Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #5 Leave it at that

The truth is, after last week's Worthiness Wednesday post, I felt like a bit of fraud. "So, what's new?" you might be thinking. I mean, who is a stranger to the impostor syndrome? Certainly not me. But, to be more specific, last Wednesday afternoon I went and did the total opposite of what I had just spent the morning waxing lyrical about. Instead of switching off, stopping the work, trusting that all was as it should be, one afternoon of less-than-stellar parenting threw me back into the maelstrom of unworthiness... and all the questioning/analysing/working on myself that inevitably follows.

I'll spare you the details, but feel compelled to share that my daughter is coming home from her Wednesday morning creative play sessions on extra stimulated, over tired and extremely hungry. I learnt pretty quickly that my expectations regarding the amount of time she could spend in this new setting were way too high (and that's a story for a whole new post), and that scheduling anything for the afternoon was a bad idea. But the ability to understand what she needed to ease back into her home routine somehow escaped me... with the result that her lunch/potty training/nap routine were completely thrown out of whack and she spent half an hour screaming herself to sleep while I consumed half a bottle of wine and inhaled my husband's cooking chocolate stash.

Somehow, this was not what I had in mind when I started the day.

I had just been blogging confidently about letting go, not judging myself, and allowing myself to be. And then I found myself crying on the phone to my husband about what a terrible job I was doing, and deep deep down worrying that I was a horrible mother and an awful human being.

I went over and over my actions in my head, chastising myself losing control, hating myself for resorting to old crutches, feeling deep shame for the psychological damage I was likely inflicting on an innocent two year old. Then I scurried back to my bookshelf, scribbled furiously in my journal, emailed friends, abandoned plans to do anything productive that day, and spent the rest of the afternoon dissecting the origins of my every unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

Motherhood seems to be the one area in my life where I have trouble applying this worthiness work. My image of an ideal mother seems so resilient, as does the list of all the ways in which I don't measure up. The stakes seem so high, and I am terrified of the consequences of my imperfection. There is so much work to be done.

And yet, I can't help but wonder: is all this work on accepting imperfection a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy? Am I over-analysing this? Is all this introspection really helpful?

What if I said: I have a particular idea of what it is to be a good mother. It likely comes from my own experience of being mothered. Some days it makes me feel really inadequate. Feeling inadequate makes me lash out in defence. Lashing out in defence makes me feel ashamed and out of control. That's a horrible feeling. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does happen it feels like all is lost. And then just left it at that and made a cup of tea?

This week, it's fair to say that I was pretty keen to do things differently. I decided to relax the routine and give my little 'un and greater chance to unwind when she got home. This included letting her play by herself in the front of the house, and not batting an eyelid when I found she had pulled every book and photo off of our bedside tables and piled them onto the floor, in some kind of reenactment of the Storytime we sometimes attend at a nearby public library. It also included reminding myself, on a moment to moment basis, to ignore the clock, take our time, let her settle into her own rhythm, and not be so hasty to judge or panic when it all went pear-shaped.

Last Wednesday, I had a bad day. Today was a much better day. There are going to be a lot more bad days and also a lot more good days. I'm also going to make many more mistakes and do a lot more stuff that I'm not proud of.

My daughter may well need therapy of her own in twenty, thirty years and she will likely be angry with me for the kind of mother I am, despite my best efforts. Sometimes it seems like the best efforts are the ones that are holding me back, keeping me stuck in the place where I am a problem that perennially needs fixing.

This week, I invite you to observe, with compassionate and curious eyes, all the ways you have stumbled and fallen in the course of trying to be your best self. Then, I entreat you to just leave it at that. Don't try and fix anything. Just observe, then walk away. Could it be that the struggle is what it is, and nothing more? What would your day look like if you just spent it being you?

In whatever medium you choose, you are more than welcome to share your thoughts and experiences using the linky (or comments, if you don't have a blog or flickr site) below.

You are worthy of being you, with all your struggles, without fixing anything.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I think it is about...

