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?
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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.

courage · dreams · fear · fulfillment · hope · scarcity · self-denial

Life: Whether you Like it or Not.

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For many years, I’ve considered my personal and professional
stagnation as though I were a traveler sitting at the base of a crossroad. The
sign pointing in many directions reads any manner of options, but I sit there,
gazing at the sign for eons, waiting for one of the arrows to light up, to
indicate, This, here, Molly, is the way to go. This is the path to your
destiny. This is the path to fulfillment, release, energy and passion. It may
be cloudy at parts, but we promise, this is the way toward your highest good.
Yet, signposts have an annoying way of being inanimate, and this revelation has never happened.
But as I sit today, I recognize something new. Beyond the
fork in the road, I’m beginning to see another path that I hadn’t identified
before. It’s the path of my true desires.
I have sat waiting for the gods to tell me a or b, but
secretly, I’ve always wanted c, and refused to see that as an option. “It’s
hard for your to let yourself dream,” a therapist opined recently.
And it is.
To speak aloud what you truly want is to invite criticism
and disappointment. Better to keep the dreams locked tight, even to the
detriment of myself, because it’s “easier” than going after what I really
want.
The problem with that pattern is that it means you don’t
develop a history and a catalogue of places where you have moved beyond those
doubts and spoken up, acted up, been seen. And so you continue to assume what
you really want is not something you can have.
The history of denying what I want is long. It is best to be
quiet, unheard, unseen, have few needs, because the lower you set the bar the
easier it is to meet the meagerness.
I reflected yesterday on the way to our preview night of the
play how you can always set yourself up to “succeed” when you place the bar
achingly low. When you paint over your dreams with “realistic expectations,” you’re never called to reach out of your comfort zone. You can sit on the couch
watching Netflix until the end of time, eating peanut butter out of a jar, and
quietly erode all sense of the divine spark within you.
Not that I’ve done that. (wink)
But the divine has a way of being omnipresent, no matter
what you do to ignore, dismiss, or erode its guidance and encouragement.
I haven’t a clue what experiences I’m opening up to as I watch this
third path unfurl before me. Recognizing foremost that I’ve denied myself the
ability to see what I’ve always wanted is a start. Recognizing that I’ve
refused to acknowledge that I can have what I want, that my needs don’t have to
be pauperistic, that it is safe in the reality of today to express myself is a
start.
I’ve written many times before about the emerging option of
being safe and seen. Safe doesn’t mean “not bold,” or setting the bar low,
here. It means that I am not going to be punished for wanting what I want this
lifetime.
This is a hard concept for me to integrate. But, more slowly
than I would really love, I’m accepting that the sanest, safest, and surest way toward
fulfillment is actually believing it’s available. Whenever I’m good and ready
to set down the peanut butter and walk toward it.