This won’t likely be cathartic. (I’m not supposed to open with that. I’m supposed to hook you within three seconds, by showing you this bit of writing will be different.) Writing is the artful arrangement of words. Maybe I’ll have a slightly different spin that feeds your soul just so?
Starting with a blank page, those of us compelled to organize language into the stuff that salves our collective wounds are ordinary folk. Perhaps we’re simply channeling wisdom from one immeasurably large stream of consciousness–our collected consciousness. I’ve heard that theory here and there.
Just beyond the things that keep us engaged, distracted, or otherwise contained, the conceptual wisdom of humanity is as much yours as it is mine. My particular muse are multi-archetypal–a plethora of voices each carved into “categories” on my blog. For some reason, a picture of Medusa is trying to edge its way into my consciousness. My children would nod and whisper, “Yes, we know her.”
Today’s bit of non-cathartic resonance:
One cannot carve off life’s shittier realities in order to artificially emphasize the shine. Conversely, one ought not carve off, then cast away the shine and roll about in the Shit. We must actively seek the skills that prevent us from swinging wildly between these two mutual realities; back and forth, back and forth until we are numb, exhausted, and defeated.
Truth is the artful balance of ones attention to each.
Wholeness is the complete, walking, talking version of your pain in partnership with your brilliance.
Society doesn’t play nice.
See: Memes that cast us as victims or heroines, Quotes printed onto cute wooden blocks, and Mantras that don’t quite capture your wholeness, or mine, or anyone’s.
I’m talking about the little quips that make me smile, then reluctantly sigh a little, because they are a veneer that would be so easy to poke right through. Wouldn’t it be nice if those simple truths were the real truth?
I’m talking about the pieces of mass-production art resting in cute boutique windows that make me roll my eyes and firm up my defenses. I like them too, on my sunnier days.
I’m also talking about the hastily written bits of prose that cloak us in victimhood. They proclaim we are too wounded, and when we are, actually, feeling too wounded, they are a vending machine approach to self-exploitation. From the depth of many, many unhealed wounds, we won’t be nourished by these quick answers. Your pain is real, and you do not need to prove that to anyone.
Life is a full experience; a robust dive into our whole story:
Here there is Love for the wounds and the pretty things we put up so we can tolerate them. We must resist embracing that which is too-superficial.
When we grow our ability to sit with our own shit, we start to understand other people need space for theirs, too. We slowly learn to stay out of another’s proverbial shit. We learn that we can’t fling ours about and onto others. (Forgive me, for I have flung some shit in my day. Growing up is scary sometimes!)
We must all strive to gain the integrity, strength, and self love to manage our very human, often unconscious reflexes. The less we displace our shit onto others and/or unknowingly take another’s shit into our own blessed sphere of circumstance, the better our lives may become. #boundaries plus #love equals #win.
In that spirit, here are some heartfelt responses to the one-sided mantras that inspired this piece.
You Are My Sunshine
- I Honor Your Mighty Will. We’ll Do This Together. I Love You Always.
Be the Light.
- Be the Clean, Still Pane of Glass That Reflects the Translucent Truths We Wear When No One Seems To Be Looking.
- Be Braver Than Your Ego’s Bullshit.
- Be Clear.
- Be Aware.
- Be Accountable.
- Be Hydrated.
- There is Room to Be Your Complete Self. Find the places and people who invite your wholeness. Practice there. Your inner peace will grow drop by drop.
- This one Just Sucks. I don’t really have a replacement for it, because no one should tell anyone else to “Just Breathe,” when an individual is clearly not able to breathe. (Yes. I too have done exactly that. I’m still learning.)
- Can everyone take a minute and look at the principles of Emotional/Psychological First Aid? Here is a link to written information, and here is a link to a TED talk by Psychologist, Guy Winch. If you want more information, please contact me. I’m happy to learn from you, too.
- No One Has To Smile For Anyone Else. At Any Time.
Let It Go.
- Take Your Time. It’s Hard to Let Go. The Hole Will Fill Slowly and Honestly.
- Your Grief is a Powerful Force. Trust It and Know Who’s Available to Help In a Healthy, Balanced, Skillful Way. We all need witnesses, helpers, and friends in order to truly thrive. (If you feel very alone, try to think of one person who always helps you feel seen, heard, and honored. If you can truly think of no one, please consider a professional point of connection; a therapist, a chaplain, a crisis worker, a health care professional. Don’t wait. You deserve to have a roadmap to wellness, too.)
