************************************Denial covers the pain of the past * A blanket over the world * Lift a corner * Don't be afraid * Your life awaits you*************************************

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Labyrinth Meditation

I’m always looking for new experiences. So when I read this description of an upcoming event in the area, how could I resist?

This month's meditation will be a special summer edition, a Labyrinth meditation, which will be held outdoors.

For centuries, labyrinths have held great spiritual significance. Labyrinth patterns have been found on pottery and clay tablets dating back 4,000 years. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Spaniards, Native Americans, Vietnamese, and South Americans have used labyrinths for thousands of years to draw closer to the divine. During the Crusades, Christians walked the labyrinth to simulate the journey to Jerusalem, in Native American culture, the labyrinth is called the Medicine Wheel, and the Celts described it as the Never Ending Circle. In mystical Judaism, or Kabbalah, The Tree of Life has been likened to the labyrinth.

The labyrinth has been called a metaphor of life’s journey.
This sounded too interesting an opportunity to miss. I had seen something about labyrinth use in Native American traditions. The labyrinth patterns have been found on artifacts all over the world – including in the Americas and Australia. It has been hypothesized that Native Americans arrived on this continent between the time dogs were domesticated (at least eleven thousand years ago) and the time horses were domesticated (less than six thousand years ago). This theory is based on the fact that there were domestic dogs in the Americas, but there were no horses until the Europeans brought them here.

If, as the similarities suggest,the labyrinth idea was carried by the earliest settlers of these continents, then it must date back close to six thousand years. That is fascinating to me.

It was a beautiful July evening. My kids and husband had plans for the evening, leaving me free to check out this labyrinth meditation. The Unity Church where this was being held was over thirty miles from where I live, so I got myself together early, anticipating rush-hour traffic. After a drive which was free of anything one might associate with rush hour, I arrived at my destination a half hour early.

My usually internal chaos began to fight with reality, bringing some panic as I approached the church. I often feel like an outsider in places of worship. Knowing that is a learned response doesn’t make the feelings go away.

Once inside, I could see the Labyrinth through the large windows on the other side of the building. Someone had set it up using stakes (sticking out of the ground about six inches) and what looked like orange tape. I wished I’d brought a camera. I was instantly intrigued by the pattern of orange on the summer-green grass.

Will we stand around it?
Will we walk inside it?

This is the pattern used for the labyrinth.

This pattern is called the Chakravyuha. According to the Mahābhārata, (one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India) It is supposed to look like a blooming lotus flower. The story and this particular labyrinth pattern is thought to date back to about 400 BC.
While I was researching labyrinths in order to write this review, this morning, I came across these paragraphs:

When walking through a labyrinth, your body tends to turn back and forth - first you're moving right, next you're going to the left, with a 180 degree turn each time. This causes you to shift your awareness from the right side of the brain to the left, and then back again. It is believed that this is one of the reasons why a labyrinth walk can induce varied states of consciousness.

Consider for a moment what problems -- either physical, spiritual, external, or emotional -- you would like to find a resolution for at this time. As you walk towards the center, you will begin working out solutions for your problem.
You can read the rest of this article here

This sounded so much like what I do in the DNMS sessions with C that I have to wonder how much of a role the left/right shift actually played in my euphoric feeling last night.

For a Wednesday night, the Unity Church seemed pretty busy. People were talking in the hall, while others were carrying guitars and other instruments. A book store was open and several people were milling about. I asked if anyone knew what was going on with the labyrinth meditation, but those I spoke with said only, “Well, there is a labyrinth in the garden… they built it this afternoon.”

Standing around there I was beginning to feel very out of place. I was refusing to let myself give into panic, but I was considering the options.

My car is only a few steps out the door.

At around seven fifteen a group of women, all with a purposeful gate and friendly demeanor, came through the doors. I asked them if they knew about the labyrinth meditation.

They did. They welcomed me warmly and invited me to join them outside, to wait near the labyrinth. I began to feel much calmer.

One woman was wearing an ID around her neck, which said “Chaplain”. I am so ignorant of terms like this that I really am still not certain what that means, but I gathered that she was somehow connected to the church. As we all sat outside on a patio and waited for the festivities to begin, we introduced ourselves.

