The Phoenix

Sometimes it is very difficult for me to put into words what the past 6 years of my life has been like, the passage below from “The Book of Going Forth By Day” makes we weep. Not in a sad, mournful way, but more so a beautiful, echoing transformative weeping that reminds me of my tenacity in creating a life that mirrors who I am, not what my surroundings molded me into.

“The heat of transformation is unbearable, yet change is necessary. It burns up the useless, the diseased. Time is a cool liquid; it flows away like a river. We shall see no end of it. Generation after generation, I create myself. It is never easy. Long nights I waited, lost in myself, considering the stars. I wage a battle against darkness, against my own ignorance, my resistance to change, my sentimental love for my own folly.”

My useless and diseased thinking is largely gone. Oh, old habits can come back to haunt, but after the fire I am reborn and refocused. My biggest wish is to share hope with others who suffer in silence and fear believing in themselves.

“This is my body, my work. This is my deliverance.”

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“I flew straight out of heaven, a mad bird full of secrets. I came into being as I came into being. I grew as I grew. I changed as I change. My mind is fire, my soul fire. The cobra wakes and spits fire in my eyes. I rise through ochre smoke into black air enclosed in a shower of stars. I am what I have made. I am the seed of every god, beautiful as evening, hard as light. I am the last four days of yesterday, four screams from the edges of earth – beauty, terror, truth, madness – the Phoenix on his pyre.

In a willow I make my nest of flowers and snakes, sandalwood and myrrh. I am waiting for eternity. I’m waiting for four hundred years to pass before I dance on flame, turn this desert to ash, before I rise, waking from gold and purple dreams into the season of god. I will live forever in the fire spun from my own wings. I’ll suffer burns that burn to heal. I destroy and create myself like the sun that rises burning from the east and dies burning in the west. To know the fire, I become the fire. I am power. I am light. I am forever. On earth and in heaven I am. This is my body, my work. This is my deliverance.

The heat of transformation is unbearable, yet change is necessary. It burns up the useless, the diseased. Time is a cool liquid; it flows away like a river. We shall see no end of it. Generation after generation, I create myself. It is never easy. Long nights I waited, lost in myself, considering the stars. I wage a battle against darkness, against my own ignorance, my resistance to change, my sentimental love for my own folly. Perfection is a difficult task. I lose and find my way over again. One task done gives rise to others. There is no end to the work left to do. That is harsh eternity. There is no end to becoming. I live forever striving for perfection. I praise the moment I die in fire for the veils of illusion burn with me. I see how hard we strive for Truth, and once attained how easily we forget it. I hold that fire as long as I can. My nose fills with the smell of seared flesh, the acrid smoke of death, so that years from now I might look on that scar and remember how it was to hold the light, how it was to die and come again radiant as light walking on sand.

I change and change again, generation after generation. I find anguish than peace. I am satisfied with my birth and the faith to which it led me. I do not regret the discomforts and terrors of my mortality any more than I regret the company of angels. I have entered fire. I become invisible; yet I breathe in the flow of sun, in the eyes of children, in the light that animates the white cliffs at dawn. I am the God in the world in everything, even in darkness. If you have not seen me there, you have not looked. I am the fire that burns you, that burns in you. To live is to die a thousand deaths, but there is only one fire, one eternity.”

– The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day

Sometimes you have to look back, just to see how far you have come.

New Birth; I have come a long way   .00000

A Slow Death; 2009

            I don’t want to fight. I reign in my thoughts, like a turtle withdraws his head to fend off attack, carefully tucking in my pride. My words will not be right anyhow, I just want to crawl into bed and sleep so I can forget.

But he persists relentlessly and my silence infuriates him more than my words. I have played this game for years and never won. But here I am again. Stomach clenching, mind frantic, I am rendered helpless as he blocks my attempt to escape and locks the door.

Cornered, I scream vile obscenities, spewing anger. “Hit me, hit me, you crazy fucking bitch” his furious, baiting words come at me. Clenching my fists, I start a tug of war in my mind. If I hit him, he will kill me; if I do not, I die a slower death of submission.

Quickly, I escalate into a caged, wild animal desperate for escape; my bedroom serves as my cage, my husband, the captor.

I tightly squeeze my eyes shut and try to will it away. I open them and charge to the door but he follows my every move and I feel his hot breath on my face.

I am powerless.

My heart pounding, fear crawls up my spine. Hate fills every pore of my body.

I hate myself, maybe more than I hate him.

I am worthless.

Sobbing and pleading for mercy, I receive none. “I told you that you are crazy!” he screams at me. Defeated by these words, I think he is right, again.

Too Sensitive? Too_______? Fill in the blank.

I was accused of being “too chipper” when asked how my day was yesterday, which made me laugh at first, but then I paused and considered why someone would take issue with me being joyful? I reflected on the first half of my life; my dysfunctional childhood and marriage where criticism ran rampant and I was always “too sensitive,” “too loud,” “too this,” or “too that.” For too long, I internalized other peoples’ condemnations which had me convinced I was inadequate and somehow flawed. The point of this disclosure is to share what I know to be true; feelings and reactions are genuine, learned through exposure to a highly critical environment, and we should not allow others to discount them. Even the good ones. I am chipper, most of the time. And I claim it.

With that said, we should also consider the person who is being critical. Often, critical individuals struggle with their own inadequacies and choose to try and make themselves feel better by criticizing others. In other words, outwardly manifesting their own feelings of unworthiness.

