Sunday, May 29, 2011

another truth

I was clear that something needed to budge in my life, taking baby steps toward meaningful change, and listening for my call.  Literally.  And as I opened my heart to what that might look like, I struggled with trusting and knowing that I would know what is the next best thing for me.  What is my work in this world?  I know that after each choice I make, a ship of life possibility sets sail without me.  I fear that I could never know the right ship to take. 

so, I just trust.  breathe.  stay present.  and all of the other stuff falls away.  Magic happens and gifts come.   

It really is as easy as that.  My gifts are a calling.  I am called to connect to others through the courage of telling my story.  I am called to dance more joy into our worlds.  I am called to heal myself and my family.  I an called to learn more so that I can be a better teacher.  I am called to stop diminishing my calling as a teacher. This is divine and dropped into my lap for no other reason than that I asked for it. 

Sure, there are fleeting moments of doubt, but it is also true that I am as sure of these things as I have ever been sure of anything.  I am following my own star home.  Trusting the rightness of it makes the risks just a necessary part of the journey. 

I step into the flow, and then I let it go. 
I surrender. 
I surrender. 
I surrender.
I open my mind, my heart, and my soul.  (River Roberts)

getting in the way

written May 27, 2011

Officially, my commitment to this work started yesterday.  Interestingly, I had a profoundly challenging emotional day.  This work is working me.  The commitment was made and right away the fear in me started lashing out like the tantrum of a toddler.  I can hear it in my last blog. 

In fleeting moments, doubts came up. After I posted, I questioned my presumptuous belief that this blog mattered.  Even just to me.  I asked myself what's the point?  People will know things about me that they may judge, or worse yet, they may decide they no longer like me.  Maybe I need to write a blog entry that shows the not-so-vulnerable side of me.  For gods' sake, could I just tell a positive or funny story?  I am aware that I am not a writer like the writers I love--those people who are in such concert with words that I would wallpaper rooms with their quotes.  I tell  myself my work is marginal, unworthy.  i have friends with titles.  I have friends whose work I admire.   I catch myself weighing my own human breaks against my assumptions about other peoples worth and  wholeness.  I do not want this to be today's truth.  I think I want to be where I think you are.  

I feel extra vulnerable when I am presenting myself as a full human who doesn't have it all figured out. 

What is in the way of my fullest embodiment of me is the feeling that I need approval.  When I tell you who I really am, I no longer deny the things I fear you might not like about me. It is the thoughts of what I should be writing.  What this should look like.   

I  want to help access more joy in this world and this was not the post I wanted to write.  When I tell the truth about my vulnerabilities the story you know of me is a soft version lacking protection.  The animal in me knows--I am completely vulnerable to attack, and when animals see vulnerability, attack is a  natural animal response. 

I'm going to face risk, see the vulnerability, and do it anyway.  My truth today:  I want acceptance.  This want has a history in me of manifesting in less than helpful ways.  I'm ready to name this vulnerability, talk gently to it, and invite it's transformation into a more useful practice.  Hiding is no longer an option. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

the substance of me

I remember the moment I realized that I had an amazing brain that could reason.  I could put an idea into this contraption called my brain and I could manipulate it through the things I knew and then formulate new thoughts.  Amazing. 

I was five or six and I was instantly terrified of the power i had. Perhaps driven by survival instinct, my amazing brain instantly started telling me stories.  Scary stories, and over the next couple years I spent many waking hours in a living nightmare.  My mind told me that this whole world was a big experiment by some mad scientist and I was the specimen in the petri dish.  I believed that you were all computers and when I was not in the room you were watching me.  If anyone found out I knew about the power of my brain, or "the experiment" I would be killed.  I didn't know where I could tell the truth and often hid in my tiny closet and wrote notes on tiny pieces of paper. I remember once writing, "I hate my dad" and then freaking out because I did not know what to do with the piece of paper. 

Somehow I outgrew that fear.  My brain continued to serve in in what it determined to be my greatest good.  Over the years, my brain was effective at presenting information in such a way that truth was mutable--I could find the energy and story to make me always the right guy, in the right place, at the right time.  On the inside, my brain built protections around things that were better unexposed. I had a complex system of when, where, why, and what to share.  My secrets still stayed in little closets on little pieces of paper,somewhere deep in the confines of my brain.  

