"Listening to your heart is not simple. Finding out who you are is not simple. It takes a lot of hard work and courage to get to know who you are and what you want."
~o~ Sue Bender ~o~
This has been one of the most difficult, and interesting, journeys that I have ever been on.
Last time I wrote about all of the changes happening within and without, dreams unfolding, what life at the cottage really is and what it means, and how I, personally, in my own unique way, am connected to the world.
I am in the middle of one of the most intense times of my life as there is not a day I am not in at least one tele-class or tele-seminar, my work is being read and I am being mentored by more than one person in different aspects of my business and my life so that I can finally, at 58, begin to fully take responsibility for myself and my life and my finances and my future. Until now my entire life has been viewed through a pair of murky, coke-bottle-thick glasses wherein everything was distorted as if by funhouse mirrors and all I could see, all I could feel, were all of the broken, abused, fearful places inside of me. There's no way you can build a foundation for a future, a solid, secure future, for yourself, and those you love, and all that is important to you, unless you are peering at it all clearly, through glasses with a brand new prescription.
I am getting new glasses, both literally and figuratively. I am going to see myself and the world in a whole new way...
One of the interesting exercises that I have created for myself is to carry about a huge notebook which is part journal, part dreamcatcher, part collage, part vision board, and a catch-all of sorts, and what I have wanted to do is find all of the pieces of myself that I can. I am doing this because I really want to see, discover, all of the parts of me that were hidden behind those hazy images of brokenness and fear. And, I find myself shocked to say that there are quite a lot of them.
Shocked. Yes I am downright shocked.
When you get used to seeing yourself as a broken thing you stop trying to reach for your dreams, you imagine that you will never be able to _______________, your world shrinks to a narrow perimeter around yourself in which you and a handful of things can fit and the whole rest of the world simply ceases to exist. Now do understand that I don't mean that from that place that you are you can't do and care about a lot of things. I have, and as I said last time I care very deeply about things in the outside world, and do everything I can to help in any way I can all of those that I can reach. But since then, less than a week ago, I have come to the startling realization that there is space between here and there. I don't see myself, because I don't want to be -- at least for now, and in this moment with eyes wide as saucers looking at the world in a whole new way, who KNOWS what I might think/feel/see/long for in the years to come -- a wild adventurer who travels far and wide, and with 9 animals and who knows how many more could come into my life, I have made a choice to stay centered in my home base with these little beings that I love, that are my family. HOWEVER I might tiptoe beyond the borders of this carefully guarded world I have hidden in. Maybe. And the thing is not whether I ever do, or if I simply choose to expand my world here with little jaunts out into the world, the things is that I have realized that I have a choice.
I know, most of you are out there reading this are thinking, "Duh?" I can assure you that not for one single solitary second did I consider choice a possibility, because when you view yourself as a broken, fragmented thing, limited in scope in a thousand different ways, you don't see choice as an option at all, it really isn't a word in the lexicon of your life as you can see it as a broken person.
I looked in the mirror somewhat startled and I said to myself, "Well, gee, let's see, you are 58, you are round around the edges, you have a lopsided smile from the Bell's Palsy that never went away, but, well, (and here I will spare you the laundry list of all-too-often-written-about reasons why I couldn't do this, that, and the other from past experiences, to mental/emotional states of being, to what felt like bodily limitations...) gee willikers, you're not such a bad lot, and you're smart, and you're kind, and you love and care so very much. So let's take a look at what I have to work with, what's been holding me back, and where I want to go from here."
As I write about this in the weeks and months to come, and because I want you all to share the journey so that you, too, can see that you are a being of limitless possibilities and there is no reason you can't do every single thing you want to in some form or fashion (I'm teaching myself this so bear with me if I wobble a little, but gee, I'm even giddy as I wobble because even wobbling feels good! It sure is an improvement over standing in the corner covering my eyes and hiding!), I'm going to write here all the steps, revelations, discoveries, exhaltations, salutations, whoop-de-doos and la-di-das that come up. I'll just put down here, somewhat shyly but here goes, a BIG thing that has been holding me back and it didn't even occur to me until the last week, and it was after I wrote about doing the Dragonfly Cottage website for 7 years, and I was remembering, then, what I felt so deeply that caused me to finally bring a close to something that I loved so much.