... making sure there are lots of things that you love doing, but introducing them gradually... reading a lot of fiction... micronaps... fresh grapes... claiming the less glamorous bits with grace and humour... the smell of newly picked rosemary... avoiding the urge to generalise or draw hasty conclusions... gently building an exercise routine... quietly pushing for something you really believe in... drinking a lot of water... wearing a coat of teflon, allowing other people to fling their stuff at you, knowing it will just slide off... fluffy pyjamas... allowing yourself to believe that you are safe, that if you ask for help you will receive it... not enrolling in more e-courses... writing postcards... ignoring prevalent opinions on what is too kitsch/earnest/embarrassing/derivative/infantile/pathetic/risky... a tidy spacious wardrobe... acknowledging that much of the confusion is created, and that's a natural part of being afraid... a lighter, more joyful palette... booking in for a hair cut and colour... picturing yourself sighing your last breath and realising that you will be grateful for all of it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Stepping out

Love lures me out of
dangerous introspection
Tentative first steps

Ignore all the mess
Spend the day with family
Breathe deep the fresh air

Pick figs from the tree
Sip too much earl grey with milk
Get lost in a book

Keep moving forward
But gentle the pace, leaving
the past where it is

Don't ask forgiveness
Even on the bad days know
that I am enough

Friday, April 22, 2011

The wisdom of one

Victoria Alexander
One: living as one and loving it

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #4 Time to rest

If you're anything like me, I suspect you are very tired. Tired of thinking about your stuff. Tired of working on yourself. Tired of going over the same old ground. Tired of lugging around a murky head and a heavy heart. Tired of feeling like you're not making much progress, or even going backwards. Tired of trying so hard to see the positive in everything. Tired of giving yourself grief for not having broken bad patterns yet. Tired of the relentless and unfavourable comparisons to other people. Tired of feeling uninspired. Tired of beating yourself up for not making as much progress towards your dreams as you feel you should have by now.

And so on, and so on, and so on.

Today I am going to try and take a break from all of this. I mightn't succeed but I am going to try.

Today I am going to try and trust that the work is being done, even if I get out of the driver's seat. Today I am going to try and ignore the litany of shoulds and just do as much as I can. Today I am going to feel shitty if I want to, but also allow for the possibility that I may feel real joy.

Today I am going to carry these little affirmation cards in my pocket to remind me that everything really is as it should be, that I am where I need to be, and that it's OK if I don't always believe it.

Today I am not going to do much by my usual standards.

This week, I invite you to take a break from all this worthiness work and take a rest. As an experiment, you might like to print out the affirmation cards pictured and put them in your pocket (or on your desk or in your purse) and allow them to do the work for you. The truth is, I made them for you, to thank you for communing with me in this space, and to give you the permission that I so need myself: to take a break from this work and just be.

I also invite you to help yourself to a beautiful new blog button, made specially for Worthiness Wednesday, by my super-clever and uber-talented and ever-generous friend Joe. [Thank you, Joe! You really are the bestest.]

In whatever medium you choose, you are more than welcome to share what happened when you decided to rest using the linky (or comments, if you don't have a blog or flickr site) below.

Without all the hard work, you are still worthy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The day after crying

Splashes of colour: at my feet, on my nails, in handknitted woollens, on my plate, on my pallet.

Walking puffy-eyed in the mild morning mist.

Freshly baked hot cross buns and french tea in a muslin sachet.

Thinking about surprises.

The sound of rain on the sky-light.

Ignoring anything that resembles mess, or a list.

Sending off a tentative request, ignoring my inner critic, allowing myself to feel hopeful.

Deciding to be seen.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What three hours of art therapy taught me...

If the above is the aerial view of my life...

... then the below is what I feel is possible: a life rearranged.

Three hours very well spent, I reckon.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Some Saturday fun

I won a Haiku contest! Well, actually, my haiku literally won the contest for me... and not in the way you might think (watch the video to see what I mean).

Thank you Orlando and Ivy for the fun (and Krissie for the heads-up)! Art Provocations sounds like a fantastic initiative and I'm really looking forward to receiving it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Unravelling and the mantra

