Friday, January 21, 2011

The Shame Prom

Shame is a ball and chain around your soul that keeps you from living an authentic life. When you keep it buried deep inside you, it saps your energy, steals your joy.

Amy Ferris and I have been talking a lot about this, and decided this is the year we release ours. We decided it would be a bit less scary to write about it together, you know- hold hands and jump off the cliff Thelma and Louise-style (but we expect a much better outcome). She said “What if we call it our shame prom?” I knew right where she was going.
Yes, I said, a shame prom. Let’s parade it out in public, dance it around on our arm. Let’s take awkward pictures with it. But afterward, let’s not roll around in the backseat making out with it any more. Let’s break up with it.

So here is my shame:
Inside, I feel like a colossal failure. A total loser.
Where this affects me the most is in my career.
There were many years I worked in the corporate world, and earned good money. I even carried the financial burden while Troy built up his music career. But after that …it’s a joke. Not that I haven’t been doing things, or having a career. I ran my own nonprofit organization for seven years, and it was successful. But I didn’t get paid. I’ve worked as a singer for almost 20 years, but if I lived on that income alone I’d be on welfare. My albums were a total loss. I had a clothing business that built up to some national success, but… it burned down and I went bankrupt.

So why am I such a terrible earner? I had a realization the other day, talking to my neighbor. She makes beautiful handmade quilts, and now that she’s out of a job, she was thinking of selling them but felt kind of awkward about it, at which point I gave her this advice:
“Why should you feel bad about selling them? Money is just a symbol of gratitude, one that says I value your work. Why shouldn’t you let others value the work you do?”
And of course I caught myself. Hellooooo??? Look who’s talkin’!

I realized that, dammit, no matter how much work I’ve done on myself, there is this message so deeply imprinted in me that I am not valuable. It started with the fact that I was an unwanted pregnancy and without going into detail let’s just say my childhood experiences continued to validate that feeling. I absorbed and believed it before I was old enough to even understand it. I know better now. I know I have value to add to the world, but I haven’t been able to shake that tattoo on my soul-“Unwanted”.

So no, I am not surprised that my book hasn’t sold, that I have no gigs booked for this year. If I don’t see myself as valuable, how will anyone else? I am truly embarrassed that I am this way. I want to be better.

It’s time for me to redesign that soul tattoo. I have no idea how, but I thought admitting this defect would help me to see that maybe I’m not the only one. Maybe we can all figure this out together.

The love from my husband, children and friends has healed me in so many ways, but I still have much work to do on myself. It will most likely be a lifelong project, correcting what was broken in my foundation. I’m going to start by praying about it, and reaffirming the good things in my life, and giving myself some credit for the valuable things I’ve done. That’s a start.

Like my real prom, I’d like to leave the Shame prom in my rearview mirror.

(Here is AMY FERRIS' story)