The topic of religion and spirituality was a natural at an event like this. It was quite obvious they all knew each other, but they did their best to make me feel included. They asked me what had brought me to this event. I told them I'd found the announcement online, that it sounded interesting, that I hadn’t been raised in any faith, but I have been looking into all the possibilities, recently. I mentioned my fascination with Shamanism, and said I had been to the Unitarian Universalist church a few times.

The Chaplain said I should come by on a Sunday.

She said it calmly, with a friendly, relaxed face, but I was wary of being coerced. A memory from my childhood flashed in my mind.

I had accompanied my grandparents and my great aunt to a Southern Baptist church when I was around ten years old. There wer people walking up to the front, in tears, and I was not at all certain what was going on. In all honesty, I'm still not clear what this was about. I was already kind of afraid, seeing these adults crying as they approached the altar. Then, my great aunt turned to me and asked if I ever felt lost.

I had no idea what she meant by this and I knew I didn't have time to figure it out, then. It was obvious to me that the wrong answer to this question was going to lead to me having to walk up that aisle in tears, just as I'd seen these adults do. My grandmother, who was standing on the other side of me put an arm around me and pulled me to her, while she chastised her sister.

I have not thought of that in so many years, but right now I can almost feel that protective arm around me.
I told the Chaplain that this was a long way from my house, and then changed the subject as quickly as I could. I asked if the Unity Church is like the Unitarian Universalist Church - since this is the only church I've attended in recent history.

The answer was no, and then was softened to, “not really.”

There was an awkward pause. Choosing her words carefully, the Chaplain told me that while the Unity Church did follow the teachings of Christ, they did not acknowledge his divinity. I wish I could remember exactly how she said it; what you are reading here is only my interpretation.

It’s interesting to me that I may have, in my wanderings, stumbled onto the only two “churches” that do not consider Christ to be the one and only savior. Of course, I don't really know this, but I can tell you that there are a lot of people in the Baptist church I occasionally attended as a child with one grandmother, and the catholic church I occasionally attended with my other grandmother, who would not be very receptive to this concept.

I had the sense that there was tension among all the women around me as they waited for my response.

I said, “So you think of Christ more as a prophet.”

Someone repeated the word Prophet, and there seemed to be a silent sigh of relief all around me as the Chaplain smiled and nodded.

By seven thirty there were around twenty people outside on the little patio. A woman came out and told us that we were meeting inside, first, and we all filed into the hall and then into a lovely chapel. I can’t tell you what it was, exactly – the bright light coming in, the soft meditation music, the air which seemed to be slightly perfumed with yesterday’s candles or incense – but something made me feel very comfortable.

A man went to the front of the room to join the woman who had called us all inside. I had a strong sense that I’d seen him before, but I couldn’t place where it was. When everyone was seated, he asked that we, one at a time, say our name and then one word of “intention”. I listened as others said their names, but was really focused on the word that followed. I loved what I was hearing – peace, wisdom, stillness, courage, harmony, understanding, strength, and all were said with conviction.

I had a dozen words swirling in my head, from which I would have to choose just one. I felt a renewed need to let go of some things that had been dragging me down all week. Letting-go was really what I wanted to say, but it was two words and – me being me – I had taken the instructions very literally. The word I chose was “Release.”

Next, they explained what was going to happen. We were going to do a group meditation in the room, then they would signal us to go outside about five at a time. Once outside, we would walk the labyrinth, in silent contemplation. While we would all be in the labyrinth at the same time, it would be easier to navigate if we were spaced out a bit.

A labyrinth has only one entrance, which is also the exit. It was suggested that we take a moment to think about our word of intention before stepping inside the labyrinth. We would follow the path, which would lead us eventually into the center, and then take a moment of contemplation before turning around and heading back out. At times there would be people going both ways on the three-foot-wide paths. When we had completed the labyrinth, we were to come back inside for a closing meditation.

It sounded simple enough. I admit, there was a moment when I wondered if this was really going to be worth the forty-minute drive.

It was.

There are some experiences one can hear about and get a pretty good understanding. I am going to do my best to share this with you, but there really was something about physically walking the path that brought home fundamental truths I’ve been trying to solidify in my mind for some time.

