Taking Down My Fence (Believing Mirror Part 2)

Cat Fink--'Old Coyote Trick (sticks and stones)'
Old Coyote Trick (sticks and stones) — Cat Fink

I’ve been reading about vulnerability in Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly.  Her words have me feeling and remembering.

Growing up, no one told me that strength included vulnerability.  If they did, I didn’t hear them.  Maybe the people around me did not know this either.

Growing up, I was taught that being strong meant holding back my feelings from public view.  Show a calm, controlled front.  Always pretend everything is okay.  I became so good at this, even I didn’t know what I was feeling sometimes.

I kept pushing my feelings away.  I thought I was getting rid of them.  Truth is I was storing them behind a fence of ‘okay’.

This is not the way to live.  I knew it, but did not know how to be different.

Things changed when I was twenty-one.  I began the relationship with my future husband.  He saw my heart behind the fence, and he loved it, and he wouldn’t let go.

Something in me knew it was time to build a gate.  A skinny gate at first, but enough to let me say out loud for the first time in my life, to someone, I love you.

I was terrified saying it.  This was laying myself open, a direct path to hurt me and reject what I offered.  Despite all of the loving actions and words Lyle had given me, I did not trust I was truly worthy of love.  I didn’t much love myself, so how could someone else love me?

I could not say ‘I love you’ to Lyle as a statement.  I said it like a question needing the right answer.

He said it.  He said I love you.  He answered.  To me.

Love made the gate in my fence.  Love and the courage to love.  I don’t know where the courage came from, and the ability to hear the voice that whispered inside me, ‘do this’.

I knew this was a choice, to stay with fear or to step forward to love.  I knew Lyle saw me differently than I saw myself.  He saw a world that did not require fear, and he saw me in this world braver than I saw myself.  Maybe this is how my courage appeared.  His vision sparked my belief, and my belief sparked courage to arise, be seen, and claim out loud my ability to love.

Lyle showed up for me when I needed someone to help open a way through the fence I had built around myself.

Lyle told me how he felt and what he saw in me.  But louder than the words were his actions.  He treated me as a person of great value, who had gifts to be seen and shared.

He believed in me.

This is what we do for each other.  We see the best in the person standing before us, even and especially when they can’t see it themselves.  We believe in them.  We say ‘let’s do this together’.

We all have the gift and possibility of being a Believing Mirror for the person standing before us.  We just have to choose to see that in ourselves, and be vulnerable enough to offer it to someone else.

‘I believe in you.’  Words as precious and important and life-changing as ‘I love you’.

Lyle and I have been together thirty-seven years.  We have a son to be proud of.  My fence?  It shows up sometimes as a ghost of itself.  Old habits, old patterns of thinking and reacting, reminding me where I was, and showing me where I am now.  I pat it kindly, and thank it for keeping me safe at a time when I thought I needed protection.  Then I walk around it.

Lyle, I love you.  Happy Father’s Day.

_______________________

In this post:

Brene Brown, book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Avery, 2012.  http://brenebrown.com/

https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en

‘Believing Mirror’, page 47 in It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, Julia Cameron, TarcherPerigree, 2016.  http://juliacameronlive.com/

 

A Gift of Attention

me.carrie.nanas.july65

This is what I remember.

I am three years old. I am standing in the living room. My mom is sitting in the chair in front of me, holding blankets. My dad is crouched beside me, at my level, telling me this is my new baby sister. Her name is Carrie.

See? Say hello. You can touch her. My mom leans forward so I can see inside the blankets. There is a small face. Red. The eyes are closed. There are black eyelashes.

I don’t recall if I said anything or if I touched her. I do know how I felt. I can feel it now as I remember. I feel confused. I don’t know what this means. Why is she here? Is she staying with me and my parents? My parents are doing a lot of holding her. They’re not holding me. Do they love her now? Does this mean they don’t love me anymore? Now I feel sad and somehow smaller. I am starting to feel angry at this baby sister, whatever she is, who is taking my place.

This is what I remember.

I am four years old. I am in my bedroom, standing in the middle of the room. I can see the back yard through my window. It is sunny outside. I feel my feet warm in my pink socks, feel the wood floor solid under me. I am happy, peaceful, connected to everything around me. I feel secure in myself—who I am, what I can do, my place in the world. I know I have a voice and ideas worthy of listening to.

What happens in the year between these two memories?

I remember.

My dad comes home from work. He changes from his work clothes to his home clothes. He comes into the kitchen, talks with my mom, talks to my baby sister in her play pen. Then he and I go into the living room.

We lay on the thick rug, my dad on his stomach and I beside him.

And we talk. Just the two of us. He asks me what did I do today? And then he listens.

