focus · perseverance · strength

Dig Deep

11.23.18.jpgIn one of her books, Brene Brown talks about having to “dig deep” in hard moments in order to persevere.  J likes to call it a “head down” time, but I have bristled intensely at this phrase as it seems to mean something soul crushing to me but close to encouraging to him.  (I’ve asked him not to tell me “head down”!)

As I work through this time right now when it feels like things are spread thin, like I’m spread thin, I remembered Brene Brown’s phrase, dig deep.  I relate it to what we taught the cross country students about saving just a little in the tank for that last push in order to sprint toward the finish line… though of course in this case (the “life” case) there really is no finish line.  But the sentiment remains: you have access to more power and energy than you think you do, and you can use it, you can dig deeply into the well of yourself to find the power that you need to get through the “right now” that may feel overwhelming.

What feels most challenging to me at the moment is, in this moment of upheaval (moving, relationship rebuilding), to come back to what is most important and critical to me.  This feels like what I need to dig deep in order to do.  To come back to center, as I wrote on Wednesday, and to reframe my whole days and hours and thoughts to arrange themselves around what is most important to me and the course of my life.

It is well and important to think about where to put the empty moving boxes and when I’m going to clear out the hardly-moved-in-to closet so that the carpenter can fix it, but these are also distractions.  I can spend as much time thinking about the minutiae of “home-keeping” as I can on Pinterest… which is to say A LOT!

But envisioning a life and taking actions toward it are two different things.  And I am a visioner.  It is much more difficult for me to meet the rubber at the road.  It is much more challenging to actually do what’s important for me.  And I’ll have to get to the bottom of that veering so that I can dismantle that skewed attachment.

But in the meantime, I would like to tell myself to call on the inner resources of strength and capability and self-esteem to write this blog, to go to the gym, and to find that book that I want to read as part of my path on my journey of writing.

My journey cannot be diffuse, and in order to focus, to truly stay homed (honed?) in on my development, I will have to remind myself regularly, often, and with so much love, to Dig Deep.

 

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humility · softness · strength

“Even smile in your liver.” ~ Ketut Liyer

9.15.18.pngIn conversation with my friend last week about work and how I was running into personality and style clashes more than I had been, I mentioned the Tarot.  In the tarot, you have 2 major arcana cards dealing with control: The Chariot and Strength.

Their numbers come one after the other, the Chariot first, with its image of a military man atop a sphinx-drawn chariot, scepter, gauntlets, determination, coat of arms.  According to my Tarot-for-Beginners book;) this card represents Victory, Will, Self-Assertion, and Hard Control.

The card of Strength depicts a soft-faced woman in a flowing dress and laurel headdress gently, but firmly closing the gaping jaws of a lion beneath her.  This card carries the qualities of Strength, Patience, Compassion, and Soft Control.

Which is better?  Which works most effectively?  Which is the one to use?

I told my friend that I felt like the Chariot, barreling through others’ softer manners with impatience and certainty of the way forward.  That I’d contemplated that perhaps I needed to use the softer control of Strength, gently but firmly guiding others to my will.

I did have enough insight to next say: But what if control is just not needed here at all?

I was holding up these two archetypes as if they were the only options for how to proceed at work—and in life.  But, what if there was “a third way,” as there always always is.

The third way is the Hanged Man.

I told my friend that this week at work I was going to “step back,” that I needed to stop attempting to control anything and just see what on earth was going on.  That my agida was actually causing pain in my liver, as happens when I’m repeatedly brimful with crackly emotions.

Who were my coworkers?  How were meetings being led?  What results were happening?  What was an objective manner of seeing the situation?

So, this week, I did.  I sat in several faculty meetings, with the letters “SB” inked on my hand and wrist (“Step Back.  Step Back.  For chrissake, remember to STEP BACK!!”).

So, what happened?  Well, at two of three meetings, I simply observed, watched.  What was necessary, what were the dynamics, how were others behaving?  I was able to take that step back and, wouldn’t you know, the meetings came off well enough.  Sure there were places where my voice could have been added, but mostly what I saw was a clear division between the stepping backs and the stepping forwards, and logged my opinions about all their behaviors (judgement being the next character defect I’ll address!).

At the third and smallest meeting, I took the step-back role allowing the person whose meeting it was to set the tone and pace.  Internally, I was screaming to jump in, and then not screaming, as I clicked back in to simply observing.