The music was turned up just a little.
Words of meditation were spoken in a soft but deliberate tone.
I closed my eyes and put my hands, palms up, on my knees.
I went pretty deep with my meditation, almost forgetting where I was. Sometimes this seems very easy for me, and this was one of those times.
I was a little surprised by a tap on the shoulder. The man said my name, which surprised me as well. He remembered my name. He signaled that I should move outside.
I walked through the door and saw shoes lying here and there and I know I smiled. The idea of feeling the grass under my feet seemed exactly right. I kicked off my sandals and approached the entrance to the labyrinth feeling a connection to the solidness of the ground beneath me.


The energy was really strong as I passed the threshold. I put my foot down inside and then took another step and from that point on each time I placed my foot on the ground it was with intention.

Once or twice, I worried if my pace was all right. I wasn’t gaining on the woman in front of me, but I wondered how close the man behind me was. I admit I stepped outside my meditative state long enough to check on that as I rounded the first bend.

While the initial turns took me towards the center, the path then began to lead back towards the outer edge. I think that is when I had my first feeling of excitement. Suddenly, I understood the connection between the labyrinth and life. There seemed to be a real correlation between the path I was walking on that summer grass and the one I had been traveling since my birth.
Each step I took made this feeling more clear.

I am on my own path.
There are people traveling in the same direction as I am, but we each have to walk the path in our space, at our pace.
I see people who seem to be going the wrong direction, but I know now that in reality they are only a little ways back or further along on the journey.
I could try to step off the path, to push my way onto another lane and continue in another direction – but in reality it would not take me anywhere except where I am meant to go, anyway.
I will be led to the center and then there will be nowhere to go but back out.
We all begin and end in the same place.
We all follow our own path.
We all walk together and alone.
We must make room for others to pass us at times, stepping aside while still continuing on our own journey.
In the end, we will all reach the same destination.

I saw the first person step out of the labyrinth and I thought of my mother, so much nearer the end than I am. I felt such sadness for her, in that moment – not because her journey is closer to over, but because of how narrow and dark her path has been. I realized that she could not have been or done anything different.

This was her life path, these were her lessons to learn, and it wasn’t about me at all.

I’ve had such anger at my mother for the last few weeks - old anger, ancient in terms of our lives here on this Earth. Suddenly I felt a shift, a softening… and it was so overwhelming I actually teared up.

Back and forth, the labyrinth led me. The energy of others was strong and I felt I must have been exuding energy of my own.

The person in front of me slowed down and I realized we were nearing the center. I stopped briefly before turning onto the last lane that led to a small circle. I took three slow steps, and then a fourth brought me right into the middle of the circle.


All around me people were slowly wandering their paths, seemingly in every direction and yet I knew that they were all really on the same path as I was.

The only path
In and then out
Guided, led, brought to where we need to be

While it may seem as if there are infinite ways to wander, the reality felt so clear to me, right then. We are all heading back to the place where we started. On the way, we will sometimes face the center and other times it will be behind us and hard to find. At times we will find that center and if we look up at that moment we will notice that all around us life is going on as it does, as it must, and then we will turn to be a part of it, again.

We will spend our lives moving in and out
Moving away from birth
And towards death
But always
We are being guided on a path that will lead us where we are meant to be
which is right back where we started.

I felt exhilarated as I made the trip back out. While I followed the path towards the edge, towards the center, towards another edge, I knew that no matter where the path led I would eventually be at the starting place, again.

I was heading back home, to a place I knew, with a journey behind me that was carefully planned and marked off so I would not get lost -- and as planned, I found my way out and paused once more before stepping away from the labyrinth.

I found my shoes.
I walked inside the church and took the same seat I’d had before.
The music was soothing and sweet.
I closed my eyes
People filed in behind me, one by one

The woman who had first told us to come inside at the beginning stood up at the front again. She read a meditation that echoed all the thoughts I’d had as I’d walked through the labyrinth. What she said was so close to what I had experienced and thought, that I knew when I wrote this now it would be hard to do so without saying almost exactly what she was saying.
It gave me so much comfort to hear her speak of being guided, of lives that cross ours briefly and people who walk the path with us, of paths that lead where we are meant to go…

I knew as I listened to her that I was not the only one who had been thinking these thoughts. I imagined the Roman soldier, young, afraid, perhaps about to be sent to a country he’d never heard of, entering the labyrinth. I imagined a young Mayan on a vision quest, wandering between the great mounds that had been created in patterns very much like the labyrinth I’d just been in. I felt a sense of awe that somewhere, someone had realized that walking through a labyrinth, from side to side, to the center and back, would evoke these important spiritual concepts in others, and I wondered at all the people who had found these same truths on the paths of an ancient labyrinth.