I started to accrue defining words. Activist. Teacher. Vegetarian.At some point in my life I got what I thought was an important job--I was responsible for 40 staff, had a million dollar budget, executive director, yadda yadda.  It is humbling to admit, but if I had a nickel for every time I said "40 staff," "executive director," or "million dollar budget," I could buy a pretty flashy car.  The complicated part is that I was really good at what I did.  I was even aware and mindful of ego and humility.

Last summer, I suffered a traumatic brain injury.  I lost words, memories, skills, and did not work for nearly three months.  I lived with the fear and the possibility of losing basic marking points of me that I thought defined me. I feared that i might stare at walls for the rest of my life.  I also spend an equal amount of time feeling how I was the same, whole me despite my short wired brain.  I realized the farce in everything I'd been defining as Colleen.  Colleen was the gooey mud at the center of me.  And that Colleen was always there, unchanged. In high or low places, fat, skinny, crawling on the ground, or backstage with rockstars. There I was, unchanged.  It took the TBI to recognize that I had defined myself by the things I had done. I realized it is easier to talk about the concrete things that are the substance of me than it is to simply appreciate the mud. 

In order for me to fully embody my truth, I gotta sweep out these old closets and properly dispose of the little notes, the secrets so full of shame that they had no where to go.  I've been carrying them too long.

And still today, my brain goes right into stories. . .As I write this post--my brain prods--people are going to jump to the conclusion that I am insane; what if this confirms what they have always thought?  Shouldn't I protect myself from the inevitable judgement?  Is this safe? How will exposure of truth harm me?

And then I soothe myself with the reminder that I know that I am okay. Staying present, and holding on to what matters to me is going to carry me.  Hiding myself hurts me more than anyone else.  Besides, if this ends up an insane rant clearly coming from someone who needs med adjustments--I got people that I trust to point it out to me.  And as for the rest of you, I offer the saying I have heard a thousand times before, "what you think is none of my business."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

words that have come to me

"I would not be the overlord of a single blade of grass, that I might be its sister.  I put my face close to the lily, where it stands just above the grass, and give it a good greeting from the stem of my heart."  -Mary Oliver

"As the fish swims freely in the vastness of the seas, as the bird soars boldly in the vastness of the air, so I feel my spirit roaming free in the depths and heights and immensity of love."  -Beatrice of Nazareth, c. 1200-68

"The universe was not made in jest but in solemn incomprehensible earnest.  By a power that is unfathomably secret, and holy, and fleet.  There is nothing to be done about it but ignor it or see.  And then you walk fearlessly eating what you must and growing wherever you can."  -Annie Dillard

To live is to change, to aquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know." -Barbara Kingslover

""Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a foreign language . . .Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually live your way into the answer."  -Rainer Maria Rilke

"The first duty of love is to listen" Paul Tillich

"Listening helps foster trust." T Thorn Coyle

"The armor we errect around our soft hearts causes a lot of misery.  But don't be decieved, its very transparent." -Pema Chodron

"Live by the harmless untruths that make you kind and brave and healthy and happy."  Kurt Vonnegut


Saturday, May 21, 2011

this one is for you

My cousin Byrd has a tattoo of an infinity symbol on her wrist.  She has never told me the story of why it is the thing she decided to get tattooed.  I have never told her that lately, a snapshot of her wrist-her infinity symbol has made its way into the daily musings of my life.  I have been noticing infinity lately, not so much for the interconnection of everything, or the cycle of life, but I have been noticing that everything mirrors everything--just like the symbol.  A simple, yet profound noticing.  What I create in a small way is what I create in a big way. Who you are, is who I am. 

I woke up thinking about the recent influences that have inspired this voice in me Dear Sugar, Brene Brown, Annie Dillard, friends, family, politics, the state of the world, water, struggle.  Like the infinity symbol i can't possibly create a comprehensive list here.  The truth is--I don't know how to not come off cheezy here--the comprehensive list would include your name. I mean that literally.  In some weird way I think of each one of you and you inspire me to find a story or words to connect us.  If I have your attention for this brief moment I want to be sure you know that your story is part of who I am.  I want to write about how funny and fabulous you are, about the way we were there for each other and the way we hurt each other.  I want to take accountability for my part and say I am sorry.  I want to let you know that I have long since let go and forgiven you. That moment we shared that was so_________ (outrageous; raw and real; painful)--I still carry that with me.  The death we survived together is still branded into me as sure as it is branded into you.  And don't think my heart did not break for the death you survived while I was not there with you. Those of you who I have not had that level of connection or who i missed connections with, i want you to know that the way you live your life has given me courage to live my own. Each of you have exemplified who I want (and don't want to be).   As I write the infinity of humans from my life swims by me.  So cliche, but I swear you are there. 