Chase Your Dreams; also, If Your Dreams Don’t Scare You, They Aren’t Big Enough.
- Listen To Your Dreams. You Will Have So Many, and They Will Come To You. Pick the Ones That Serve Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul.
- If A Dream Doesn’t Let you Eat, Sleep, Love, or Refuel, It’s Not a Dream. It’s a Bully. It’s OK to Reassess, Retool, and/or Reroute.
- Chase What Nourishes Your Life.
- One Intuitive Step, Hop, or Nap At A Time, We Will Make Magic Happen.
Listen for your own truths to emerge.
Do not swallow partial truths to fit into our social imprint. Reject bogus narratives that slice us into pieces. We are not pizza.
Listen carefully to what’s going on internally and what’s coming at you. Practice until it becomes routine. We have forgotten how to listen to ourselves and others.
Know your limits, and speak directly to people who are stepping past them. If you cannot speak, because your voice is caught in your throat, then use whatever method works best for you.
If you don’t yet know your limits, your voice, or your unique strategies for reclaiming the space that is rightfully yours, this is a wonderful time to start the work of uncovering and reclaiming. Any time is a wonderful time to start this work.
Decorate your space and mind with the words that feel most true. For a long time my best parenting mantra was, “The Indomitable Bad Ass in me sees and honors the indomitable bad ass in you. Please stop punching me with your tiny, indomitable fists; that does not feel good on my body.”
Invite wholeness, for yourself AND others.
Trust that each of us will claim our wholeness honestly, and that some people might need more time, bear more confusion, and require more rest and resources. I know that I do.
Know that you don’t have to be a resource, a stepping stone, or even a cheerleader.
You also don’t have to abandon, slice someone into smaller parts that you can digest, or shape another’s process in any way.
If you catch yourself in the midst of any of these social defenses, it could be a sign that you feel uncomfortable watching your friend grapple with his or her shit. Maybe he or she is drowning and you’re positioned too close to the flailing. It can get messy.
In our efforts to protect ourselves, we will occasionally hurt the ones we love most–when they are most vulnerable.
The good news is that it’s not likely we’ll drown while someone we love is going through a hard time. The bad news is that sometimes we need our friends to play certain roles for us, and flailing is not one of them.
When we expect a friend to be in any place other than exactly where they are, in order to serve our needs, we have unknowingly cut that friend into parts. That is not fair, healthy, or appropriate. It most certainly is not what you set out to do, I believe.
Bouquets and other slightly awkward acts of solidarity:
There is me, and there is you, and there is something like a meadow of wildflowers between us. From time to time, we just have to hand one another a bouquet. When I see you in your struggle, and I know I can’t help even though I really love you, a bouquet or the equivalent might be just the trick. Sometimes there are no words.
If a friend is acting oddly, differently, or appears to be flailing, take a moment, step back, and listen to your gut. If your radar is zinging or defense shields are popping up, maybe that friend is taking inventory of their shit and maybe it’s got the upper hand right now. Maybe he or she is doing some hard work, which always stirs the shit.
Maybe you are unsure how to approach that, or literally too busy, or just plain exhausted. Maybe you’re in the middle of your very own shit. It happens.
First, if you can avoid it, don’t take these moments personally.
If you have the energy, and this applies to either of the friends in this exercise, hand your friend a bouquet. Let’s be realistic–sometimes your exhausted best is going to be sending a simple bouquet emoji.
If you send someone a bouquet from the field that exists between the two of you, or its equivalent–emoji or otherwise, that person will know something. Maybe it’s that you do care, or that you’re on their side. Maybe that’s all we need to continue to sit with our shit, which some of us have quite a lot of.
Small acts of solidarity. Unconditional positive regard. Boundaries. Love
Originally published at theheartopens.com on August 17, 2018.
Tanya writes at The Heart Opens, teaches yoga and mindfulness, and consults with schools, families, and agencies to better understand how trauma and stress impact our youth, families, and communities. You can learn more about her work at www.breathebebrave.com.
Inventorying Your Shit & A New Use for the Bouquet Emoji was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.