The day you venture to write something that captures your sense blossoming may also be the day that you fall in a heap. It could be the day that you really understand the enormity of your work. It might be the moment when you realise that this tightly-wrapped web of sadness, this fog you are trying to feel your way out of, is one that has held you captive for most of your life. It could prompt you to dig out some of your journals from five to ten years ago and see with no uncertainty those same patterns manifest. You may feel overwhelmed by compassion for that young woman, blaming herself for her sadness, when the truth is now shining brightly with the benefit of hindsight (and therapy). You may want to cradle her tenderly and whisper into her ear that it's not her fault, that there's nothing to be ashamed of, that she is seen and heard and worth loving and that this is completely independent from anything anyone else might say or do. You might remember that rollercoaster sensation that inevitably comes from investing all of your validation externally: the highs of novelty/flattery/recognition/approval, the lows of rejection/competitiveness/burnout/stagnation. You may be given to wonder at how much has changed, and at the same time how much is exactly the same. You might be prone to snap unreasonably at your two-year-old, and wallow in the searing heat of tears when you have a moment alone. You know you’ll feel better in a day or two, that it’s best to let the overwhelm go, that these feelings will settle, that it gets easier all the time. You also see that it's another piece of the puzzle fitting into place, another knotted mystery of hurt unravelling, another burden lifted. But you could also be forgiven for wondering: could all of this really be undone over time by the simple reminder, just saying out loud that mantra, “I am worthy”?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

There is no hurry

I just wanted to mention that if you're having trouble finding the time to blog or comment or journal or whatever in response to the Worthiness Wednesday prompts (as one or two of my pals have suggested) then that really is OK.

You don't have to respond to a prompt within the space of a week. There is no deadline. There is no hurry. I'll keep barrelling along with new weekly prompts but each link will stay open forever (or until Mister Linky starts to rethink his widget commitments, whichever comes first).

So there is also no compunction. I mean, I'd love it if you shared your story and I'd be thrilled if more and more people joined in (so it would be ACE if you spread the word... and I know I'll probably have to hustle a little too) but, really, you don't actually have to do anything. Just reading the posts, thinking about them, maybe even talking about them... all of these things are perfectly good too. You know what's right for you.

The thoughtful team at #reverb10 emailed me a question this week: What's blossoming?

It might not be Spring here in the Southern hemisphere, but in this little pocket of it, in the place where worthiness happens, in fits and starts, I am starting to bloom.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #3 Worth doing

I had a terrible realisation the other day: I have got this far into Worthiness Wednesday and I have not mentioned, even once, the work of Brené Brown. How did that happen? Anyone who reads what I have to say in this space knows I love Brené Brown and her work. I mean, this woman literally wrote the book on worthiness. And I have read that book and given it as a gift to my nearest and dearest, and lent it to many more.

What an oversight on my part!

Last year, to celebrate the launch of her most recent publication -- a DVD which is, unsurprisingly, excellent -- Dr Brown hosted a Week of Worthiness on her blog. And now she has launched an e-course on love, shame and worthiness. Which looks every bit as wonderful as you'd expect it to be.

Aside from my embarrassment at having omitted such a seminal body of work, the announcement of the e-course yesterday did give me cause to wonder: Where does this leave me? I couldn't possibly "compete" with someone like Brené Brown! Is this Worthiness Wednesday thing still a good idea?

And then the irony occurred to me: I'm not sure sure that my journey with worthiness is worthy of sharing!

And then I thought: there will always be someone who knows more about worthiness than me. There will always be someone more credentialed. There will always be someone who can offer something that looks sexier and sounds smarter than anything than I can do. There'll always be someone who is more experienced, more creative, more innovative, more attractive, more likeable, more lucky, more popular, more assertive, more more more more more...

But you know what? I'm going to do it anyway.

I don't want to compete with anyone or make any claims that my journey, my experience, my writing, my blog are anything that they're not.

I don't know anything more about worthiness than you do.

And I don't know why, but I just want to keep doing this thing. It feels right.

This week, I invite you to think about something very special that you really want to do but have felt deterred from doing. Perhaps this thing hasn't quite let go of you, perhaps it is still nestled firmly in your heart, perhaps it niggles at you when you are really quiet and stop to listen. Perhaps you harbour a secret suspicion that it really is meant for you, even though there are others who may seem to be more deserving of it or more likely to make it real or more entitled to claim it as their own. What would happen if you took a deep breath, jumped in and did it anyway?

In whatever medium you choose, you are more than welcome to share using the linky (or comments, if you don't have a blog or flickr site) below.

