My Inner Worlds
Matt and I were opposites when we felt that first spark of attraction almost thirty years ago. He was erratic and unstructured, while I held my feet on the ground and valued logical process. During our twenty-five years of marriage, Matt and I have integrated the strengths of the other, making each of us more whole. I’ve learned to think outside the box and to free my creative self. Matt has learned the value of staying in one place for years, despite his craving to always move to a new location and experience that for a hot minute before moving on to the next.
In 2018 we intentionally pursued integration work, traveling three times to Arizona for intensive classes on how to defragment those pieces of who we are that get splintered off as we experience childhood and our adult lives. It has been more than worth the time, money, and tears.
Using this new lens of integration, I now view my world as reflections of me. If somebody irritates me, I now ask myself why. What is it within me that is not whole, allowing this irritation to enter my life? It’s been a valuable tool and helps me continue the work I learned in class.
Last month Matt’s brother came to live with us. He’s a sweet man, and I’m glad he can enjoy the love and safe haven Matt and I have crafted into our home. However, I’ve trained Matt for twenty-five years to do things my way in the house. He gladly humors me because he doesn’t care.
Enter another person raised in the same chaotic household as Matt…things aren’t going my way anymore. For instance, I have a weird thing with doors. They need to be open. My family didn’t close doors (even when they should have), and I feel claustrophobic without the air flowing freely from room to room. With another person in the home, naturally doors need to be closed. And I’m having a problem with it. Since Matt complies with my view of the way things should be, I never realized how big a deal a closed door is to my health and sense of wellness. While it seems stupid, I know there’s an underlying issue in my psyche that is gently telling me it’s ready to be seen and healed.
What is it? I don’t know yet, but I’m committed to work through this dissonance and to come out stronger for having seen it.
Have you noticed an issue that makes no sense in your life? If you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear about it. Together we can work on our integration and healing, bringing that much more wholeness into our world.
When Hurricane Florence became a real threat to the Carolinas last weekend, I pretended to not care for one whole day. Then a deep-seated panic gripped me, and I joined the throngs at the grocery store to find only empty shelves. We were still over four days from predicted landfall, and supplies had already sold out. I returned to the store every day at different times, buying what little had come in from delivery trucks since my prior scavenging. Were we prepared enough? How could you ever prepare for the unpredictable nature of a storm? Do we need to evacuate? We live in a flood plain and everyone says we should leave, so why doesn’t Matt seem affected? My incredible rock of a husband told me I could lean on him—that we’d be fine. And we are. My fear drained much of my energy this week, and I’ve determined it’s just not worth it to live like this anymore.
For the past four years, I have consciously worked on facing my fears. I stopped writing creatively at that time because a gripping terror waited for me two paragraphs into a new story. In order to embrace my writing, I had to leave it for a while. During this break I’ve used various tools to delve into my psyche to understand why I freeze in terror, like I’m that little girl again who can’t control the dangerous environment she hides within. Each method of self-exploration has been deeper, grittier, and has taken me to places that I couldn’t have touched without the previous tool that got me to the next level. I’ve made phenomenal progress in 2018 with integrating parts of myself that either fractured when I was a young child or that I just couldn’t have reached without doing my inner exploration. So why did I still feel crippling terror this past week even as the sun shone overhead in a clear blue sky?
My friend Sherrie Dillard posted the following on FaceBook two days ago:
I took the invitation and determined I would use Hurricane Florence to overcome this fear of inclement weather and storms. As the hurricane made landfall, a realization came to me that storms are like the void where I create. I’ve panicked for many years when I see that darkness where my writing takes me. It really looks like a void, an emptiness that is actually filled with possibility. The paradox where my creative being yearns to free herself, but my conscious self fears to enter, much less linger and play with the potential that exists there.
Knowing this creative void is truly what I have feared, and not a weather scenario, I hope the next opportunity to experience ice, a flood, or whatever else Mother Nature brings, will find a calmer Me, a more accepting emotional place. Maybe I will learn to channel the ferocity of a storm and weave a beautiful flow of delight and tension into a fictional place where many may find refuge.
Before my morning yoga class I found seven feathers in the parking lot. I gathered them with care and gratitude. Feathers often come to me, and I see each as a gift from the unseen world. I treasure them all and keep them in a special blown glass vase. Since my heart is filled with blessings and thankfulness, I’d like to share that energy.
