Category Archives: the journey

snippet

It’s just about bedtime here, but I did want to tell you a quick little story.

Just now I decided to google ol’ whatshisface.  I know, I know—that way lies madness.

I had heard, through that damn grapevine, of course, that X would be making a cross-country move for a new job—back to the congregational life for him.  I had been checking here and there around the webosphere, just to know when he made his move (I want to be sure to know where he lives so that I can stay far away :)).

Well, I found it—he’s moved, there is mention made of Mrs. X and all I felt was…

relief.

I was just so relieved not to be there with him, living that life, playing that role again.  No angst, no conflicting emotions, just relief.

Good night, dear friends.

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give and take

Lately in my Alexander Technique lessons, my teacher has been asking me about what I feel like when I move or sit or stand a certain way.  Alexander deals a lot with posture and a recent homework assignment was to look up when I walk.  Look up, as in not at the ground, which is what I do most of the time, apparently.

I have noticed multiple times over the last few weeks that when I look up and not down when I walk, I feel different.  I feel different physically, of course, but I also feel different emotionally.  I realized the first time I tried this “homework” that when I look up as I walk I feel more confident.  I feel as if I am facing the world and not hiding from it.  I feel like I am a part of my surroundings and not lost somewhere inside my head.

The thing I am discovering is that body language flows two ways: it can be an expression of what I am feeling and it can also trigger feelings.  It can be the effect or the cause.

Some ways that I hold my body may have started out as a way to express what I was feeling but much of the way I move now is done out of habit.  The thing is, if I started hunching over when I sit because I felt insecure and wanted to hide, now when I do it out of habit, those old feelings come up in me.  Many, many times now, my posture contributes to how I feel more than it serves an expression of my feelings.  Now when I sit up straight and lean back, I feel exposed, unprotected.  I have gotten so used moving and holding myself in a self-protective way that it feels unnatural to lean back against a chair, to let myself be seen.

Other habits I have seem to work this same way — eating, for example.  I started eating to cope with my emotions, and now I have a habit of eating a certain way — it is my knee-jerk response, my routine, my way to hide.

Another habit I have is being alone.  It starts out as a response to feeling sad, or overwhelmed, or needing to recharge.  Before I know it, I have immersed myself in solitude so completely that the thought of breaking the pattern feels like exposing myself; it feels unnatural.

The good news, of course, is precisely the two-way nature of this mind-body communication.  I remember several months ago, I had gone out to dinner with a friend and a group of her friends.  As we were waiting to be seated I realized that I was constricting my shoulders (this was soon after I started my Alexander lessons).  Because I had been working on this body-awareness business, I consciously relaxed my shoulders.  Suddenly, I felt more relaxed, less anxious, and I hadn’t even realized I was stressed.

Sometimes it feels like a “chicken or the egg” question, particularly with habits like being alone or slumping when I sit.  The thing is, it doesn’t really matter.  I am learning how to change one part of the conversation.  The rest will come along soon enough.

2011

Back around Rosh Hashanah (Jewish new year), I started a post about new years and new beginnings.  I never finished that post, but tonight I fished it out of the “drafts” folder.  I had already attempted two different posts this evening but neither took, and this one seemed appropriate for the season.  Ahem.

I started this post, way back when, in response, of sorts, to Mel’s post about Rosh Hashanah, in particular to how she tends to get overwhelmed by the starting over.  (Go ahead, read it, it’s likely much better than what this one will turn out to be.)  I thought about how I tend to get overwhelmed by the thought of all of the missed opportunities in the last year, all of the ways I didn’t do everything the way my neuroses would have be think it all should be done.  Of course, what I’m learning these days (and yes, I think I’m really learning it finally) is that there is no perfect, there’s just life in all its messiness.

There are, also, endless opportunities to start again.  We bring the past with us, but we are given so many chances to turn the page.  New Year’s day, every new season, new semesters, birthdays, anniversaries of significant events, every new week, new month, new day, new hour.

Last year I wrote:

It will be amazing to see where I am a year from now.  It will be incredible to see the positive changes that this next year will usher in.

Bring it on.

Indeed.

different kinds of loneliness

The widget on the left column tells me today that I have six days until my second blogoversary.  It snuck up on me in a way very unlike it’s approach last year.  Last year I kept an eye on it; last year I tracked it’s arrival not unlike a hunter watching her prey.

Last year I could hardly wait on the blogoversary.  I believed that it’s arrival would signal my own arrival, that everything would somehow be okay, that the hard part of the journey was over.  In many ways, this was true.  My second year blogging has been better in countless ways than the first was.  The first year blogging ended four days after my divorce was finalized.  As I look back it almost seems as though I was in a downward spiral that first year, and the second year has been about pulling out of it.