Shame, shame, shame. (Sounds just like an Aretha Franklin song doesn't it?)
I'm wearing it on my sleeve, right next to my lovely floral corsage.
I am carrying the shame of believing, "It's all my fault, I did something wrong, so I deserve this sadness and pain and suffering. And I have to make it better. And I need to apologize for whatever it is I did that made someone angry, bitter, hateful, mean."
This (incorrect) belief system originated many, many years ago, when I would come home from a friend's house, or school and I would be crying because my friend and I had a fight, or something happened in school, and I would be sobbing and my mother would say: "Amy, what did YOU do?" And of course, I would immediately feel smaller, sadder, less than. Invisible. Unimportant. Discarded. I would feel horrible. It was my fault. And of course I would feel as if nothing I did was good enough or worthy. So i was always trying to fix the problem. Always. I always felt i had to fix something, make something better, mend it, repair it. Apologize. And I would do whatever i could to make it better, to make it right, because I believed it was my fault.
And, I never, ever felt better. I just felt more invisible and powerless. I felt completely and utterly unimportant. And good god, if I didn't do something to make it better, I would be alone. That scared me to death. Being left behind, forgotten. Holy shit, did that scare me.
And now that feeling, that "OH MY GOD WHAT DID I DO?", is rearing it's god awful, guilty, fearful ugly head again. It has a lot to do with the loss of my relationship with my brother, and the loss of the spiritual, or more truthfully, "Religious" organization i belonged to for many, many, many (35) years. The feeling of I need to do something, fix something, mend something, make it better. Repair it. MAKE. IT. WORK. MAKE. IT. BETTER. MAKE. IT. RIGHT.
But the other much more enlightened piece of me, another part of me says: STOP IT. Not your fault. There are many sides. It's not just you. You were mistreated, betrayed, treated badly. Discarded. STOP IT. YOU DON'T NEED TO FIX THIS, OR MAKE THIS BETTER. You don't need this person's love, approval, acceptance.
It's hard - excruciating - for me to see that, accept that, to understand and believe that 'truth.'
And so there in lies the battle.
And trust me, it is a huge battle. An internal battle. I can feel it right in my soul, in my solar plexis. I can. And in that battle is a whole lot of shit: guilt, fear, self-doubt, retreating, self-criticism, pain.
But... I'm pretty sure this is the moment where i get to let go of that god awful misguided pain and incorrect belief system that began in that little girl, (and grew up in this woman) who believed that everything bad that happened was her doing, her fault, her problem to solve.
The old me: the one who feels that she has to make it better, APOLOGIZE, shrink. Ask for forgiveness. It's all her fault. The one who seeks approval, needs permission.
The new me: the one who feels it's time to move on, let go, FORGIVE MYSELF, be big, release the guilt and doubt and self-defeat. To save my own life. To take responsibility for my life. To take charge. To stop looking for permission.
And yes, it's easier said than done. Much fucking easier. After all, it took years to get here.
But I know it's the right time to be here. At this place. At this 'Shame Prom,' it's time to stop the self-slander, the self doubt. The self-loathing, and yes, it's time to let the flower on the corsage bloom, and let the "shame bud" die out.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Good Grief!

My little one has recently gotten into watching old Charlie Brown movies, and as a result, “Good Grief” is his new catchphrase. It’s funny how you can hear a phrase over and over throughout the years, and then one day, it hits you in a different way. Good grief.
I’ve been feeling some grief lately. I’m feeling stirred up, ruffled. And in talking to my friend Amy yesterday, who is feeling the same, I realized….it is sometimes good to feel grief. To feel things deeply. To recognize what is driving me from the inside. This grief, this aching that woke me with nightmares last night, that made me bolt upright this morning sure that we were having an earthquake, that keeps churning in my gut, it is good. It’s good because it keeps me on my toes, keeps me alert, reminds me I’m human and alive. It reminds me to look within, to examine what is motivating me, what’s holding me back.
There were violent windstorms last night, trees thrashing themselves against the house, battering the windows, reflecting what I feel in my soul. Winter is clearing me out, sweeping every corner of unfinished business. It's not letting me hide any more.
Grief is like a fire in your soul, purifying, transforming you. If you let it.
I told Amy sometimes I wish we didn’t feel things so deeply. It can be excruciating to be wide awake in your own life. But if we weren’t, what would we write about? What kind of artistic truth could we bring to the world? We would just numb ourselves out watching reality shows, thriving on other people’s drama.
Good grief!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Guest post on The Middle Ages (with Barb and Deb)!

Today I was the "guest-poster" on The Middle Ages - a great blog written by my two adorable, sassy, funny friends Barb and Deb. They're Canadian, eh. Makes me love 'em even more....

Our blog today was about what we had planned for our lives, and how, at midlife, we realize Life had other plans for us. Go figure...

Check out their blog (with yours truly). You'll want to return again and again....

