i get the blessing, too.

last weekend i was with my oldest friend and her husband and we got to talking about how there are individual themes in your life that will always be there.  i was specifically talking about how i found those old journals and was split on how it felt that i essentially deal with the same issues today that i was dealing with 13 years ago.  i think i got past the life hump where you realize that life is never fixed and smooth sailing.  like, you don’t fix all your problems with yourself and then begin to really live.  that’s not how it works.

so during this conversation last weekend, he said that what we were talking about reminded him of something a teacher told him about meditation.  the teacher said, “the problems you have with meditation now are the problems you will always have.”  instead of being bummed out by that, my friend was relieved to hear this information, explaining that at least you know what your problems will be. 

i liked the analogy.  reading about myself in my 20s at first kind of scared me to death, the similarities on the topics i still deal with:  self-esteem, race, dating, relationships, drinking, identity, boundaries, family.  when i read them, i was struck by the simplicity/directness/pinpointing of the reasoning.  i have evolved, but i was confronted with a … like a 1-2 punch to the heart of the issues… 

with men.  having a dad who was always described as a wonderful man who couldn’t be there, i developed a long-term pattern of inviting interesting men who wouldn’t/couldn’t stay to use me for a time and then leave. 

with boundaries.  having all these weird enmeshed relationships with people, generally friends, sometimes ambiguous romance.  losing myself by focusing on what they need.  putting myself last until i couldn’t take it anymore and reatreat.  repeat cycle. 

with self-esteem and identity.  not feeling comfortable in my own skin for so long.  ignoring race, trying to outrun race.  not black enough.  certainly not white.  the shameful secret of not knowing who to be.  never feeling fully comfortable with anyone.  feeling safe only by myself. 

with drinking.  my sweet, magical potion that i utilized to just not fucking care about safety, about race, about appearances, about my faults.  it was fascinating to read how at 22 i was already questioning alcohol’s place in my life.  i’m really happy it has no place anymore. 

it was amazing to me, reading that journal, where i was then and where i am now.  just like my friend’s teacher said, the problems you have now are the problems you will always have.  i first viewed that as sad, terrifying, depressing.  but why can’t it be great?  there are themes in my life.  i know what the main themes will be, and i learn to deal with them.  i have learned many things over the past 13 years in each thematic area. 

i’m learning to work with my problems.

i think that’s what we all do.  we don’t solve our problems, we don’t make them go away.  if we can learn to accept the themes in our lives and figure out how to work with them, that is our success. 

the other day i had this client who was talking about her own problems with judging herself.  she began to talk about these small bursts of freedom where she allowed things to just be, where she didn’t force perfection and punishment on herself.  i encouraged her to tell me more about what freedom felt like.  she said, “it feels like when you wake up in the morning and the sun is shining and you weren’t expecting it.  but you wake up and it’s just there.”  i thought that was a really lovely picture of how someone else who struggles with perfectionism, self-judgment, and low self-esteem pictures the freedom that comes from giving yourself a break.  freedom from our issues is so important. 

this is what i love about my work.  i’m never gonna be fixed, i’m not going to fix my clients.  but i get to learn from them everyday.  it’s really beautiful work sometimes. 

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the task

Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find
all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it.
-Rumi

the energy for a social life

it was a phrase i used in the blog about being almost done with school.  i’m feeling the stress seep out of me and beginning to get a glimpse of what i want life to be now.  i had no idea how palpable that stress was, how much space it took up and for how long.  it’s not like i spent every waking moment studying, that’s not how i operate.  i avoid my work until the last minute and get off on the crunch time, but i’m still never relaxed while i’m avoiding because i’m always aware of what i’m avoiding.  THAT’S how i roll. 

but now class is done and i’ll be going down in work hours (but getting paid more –  yesssssssssssss!) and i can feel it already.  i felt it starting last week.  i’ve done some socializing and visiting family.  it’s actually really nice.  it’s strange to have this extra space, room for wanting to go out. 

like tonight.  i went to see grama.  she was sleepy, so i left.  i was gonna go home but i had the idea that i could stop by my mom’s house instead.  i weighed it, wasn’t sure if i really wanted to get into how this could turn out, but i figured, why not?  so i went, and stayed for hours, and had a nice visit.  it was great!

