doubt · relationships · self-care

Calculus

calculus

There is a subtle, ever-present equation being solved in my brain by the minute.  To be happy in this moment, do I need a little more rest or a little more activity?  To be happy in this lifetime, do I need a little more savings or a little more spending?  To be happy in this relationship, do I need a little more stability or a little more spontaneity?

This weighing and measuring circulates incessantly that old GPS tagline beneath all my thoughts: “Recalculating.”

I’m listening to the audiobook of Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before, a book about the formation of and adherence to habits.  Of the 4 tendencies she describes, I most clearly identify with “The Obliger,” with some elements of Questioner, Upholder, and Rebel.  As an obliger, I am most apt to complete something I’ve set out to do if I have accountability.  In fact, all the positive habits I’ve formed over the last dozen years, I realize, have been as the result of making an explicit or implicit pact with someone (or something, like a daily vitamin pill dispenser):

  • Stay Sober & Solvent?  Accountable to a group of people doing the same.
  • Run a 10K?  Accountable to a running group doing the same.
  • Write Morning Pages?  Accountable to my Artist’s Way group from 2008.
  • Make fresh coffee in the morning (instead of nuking one pot all week)?  Accountable to my boyfriend’s insistence that I have nice things!

What harangues me is the more insidious obliging that I engage in, where the motivation is much less clean:

  • Return the guilt-inducing phone call from my father?  Accountable to:  A) “Good daughter”ing or B) Genuine desire.
  • Remain a mentor to someone who is clearly not a fit?  Accountable to: A) “Good mentor”ing or B) Saving them from themselves.
  • Stay in a relationship peppered with my doubts from the start?  Accountable to: A) My partner’s wishes; B) Saving my partner from himself; C) My mom(!); D) My genuine desire for and love of him.

Where does my obliger nature veer into codependence rather than self-support?  And with every new piece of information — with every glance, hug, laugh, anger, sorrow — I calculate again, an always-running app in the background, doomed to refresh infinitely.

 

 

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abundance · ambition · deprivation · doubt · god · spirituality · trying

Tuning by Ear.

