Waking Lovely

Wildly on Purpose

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My Gift: Acceptance of Others/Covering Myself

They will all be there.  They will tell jokes that poke fun at the disenfranchised and the poor.  They will make snarky comments that remind the women that they are lesser-than the men, and when they do, the women will laugh just as much as the men do.  It is a good woman’s job to help the men feel that they are funny, witty, and a pleasure to be around, even at (and often at) their own expense.

I will try to pretend I didn’t hear the jokes, because I can’t laugh (since it actually reflects how they really do think), and I can’t respond, even softly, with my true thoughts and feelings unless I want to be told that something is wrong with me, that I can’t take a joke… Even though if I made a comment that did not paint conservative Republicans in a favorable light, they would get real emotional, real quick.  Their reactions are valid, though, so it’s different if they get upset.  They would be merely defending what is right and good in the world, after all.  And I would get dirty looks from the women for upsetting the nice happy time we were all pretending to have.

Happy Father’s Day.

I do not visit my family of origin very often.  I love them.  But I do not fit with them.  They’ve said as much themselves, wondering aloud how I came to be born of them.

In my heart of hearts, I think they are more dreamer, artist, visionary, wild thinkers than they know.  They just shut it down early on and didn’t allow it to wake up when it tried to flutter back to life.  Waking up is a bloody thing.  Breaking out of the egg shell, the tightly confined and safe home, hurts.  It really does hurt.  Everyone who does it bears their fair share of scars, wounds, some still open and throbbing.

I don’t fault them for not waking up.  I understand.  I almost didn’t do it.  It’s dangerous.  It was the compulsion that powered me through, that strange mysterious sense that inner life or death hung in the balance.  I couldn’t stop breaking through the egg, even when I just wanted to stay there, half-born, dying in the yolk sack with the bright sun just a membrane away.

Part of me thinks I am being too judgmental, in assuming that they have chosen “not to wake up.”  Maybe they are awake, and mayhbe they are living in an awakening that is right for them.  Maybe they are exactly what they are, exactly as they should be, just different from the one I am in.

Honestly, I don’t really know.  I think it is better to not make assumptions.  True acceptance is kind and nurturing like that.  I can’t fully understand their world, but I can give them the gift of acceptance.

I will go there today.  I will accept them as they are.  Different is okay.  They are free agents.  They have decided this way of relating is what they want.  It hurts my heart, the distance, but it is better to not make it personal, to not assume anything other than that they are unable or unwilling to have that kind of relationship at this time.  It really isn’t personal.

If we lived closer to each other, I would probably need to respond to them in a different way.  A mask on a continual basis is not something I am willing to give.  A mask, a few times a year, is something I can do.  Perhaps one day, I will eschew even this rare covering.  Perhaps even one day soon.  I was trained to live under a whole set of masks.  Learning to uncover has been a slow process for me.  The pain of living under a lie has helped propel my coming out.  I come out one small step at a time.

My Father’s Day gift today is that I will make polite meaningless conversation.  I will avoid showing my real face.  I will bring the store-bought cards, the presents, but most of all, I will bring the little mask that hides who I am.  It’s what they seem to want the most.  Maybe some day I will unmask altogether.  I think that is the greater love.  I think it is the only way to give everyone the opportunity to love the real people underneath the fake smiles and the assigned familial roles.

But not today.


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All in a Day’s Work: The Magic of Both/And

I met with a young woman who promised me she only used clean needles.  Going through withdrawals from heroin, she wept as she begged the Emergency Room doctor for something that would make everything feel better.  She wanted to quit using—she just didn’t want to experience the pain of quitting.  She expressed anger when we couldn’t produce a magic wand and make her addiction and it’s consequences go away.

In a world that emphasizes either/or, black/white, now/never, there is a place for learning that there is more to the moment than now-or-never.  I tried to help the young woman recognize that she was in the best place she could be, and did my work to get her the help she so desperately needed.

It was easy to see her “I want it NOW” mindset.  I see it often in my line of work.  I grew up with it in the bowels of Christian fundamentalism (The sinner’s prayer or go to Hell!).   As destructive as I know it can be, I inadvertently carry it around with me all too easily.

As a clinician, I want to be amazing…now.  As a parent, I want to be incredible…now.  As a partner, I want to get all this relationship stuff exactly perfect…now.  When I get into the now-or-never mindset, I can start beating myself up at the drop of a hat whenever I feel like I fail in any of those areas.

Instead of getting it all “right”, I fumble around, lost in the forest when I should be observing a tree, or stuck in the tree when I need to have a view of the forest, and only sometimes managing to be at the right place at the right time doing the right thing.

Or maybe that is more of that either/or, right/wrong thinking that trips me up so often.  Maybe there isn’t necessarily a right thing.  Maybe it’s okay to be stuck up a tree when a view of the forest is handy.  Maybe I can learn how to climb a little higher in that tree and get a good look at the top of the forest, in both at the same time.

Both/and.  Both/and.  Both/and.

I love the concept of both/and…but it can sure be hard to live.

The young woman wanted a magic wand.  Both/and can be that magic wand.  It is an instant anxiety-reducer when one is in the grip of  the stressful either/or.  Both/and gives me space to breathe, to think, to feel, to know that all will happen in its time, remembering process as well as product, journey as well as destination.