the edges of myself

words, words, words

Yesterday was day five of my self-imposed television liberation– and I’m not gonna lie, it was tough. I did have thoughts of just turning on the damn tv. But I restrained myself. I fought through the temptation to wither and collapse at the feet of my mighty electronic master. I emerged at the end of the day victorious and with some new perspective.

I had the majority of the day to myself free from responsibility. The house was empty save myself and my cats. It was the perfect curl-up-and-mindlessly-distract-myself kind of day. However, my self-imposed liberation did not allow said mindless distraction to occur. My first observation while sitting on the couch knitting was “wow, I am insanely tired.” When I engage in my habit of distraction via television screen I fail to connect to the state I’m in. I slip into a zombie-like engagement failing to give myself what I really need: REST.

So I began my afternoon by myself with a NAP. What a radical idea! I allowed myself to rest and recuperate as opposed to just numbing out and disconnecting from myself. Good job, Mandy. When I awoke from my 30 minute slumber I felt much better prepared to face the emptiness of my home. I cleaned my kitchen. I did some more knitting. I had long overdue conversations on the phone with both my brother and my father. I took care of tasks that have been ominously hanging over my head for the last several weeks. When my husband arrived home from work I was busy downstairs in my apothecary making magic. It felt incredible.

We headed out to grab dinner with the weight of what we were going to do with our evening hanging over our head. His long day of work weighed heavily on him– and our pattern is to put something mindless on the television and play a game of scrabble sharing space and a moderate intellectual engagement until we can’t stay conscious any longer.

Scrabble is a noble pursuit. As we sat eating our dinner on the front porch I suggested we play scrabble and talk. What? Conversation? Absurd. But, agreed. We did it.

And he had the SCRABBLE GAME OF HIS LIFE!!! I have never seen the man bring it like he brought it last night. He beat me by more than 100 points courtesy of an insane four word play with a scrabble. It was truly epic. I on the other hand had a special talent last night for picking all of the letters valued at one point. Sometimes that’s just how it goes. We sat there sharing each other’s company, unpacking our day, talking about the novel that he’s writing, our upcoming trip to Costa Rica, our kids, without any noise or distraction in the background. We settled into each others familiar company consciously. And we laughed. A LOT.

There is a fabric of our own that we forget to weave– because we’ve woven ourselves into someone else’s. We involve ourselves so much in the stories that are created and presented to us– we forget about the act of  creation that our own lives afford us. We are consumed by culture and celebrity and sensation– forgetting our own immense imagination.

To cultivate ourselves we must first remember that we need nourishment. Rest. Nutrition. Love. Engagement. Laughter. I am actively remembering what I require to be nourished. I am actively rekindling my own immense imagination.

So I’ve got no hair on my head, and it feels AMAZING!! My scalp is immensely thankful to me for paying attention to it for long enough to understand what it needed. (The lack of numbing stimuli played a large role in that process.) And I’m proud of the scared little girl inside of me who has thrown back the curtains and has absolutely no place to hide anymore. She’s really taking this whole thing in stride.

I went out into the world this morning hairless for the first time– and luckily I was going to my studio, where I was met with nothing but love. It was the perfect soft landing surrounded by my community. My next stop was Fred Meyer– where I ran into a dear friend of mine and her daughter. Again, they gave me immense love. Wrapped in the blanket of love from my studio community and my friends I approached the check out line and used that love as a shield for the weird stories my cashier was telling himself about me in his head. I wasn’t privy to the specifics of his stories– but I clearly made him uncomfortable. He avoided looking at me or making eye contact while he served me. Though I caught him looking at me suspiciously when he was waiting on the customer in front of me. I don’t know what to say about that except that it has nothing to do with me. My shaved head brought up something for him that he wasn’t comfortable looking at. I just happened to get caught in the crossfire.

So, how did I get from not watching t.v. to shaving my head? Simple. I stopped distracting myself. I began to pay attention to the clear signals that my body had been giving me for months that my ego hadn’t been ready to process. I stopped worrying about how I might be perceived and settled into the deep and abiding support that exists all around me. I shut off the distraction of other people’s stories and began to allow my own story to unfold. I’ve got 26 more days without television and I have no idea where this adventure is taking me. But I’m definitely no longer hiding.

