Breakthrough

Last night I decided to give my new tarot deck one more round of “let’s see what it comes up with” before bed. For those of you who don’t follow my Twitter, I’ve been obsessed with tarot card reading lately. And by lately I mostly mean the last 3 days since I bought this deck of cards.


(Can be purchased at Osho.com)

A friend of mine had used these cards before, so I was familiar with them. This particular tarot is very heavily Zen Buddhist based, one reason I like it. I also love tarot because I’ve always been a highly intuitional person, and it really resonates with that part of me. Hence, the obsession I’ve had with them the past few days…but really maybe always without knowing it. When I had the cards in my hands, I truly felt as if they’d been waiting for me.

So, back to last night. I poured my energy into the cards, shuffling away one last time before bed. I decided to use a paradox setup – 3 cards, one representing past, one representing present, one representing the insight into the paradox. As I shuffled, a card danced its way right out of my hands and fell upright on the floor.

I stared.

I had read earlier yesterday that when a card falls out of the deck like that when shuffling, it’s probably significant. Well, no doubt. Even the picture on the front screamed its obvious significance.

I also knew right away that this was the “present” card of the set of 3. I laid it down, still staring. I continued to shuffle then drew the other 2 cards.

Past:

Insight:

The present card was obviously the highlight of this reading. But the other 2 cards were also loaded. I’ve been flowering – obviously. That’s the past image. True of the past long while, especially of the last 2 years. Insight – I’ve still felt like an outsider. On the edges of life. Unable to fully connect with people. You can’t tell in this picture, but the lock on that gate is ACTUALLY unlocked, the child (inner child?) just doesn’t realize it.

And present is breakthrough.

Today, I got it.

I woke up this morning and immediately felt cautious. My first thought on waking was wondering, “Will today be as good as yesterday? What if it’s not?” Fear came on me instantly. I’ve been struggling hard with fear for the last few months in general, and this one in particular struck right at my fear of loss. What if I lose what good I have?

All morning I tried to combat this feeling. I tried to make the fear go away. My mind whirred and turned over itself trying to analyze it away, to stave it off. Really, I was obsessing. Trying to create a barrier between the fear and myself. Trying to analyze its roots, trying to MAKE IT GO AWAY.

(This is how I always treat uncomfortable feelings. Analyze obsessively to find the root so I can MAKE IT GO AWAY. I can remember starting this as a teenager and I haven’t stopped since. Find the root to make it disappear. Self-awareness is a curse sometimes when your perfectionist nature uses it in such a cruel way. In making pain disappear, I’ve had to make myself disappear too.)

I was a mental wreck and I hated my poor overwraught mind as I watched it torture itself. I tried to have compassion, but I was really frankly rather disgusted. Thankfully, I had grabbed The Untethered Soul and left it in my car so I could read it on break. I’ve been reading this book for the past month or so (because of Sarah Somewhere – thank you beyond words!) and it has been immensely comforting.

I read voraciously on break, trying to find some way out of this awful fear prison I was tangled up in… terrified that the fear was real and I’d lose everything. That the Universe doesn’t give a crap about me and nothing good is headed my way.

But while I was reading, something finally clicked.

I was afraid because I didn’t want to lose. I didn’t want to lose because that would hurt. BAD. And I know how bad, oh, I know. I’ve experienced quite enough to know. To keep myself away from that pain, my brain could whir on and on forever, creating layers of self-protection.

This morning, I read through a chapter in this book and some words at the end rocked me, and I got it:

You must be willing to accept pain in order to pass through to the other side. Just accept that it is there and that you are going to feel it. Accept that if you relax, it will have its moments before your awareness, then it will pass. It always does.”

My entire perspective changed in that moment and I relaxed. I let the pain in. Instead of contracting around it like usual, I relaxed. Expanded. For a few moments, I shook and tears came to my eyes. Then it settled down to a soft burn, and it’s been there burning all day. Slowly burning all that I’ve been so afraid of.

I feel different. Like anything could happen and I would be okay because… it’s just pain. I can handle the pain. I will feel it, and it will pass, like it always does.

It felt exactly like the picture on that card.