One year ago I began my yoga practice at Raleigh Yoga Company and have transformed my body and mind into something I wouldn’t have imagined back then. I’m far from where I want my physical and spiritual forms to be, but I’m on a path that works for me.
One year ago I also began writing this blog, starting the journey to find my voice and let myself be seen and heard. It’s been scary, and I’ve had to struggle with the whisper in my head that tells me I’m not good enough, I’m not clever or interesting enough, or—you get it. Each of us has a voice or two that says different things depending on who we are and what we want to become, but the effect is the same. We can listen to it and not break through our imagined limitations, or we can fly free and see the world through new eyes.
Almost six years ago Matt and I started hosting a monthly gaming day with a group of friends I’ve grown to cherish. Not only has our friendship blossomed and intertwined among the five of us, role-playing Dungeons and Dragons characters has helped me break out of the Sarah construct and explore new ways of expressing who I am and who I can become.
Ten years ago Matt and I traveled for the first time to the United Kingdom and Ireland with two of our dear friends. Since that initial voyage, the four of us have traveled twice more to those magical lands. We are now planning our next trip, to hopefully occur in spring 2019 to the mystical site of Machu Picchu.
These are four of the gifts for which I’m grateful, yet I found seven feathers. Does that mean I have three more beautiful things coming into my world? I certainly hope so.
Thank you for being part of my journey. May the feathers that bless me also bless you and your path in life.
The integration workshop last month kicked me harder than April's module. While I can't write about it—still processing the awesome things that happened—I can post pictures of the natural beauty Matt and I got to experience in Sedona and the surrounding areas.
While in Phoenix for training, I noticed a red poppy theme and captured photographic evidence:
We spent five nights in Sedona after the workshop, not realizing we would need the calm, healing space that Red Rock country provides. Matt and I were both hollowed out when we arrived, and we benefited from quiet hikes and not being in our normal environment.
Below are two friends I met during our hike in the Secret Mountain Wilderness. I enjoyed quiet meditation next to both of them.
Two weeks ago I realized I couldn’t live with my frayed purse strap any longer. I bought my current handbag three years ago around my birthday. I had splurged, not really needing a new one back then. I probably don’t now, but I feel like my professional demeanor is called into question if my accessories are less than perfect.
I spent a miserable hour in the mall looking at ladies bags and the gaudy trend some of the really expensive ones have this season (or maybe it’s always been that way). After much obsessing, I purchased one black purse a little bit bigger than what I want, and one deep red wristlet that just looked too cute to pass up. This is why I don’t often shop—I base my decisions on “cute” and “I could use that for this one random event I might go to in the next year” instead of using my trusty logic.
When I make a decision, I usually feel good that I can click a task off my list. Not so with this purchase. It opened a pandora’s box of insecurities within me. This purse will represent all that I am to strangers. My professional competency will be judged based on this black shoulder bag, and you know what? I’m better than this Coach Chelsea cross body.
So I pulled up multiple browser windows and spent an entire week searching for the bag that represents all of me. Matt watched my crazy, frenetic behavior from the sidelines as I ordered yet more purses so I could judge them side-by-side and get their feel. Is this one me? Does it say, “You just hired me for a consulting job and paid a bunch of money to fly me cross-country and I’m worth every penny?” Sadly, no. The purse didn’t. Because purses can’t.
Matt, my beloved husband, an incredible therapist, and a deeply intuitive man gently asked me one evening as we walked the dogs, “Have you thought about what a purse might represent?” I gave him the blank stare. No, I obviously hadn’t searched my soul for a deeper meaning as my OCD reigned. But dang it. As soon as he said that, my little inner voice flashed a picture of the creative space deep in my belly that’s just waiting for me to put my valuable stories, words and energy into it. I saw the orange fire casting a comforting glow in what I named my “creative cave” a few years ago when it presented itself in cold, dark gray. It now has an incandescence that somehow has grown despite my inattention.
The compulsion I’ve felt to find the right purse was a misplaced need to put my treasured gifts and talents in the safe and nurturing environment of myself. My inner confidence and ingenuity represent who I am, not a fancy leather bag to heft around crap I don’t really want with me.
I’ve decided to train myself to use a clutch purse that barely fits my phone, sunglasses and keys. I returned the large shoulder bag I bought and gave the red wristlet to my sister, who oohed and ahhed over it because she needed a new one (and it really is cute). A perfect ending to a story about a woman finding and accepting her personal power.
