Bitch, moan and shutup

I am beginning to experience a deeper acceptance of my body as I am getting older. I am seeing a new improved model… for aging.

What changed?

I don’t know, but I feel more relaxed about how aging is changing my physical appearance.

 

Just so you know: It was a lot different before this shift. I was despairing about my body and the last third of this life. I felt this thickening in my middle that didn’t seem to have to do with how much I exercised or what I ate. My breasts had gotten larger, my belly seemed fuller. I didn’t like how I looked. I felt poochy and saggy.  The hair on my head was thinning, growing in odd places on my face.  My eyesight was getting worse. (There is an advantage in that. You don’t see all these wrinkles and the growing crone hairs.) But, that’s just some of the fun stuff. My handwriting has suffered. I have a benign tremor in my hands, and I am beginning to get arthritis in my thumbs. I have a mild case of tinnitus, and warts and growths in places that  seem unlikely, but there they are.

 

I couldn’t see how to shift my perspective of being over the hill. I felt under the hill. I started to be overly conscious of everything (food-wise) that I put in my body. I skipped meals (not a good idea.)  All of this for vanity, or to imagine myself the way I thought I should look, instead of how I was in the moment.

I reminded myself of the good health and longevity genes I got from my family of origin. But I was grieving no longer being an attractive woman to the outside world. I was buying into the American model of youthful, hot looks. I wasn’t in the running or even the walking. I have cute older woman, lukewarm looks. Maybe I could be a poster adult for AARP magazine. Maybe.

 

Vanity plus aging equals suffering. My husband, a Buddhist practitioner, reminds me that all of our life is change. I can accept some changes better than others. But my “looks” cut close to the core.

 

Let me be honest. I have a history of being critical of how I look.

So, it is not a brand new thing to not be satisfied with my looks/image. But the aging thing adds another twist.

Here is me, inside, feeling about 20 and me on the outside, sagging and coming closer to seventy.

 

It is funny to be called ma’am. In the beginning, you think it’s cute. But when you realize that the person calling you that is serious, it’s different.

I am too young to be called ma’am.

 

We went down to Mexico in October. A lot of American retirees live in San Miguel de Allende. I saw old people– vital, alive, older people.

Then I realized, I am one of them. I am older. Not ancient. Not old old. Maybe cronish-ness has eras like Early Jurassic, Late Jurassic, Late Cretaceous etc.

Maybe they could be called:

  • 3.00+ Eyeglassic
  • Early Canuthreadtheneedlesic period
  • Late Nocoffeeorpeeallnightic
  • Don’tbendoverorunevergetupic

 

 

Six months ago I called up my best friend on Skype. I wanted to talk on Skype because I had complained about my looks. She wanted to see what I was referring to.  We got on-line. I took off my clothes. I pointed to all the areas of unloved flesh, the sagging, handful of flabbiness in my tummy and breasts. She kept saying, “You look great, you’re beautiful. You are fine.”  I showed everything to her that felt undesirable, unacceptable, unloved. Everything I didn’t want to expose to anyone.

Then she took off her top. Ten years ago she had had a double mastectomy. She opted to not to do reconstruction. Her body is slender to begin with. She doesn’t have a spare inch of flab. And she has no breasts. You can see the delicacy of her body, the gracefulness, the vulnerability. She pointed to all the unloveable parts in her eyes. I saw her. It was my friend’s body, the body that I love and adore. I saw the wounds of her operation, and I saw the beauty that she is.

God forbid that Homeland Security should be spying in at that moment. How could they understand that we need to be seen, for our scars, imperfections, limitations real and imagined? We need to be witnessed. In that cyber connection we were exposing our bodies, souls, and fear about our lack of beauty, attractiveness, imagined lovability.

 

I realized very recently that there is a history of Fat Phobia in our family. My sister in-law pointed out the critical bias that my brother and I have about overweight people.

It’s true. I fear gaining weight.

I work at staying in shape.

I am in the same clothes size for the last fifteen or so years… with a few pounds up and a few under.