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Constellations

“It seems we struggle for a lifetime to become whole. Few of us ever do … Most of us end up going out the same way we came in — kicking and screaming. Most of us don’t have the strength — or the conviction. Most of us don’t want to face our fears.”
― Darren Aronofsky; Kent WilliamsThe Fountain

Sometimes, something shows up in your life with the force of divinity behind it. It’s as if the very cosmos aligned with your gravity to pull something to your life. It’s a huge dot to dot and constellations are connected and created by the lines.

The picture becomes clearer and clearer and as it does, it’s like looking at the night sky.

It’s so much bigger than you and the immensity of it matches the immensity of your soul. And of theirs, too.

Yes, theirs.

Because sometimes a constellation is drawn between two people. Two lone dots are interlaced and connected to other dots sprinkled between them, and suddenly, it becomes clear. A nebula explodes and a constellation is born.

“The design in the stars is the design in our hearts.” – Derrick Brown

This is not necessarily what I was expecting to happen after I wrote my last post. The one about loving without fear. I’ve been petitioning the universe for awhile for a chance at that, at dating, at relationships, but I don’t think I expected such an instantaneous response to that post.

And yet, it was just after that when I started finally waking up and noticing something. Lines were being drawn between my soul and someone else’s. It had been coming for awhile, but my fear had run away from it. In fact, what strikes me is that this person had actually started the process for me. It was interacting with him that had changed the way I approached relationships in general, because I saw how I was limiting myself when with him. I was not being my true soul.

Kevin and I met in March. First really spoke in April. At the end of April I ran, because I was terrified. I was still too afraid to let someone that close. But that experience launched me into a new phase of self discovery. Why was I terrified to let someone that close? Why was I so afraid, in general? Those interactions with him sparked in me an upheaval in how I lived my life, an entire change of perspective.

When we started talking again in mid-June, I was different. I was not building walls out of fear. I was open.

And then Tuesday, June 24 happened. My sister’s best friend was in a horrible car accident. I went to the hospital to be with my sister – it was the very same hospital my sister Rachel died in. My sister’s friend was in the same ICU. It was hard. Seeing my little sister cry was gut-wrenching to me; seeing that in the same place my sister Rachel had died was torturous. I knew that after I left I needed support. And I knew that when I texted Kevin, he would drop everything and be there.

There was no doubt in my mind.

I deliberated. I knew what I was doing by asking for his company. I knew that it would bring us closer. I mustered up my courage and asked anyway. We went to get tea (my favorite calming beverage) while I tried to quiet myself from the difficult evening. We didn’t even talk much about it. And one question he asked stopped me in my tracks.

“What’s the best thing that happened to you today?”

My mind was full of negativity and that was what I needed to redirect. I needed to remember the gorgeous run I’d taken with a friend, just that morning, in Garden of the Gods. I needed to remember that good things existed.

The next day, I got to return the favor. A difficult situation came up for Kevin, and I was able to be there in return. As a result, conversations arose – about life and death and cycles. Both of us had experienced the death of loved ones and understood the strangeness that life somehow continues in the wake of their passing. That energy is not destroyed, but changed. He sent me a spoken word poem about it. Life after death. Their death, giving back life. Over, and over, and over. It was the theme of our week and a conversation we returned to.

On Saturday, June 28th, we watched The Fountain.

We hadn’t planned it at all, but it quickly became obvious: The theme of this movie is what we had talked about all week. Life, death. Cycles. Over and over. Stars explode, create life. Drinking from the Tree of Life creates death, creates life grown from the body of man.

“It seems we struggle for a lifetime to-3

She said it, a second time, and it resounded and echoed through the space-caverns of my heart. Because that phrase, used in more than just one movie, had been echoing in my head already since at least my last post. Trinity, in the Matrix, had been the one I was thinking of. But then Izzi said it in this movie – The Fountain – that tied together life and death and cycles and stars – all metaphors that I have carried inside me throughout my life. And I knew.

This wasn’t an accident. This wasn’t random. This was a constellation being born through an exploding nebula. This was life come from death come from life. The funny thing was, we both knew. We both experienced that strange shared moment of realization that the Universe/A Higher Power/Something Greater was definitely arranging this.

