.  If I use the abundance I’ve been given, there may come a day when it ends.  But, dude, that’s the fucking point!  Today, this month, is a month when the money stream dried up — so USE WHAT YOU HAVE SAVED!!!

It all seems so simple when you type it in capital letters… but this lesson, the lesson that says, “Feed and water your-fucking-self, Molly!” is one that I am still very slowly (and even painfully) learning.

 

deprivation · fear · joy · recovery · self-love · truth

Getting the F*ck off my Knees.

On Friday night at 10 minutes to midnight sitting in my parked car outside my apartment building, I was scrolling through Facebook on my phone.  I usually do this as a ‘before getting out of my car at the end of the night’ ritual.  I don’t know why.  Like I’m getting a few minutes’ alone time before I go into the house… but I live alone… with a cat. … so…  In any case, I came across a post about that evening’s blue moon, looked quickly at the clock and exclaimed, “Shit!”

I shut off my phone, dashed out of the car up to my apartment.  I took off my heels, slipped on flats, grabbed my loaner tambourine and climbed excitedly and nervously up the stairs to the rooftop of my building.

Pushing open the door, I saw before me a whitewashed roof with long pipes and what look like abandoned solar panels.  Dropping my keys by the door, I carried my tambourine to the center of the rooftop, shielding myself slightly from the view of neighboring buildings, and turned around to see the full, audacious moon before me. Then, I began to jangle the tambourine, and finally I began to sing.

…uh, what?

As I’ve come to the part of my recovery/internal work where we are instructed to “Humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings,” my mentor asked me how I’d done this step in the past. I told her I usually get on my knees and say some kind of prayer.

“Get the fuck off your knees!” she replied emphatically.

You see, I have a habit of being small.  Of minimizing myself, diminishing myself, down playing and ignoring my own needs out of fear and, mostly now, out of long-grooved practice.  This habit of deprivation and hiding causes many problems in my life, mostly because I am surely aware that I am not “meant” to be a mouse.

Being a mouse, though, often looks like me withholding my truths, not admitting what I really want from others and from myself and from life.  Things like. … I want to get married.  *gasp!*  It was near torture to say this aloud to her when we were discussing truths I never tell anyone.  It feels embarrassing to say it.  To feel it.  To want it. “I’m a modern woman, proud brave able! What a simpering, waif-like desire to have!,” goes my internal monologue.  And I wither to admit it to anyone else.

My mentor and I spoke at length that day, and she finally suggest-/insist-ed that I get a tambourine, dress up in something exciting and shout this truth, and all my others, to the heavens.

*Gulp*

So on Friday morning, two weeks after this suggestion, I finally obtained a borrowed tambourine (you’d be surprised how few there are around!).  I texted my mentor that tonight was the night!  And then I read online that it was also going to be a full moon, a blue moon in fact. This seemed most auspicious.  (For a woo-woo hippie shit chick like myself!)

The evening found me on the roof of my apartment building, fresh from a salsa lesson/live music dance in the city, in a hot dress and pulsing with feminine wiles, furtively tapping this noisemaker in my hand, trying not to feel embarrassed.

And then I began to sing.

I started softly and whirled myself into a crescendo, abandoning decorum, delighting in the jangle and thrill of the truth.  Gyrating, gesticulating, twirling around the rooftop, I sang loudly all the secret desires of my soul and my heart, echoing a refrain of, “I let go of being small!” and hammering wildly on the tambourine, an elegant, alight grin streaked across my face as I hopped lightly over the pipes, spinning around the roof until all my heart’s desires, all my tiny wishes I’m too ashamed to speak, had poured out of my throat and into the moonlit darkness.

Laughing, giddy, adrenalized, I headed back to the entrance door, calling brazenly to the bulbous moon: “Peace out, Blue Moon.”