However, I deeply believe that I could be thinner. And then, I would be happy and beautiful and loved and accept myself totally even with my aging. What a myth.

 

And, I do notice little changes now and then, that show that something in my habit of mind has begun to shift.  I began to go sleeveless to the yoga class, unafraid of the wrinkles and dimples. I purged my closet and got rid of anything that didn’t fit well, or that I didn’t feel right in. I bought a skirt to show my legs.

I started to feel my body, admire my strength and flexibility, joy of free movement, feeling  deep gratitude for my health. To catch myself out of the corner of my eye, liking how I look. I balance on one foot while brushing my teeth. I talk to myself, coach myself.

Maybe it was that Skype call. Maybe it was the act of exposing the thinking that limits my view. Maybe it is also realizing that although there may be a lot more life left in this go round, that the inevitable end is closer. Like they say, “The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” Let’s include “until the beautiful, aging woman sings.”

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In Search of my True Name

I was born in June of 1948, a baby-boomer.

I was the first girl born in my family and extended family for more than eighteen years. Because I was expected to be a boy, I was named after my cousin Bobby Friedlander, who was killed in World War II. But I was a girl. As a result, they added an “e” on to the end of my name. B-O-B-B-Y-E.

I lucked out with my middle name. There is a law among the Ashkenazi Jews: “Do not name your children after someone who is still living.” My mother took the first initial of my Uncle Jack’s mother, Zelda, may she rest in peace. Mom used the ” Z” and came up with the name Zorina. (Vera Zorina was a famous ballet dancer.)

I was called Bobbye, but I knew that wasn’t my true name.

When my brothers each went through their Bar Mitzvah ritual at the age of thirteen, I became aware that they had Hebrew names.

What was mine? My parents said they didn’t remember. I was adamant that someone in the family would know. After reminding them to call Aunt Florie, or Aunt Ida, or Uncle Pick, they told me that my name was Kleine Shtunkheit. Okay, I thought, not too catchy, but it is my Hebrew name. I announced to the world… this is my name! Ta Daa!

I proudly carried my name until I found out that Kleine Shtunkheit was Yiddish, not Hebrew, and it meant “little stinker.”  Ha ha.  Everyone thought was very funny. Not. I was serious about wanting a name.  A special name. A name that would fit me.

I moved to California during my favorite decade, the sixties. I introduced myself to the world as Zorina. Since I had already been calling myself that secretly for years it was great to know it could be my name for others. I learned things related to my exotic name: belly dancing, tarot card reading at the Renaissance Faire, busking on street corners, and being a special person. I loved my name Zorina. Yet I felt that there was another name waiting for me. My true name. Maybe a secret name.

This special name would resonate within every cell in my body and open a path the true purpose of my incarnation. This name would be a superpower, cape, and magic feather all in one. Everyone who heard it spoken would recognize me. Doors would be opened. I would be understood. It may have been magical thinking , but that is what I hoped for.

I began to learn to drum in the late eighties with Nigerian musician, Baba Olatunji. I was smitten with all things African and connected to Baba.

And, I thought it important to understand my own Jewish roots before adopting another culture. I began studying Hebrew and prepared for my Bat Mitzvah initiation. A year passed. I read from the Torah. I received my real Hebrew name, Tzipporah, Moses’ wife. I was delighted. I had roots. I began to study Hebrew and Judaism more intensely. I even considered studying for the rabbinate.

Two years later I found myself yearning again. This practice was not satisfying the craving that I felt for spirituality, ritual, and community. I found myself arguing with the form of liturgical prayer and wanted to rewrite the entire Sabbath service. I noticed that I didn’t like the limitations of the Old Testament in the modern era.  I was against some of the politics of Israel. I didn’t want to be one of the Chosen People.  Not a good idea for me to continue toward rabbinical study.

My  continuing passion for drumming inspired my curiosity in African rituals and ceremony. I wanted to show respect to the drum culture I was absorbing.  I wanted learn and understand  the meaning of the rhythmic patterns, chants and dances of the orishas— the deities (or energies) belonging to the Yoruba religion called Ifa. (Ifa was part of Baba’s lineage, as well as other teachers I had studied with.)