I tell him what I did, what I found in the back yard (ants, a slug, and two rocks), the songs I sing as I swing on my yellow and blue swing set (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Somewhere Over the Rainbow). I sing them to him as loud as I can. I know all the words.

This is the immense gift my dad gives me. His focused attention. It may be only fifteen or twenty minutes each day. It feels like always and forever. In this gift, he tells me he loves me, that I am important to him and worthy of his time, that I have ideas and thoughts worth listening to.

My dad’s gift moves me from a confused, sad, angry three-year-old who wonders if she is losing her parents’ love, into a four-year-old secure and sure in herself and her world, happy, loved, and loving.

This gift of a few minutes each day. So small, yet it is everything.

Undivided, loving, interested attention. I learn what this is and how it feels. I take it into me.

I know now the infinite value of this gift. I practise it and pass it to whoever I can. This gift says I love you, and you are worth attention and time. You are important to me. You are interesting.

Thank you, Dad, for the gift of attention. I love you.  And Carrie, I love you too.

Home and Safe

If I Could Bottle Love
If I Could Bottle Love

I am eight years old, sitting in the back seat of my parents’ Volkswagen Beetle.  It’s Friday night, November, and dark.  My sister is curled into the far corner opposite me.  I think she is sleeping.  I am near to sleep as well, that place where thoughts float and my body releases the day.

I can see my parents in the front seats.  Light from the dashboard lines the edges of their faces, Mom turned towards Dad as he drives.  Their voices wrap around me, quiet and warm.

We had dinner out tonight, and then did grocery shopping.  I can smell the bread, packed full in one of the brown paper grocery bags behind my seat.  Ten loaves for a dollar.

The car tires hum against the road, and the engine chugs.  Steady and sure.  I know Dad is watching for the deer who sometimes step from the trees onto the road and into the light, and then stand, blinded.  They and we are blessed.  We always pass each other with space to spare.

In this memory, time and place, this is how I feel.  Warm.  Safe.  Comforted and comfortable.  Cared for.  Loved.  Belonging.  Home.  There is nothing more I need or want.

Here, now, in times when my life does not feel warm or safe, not comfortable or comforted.  When I don’t feel I belong, not loved, not home.  When I only hear and see wants and needs demanding a piece of me, clamouring and noisy– I stop and let go.

I let go.  I close my eyes.  There, I see the night and my parents’ faces.  I hear their voices and the car, humming.  I smell fresh bread.  I know my sister is near me, asleep on the seat.  I breathe deep.  Let my thoughts float, my body release the day.  Feel just this.

Here, is love.  This place, home, is within me.  Warm, safe, comforted, comfortable.  Cared for, belonging.  All within me and created by me.  I choose this.  My home is within, my place of strength where I stand knowing who I am.  I am love.

I open my eyes, return to the day and my life, carrying this within me.

Carry this into whatever I am doing.  Make this part of my experience.  I choose love, and I am home and safe.

________________________

This post is from May of this year.  May we all be home, wherever and whatever home is to each of us.  May we all be safe, whatever safe is to each of us.  Bless us all.  There is love enough when we open our hearts and let our light shine.

One hundred and four magic crayons

banfftable.1.blogI’m writing outside today, sitting on the beach.  Wednesday. Sun and wind. The ocean waves have whitecaps on them, and the seagulls are flying cartwheels. Everything right now is shades of blue, white, grey. Ocean. Sky. Birds. The mountains across the strait.

I love colour. It is what I notice first in anything I see. Maybe this is why my favourite birthday or Christmas or anytime gift is a new box of crayons and a colouring book. This has been my favourite gift since I was old enough to grasp and move a crayon across the page.

Right now I have a Hello Kitty colouring book with a red cover, and a pack of 24 Crayola crayons. The points on the crayons are all rubbed down, except for black and white. I have used each of those exactly three times. The rest of the colours are well-loved. When I use them I have to peel off some of their paper covering, a thin strip round and round until enough of the crayon is exposed. I don’t like having the wrapper rub and shred on the page of my colouring book. It feels gritty and rough. It interrupts my crayon-colouring-book reverie.

The purple-pink-cerise and the blue-cerulean crayons, my favourites this week, are broken. Sad accidents, each time. Pressing too hard against the page, trying to make the colour completely solid.

I am always sad when I break a crayon. The funny thing about this–I am exactly the opposite with my pastels. When I pick up a new pastel, the first thing I do is break it in half and pull off its wrapper. I remember someone gasping out loud as I did this during an art show demo.banfftable.4detail

I have never done this with my crayons. I like them whole.

I love my crayons and I love the possibilities in my colouring book. Black lines on white paper waiting for me to give them life. Rainbow on the page with at least a hundred more than six colours by the time I have finished blending and mixing and layering.

