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The Bliss Blog

brooms

As I am writing this article, I am sitting at my dining room table with the ceiling fan whirring overhead, providing a calming counterpoint to the rockin’ music from WXPN that helps animate my typing fingers. There are a few items around me, including my water bottle, cell phone and charge cord, the cloth that I used to clean my smudgy glasses, and check from a client that will go to the bank this morning. When I leave the room, I will take all of these things with me, so they don’t pile up and so  (in my middle-aged mind moment) I have what I need, rather than forgetting where I put necessities.

It got me to thinking, as many things do, that there was a time when I wasn’t so organized. When I was married, (before my husband died in 1998), he used to say that I left ‘clown droppings’ around the house. The origin of that description is that among many hats I wear, I am a clown. I would start an activity and then move on to the next thing, sometimes without completing the first and leave the remnants on the table or the sofa or kitchen counter.  Little did I realize that it was unfair to him and a measure of my consciousness at the time. I joke that I am ‘functionally manic with tinges of ADHD’. I get distracted at times and need to call my attention back to the task at hand, complete it and then move on to the next item.

It occurred to me in the past few days that when I see clients in my office, I often swivel my chair side to side as we speak; with the fidgets. Fortunately, it is subtle enough that no one seems distracted.

Since I live alone, keeping up with household tasks is pretty easy. No kids, critters or partner to clean up after at the moment. Michael was far more fastidious than I ever was, organized almost to the point of compulsion. When he died, I picked up some of his habits, wanting to manage the emotional chaos that followed. Structure became my sanity.

How do you handle a relationship (romantic, housemate, parent-child) when your priorities and theirs are different when it comes to noticing when things need to be done (housekeeping as an example)? Although I am by no means white glove clean, my rules for myself are: If you take it out, put it away where you found it. If you drop it, pick it up. If you make a mess, clean it up. If you borrow it, return it. Don’t expect anyone else to clean up your literal or emotional mess. It just feels respectful, not holier than thou and to me, it reflects how I feel about myself and anyone else with whom I share space. When I am in someone else’s home, whether it is for a brief visit or overnight stay, I treat it the way they do. I take notice of how they clean up and attempt to meet that standard.

It feels good to accomplish tasks, like dishes, having a clean kitchen when I go to bed, (especially after a party:) stepping back and seeing that my lawn is mowed and weeds are whacked and that I can put away clean and folded clothes. Do you grin and bear it? Do you clean up someone else’s mess yourself? Do you nag and nudge? Do you simmer and stew over it? Do you ask for change? Have you noticed a change?

Are you willing to ‘clean house’ emotionally as well?  What dust bunny thoughts are hanging out under your bed?  What mental cobwebs hover in corners? What sticky residue coats your mental counters? Get out the broom, dustpan and spray cleaner and go to town!

As I was planning on writing this blog entry, my friend Joanna Chodorowska posed a question:  How’s Your HQ? (Hug Quality)  I responded that she knew how mine was, since I offer FREE HUGS any and everywhere I can. I know that Joanna can answer in the affirmative as well, since she too, is a consummate hugger and has joined me on a few occasions as a Hugmobster Armed With Love. In the interceding years since the group’s 2014  inception, I/we have shared hugs at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, in various places in Bucks County, at rallies and vigils, at the DNC, at parades, at fitness events, at my polling place on Election Day (and many places since then as a result of the outcome), in DC, and the Phoenix airport.

Yesterday, I hugged all sorts of colorfully garbed people at Pridefest in Philadelphia. The sweltering temps didn’t prevent folks from embracing me or each other. I knew it would be a welcoming place, as the purpose was to celebrate the freedom to love. Hugs reach across all kinds of culturally created and perpetrated stereotypes and divides.

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Quite simply, hugs heal. The words of  family therapist Virginia Satir could just as easily be written on a prescription pad: “We need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance, and 12 hugs a day for growth.”  Hugs meet skin hunger needs, which are just as vital for wellbeing as food hunger. Without nurturing, non-sexual touch, by consent, we fail to thrive. Touch need not be shared only or primarily between sexually intimate partners. It is not only possible but indeed, enjoyable to cuddle/hug with platonic friends. I have ‘cuddle buddies,’ of all genders who help meet those needs. I facilitate a workshop called Cuddle Party which teaches communication, boundary setting and offers that kind of touch. Even if people don’t know each other at the beginning of our time together, they may leave feeling like family of choice.

The truth is, even touchy feely folks like me don’t share that many hugs per day. Like many adults, I live alone and at the moment, am not in a consistent romantic relationship. I have wonderfully affectionate friends and family and when I see them, I fill up my hug tank. I am not with them on a daily basis. Sometimes I take a home writing break and go to my favorite coffee shop in my small town of Doylestown, PA; in part for the tea and for an even more important reason. The welcoming hugs from the owner and friends who frequent it (Think Cheers, where everybody knows your name) are even more nourishing.

When I take it to the streets to hug it out, I am filling a mutual need. At first, I thought the hug gigs I do were supposed to be purely altruistic until I realized that they fuel me as well. We can’t serve from an empty cup, so I fill mine up to overflowing. It is not selfish to need affection. It is self-sustaining and enlivening.

When I hug people, I slow down and breathe with them. I am fully present, if only for 20 seconds. Longer is preferable. I feel a mutual heartbeat. When we step away, we carry a piece of each other, a strand of love. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes I do. We each smile and often laugh.  We allow ourselves to be fully human. I have been asked how it feels to hug strangers. I respond that once we have hugged, we are no longer strangers. I also have been asked if I feel rejected if people turn down hugs. I don’t since I know that everyone’s touch needs are different. When they decline, for whatever reason, I encourage them to hug someone, or at least, themselves.