I went to a babalawo, an Ifa priest, for divination and for advice about learning Yoruba chants and rituals.  He threw the opele or sacred palm nuts to read my life lesson. He told me that I should  become initiated into Ifa.

I thought about it.  White girl, Jewish, already weird in my neighborhood.

But there were two things that attracted me.

One was the idea of having protection.

In the male dominated world of drumming, I was a target. It would be great to feel as though something spiritual would have my back. The second reason was this: as an Ifa initiate I would receive a spiritual name. Maybe this is the one.

Before I turned fifty, I was initiated into Ifa.  I received my elekes–spiritual beads. I wore only white clothing for a year. And I was given my spiritual name–Ifatola, follower of Ifa. I was interested in learning the chants and dances of the orishas, but for some reason the information wasn’t transmitted. I didn’t know if it was because I was white. I continued to attend ceremonies and rituals, and asked to learn, but nothing happened. Over time, the path of Ifa dried up for me.

 

The last story regarding my seeking a name occurred in my relationship with my drum teacher Baba. Baba Olatunji was an important mentor and spiritual inspiration. I knew that he had given names to some of his troupe members. I saw him name children. And so I asked him for a name.

In the Yoruba tradition that Baba comes from, a child is given many names. Some are pre-ordained names. Some of the names are from the family lineage.  Others speak about events that coincide with a child’s birth. A person can have up to ten or more names.

And there I was again, hoping that somehow a name from Baba would free me from the karma and suffering of my life.

He was concerned. Would I use this name publicly? No, I said. It would be private.

I think I was just wanting something from him that would empower me on this path.

I waited for more than six years for Baba to give me a name.  Once a year I would bring up the subject and then let go of it. It was a dance.

I spoke to Baba’s cousin Akiwowo and asked him, ”Had Baba forgotten that asked for a name?”  “No,” he said. “He is thinking about it, Give him time.”

One evening, I knocked on Akiwowo’s door. He answered something back in Yoruba. I thought he asked if I was at the door. I answered yes. But oddly enough, I said yes to my name.

Without my knowing it, Akiwowo and Baba had thinking about choosing one of two different names for me. That night, when I came to the door, Akiwowo spoke one of the names. When I answered “yes,” he believed that this was the right one for me.

My name suits me. It is an accurate representation of the power of my personality in both light and shadow. My name means “the spirit of the forest that lets things breathe.” Pretty damn cool.  And no, I am not telling you what it is. It is my secret name, whispered in the night. It is north star, a tuning fork. Because the Yoruba language is tonal, I had to learn how to sing my name. It took time. I had to find the notes on the scale and put the syllables of the name to the tones.

I know now that I will from time to time crave something ineffable– a name, a mala or sacred beads, or an event that connects me to me– and a sense of my purpose. It may take time to find this special information that quiets my craving, inspires me, reignites my passion. And when this moment happens I will remember again, as I hope you do for yourself, the magic of being.

And remember your true name.

 

The Ending of a Friendship

My girlfriend doesn’t want to be friends anymore.   Despite the loss I feel, ending this relationship is a relief.

My friend is a complex woman. She is intelligent, bright, attractive, creative, multi-talented, soulful. I have found her advice and support valuable.  Her creative life has inspired me and delighted me.

And she is particular. Very particular. Princess and the pea particular. She is an introvert who weighs and measures the time she spends outside of her work. She won’t try something unless she is sure she will receive the greatest reward for the time she puts into it.  Even if you travel  to see her,  she is still brutally honest about what she wants to do and when she wants to do it . She might be in the mood. She might be tired and need to take a nap. She might not feel like going out right then. She is being true to herself in the moment.

If you love her, you accept that.

I thought I did. I know I tried to.

The quality of her insight and her limited calendar had made my friend more attractive and important to me.

Maybe she is more authentic than many,  and honest enough to say what she thinks. Or maybe she is manipulative. I don’t know what the truth is.  But I do know I spent time, waiting and wanting her to be available. I told myself that she was worth it.