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Challenge

Hello, just a quick note reporting in on my challenge to myself yesterday. If you are facebook friends with me, you know that I vowed to not say one negative thing all day. Well, let me tell ya, it was exactly that. A challenge. And it was an interesting exercise that I highly recommend, because you suddenly become aware of the words you let slip subconsciously throughout the day.
For instance I had to push the “reset” button quite a few times, but not when I was talking to others. It was mostly because I was grumbling to myself about things which offended me. Traffic, television, bad drivers, politics. Granted, this was an especially difficult time to take this challenge, considering the state of our country right now. And then at the end of the day, my husband had to talk about Rush Limbaugh saying Democrats are giving psycho serial killer Loughner their full support….It was like Kryptonite. I went off the charts, calling him an idiot, an evil person who cares about nothing more than ratings. I caught myself, then told Troy- “No fair bringing up Limbaugh when I am on a negativity fast!”
It’s interesting, though, to actually notice how many times negative words slip out, and I am a generally positive person. What power those words hold…and they’re just going in, coming out, like breathing…unnoticed. I have decided to pay close attention to the words that “slip out”. And luckily I have Evan who has current Kindergarten training, so he nails me constantly.
Me “I can’t open this stupid jar!”
Evan: “Mommy! Stupid is a bad word!”
Likewise every time I call something dumb, lame, or anything of the like, he is on it.
So, I am at least aware of it now. It’s not that I won’t call out injustices when I see them, or speak up against something that is clearly wrong. But I will just weigh my words more carefully. The next time there is a “stupid” commercial on, I’ll simply turn it off. The next time there is an “idiot” tailgating me, I will change lanes and breathe.
I had this quote taped on the front of my computer for years:
“When you judge someone, you do not define them. You simply define yourself as someone who needs to judge.” - Wayne Dyer
Realistically, we are all people who need to judge, because often we learn through others choices. Starting as children, we watch what others do, and decide what feels right or wrong for us. We see someone making bad choices in their lives, and we want to talk about them, criticize them, maybe to ensure we would never make the same mistakes. But another choice would be to simply say– that’s not for me, and remove ourselves from the situation.
It’s the energy and bad intent behind these judgments that’s making our country the Divided States of America. The problem feels so huge, so overwhelming. What can we do to make it better?
We can start with ourselves. Notice the words that slip out, and little by little, try to change.
Take the challenge! Try not to say a negative word all day, and watch what happens…

Monday, January 10, 2011

Words Have Power. Wield Them Wisely.

( a re-post from i.sane : my political blog with Amy Ferris)

