Thursday, March 25, 2010

All for one and one for all

I'm currently reading Manifest Your Destiny: The Nine Spiritual Principles for Getting Everything You Want by Wayne Dyer. It's not an easy read. It meanders and rambles a bit and I have to re-read sections constantly. I'm not sure I can even summarize what the book's about. But I found a gem in there today. He talks about trusting in the principle that we are not separate from our "creator." There isn't a God there and us here. There is a universal creative energy. Or something like that. The point he's making is that we're not "separate" from the creative energy that surrounds us. We aren't really separate from each other either. We're all part of the same cosmic slush that is us and everything else in the universe. So here's the gem - he says that one way to trust in yourself and the wisdom that created you is to begin by admitting your confusion or failures. Remind yourself that genuine trust involves letting go of all conditioning that teaches you that trust in yourself is based on being "special or separate." In other words, even if we fail or are confused or make mistakes, we are still strong, capable, powerful beings. We can trust in that power. But we'll never really be able to trust that we're amazing if we keep thinking that in order to be amazing we have to be perfect. We'll never be comfortable with ourselves as long as we try to hide our imperfections. So here I am. In all my imperfect, messed up, confused, annoying, lazy, unorganized, funny, sweet, friendly, open, loving, perfect glory.

Yesterday I mentioned that I've been sharing my "story" - warts and all - with people recently. It's not like I walk up to strangers on the street and say "Hi. My name is Jessica. I'm getting a divorce and I have no job." And it's not like I spend all my time whining to my friends about how hard life is. (I do sometimes. Just not all the time.) What I meant was that when I talk to friends and acquaintances, I'm honest about myself and my situation. I've gotten an overwhelmingly positive response. People feel comfortable sharing more of themselves and their lives with me. I don't feel like I have to be someone I'm not or pretend I'm doing well when I'm having a hard day. I can just be. They can just be. It sounds so simple and it is. The problem is that many of us have become accustomed to putting up walls and it's a scary thing to stop hiding. But it's incredibly liberating. And opens us up to a connection with others that helps us know that we're not alone in our struggles and imperfections.

One issue I had to work through before this kind of honesty became a positive force in my life was my tendency to get stuck in a "victim" mentality. It's seductive - as a victim you get attention and people take care of you. You have a ready excuse for not doing things you should do but are afraid to do. You don't have take responsibility for your life if you're a victim. It's all somebody else's doing. If only my abusive husband would just realize what a jerk he is and start being nice. THEN I could be stronger. THEN I would be happy. THEN I would do all those things I know I'm capable of doing but just can't right now because I have this awful person in my life. I would do all those things I should do but right now, I'm a "victim" of my circumstances. At some point, if you're ever going to recover from bad life situations, you have to get out of that frame of mind. You have to realize that if you want your life to be better YOU have to take responsibility for doing what you can to MAKE life better. We all have choices. We all need to learn to make the right choices for ourselves. Just to be clear - there are going to be times in our lives when we're truly victims of someone or something outside of our control. The key is in how you survive those times, how and when you recover and stop being a victim. This isn't victim-bashing or blaming. The abusive things my husband did are part of his karmic debt that he has to deal with. But I can either continue to be a victim or I can get on with my life and stop using that as an excuse.

So now I'm in a place where I can share my struggles - not to seek pity or set up excuses for myself - but to show other people that they are not alone. And to remind myself that I am not alone. I hope that when I talk to people, it doesn't sound like I'm complaining or being negative. On the contrary, people are often surprised at my positive attitude when I talk about some really difficult subjects. That hopeful, optimistic, happy attitude comes from surviving hard times and coming out the other side a stronger person. Even though I don't have a job, I have no idea where I'll be living when we sell our condo and my savings is down to about nothing, I can honestly say that I'm excited about life. I'm happy about the direction that my life is going even if I'm not ecstatic about where it is right now. I'm trusting in my strength. I'm trusting my heart. I'm going where I should be going even if I don't know exactly where that is. And it's a beautiful journey.

