Prayers, pleasing, and protecting

This is the part I don’t want you to see.   It would be so much easier to stay invisible, and not set obscure questions I ponder sometimes out there in the breezy air to flutter around . . .

22276558_s

 

It’s my fault.  I’m sorry. 

These phrases course through my blood like cancer cells.
I feel like they’ve always been there.
That I was born with them inside me: it’s my fault.  I’m sorry.

As an intuitive person, one with more empathy than any one person should have, I’m always sensing, always alert to how others are in a situation and to the unspoken vibration of moments.  “It’s my fault/I’m sorry” is my go-to emotional response, when a moment feels charged, uneasy, subtly dangerous.

My stomach muscles tighten, and my mind scurries across the past several minutes, back and forth, scanning, scanning:  Why is she not smiling?  Why is he not talking?  What did I do wrong?  Why is he yelling? Why is he in that room with the door closed? What did I do wrong?

I remember my 3rd grade teacher once stopped in the middle of yelling at some other student and looked straight at me:  “Am I yelling at you, Colleen? No, I’m not yelling at you. You didn’t do anything wrong.”  To her, I must have looked slapped in the face or terrified or something, I don’t know, but she could visually see I was reacting to her anger, even though it wasn’t directed at me.

So I know these things about myself now.  I spend time consciously reeling back this initial and irrational response I feel I was born with.

It takes energy and focus, but I’m doing it.

One day at the page, I began to reflect about this and a series of questions unfurled from my pen . .

Do you think an unborn baby can sense its unwed mother’s secret thoughts and prayers? Her heartbreak, her shame her sadness?  (Go away, go away, dear God, make this go away . . . )

And then, do you think it’s possible for this same unborn baby to grow up into a girl and then into a woman, yearning to be seen but never to be too much of a bother?  To feel, at her core, that she shouldn’t take up too much space, be too big.  And that she must please and protect – like some unspoken penance for causing this shame and suffering, this derailment of her mother’s then-intended life?

How is it possible to discern the beginning? Where is it?  When does one’s story start?

***

Postscript:  I’m happy to take the blame for my parents’ marriage.  In October 2016, they will celebrate 50 years together.

Reflection by Colleen Nolan Armstrong, drafted in June 2012 and completed today.  #outofthebox

Deflection

: the act of changing or causing something to change direction
: the act of changing or causing something to change direction

I used The Story as a way to deflect people’s focus away from me.

“So I am working at a management consulting firm, but REALLY I am a writer and let me tell you about this great story I’m writing.”   A clever magician’s trick, this art of illusion.

Yet, I wonder if it really worked.  I know people enjoy a good story, especially ones with ghosts and murder and Miss Havishams in gothic gowns, but could they see what was really going on as I un-spooled my tale?  Could they see my marriage un-ravelling?  Could they see this heavy black cloak of depression I dragged elegantly through my life?  Could they see loneliness? Could they see through the disguise, and spot the woman trying too hard to convince herself and that yes! she had it all together and that yes, she was happy.

Perhaps.

What happens when you set down your shield, take off your armor, and try to remain still, while involuntarily trembling, like an ugly oyster broken open, not for just 1 day, or 1 week, but for 1 whole year?  What happens then to your tender underbelly?

I imagine the sun shrivels and scars what flesh remains, that pieces of you may be picked at and torn by ravenous scavengers, that perhaps you risk even dying.

And I am afraid of that.

So tell me, Friend and Reader, are you still there?  Tell me that this risk is worth taking.

For in truth, I can not see the point of walking away from that which has called me.
I cannot see the point in standing, as just myself, before you.   I don’t know where I am going with this, and I can not see the path ahead.

Moon Bear Dancing with Breeze – a legend

A long, long, day ago, there lived a girl and her name was Breeze.

Her hair had been of longest deepest black, though strangely marked with a lightening streak of white, which was especially strange for one so young. Her hair frightened those in the village and they laughed and shunned her, shaming her family and the girl herself.

One sad day, Breeze ran to the stream that raced with silver fish and she made a fatal wish.  She wished herself to be the same as everyone else, so that her family would not suffer the shame of her striking difference.  She cupped the water in her hands, drinking its mystery and hoping the spirits could hear her plea.

But instead the stream’s water had been poison, and the girl now slept in a room painted scarlet, smokey with scent of burnt hickory and sage.  Thin, tinny music was playing from a harp that lay on the lap of her mother’s only sister, who worried and rocked in her chair, while the girl’s mother wailed in sorrow.

Breeze was feverish. Her arms pale as tusks of elephant, yet limp and frail.  Her black hair was damp and brushed back from her forehead, it streak of whiteness hidden by a wet cloth, which an old woman, whom the family did not know, had placed there.  The damp cloth smelled of lemons, which made Breeze smile in her dreams, which were often

The old woman held a cup of steaming tea up to the girl’s mouth  and the girl’s father lifted her body up so that the tea could be swallowed.  The tea tasted like fish and cucumber peels in the garden, and rocks and rain.  Yet the girl drank the tea and the old woman left, her slippers rushing softly across the floor like a scratchy dance,

The girl slipped back into dreams and in her dreams, she traveled above oceans and mountains and lands she’d never seen until she stood before a wood with a shadowy path that led to a stone building painted white, where she could hear sad and scary sounds, cries of something she feared to look at.

Yet her heart carried her toward the place and she walked inside bravely.
The cages were black iron, as black as Breeze’s hair, and so small that the creatures inside them, with their great paws and claws like thorns could not turn to see her.  Yet, she could see there were many of these cages, all filled with fur, lined up in rows that seemed to stretch further than her sight could reach.

