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Turtling

I’ve been a bit withdrawn. Turtling, you might say. I’ve been pondering how I know things, and then how to tell about what I know, after I know it. I’ve discovered it ain’t all that easy. There are things to know that can’t be put into words. I can’t tell you how frustrating that is. It’s very hard to write about. 

So instead, I’ve discovered that sometimes it’s good to pull inside oneself and be with what’s there. As long as it takes. For the sake of what, I’m not sure. Just until, I guess. Today I thought I’d stick my head out and look around. Give you an update, for what it’s worth.

I’m trying to make a fundamental shift in the way I live my life.

Conventional wisdom dictates that if you want to make a change, you first think up the thing you want to do instead of the thing you’re doing now. Next you break the thing down into reasonable, manageable goals, and then you set about accomplishing your thing, until you have it, enlisting whatever expert help you can find along the way. Many a success story and self-help book was founded on this simple way of being. It’s not bad advice, really. 

It just doesn’t work for me. And no amount of goal-setting, accountability, paid professionals, and self-recrimination makes any difference in the outcome. The things I want to change remain unchanged, while other things seem to come about anyway. Hmmm, she said.

Lately I’ve been thinking there’s got to be a better way. Or at least a way that’s just as good as the other one. My way, the way that works for me. 

That’s what’s goin’ on under the shell.

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photo by jen lemen
photo by jen lemen

Last week I spent a pleasant morning interviewing my friend, Jen Lee, about her new life’s path – writing – and two extraordinary projects she has created. These projects come straight from her brave soul, and serve as inspiration for us all.

The first project is entitled, “Don’t Write: A Reluctant Journal,” and the second is an audio cd with original stories called, “Solstice: Stories of Light in the Dark.”

Here’s my interview with Jen:

Me: So. “Don’t Write.” isn’t that a funny name for a journal? Tell me how you came up with the idea.

Jen: I was going through an internal show-down with all the messages and voices from past and present that were very loudly admonishing me, “Don’t write.” So, first came the poem, “Don’t write”, in which I laid bare my fears about the consequences of my words, and also spelled out just what it was that compelled me to keep going–even in the face of all I risked.

Don’t write.

It’s too powerful.

It might tell someone how

you feel. How you hurt.

What you don’t understand.

Don’t write.

It’s too powerful.

It will show who you are

on the inside to the outside.

It’ll blow your cover,

your nice reputation.

Don’t write.

It’s too powerful.

You might hurt someone’s feelings.

People may not like your words.

They may attack you, or abandon you. 

Don’t write.

It’s too powerful.

It might give others hope.

Let them know

they’re not alone.

It might change minds.

Change directions.

Change the world.

So, whatever you do,

Don’t write.

 

Jen: Then I was washing dishes one night, in April, I think, and I just thought, “It’s a journal. Don’t Write is a reluctant journal”.

I was warned against keeping journals my whole life, so it seemed the perfect expression of my dissidence.

Me: I love it so much – staring down the inner threats and saying “watch me!” 

Jen: They’re already there. In my head. In the room. We might as well name them–and something about seeing them in front of me makes them a little less scary. Like, bring it!

Me: Yes! And it gives us all permission to do the same. I feel a little flash of defiance when I think of it.

Jen: I think most of us could use a little flash of defiance. 

Me: Who do you especially want to use the journal?

Jen: People who are tired of being silent. Those who are done buying their own lines of bullsh*t about how they don’t have time, or what they have to say isn’t all that important–those who aren’t buying the voices telling them their words won’t make a difference. People who are ready for a revolution. 

Me: I’m feelin’ that flash of defiance again. I love it!

I heard you have another brilliant idea you’re working on. Can you tell us about it?

Jen: I just released a project that is my fiction debut. It’s an audio story collection called “Solstice: Stories of Light in the Dark”. It’s a little vulnerable for me to do a project that incorporates my physical voice, because I’ve really struggled this last year with the way I’ve even shut my voice down physically throughout my life.

But, I’m gaining confidence to put what I’ve got “out there”. These are the moves I got.

Me: Jen, you’re incredibly brave. This writing thing is really about letting your soul loose, isn’t it?

Jen: For me it is. It’s the best vehicle I’ve found for that so far. It’s easiest for me to be myself when I’m in the presence of those who love me outrageously. The six stories on this CD are really my love poems for these women.

Me: I can’t wait to hear them. How can we get our hands on both of these great projects? 