It’s been three days now that I’ve gone without my drug of choice. Yesterday evening was challenging. I came home from work exhausted and had the house to myself. My pattern in this instance is to use this time for a guilty pleasure, namely watching a show that I watch by myself. The truest of escapes for me is settling into someone else’s story. What I’m realizing as I remove this option from my default menu is I’m beginning to settle into my own.

I’ve been on a deep, unwinding expansive journey for awhile now. The past few months it has intensified. I’m delving into previously unexplored places deep within myself and detoxifying my being on a never before experienced level. It is intense. And my body is reacting intensely. I’ve been working to heal my gut– clear out all of the old sludge that has gathered within me over the past 41 years– and it’s all rising to the surface and erupting onto my skin! My scalp for several months has been angry. It’s itchy and flaky and intensely unhappy. More recently the rest of my skin is beginning to follow suit. I have angry red patches on my face, neck and torso. And they ITCH!!

There’s a strange shame that arises with skin ailments. I remembered last night that as a child I had several skin ailments that made me feel intense shame. I remember desperately wanting to be “normal.” There is the desire to cover and hide. My hair has been doing an effective job of keeping my shedding skin under wraps for months– but in the last three days I’ve realized that my hair has got to go. My desire to hide beneath it is hindering me. As all of the gunk inside of me rises to the surface to be released it feels of utmost importance that I acknowledge it to the world– and that I allow myself to treat it with ease.

So, this evening with the help of my husband and some dear friends, I’m shaving my head. (And yes, I’m going to document the hell out of it– this may be a once in a lifetime experience). I’m removing my protective cover– because it feels necessary. There is a little girl inside of me who truly doesn’t understand that she is safe NO MATTER WHAT. There is no need for her to hide behind anything– and the only way I can effectively communicate that message to her is to remove all of the barriers between myself and the world.

So, while I’m not actually wildly enthusiastic about the idea of having no hair on my head– I am totally clear that it’s what I’ve gotta do. I’m actually completely terrified– but pushing into terror is one of the things I’ve learned to do best.

It’s day two of no tv and thus far no heads have exploded (that I’m aware of). Tonight instead of our usual Thursday night practice of watching American Ninja Warrior together after dinner– we all played a game together. (Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE that show– and the ritual of watching it together is a thing in and of itself). However, changing a habit collectively, as a family, has a surprising way of opening doors that we didn’t necessarily know had been closed.

Tonight we sat and laughed together. We reminded ourselves there are settings other than “default” for our family. We remembered that we can be together in our home with no special occasion without having a screen as mediator. These may not seem like radical realizations– but they are gentle reminders. Choosing to step back from my relationship with the television has offered my family the option to do the same thing. I have no expectations of my teenagers deciding that it’s a really cool idea to ditch tv for thirty days and joining me for this little adventure. However, I do know that my kids are paying attention to me. I am their barometer.  They test the waters only when I have fully traversed them.

My husband expressed a sentiment to me yesterday along the lines of “we don’t need to worry about changing the kids’ behavior– we just need to focus on our own.” Amen to that. I will continue to focus on my conscious choices and remind myself that each one I make is being monitored by the brilliant young humans who are in my care. They are paying attention even when they pretend not to be. And at the end of the day it’s really nice to just sit and laugh with them.

 

Today is the first of thirty days of no television for me. I realize this may not seem like a radical proposition to everyone– but television has been my drug of choice for the last several months– as I have slowly weaned myself off of all of my other creature comforts and addictions (namely sugar and caffeine). It’s my go to in the evenings at the end of a long day. It’s a lulling, numbing lullaby I’ve been unconsciously singing to myself every night, believing I deserved it for my feats of expansion.

I’m doing my best to be kind to myself in this process and skip the harsh judgement   I often like to throw in my own direction. I grew up suckling at the breasts of sugar and television. Both of them gave me comfort when I needed it. They rewarded me as a child and created a framework for spending time with my family. They helped me process my parents’ divorce at the age of fifteen. Television became a mediator between myself and my father– something we shared when everything else in our two worlds was disparate.