You are worthy of doing it anyway. Your story counts, and deserves to be shared.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gifts (Part IV)

No longer wanting
What was not freely given
I validate me

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gifts (Part III)

The package arrives
Perfectly timed messages
Too earnest to bear

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gifts (Part II)

Bought reluctantly
Next size up in "fat girl" pants
Shame fills extra room

Comfort surprises
As does a certain crispness
There's room to dance yet

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Gifts (Part I)

Perfect morning rose
Tapping my bedroom window
Calls me to witness

Exquisite short life
Incandescent afternoon
Breeze heralds nightfall

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #2 Worthy of dreams

As I sit and write this, I have just dropped my daughter off at her first Creative Play session. The session is run by a capable, confident and highly-regarded woman who also happens to run the Creative Dance studio where my little 'un and I attend a dance class for toddlers.

When I first put my little 'un's name down for the session, I was worried that my daughter was not receiving the stimulation she needed, or valuable contact with other children. I was also desperate for some time to myself. These concerns and needs now feel a little less urgent, largely due to the self-trust I am developing with the help of my psychologist.

The Creative Play sessions (which runs for one morning a week, in the woman's home, not far from where we live) have a long waiting list, so I know how lucky we both are that my little 'un has been offered a place. This morning, she settled in beautifully and was hardly fazed by my leaving. I know she will be in good hands and that we will both really benefit from the experience.

As I was walking home, though, I couldn't help but feel relieved that I had the task of writing this blog post ahead. Beyond that, I didn't know what I was going to do with myself. Sure, I'd been having fantasies of what I'd do with my precious (now regular!) time to myself for absolutely ever, namely writing and artmaking. But now that the time had arrived, I found myself edgy and unsettled, tempted to lose myself in mindless activity like washing dishes and emptying bins and surfing the web and stuffing myself with chocolate cake. Aside from trying to numb the loss and guilt and strangeness that came with separating from my child, I suddenly felt confused and unconfident about fully claiming the time and space I had been so eager for.

I stopped for a moment to take the above picture of the incredible sunshine that is persisting through the beginning of Autumn. Somehow it seemed to represent how dazzled I had been by certain dreams, and how I'd underestimated the work required to fully inhabit them in reality. Putting one's child into care is a serious business, but doing it [partly] so as to invest quality time in writing and artmaking... that means I have to do it. That means I am a writer and an artist. I'm here. This is it.

I recalled my friend Cathy, who had been daunted by the considerable number tasks on her To Do list as she prepared for her first solo exhibition and launch of her creative business. Then she realised that the list actually represented her life as a working artist. From then on, she was able to enjoy journey through the life that she had always wanted to live... even if it didn't quite resemble what she'd initially had in mind.

I'm starting to notice how my dreams and longings tend to have this quality of "PING! I've arrived! Everything will be so much easier now!", which never actually happens. But that doesn't mean that the dreams don't eventuate or aren't worthwhile... it's just that I have to work a little harder than expected to appreciate and own them.

This week, I invite you to think about something that you have in your life, something that you have longed and striven for and now actually have. This something could be a job, a creative endeavour, a relationship, a state of being, maybe even an object. In what ways is it different from what you expected? How does this prevent you from fully inhabiting this something? How can you, even if for a moment, stop to witness and savour this dream-come-true... in whatever form it has actually taken in your life? What does it have to teach you?

In whatever medium you choose, you are more than welcome to share using the linky (or comments, if you don't have a blog or flickr site) below.

You are worthy of living your dreams.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

First glimpses of Autumn

Sitting with sadness
Golden clarity burgeons
Last rays of Summer

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Life of the mind

Be that as it may, dear friend, I am not anxious for your artistic abilities, to which I attach such a great importance... Even though I cannot foresee which path you will decide to take with your law doctorate, I find the great contrast between your two occupations positive; the more diverse the life of the mind, the better the chances that your inspiration will be protected, the inspiration which cannot be predicted, that which is motivated from within.

Rainer Maria Rilke, in a letter to Elisabeth de Waal (née von Ephrussi)
The Hare with the Amber Eyes
Edmund de Waal

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Thank you!

Thank you, my friends, for holding my hands while I took a leap of faith into the dream that became Worthiness Wednesday.

Thank you, Yvette. Thank you Jan. Your portraits of worthiness were exquisite and inspiring, and more beautiful and moving than I could have ever imagined.

Thank you Jen, Kristina, Krissie for your votes of confidence. It honestly made all the difference.

I loved Krissie's musing that, "Somewhere out there, it is always Wednesday". Surely that must be true.

We are all on our way somewhere.