For weeks now, I have been waging an epic stare-down battle of wills against my computer.
With the publishing of this blog post, I emerge victorious, but not before first admitting defeat for a few hard-fought rounds.
The real battle of wills began within me a long time ago. It’s been a lifelong conversation between myself and my Inner Critic, really, and most recently she has been very vocally opinionated about her estimation of my chances of success in just about any given situation.
Have you made friends with your Inner Critic? I call mine Icy (apparently), because she is an unforgiving perfectionist whose look of disapproval would cause even the heartiest and self-assured of souls to shatter from the cold.
So the story of late February starts as such: the Inner Critic can’t help but notice I’ve been experiencing a lot of growth lately, personally and professionally, and that I’m starting to reach further with my personal goals and dream of bigger ways to hold space with and for my community. Bigger, perhaps, than I truly deserve. Because who am I? Just who the hell am I?
Let’s see if I can highlight the most immediately relevant bits…
I was born in Dallas and raised in the suburbs of Fort Worth, Texas. Cared for by both of my lovingly devoted (and devoutly Christian) parents alongside my older sister, I had an idyllic childhood by anyone’s account. My parents worked to cultivate and encourage my enthusiasm for learning and supported my exploration of every new direction towards which my curiosity urged me. I knew virtually unrestricted outside time – given that certain prerequisite tasks had been completed and the sun was still out, of course – in a friendly neighborhood where I was free to wander the blocks, spend hours at the park around the corner, ride my bike on the trail that traversed both sides of a long stretch of a wide concrete drainage channel that my neighborhood friends and I would forever call “the Creek,” and climb the perfectly formed willow tree just a few houses down from mine on the “banks” of the Creek. My sister and I, two years apart in age, were very close when we were young. We, accompanied by our best friend who lived all the way across the street, would spend a great many of our younger days adventuring around the neighborhood, vacationing with our families, and spending nights staying up as late as possible and laughing so long and hard that our sides hurt. If you’re picturing this a childhood painted with Norman Rockwell-esque strokes of perfection, you probably only overshot by a little.
Fast forward to adolescence, and things start to heat up. I’ve developed a few theories as to why and when that all started, but suffice it to say (for now) that this body had a particularly difficult time adjusting to the influx of hormones. Around the same time I began the transition into womanhood (age 12, for those who enjoy my incurable habit of oversharing), I began to experience, for the first time, feeling chronically out of place, which contributed to a deepening sense of loneliness. I had only been a student at my current school for two years, now in my third. I remember being so excited to change schools for my sixth grade year. The new school was bigger, had more extracurricular opportunities (Singing AND sports teams? Oh yeah!) to choose from, and, for one glorious year, no uniforms. But by my third year, the uniforms I had known all my life and only briefly left behind were already well integrated back into my routine, and I was still struggling to establish meaningful friendships. All my classmates had been attending this school together since the beginning of their days, and I was the newest and most unfamiliar one. I felt like an outcast, and tried too hard to fit in.
Sparing you some uncomfortable details which will surely emerge through this whole writing practice over time, I began a years-long descent towards the darkest night of my soul. I grew distant from my family, perceiving myself as “too different” to be wholly accepted even by my own clan. Insecurities multiplied and grew every day, and I sought approval from anyone and everywhere but my own heart. I became a well-practiced manipulator of many truths in a never-ending quest to impress. Whether I was lying about my age for the attention of older boys or breaking curfew to hang out with the kids I wanted to emulate, I would effortlessly lie (if not always very convincingly) to anyone with ears in order to depict my life as something I deemed far more interesting or favorable than I felt sure I was. I lied (always very convincingly) to myself, with cruel self-judgements to validate my greatest fears and reinforce my deepest insecurities, justifying every effort to win anybody’s attention, let alone their approval.
I found a variety of entirely unoriginal ways to cope with the rising internal chaos. Eating disorders, cutting, sex, early drug use, and attempts at suicide were desperate ploys to manufacture a sense of control over my life that I clearly did not have.
High school mercifully ended – in an explosion of fire and shrapnel, as far as my melodramatic, vanilla-Sweet-Dreams-smoking, overly made up 17-year-old self was concerned, but nonetheless, it did end, and soon I found myself in college with an even broader range of terrible, self-destructive choices to make. And I did just that. I made as many terrible choices as I could muster with as many people as I could convince to hop on board my Crazy Train for a night. I was reckless and relentless and desperate, I was full tilt, I was willing to try just about anything and everything. And I didn’t even know what I was looking for. But I was determined to find it and certain I would know it when I did, so I was hellbent to keep on looking.