Because I’ve begun a round of work with a new mentor recently, we’re talking a lot about “god.”
Specifically, this past Saturday, I read to her my current conception of this ineffable “power”:
“My Higher Power is in all things.  It lives & comes from a place inside me where I’ve never been scared & where there is always calm wisdom.  This place doesn’t give me instructions or guidance, it simply can reinforce or reassure my own decisions.  (Though I wish it did give guidance & instructions!)
This force is impersonal in some ways, because it belongs to everybody, and because it also doesn’t act out of reward or punishment because it is not human or personified.  But the force works toward health & wholeness.  It is the source of wholeness & would be satisfied for all to connect to it & recognize it.  This power is one of divine flow and order; it is unrushed.  It is often seen in nature, because it is in the natural cycle of life & death, but it is bigger than that. 
When I feel in touch with this power, I feel calm, energized/alive, unrushed, wise & accepting — accepting of myself & of the outside world & circumstances.  When I feel in touch with this power, I feel a stable ground to stand on, and I don’t have racing questions about my life.  I feel at peace. 
I sometimes get impatient with this power because it is so slow/calm & not clear w/instructions or answers to my questions.”
My friend/mentor listened to this. I anticipated we’ve move on but she said gently that it sounded like there was a bit of conflict there. Did I agree? Hell yes! It makes me mad that I can’t get answers, but I don’t believe that I’m supposed to. That’s not what this power is about. 
Then she sagely suggested something: “You have a belief that makes you unhappy.”
But, what can I do about that, I asked? Am I supposed to reconceive my higher power, or just come to accept that I don’t get answers? I like this conception of a higher power. 
She agreed it’s a good one, but … she has an alternate belief, which I don’t have to subscribe to, but she wanted to propose her own experience: She does get answers. She believes she does get information and guidance and instructions. (Not like, crazy woo-woo hearing voices.)
As we spoke, I posed my own question: Is it possible that I am receiving answers, but I’m simply not hearing them? My ear isn’t attuned to them? 
She said she doesn’t believe in a working toward whatever is “God’s will” kind of spiritual world, but rather toward whatever is for the “Highest Good.” Which makes a lot more sense to me. Because this whole “God’s will” vs. my will thing is a real bitch to suss out. 
And then she said something radical for folks among my kind: The Highest Good often is what I want. Where I get f’ed up is where I believe that “G-d” doesn’t want me to have what I want. 
She said that our desires and impulses and intuitions are often calls and pulls from that deepest place within us. (Surely, that doesn’t mean Ice Cream for Dinner, but you get the point, I hope!)
So, I gave myself the assignment this week of trying to attune my ear to hear the guidance that I feel I’ve been deprived of. 
And this morning, I had an odd experience of noticing. 
I’ve been doing the Deepak/Oprah 21-day meditation challenge, as I tend to do when they come around. 20 minutes, free, a good start to the day (no matter what may be happening in the news about them personally, thank you).
This morning, the “centering thought” was: “I receive the wisdom of life.”
So I tried out my friend’s theory. A bit frustrated and tangled up in my own thoughts: “Alright, “God,” Should I try to go to school this Fall or not?”
I’ve been waffling on whether to go to grad school for my teaching certificate without having the proper knowledge foundation at the moment. There are 3 more exams to be certified, 2 to get entry into the grad program. One of these tests, I believe I can pass; one will need a LOT of studying; and the third, I’ve signed up for a summer Physics course at the local city college, because I need all the help I can get. 
Do I float another year? Do I try to push myself to do it this year? There’s still room in the program, and my acceptance is contingent on passing the 1st two tests before school begins. 
What do I do? 
What happened this morning (in aggro-meditation!) was this: I had a simple thought that sounded exactly like all my other thoughts do: “You can try for anything you want, Molly.”
There was no magic bell or deep baritone indicating whether this was the “Voice Of The Universe;” it sounded like most of my other swirling thoughts. But it held my attention differently, because this is not a thought that I usually have. 
I do not usually believe that I can have or try for anything I want. I am usually talking myself out of things. Flaking on social engagements. Procrastinating with Netflix. I am used to believing that the road to abundance is a scrappy struggle against myself, where I wind up exhausted and often, not having even left my apartment!
You can try for anything you want, Molly.
But it sounds so impulsive to just “try”! It sounds to ungrounded, and I don’t want to take developmentally unrealistic steps and then simply get disheartened. I don’t want to charge into something half-cocked and half-prepared because I want to stop waiting on my life!
But I believe the point of what that thought was saying was that I can try, and I can fail. I can try, and not fail. I can wait for next year. Or not. 
Seems like it’s back to my original idea of not getting clear instructions, doesn’t it???
Yes. And. 
I think what I heard was that the road of life is less narrow and forsaking than I imagine it to be. That the road is wide, and forgiving, and will get me where I want to go. 
The point is to make a decision. To try, however falteringly, to believe that I can have what I want. That the road will be there to support me. That abundance is for me, too. 
I don’t know what I will do yet. This is all very new, as of about 30 minutes ago. But, I’d kinda like to try — and see what happens. 
anger · doubt · faith · hope

The Day of Magical Thinking

When bad things happen, some people of faith tend to say, “Well, that wasn’t God; that was just a bad thing happening.”
Holocaust, dead babies, friends overdosing: Not God. Just happenstance. 
To try to integrate trauma into a worldview that includes a benevolent power underlying all, one must, according to some, reject the trauma as a part of the benevolent power’s purview. 
Now, granted, one might imagine that an all-powerful being would probably have the authority to have a hand in such things. But for the case of some arguments, we’re told, Shit happens. 
Awakened in me, or at least uncovered in me, recently is a boatload of anger. A feeling of betrayal by some power in the Universe that just as I was beginning to come out of the trauma of a history dotted with: abuse, neglect, rape, alcoholism, pauperism and solitude: that it would be then that my blood would suddenly turn to cancer inside me. 
However, in order to feel a betrayal, I must believe that it was personal. Or, if not personal, that there was somehow a fairness or order in the Universe that was reversing on me. 
And, I can’t. I can’t anymore believe that I’ve been betrayed because it is upsetting the fabric of my nature. 
To think, Okay, now I have to go through trauma recovery around cancer on top of all the rest I was dealing with, makes me feel hideously resentful and angry and frustrated, and in the end, hopeless. 
Because if things are going to abruptly turn to a pit of fire at any given moment, what’s the point? What’s the point in healing, helping, creating, being?
And I can’t have that. I can’t be someone who carries around the question, What’s the point?
It’s very bad for me. 
So, what if I try something different, for even a day? Car won’t start? Shit happens. Find a penny on the sidewalk: Good shit happens. Cancer recurs and I have to transplant my bone marrow by shearing away the essence of my body? Well, Shit Happens
I dunno. Doesn’t sound realistic to me. But, then again, what does?
Do I just assume good things will happen to and for me, and wash aside the traumas? I am someone who believes that repression and white-washing doesn’t actually work, so what if you just reject it, instead of repress it?
If I begin to believe that I’m someone who can have stability, joy, purpose, fulfillment, connection and ease… well, anything that doesn’t fit with that worldview just file under “Not God”?
And here’s the rub with the whole “God,” Higher Power, Benevolent Force, Life Itself, Universe shit:
I happen to belong to — and had my life saved by — a group of people who say that in order to not drink yourself into oblivion and become a tornado in the lives of others … you need a “spiritual solution.”
Uh. Hmmm….
So, what if. What if just for a day (because hey, it’s a day I fought the fuck hard for anyway), I just assume and walk about and believe that good shit happens? That I have good luck. That I am destined to fulfillment in my work and romantic life. 

