What Gets In The Way?

There were 36 hours this week when my normally plucky self completely derailed. You know, the equivalent of a dozen bad hair days slamming into you all at once.

Thank goodness, when that happens, I have a coach. A smart and compassionate one who doesn’t let me get away with much.

Her first question, when I confessed I’d woken up feeling like a failure, was: When did that start?

Well, of course, the part of me that preferred wallowing to working drew a blank.

I woke up that way, so hey, did it start in my sleep? (heading down dark paths of the psyche brings out my cheeky side)

What followed was a volley of questions (hers) and non-answers (mine). My coach is remarkably patient, or tenacious, depending on how “oh,-I’m-not-feeling-resistant” resistant I’m being.

I still don’t remember the exact moment I gave myself permission to…let the light in, but a conversation with my daughter earlier in the day surfaced, and without warning all the pieces fell in place.

No one was more surprised than I was.

For hours I’d been up to my crown chakra in inner smog, dodging confusion, and refusing to concede the uglies trying to elbow their way past that thin layer of niceness I was spreading over the top of myself.

I was convinced that wasting time on this irrelevant speed bump during my coaching time, when real work had to be done, was an Alice In Wonderland set of priorities!

Only, underneath that rationale I was lost. And some part of me was convinced that spending time on being lost would further cement the sense of being a failure.  And since being a failure was what I wanted to avoid at all costs, I opted for downsizing it to a speed bump.

I could have used other strategies, like exaggerating something else altogether (that, of course, is how wars are started – internal or external: don’t look over there, look over here!).

I could have pulled a donkey on my coach: refused to budge.

I could have whined and pretended it was all too much for me (Here, sweetie, have some milk and cookies).

Instead, I engaged. With ragged edges. Dragging my feet for sure. But I engaged.

And that willingness to engage is what finally let the light in, and the tears out.

Turns out, what was in the way, this time, was the past… sort of

One of the odd parts of this story is that the pieces did not appear within a linear time frame.

First, I woke up feeling as if I was a failure. Second, my daughter called. But it wasn’t until my coaching conversation, when I mentioned (as a sidebar) the call from my daughter (which was all about her and not about how I’d been feeling in a brief morning flicker, now buried under the routine of daily life) that unraveled the failure mystery (why, where, who’d dunit).

And yet, when the aha hit, it hit because my daughter had randomly called. It was as if the two events conspired with each other in their own time-out zone.

On top of that, the aha itself had an unlikely time twist because, even though the aha catapulted me into the past, I quickly realized that it wasn’t about the past at all.

And here is where I learned the most about what throws dust in my eyes… aka: what gets in the way.

Oddly, I discovered that the past is not about the past

If I could draw a cartoon, here’s what it would look like:

Me, on my back, on the floor, both feet pushing as hard as they can against a door that is cracked open. Something on the other side is pushing to get the door open.

Beads of sweat roll off my forehead. My face in a grimace. I’m supporting my upper body with my forearms on the floor, facing the door.

And snaking around the edge of the barely open door is a dark blob.

Across the door in capital letters is: THE PAST

Across my back, in capital letters is: THE PRESENT

When the aha flash came to me, as I was squirming around my coach’s questions, it started with a flashback to dear old Dad. Old story, I thought, too old and anyway, I’ve done the work around that!

Then up rose the call with my daughter, an hour or so before, and wham. It slammed into me. The point, in the past, where I’d decided I had been a failure. A B-I-G FAILure. A H-U-G-E FAILure. A condemn me forever FAILure.

And, I’d done tons of inner work around this old story too.

So what was up? The flashback was sitting on my heart like a Hefalump, very much present and in my flesh.

Ahhh… “very much present…” and then I understood. It wasn’t about the past at all, but about how I was holding myself (or not) right here, right now, in the present. I had healed the younger me, from way back when, and utterly neglected the now me.

Why? Because the now me is all grown up and busy doing grown up things – being all mature and responsible and on top of it!

And this level of neglect to the very present parts of myself that hurt, alongside the equally valid “I’m doing great!” parts of myself, was unconsciously gumming up the works.

I mean, literally, “the work”–what I needed to do every day to bring in income. To interact with my family. To engage with the world.

My take aways?