Friend, if you’re ever questioning your life choices and you wonder what it would look like if you just said “fuck it all,” gave up on yourself, and completely abandoned your principles to see how low among the ranks of human scum you could crawl — might I recommend a certain class of super-demotivating drug typically administered by syringe? It’ll take you like an express train straight to the dregs of society if you ride it hard enough. Chase the dragon more than once, and before you know it you’ll be chasing it to a pawn shop looking to trade stolen treasures for your next quick fix. I’m not saying all addicts are terrible people. I am definitely saying that I made some despicable choices when I was hooked on tar. Yet somehow, in spite of all my very best efforts to make an early exit from this planet (and no shortage of close calls) I survived myself long enough to miraculously, one day, just… decide that the charade wasn’t working and, perhaps more impressively, that the high was no longer worth the condition I was existing in. I couldn’t even escape my unhappiness by disconnecting from my emotions and literally numbing myself altogether. And by then I had a fair amount of evidence to support the possibility that no matter what I tried, my stubborn life wouldn’t just oh-so-conveniently end and let me off the hook right then, so I felt I had one less choice in the matter. This left me with the remaining questions: would I keep on running, wildly and in any direction that seemed like AWAY, just for the sake of breaking free of something that I thought didn’t suit me? Or was it time to try something — anything — different?
Needless to say I did manage, after a couple of false starts, to wrench myself away from the Spiral of Self-Loathing and begin the years-long process of healing the deep wounds I carved into my family bonds with my utterly selfish actions. It wouldn’t even occur to me that I had any apologies to offer to myself for at least another decade, but at least I was starting to orient in a useful direction.
Now I had only been clean (this time) for a month when a casual chat with an ex-boyfriend provided me with a life-changing nudge in the direction of my destiny. Yes, it’s cheesy that I phrase it that way. But I only know how it felt, which was just random and right. See, I wasn’t ready to dive right back into university waters after bailing SO HARD on my ambitions in musical theater to pursue my newfound hobbies of self annihilation and breaking the law, and I needed a marketable skill that would help me earn something more substantial than serving burgers at Big Time at Bob’s. So this ex of mine – another guy I simply wrecked myself trying to impress – mentioned that his new girlfriend was loving her time at massage therapy school. It sounded interesting enough, and I certainly didn’t have any better ideas. Not to mention the school was only a couple of miles away from my parents’ house, where I had once again landed to rehabilitate my Life After Heroin with their (rightfully) wary support. I had no reason not to check this school out, so I did, and I remember feeling so inexplicably excited the entire time I toured the small cluster of office buildings that made up the school. I can’t say whether it was my love of science or of people that made the field of holistic healing seem so compelling, but I knew I was made to do this stuff well. The sensitivity of touch, the compassionate presence, the intuitive guidance, the holding space… it all made sense to me, like I was remembering a once-honed skill that was just a little long out of practice. Well, long story short (too late!), massage led me over the years to polarity therapy and ayurveda, yoga, and this mysterious, exotic, and downright mystical-sounding idea of Tantra. Envision a star next to that word, because you’re probably going to see it around here again some time.
The moment I began to study and practice Tantra (see, there it is!), my life as I now enjoy it began to take shape. Quite notably (to me, anyway), I:
*had the words “inspire” and “expire” tattooed on my left and right hands, respectively (as in, the process of respiration: breathing);
*flew to Portland to attend a magical weekend-long Tantra workshop, my first (initiating me into a lineage of ancient breath wisdom); and
*laid for the first time with a friend of many years, who that night became my lover, and (spoiler alert) whose child I would unexpectedly bear not even two years later
…all in the same weekend. Those are the ingredients for some pretty potent magical makings, if you ask me.
It took a while to really develop my relationship with this Tantra. Unplanned pregnancies can bring up a lot (beyond the obvious) that begs IMMEDIATE processing, especially when coupled with any kind of relational trauma, and I can’t honestly say I did all my post-relationship processing in the timeliest manner. But the seeds of the practice had taken root and the dance of devotion had begun.
