Acknowledging what is true and real

picture of sadness and bing bong from disney pixar's inside out movie
Sadness and Bing Bong. From Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out.

I’ve been thinking about this scene from Inside Out a lot recently. Thinking about it, referencing it, calling it to mind. If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it. If you can, find it and go see it (but, in the meantime, here’s the scene the picture is from).

Anyway, what’s so powerful about this scene is how what Bing Bong needed the most in that moment – when he was feeling like crap – was to simply be seen for who he is. Not be made to feel better (which Joy tries so hard to do), but to have someone sit with him and hear what he’s experiencing. I’ve been thinking about ways I try to be Joy in the hard moments, trying to change, make happy… and how that blocks the ability to feel through whatever is going on. But, if I can sit with something, sometimes acknowledging it goes a long way.

Yet, how often is this what is highlighted and encouraged in our society as a whole? Perhaps that’s part of the message of the Black Lives Matter movement; I also believe it stretches way beyond that, too. Because we want to be heard. We want to be seen, for who we are. But, others try to change us; hell, we try to change ourselvs and not acknowledge what’s really hurting us (to ourselves or anyone else). But when our own experience, our reality is truly seen? Acknowledged? There is power in that. For me, it’s the power of storytelling and story-listening.

Brené Brown has a great (very short) video about empathy which speaks to the power of being with another person in real ways, letting them experience their experience and not try to change it.

One of the things that I have seen (and heard) from my clients over and over in the past year I’ve been practicing is that there is something unique about my group because I listen to them, I treat them like people. What would you own experience of living be like, if you were heard, affirmed for what is, and acknowledged? How might you sit with others (or yourself, to begin with) and acknowledge what is, in this moment? Can you breathe into it, allow it, even for a brief moment?

“Feelings that don’t sit comfortably inside the communal” (Claudia Rankine)

subject line from Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

I have been silent. In part, this has been due to fear of saying the wrong thing, of thinking if I stay silent, if I stay small, I cannot get into trouble.

SIlence does not make the wrongs right, though.

Instead, it makes me complict in the acts of violence, because it means I do not bear witness, I do not use my privilege as someone who passes through life perceived as a heterosexual white woman to speak truth about injustice, to speak truth into the silence.

My silence, your silence, our silence creates an atmosphere where no one can breathe, where we glare at one another in mistrust, in hate, in fear.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday something along the lines of, “I could be the next hashtag;” another wrote about times being in the same situation where others have now found themselves shot to death.

And it’s been a year and a half since I responded to the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, and nothing has changed. Nothing has fucking changed. And, if I’m really honest, it’s not just in a year and a half.

Less than a week ago, we were “celebrating” freedom in the United States, freedom from the tyranny of one particular system, not recognizing that we have created another system which has perpetuated violence and hate and division. It is a ghost legacy that haunts the rivers and the land. It is the bone structure on which the skin and make-up of “the American Dream” have been placed.

Yes, there is opportunity, yet I do not believe it is fully available to all. What is available and how far it will take you depends on your race, your class, your sexuality, your (dis)ability status, your sobriety status, your legal status (both in terms of legal issues and immigration status).

We must be able to criticize the way things are so that we can make them better. We need spaces where real dialgoue can occur; right now, everything is about being right, rather than listening. This is a different kind of silence, where I wan tto learn what I can – not because it is expected or because I don’t want to speak the wrong words. Rather, it is about recognizing the value in others’ words.

And there are fantastic resources being posted on social media (I know some pretty awesome people already doing this work regularly). Here are a few:

Listen. Keep your heart open. Do not look away from the reality of others’ experiences in this world. I am working on doing the same. Our silence to the ways the systems (and the ways be implicitly and explicitly participate in those systems) humanizes and privileges some people and not others does not help us move forward toward freedom.

When shame and the desire to hide meet #continuouspractice

IMG_6314Yesterday, I was reading at clinical and this sentence stopped me in my tracks.

Alienation is shame on steroids. It is the extreme, unshakeable feeling of being “less than” and unlike normal people. (From It’s not you, it’s what happened to you: Complex trauma and and treatment by Christine Courtois)

It’s something that rattled through me like a freight train, and I was considering throughout the day.

Fast forward to today, when I’m sitting at my kitchen table, staring at my journal. You see, I haven’t done my #continuouspractice writing in over a week… and I felt shame up to my eyeballs. Questions about my self-worth, my ability to do this (and it’s interesting to note how quickly the “this” spirals out to include everything in my life, not just practice), about posting on Instagram and having to acknowledge that I hadn’t been writing… I nearly set my journal in the pile of stuff next to me and start doing my homework. Why continue? You’ve already messed up, it’s been more than just one missed day. It’s NINE! You’ve screwed it up.