In the last few years, this on-again off-again availability became frustrating.  Her unpredictability and my desire for her time conflicted.  I felt resentful that she didn’t venture out to visit me.  I spent more time talking to her husband than I did to her.  That ended up being a problem, too.

When my husband griped about her specialness, I saw a new viewpoint.  I noticed that I was not okay with her unavailability.  I pulled back.

Still, I still considered her a good and worthy friend. I still sought her support, and missed her if too much time went by.  I should have known that something was wrong, but I didn’t.  In my world we (I) just had to work harder to understand each other (her). Or just live with it the way it was.

Then, her father died.

I didn’t show up the way she wanted me to.  She was disappointed and angry. And punishing. In response to her feelings, and for my sense of honesty and authenticity,  I soul-searched. I noticed my emotional sloppiness. I questioned myself. I know I was guilty of some lapses of awareness. I agonized about losing her as a friend. I was abjectly disappointed in myself. How could I have not been less than 100% truthful? I compared myself to her and came up short.

I wanted things to heal between us.  I tried to make amends.  Even though there were wounds, I felt that we were “getting real” with one another, “working things out.” In reality,  it was the beginning of the end of the friendship.

Her point of view had some truth in it. But I magnified that truth until there was no truth… there  was only the unforgivable fact that I was a “bad “ person. I had been unconscious. I was filled with self-loathing and shame. I lost sight of myself and went deep into the hole with no cheese.

As long as I focussed on my inadequacies, ( imagined through her eyes,) I was in a hell-realm of my own making. I was bad, bad to the bone, and deserved to be punished. If I could have had eagles eating out my liver, it would not have been enough. Once the mechanics of unconscious self-flagellation went into play there was no longer a witness to say what was fair or not.  I crawled around on my belly and took my medicine like a woman.

Over time, we seemed to make-up.

And more important,  I was done punishing myself. Regardless of what I did, my actions were forgivable.  I made a mistake.  That’s all.

Not in the eyes of my friend. Things were damaged. She said she couldn’t trust me any longer.

I couldn’t change what she thought. I had no control over whether she would accept my humanness, my inadequacies, or want to move forward.

But I did have choice about how I treat myself. Right now my well-being is more important than my friend’s opinion of me. I have to live with myself.

It is possible to forgive my errors without having to pay penance for several lifetimes. Enough is enough.

I made a mistake thinking my friend as a different person than she is– that she was my champion. A bad choice, because that is not her job. It’s my responsibility to keep my positive opinion of myself, not to expect it or need it from her. If you get strokes it’s nice, but don’t get addicted to them.

It’s important to abandon the illusion that there is a perfect way to be, where no one will ever get pissed off at you; that you will never again make an unconscious and messy mistake. Or that everyone will love you all the time. Forget about it.

At the end of this difficult time I got a great reward: rediscovering, remembering this vital connection to myself.

So here’s what I learned:

It  isn’t about whether you are right or wrong, although it feels that way.

Apologize for your-less-than-perfect-ass.  Forgive her less-than-perfect ass.

Move to the center of your chest…that tender, soft, gooey place.

Say ‘thank you’, say ‘I love you’ to yourself.  Thank her for having been your friend. Send her love. Say goodbye.

And move on.

Silent Retreat of August 2014

Silent Retreat of August 2014

I have been attending a silent meditation retreat all this week. There is no outward speech, but by no means is it silent.

When Jesus got together with his disciples he said, “Whenever two or more are gathered in My name there is…”  The end of the sentence should have said , “there is disagreement,  doubt, fear, animosity, and lots of projection.”  I am right and you, (whoever you are,) are wrong.  And in retreat, not one of you says a word!

In silence with others you see the contents of your garbage-y mind. You begin by being unaware that you are commenting about everything and everyone.  The background mutterance (barely detected), contains all your continuing assessments and judgements.

A week of silence is a whole week where you look at and own your inner crap you project onto others (and yourself) every minute of every day. All the time. Constantly.