deprivation · faith · fear · recovery · self-denial · spirituality

The Facts of Life

Not like “the birds and the bees”; like the theme song: “You
take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…”
In this great rumpus race for which we have signed up by the
very nature of being born, we are subject to a variety of experience.  Some of these we deem good, some bad, and
being pleasure-seeking beings, we are partial to those we deem good.
In my own personal relationship to the universe, life, fate
and its many faces/facets, I have oriented my understanding to be one
that says, Everything happens for our own good. 
Even the bad things.
For my alcoholism, I have found recovery, a community, and
way of life that brings me fellowship, understanding, pleasure, laughter, and a
sense of being deeply understood.
For my childhood, I have come to tell myself that because of
my experiences, I’ve become sensitive, compassionate, empathetic, resourceful,
strong, and creative.
For my cancer, I have taken my struggle and survival as
impetus to engage in my life more fully, playing in a band, flying a plane,
acting and singing in theater.
For all these horrors and more, I can look back and deem them “good,”
because they have led me to becoming more useful and engaged as a human.
And yet.
Fuck. All. That.
That we are thrown against the shores of life brutally onto
the rocks of experience, shaping us, reshaping us, and winnowing us down to the
raw beauty of ourselves—  Hey Universe, would
you lay off a minute, huh?
Because perhaps, Shit. Just. Happens.
And that is the worst understanding of all for me.  It is the least controlled, the least
controllable, the most chaotic, disordered, entropy-laden reasoning for it all.
What it means is that we are not “safe.”  And if there is anything I have struggled for
in my lifetime, it is to feel safe.
But in this quest, this blazing, self-propelled quest for
safety, I have built up around myself an armor, a buffer, a multi-layered
sequence of dance steps that I believe if I dodge left, you, it, experience,
failure, hurt, calamity will needly dodge right.
Yet, the Universe has its own dancesteps, and sometimes they
are to bowl you over like a rhino in a football helmet.
Furthermore, by dodging experience as a whole –monstrous as
I believe or fear it to be– I also dodge whatever good that rhinoceros might be trying to hand me.  And therein lies the rub, eh?
As I mentioned a few days ago about the dam, restricting my
own self, need, and experience out of fear of what might happen if I let things
flow, I am scrubbing up against my own realization that I
am restricting myself for fear that bad shit might happen.  I am hoping to control the all of my
experience so I am not harmed anymore.
Because forget all the above bullshit (which I also happen
to believe) about all those bad things becoming or being seen as good things –
don’t fucking think that I want or wanted them too.  They were all still egregiously painful.  And, as I mentioned, human as I
am, I don’t want pain.
In my attempt to restrict my experience of pain, however, I
believe I restrict my experience of benevolence.  Grace. 
Fulfillment.
And so, I am stymied, victim of my own prison, of my own
design to be safe, I am restricted from the greater joys and rewards of life.
“You take the good, you take the bad… “
Am I willing to expose myself, to be vulnerable and open to
the whole of life’s experience, knowing that in my disarmoring, I am (also)
opening myself to unforeseen goodness?
deprivation · need · recovery · self-denial · truth · wholeness

Buying Desire a Hat.

I was at my therapist’s once several years ago now and we
were talking about my closest friendships. 
I was telling her how I was scared to admit my full self to someone
because I feared that my full self, my full array of needs and personality,
would be too much for them to handle.  I
explained to her that I felt like my needs were like a tidal wave, that letting
them out would be releasing one, and I couldn’t do that to any one person.  Or to any several people.  Better to keep it all locked up tight.
But what if I begin to think of my needs and desires not
as a tidal wave, but as held by a man-made dam? 
A dam has immense strength and power; the pressure behind it is exponential.  The
power there, the pressure, comes from the restriction of motion, from the
forcible and intentional holding back of something that had previously flown
free.
You can see where I’m going with this, no?  I’m no expert in engineering, so I don’t know
how one goes about dismantling a dam—and maybe for the purposes of my own
internal metaphoric dismantling, that might be interesting to learn—but
I do know that once the dam has been removed and the water again flows free,
it’s not a potential tidal wave of need anymore.  Now it’s just the normal, everyday flow.  The normal, everyday rise and fall of desire.
Without the restriction and denial of qualities such as
desire and need, they are free to be absorbed into the landscape, a part of the
whole, neither something to be feared or ignored. 
Desire in our culture has a pretty bad rap of it.  Desire, the seat of sin.  And yet, what is it but simply an expression
of self, like humor or wit?  My mentor
and I have been discussing and prodding at my relationship to my own need and
desire, to try to bring them out of the haunting shadows, to not treat them like
the disturbed family members you try to forget you have, til they show up on
your doorstep at Christmas with soggy string bean casserole.
What if, instead, they were invited guests?  Do I even know anything about what and who
they are, after being so keen to shut them out for so long?  Or do I only now know the legend of them,
instead of the qualities themselves?
There is a bit of terror and a bit of awe as I begin to
reintroduce myself to these qualities of self. 
As a person who is so adept at self-denial and deprivation, to allow
that there might be a proper place for need in my life is… incomprehensible.  Like someone who’s
been on a Paleo diet for years, touting the benefits, trying to recruit
converts, suddenly being told that in order to live they must eat cake.  Because not only will it change their entire
metabolism for the better, but, hey, it’s fucking delicious.  And you’re allowed to enjoy it.
Permission to be allowed to enjoy.  Permission to be allowed to want.  Permission to be allowed to need.  And actually, screw the whole permission
thing – it’s not that at all.  It’s not a
choice.  Or an earned prize.  It’s a basic human right. 
To deny yourself a basic human right, like having chosen to
drink fetid water your whole life because you’ve somehow made yourself believe pure spring
water wasn’t for you or that your imbibing it was a danger to the balance of existence… well,
self-denial like that causes a whole host of problems, not least of which is
unfulfillment.

So, the dismantling, the right-sizing of desire and need,
the introduction to them as they are, not as I’ve feared them to be.  And why? 
Because I have a suspicion that fulfillment, purpose, and wholeness are
on the other side of that shift.