Do you have a happy ending to an issue you’ve struggled with? Are you still encountering blocks or denial on your journey to wholeness? There are plenty more in my bag of tricks, but this one is enough for now.
Tomorrow marks 48 years of my breathing this planet’s air, consuming nutrition grown on its land, and hydrating from the vast water supply on the sphere we call home. It also marks the day when I honor the call I’ve avoided for the past several years. My creative nature must rise from the hidden dark corner where I stuffed it in my first decade on Earth. I use logic and reason to restrain its growth and expression, and guess what? Like any neglected child, it now has issues and requires family therapy.
When Matt and I signed up for a series of personal integration workshops this spring and summer, I knew changes would happen. Why would we invest in flying to Phoenix, AZ not once, but three times if we didn’t think there would be benefit? Our first training module occurred in mid-April and flattened me for an entire week. I could barely think and felt extreme exhaustion. The second week I felt better physically, but all the trauma and distress I thought I’d dealt with from my childhood came back. Not just to revisit the old material—oh no, I got to see new stuff. You know, the second season has to outdo the first or else the audience will get bored and no longer watch the show. I remembered more blocked experiences and had to process them. I woke from a dream last Friday morning that left me unable to eat much of anything the entire day. I’ll spare you the details. By Saturday I felt better and thought I had processed what the dream meant.
However, today I woke feeling ill because yesterday I did everything “old Sarah” would have done to hide from her feelings. I completely skipped meditation, yoga, and bodywork, while indulging in food, wine, and binge-reading fiction (which ironically was about a grown woman who remembered she was raped as a girl—even in my escape, I can’t escape). I’m tired of avoiding my power, my creative nature, my gift to those who are meant to read what I want to say or write in whatever form it manifests.
Yesterday was a taste of the life I’m trying to leave. I don’t want to be numb anymore. So my gift to myself is to stop running and hiding. Running away doesn’t work, and I’m only making myself and those I care about miserable. I have a structure in place to face my inner self and allow her to shine through the visage I allow the world to see. Do you like the conceptual art that aligns nicely with how I see that inner light?
Dear Tia left her physical body one week ago this morning. It’s hard to reconcile the loss when I sense her presence almost every day. Not everyone believes in life after death, or if they do, they may not have the sensitivity to know their loved one is near. I’m grateful to have that sense of knowing who from the other side may be around, whether it’s my grandmother or my beloved animal companion.
This week has been easier than I anticipated, yet harder in some respects. Aden, the baby brother, lost his pervasive happiness two nights ago and deeply grieved. Matt and I are okay with our own sadness, but seeing a child experience loss for the first time is unbearable. Aden’s smile is ever-present, like he can’t help his mouth hanging open in a goofy grin. However, nothing we did or said gave him any respite from not having his sister with him on the couch. He wouldn’t eat. He sniffed the edges of our duvet where Tia would sneak a nap in the warm luxury of Mom’s bedding, and we could feel his confusion, almost anger, that Tia wasn’t with him. Then he just settled on the couch in an unhappy lump of unmoving sadness where we unsuccessfully tried to cheer him.
His demeanor changed yesterday back to the bright boy we know and love. When I drove up to the house after work, Aden jubilantly raced down the front stairs and ran to my car as I parked. The problem? Our children aren’t allowed outside by themselves. From my peripheral vision I saw Gypsy, our escape artist, madly running down the street towards me. She was a block away, yet her instincts know when Mom is near. I laughed to see Aden so happy and back to his joyous self, captured my errant daughter, and checked on my husband.
Matt was lying in bed, drenched in sadness, and had no idea how our back gate had become unlatched. No dog could open it—I can barely force it open most of the time. To help break Matt’s mood, we went out for sushi, one of his favorite foods, and then watched a three-hour movie (not my preferred activity).
When we arrived home after our spontaneous date night, I opened the door and greeted Gypsy and Aden, while automatically looking to the corner where Tia would have been. I started crying, surprised that I had forgotten she would no longer occupy that space.
We’re one week out. Tears and sadness are normal. But I want the grief to be over. It’s much easier to comfort others than it is to comfort myself. Being in the moment and fully present with my feelings is not pleasant. There is no alleviating the pain except through time. The tenet of Yin yoga is holding an uncomfortable position for a period of time. While I have a physical Yin practice at the studio, I now have a real-life scenario where I get to practice Yin in an emotional place.
I’m grateful for my life—the good, the pleasant, the yuk. It’s this blend that makes me who I am today and creates the potential for a most incredible future me.