You might be the kind of person who placates, ameliorates, ingratiates– a beta dog crawling around on your stomach. “Don’t reject me, don’t hurt me. Please,” with a winsome, winning, smiley whine. In silence, this behavior is more visible, and harder to bear.
Or, possibly, you are the kind of person who ‘judges unto others’.  You might implode instead. ’God, these people are so weird. Look, this guy is taking up all the cushion space! He breathes so loud when he meditates! Sheesh! Some people!’

If you are not rendering the verdict or punishing yourself, you are mentally flipping someone else the bird.

In silence, in a retreat, you get to see every one of these moment to moment judgements, thoughts and boy, oh, boy. mmm. Some are quite astounding. And with no speaking, they lay where they lay. In your mind, not on others.
For example, I see this woman and just by what she wears I type her in less than two seconds. Wealthy, divorced, conservative.Even though we are on retreat, she is wearing Eileen Fisher quality, beautiful haircut. I have her pegged. Marin, or San Francisco. Or Santa Fe.
Then just before she eats her food, she bows her head. A softening of her face, and a long moment passes before she picks up her fork to eat. The projection I have held of her is blown.

 I may have been right about all the externals. I might be right that she is privileged and monied. That simple act of grace and bowing before she ate made those judgements irrelevant.

But maybe that is a projection, too. It’s a hall of mirrors guys.

As someone new walks by, the radar says: Straight or gay? Married or single? Holy or holier than thou? If I like them, I smile. If I  don’t like them, I imagine that they don’t like me. I wonder if I did something wrong. I cringe.
And how would I know the meaning of any of these projections anyway? It’s a moment by moment play of how my mind sees, filters, imagines, and daydreams.
And this is going on all day, every day, as the cast of characters at the retreat walk about on the conference center grounds, in silence.
It is as Rinpoche says,  “See the monkey mind, doing what it does.”

There are also my inner projections: “This was smart, that was dumb,” cringing with self- loathing at the ineptitude of this being called me.
Or … congratulating myself for being brilliant, insightful, having special effects like kriyas, or bliss bombs showering all over me and up and down my spine.  This means I must be very highly evolved. Or it just may be that my kundalini is out of whack and needs reé´alignment and I have gas.  Who knows what it means? You sit and see all of it. The fantasies of how I can be noticed by the teacher, or the flaws of the teacher or the teaching. Pay your ticket and you too can go to the movies. What’s playing? “The Life of Me”, starring me and everyone I know.

I – you– the drama unfolding– can be funny, sad, nervous, death-defying, all of it. The circus is in town.

That is why you may go (even though you don’t want to) on a silent retreat.

My knees are killing me, and I am falling asleep in half the meditation sessions. And there is something so important about getting close enough to your own inner landfill that makes all the discomfort worth it.

But I am not going to sign up for another retreat next week. I will wait until my knees heal. It make take a few years.

Meanwhile, back at the mindfulness ranch, awareness is corralling random projections into a big pen. The monkeys have crawled out of the mind and are serving the projections as left-overs, and they are all as happy as pigs in shit.

 

 

When Is enough enough? Or not enough good enough?

This post tackles the conundrum: can a creative being–say, just for example, me–express themself–say, just for example, myself–without the super-ego (commonly known as the boogie-man critic)–say, just for example, mine–interfering?

What is the deal with my super-ego? Is there a part of my personality so starved for work that the minute I start on something new it feels that it’s job is to tear the hell out of it?
Even as I write these words my boogie-man is busy reminding me that this is a dumb subject, and no one will read it anyway. What a bummer even before I’m two paragraphs in.

OK, boogie man, three.

Lately I have been “producing” re-cycled art with polyform clay. See photo.

A friend who owns an Etsy store turned me onto this. So first, the boogie-man points out, it is not a form that I invented. I “borrowed” it.  Second, it adds, my lines are not even and I run out colors before I finish, therefore the pieces are artistically unbalanced. My critic could go on and on….

And does.