Dragonfly Cottage was a very gentle, non-sexual, lesbian website as I said last time, meant to help and support other gentle women who needed a place to go, as I did, coming out in midlife.. I had no life experience outside of what I had known in 45 years, and I was afraid of men because the abuse in my past had been extensive, but something rather startling to me happened during those years. Men started writing to me -- sweet, gentle, innocent, gay, straight, scared, wanting and needing someone to listen to them too. I just couldn't get over it. It stayed with me for some long time, and yes there were the loonies out there that I deleted or blocked, but honestly, for the most part, they were just very kind, gentle men that also needed someone to listen to them, and care. And I listened, and I cared, and in the end I had to close the website I had loved so dearly because I felt a strong need to open my heart to a wider world, to be more inclusive, that my work needed to be for both women and men. I was right, but in the years just after the website closed a lot of life-things happened including my mother's long battle with cancer ending in her death in 2009 which brought up a tremendous lot for me and changed my life dramatically, and I kind of sunk back into the comfort of all women groups.
I love to be part of women's circles, women's tribes, I love howling at the moon and celebrating my femininity and womanhood for all it's worth. There's something about a sisterhood with other women that you can't get any other way, and I will always have those circles and places of comfort and support in my life because they are so nourishing to me, but, with my work, I have to include everyone.
We all have tender hearts. While I am divorced I was married to the gentlest, sweetest man in the world, I could not have had a better father for my children, and we still care deeply about one another today. I have a son whom I adore with my whole heart and two son-in-laws who are like sons to me as well. I have two beautiful grandsons. My 2 best friends are gay men. How, then, could I shape my work around women only when my heart is big enough to hold everyone? The doors of my heart are opening wider and wider every single day, and there is no turning back now. Now I know. I haven't figured out how to do it all, but just getting this far is so huge I simply cannot tell you.
I said it, there, I said it out loud, and I am a little teary, and a lot relieved, and I am sinking back in my chair with a kind of sigh that says, "Finally..."
My work is about love. I took the name Maitri, as I have written, to be a guiding star, so that I would always remember what my work was supposed to be about. My work is about compassion and loving kindness, for the world at large, and even more, for the tender hearts that we all carry. My work is to turn the mirror around and hold it up for you so that you can see how beautiful you really are. You have to look past every single thing you have seen as negative or limiting. I don't say "I am fat, or I am overweight," both of which might be true in some people's definitions (and I'm not talking about health issues or taking care of oneself, which I'm very well aware of and working on in my life...) because they bring about negative, hurtful, fearful feelings. I say, "I am round around the edges," and I am. I am very soft, and cuddly and I cuddle and love a lot in a sweet and tender way. My grandson hugs me real big and says, "You're so soft grandma!" and it just makes me smile from ear to ear because as a little boy he may be feeling a physically soft Grandma Maitri, but I think what he is feeling even more is the very soft center of who I am, and that will not change when I weigh 100 pounds less. I love how soft I am inside. I accept myself. I fully truly completely love myself as I am today, because if I don't love myself as I am today, just exactly as I am today, I won't be able to make any changes, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or any other way. Accept yourself today. Love yourself today, and the world is your oyster.
If there is one quote that I have always related to most strongly, felt most apt in describing myself, it is Charles Dickens, "... secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster." And that has always been me, has always been how I saw myself, how I felt inside, a bivalve, tightly shut. But... my shell is opening, and there is a pearl inside, and oh gracious me, it is irridescent and glimmering. I am a pearl, round, and luminous, and glowing. I am my own light, and I will illuminate the path before me in the months ahead while I shape the real destiny I was meant to live.
Good Lord, I'm alive, I'm happy, I'm giggly with joy, I've got so much work to do everything in me is spinning and I FEEL GOOD.
I am holding the mirror up for you now. Look deeply and with compassion. Look tenderly, with love. Feel gratitude for this life you have been given, and think of ways to celebrate all that you have, and look for ways to love yourself more deeply. Write down, really fast, everything that you are, every single thing that you can think of that is true about yourself WITHOUT USING ANY NEGATIVE LANGUAGE, DESCRIPTIONS, OR IMAGES. Turn your version of "fat into soft," be very gentle and kind with yourself, and see what that really means inside of you, and see how good it feels. I see you. I see the real you, and you are more beautiful than you can begin to imagine.
You are so very dear to me...