What if I let my anger and betrayal and hurt and aghastness rest… not shoved away or down, but just set into an open box called, “Shit Happens”? 


Meh. It’s worth a shot. 
dis-ease · doubt · recovery · serenity · service

"What’s the Point?"

I intended to buy this book I heard about on NPR: Data: A
Love Story. It’s about how this Jewish woman my age, a statistician and
analyst, decided to create her own algorithm to “crack” online dating. In the
end, so it seems, she did. For herself at least.
So, with a wry smile, I went in to ask for it. They showed
me the general area, I didn’t see it, but perused with rare time to kill in the
early evening. I ended up with a book of essays by Ray Bradbury, and this funny
little set of them by another Jewish woman my age called I was told there’d be
cake
.
I am usually loathe to buy books in general, thinking that
the library is one of god’s safest havens. And am especially averse to buying
something I’ll read once for entertainment value and then never pick up again.
But, my entertainment budget for the month hasn’t been touched at all, and I
figure I can pass it along to others, like the sisterhood of the traveling
satire. – After its purchase I actually sat outside reading in the fading sunlight
laughing out loud. What a
rare treat!
There’s one essay in which she reports that she and her
cohort are lost in the first-job abyss, each sector of her friends languishing
underslept, underpaid, underappreciated. And it occurs to her that she should
volunteer. Instead of focusing on herself, despite being the world’s great self-indulger, she decides to volunteer at the butterfly exhibit at the Museum
of Natural History.
Hilarity ensues.
But it struck a chord with me. I’ve been feeling languishy lately, too.
I’ve been feeling, What’s the purpose of it all. Why even try to strive for
anything, what’s the point anyway? Why am I feeding myself farmer’s market
food; buying organic food for my cat; going to the gym; meditating; reading; acting? Why
am I passing my time this way anyway? We’re all just passing time to an inevitable erasure. Why do anything at all?
Reading Cake girl’s
revelation, it occurred to me yesterday that I haven’t helped someone
one-on-one in a long time. I’ve been in a limbo of my own work, and until
completed, I’ve been instructed to wait before I help someone else in this area.
In the meantime, I could be looking to help someone in the field I already
know, but that hasn’t happened.
I hypothesize my own languishing could be offset my a dose of
selflessness and help of another person in the unique way that people with our
set of experiences can help another person.
Enter: Email this morning from a woman asking me to help her
out one-on-one. In the area I’m not supposed to be working in yet.
Hrm.
I’m going to talk with my own mentor about it. I think the
anchor of helping someone else would get me out of my own head, but I also
don’t want to pass along my diseased thinking in this arena if I really haven’t had the kind
of psychic shift that could help.
But. I may lobby for it anyway. Things are
all weird with me and my own mentor, which could also account for some
of this languish. I did ask someone else if they could help me one-on-one, but
I have yet to follow-up to set the actual coffee date to discuss.
Whether I end up helping this girl out or not, it reminds me
that some people actually look to me for help. That there’s something I do
have to offer that is unique in this world, and isn’t that the point in living? Could it be the point?
Not to live for
service, but sort of. Otherwise, I find myself questioning whether I really am
a Zoloft candidate after all. 

abundance · action · career · courage · doubt · fear · fulfillment · hope · scarcity

Gold, or Coal?