The most honest thing I can say is that you really matter to me.  In this sea of infinity how can I possibly tell each of you that.  How can I have a private, intimate moment with just you and have you believe that I would understand exactly why YOU might be the one whom i should spend forever with lost on a desert island.  It would be beautiful and horrible and interesting.  Just like this life.  You have that value to me and, like infinity, you are me and I have that value to myself.  Namaste.

Friday, May 20, 2011

when there is no word more important than silence

On my birthday (May 26), I will be stepping into a commitment of "a year and a day" handfasted to truth.  Truth and I, we have had a lifelong relationship (at times the relationship was a private hell with very little public display), even when I refused to see or accept it.  I take my commitment seriously and decided to "practice" before the actual handfast begins.  Here is what the past week of practice has taught me already.

Practice means getting to feel the water and adjust the temperature.  There is also the more concrete "practice" of doing the work.  This week has shown me that my practice is not just with words.  It is meditation and exercise.  It is friends and family.  It is showing up--raw and authentic.  Doing the work while simultaneously letting go of knowing what the work is.  It turns out this past week much of the work has been to shut up and listen.   

Listening is helping me formulate my intention--what is really important about this project for me. 

I need to hold myself accountable to actually do the work and I thought daily writing would be a measurement of that.  I thought I was committing to writing a daily blog, but when I tried to force that to happen, I got clarity that that is not what is most important.  I am committing to exploring and sharing the truth of me through a regular blog post.  With all due respect to my fabulousness, I do not have something clear and important to say everyday.  I have a tangled mess of thoughts and words searching with me for a way to blaze them a trail.  I believe that the gentle act of storytelling from a place of truth and vulnerability is the tool I have to assist.  My stories are my sickle clearing ground and shedding light on the earth that is me.  I will post to share this work as it unfolds but not to spew words. 

Sometimes Colleen, you need to shut up.  Listen.  Too often, I make decisions willy-nilly and weeks, months, or years later I turn around and look at the path that I followed as a result of my decision. The best paths have thoughtful decisions and hard work paving the way.  Too many of my own paths were laid by my decisions and led me away from myself and that is not what I want to do here.   I want to be more mindful. 

Sometimes in silence I can almost see my tangles undoing themselves.  As I silently undo, I contemplate the importance of the thoughts and connections that bubble up.  I have learned that when a thought is ready for writing, it volunteers itself to me.  I thought I was going to go out and pick thoughts out like a teacher picks on students when no one raises their hand.  But practice has taught me that I want to share the words that are ready to be spoken and there are plenty of stories that are brave enough to stand up and volunteer.  The brave ones might just nudge the others out. 

What direction will my path take?  I have some fun crazy stories--a "drunkalogue" if you will.  I have spiritual stories that are like miracles to me and feel like such a gift to hold.  I can weave this truth with yours truly as the human character of hero, victim, spiritual seeker, or depressed loser. (To name a few.)  I have been thinking about that, I want to be mindful but I don't yet have the answer. 

Another thought, what about my shadow truths?  As I am writing about something heartfelt and true, but not the thing that presently makes my stomach churn with fear and sadness, am I telling the truth?  But, isn't it also true that my stomach and my mind have not yet figured out what is important to share about today's experience?  This week of practice has shown me that what I am living today, my most present truth, is tangled with the lives of other living, breathing, humans.  I tread lightly to honor privacy--I am still thinking about how to live the truth of myself in a somewhat public way.  Today silence is better than words for those unsolved pieces. 

I am still unraveling the exact words that name the intention of the commitment I am about to make.  I am holding the conflicts and I am grateful that already I am growing from this practice.  These past couple days I have not written because the last time I wrote, I had nothing to say.  It was good practice for me to realize that I want to write the thoughts and words that are ready to be named. Practice reminds me that this whole life is nothing more than practice.  Today's lesson is that sometimes there is no word more important than silence.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The invitation

On May 26, 2011, I will have a handfast ceremony and bind myself to truth.  I will be taking an oath to spend a year and a day exploring my own truth and writing about the experience here.

My hope is to use the process to find my edges and to expand.  I am doing this because witnessing creates accountability and connection.   The irony of this undertaking is if I have learned anything it is that truth is a vastly complicated thing--nearly all versions are far from true--a complete paradox. A dangerous relationship to delve into. 

I thought about working with vulnerability (a big slice of the truth pie), I thought about working with love or joy, but the word truth seemed to encompass all of those possibilities.  I imagine this will be an exploration through vulnerability toward some glimmer of what truth might look like for me. 