There was no one watching.  There was no one listening.

Breeze wondered what it was she could do, a sickly girl, with shameful hair.  And she could think of nothing so she turned away, looking downward, in shame, at the dirt floor. She kicked the dry dirt, angrily, so it made clouds as she walked.. Yet her shoe touched something hard and bright – a silver key hidden shallowly beneath the gravelly dust.   She picked up the key and tried the lock on the first cage.  It opened, yet the creature inside did not stir.

Breeze stepped back and waited and hoped.  And slowly, fearfully, the creature made its way out of the cage, onto the floor and crawled out on all four paws to the door.  The great creature turned, its brown eyes questioning and looking right at Breeze, beckoning her to follow.

Breeze could see now that the creature was a black bear  and even though everything inside her said, “do not follow”, she followed.

The bear led her forward, pulling her through shadowy woods, and toward a great and silvery stream, one that reminded her of the stream at home, the one in which she’d made her fatal wish.  She watched the bear lumber into the water and stand up, dipping his paws into troves of fish, that danced like rainbows, yet, none of the fish were hurt, despite the bear’s claws which looked to the girl like black thorns.

The bear having finished his play shakes dry and begins a long walk by the stream of racing fish, alongside trees as tall as mountains.  He walks for many days and the girl follows.

At last, they come to a thicket of young trees with berries, that sheltered a space littered with dry leaves, stones, and felled logs. There is snow in places too, even though the girl is not cold.  She sits on a rock and waits.  Bear after bear emerge from shadows,  They seem to dance all around her, first on all fours, then tall on just two,  Their fur is as black and soft as midnight, with creases of white, like fingernail moons or sometimes hearts.  It was as though the gods themselves had painted the bears that way, so that Breeze would recognize them as her own and call them beautiful.

After much time passes, the bear that had led her all this way stands giant before her, yet, Breeze is unafraid.  He crouches down and lays his head upon her tiny lap, which also does not frighten her,  Instead she cradles the bear’s mighty head, stroking its fur, and sings a lullaby from some long ago and forgotten time.

Together they sleep – Breeze and her Moon Bear – dreaming each other’s dreams without fear,without suffering.

===============================================================================================

Author’s note:  With deepest gratitude to Jeffrey Davis & Tracking Wonder (http://trackingwonder.com), #Quest2015, and most of all, to Shaman Lora Jansen (http://www.onetribeonly.com/).  The plight of Moon Bears and the farming of their bile in Asia has haunted me since reading a reflection piece, which Lora published recently.  I offer this imperfect piece of writing to those who are working to heal Moon Bears, and to change the economic conditions that continue to make this practice profitable.  To learn more, see https://www.animalsasia.org/us/our-work/end-bear-bile-farming/

In addition, I dedicate this piece to the family of Breeze.  Breeze was a beloved Bearded Collie, with whom Lora worked with as a shaman – in the end, she guided his spirit as he passed in December 2014.  My heart sees Breeze’s spirit still dancing, still shepherding, guiding those who are frightened, gently to safety.   May all be healed,

“You deserve someone just like me, but without the [shadow] baggage”

redscarf2“Nice is a knife,” says Visionary Leader Eric Klein on #Quest2015. It’s a knife you use to cut off parts of your self . . .  It’s how we adapt, fit in, survive. . . The dismembered parts don’t disappear. They go into, what Robert Bly, evoking the work of C.G. Jung, called the “shadow bag”. 

If “nice is a knife”, I am a bloody dagger.  And my shadow bag is as ripe as the hopeless Kenmore refrigerator downstairs in the kitchen with its broken ice maker and its crusted over pesto jars and beheaded month-old cabbage from some fall farm share box . . . my shadow bag is a rich compost-to-be.

Opening it, I see:

– Secrets swallowed whole, like mice, still breathing and struggling.

– Him seething fire, this silver dragon I loved.  Hate in his eyes, pounding walls, throwing clothes down the stairs Get out! tossing them out on the lawn.

– The red silk scarf I chose
to strangle myself
to remain so beautifully silent
pulled tight with double knot
ends pushed in mouth, wet and suffocating.

(i’m sorry. i’m sorry. i’m sorry. i’m sorry. i’m sorry. i’m sorry. i’m sorry.)

Eric Klein asks:  How will you face your shadow bag and stop the stink, so you can bring forth what is best within you in 2015? What can you claim right now?  I am going to gather some wet leaves from outside the shed, and place them in that damn awful bag and I’m going to grab a pitchfork and plunge it in, and toss it all together, add some water and then, I’m spreading it all out in the backyard for everyone to see.

And then, oh yes! There will be flowers again.

What do I claim right now?  My voice.  I cut it free.

– See more at: http://trackingwonder.com/quest-2015/community/#sthash.XAcFckKL.dpuf

The founder of the Wisdom Heart School and a longtime internationally respected spiritual teacher, Eric Klein has been a pioneering voice in bringing more spirit, meaning, and authenticity into the workplace. He’s worked with over 20,000 leaders from Fortune 500 companies, healthcare, governmental and non-profit organizations as well as mid-size companies. He’s author of the bestselling book Awakening Corporate Soul: Four Paths to Unleash the Power of People at Work, To Do or Not to Do: How Successful Leaders Make Better Decisions, and You are the Leader You’ve Been Waiting For (a 2008 Nautilus Award-winner as a world-changing book in the conscious leadership/business category). His online meditation program The Meditation Habit is used by corporations and individuals globally. (Twitter: @EricKlein)