For those reasons I have romanticized it. I have allowed it a space in my life that I don’t question. (Until a few days ago when someone challenged me to step out into the world without my security blanket for thirty days). My reaction to the abstract concept of giving up t.v. was positive– “good call,” I believe were my exact words towards the person who was doing it. And then he challenged me to step up as well…

The prospect induced white-knuckled fear. I was immediately petrified. My massive reaction was the clear indication that something was in need of a shift. It’s time to shine a bright shiny light on that terror at giving up something which is clearly not serving me.

I don’t demonize t.v. and I don’t ultimately believe it is the root of any of my problems. It is my engagement with it that needs consideration. My higher self is asking the little girl inside me who finds numbing out with t.v. incredibly comforting to trust that she is safe. The Mandy I am becoming has a lot to get done. (And the little girl inside of me is overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all.) But sometimes little girls just need a little guidance and some kind words. And I can give both of those things to mine.

So for the next 30 days– I’ve unplugged my television. I’ll be spending my evenings in productive pursuits of some kind or another. I’ll keep you posted on my progress– and please if your reaction to actually undertaking this is white-knuckled fear– feel free to join me!! There’s nothing I love more than a thirty day challenge other than sharing that challenge with others!

 

Among the many realizations I’ve had about myself of late are these two things: 1.) Despite my belief that I am an incredibly open person, I have some pretty massive, fortified walls up around me. And 2.) I have a really hard time trusting women. These two realizations both hit me like a ton of bricks this past weekend while I sat in a healing ceremony with a group of women.

Since I was little girl I’ve always considered myself “one of the boys.” I was the girl who proudly beat all the boys in arm wrestling in 7th grade.  As a child I was constantly competing with my brother and my father. I unlocked the roots of that this weekend– but delving into that is for another day. My point here is, true female friendship for me is rare. It is a very select number of women who I’ve actually allowed myself to be personally vulnerable with– and one of them is moving across the country tomorrow.

She found me early in my Portland days– in the first year of opening my studio. She was a fellow Pilates instructor, energy healer, mother– the list of things we had in common was never-ending. I still remember the first moment her eyes met mine as she walked through the door of my sweet little studio. There was an instant recognition. My soul took in a huge breath, relieved, and said “there you are!”

We tumbled quickly into a friendship love affair, each of us taken with the other. She began working out of my Pilates studio teaching and doing energy work. She stepped up and took care of me and my business when I found myself in the midst of a medical emergency and unable to work. We were like twins, separated at birth and at long last reunited. I felt from her a recognition and an understanding that I hadn’t ever really had in my life. She spoke the language that I didn’t realize existed outside the walls of my head. She helped me to trust myself and expand in directions that I’d been scared to go before.

We continued growing alongside one another as colleagues and friends for several years. I expanded my business into a new location and plummeted into single motherhood as my first marriage dissolved. Things began to feel a bit sticky and yucky between us as our similarities diverged but we continued to individually expand. My new studio ultimately didn’t work for her. I still remember the conversation we had on the phone, I was sitting in my backyard, both of us feeling into the yuck between us– trying to find clarity in it. I burst into tears as it dawned on us that we were no longer meant to be housed under the same roof. We cleared the energy between us as tenderly and graciously as we could. We acknowledged the grief along with the feeling of new-found freedom.

The years that followed were a lengthening separation– the tender love of smothered-sisterhood-in-need-of-space between us. Occasionally we’d run into each other on the street– always acknowledging the massive love we had for each other. Once we randomly saw each other at the coast. She met my now husband in that isolated moment. As we moved away from her and her family I struggled to articulate to him the massiveness of who this woman was to me for fear of opening old wounds in myself that hadn’t fully healed.

Gradually we moved into a more comfortable place with each other with the passage of time. A few months ago she reached out to me about doing an energy work trade. I felt an immediate yes– and then we struggled to find the time. Both sessions happened perfectly, momentously and completed a cycle that began that moment my soul took her in for the first time in this lifetime.

Ours is a friendship that is beyond precious. It is rare to find someone who is able to hold a deep healing space for you while simultaneously allowing herself to be vulnerable– and who allows you to do the same. It is even more exceptional to find someone willing and able to consciously dive into lifetimes of karma with you and come out the other side lighter and brighter and full of love for each other.