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There’s a story in the bible that tells us Pharoah tested
little baby Moses to see if he was interested in money, like all good Jews
(kidding!), or if he was just attracted to shiny things, like all good
raccoons.
Pharoah puts a lump of hot, glowing coal and a rock of gold
in front of the baby, and waits to see which he’ll reach for. Moses goes for
the gold.
So, G-d sends down an angel to move his hand toward the
coal, and when baby Moses touches the coal, it burns his hand, he stuffs his
hurt fingers in his mouth, and thus develops a speech impediment.
Thus Pharoah is satisfied that the little tyke is just
precocious and not going to usurp him.
I’m looking at this job description right now. I’m perfect
for it, have the experience, though certainly would learn and do more on this
job than I had previously. It’s in the community I would like to stay in. And
it pays up to double what I’m making right now (“commensurate with experience,”
of course).
But. I have near to zero interest in it. It doesn’t put me
closer or further on the path that I’ve seen I want. It won’t, in several
years, be a stepping stone, really. It’s over in X land, and I want to be in Y
land. They have the wall of Jerusalem between them.
So, Gold? Or Coal?
I can apply, see what happens. May not even get called in
for an interview. I could land the job, and gain a bargaining chip with my
current employer. Or, I could land the job, take the income increase, finally
put money into savings and retirement, come what may. So what, clock in
clock out, so what.
Perhaps this job option is both the gold and the coal, then.
It’s good to keep looking. It’s good to see that the same realm of what I’m currently doing is getting paid a much different wage
than I am, even if my current employer is really not set or able to offer me
anything more.
It’s also good to see what values have formed from being at the job I currently have: Did you know
that I can walk 5 minutes to an organic co-op café for lunch? Or to a Peets? Or
to a park with large swaths of grass where I can lie down in the sunshine when I need a break from people and computer screens?
Did you know that I can drive 30 minutes to and from work,
and can actually work out in the morning and meet up with people or cook dinner or audition in the
evenings because I stay on this side of the Bay?
Tell me then, about BART rides to a Muni bus and back? About adding
an hour to both sides of my commute? About the urban detritus?
And then tell me about a realistic and abundant retirement plan….
I will probably apply. I will certainly keep looking. And I
will have faith — that sordid word (look what “He” did to Moses’ hand!) — that I can
have the ease, expansion, and fulfillment I want with a salary that supports a life
of ease, expansion, and fulfillment.
Right? 

camping · community · confidence · courage · doubt · grace · insecurity · laughter · love · self-esteem · self-love · serenity

Confidence: How To.

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Think of something you know you know how to do. Something
you enjoy knowing how to do. Maybe it’s making the lightest quiche, or playing
the drums, or changing a bicycle inner tube. Maybe you know that you know how
to plant seeds that germinate, or fix this computer bug, or mix the perfect vermillion. Maybe it’s as simple
as knowing you know how to hug a child, or tell a good joke. Find something that makes
you feel competent and confident.
Experience that feeling. The surge of blood through you, a
sense of guidance, purpose, direction. A sense of being the right person for
the job, in the right place at the right time. A feeling of ease and tension
release, of certainty and even exuberance. I know how to do this – I love
doing this.
For me, about 2 years ago, I realized it was (car) camping.
I know how to do that. I knew when we
needed wood, when we should start the fire, how to put it out. I knew how to
set up my tent, how to walk in the woods, how to avoid poison oak. I knew how
to brush my teeth at the tap, and use my headlamp to find my missing sock. I
knew how to have fun, how to do what needed to be done, how to help others
because I knew how to do these things.
What if… we allowed for the possibility that we could have
that feeling in more places in our lives. If we could recognize the mastery we have in some areas, and allow that
sense of confidence and competence support our less certain attempts. Maybe, it’s just knowing that I know how to
put on liquid eyeliner with deft precision. Can I allow that to fill up my tank
a little? – Come to think of it, can I recognize that I know how to fill my gas
tank! (If you grew up in NJ, you might not!) 😉
But the point, today, is that although there are many areas
in which I am not an expert, and that will always be so, and there will always
be something to learn in the places I want to become more adept… there are also
a host of places that I haven’t recognized I’m doing pretty well.
I think this is what they call, “building self-esteem.” What
a concept.
But, it’s true. People in general, and people like me, tend
to dismiss what we think is easy for us. For me, I have tended to dismiss my
writing when its complimented, since it can be so easy for me. What’s the value
of something that is wickedly simple for me?
Somehow the idea that valuable things are hard things came
into our zeitgeist. This is not to say that you or I needn’t work for what we
want, but it’s about recognizing what we have, and sometimes what we’ve been
given, that we take for granted.
I take for granted that I know how to put on crisp eyeliner.
I learned it, I do it, it’s a part of me. So, I forget it’s not something everyone else knows. I take for
granted that I can write this every day, for better or worse! I take for
granted that I can talk to the children at work and make us both smile. – Well,
that one I don’t. I don’t take the smiling for granted, just the knowing that I
know how to do it.
If I were to go through a given day or week, and take note
of the things that I seem to “instinctively” and “intuitively” know how to do,
how many things would pile onto that list?
Sure, there are blank spots, there are gaps, there are wide
berths of where I want to know and learn and be more. But they’re gaps. They’re
not the whole.
If I tried to recognize that I could feel the same
self-esteem while cooking eggs in the morning as I do when making a teepee out
of wood in a fire-pit; if I could remember to feel adept and facile when I
parallel park my car; if I could allow a sense of ease and confidence for the
simple act of knowing to pause in today’s heavy sunshine,
I imagine that delightful, intrepid poise can offer a
foundation for my less assured endeavors.  