I recently read a piece by Joyce Carol Oates.  In it she says,

For writing is a solitary occupation, and one of its hazards is loneliness.  But an advantage of loneliness is privacy, autonomy, freedom.

This got me thinking about loneliness, about the many different ways there are to be lonely.  I say this because of the different versions of lonely that I have known in my life.  When I started this blog I was smack dab in the middle of the kind of lonely that lies just below the surface.  In that lonely there was no privacy, no autonomy, no freedom.  I was partnered, but alone.  I was unseen, unheard, unknown.  And unloved.  Being bound to a person who could only his version of me, unable to recognize my freedom to say “no,” unaware of how much bitterness I was swallowing every day just to survive—that was a vastly different kind of lonely that what Ms. Oates describes above.  The loneliness I’m talking about here was pushed down deep inside.  I couldn’t acknowledge it, or the jig would be up.

And then the jig was up.  All the pain that was pushed down for so long, all the loneliness I had been too afraid to acknowledge, it all came rushing out.  To be honest, it overwhelmed me.  I drowned a bit in it.  I then knew a different kind of lonely.  This kind of lonliness can see nothing else, cannot see out of the fog.  This is a heavy lonely, a solitary state, and we’re just fine alone, thankyouverymuch.  Though I fought it at times, at the time of my first blogoversary I was deep in the fog of that lonely.  I could barely see past the nose on my face, and didn’t really want to.  That lonely stays numb, that lonely refuses to open it’s eyes to the possibility of something else.  That lonely is so afraid of something worse than this, that it refuses to consider anything that might be better.

Then, of course, there is the lonely that I have been feeling lately.  This lonely looks around and sees my solitude and feels a deep ache for companionship.  This lonely longs to be seen and heard and known.  And loved, of course.  The thing of it is, though it is uncomfortable at times, I can truly see this loneliness for the gift that it is.  I am awake to it, it does not numb me.  Feeling these feelings, looking around with awareness, wanting to let people in—these all taste like being alive to me.  These feelings will push me to step out of my comfort.  These feelings will lead me out of the loneliness.

christmas and me

That sounds like the title to a made-for-TV movie, doesn’t it?

In thinking about my relationship with Christmas there is the B.C. era and the A.C. era.  Before Conversion and After Conversion. (To Judaism, that is, in case you were wondering.)

I grew up with Christmas and like many who grew up in religious homes, had the usual mix of religious/secular feelings about Christmas.  My parents played the whole Santa Claus game with my sisters and me, and we also went to Christmas Eve services at church and had nativity scenes around the house.  I don’t remember pondering much about Christmas, it just was.  When you are part of the majority culture, you have the privilege of being able to take many things about your life for granted.

Then, I converted.

My first Christmas as a Jew was spent in Jerusalem.  It was the first year I was married to Mr. X, and we were spending the year there as part of his graduate school requirements.  I barely noticed Christmas that year, thanks to the lack of red and green decorations and Christmas carols playing everywhere you spend money.  Christmas was actually on Shabbat (Sabbath) that year (as it will be this year), and the day was taken up doing the usual Shabbat things.

The next year, I was back in the U.S., and came face to face with the American Christmas Industrial Machine once again.  That was the year of the “War on Christmas,” or rather, the “War Against the War on Christmas.”  I found the whole thing highly ridiculous.  As a person who had very recently switched from the “Christmas” side to the “non-Christmas” side, I was hyper-aware of how much Christmas (not “the holidays,” but full-fledged Christmas) permeated the very air one breathes in the US in December.  War on Christmas?  Where exactly?  That year the first thing I thought when I woke up on December 25th was, “It’s Christmas,” but something in me reared up every time someone told me “Merry Christmas.”  I wanted to shout, “It’s not my holiday!”

That year, and for the next couple of years, I had a somewhat adversarial relationship with Christmas.  I was very, very aware that it was no longer “mine,” and as I was married to someone who was very threatened by the idea that I might miss Christmas or want to celebrate it with my family, I made sure to show how much I was annoyed by the whole thing.

Last year was the first year I was both Jewish and not under Mr. X’s thumb.  Now I feel like I have the best of both worlds.  Christmas is impossible to avoid in this country, but I no longer feel like I have to.  I can enjoy the bits and pieces that I want to enjoy (the lights, gifts with my family, receiving the occasional holiday card from a faraway friend), but I get to opt out of the annoying parts, like sending Christmas cards, or feeling obligated to decorate.  I kind of like that there are more get-togethers this time of year and  I really like helping my clients have a better Christmas.  On the other hand, I like getting out of cheesy gift exchanges at work and  I really like not feeling like I should buy presents for all my friends.