Who in your life lifts you up? Who is often critical? There are so many loving and supportive people in the world, surround yourself with them.

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A Slice of Peace

This morning I have been contemplating my path of evolving feelings toward my Mom and Dad who are no longer here on earth.  As and older, more self-aware individual I can recognize the pain and longing I felt for what it was; my wish to have a perfect relationship with humanly imperfect beings. It took some major soul searching to understand that I have to accept people as they are, or if unable, quietly walk away. For me, walking away is brave and more loving as it gives space to myself and others to be at peace without constant pressure to conform to others’ standards that may not be acceptable. I think of the years I spent trying to make my parents (and others in my life) into what I thought they should be instead of appreciating what they had to offer and… I mourn the time lost. I was constantly looking externally, expecting pieces to fit where I wanted them to instead of looking internally. This external thinking was a great way to distract me from my own wounds, my own faults, and my own part in the equation of a relationship. Yet, I have found that blaming and expecting others to fix your own “stuff” is much, much more painful in the long run (as there is no end) than the initial (and profoundly) painful realization that I am just as imperfect as everyone else. Thus, forgiving myself has opened my heart and mind to forgiving my Mom and Dad and has allowed me to see the many gifts they did give me, such as their own version of love and support. Oh, there are moments where I selfishly still long for what my parent’s couldn’t give me or be the answer to a problem I am facing; however, I remember them both as who they were – imperfectly loving human beings who where just trying to find a slice of peace, love, and happiness in the only way they knew how. Just like me.

Raw Vulnerability and Connection

“And I feel like I am naked in front of the crowd ‘cause these words are my diary screaming out loud and I know you’ll use them however you want to” Anna Nalik ~ Breathe

As this New Year begins I am thinking about how we often impose our perceptions on other people’s words and conceptualize those words into making sense in our world, rather than asking questions and really, deeply listening to one another. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is difficult enough, but feeling a need to meet others expectations really creates a wedge between true vulnerability and self-acceptance. To live abundantly and joyfully we need deep human connections, and truly connecting with one another requires raw vulnerability. How often do we miss the opportunity for human connection because we are afraid of “being naked in front of the crowd?” I have found my “naked” moments have revealed to me the ability of some open and self-accepting people to not only allow, but also sit comfortably with my vulnerability. On the flip side, some people’s inability to accept vulnerability comes from their own perceptions getting in the way of acknowledging that it is not about them and thus, insecurity ensues.

The desire for meaningful connection can lead us astray if we are trying to fit in and be accepted rather than being open, raw, and understanding. Trying to meet other’s expectations only creates a perpetual cycle of failure and missed opportunities for true human connection. It has been my experience that more often than not, people struggle with accepting raw vulnerability because they are equating it to their own self-worth instead of realizing it is not about them. With that said, it has been moments of raw vulnerability that has led me to the most meaningful relationships in my life. How very difficult that we have an innate need for self-protection of our ego and an innate need for connection, yet the two work like oil and water; they don’t mix. Which leads me to another quote that begs consideration:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Silence is Deafening

I have been struggling with a class conversation on domestic violence and whether to speak up when you see someone being victimized. My frustration comes from many places. Beginning on a personal level, I was in a domestic violence relationship for many years and one of the (many) reasons I stayed was feeling like I had no support because no one seemed to notice the way my husband undercut my thoughts and feelings by the way he spoke to me, or about me to others, or that I was often upset and stressed. At the time, I didn’t know how to reach out, or how it would be received if I did? After all, my (then) husband was often the fun, life of the party guy. My family seemed to love him and seemed to look past his harshness toward me, but then again he also treated me like a princess at times. Of course, my family has its own dysfunctional system in place. Did no one ever question why I was forced to take car rides and then came back puffy eyed and broken? I remember feeling hopeless when no one seemed to notice, and that hopelessness kept me isolated and questioning my own sanity. I was slowing drowning and didn’t know how to swim. Basically, I was in a frantic doggie paddle trying to stay afloat and still try to be a good mom. Would I have listened if someone spoke up and said “you deserve to be treated better” or better yet to my husband “your treatment is unacceptable?” I don’t know. But what I do know is a seed can be planted when someone steps up and speaks out. I can close my eyes and clearly remember a scenario in which a stranger spoke up on my, and my children’s behalf. It was at a gas station and my (then) husband was screaming at the attendant because of some perceived slight. The children and I were in the van and could see this interaction taking place. My (then) husband came to the van yelling about “how dare this idiot, lowly gas station clerk not give him paper towels” and when I asked my (then) husband to calm down his rage was directed at me. The attendant came over and asked me if the children and I were ok, and explained that he was worried about our safety. I, of course, said we would be fine but was, as always, inwardly not so certain. Long story short: this man’s simple, but powerful gesture, planted a seed in my head that not everyone thought my (then) husbands behavior was ok. This of course is the very short snippet of a very long battle of coming to terms of my situation. But my issue is, as a social worker, I feel it should be my duty to speak out and step in when I see this happening in public. I understand that speaking out can endanger myself and that of the victim, however, the victim is already in danger and has most likely lived through much worse than what is being publicly displayed. I don’t think domestic violence is going to be eradicated until people begin to stand up and declare, “No more! This is unacceptable!” That means within our families and in public. Apathy does nothing to promote change, and as a social worker and as a human being, I demand better and work hard at being an agent for change. I am working to educate myself so that I may interject in a manner that can be effective, but I refuse to remain silent. Silence can be deafening, and is just another way to re-victimize.