what i noticed was that i wasn’t measuring and doling out time in increments while i was there.  for the past few years i have been concerned about everything else and looked at social time as how much (how little) i could spare.  saying yes to a planned event, much less something spur of the moment, always needed to be carefully considered and allotted only so much time.  and it wasn’t that enjoyable because i always was thinking about what else i should be doing, even if i had no intention of doing it. 

this may seem silly, but to me it’s a revelation and i’m so thankful for it.  relaxing enough to enjoy socializing and just visiting, stopping by… what a treat!

drive

i’ve never been a huge fan of driving. passenger yes, driver no. driving was a sometimes necessity for work or school, and i would endure it. sometimes i would listen to the radio, i came to like some morning shows, or a good podcast on a longer trip. over the past year or so i have enjoyed silence while driving; someone told me they like silence in the car as time to think and i thought it was so weird at first, but i came to enjoy it.

something else odd about me is that when listening to music in the car, i usually have it almost inaudibly low. i noticed and hadn’t done anything about it for a while. i think i didn’t want to disturb anyone with my noise. and an overall feeling of not wanting to take up space.

in the past few days, though, i have been enjoying a good driving session – windows rolled down, music LOUD, chair dancing. it’s really good! i was listening to reckoner and it brought me back 4 years to when i was house hunting and did that. there’s something different about music in the car, with the windows down, driving. it’s glorious! just the feeling of it, and not worrying about the people around me.

simple pleasures.

looking back

a series of events led me to open my one indulgent packrat box last night. i was looking for things for a school project, but this is where i shove all my journals once i fill up the pages. i haven’t looked at any of these in years, i’ve intentionally avoided them for no good reason. i remember at a certain point throwing away my really young journals, through high school i’m sure. i have a militant anti-packrat streak, to the point of fault, there are many things that i just refuse to hold onto because my family are such hoarders.

anyhow, i pulled out one of the journals. it was from 1999 with a couple blurbs in 2000 after a year hiatus. i’m not ready to really get into reflection on the contents, but it brought up strange feelings to understand how much of the same issues, the same obsessions, the same questions, fears, guiding lines remain. part of it is comforting, part is sad, all of it just is. it just has me pensive about where i am now, how i got here, and where i will go next.

and… breathe.

june has been hard. really hard. and i knew it would be. but my stress level has been through the roof. last week i was a combination of total spaz and complete shut down mode. it was bad, it was not fun, very uncomfortable, not happy. as i look back, shockingly this has had nothing to do with my personal life, it was all work and school. thankfully, i guess i should say.

yesterday i was able to tie up a lot of loose ends. within a matter of hours, i finished assignments, asserted myself, got some answers, got much needed support, vented, started scheduling my oral exams, finished paperwork, had the registrar audit my classes just to make sure, then headed out of the office to go to school. i walked out in the hot steamy sunshine, got in my car, rolled down the windows, turned on some music (digable planets, jettin, as it happened) and started driving. i was smiling. i was relaxed. the oblivious kid in the middle of the alley who cockily waved at me after he realized he was in my way didn’t even bother me!

i found myself completely relaxed for the first time in recent memory!

the feeling lasted. i had a great class. more things fell into place. the end is in sight! my last class of grad school will be next monday, i will finish my thesis and papers within the next 2 weeks, and my oral exam will be july 12 – the day i officially get my masters! the idea that i will be free of successive, neverending deadlines in a few short weeks and that the worst is already over… it’s a revelation! i can’t wait/i can feel it already.

imagine: reasonably clean house on a regular basis… reading for pleasure… the energy for a social life?! what?!?! soon, very soon… a life.

ahhhhh.

what is culture?

i’ve been assigned to run a group about cultural wellness.  at first i thought it was going to be culture-specific to african american women, but as it turns out we have a mixed group. 

in school, there was a multi-cultural counseling class that i found to be a pretty annoying lesson in reinforcing racial stereotypes.  as with any stereotypes, parts can be true.  but that’s not how i want to think about cultural identity. 

i’m very much into the study of mixed race identity development.  i think identity is fascinating.  but with this group, i have the opportunity to really branch out and look at what makes up cultural identity in general.  for the women in my group, i want to help them explore their own cultural identity and how it is related to their overall wellness.  i’m kind of stuck on where to get started and how to pull it all together. 

so i’m curious – what is your opinion on how to explore your own culture?  what is culture?  and what does it mean in your life? 

i really want to hear from as many people as possible!  thanks in advance.