Through the practices I was learning, I began to identify and release self-limiting patterns of thought and behavior and to make more conscious choices about what to fill that newly freed space with. These inquisitive and meditative practices taught me the power of living with intention. I discovered that I could create the world around me as I wanted to see it – it all came down to the choices that I had to make. I learned what it would mean to truly take full responsibility, as the sole author and creator, for every one of those choices and for any consequences thereof. I began to walk more lightly, speak more gently, seek more intently. I learned languages in which to converse with the universe, with my environment, with myself – though that last one has been a long time coming around and is, frankly, still in the early stages of development.
And, of course, I became a mother. Most magically, soul-expandingly, life-affirmingly of all, I nurtured a life in my womb. I welcomed her gently and mindfully into this world. I transitioned from Maiden to Mother in the ceremony of bearing down, ordained by my blood as the guardian spirit responsible in part for the stewardship of this new life at least until she reaches adulthood. There was no more time to waste phoning it all in, now that this delicate (but so powerful!) human was in my care. It was time for the Earth Mama to emerge fully in her power: nurturing, grounded, unshakeable, wise, and fiercely protective.
…Unfortunately, it would be several years before I would truly seek to support that process in earnest (like I said, friend, takes a lot of processing and some of us can be slow on the uptake), but the idea was there: I was immediately stronger somehow, with the patient strength of a tree that grows a tiny bit, day by day, imperceptibly over time, until one day you suddenly realize how high it towers, its canopy of branches spread wide, providing shelter and sustenance all around and within, above and below, for creatures of every variety.
A few more bumps, bruises, twists, turns, and flat tires down the road, and here I am.
I am the product of 31 years (and counting) of sweat, tears, blood, dreams, laughter and lessons integrated.
I am the honored mother to, and perennial student of, a brilliant old soul in a very young body. She thrills me, surprises me, exhausts me, annoys me, inspires me, emboldens me, laughs with me, comforts me, did I say exhausts me? She is my favorite reason for being the best version of myself, and I honestly can’t say whether I’d have even started to take myself seriously by this point in my life if she hadn’t come around and begun insisting I do so starting in my 25th year.
I have a fulfilling job serving an incredible cross-section of my community, all of whom I can see much like myself in some way or another, in which I have the opportunity to provide physical relief, emotional support, to simply relate, to offer up a safe space for investigating emotions, sensations, and reactions, and to remind always of the importance of self-compassion. I have an exhausting job that requires me to work as needed around the clock to fill many different roles and offers no augmented pay scale for all the overtime hours.
I have an incredible man in my life, and he is loyal, steadfast and strong. He loves me without equivocation, he inspires and encourages and supports me in the precise direction of my dreams, he is my perfect polar-complementary partner in just about every way, he worships with me at an etheric altar, he matches my wit and suits my humor, he shows me time and again everything that is good and beautiful and honorable about being in service for others. We laugh the loudest in each other’s presence some days, on others we exchange words of affection and devotion without restraint. At still other times we struggle to communicate over seemingly simple things, and it has at times taken us days to make our way back across a sudden and jarring rift.
I have a thoroughly satisfying personal practice of self-care and service that helps me calm my spirit, connect to my body, and invigorate my mind any time I so desire. I also have a thoroughly trying (the very same) personal practice that is none too subtle when it aims the spotlight at any weakness, discrepancy, or falsehood that needs to be revealed and repaired. If I said I was always graceful, consistently engaged, and morally infallible, well, that assertion would show itself pretty quickly to be a hard oversell… at the least.
I say all this — I mention what I appreciate as the most rewarding elements of my life-in-this-now and immediately point out the polarity inherent of each experience — because all of life is polar. Polar like a magnet, not like a bear. Polar meaning having equal parts of opposite qualities, such as positive and negative, light and dark, male and female.
To say that “polar” simply means “opposite” would be to imply that polar forces would be “opposing” somehow. But if you put the positively charged side of a magnetic disc near enough to the negatively charged side of a neighboring disc, what do they do? They hug right up next to each other, as snug as they can possibly get, and hang on there until an overwhelming force pries them apart. Not exactly the action brought to mind by the mention of opposing forces, is it?
What this means is that the poles of the magnet are more than just opposite in the direction of their magnetic pull. They are complementary somehow, as if when correctly oriented they could unite, to be seen and experienced as one. The quality and direction of both discs’ respective poles remain the same, and in fact the magnetic force generated by the two pieces combined is stronger than either individual magnet.