On my way out of the church, I stopped to chat for just a moment. I said, “It was awesome,” and felt as if that hardly covered it. One woman looked at me with a glow in her eyes that told me she knew what I was feeling. “Yes, it was,” she said emphatically.

I asked if anyone could take a picture of the labyrinth and email it to me. The man who has spoken at the front of the church – the one I am still certain I’ve seen somewhere before – told me he might have a chance to get a picture from the roof on Saturday, and if he could he would send it to me. If I get that picture, I will post it here as soon as it arrives.

On an impulse, I asked the Chaplain, “What time on Sunday?” I realized as I said the words that I really would like to see what it’s like to be part of the service in this very friendly place. There didn't seem to be any coersion, any strong persuasion that things must be done their way, and that made me feel much more comfortable with the idea of listening to what they had to say.

She said, “Nine and eleven – eleven is livelier.”

I said, “I’m likely to be livelier at eleven, as well.”

They thanked me for coming and I thanked them for having me.

I needed this last night. I really needed to find this connection to my higher power, to feel it and know it like this. This morning I have a sense of the path I am following, and I’m so glad my path led me to a labyrinth outside a welcoming church on a warm July night.


Sponsored Link:
Paul at Mindparts has posted the Expressive Arts Carnival


Friday, July 16, 2010

Shadow Work

I found a link to this video on another site, and it stemmed a conversation that brought me to some clarity on a few things. The video is about "Shadow Work". To me, it seems like another name for "Inner Child Work." I think some people have a hard time with accepting the concept of the inner child and so they need to have things presented in a different way and Debbie Ford, the woman in the video, does seem to have another viable way to get to the root of an issue many abuse survivors are dealing with.

This video is only a sample exercise - one of many from what I gather. First, Ms. Ford asks, what do you like most about yourself? What one quality do you hold above all others? About five minutes or so into the seven minute video, Ms Ford asks what the opposite of that quality is. Then she goes on to talk about how this opposite quality is the one that is going to turn up in relationship after relationship.

The woman who posted the video link on the other site said she did not understand why this is so. I believe I do understand it, now, but a few years ago, I might not have.

Before I put up my explanation, I want to post portions of what someone else responded. This response comes from a friend of mine, someone I truly admire, a woman named Ilene Wolf. She is an activist, working to help victims of abuse. She is the founder "HEAL" (Healing Emotionally Abused Lives),  
"The is the dynamic of polarity. Pretty much, everything exists on a spectrum. Either end of the spectrum is generally less stable than the middle of the spectrum. Picture a see-saw, and you'll understand that the middle, of course, is the balance point. Either end of the see-saw flies up and down. If you're seated on the balance point, you stay in one place, while the riders seated on either end are getting a verticle ride from the ground to the sky."
This is a great visual. Think about this. If you are on one end of a sea-saw, the person on the other end holds your fate in their hands. Where is your focus going to be?

"... whatever we focus on, whatever we invest our energy on will materialize and increase. If we invest our energy on something we fear, then that point of focus will materialize and increase."
This is really the crux of the matter, and she says it very well. If you want to see the rest of this post, you can find it at Ilene's website at CareCircle.

I wrote most of the following on that other post, and then realized I really wanted to put it up here, too:

I believe my entire adult life, before I began therapy, was spent on one end of the spectrum. My father made my life miserable. To the child I was, this meant everything about him is bad. Black/white thinking is common in abused children.

My mother would sometimes tell me, "you're just like your father." She did this because she was frustrated with my behavior - not because I really was like him - but I didn't know that at the time. I had no power and could not be like he was, as a child, but this increased the intensity of my desire to not be like him.