This is a lightweight version of the critic. When she really gets going she wakes me in the middle of the night and broadcasts, in my brain only, a documentary that reviews everything I said or did wrong in my project, featuring how I forgot this and that or I said that and should have said this. It wouldn’t be so bad if the criticism was the least bit constructive, or was broadcast at an hour when I could distract myself with something useful. It isn’t and it isn’t. Whatever I did was not good enough; will never be enough; and that’s because I’m not good enough. And I will never be.

You could call it a habit of mind. Time and time again I remember that it is my responsibility to curb this meanie, and sometimes I do a good job. But I have to be vigilant. Sometimes she changes her voice, or hacks into the mainframe with a new set of passwords. And sometimes she runs a documentary about what a shit job I do handling her.

In my early 40’s I was a young mother.  I was working through mothering issues with my child, and mothering issues with my mother. I was having powerful dreams. I started painting my dreams to understand them better. I painted big canvases for a couple of years–producing about twenty of them. They were non-painterly, meaning I didn’t care about brush control or medium manipulation but just about getting my images onto the canvas.  I thought they were brilliant.  I managed to capture the feeling of the dreams, unafraid and directly.

But then–I am an extrovert, after all–I wanted others to see them too.  I wanted others to think they were amazing, too; and I wanted them to want get to know me because I created the art. So my “art” was not only an opportunity for me to work through my confusing relationship to mothering; it was an opportunity to be seen by others.

It  is one thing to create your work and it is another thing to share it. Sharing it puts you into the world of Art. Capital A, Art.

In the world of Capital A Art, the fact that the shade of green you chose is the perfect color to convey the feeling in a dream does not matter. The world of Capital A Art cares about media, skills, techniques, perspective, line, practice–based on standards that have evolved during the whole history of Capital A Art.

Years ago, my brothers and I went to the Museum of Modern Art–MOMA–in New York. A man named Cy Twombley (Dave Barry, I am not making this up) was one of the featured artists. Here is one of his pieces.

At the time I couldn’t, and even today I can’t, find anything that makes the smallest amount of sense to me. But…oooh, ahhh, there it is in the MOMA so he’s gotta be good, right? There must be something I didn’t understand.

But I wonder: did Cy Twombley wake up in the middle of the night and say, “oops, I did one curlique too many?”  Did his evaluation make his creativity a double-edged sword-  one where he enjoyed the process of creating, but hated the process of evaluating?

So is a painting a painting if no one is there to see it?

I recently lead a two-and-a-half day music workshop. It’s one of the things  I do for a living. The workshop, something called TaKeTiNa, demands many skills–among them an understanding of rhythmic structures, competence in playing an instrument–the berimbau, a difficult-to-play single stringed instrument from Brazil–and most  important, the ability to gauge the group and move them through the material at the right pace, and with the right rhythmic calls.

I was happy with the workshop except for one part. That one part wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t up to a standard that I held. This one part influenced my feeling about the entire workshop. The participants reported meaningful, transformational experiences. I saw the progress that they had made. Yet, I was left with the sour feeling of having failed to deliver what I had wanted to deliver. And even if I had been 100 percent spot-on in every moment, and felt good about what I’d done, I’m sure that I would have been criticizing myself for feeling better about my work than I had the right to feel. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t .

How do I live with this super-critic? I’m not against criticism. In every art there are reasonable criteria, whether fully articulated or not, that reflect standards of competence. But then there is my super-critic who ignores or dismisses everything that turns out well and who turns anything that might be constructive into punishing annihilation. That is not playing fair!

And then, there is also the drive to create, and through the creation, to exist. There is the ego who like a small child says, “Mom! Hey Mom! Look at me! Look at what I did!” Beneath my occasional childish desires for adulation, fame, and riches, is a deep yearning to create something of lasting value for it’s own sake. And here is the gift: in my most brilliant moments of creation, while teaching or performing, the ”I”  disappears and only the teaching is left in the room, instructing me as well as everyone else.

I will continue to balance on this tightrope between creativity and criticism.
No matter how much Monday morning quarterbacking might ensue, and no matter how much I want to be seen and witnessed, the moments of grace/presence allow for the possibility of something beyond praise or blame. The moment is the moment is the moment. It is enough.