Jen: Both are available now for pre-order on my website. “Solstice: Stories of Light in the Dark” begins shipping mid-November, and “Don’t Write: A Reluctant Journal” should begin not long after that. The quantities are limited, though, so I’m hoping no one waits too long!

Visit Jen’s blog to get your hands on these two great projects, straight from the heart of a friend. 

…says Spock’s mom, played by Betty White, in the Star Trek classic, The Voyage Home. I’ve used this line many times in conversations with my husband, the engineer.

Modernity has had a love affair with logic, the scientific method, rational reductionism, and the bottom line. And it has its place. But Disney World isn’t one of them.

It was the end of April, 1993. I had spent the better part of 6 months studying for the Examination for the Practice of Professional Psychology. 15 hours a week, slaving over flashcards and practice tests with a knot in my stomach the whole time.

(This test was a bugger. Some of my friends had taken it as many as 5 times and failed. I was taking it with a Master’s Degree under my belt, and not a Ph.D., because Minnesota was one of the few states that would still license psychologists at the masters’ level, which meant I was competing with doctoral students. I ended up passing. Fat lot of good it did me, but I’d like you to be impressed nonetheless.) 

In April, I took the test, took a breath, and promptly got sicker than the dog we did not have.

We had scheduled a trip to Disney World to celebrate. I was too anxious about the test to participate in planning the trip. I have an aversion to planning in general. 

Our 2 kids were the perfect age for Disney, 11 and 9. They were excited.

My dear logical husband had been reading about how to get the most out of the theme park and avoid the lines. So many rides, so little time. And he loves to plan. He’s a professional planner. Nothing makes him happier than planning to have fun, moment by moment. The planning is part of the fun, executing the plan is the epitome of fun, and patting oneself on the back for a good plan is also fun for him.

Plan=fun. Me? Not so much. But I had other things to think about.

He had devised a spread sheet for the Magic Kingdom, reading descriptions of rides to the kids, asking them to rate their attraction to the ride on a scale of 1-5, so he could weight their answers and mathematically discern priorities for the day. He plugged his values into the spreadsheet and came up with a winning scheme to get through the park with a minimum level of hassle. He was so excited.

And then I got sick. The day before we left for Florida I went to the doctor and discovered I had a nasty case of bronchitis. Pumped full of antibiotics, at 4 the next morning we bundled off to the airport. For the next 3 days I stumbled around Disney, led by the hand, barely functioning, napping in the afternoons if I could. Thank God someone had planned.

And then I got better.

Immediately the plan went from godsend to millstone around my neck. I chafed and complained, whined and objected.

I prefer spontaneity. Let’s leave it at that.

How Do You Decide?

I got a B in Ethics during my graduate studies, the only B I earned (yes, the rest were A’s, what else?). I took it in my last semester when my brain was a crusty mass of charred marshmallow. It was a useless course that did not prepare me for the dangerous ground of psychological jurisprudence I was soon to encounter as a therapist. 

But there was this one thing. It was a question, asked at the beginning of the semester by one of my professors. This question has stayed with me ever since, and I often drag it out with my clients when they’re facing tough decisions. The question is this: 

How do you decide what you decide?

I remember it so distinctly because the professor who asked it suffered from Cerebral Palsy. She had a difficult time enunciating her words. Thus the question – how do you decide what you decide? – came out with a kind of painful deliberation, as if the question was so important she made sure she took the time to speak each word as clearly as possible.

How     do you      decide       what       you    decide?  

It’s an ontological question, aimed at the foundation of our being. I hope to spend some time on this question in the next several posts. Meanwhile, ask it of yourself, and, if you want, give us an answer.

Long (too long) Gone

My apologies. I’ve been gone too long. 

When I started this blog I determined to write in the midst of struggles and journeys and transformations. To be honest and authentic, and maybe even a little raw. 

Yeah, well.

It would be easier in some ways if my struggles were a little more tangible than they’ve been. You know, writing through a pregnancy, an illness, a new job, or a new hobby. But honestly, my journey is mostly in my head, and sometimes I’m a little chagrined by what’s there. Sometimes I think my midlife experience is an addiction to angst. Sometimes I think I’m on the brink of greatness, and we’ll all be happy that I documented it – whatever it is. Who really knows, after all?