Coming out of hibernation

So I've decided that it's time I started writing again. My pending divorce - and the possibility of a custody dispute - was a convenient excuse for me to stop writing publicly. Unfortunately, if I'm not writing publicly, I pretty much don't write at all. It's almost like blogging primes the writing pump for me. Without it I can't seem to get started on any kind of writing. And I miss it.

I know a lot of people continue blogging through their divorces and I had planned on it. But given the possibility of a custody dispute - which is no longer likely (thankfully) - my friends and family counseled me to stop. I write from the heart. I write about myself and my experiences, good and bad. They (and I) worried that something I wrote could be used against me. And I could not take any risk when it came to custody of my kids. But the time has come for me to start writing again.

I've found that the more I share about myself with others, the more I get back. And, strangely enough, it seems that when I share the darker aspects of my experience it opens up a level of communication that isn't available when I only talk about the good things. We tend to see the best in others and the worst in ourselves. When we find out that someone else has similar struggles and doubts, we feel relieved. And we feel better about sharing our own struggles. I spent a lot of my life pretending everything was great. Don't get me wrong, I've had some great times in my life and, compared to lots of other people in the world, I'm incredibly blessed. But I've struggled with bulimia, depression, an abusive relationship, ADD. I've been through a lot and I'm still working through pain and anger and other things that have been with me for a long time. Writing helps me work through those things. And even if no one reads this, blogging helps me feel like I'm not alone - especially during those times that I can't call a friend. (Like now - 12:30 am on a week night when most of them are asleep).

Tonight's struggle is two-fold. For starters, my father is having open heart surgery tomorrow. On top of that, I'm basically out of work and trying to figure out what I'm going to be when I grow up. I'm trying not to worry about my Dad. Other than some heart issues, he's actually a healthy guy and he'll most likely recover very well. But any surgery is risky and I can't help but worry.

I was laid off over a year ago. I was spending time with my kids and dealing with my divorce until a few months ago. I'm now working part time as a lawyer for an old employer but I don't know how long that will last. Truthfully, I don't want to be a lawyer anymore. It's a struggle to do the work because I don't really want to do it. I've been a lawyer for almost 15 years. Been there. Done that. Can't do it anymore. But I have to have some way of making money. So I've been working when I feel like it, which is not really enough. I'm not at my most responsible right now, I guess. I've been the sole breadwinner for my family for over five years now and I guess I'm just on a sort of extended vacation right now. Hibernating, if you will.

There are so many things I want to do and a lot of things I enjoy. The question is what can I do that will allow me to support myself and my share of the kids' expenses while fulfilling the parts of me that have been unfulfilled for so long? As a lawyer, I just used my head. Not my heart or my hands. I realized that I needed something where I didn't have to be in an office and I could feel like I was actually helping people. So I decided last year that I want to become a massage therapist. I can't really start school until the divorce is final - hopefully this summer. But it isn't enough to just go back to school and then get another job. I need to develop a vision for my life. How do I want it to look? Feel? Do I want to be an independent contractor or an employee? Do I want to start my own business and have my own employees? How much do I want to work? How much do I need to work? This is all so overwhelming.

Unfortunately, when I get overwhelmed, I shut down. I stop doing anything. I stop doing the things I love to do because it never seems enough. If I spend some time knitting, I feel like I haven't gotten enough done. Or like I should be working. Or whatever I've made isn't good enough. For what or who I don't know. There are other projects I'd love to do but I don't because I'm scared. I'm scared that I won't be as good as I want to be. I don't give myself time to learn and get better. I don't give myself permission to be imperfect. I know - intellectually - that no one is perfect. I know that even the best artists struggle and create crap before they create something beautiful. But emotionally, I have a difficult time with it. Maybe that's one of the reasons I like blogging. There's an immediacy to it that somehow makes it easier to get through. If you don't write something, you can't post anything. And posts don't have to be long. Or perfect. They just have to exist. And then you hope someone reads it. But you're not sending it to an editor hoping they'll publish it. You're not trying to write a whole book. Just a post. A writing baby step.

Baby steps. My phrase of the year. Baby steps every day. But some days call for giant leaps. So here's my giant leap for today. I'm actually going to press the Publish Post button.