It became my biggest fear - that I might be like my father - so I did my best to do everything exactly opposite of how he would do it. This means at least two things that I didn't understand going in:

1) In order to do the opposite of what my father is likely to do, I had to know what he would do. The only way to do that was to study him, constantly. While I wanted to stay clear of him and avoid him as much as I could, I was also obsessed with knowing what he would or wouldn't do because it seemed like the most important thing in the world not to be like him. For most of my life I knew him better than I knew myself - and possibly that is still true. I've had half-a-century of study on the subject of "him".

So the first thing this scenario brings is a kind of obsession with the abuser.
The very things that I did not like about him were keeping me connected to him.

2) My only motivation in most of the decisions I made was to do the opposite of what he would do - therefore I never asked myself "what do I want?" I truly had no idea what I wanted, other than not to be like him. Every choice I made was based on my father because all I wanted to do was not what he did - so even though I did a great job of not being like him, I still was not being myself.

Again, this is keeping me connected to him. For many abused children this connection goes on throughout their lives, even after the death of the abuser!

Another thing that comes out of abuse by a parent is the child’s needs not being met - and so there is a constant craving for the attention and love that is not being given. (I believe this part of the abuse dynamic is the focus of a lot of Inner Child work - and it has been the most helpful part of my work, I believe. Even so, the other dynamic - which I really began to understand through CoDA - is also important.) While I continued to hate and fear my father in many ways, I also needed him, and this set up a very difficult dynamic for a child to be in. I was pulled towards him by need and by this obsession and that made it impossible to see the world in any way except as he would - almost through his eyes.

There were times when I did things that I knew would make him happy - not on purpose, but because they seemed to just present themselves in my life. For instance, the man I married was “a good catch” in my father’s opinion. Inside I have always had this angry child jumping up and down whenever my father would say something nice about my husband. In fact, my father has always liked my husband more than me. That is not a childish outburst, it is a fact. It hurt so much that there are times when I have taken it out on my husband – and then another part of me reacts painfully to that, knowing I am really reacting to my father, which makes me furious!

So, even when I have been the “good girl”, it has made me miserable.

Through therapy and CoDA, I have come to a place where I know myself better than I ever have in the past. When I truly know I am doing something because I want to, I get a giddy feeling inside that is very child-like and wonderful.

So - I was not surprised to hear that the opposite quality from the one we most admire is likely to be the biggest influence in life, in the video. I understand that has been my driving force.

People often speak of life lessons. The idea is that we are here to learn certain lessons and that the lesson will be presented again and again until we get it.

I take that a step further in my own beliefs. I think the awful things that happen to us are necessary to show us what that lesson is. The kind of obsession I spoke of above comes from the abuse, so without it I would never have been aware as I am now. The "lesson" could have been thrown at me a hundred times as an adult and I might never have noticed it if I wasn't already so sensitive to it because of my past.

The middle ground Ilene speaks of is exactly what I've been aiming for. In this place I would no longer react to people who I felt were not giving me what I needed because I would have what I needed, inside me. I would be able to look at both ends of the spectrum and find that center - and the center is ME. In that place, I could tell someone when I’m angry or hurt without being abusive or aggressive, and I could enjoy everything that is truly me without worrying if it is making me like someone else.
And - in this place my focus would no longer be at the other end of the sea-saw. It’s a hard place to find, but to me it’s worth the search.



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Awakening Child

Have you imagined it?
I have.
I suppose it’s become a kind of a legend. We’ve all heard the stories, although I’d be surprised if I ever met anyone who actually knew someone this happened to. It’s terrifying in a primeval way that I don’t really understand, and that is exactly the kind of thing that legends are made of.

I am speaking of the long term coma victim who finally awakens after decades have gone by, and finds the world to be a different place.

Imagine for a moment, you have fallen asleep at age twelve and then you wake up to find you are more than fifty years old.

This is what I am feeling, inside, at this moment. For several weeks a part of me has been gradually regaining consciousness. Although, throughout my life, she has sometimes stepped up when she was needed, for her it has been as if in a dream. While she was able to be the face of anger inside me, the protector who would go to any length to make sure I am safe, she has remained a twelve-year-old child...
And at the same time, she has never been a child.