Words have power. They can heal, inspire, initiate forgiveness. Or they can wound, divide and annihilate. My life revolves around words. They are my way of being in the world, my way of processing, making sense of what I observe in this world. Words sustain me, uplift me, encourage me. They have also hurt me, frightened me, devastated me. Words have power.
Words can move a nation. We look to those we elect for guidance. In times of trouble, we anxiously await their words. Remember waiting for President Bush to speak after 9/11? Whether you voted for him or not, his words meant everything to us as a frightened, grieving country. During World War Two, families gathered around the radio at night waiting eagerly to hear the words of President Roosevelt- their hope hung on his every word. Those words kept America afloat in a sea of despair, as we waited and prayed for our husbands, fathers and sons to return.
Words have power. They can hold one up in prayer. They can hold a nation together. They can be used to incite war. The words of one can lead a bullied teen to suicide, another to murder…
Words. Have. Power.
I have a few words about some of our elected officials, and their words. I don’t like to engage in negativity, nor to perpetuate the anger and vitriol that’s being tossed about in the political arena. I do my best to ignore the ugliness, aiming toward being part of the solution.
I don’t blame the heinous act of violence yesterday on anyone but Loughner, who is clearly mentally disturbed. But I call out those whose words have hurt the American people and our political system. I call them out for knowingly spreading lies, and fanning the flames of hate and fear solely to further their own political agendas. They must face themselves in the mirror in the aftermath of this tragedy, and reconcile their hateful words.
August 7, 2009: Posted on her facebook page: Seniors and the disabled "will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care."
(This was an egregious lie meant to frighten mothers and senior citizens. It is shameful that we allow our government officials to lie to the public without consequence.)
March 23, 2010: Palin puts a map of the US on her facebook page, targeting twenty democratic members of congress with crosshairs, with an accompanying list of their names.
Simultaneously, on twitter: "Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: 'Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!'
(and by the way, is this statement to suggest that those who are in need of healthcare are NOT lovers of America? What ignorance.)
November 4, 2010, Palin on twitter: “Remember months ago “Bullseye” icon used 2 target the 20 Obama-care Lovin’ incumbent seats? We won 18 out of 20 (90% success rate; T’aint bad.)”
(Although her “people” are denying the crosshairs were meant as anything more, Palin called it what it was, a bullseye.)
Tea Party candidate (Palin-endorsed) SHARON ANGLE:
"If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are going to start looking for second amendment remedies...” (second amendment - the right to bear arms) "The first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."
(Chief of staff to Republican Congressman Allen West)
July 4, 2010 : "If ballots don't work, bullets will." (And if West lost the election): "I'm going to go up into the hills of Kentucky, I'm going to go out to the Midwest, I'm going to go up into the Vermont and New Hampshire outreaches and I'm going to gather men and women who understand that some things are worth fighting for and some things are worth dying for."
These words incite fear, anger, insecurity in the American people (and I am deeply ashamed that the above quotes are all from women - the suffragettes must be rolling over in their graves). And to what end? What has it done but to ensure votes for the fear pushers? These words contribute to a sick society, one in which an unbalanced person could be pushed over the edge.
Maybe Loughner was influenced by these hateful words, maybe not. Maybe he had a political agenda, or maybe he’s plain apeshit crazy. Either way, Congresswoman Giffords is in an ICU, her life hanging in the balance. Six are dead, others wounded. Among the dead, a little girl born on 9/11 who had just been elected to her student congress, and only wanted to learn about our political process. She represented America’s future. What unspeakable grief for her family, for all of us. Is this what we are handing down to the next generation?
I’ve said it before: America is a two-party system. We are not meant to annihilate the other party. The system was put in place to ensure healthy debate of differing views, that one party doesn’t become all-powerful. That’s democracy. People seem to have lost sight of this.
Our words must be used to promote reason, to debunk the fear and lies. Let us use our words to promote understanding and solutions.
I will continue to write and voice my opinion in years to come, but I will weigh my words carefully, because I understand all too well - words have power.
I will leave you with these words, spoken today, by more responsible members of Congress.
Democratic congressman James Clyburn, a veteran of the civil rights movement, had this to say, “We're getting ready to celebrate, this weekend, the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., who admonished us that we are going to regret in this generation not just the vitriolic words and deeds of bad people, but the appalling silence of good people.”
Let us no longer be silent in the face of hate.
From Republican congressman Trent Franks - “True tolerance is not pretending we have no political differences, it’s treating each other with kindness and respect in spite of those differences.”
And finally, let’s all keep in mind the words of Abraham Lincoln, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
(And by the way Sarah Palin, being a Christian, I’m sure you know that Lincoln took that quote from the bible, Matthew 12:25: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand." Or had you forgotten? You might want to re-read it, some time.)
Words. Have. Power.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Other Shoe