However, in this situation, it was actually needed that I “step in.”  While there were several ways the meeting wasn’t at all going how I would have wanted it to (and there was behavior I deemed atrocious for adult communication) that is not what I addressed as I stepped forward.

I addressed what we were there to do: plan a shared lesson.

I put forth my ideas—didn’t barrel them through—and a plan was written, enacted, and completed.  And the students had a positive experience.

I have so many opinions about how that meeting could have gone differently (ahem, better!), but in the end none of those opinions were relevant, necessary, or useful.  My experience and ideas as a teacher were what was needed, so that’s what I brought to the table.

The Hanged Man is a place of strength of itself.  It is the card of pausing, of stepping back, of “surrendering to win” — by suspending our (er, my) ideas, I can move forward in the world more easily.  And not least of all, I discovered that my liver hurts less when I’m not trying to steer the chariot or the lion or anything at all.

 

growth · strength · vulnerability

Bio-Dome

8-13-18_2.jpgIn an article I read several years ago, it described the results of a real-life biodome experiment.  Scientists had constructed an environment inside a dome with plants and animals and trees, carefully monitored humidity and air composition.

After a year or so, they realized their oversight:  The trees that grew were massive. Unencumbered by the elements, up and up they grew.  Then, these trees began to topple.  Their root systems too shallow to hold their height, the trees began to uproot themselves.  They were too weak.

What the scientists reflected was that in the absence of wind, storms, an opposing force, there was nothing for the trees to press against, no muscles they had to build in order to survive.  They were lily-livered.

The trees needed opposition, they needed challenge, they needed to test their mettle against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune!

In other words, they needed to be exposed.

When considering those things within us that are our most precious secrets, our most protected parts of self, I must consider that there’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg dilemma.

If I don’t expose my secret dreams and talents and self to external slings and arrows, they won’t become stronger because of it.  And therefore I get to fear that my dreams and talents cannot hold up—and I’d be right!  Because in truth they can’t survive if they’re lilies, so I protect them further.  They stay weak, and I fear they’re weak.  Rinse, Repeat.

As I regard my moving out into the world in a more full way, I have to know that my dreams will suffer.  They will hit bumps, they will be jostled.  They — I — may feel threatened.  I may feel inadequate.

But this is in service of my strength.

It’s so vulnerable!

Yet, the alternative of hiding and waiting for storms to pass eternally is impossible.  To live an undiscovered life is to live in certain death.

There’s no real bravery in my opening up the bio-dome, exposing my tender green shoots to the terrors of “out there” — there’s only sheer and pure necessity.

Besides, I know I’ll get stronger, and strong girls are hot.

 

courage · love · strength · vulnerability

Going Soft.

9 2 17 marshmallow

I was in a book study a few years back with a Man, capital M.  He was tall, burly, a hefty, baseball-cap, sports t-shirt wearing Guy.

As we went around the room sharing why we were there and what we hoped to get out of it, this Man said he was afraid this process would turn him into a marshmallow.  That at the end of this, he’d be weak and soft, that opening to his humanity would expose him irrevocably.  We nodded in shared understanding.  Opening oneself is never easy, as our ego-minds — flashing warning signs — remind us repeatedly.

By the end of the year-long group, this Man was indeed softer.  He laughed more easily, he shared more deeply, he allowed his vulnerabilities to be witnessed.  He had turned into a marshmallow.

He had also turned into an entirely stronger version of himself.  His vulnerability and humanity made him approachable, communal, and this community strengthened him further.  His supposed “weakness” was now a great strength, showing confidence, authenticity, and self-possession.

I, myself, am being called to soften, particularly in my romantic life — perhaps one of the most intimate places we are called to grow.

In his kitchen, in his arms the other morning, I said to my boyfriend, “You’re going to melt me.”

Like the Man of the book group, I am scared that my melting will expose me.  Will lay me vulnerable…  To what?!, I have to ask myself.  Oh, Love, you are so misinterpreted by me:

Love lays you open to breakage.  

Love, my fear touts, is a sedentary bull in a china shop: You’ll be picking up broken pieces sooner or later.

But, I am not a china shop and my inner world is not a precious porcelain museum.  It is a dynamic, industrious candy factory. (…Sure, why not!)  And allowing people, a person, a beloved person into that factory, well, I can only see that he will appreciate my colors and flavors, and help me see that I can do the same of myself.  And of him.

For many years, Love has been dressed (and addressed) as a risk.  But really, it’s just a curious visitor hoping for something sweet.