What do I say to this twelve-year-old who has missed so much? How can I comfort her? How can I get her to a place where she can accept that she is now not only an adult, but an aging one whose has children who are mostly grown and a thirty-plus-year relationship with a man who is over fifty, as well?

The twelve-year-old began to show herself at the Soul Retrieval, but she was only testing the waters. She stepped forward and spoke to the Rainbow Lady of things we had already talked to our regular therapist about, months earlier. Since then, she has been awake more and more often.

I really was not aware of much the twelve-year-old said to the Rainbow Lady, at the time of the Soul Retrieval.  So I asked her about it in an email. This is part of her reply:

I believe it was during the 3rd soul retrieval process when you were working on the time that your 12-year old stopped playing the piano. The old, false conclusion that you had was that if people found out what you were really like, they would stop liking you, and that "I am not the way I should be." The old limiting behavior that you developed from that was "don't let them know what I'm like, don't share anything." I asked, "How does that hurt you?". You said, "Lots of ways - nobody else shares anything either."
I asked, "How does that behavior hurt others?" You said, "I have something to offer and they don't get it."

I think that you felt these old these old conclusions and behaviors had come from your father (although that specific information is not in my notes.) Does this feel like what you were remembering and asking about?
Reading the words she had put down in quotes was unimaginably fascinating to me. It was like eavesdropping on a conversation between others because I had no memory of having said those things. I know at the end she had me write down all the new beliefs we had established during the session, but some of them were truly new to me as I did not remember having discussed them with her during that session.

That's because in the past, if the twelve-year-old was awake, I was not. Only now am I experiencing a little bit of co-consciousness with the angry adolescent for the first time.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Inner World: Expressive Arts Carnival Submission

Paul at MindParts has been putting together the second Expressive Arts Carnival. For this carnival he gives an art therapy assignment and anyone who chooses to participate can submit their finished artwork to him. You can read about it here.

The short version of the assignment: To create a piece of artwork that portrays an abstract version of my inner world.

I don't do well with abstract. Knowing this, I was worried about doing the project at all, but Paul said not to worry about that aspect of it... just to create an image of my inner world. So, my piece is not abstract - not in the way it would be defined in the art world. What I've done here is a symbolic reflection of what I feel inside using a very concrete "door" metaphor.

Below is my solution, which I entitled "Going Inside."
(click on the image to see it larger)

Each door represents a part of me. Some are strong, some are beautiful, some are faded, some are beat-up and beat-down, some stand wide open while others are barely ajar and still others are solidly closed.

Maybe one day they will all be open. For now, even those that are open all the way expose mostly shadows and darkness. In this drawing, light represents awareness, so the darkness means that even though the door is open, I know I am not totally aware of what lies behind it.

The rainbow door in the front represents the face I show the world. It is the part I would most likely refer to when I say, "Me". It is multi-colored, free-floating, and emits it's own light. It is semi-transparent, letting other doors show through as they need to, but it is also large, strong and closed to represent the boundaries I've been working so hard on for the last couple years. Near the bottom of this door, a piece is missing. This is to represent the way other parts come through, sometimes without the rainbow facade even knowing.

In the back, there is a massive black iron door with large bolts. It is mostly obscured because it wants to be. Behind it are parts of me that remain hidden.

The door in the top center with the green light shining out through it's slitted opening is the one behind which physical and sexual awareness hide. That door is still mostly closed, at best. In times of stress, it slams shut. Stress makes me shut down in a way that leaves me totally unaware of my body sensations. For instance. yesterday I forgot to eat all day. I was not aware of hunger. Only when I began to feel rather faint and head-achy, around seven pm, did I remember that I hadn't eaten. Unfortunately sex is stressful, too.

There are double-doors which represent the two sides some parts seem to have. These seem to be closely associated with emotions like fear, sadness and anger. One of these double-doors might open to handle a situation one way. Other times, the other door might open when a different approach is necessary. Occassionally both doors open at the same time. For the most part, these doors remain closed until needed, and I'm still not certain if it is preferable to have none, one or both open.

There are single doors which represent the simpler sides of me. Specific qualities, assets and talents are behind those doors.

All in all, I'm happy with this representation. I'm glad I put this together because, although it's been in my head for a while, it has clarified some concepts for me to put a picture to the idea.


