‘To be witnessed and embraced for all that we are; the good, bad and ugly; as striving human beings daring to reach for the stars, is a gift beyond measure.”
These words came to me as I was writing a chapter for a soon to be released co-authored book called Embraced By the Divine: The Emerging Woman’s Gateway to Passion, Power and Purpose. They speak so clearly to the struggle that I and many people face when attempting to circumnavigate life’s sometimes treacherous waters. I would much prefer to be a shining example of love, Zen composure, acceptance, compassion and approval, and yet there are moments (blessedly few these days) when I feel angry, cranky, miserable, frustrated and judgmental. Sometimes I view myself as superior to those who stumble more than I do and other times, I seem like the clumsiest person on the dance floor, tripping over my own two feet.
I hold back expression when I may want to throw a mini or full blown temper tantrum over something that at the moment, my ego feels is unjust. What would people think if I did?- queries the part of me that needs to keep it all together. As silly as it sounds, when I am writing an article and despite my best efforts to save it, it disappears, I let out a stream of expletives that would do a scurvy pirate proud…there now, doesn’t that feel better, darlin’? and then I can get back to writing. Although I don’t experience road rage, I do my share of growling if someone cuts me off en route to my destination. If my values are tested, I am now standing up and speaking out, rather than retreating in fear of disapproval. If my gut and heart tell me that something is amiss, I honor their wisdom. I still consider myself relatively low maintenance, cleaning up after myself both physically and emotionally, without leaving a mess in my wake.
As I am taking off the mask that I had worn to be presentable, not rock the boat or make waves, I am allowing myself to be seen for all that I am. It is not always a secure platform which to stand, but the view is spectacular.
Although the movie has been out since last year, this past week, I climbed up on the sled and took a wild ride with Anna and Kristoff, in the not so wonderful winter-landscape created by Elsa via her out of control emotions. Frozen (based on the Hans Christian Anderson classic: The Snow Queen) has been a runaway hit across all demographics that stretch far beyond tween girls. I actually watched it with my 27 year son who had seen it himself with his 4 year old surrogate son. I knew some of the songs, obviously Let It Go has been an earworm for many and I can belt it out with the best of ‘em!
The cartoon cinematography is beautiful, some of the humor Disney-esque tongue in cheek that is appropriate for all ages, but it is the inner landscape of the characters that is most touching. The take away messages are multi-layered and represent the various aspects of human existence. Elsa (the queen) who in a playful, unconscious moment through the use of her ability to turn anything into ice, inadvertently injures her younger sister Anna. She then hides herself away in a metaphorical and literal fortress of solitude lest she do any more harm. Anna feels rejected and can’t understand why her sister with whom she had once been close, has shut her out. She herself, has fallen into a sleep of forgetfulness as predicted by an elder who is part of a tribe of stone people she is to meet later in the film.
When the time comes for Elsa to come of age and coronated as queen of Arendelle, since both of their parents were killed years earlier in a storm at sea, she cautiously steps out into the light of day until, once again, emotion overtakes her when being confronted with the idea that her sister plans to marry a man she just met that day. So desperate for love, Anna was literally willing to give away the keys to the kingdom. Angry, Elsa casts Arendelle into a state of eternal winter. Anna goes off in search of her sister and encounters Kristoff (an ice harvester who first appears in the beginning of the film as a child), his moose Sven and Olaf- a snowman that Elsa had made when the sisters were young. He loves ‘warm hugs’ and fantasizes about living in a toasty climate, not knowing that it would mean his demise.
The ideas of emotional control, shutting them down for fear that they can do harm, personal sacrifice, unveiling the shadow, and the certainty that love can thaw the hardest of hearts may be revelations for people For The First Time In Forever.