As the universe would have it, my call was answered and today life presented me with truth and vulnerability challenges. too much to go into but interesting for me to think about.   now the universe calls me to sleep.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

On writing

In high school I lived in an apartment in downtown Minneapolis.  I had the biggest crush on this guy who was my roommate.  I was so afraid of the attraction and vulnerability that I felt for him that I did everything I could to hide the truth of who I was.  Just be funny.  Just be cool.  Make him believe that nothing bothers me--except the important stuff that bothers him (of course).  I was suffocating myself for some false hope of protection--If you don't know me you can't hurt me.

What I remember most about that brief time in my life is the memory of a single moment.  One day, I had the feeling that there were words inside me screaming to get out.  I was too afraid to talk (if you know me that probably seems hard to believe).  I needed to be heard so I got out a piece of paper and wrote a sentence in all capital letters.  I left the paper out on a bookshelf.  I don't remember what it said--I am sure it was clever twisted language, words that were trying to say something that was really important to me.  It probably made no sense.  I know now that what I wanted it to say was, "Notice me!"  

I have a picture perfect memory of the moment he saw the note--I was lying in my bed (minding my own business, ho-hum), he asked me about it, and. . . I denied writing it.  I had a desperate need to name and claim myself--so desperate that I wrote it down and left it out like a treasure map that I hoped would be discovered and understood.  Turns out, denying it made it a treasure map to nowhere.  That memory has popped in my head a hundred times.  Many of my stories contain a thread of protection and denial of my truth. 

I want to be done with the protection.  It has not saved me. I have worked to strip myself of the masks that do not serve me and this writing is another healing part of that process. 

In my work, I am an investigator and technical writer.  I write, edit, re-edit.  I put my work down and come back days later only to find, sometimes, it is pretty crappy.  One of the consequences of my hippie 1970s education was that I never learned grammar or spelling.  What comes natural for many takes practice for me.  So a writing project like this comes with fear and shame about my limitations.  I fear what others may think or notice about me and my writing. 

I am trying to heal the person who denied my truth.  I am trying to help the words in me find their space in this universe.  I still have something inside of me asking to be named.  So, I am going to use my poor spelling and bad grammar to help me find myself.  Writing in itself is a humbling experience for me.  Someday I may write things that I want to edit and re-edit but for now I will rant my words just to spit them out.

Sometimes I wonder what that roommate thought of me.  I wonder what glimpses of authentic me he might have seen.  I'm pretty sure that he saw what took me years to see--a soul too scared of exposure to tell the truth.  I'm done with that.  What a blessing truth telling is.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Revolutionary Act Number One

Today I write my first blog.  I am still sorting out the intention-why write?  Why public? What is the topic? What is the point?  Here is what I know.  I write to untangle the twisted web created by the insufficiency of words and pieces. To find the core of me behind these translators that get between my soul and connection.  Sometimes I choke on words and that tells me that I need some practice having a better relationship with them. 

A long series of spiritual awakenings has led me to this couch, this computer, and this blog. A short version starts with a scene of my heart breaking open in front of my family, friends, and community and the resulting need to tap into meaning in this world.  The first time it happened was  more than twenty years ago when my little sister died.  Recently it happened again-- I was part of a group of broken hearted people supporting each other and telling our stories. Naming our raw, vulnerable, truth.  From shame to joy, I have come to believe that the vulnerability of telling the truth about our experience just might be the thing that will save us. 

Ever since I can remember, I have been passionately looking for a revolution to fight.  I moved to New Orleans at 18 years old to fight racism, I was an '80s feminist fighting for the world I believe in (mostly intellectual "fighting" around a keg of beer, but passionate for sure).  My career has been about children--really seeing, hearing, believing in children.  I am blessed with the passion to fight.  Along the way, I kept hearing the message but missed it. 

Lean into the pain. Relax.  Don't fight.  The revolution begins within.   On some level I understood, but today I get it.  My part in the revolution is to tell my truth. To be witnessed.  And to witness you as you do the same. 

I look forward to standing next to you in the streets of truth as much of a messy paradox as it will be.  I will witness your stories and invite you to hold me accountable for mine.  I believe the resulting love and human connection is the revolution I have been looking for in this world. 

My first "tweet" on Twitter was, "Revolutionary act number one: Stand shamelessly in your truth."  Besides the fact that sometimes truth might include shame, I think that is a pretty good place to start.  xo