Last night I woke at 3 am to worry. It’s my job. I do it for my family so they don’t have to, and I usually punch the timeclock at around 3 or 4 am. Another part of this job is to wander the house “checking” on things. Make sure everyone is breathing, doublecheck that all the doors are locked, no fires smoldering anywhere…you know.
What is it about worry? Do we think that if we worry enough about something, we’ll somehow protect ourselves from it happening to us? Take for instance the constant worry of mankind that the world will end soon – which we’ve been worried about since the beginning of time. It never happens, it likely never will, and yet we worry. Worry is such a ridiculous waste of energy. It helps nothing and only stresses and wears down our health and immune system (yet something else to worry about). If I could accumulate all the time and energy I’ve spent on worry, and reapply it to something positive in my life, what wonders could occur.
This particular night, I was worried about my dog. In the last four years, I have watched two of my dogs die a long painful death from some type of mysterious cancer that the vets couldn’t quite peg. And now the only dog I have left was suffering some type of allergy, itching all the time (common to French Bulldogs) and my goodness….he looked a little thinner to me, even though Troy thought he looked the same as always.
Nonetheless my eyes flew open at 3 am, and my mind was on alert – Okay, ready to worry. Let’s do this.
Then I realized now nutballs I am and instead used the time to talk myself down. Really, he looks the same, he acts the same, he’s only four years old and he’s itchy. That’s it. He’s not dying of cancer. So why not just focus on his good health, pray for continued good health, and trust that everything will be okay? So I prayed, and lied awake, and still worried.
In the morning I talked to Troy about it (who is not at all worried about the perfectly healthy, itchy dog). I told him that I myself sort of feel like a dog, one who’s been kicked for a while with repeated bad surprises from life, the kind of dog who recoils when you go to pet him for fear you’re just going to whack him on the head. That’s how much I trust life….goes back to what I said in my last post about waiting for the other shoe to drop.
And that’s when Troy said this to me -
“Honey, everything is okay. It’s a new year, a new beginning. The other shoe is not going to drop. And if it does, we’ll just dance like hell on the one shoe we have left.”
And that is reason number 1057 I love my husband. It also is the end of this blogpost because really….how can I top that?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Decade, New Beginnings

As I shed the remnants of 2010 like a bad virus, I am giddily optimistic about this new year, and in fact this whole decade. At the same time, I feel big changes shaking things up...the foundation beneath me trembling...
Everything is about to shift.

I'm ready.

I spent last night writing what I want from this year, what I want to see happen in my life in the coming decade. In doing this journaling and meditating, I saw a huge flaw in myself. I really need to work on feeling I "DESERVE" good things to happen to me. The problem is, I expect the bad things. They're like an old shoe. I know how to navigate trauma. But the good stuff- I don't trust it. It can be ripped out from under you at any moment.
You see? That's the problem. Always waiting for that other shoe to drop- expecting it in fact. When I think of those who have achieved their highest dreams, I'm sure they didn't share my negative thinking patterns.

And yet look at the love that surrounds me. Somehow I must believe enough in that, because I am truly surrounded by goodness and love. How did I learn to believe in love? To trust in love and the goodness of people, even when I was shown repeatedly that people could be cruel, and betray you? How did I end up in such a beautiful loving marriage, when I only saw destructive relationships growing up?

It may have been this. For years- after being betrayed again and again by my own family and "friends", I PRAYED and journaled and posted on my wall and my bathroom mirror that I deserved to be surrounded by like-minded, loving people, who loved me and treated me kindly. I don't know that I completely believed it at the time...but I prayed and wrote it anyway....over and over, until it finally came to pass. It is a miracle, a prayer answered, that we all have one another.

Also, years ago I wrote "I am now open to the possibility of all my wildest dreams coming true". I posted it on my mirror, looked at it every day. That year, at 39 years old, I found my biological father and three brothers.

I'm ready to set a course for myself, to start praying more for goodness, and training myself to believe in it. I told Troy last night I've not felt in control of my destiny at all for the last couple years. I've felt like a leaf drifting on the river, going wherever it took me, which was often over the edge of the rapids. I want to now learn how to navigate my own boat. I know I can't control the river, but I can set a course, and learn how to paddle.

I am excited to begin the journey. And I will pray for goodness, and write it even when I feel doubt, keeping myself on course for miracles.
Wanna come?