So, humor me: imagine yourself, imagine the hemispheres of your brain, let’s say, as a magnet. Positively charged, outward seeking on one side, negatively charged, inward drawing on the other. Each side contributes to the perfect function of the whole. Each side functions perfectly unto itself, plugging away at its ceaseless conduction of energetic current. Each side focuses its action stalwartly away from where it would be, within itself, desired the most. What if you could turn your attention inwards and unify the polar extremes of your nature at the very center of your being? What would happen in the presence of so much power concentrated with such a singular focus? What would you do with that kind of power, if you had access to it?
All I’m really trying to say is, check this thing out. I went from being the poster child for elementary-age suburbia to a self-afflicted rebellious adolescent to a nihilistic gutter punk to… the earth honoring, wild child rearing, community cultivating, soul searching, passionate Lover of Life here with you now, living the bliss of a life by design. Formerly overweight and chronically ill, I am healthier in my 30’s than I have ever been, and I have a path and a purpose before me that give me every reason to show up, fully, day after day.
My life must be perfect with all that going on, right?
HA! Not in any practical manner of speaking.
Oh, am I, me, personally, perfect? HELL no. You and I are very much alike (although there’s a chance that I may be a little more, shall we say, colorful about it all). I have easy breezy days and I have challenging days, I feel sometimes successful and sometimes a failure, I pray with jubilant song and dance, I pray with pounding fists and gnashing teeth. I feel everything a human can possibly feel, and what’s more? I lean in. I feel it as deeply as I possibly can. I feel it in every one of my senses. I feel it bone deep, I feel it to the breath. I allow myself every process, no matter how ugly or inconvenient or untimely, because I know that the only way to the other side is through it. And on any given day I might need to be reminded how or why to go through with any or all of it. I practice, because I am NOT perfect. I practice, and get better at practicing, and forget to practice, and practice imperfectly, and rise back into perfect alignment, and do it all over again.
So this is where you come in. I need you, my friend, to bear witness to this. I only know one perspective – my own – and so I invite you to drop in whenever you like to check out my random thoughts on various subjects, to laugh at my latest misadventure, to celebrate success together, and to offer your own reflections as often as you feel compelled. I need you to illuminate what I cannot see on my own. I need you to remind me of things I’ve already known during the times that I forget them yet again.
In issuing this invitation, I am opening a dialogue of the soul embodied, in which all manner of questions may arise and, hopefully, through which many of these questions may even be answered. Beyond that, I am publicly committing myself to engage in regular discourse that will hold me accountable for my practice, perhaps strengthen my discipline, and inspire me to continue my own exploration with any mode of expansion. At the very least, it will be an opportunity to connect in prose, a record of one more human story shared. Another voice rings out from the collective, singing her piece into the cosmic octave, her unique life-tones adding a rich depth to the harmonic tapestry. With any luck, her heart song will reach even a single ear in need of comfort. With any luck, her heart song will inspire one soul to persevere. With any luck, her heart song will offer fellowship to one who once believed they walked the earth alone.
Enter the the Icy IC, Inner Critic.
“Excuse me?” She says incredulously. “Just who do you think you are, with your megalomania and your ridiculous ambitions to save the world one hug at a time? You can’t do this, you ate a donut for breakfast last week so you clearly have no willpower. You don’t deserve this, you heard an airplane that reverberated in your skull with the sensation of a drug coursing through your veins and it sent you reminiscing about your junkie days with actual nostalgia so you’re plainly not trustworthy. You’ll never actually do it,” she taunts, “and I know this because of that time you made a big to-do about joining an Instagram challenge that you ended up ditching after day four. OF SEVEN. You quitter.” (Yeah, for my twelve Instagram followers, I’m talking about my mysterious disappearance of just a couple of weeks ago… which was a necessary part of my process in preparing to “come out,” as it were, in this way, and I am still laughing at the irony in the way it’s all playing out.)
Man, but she can be mean and merciless, that Critic. She knows my every insecurity and she has laser-accurate aim on each of my tiny targeted triggers. If I let her rule the conversation in fiery outbursts she will cajole me and belittle me until I revert to a motionless, sulking shadow of a girl, paralyzed with a presumably legitimate and looming fear that nothing I could possibly do will ever come to be of any use to anyone in this world, and so… what’s the use?