Friendship and faux pas

I hurt a friend’s feelings the other day.I was surprised, given the wonderful, enlightened, I-am-conscious-and aware-being that I imagine myself to be, that I could hurt someone so callously and unthinkingly as I did. But I did. I did it by not telling the truth. And they busted me on it.I value closeness. You would know that if you know me, or if you read my personal blog.  I value deep sharing. I value truth-telling. And yet, in every relationship–even when am deeply connected–I reach a point where I exit being fully in a relationship and enter judgement about the relationship. And if it goes on long enough, the relationship becomes stale and inauthentic.While I am in judgement I tell myself that the other person will not able to hear what I have to say.  I censor myself, and think of dozens of reasons why it is inappropriate to bring up what I am thinking. If any of those reasons are true, they are only partly true. Underneath them, I think I am a little chicken.

The split that prompted this blog post was preceded by dozens of small moments when I never conveyed my discomfort or dislike of what was happening between us. Little signals for me to speak up, say difficult things. At the moment that I exit relationship and enter judgment, my feelings have reached full boil. That’s when I split. I go to a more superficial level of communication and stay there wearing a mask on that says “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”–or to the girl behind the mask.

I am right in one sense to not dump my shit on someone else and not have a full-scale rant when I am at my most angry or distressed.  But there are times when this plan goes awry: I fester.

I think I enjoy this program called festering– going into the soupy morass of emotionality that is been part of my psyche since I was old enough to realize that I was feeling. Inside this soup are sharp, pointy sticks, handy tools I can use to poke myself or others in the heart and head. I remember every embarrassing, inappropriate thing ever done or said, every faux pas, every unjust action, every negative remark, every cruel action.

There are also stones in that soup.  Some stones sit on my thinking function and keep me from looking at the facts ma’am, just the facts. Some stones sit on my heart and deaden my feeling of connection, remove me from the humanness that connects us both. Some stones are meant for throwing and some for hiding behind.

Each situation that warrants my exit strategy fits into an ugly rationale bordered with sticks and stones. If I let the heat of the moment cool off and do not move forward to re-engage, these emotions can freeze in place. The icy feeling lets me feel righteous. So righteous, that I remain RIGHT and the other is WRONG. Yay!

Looks good, right? I mean it looks good if being right is more important than being real. Little Zorina, age 2-6, might be right to feel that way. She might not be able to handle complex feelings, or have the language skills to be able to hold up her end of a conversation about what wasn’t right in her emotional world. But, I am not Little Zorina anymore, even though parts of me now are as sensitive as me then.

Festering is a lazy habit.  Lazy and self-indulgent, self-protective and safe. A misguided sense of rightness, bolstered by the sound of repeated pre-recorded self-talk and unaffected by the accompanying smell of old garbage.

When my friend busted me for not showing up in our relationship, I had to look the festering mechanism in the eye and see how much I rely on it.

Years ago I read this: “Would you rather be right or happy? “ What’s the big deal? Of course I would rather be right! I shared this insight with a friend who cracked. “You are so funny!”, she said.  “What?” I asked. “What’s so funny? “

Yes, dear readers, that is the tip of the filtering iceberg.

I would rather be right than anything.  Rather right than happy is only part of the equation. I’d rather be right than logical; or rather be right than pretty; or rather be right than–what else ?? What is the purpose of my rathering to be right?

Being right protects me. It might even make me invulnerable. I can duck behind rightness and lob icy snowballs of brilliant, emotional congruence at you. Aren’t you lucky that I am so right?

Until something happens like my friend busting me. Then I see the paper walls, houses of cards I’ve built. The jig is up! It’s an illusion!

So, what can I do? Apologizing is an option. Oh, it is an appropriate response, but doesn’t cover the reality of what needs to be done. Neither does sackcloth and ashes.