As I have walked this path the past 2 weeks, I have realized constantly the reason that something Bigger moved it all forward with this particular movie. Why, too, I had written that Love Without Fear post just before the beginning of this journey. Staying openhearted, for me who has oft been so closed, is a daunting task. But there is one spark of knowledge that reminds me of how to stay, not run. How to face my fears:

I am held by something larger than myself.

If I can remember this, living and loving without fear ceases to occupy my mind so much. Overanalyzing is laid down. Anxiety dissipates. Scrutinizing for problems in order to protect myself is no longer necessary. Self-preservation ceases to be an issue. Because death or life, it’s still part of the same cycle. Death happens so that life can be reborn again. It’s not an ending – it’s a changing of energy. I don’t have to protect myself – I’m already held by something much more vast than just little ol’ me. So when fear rears its ugly head (and believe me, it HAS), I return to this truth every time.

The last 2 weeks have changed my life. This journey has just been so obviously put together by something much bigger than myself. And that’s something that Kevin and I, both, fully recognize. It’s immense. It’s infinite. It’s a constellation of stars with the same design as the constellations of atoms in our hearts, a design so much bigger than us, but one that chose to draw us together. To connect us with constellation lines and draw us, together. And it continues to grow larger as we continue to walk this path. So we move forward, openheartedly.

“I’m not afraid anymore. When I fell, I was held.” – Izzi, The Fountain

STOP – In the naaaaaame of looooove…

So, last week was pretty much hellfire and brimstone aimed at my dwelling. Wish I could say I did the celebrity walkout with explosions in the background…

explode
(Source)

But I didn’t. Got nicely caught in the crossfire happening in my own brain. I’m still dealing with aftermath and all the beautiful particles and things. I got seriously spun out. Thankfully, I was able to do some energy work yesterday and that was regrounding.

Thing is, I really care about what people think of me. It makes up my value system. Merit badges galore, based on opinion or numbers. Numbers like GPA, or the accuracy percentage I achieve at work for dictating calls. Or opinions deeming me a worthwhile person, a “sweet” person (oh how often I hear those words), a “nice” person, etc, etc, etc. These measure my value and worth.

It was also the standards that in many ways, drove me to alcohol. “If that’s what you all think of me, well I’LL SHOW YOU HOW I REALLY AM!” (imperfect, bitchy, unbridled, that is)

I still haven’t resolved this inner maelstrom, unfortunately. With 21 months of sobriety, it still pops up and I still assign my value to what others think of me, to outside standards. So when someone on the outside confirms my inner insecurity – that I’m not actually measuring up to the standard of “quiet, peaceful nun who makes no waves”, well…cue the explosion pictured above. I crumble because my entire value is dependent on what others think of me.

Most of the time, too, I spend my days rushing around trying to meet standards. My own, or the standards of others. When I was in school, it was professors and GPA. Now that I’m not in school, it’s all about work performance and what my friends think of me. I graduated with my B.A. in December, and when I tell people I graduated Magna Cum Laude, they usually react as if that’s a huge accomplishment. Well it is. But here’s the deal. It doesn’t mean necessarily that I’m just “a good student.” That Magna Cum Laude, for me, is a sign of how obsessive I become about maintaining standards.

I did it in my sobriety for a long time. I still struggle with it. I really care about what other people think of how I’m doing my sobriety. Back a couple of months ago, I realized I needed to change up my sponsor situation. I had been working with my love addiction sponsor primarily and had never worked a full set of steps in AA. There was a variety of reasons I chose to do that (and it was a conscious choice) but they’re not really important and if I explained them, it would be further evidence that I was trying to get your approval. In any case, it was working for me; until it wasn’t. And when it wasn’t, it really wasn’t. So I got a new AA sponsor, who just “happened” to be available right when I needed her. But I had a tremendous amount of shame around the whole thing, so much so that this is the first I’ve mentioned it on here. WHAT would others think of me if they knew? Especially people who I had told that I had a sponsor? Were they all secretly judging my program? What if I wasn’t good enough after all? Since I was basing all my values on things outside of myself, this was a massive concern.

This has all been sending me on a collision course since November, and now I just can’t avoid it. My outside circumstances are almost forcing me to go in. At the very least they’re putting up HUGE signs.

thisissign
(Source)

So my head and heart have been in a nasty firefight for almost a week. It completely knocked me off my feet and my thoughts have been drifting through the ozone ever since, dragging my hapless feelings behind them. One outside situation, and boom. It was like a rocket to the moon.