Today's Link: Blooming Lotus - Children Don't Have the Option of Saying No


Friday, July 9, 2010

Such Wild Wild

I was cleaning out a closet and found a box on a high shelf that held my past. It's a box that's been moved with me from place to place, without my opening it, for decades. 
On the top were love-letters written by my husband more than 30 years ago, ticket stubs for concerts and amusement parks and campgrounds and baseball games. There were birthday cards from long-gone grandparents and notes passed in school from a best friend who has been missing since 1989.

Near the bottom of the box were drawings and poetry I created when I was very young. There were many - far too many to even read, much less post - but I chose a few to put up here and share. Most of the drawings I chose were self-portraits that I either remembered or could identify by a date on the back. I think all the poems are also self-portraits... but then, maybe poetry always is?

Age 12

I had a velvet day
Forever my day smiled
And then you took my day away
And the whole world became wild
Poor child
Poor child
Living in such wild wild

What strikes me about this self-portrait
- dated from just after my twelfth birthday -
 is the cloth she is holding.
It seems like a small portion of what it could be
when it is compared to the large cloth hanging next to her.

Age 13

Like a leafless flower
He reached in for the heart
And took only certain parts
Broken away
He left me only the three selves
And threw out the ones he didn’t like
He forced me to deny three parts
And killed them
In the process
I’ve been murdered
Piece by piece
Self by self
He’s destroyed three important people that hid in me
And they will never be for anyone to see
I’ve lost myself in this death
And I will never be whole
And alive
And all these things I have him to blame for
But still there is no blame
The part of me that blames is gone
With all the other feelings

When I was fourteen, I had a hard time seeing myself in the mirror. I never looked quite like I expected and often parts seemed to be missing. I remember doing this drawing when I was in a particularly strange state of mind. I really felt that I was a freak and often told people I was from another planet.
I think I believed it.

Age 14

To us all
Two sides must be
And through us all
Dimensions three
We can't be just one self
Although there is one body
There are always at least two consciousnesses
And me and my reflection
We walk around the land
And we see the denied other selves
We see the slower hand
Me and my idealist
My freedom self
And my bound self
We see all of the flat ones walking everywhere
We wonder how they can be
So alone
To all of us there have to be
Two sides and dimensions, three

I was very fond of drawing and painting roads that led nowhere,
 stairs that ended at nothing and empty corners.

Age 15

Leaving Them Behind

Old songs and memories
Playing on the shore
Naked in the sunlight
Diapered on the floor

Now you see the children
Aren’t you anymore
The children naked on the beach
Are on the other side of the door

As you pass the brightest days
The kids you were come through
You remember what you thought of them
And how it was when they were you

Age 15

Cut Deep

The answers are only temporary
And that was me tonight
Temporary solutions cut deep and bleed
Sometimes when I'm alone
Within myself
Without myself
And sometimes I have to cry
Beyond myself
About myself
And when I leave my home
And when I am alone
And when he’s gone to work
And I feel so uncertain
I find a tear that’s falling
And the answer’s still not calling
And I'm lost
So lost
Denied myself
Outside myself
And now I lost the fight
For the answer is only temporary

I remember showing this drawing to a school counselor, in high school. She asked me, doubtfully, if I really thought this is how I looked. I said yes, and wondered why she asked. Then I decided it was probably my lack of skill that was the problem.
I really saw nothing odd about this drawing at all.

Age 16 (? I remember writing this but it isn't dated)

Little Girl

The shouts get louder in the other room
Little girl doesn’t cry
She sits by the window, holding a doll
In one hand
She sits in a daydream, holding off the world
With the other
And no hand left to hold the future.