I wonder where the line between vulnerable transparency and over-dramatic tmi gets drawn, in the world of blogging. Some bloggers merely elude to some deep and difficult tumult going on inside, leaving me frustrated and confused, and ultimately not trusted to know the particulars. I hate that. On the other hand, some bloggers are merely emotional exhibitionists, providing fodder for the emotional voyeurs among us.

I’t’s hard to find what’s just right, especially when your children are regular readers, or when your clients may stop by for a read. You never know.

So I’ve been thinking a lot. Still deconstructing. I just came up for air to say hey.

And to give you a sneak peek at the temporary website for my coaching business, Resonance: Your Life, In Tune. Take a look and tell me what you think.

For someone so sure she’s made for joy, I’ve certainly been in a rotten mood lately. I can’t seem to shake a mood of agitation, frustration, and downright anger, ever since Sarah Palin came on the scene a few weeks ago. I keep chiding myself for being so reactive, so activated by something as petty as politics, but thanks to this article, I feel much better. If you’re interested in some of my thoughts about Palin, check out my other blog here.

Which leads me to the next thing I know for sure: I am some kind of tuning fork for some kind of vibe.

Whether it’s cosmic reality, the unseen spiritual realm, or the collective unconscious, I sense things from time to time that are beyond me. The political shadow that Chopra writes about in Huffington Press, is part of what’s been bothering me. There are deeper, more primal forces being released in this campaign, reflecting a crucial time in the history of our society, that are floating around in the air somehow, and I sense them way before I can identify them. Knowing this helps my mood significantly. Vague as it may seem, I resonate with something out there

Back in April at a Newfield Network weekend, we did an exercise designed to demonstrate how connected we human beings are to each other. Simply moving around the room, looking into someone’s eyes and saying, “I am you,” and receiving the same in return, generated a sense of that reality. By the time the exercise concluded, I felt a tangible resonance in the room, almost a hum, or a harmonic vibration – I kid you not. I felt this sensation in my body, heard it in my mind, and felt it in my heart for the next 12 hours.

If you’ve ever played around with a tuning fork and an acoustic sound board, like a guitar, you’ll know what I’m referring to. My husband used to use a tuning fork for his guitar. After the instrument was in tune, he would pluck a string and then put the tuning fork on the sound box of the guitar, and, without striking the tuning fork, it would begin to sing along with the vibration of the string. That’s what I felt like in that room in April – I was resonating with something that had come into tune, and I literally felt the vibration for the next 12 hours.

I’m not sure how to explain this, or what to conclude from it, but it’s just something I know for sure.

The first thing I know for sure is that I am made to run on joy. 

Those who know me in real life probably wouldn’t say joy, first thing, when they think of me. They might say I’m mellow, or wise, or safe, or deep, insightful, articulate, or smart. These are good things all, and I can say, flat-out and matter-of-fact, they’re true. But these are ways of being I’ve cultivated because living on joy was too good to be true. Living in joy has not been my experience. Joy, in my home growing up, was a bit dangerous. So I became something else instead. 

This trick of hiding your true nature and becoming something else instead is a psychological/developmental trick I call protecting the precious. When a an aspect of a child’s essence is so precious, and so at risk on a daily basis, a child will often hide it away and become something hardier instead. It’s a brilliant, if tragic, coping strategy, brilliant because it preserves a remnant of the precious to be reconstituted later.

Joyful, playful, creative being is my precious.

Three experiences that tell me I’m sure about this joy thing:

1. A yoga instructor I practiced under once told me he had misunderstood my personality at first. He said he used to think I was a very calm person. But after observing me for several months, he said he now believed my true nature is joyful. He said, “your true nature is joyful, but you make yourself calm. This makes your body very sad.” My body has been sad for decades!

2. A new member of the church I used to pastor thought my name was Joyce, and called me Joyce whenever he saw me. When I protested, he said I must have been Joyce in a former life. Another member then piped in, “in that case, you’d be Rejoice (re-Joyce),” and according to this man, I’ve been Rejoice ever since. I wonder if he even remembers my real name. Whenever he calls me Rejoice, I suspect it’s God trying to get through to me that it’s time to quit protecting the precious.

3. People often complement me on my laugh. I’ve had complete strangers tell me I have a beautiful laugh. My friend Judi will call me out of the blue and make me laugh, just so she can hear the sound. Something about that kind of built-in, body-generated mechanism tells me there’s something to this joy thing.

Joy is my highest value.

Joy is the juice of the universe.

This is something I know for sure.