I remember in August each year, in my brand new school supplies, there was a cardboard box of twelve Sargent hexagon crayons. I loved my Sargent crayons. It was the smell of them as I opened the box, and the shape of them in my hand. I remember one of my girlfriends did not like her Sargent crayons. The edges felt sharp against her hand and left lines pressed into the skin of her fingers.

That never bothered me. I loved my Sargent crayons because they were faithful. I never worried about them. I could put them down anywhere on my desk, and they never rolled off and broke on the linoleum floor. They stayed where I left them as I went from one colour to another. Each would be waiting when I put my hand out to pick it up again.

This was necessary, this faithfulness. By the time my colouring was done, I had all twelve crayons out of their box and scattered over my desk top. I used all my colours on every drawing I made.

Continue reading “One hundred and four magic crayons”

Knowing

laid to rest east detailI am six years old.  I know I am a writer and an artist.  I know I am a creator.  I translate the world into image and word.  It makes me happy, gives me joy.  I am in love with writing, drawing, the world, me.

I don’t choose it.  I just do it.  I look at the beauty of the world.  I feel it.  I write it.  I draw it.  Whatever comes to me goes onto the paper.

This is play.  Easy, fun, exciting.  New all the time.

I know who I am, my true heart.

Fifty years later.  Here.  Now.  Who am I?

I am Cat, recreating herself in her true image.

Shedding old patterns.  Shedding all the things other people told me I was and was not.  Shaking off what no longer helps me on my path.  Refusing to accept what I know is not true for me.cathy.img447 Dec 66

I am moving back in, this place, this heart, true to myself.  True to the six year old who knew without doubt.

Draw.  Write.  Play.  Love.

Did. Saw. Heard. Drawn.

lyndabarry3I have made my way through Lynda Barry’s book Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor.  Slow reading.  Taking in the content and structure of the pages, the balance and play of image, word, idea, question.  Seeing how her mind moves, and in turn noticing what my mind touches on.

On pages 61 to 63 Lynda talks about ‘Your Daily Diary’, an assignment she gives her students.  I’ve decided to do this for my blog post, and feel what this recording process feels like.

This is how I do it:  Today.  Seven things I did.  Seven things I saw.  Something I overheard someone say.  Draw a picture of something I saw.  All recorded on a single page divided into a grid of four spaces.  Do it fast.  Five minutes total time used to record my day.  I like the speed of this.  My internal critic can’t handle speedy creating, panics about getting run over, and hides somewhere out of the way.  Excellent.

Because I am doing this as my blog post, I’ll use a list rather than the grid.  A list of the sorts of things I notice in my life, what my mind touches.  Moments of being present in my day.  Here goes.

Continue reading “Did. Saw. Heard. Drawn.”

I am Here

I held the earth and touched the sky (Mike)
I held the earth and touched the sky (Mike)

My heart is a map.  Where I have been.  Where I am now.  Where I am going.

It’s not a paper map, identical each time I unfold it to find my way.  It is simple to know where I am on a paper map.  The roads and pattern are always the same.  I see my place clearly, and mark it with an X.  I am Here.

My heart is the map of my life.  Like all maps, I must know where I am right now in order to journey to where I want to be.  To find my way on this map, I open my heart, and feel.  Where am I now?  Is it love, excitement, anger, sadness, joy, wonder, jealousy?  So many emotional places, I cannot name them all.  Ah, here I am.  Mark it with my X.  Homesick.

Is this where I want to be, in this place of homesick?  No, not really.  It doesn’t feel good, and I prefer ‘feel good’.  Don’t we all.

I have learned that clearly feeling where I am gives me information.  This place on the map of my heart, homesick, tells me I am longing for something, a something not fulfilled by where I am in my life at this moment.

This is what I do to find my way from homesick.

Continue reading “I am Here”

Lullaby

Practice (detail)
Practice (detail)

The Universe, Source, was nudging me all last week, singing to me.  Ideas, suggestions.  Then it pointed me to Julia Cameron’s book The Vein of Gold, and the task ‘Lullaby’.  ‘For five minutes each day (five private minutes), hum or sing a lullaby to yourself.’  The task is on pages 164 to 166, if you are looking for it.

It is true, you know.  The world is music.  The world is sound.  We are sound.  Vibration.  Nada Brahma.

My Mom sang to me, to herself, and with the radio.  My Dad sang with me, my sister and brother, in his ‘own personal key of music’ as he would say, perfectly off tune.  In the late afternoon heat of July, Dad driving us home after swimming in the lake, singing Jingle Bells all the way.

My chosen lullabies, the songs I sing to myself, might not be what you would expect:

Continue reading “Lullaby”