Here is the thing. I can’t measure up to a standard of “quiet peaceful nun.” I don’t really want a 3.83 grade point average. Nor do I really want to maintain 98% accuracy on my calls at work at all times, pushing myself to get there. I can try to push myself into that cage all I want. I can let what others say, think, or do push me into that cage. I can let numbers push me into that cage. But unless I releash the cracken (MWAHAHA!) I will always go back to the things that satisfy the pain of being in a cage… things like alcohol, or men, or more recently, work standards.

kraken
(It’s not really a cracken, by the way. Source)

It’s not anyone else’s fault that I got into this firefight. Honestly it’s just a reflection of my inner state and what I am doing. To myself.

But here’s what the bigger, wiser part of me is saying:

stopinthenameoflove
(Source)

Stop trying to live up to standards. Stop trying to be someone I’m not. Stop trying to conform. Stop trying to push myself in a box. Stop being invisible. Stop hiding. Stop running from yourself. Stop the go, go, go that pushes you even further away from the truth. Stop, in the name of love. Before you break my heart.

Do I know how to STOP?

Nope. I am stumbling forward pretty ungracefully. I have help from a really wonderful Higher Power though.

I think some of it means grounding myself on my truth. Some of it means that being an emotional and sometimes erratic person isn’t a bad thing. I am not bad because I am emotional. Some of it means accepting the loudness of my soul. A lot of it means letting myself off the hook and out of the cage. Dropping keys for my beautiful, brilliant, rowdy prisoner (and letting her know that it’s okay that she’s rowdy, it’s really really okay).

It’s reminding myself of this poem I wrote right after I got sober:

You are not incarcerated by fear.
The key is in the space
between you
and the door.
Breathe.
Open.
There is no distance between you and freedom.

Stop, Laurie. Find the space. In it lies the key.

Resentment and Addiction

“Resentment is the number one offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.” AA Big Book, page 64.

On my palms are two broken blisters, one unbroken. They are still raw with the storm that the howling wind blew through me last night, leaving me shaking and exhausted in its wake. Adrenaline roaring up through my esophagus and out of my arms and mouth.

It’s been coming up for me that I need to let out some of my anger. I mentioned in my last post that I feel a lot of anger and resentment right now towards a certain person in my life. This anger and resentment hasn’t been apparent until… I’m not sure. I think it showed up in the last few months. Now it sits in the pit of my stomach like a great big ball of fire.

But honestly I am pretty sure it’s been there all along, masquerading as something else. In Fall 2012, I told my sponsor that I think for most of my life, I’ve been turning my anger inward. That’s why the self-mutilition as a teenager. I was turning on myself the same anger I felt for others. Making it my responsibility.

Then I found alcohol.

I was the fuel. Alcohol was the fire[water]. When I swallowed that shot of whatever, the burning matched the same intense feeling in my stomach. I forgot that fire doesn’t extinguish fire. At the time it felt like water in a desert. Now I have another perspective – that it was my own resentment at myself. Because I wasn’t allowed to have anger and resentment at anyone else.

Especially not my father.

Last night, I walked up a steep trail and found a tree by a creek. I knew, knew, knew that it was time to begin this. I picked up a stick and began to hit the tree. I let all the words I wanted to say fly out of my mouth as I cracked wood against wood.

When I was done (though not totally finished) I realized that all along, every shot I had poured back had been a “fuck you.” And then I knew why the Big Book says that resentment is the number one problem.

No matter where I directed that resentment  – whether I turned it in on myself, or outward while raging at my ex-husband, or funneled it into the burning of alcoholic rancor – all of it culminated into a roiling mess of entitlement. I was entitled to drink because I was such a fuck-up, or he was such a fuck-up. Someone was a fuck-up, dammit, and that meant I got to drink.

For me, though, here’s the thing. I can stuff all that resentment down and turn it into a sword I fall on. I can explode outwards and spew resentment over everyone else. Or, I can take a few afternoons and go beat up a tree in the woods near where I live, and let the anger move through. Personally I think the last one is my best option; let the anger move through so it can be replaced with emptiness, which can then become a breeding ground for something else to grow besides entitlement and addiction.