adulthood · adventure · chance · courage · crush · doubt · fear · passion · risk · romance

The Whatifs

Last month, I contacted my psychic to ask about this upcoming trip to visit the Boston Cupcake (as he shall henceforth be known).
I can get an emailed reading from her, and despite your and
my own doubts, I get pretty accurate and insightful results from her, via email
or by phone. I mean, I’ve met her and
all – but this isn’t about her. It’s about him. And me.
I’d panicked a little after we’d confirmed that I was going
to fly out, over the continent, to spend 4 days in his bed, arms, town, space.
As Shel Silverstein elegantly put it:
Last night, while I lay thinking
here,
Some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
And pranced and partied all night
long
And sang their same old Whatif
song:
Whatif it’s awkward?
Whatif I can’t sleep?
Whatif I don’t come?
Whatif we ruin our friendship?
Whatif it’s good, but that’s the end of it?
Whatif it sucks in person, and we never text-flirt
again?
Whatif we do like each other?
Whatif we fall in love?
Whatif I’m too bruised to fall in love?
Whatif I have to move?
Whatif I move and it doesn’t work out?
Whatif we get married and have kids, and everything works out amazingly?
Whatif we get married and have kids, and struggle for money?
Whatif I have to leave the Bay Area?
Whatif I can’t afford to leave the Bay Area?
Whatif there’s no women’s spiritual community?
Whatif I never see my friends here again?
Whatif I hate the winter there?
Whatif he doesn’t like the way I laugh?
Whatif I don’t like the way he chews?
Whatif …
What if.

Va voy.

So, a few days before the deadline to purchase my flight, I
emailed my psychic to try to divine some answers. What are the implications of this
trip? Is this a good match? Is this a good thing, even if it’s not a match? What Is Going To Happen To Me???
Well, here’s what happened: She got sick, and emailed me
that she’d have to postpone my reading until the following week. Or, she could
just PayPal me back the funds and cancel the reading.
So, I thought about it. What was I really trying to get from
her and her answers, anyway? Assurance, Confirmation, Certainty.
Ah, yes. Certainty. If you can tell me with certainty that the
risk I’m about to take has the outcome that I want, then I’ll take it. If you
cannot tell me with certainty that it will be alright, then I am terrified to
risk it.
So, I went to her blog, to re-acquaint myself with her, to
see if I could divine my own answer, since I knew I was trying to get something
that no one else could really offer me. That life can never offer me.
And her most recent post was basically, if I remember
correctly, about taking chances. About putting your best effort forward, and
letting go; about allowing ourselves to try, and to know that whatever the
outcome, we’re cosmically safe.
Arghh…. Right. I am
safe, loved, assured, no matter what any outcome; but it is my responsibility
to try.
If nothing changes, nothing changes.
So, I emailed her back, and told her her blog helped me
realize that it was up to me to take this risk, to try without certainty to
allow adventure, intimacy, attraction, vulnerability into my life. That I would
take the refund from her, and go on this trip, and let all these unknowable
chips fall where they may.
Because, it all flows from what I was just saying yesterday,
about throwing my hat in the ring at work, professionally putting myself out
there, just for the esteem of it, not
knowing if it’ll “go my way,” but getting the benefits of trying anyway.
It’s all about what I’d quoted earlier this week, “You gotta
get in it, cuz it’s a day-by-day gig.”
If nothing changes, nothing changes.
I won’t know til I try. I won’t have certainty even when I am in it. None of us do, even with cohabitation, a ring, children, none of us know if this will “work out,” or if we’ll end up signing divorce papers, bankruptcy papers, restraining orders.

But, what I know for
certain is that I really am looking forward to this trip, to spending this time
with someone I admire, fancy, and enjoy. I really am so very happy that I am
taking a risk, stepping into the wide unknown, opening my arms and falling into
his, come what may.