Discovering that she was moving away from our perfectly isolated bubble shocked me. Though it has been years and years since she has been a regular part of my daily existence, I took her proximity for granted. I made an assumption, as we humans often do, that she would remain in my peripheral orbit– touching in every so often, maintaining our carefully established rhythm. As I process through the fact that my friend is leaving, I am floored by her courage to pick up and move on from the beautiful life she has created. She reminds me with her graceful departure just how mundane and meaningless time and space are in the grand scheme of things.

There are some connections that surpass the stories that our human minds like to tell about them. They defy definition or categorization. She will forever remain in my orbit, my treasured karmic sister. And while I do grieve her departure, I also innately understand that no matter the time or space between us, WE will always feel like home.

Yesterday morning I had a hard time pulling myself out of bed. Harder than most Tuesday mornings. I felt heavy. My legs seemed to teeter a bit underneath me as I moved through my early Tuesday morning motions– trying to wake my sleeping beast.

Tuesday and Thursday mornings are a unique experience for me. I wake up, roll out of bed, throw on a hoodie and shoes and head to the studio to teach a 6:15am Pilates Equipment Class. Early mornings are not my best time. I am in every sense of the word a night owl. Nights are when I shine. My creative juices flow, I come alive. Mornings tend to want some space and time. It takes a bit for my lights to warm up and turn on. I am not my most capable self. That’s probably why it took me until I was at the studio and trying to teach that I realized I was actually very dizzy.

I get lightheaded on a fairly regular basis. I am familiar with standing up and needing to take a moment to get my bearings. That was not this. My bearings were nowhere to be found. The world was spinning around me– or I was spinning within the world. Either way– the effect was discombobulating and disconcerting. I drove home and immediately made myself food, thinking perhaps that was the root of my spinning.

Negative.

I headed back to work to see my next client at 9am– presuming that this dizzy thing was going to fade and I’d be back on track.

Nope.

About five minutes into my session with my incredibly generous and understanding physical therapist client, I texted my next client to cancel our session and cancelled the rest of my day. A dizzy Mandy has a hard time being a helpful Mandy. It’s hard to turn your focus outward when something in your brain is telling you everything outside of you is spinning.

So why exactly was my world spinning?

I believe we have a “system overload” situation here. I am moving through a rapidly shifting inner landscape, doing my best to trust myself as I move forward. But the truth of the matter is– I don’t really have a clue what I’m moving forward towards. I am being asked to navigate a space for myself that isn’t defined by any of the rules I’ve learned to play by thus far. And though I’ve finally moved past just the intellectual grasp on this expansion and into an energetic understanding of it– there are massive parts of me (my brain for one) that are incredibly confused and would LIKE AN END GOAL, PLEASE.

I’ve plunged into the depths of me only to find that there is nothing concrete to grab onto– and my edges are RAPIDLY EXPANDING. I suppose a little dizziness is to be expected. I am in the midst of toppling my previously erected structures of care-taking and tending to others first. I am being asked (by my higher self) to create a time and structure for MYSELF to re-frame my writing practice, not for anyone other than ME. And apparently my soul is really quite serious about it. Dizzyingly serious.

“No, you will not be seeing clients today– you will be turning inwards and REFLECTING, dammit.” (voice of my soul)

I am responding the best way I know how to respond. I am looking inward. (Great idea soul, It’s not spinning in here). I am settling into myself– and reminding myself to connect to the ground and all the energy that flows up and out of it. I am asking for and receiving help from my friends and family as best as I am able. I am looking out on the vast, mysterious undiscovered landscape of expansion that lies in front of me and reminding myself that change is the ONLY CONSTANT.

My dizziness is asking me to reorient myself. It’s turning my up side down and my down side up– or making everything seem like a sideways venture. As I reorient myself to my new reality I realize that I have been preparing for this expansion process for years. I have slowly been amassing the support structures necessary for myself to soften into when the time came. And when I remember to soften into those structures, to feel my feet on the ground and acknowledge the energy that flows through me from the earth, I feel less sideways.

I woke up this morning with the world feeling much more stable– because my belief and trust in myself had grown deeper roots. It is true that my path forward is unknown, but there is one thing that I am certain of. I am ready to be seen. I am no longer comfortable hiding. I am stepping out from behind the curtain in full regalia ready for what awaits me.

And my witch is coming with me.