Of course, there’s no escaping the music, that’s a burden we all must bear. 🙂

cozy

At the moment I am sitting in my room, Miss Famous on a leash.  My friend, “Nanette,” who owns the house I live in, just blew into town for the weekend after a three week job in Sin City.  (Do they still call Vegas that?)   She’s arranging her things in the bedroom that my former, crankypants housemate used to occupy.  She’s hired a housecleaning service (she had a Groupon), and there are two hardworking young women here right now, also.  Miss Famous is on a leash because New! People! Are! Very! Exciting!

I thought Nanette would be back permanently* by now, but she’s taken another temporary job, also in Sin City, and so that won’t be until the end of January.  She made this quick trip home to make sure the house was in order after Crankypants moved out.  So after tomorrow, I’ll be holding down the fort by my lonesome.

The whole time I lived with former housemate, I pretty much camped out in my bedroom most of the time.  Now that I actually have full use of the closet space (Nanette’s things were taking up about half of the storage area before) it feels even nicer to me to be there. Of course, now I’ve got the entire house at my disposal (and don’t live with someone around whom I’m at least a tad uncomfortable), and I’ve been trying to branch out.  I’m trying to get used to sitting in the living room.  Part of it is my room just feels cozier to me, and part of it is just habit.  I’ve even started to leave my purse in the living room, by the front door.  Normal thing, yes, but until lately I pretty much contained myself and all of my belongings to the bedroom.

My room, no longer with Nanette's things.

I am also trying to branch out when outside the house, as well.  Well, actually, just getting outside of the house is pretty much branching out for me.  I get very comfortable and cozy in my familiar spaces and have a hard time reaching into new situations.  I tend to go to the same stores places to eat over and over and over again.  I’m feeling stronger and happier, but still pretty happy to keep to my familiar routines.

Here’s to branching out.

Miss Famous, who definitely is NOT into branching out at the moment

*”Permanently” for Nanette means “for several weeks until she gets antsy/and or a job offer that sounds tempting.”

taming the tyrant

Spider Solitaire (Windows)

Image via Wikipedia

I like to blog.  Really, I do.

It does seem that lately, though, I spend much more energy thinking about blogging than actually blogging.

Instead of going on an on about how awful a blogger I am, I am going to use this as an opportunity to practice not beating myself up.  I get these opportunities a lot, it seems.  Another way to phrase that would be that the habit of self-berating crops up almost everywhere I look, but I am more and more on guard and more and more learning not to fall into that easy pattern that kills me not so softly.

I read a great blog post today about this “inner tyrant,” and about harnessing it’s energy for something positive.  I also tried to make a dietary change today (no, not going on a diet, just changing one thing—hint: it has to do with a certain sugary caffeinated beverage).  I have realized that I need to make this change more slowly, to ease into it a bit.  I had planned to go “cold turkey,” so to speak, but it seems that’s not such a good idea.  That tyrant, who always seems to be with me, wants to tell me that this is a failure.  I am choosing to see this as another example of slow change, another way I can care for myself.

I said, “another example of slow change.”  The first example of slow change is somewhat silly, but it has stuck with me and comes back to me over and over as a reminder to not expect immediate and dramatic results the minute I decide something should be different.  “So what is this example?” you ask.

Spider solitaire.

I have been playing quite a bit of spider solitaire these last couple of months.  When I started, I could win on the first level every time, but it was pretty boring.  I tried playing on the second level, but I would rarely win.  So rarely it seemed like I never won.  In a very un-me-like move, I decided that winning didn’t matter, and I would play the second level because it was more fun, even if I lost nearly every time.  Then something weird started happening.

I started getting better.

The spider solitaire game on my computer will tell you your win/loss statistics after every game.  When I started playing, I was winning about 2% of the time.  I didn’t pay too much attention to those statistics until I noticed that they were going up.  Before I knew it I was at 7%.  Then 10%.  Dear readers, I now win 26% of the time (um, I played a LOT of this game while I was recovering from my surgery).  The thing is, normally a 75% loss rate would normally really bother me.  In light of the 98% loss rate when I started, 75% doesn’t look half bad. 🙂

The spider solitaire is serving as a good reminder to me that change comes slowly, that I don’t have to go from 0 to 60 overnight, and that beating myself up doesn’t make me go any faster, anyway.

I’m hoping there’s a way to get this inner tyrant to remind me to be gentle, to remind me that if change comes at all, it comes at a creeping pace, so slowly that we scarcely notice it.

Meanwhile, I’ll be playing some spider solitaire.  27%, here I come!