Instead, I have to sit and witness myself.  And damn– it’s uncomfortable. It’s a balancing act–I must neither defend nor blame anyone or anything. Just sit still. Nothing happens, yet it can be excruciating to see that I don’t always know how to do this thing call relationship; to see the good things I bring to the table; to see the large elephants that I walk around; to see the areas that I don’t know how to navigate through.

How do you know that my relationships can hold up to scrutiny?
How do I know when to speak and when to shut up?
How do I know that the other can hear what I say?

I don’t . That’s just a messy stuff that is part of life.

But if I don’t try to bring all of myself to the table with the people who matter, relationship won’t happen. I have to keep reminding myself “Those that matter won’t mind; and those that mind don’t matter.”  It give me solace as I hold myself in the moment.


All about me: What it means for me to be an enneagram type 4

Enneagram is a typology that points to character types in the human personality. For me, it is way of engaging with my habits of mind..the on-going filtration system that limits how I perceive life, and often, how I predictably respond or react to it. To have this knowledge as a tool allows me, many times, to by-pass triggers instead of being trip-wired into reaction, i.e., screaming and throwing my dress over my head.

These are some of the keys to my type 4 self:

  • Melancholy- this mood gets a bad rap by some of the other points on the enneagram- (especially those that don’t deal with emotionality.) Melancholy is not depression, although it can become pervasive if there isn’t a witness around. One can get into investigating one’s navel, caught in nostalgia! The up side of melancholy is tolerance for a certain kind of soulfulness that can become the food for creativity.
  • Envy-what a bitch. Envy is such a trap! When captured by the envy monster everything is about comparison and not-good-enough. It is that somebody else has “it”, somebody else is “it.” What can occur is a narrowing of choices and living in a box instead of from my heart. The opposite of envy: being happy for another’s successes. Some days I am very good at this… and other days I say the right words and send others good wishes and inside I am eaten up by what (I think) I am not, and what I perceive they are. It is the most extreme version of self-abandonment.
  • Authenticity versus specialness-As a 4, I live to be authentic. Within the desire for authenticity, the focus can turn on a thin dime into wanting to be special, wanting to be seen, to be recognized. The good news is at age 63, I feel more seen by myself than I ever have before. That does not stop me from asking my dear friends, “Am I okay like this?” How funny.
  • Deep connection with the emotional and compassion- Good news: I can listen to difficult things-i.e conversations about partners breaking up, parents and/or children dying, suicide, confusion, intensity, as well as what’s going on in your life that might need insight. I can focus, and more than that, I
      want

    to hear what you are going through… I want to connect to you through that information, to serve.

  • Self-castigation- This is a hard one for my friends to bear. This feeling is harder for me to tolerate or to figure out how to turn it off, or even acknowledge it. It is so old, so much a part of my landscape, that it slips in the door unnoticed and uninvited until well into the second chapter and verse of how I screwed up the class, workshop, conversation with a friend,or the phone company. It is hard for my husband to hear, because he knows how long the whip gets. It often follows a huge success, and tempers how well I can receive criticism. It is the 4 o’clock in the morning demon. Goddamn it!
  • What is missing- 200 people ( literally) show up for my party and I am aware of who is not there. Don’t they love me? Am I not worthy? Did I do something wrong?
  • Abandonment- Hard to talk about. In the worst, darkest part of my unworthiness, is the fear of abandonment. I can feel that fear. It defined my relationship with my mother. She held the threat of disowning me over my head like the sword of Damocles. She turned emotionally cold to me when I married. My writing about this incident is pure 4-ness. Someone else might say: “Screw her. You are a grown woman…You don’t need your mother to tell you who you are and who you can marry…” And there I am, 4 years old, with my nose pressed against the glass looking in at what I am missing. Painful in a way that only 4’s can appreciate.
And so, with all these filters, within these defining characteristics of the 4 are also my greatest opportunities for freedom. I am not my enneagram type. Despite tendencies toward self-centeredness, I am bigger than that. I am essence. I am love, art, dance, music, friendship, generosity, curiosity, and cooking a good meal now and then.
May all beings be well.
May all beings be happy and free from pain and fear.
May all being know their true nature.