She’s in stark contrast, isn’t she, to the self-assured woman from a few paragraphs ago, overflowing with sunshine and optimism? And yet all of that – all of it – is very much a part of me. Not some alternate and somehow less desirable version of me. Not some part or portion of my personality to be surgically extracted and discarded as if inherently toxic. She is shadow, simply the aspect of the soul that only exists in response to light. She offers balance, grounding, and perspective. She keeps me alert to subtle changes, she notifies me when things start to go awry. She’s actually a willing and helpful companion, once the terms of agreement have been squared away.
For the last two weeks I have stayed frozen. Stalled. Paralyzed. Not inactive — no, there was plenty going on in this house. Simply afraid to make the leap, to Do The Thing, to just go for it.
I’d been planning this blog for too long. The idea came about gradually, as I found myself so regularly in the course of everyday conversation answering questions about my philosophy, my spiritual studies, my practices (personal rhythm of self-care) and my practice (professional massage and holistic wellness practice).
Finally I decided to invite the conversation home. To my home page, that is (ha ha). I had been having enough of these conversations with such increasing frequency that I felt, at the least, a forum for discussion might be appreciated. At the very least, it might be found useful.
So, with no real set plan in mind, I began my infamous process of “percolating.” (Cue the eye rolls for the molasses pace that is that Kapha life.) It’s actually a very skillful period of purposeful procrastination, artfully designed to allow plenty of time for foreseeing potential roadblocks and envisioning multiple outcomes, and then propelling one into action just before the idea loses its anchor. I will admit, I have yet to get that last bit of timing in order with any kind of reliable consistency, but that’s what practice is for, yeah?
With the Icy Inner Critic in one ear and the Divine Earth Mama in the other, days passed as I mentally played out all the worst outcomes I could possibly imagine. I hurled at myself the worst of the accusations, the ugliest of slurs. I dug out and examined all the skeletons in my proverbial closet. (I dusted them off and adorned each of them with a festive little party hat while I was in there. Even your skeletons deserve love.)
I feel almost compelled create this space in response to what my friends and community keep asking of me, so automatically sure that the time is ripe for what is begging to serve through me.
And I resist. HARD. I have no desire to be on anyone’s pedestal, even remotely near a light tinged with lime, or at the front of any convocation. I’m only comfortable in the spotlight when it’s an act, you see, and here I am making agreements and setting my intentions towards… Raw exposure? Transparency? Vulnerability?
Oh, did I already lock that commitment in by making an announcement, including an actual release date, for this clever little idea of mine?
The Mother sweetly shushes my terrified inner talk. She reminds me that we all make mistakes, and that it’s only practical for us to share our experiences with our community, so they can avoid making the same mistakes we did, should they so desire, and instead make their very own personal collection of mistakes.
IC won’t stop letting me have it with the doubt and the self-sabotage and the taunting. She dredges up memories of the journals I used to write in until I was convinced my mother was reading every page, memories of the blog I kept in high school until I discovered it was used as ammunition for the cruelty composed about me by my classmates, by girls I had thought were my friends, in their own blogs. Oh, and that my mom definitely was reading my blog.
But Mother patiently soothes over the memory’s dull ache by speaking gentle words of encouragement and praise. She reminds me of all I have learned in the many years since then, of the unimaginable ways in which I have grown, and that the echoes of the past have no power in the present except to inform the future. She knows I am doing my best, and she gives permission for my best to look different from one day to the next.
It goes on like this for some time, but the steady peace and quiet strength of the Mother eventually outlasts the tiresome tantrums of the peevish Inner Critic. Mother embraces the quietened Child and the two, moving in unity, step forward.
And so I welcome you here and now, to the threshold of my thoughts. I am extending my personal invitation for you join to the conversation. I still don’t know exactly how I will show up for this project each day (or week, or however it will happen), but I just had to stop waiting for Everything To Be Perfect. I was beginning to make excuses. There would always be inadequate equipment, site management issues, or the hesitation of waiting for that Perfect (read: Nonexistent) Format/Idea/Execution.
But, my friend, I am sensing the window is about to close and that if I wait any longer, then this idea with all its heartfelt intentions, borne of a collectively expressed desire to grow in community, will lose its anchor and become adrift in the ether where it will wait for someone else to come upon it again, in time. So I press “Publish” on this, the 5th day of the 3rd month in a year that adds up to an 11, to anchor in a touchstone for community, a place where curiosity is met with room to explore, authenticity breeds connections for a heart-centered community, and a joyful life is explored through the senses and through play.
May you be Well, friend, and please, Come on in.
I hope you find enjoyment, if not a path to pure joy, here.