Last weekend, my friend Flora Zanfrisco followed me around the streets of Philadelphia as we spoke of all things huggy.

My friend, Betsy Chasse is a producer whose best-known work of art is the iconic 2004 film What the Bleep Do We Know? It is a docu-drama that follows its main character, a photographer (played named by Marlee Matlin) named Amanda whose thoughts play out in front of her in beyond belief ways. The movie changed the way I and many others have come to view reality.

In the past few years, I have witnessed Betsy putting her heart and soul into her work and share it brilliantly with the world. Like many of us who are creative souls, she has been asked to do what she does for far less than what her services are worth. I know that experience well. As a therapist, writer and speaker, I have sometimes been asked to offer my services for a fraction of what they are worth, or gratis “for the exposure.”  Would a doctor, lawyer or some other form of a mainstream business person, accept that request? I know that on occasion, attorneys do pro bono work, but it is not a regular occurrence. I wonder what it is that those of us who do healing or creative work are expected to be cool with it.
Betsy posted this message on her Facebook page recently and it begs the exploration of why such behavior continues.

“For my dear friends in the “gig economy” I learned a valuable lesson recently about “scope creep”. I love creating, traveling, adventure and I am often willing to forgo what I’m worth in the name of creating something worthwhile for humanity and recently, after constant “scope creep” in which I acquiesced more than I should, even after I had put in writing what I was willing to do, I finally said no. Nope, I am not willing to ask people to compromise themselves simply because I am. In this age of Fivvr and cheap camera packages and everyone being an editor. Most won’t value what you’ve spent years learning. So be willing to walk away… you know what you know. I know what I know. I know what I deliver and I am no longer willing to allow anyone to play a game with that. Do not allow yourself to be taken advantage of. Here’s the beauty of my saying no today, a project I really wanted to do, opened up, and so trust yourself. You’ll be ok, you’ll eat, your rent will be paid, you will survive, actually when you listen to your heart, you will thrive.”

I had to look up the definition of the term ‘scope creep’ and found that it referred to projects taking longer than anticipated and being expected to go with the flow without additional compensation. There have been times when  I have been caught up in that dilemma as well. There were times when I said yes to projects or gigs since I feared that I would lose whatever income resulted from them. In reality, some ended up costing me when I considered travel and time. When I work for someone, they are not just acquiring my services for that period of time, but all the years of training and experience I bring to the table, as well as prep time for what I do. When I write certain articles, research is required, as well as fact-checking and editing. Betsy is right. When I let go of fear and only said yes to what seemed a fair compensation for my expertise, more flowed in.

The reason that creative professionals are expected to accept less may lie in our belief that we are not worth what we ask for. It also is at the foundation of the social work field. I cringed when I saw a t-shirt that read, “Social Work, in it for the outcome and not the income” How ridiculous is that to blatantly undervalue what is really an invaluable service?

So, to all of my ‘Creativas’ and Healers, I invite you to take a page from Betsy’s book and expect and accept what your services are worth, as you tell the Universe that you are open for business that provides as much in return as what you put out into the world,

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Like a gazillion people worldwide, I entered my local movie theater to indulge in some fantasy for a few hours. With my friends Ondreah and Lisa, I sat, mesmerized as the drama unfolded on screen. I was familiar with the legendary DC Comics character of Wonder Woman and saw her as an icon throughout my childhood. A woman who knew her own mind, who answered to no man, who was raised to be strong and resilient, with a solid social conscience.

Wonder Woman is directed by Patty Jenkins and is written by Allan Heinberg, Geoff Johns, and Zack Snyder. The film stars Gal Gadot (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman), Chris Pine (Steve Trevor), Robin Wright (General Antiope), Connie Nielsen (Queen Hippolyta). The stellar cast puts their all into recreating the characters who came to be when psychologist William Moulton Marston devised an embodiment of divine feminine energy, combined with pin-up model imagery. The book entitled The Secret History of Wonder Woman, by Jill Lepore tells the fascinating back story of the Amazon, daughter of Queen Hippolyta who grew up on an island populated by women.

In an interview on Fresh Air, even more compelling details were revealed about Marston’s personal life and the socio-political inspiration of Margaret Sanger and the suffragettes who paved the way for women’s empowerment. This is the man credited as the creator of the systolic blood pressure test, which became one aspect of the polygraph invented by John Augustus Larson. It caused me to ponder whether the iconic Lasso of Truth was inspired by the lie detector test. In its grip, no human could speak a falsehood.

I have some random thoughts after seeing Wonder Woman. Although I am an avowed pacifist, I really wanted her to kick ass…she did not disappoint as she ran roughshod over marauding WWI German soldiers whose weaponry she fended off at lightning speed as they lobbed them her way.

I have little patience for bullies and meanies who want to kill people.

I appreciated the overarching theme that love is the most powerful force on the planet; stronger than hate, stronger than war.

I like that she was her own woman who answered to her conscience and inner guidance.

Another piece was about free will. People have the choice to do good or evil. We all have our shadow side. We decide what to do with it.

Each person has it within them to be a peacemaker or warmonger.

My favorite quote from the film:

“It’s not about what they deserve. It is about what you believe. And I believe in love.”

What do you believe?