The shouts climax and finish in a sudden silence.
Little girl doesn’t cry
She lies in her bed, biting her lip
With lies in her head, biding her time
With both hands full of things she can’t use
And her mouth so full with more than she will ever chew

The silence is muffled behind the door
Little girl can’t cry
She waits in the darkness for nothing, for everything
Living less life than she thought she would
Giving less love that it takes to live

The silent world screams obscenities
Little girl doesn’t cry
She stands, awake, smiling sadly to herself
Living only for herself
Giving less of herself every day
Getting less in return than it takes to live
Nothing for nothing is all she can give

Age 16

I came out for a while and looked around
I didn't like what I found.
I’m fading back into the dream again
I’m backing up over the blue-jean den
The cigarettes, the gold corvettes
The thumb-out imitation of the girl
Who is me
Or maybe only wants to be

And I know I must live it
And I know I can’t top it
And I can’t hold it off
And there's no way to stop it
The smoke from the tube
Will fill me
And with any luck at all
It may kill me
But for now,
The change overcomes, overwhelms me
And I am only an illustration of the girl
Who is me
Or maybe doesn't want to be

This one is dated from shortly before my seventeenth birthday.
No doubt about this one... it's a little cracked.
It was one in a series of four, all self-portraits, and all broken in some way.
I never finished the fourth one.

Age 17

The reality appears again
Dragging in with it the cold air
And cold words of February

Hiding in a book
Sneaking a look every so often
Just to keep her head ready
She scurries through her life
Another slice of deprivation
Piled high with the pangs
Of emotion, kept alive
As she strives
To continue through this continuity
To finish this finality
To sever this severity

Now there's a word
Like cutting off a leg to save a body
She slices into her limbs and cuts the world from her reality

I began to draw in a more free style by the end of high-school. (It was the '70s, after all)
This self-portrait was one I did my junior year for art class. That was the year I went to the catholic school (where I was sent as a punishment since things weren't going very well in public school.) I only stayed one year - they kind of invited me not to come back.
I remember my teacher was not impressed. She told me this was not a self-portrait. I still disagree.

Age 18

Freedom’s child
Dressed in white
The premonition of birds in flight
Standing in the waters of good and light
Reflecting the day and the starry night

Frightened child
Dressed in black
Demolition and dead birds stacked
In piles of left debris and facts
That lead us from the proper track

Somber child
Dressed in gray
Can’t tell me the time of day
Combined night and starry day
Child of light who’s lead astray

Tell me children
Good and bad
Tell me of the lives you’ve had
Let me feel the brave and sad
Don’t let the sorrow drive you mad
And drop the cloth in which you’re clad

I was very fond of putting hands, cages and eyes in my artwork.
This represents many like it.

Age 19

It's clear, now, that those inside
Must remain and always hide
Nobody wants to know the madness
Horrific fear, horrendous sadness

Close the door, and lock the cage
Keep the world safe from rage
That has no boudaries, never ends
Just smile sweetly and pretend
Until it all begins again

I think I did this one the summer between high-school and college. I'm gauging that by the style, level of skill and also the paper it's drawn on, which is cheap paper my father always had in the house. Once I started at the Art Institute in Chicago, I learned what it was like to draw on decent paper, and I did so whenever I could afford it.
On the back, it says only, "Me".

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Basic Rules for Relationships

You listen to what others need.

You don’t offer what you can’t or don’t want to give.

You ask for what you need.

You take what is offered.

You do not take what is not offered.

Trust is given, not taken.
If someone violates a boundary, it is his or her offense.
If someone does it again, it is your mistake.

Obviously, this can’t apply to children. A child has no choice. She has to trust that adults will do what is right, that her needs will be met, that care will be given.

A child has so much trust because she has no choice.

When a boundary is violated, a child doesn't learn not to trust – because that isn't possible. Instead, she learns that she is powerless, that it is hopeless, that she is vulnerable and that the world is a scary and dangerous place. She learns not to ask for what she needs because she will only be given what others decide she will have. She learns to give whatever others want – even before they ask – because she doesn't know she has a choice.

It takes a very long time for that child to learn the basic rules.

I don't have to try to guess what others need.
I can wait to hear what others truly need.
I can decide if I can and will meet those needs for others.

I can ask for what I need.
I can take what is offered.
I can find another way to meet my needs if the person I ask can't help me.

And if someone tries to take what is mine,
what is not offered,
it is not okay!
I don’t have to let anyone take what is mine!
I can be angry and I can say that I am angry, that I will not tolerate it, and I have a choice
a choice!
Who to spend time with and who to stay away from.

I have a choice.

Co Creation

Co Creation
We create the life we live

Love your inner child...

...for she holds the key...

...to your personal power.
A lesson is woven into each day.
Together they make up the tapestries of our lives.