And I told myself that I didn’t have to write, but that I missed it. That I could do 20 minutes then start work. And so, I did. And in the space of writing practice, I realized that this throw-my-hands-up-and-run-away response is not unfamiliar; nor is the stream of put-downs about that response. It was a wake up call how quickly shame responses lead me to alienate, to pull away and pull back. To make myself invisible, as though that will make the shame go away.

Usually? It doesn’t. It just becomes a ghost that haunts me, about why I can’t do something (anything), and it freezes me in my tracks.

In practice, I reminded myself I have a choice. I don’t have to continue doing #continuouspractice. I can continue. I can start back at day one or keep going from where I was. I can choose to hide. I can choose to be honest about these feelings or I can shut down and try to ignore them. There are many ways to go. I have the power choose.

So today, I chose to show up to myself and my practice. To show self-compassion {yeah, it’s been busy and you haven’t made time to do this} and accountability {don’t run away from this, even if it seems “easier” right now – show up}, recognizing self-compassion and accountability are not mutually exclusive.

I can choose to hold both.

#continuouspractice – A month and a half in {with a message}

20150124_135956000_iOSAs I mentioned last time I wrote, I’m participating in #continuouspractice with Saundra Goldman this year. Today was day 46 (of 365), and I thought I’d check in briefly.

The top question I’ve been asked is where I get my prompts. I’ve kept a writing prompt notebook for the past 8-9 years, collecting lines and phrases from others’ writings, books, poetry, songs… any turn of phrase that captures my attention at the time. Natalie Goldberg has suggested keeping a running list in the back of your journal, as a way to jump start your brain/writing any time you need it.

I’ve also been noting how interesting it is to show up for the exact same practice – just about every day (I’ve missed two days so far) – to see how it is that *I* change through the course of practice. How these twenty minutes sometimes are a fight, sometimes a wide open space to see where my brain is. Sometimes, it’s fiction; sometimes, it’s the past; sometimes, it’s the future. Always, it’s something that needs to pour through me.

Today, I went for a self-date to Barnes and Noble. I had already done my writing practice, but I wanted to work on a draft of a blog post for a friend’s blog. And I wrote. It was a stop-start beginning, but I started just writing, getting out of my own way. And, toward the end? Toward the end, it felt like words were pouring through me. They were not of me – but they came through me. I needed to hear some of it; perhaps someone else out there does, too?

Voices rising into a song of truth, fire and ice, burning away the unnecessary, freezing the stereotypes that we might join in collective smashing – burn it all down, forget whatever they say is “normal” and acceptable, allow truth to reside in your heart, show up for yourself, let the transmissions flow through, don’t shut your voice down, know there is possibility in it all.

You don’t need to center your chakras, or keep calm, or listen to everyone else’s voices to hear your own. You need to write that story, you need to tell your truth, show up for what matters. Allow it all to spill on the page, with abandon, without caution. Let yourself simmer in the truth, let yourself see what is truly there, and then release it. Do not hold too tightly, because none of this is yours. This is all truth. Find your way home. Know you’re home now. Know your truth is valuable, necessary, rich. Show up. Show up. Show up. Allow yourself the chance to heal, because you are worth it.

In deepest gratitude for this gift.

Beginning again, again: Revisiting Visible and Real

mindmapI’ve been thinking about this space a lot recently (I’m seem to say that a lot). I’ve been thinking about what to do, whether to stop writing here, or what’s keeping me from that process.

One evening, while I was driving, I wondered what my connection to “visible and real” is, and why I couldn’t either jump in or let go. Thoughts and ideas poured through my head. Once I was parked, I started mind-mapping it out, with my journal draped across the steering wheel.

Clearly… there is connection and thoughts.

And then, a friend on Instagram asked about using visibleandreal as a hashtag, but knowing that I have a connection to that (it’s also my user name over there)… I again got to thinking about what it is this space means to me, and how the connection she has to the phrase is in the same spirit as why I started this blog and this adventure.

There have been a lot of reasons I’ve held back. Lots of wondering what others would think if I changed things (yet again) on the blog; what does it mean that I had such a hard time rallying people in the very beginning (so much so I couldn’t give away spots); why should I even try?

And yet… I’ve been participating with Saundra Goldman in her #continuouspractice invitation the past 26 days (only missing one day so far), and being able to get a little bit of space in my head to really sit with all of this (and everything else that comes up) has been really helpful. I’m able to acknowledge the brain weasels, as one of my friends calls them, without getting as wrapped up in them.

I have to remember I don’t have to do everything, all at once. This transition – this newness – can come as it feels appropriate. That I don’t have to restructure everything, or post every day, or or or. Those are ideas, they aren’t required. They are simply ideas.