I attended a workshop this afternoon that was facilitated by an old friend that I had not actually met hug to hug until today. Her name is Ambika Devi, author of the cosmic journey called Lilith which combines historical teachings, powerful legends, in this case the s/hero’s journey, as well as colorful, sensual concepts. We have traveled in the same circles since likely the 1980’s, have emailed and if memory serves, have spoken on the phone. I was honored to have written the foreword for her book and eagerly anticipated seeing her and immersing in the rich juiciness of the teachings she was to share. I described her as equal parts yogic scholar, playful pixie and fire-y Goddess- a definite kindred spirit. Some of our time together in a group of 20 included Vak yoga, seated meditation, chanting, journaling and moving meditation that took us outside in the crisp early autumnal air. She had asked us to be aware of the sensations, emotions and insights while chanting the bija (seed mantra) of Gam which relates to the Hindu God Ganesh who is the remover of obstacles. Moving in slow motion, I found myself in no rush to do anything; pulled inexorably by the breeze, crunching leaves beneath my feet, smelling the spicy aroma, feeling like the waving tree branches that were being danced gracefully. Standing in an open clearing, allowing the sun to melt a place in my chest where my heart had been shielded for so many years. I told myself that it needed that protective covering to remain safe. Such a fallacy that was. I have been hiding from repeating interactions that felt toxic and self limiting. I had become accustomed to hiding, ducking and weaving, all the while making it look like I was open and receptive to life experiences, when in reality, I wanted nothing more than to avoid the pain not being known and seen. Instead, I settled for being perceived as wise and confident, competent and compelling. I also perched on the edge of a winged angel chair. I noticed that a piece of it had broken off and was on the seat. I picked it up, cradled and rocked it, as I felt it represented a part of my own wings that had felt cut off at times. I haven’t always soared above it all, as much as I wanted it to appear that I had.
After the workshop I was called on my stuff by a friend who expressed dismay of my reaction to something that occurred between us. I found myself falling into old co-dependent patterns and felt it was my job to relieve her pain even though it wasn’t requested or expected. Paradoxically, my response didn’t feel caring to either of us. I confessed that it was easier to be in fix it mode than to witness her experience. Part of that came from not wanting sit in my own pain, preferring instead to problem solve, even though I think of it as solution finding. I shared that I would rather safely avoid an intimate relationship with a partner, since melting away the glaciated parts of my heart would put me at greater risk for emotional pain. So much easier to sink back into newly familiar behaviors that look like self care- napping, solitude and quiet time to myself. While it does serve that purpose, it also prevents me from letting love in fully. Still tender places from a paradoxical marriage that ended nearly 16 years ago with the death of my husband. Choosing to slowly peel away the layers, rather than ripping them off like a Band-Aid from a boo boo.
In conversation with my flight attendant friend Jewelee Landis, about whom I have written many times over the years, we were musing about life being like a smoothie. She, like most of us, wears many hats. Hers- wife, mom, daughter, granddaughter, friend, doggy and kitty mom and now grandmom to newly born pupsters. She is also, as I mentioned, a world traveler who came into my life in 2010 when she took care of me en route from Philly to Ft. Lauderdale when my mom had just died. Now, her life has shifted and she is caregiver to her beloved ‘Gran’, a.k.a.’Mom-mom’ who is living with her family. Alzheimers has become an unwelcome visitor to their home and Jewelee, Scott, Sabrina and Vanessa (her devoted firefighter/paramedic husband and adorable, creative, dancer young daughters) share the care for this woman who often forgets who they are. Although love always prevails, sometimes it seems to play hide and seek.
So, back to the smoothie analogy….lest you think I have Alzheimers….she was indicating that all of the ingredients of her life were tossed into a blender- trying to balance the various roles she claims. Off on trips, school events for her kiddos, making health care decisions for her grandmother, after having participated in the same for her father in-law in the last year or so, adopting a dog found on the road, not knowing that she was pregnant…the surprises continue. Sometimes, she says that the smoothie gets stuck in the straw and needs to be blended a bit more before it is ready to be enjoyed.
I have learned ALOT recently that we may not have a choice about the ingredients of the smoothie and that life is not always smooth, no matter how much we blend it. We do have a choice about how to sweeten the mix to make it palatable. Love is an essential ingredient and Jewelee has that in massive quantities; enough to fill a blender the size of one of those big old jet airliners that is her office in the sky.
The Smoothie Song by Nickel Creek