Maybe something called audacity. Vitality. Life.

When even my therapist can’t give me what I want.

I had my therapy session yesterday, and it was disappointing. It was one of those sessions where you’re left wondering, “Why am I even here?” I should know enough by now to expect those sessions to come, but I don’t. I get cranky and annoyed. The last thing I said before I left was, “I don’t feel like I accomplished much in here today.” He smiled at me kindly as always and said “Don’t beat yourself up about it.”

That sentence is foreign to me, as you all might know by now. I might as well be hearing someone speak in Mongolian. I’ve been trying to unwind the session ever since and what it seems to come down to is something really hilarious, but exactly what I’ve been dealing with.

I’m throwing a fit because my therapist didn’t give me what I wanted. I didn’t get to cry and lose it and be comforted. I didn’t even do much EMDR yesterday, I did more talking. And I was peeved. Come on! You’re supposed to be a machine and predict what I want before I want it. Aren’t you?

This just proves the point of exactly what we were talking about in my session yesterday. My inner child has this glorious expectation that I should have a perfect, fantasaical relationship where I can always get what I need. He described a situation where I could come to his office, be fulfilled, then if I walk down the hall and realize it’s not good enough, I could come right back and it would be okay. He asked if that’s what it was that would be my perfect fantasy relationship. Yes, indeed, said I. That’s exactly what I would love.

The problem is that people aren’t machines, and they aren’t programmed to fulfill my every whim. They never have been. My inner child thinks this is a crime.

So now I sit here, with a decidedly unsatisfying session yesterday, and I get to acknowledge it. Be with it. Clearly see that, “you know what Laurie, you are not guaranteed to get what you want out of people, even your therapist who is one of your favorite people in the world.” It’s so irritating yet hilarious. I can see how unrealistic it is. And I think I should have gotten this by now after a year in love addiction recovery, but you know what, it’s that perfect romance story that I have to surrender over and over. Romance, relationship, whatever. The point is that I think neediness equals love.

I am asking my HP for grace as I sit with this and discover just how to deal with the fact that no one in this world can fulfill me. It’s a little harsh to figure out.

Has anyone else had this experience? Would love to hear your experience strength and hope on this subject!

Heart-Silence

I am coming to appreciate the value of silence. I don’t mean just silence in the sense that there are no words. I mean heart-silence.

Some people, when you tell them your emotional state, what you’re experiencing, respond with advice or suggestions. I’ve noticed this for awhile, and it comes in several forms. When I was still involved heavily in church, people would say “Well God wants people to do this and that because the Bible says this and that.” Instantly their word became gospel, of course, and I was expected to take their advice. In recovery, I find people expounding on certain techniques couched in their “experience strength and hope” which they expect me to then take on. Because it’s experience, strength, and hope, of course, and I’m supposed to be learning from the experience, strength, and hope of others. This isn’t intended to knock ESH; everything I’ve learned in recovery I’ve learned from other people. I DO need people’s wisdom quite often. But sometimes, I need heart-silence.

Rarely do I find a person who will not respond to my emotions with “well I did this” or “this approach is helpful” or “well maybe you need to do this” and instead respond with simple heart-silence. You know what I mean. When someone holds your words in a sacred way, there is a certain silence to it. They might say something, or ask a question for clarification. But they aren’t trying to fix. And in that, silence happens.

Actually, I really find those moments spiritual. That’s how my interaction with my Higher Power is. Most of the time, my HP isn’t trying to fix me when I’m communicating with It. Most of the time, It just listens. Soaks in. Reminds me that I am loved.

So when a person in real life responds to me that way, I get a taste of what my HP is like. I relax. I feel heard, seen, and valued. I treasure those moments.

Moments of experiencing heart-silence from others remind me of a place here in Colorado that’s very special to me. It’s a tiny little graveyard out on the eastern plains. It’s silent, so silent that everything inside of me unwinds, like a ball of yarn when you pull on it. There’s a great bowl of sky and a great bowl of earth, and I am clasped gently between them. I am held, as surely as a baby is held in a mother’s womb.

And even though so much of me right now resists “Christian religiosity”, the only word that can really describe the hush of that place is this:

Holy.