I have a choice in how to proceed. I can do it on my own terms, at my own pace. There is freedom in knowing (and practicing) that.

* Also, Saundra has done a follow up on four reasons #continuouspractice is helpful and you can start now.

Honoring process and product

In some ways, I see the irony of this post as a “milestone” post (number 300!), when I struggle so very much with the process of this blog. The negative self-messages of what a “horrible” blogger I am, because I am not posting new content all of the time. Yet, I also work to make sure I have something to say before posting.

20141210_183839000_iOSOver the past week and a half, I’ve been working on what is my last master’s paper for my program. It’s a doozy, really. It’s essentially the culmination of the last three years of learning, formation, and experience, wrapped up in a metaphor. This is the earliest I’ve ever started a paper, honestly. But, I knew that it was important and would take thinking, integration, and lots of edits.

I’ve been doing most of the work on my computer, because it was to be 12-15 pages and while I type quickly, I didn’t want to get to the end and be typing frantically and have lots of typos. Plus, I tend to do most of my academic work on the computer. It’s a different way of thinking for me.

Anyway, fast forward to this morning, 7:00 AM. I chose to sleep last night instead of pushing through like I had the night before. I still had anywhere from 2-5 pages to write, and then the editing to do. And yet, unlike most times, I felt a sense of calm about it.

This is my process.

ImageThis is what I do most of the time. It’s the eleventh hour (or pretty damn close), I’m not quite done, and there are books scattered around me, cups of water and coffee, piles of paper, and a hundred PDFs open on my iPad. It looks like chaos, sometimes feels like it, too. And yet… this morning, I trusted myself to print it up, get out my favorite blue ballpoint pen, and start scratching all over it. You’ll get to page count. You’ll know when it’s done. I start working, get up to stretch. Stop for a moment, think. Get up and grab a book from the piles on my desk. Start back with my blue pen.

I set an alarm for an hour and a half before it was due, just in case editing wasn’t done. I finished half an hour before that, giving me two full hours to do electronic edits and final reference touch-ups. And, with an hour to spare, I hit send and had a visceral experience of that pause just after the out breath and before the inhale.

This is my process.

When I stop fighting what it has to look like and instead honor what really is my own way of getting things done, there is less pressure and less anxiety. There is not the same welling up of OH MY GOD IT’S DUE IN TWO HOURS AND I’M NOT DONE YET!!! I’ve lived in that space most of my academic life, scrambling to finish. I often thought of it as procrastination and being a horrible student. While there is some of the former in there, this time I didn’t judge it. I just knew to start earlier so I had more going into the final push. That noodling around is just as much a part of the process as the scribbling with blue ballpoint pen.

When I stop fighting what I think it should look like, I can look around and laugh at myself in this crazy process. I can prepare what I need to beforehand, rather than frantically looking for my resources or having to pull together my reference page. (Which, really? Often takes a super long time.)

What would owning your process mean for you? What would letting go of what that process “should” be look like for you?

#blacklivesmatter – One voice’s response



I’m supposed to be working on a paper that’s due tomorrow morning. It’s 45 minutes since the grand jury non-indictment of Darren Wilson. There’s a part of me that keeps thinking I shouldn’t write about this; what do I know? How could I possibly capture in words when I have been privileged for so much of my life, passing so easily for pure, 100% white?

And yet, that’s exactly why I have to say something. Because that perceived status, that perceived idea of who/what I am comes with responsibility to recognize that power and acknowledge a system that has felt broken for a very very long time. This is just one more instance.

Tonight, I am broken open. For aching hearts, for voices unheard for so long, for deep deep divisions that will, as one of my friends online said, rip this country apart. (If it hasn’t already.) I am broken open for the lives that seem to not matter, for people who believe the stereotypes they see as though somehow that is ALL there is to a certain group of people.

What breaks me open most, though, I think, is how I keep thinking that somehow, America, we’re going to wake the fuck up and treat people with dignity – all people not just people who look like us. And yet, every time that bubble is popped, I am shocked. I am broken open.

May I continue to be broken open until all people matter. Because it’s not fair to value some lives over others. Where all have what they need in this life to move beyond surviving – voices heard, lives valued, able to share the gifts and talents blessed with. Because while privilege remains unnamed, there are consequences that ripple deeply.

I want to believe in better. In this moment, I have no more words… rather, I choose to breathe in peace. I choose to breathe out peace.

I will continue to hope and search myself for ways to honor all lives, all voices, and hold the light of hope in the midst of such ugliness and hatred.

It’s what I have tonight; and I know, on so many levels, that’s not enough. Yet, I’d rather show up, ineloquent and broken open, than stay silent.