1. When I engage in any endeavor, however big or small, I bring my whole self.

2. And this whole self is made up of different parts that miraculously work together – so together that when one part needs more than my conscious awareness is giving, all the other parts go on strike too, each in their own way.

3. My job is to pay attention. Not pour the “I’m fine” syrup over, in this case, the uncomfortable feeling of being a failure that I woke up with.

4. Feelings, which are being neglected, are most likely to sneak in right before sleep, right upon waking, in moments of day dreaming or meditation. Give them space to be.

5. I know, with absolute certainty, that what I’m avoiding, feeling confused about, fuzzy and unclear is a simmering caldron of delicious awareness waiting to increase my life energy.

Can you relate?



22 Responses to “What Gets In The Way?”

  1. Oh can I! I recently realized that my recent and current activities are all about proving my mom wrong.

    Now I’m leaving mind space form the real me… It’s gonna take while.

    • Hi Lori! Waving to you, my almost neighbor!

      The first thought I had when I read this comment from you was: why is it necessary for it to “take a while?”

      What if you shifted that thought–because, really, it is a thought about a future that hasn’t happened yet–to a new thought/future.

      After all, this is your new creation realization. You’re in charge, yes?

  2. Sari Grove says:

    I have found that it is much harder to feel like a failure, if you have a really good breakfast in the morning…(something about not eating enough brings me the failure emotions…)

    • What do think: oatmeal, coconut, raisins and toasted almonds?

      That should do the trick, yes?

      • Sari Grove says:

        Yes, my love…Although my husband Joseph Grove, another Vase (Visual artist self-employed) is staying on points at a Holiday Inn Express in Ottawa right now ’cause he is caregiving for his parents & I am giving him a little break from them for the week…Ok, salient point here: They give a complimentary breakfast with the room…My husband, not one to turn down a free breakfast, on the first attempt, wolfed down three cheese omelettes, bacon, 5 cups of coffee, several glasses of fresh juice, & so many pancakes that their pancake machine actually broke from use…(they have since fixed it I am pleased to report)…suffice it to say the depression & craziness I was hearing over the phone from him these past 6 weeks seems to have disappeared with the hotel’s free breakfast…Conclusion: You can add more to your list, depending on the severity of the mood…Use pancakes judiciously though…perhaps the bacon too…?

        • Okay, I confess… I omitted the tea….

          • Sari Grove says:

            well that explains everything then…you obviously have unattended subliminal feelings of guilt related to your tea drinking which has been affecting your relationship with your daughter & thus making you feel like a failure career-wise…Go to your daughter, Confess that you are a tea drinker, suffer the slings & arrows, & go on to the fruitful career that awaits you now…Send the cheque c/o my husband in Ottawa, just label it the guy who is eating all the breakfast at the hotel, they will be able to find him…

    • au contraire, cheri! (we’re running out of reply options, so this may turn up out of order…more’s the fun, yes?)

      I do not subscribe to the Order of Guilt – for anything, much less what offers earthly delights.

      As for the daughter and slings and arrows (sounds like you know this story) it’s all under the radar and I’ve found a little spiritual Kung Fu works wonders (on the darker emotions and daughters)..

      • Sari Grove says:

        i gather you are referring to the 1978 Jackie Chan film “Spiritual Kung Fu” where ghosts teach him the secret Five Fists moves? http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/spiritual-kung-fu/ For those who need to learn Spiritual Kung Fu, Ariane will be offering classes…Coming soon!!!

        • OMG – Sari – how did you know??

          • Sari Grove says:

            I not tell my secrets…

          • Sari Grove says:

            Ok, I’ll give…Just a hint…here’s the hint…I’m listening right now to a song called “Jesus Saves” by a band called “Jethro Tull”…My next hint is this…The Karate Kid, the film, shows the boy learning how doing manual labour like painting a fence or washing a car, strengthens the muscles, so that when you go to show, you have both the motions & the physique for attack & self-defense…The term Spiritual Kung Fu, refers to the film mentioned above, which points to the fact that whilst one man is doing an illegal 6 style fist attack defense, that the man who beats him is using the more restrained 5 style fist defense, which points to my first hint, which is namely that restraint is essential when dealing with someone who is doing something illegal…Which is, I infer, what mother’s must do when their daughter’s are out of line, namely, use restraint…

        • Like I said, blog comments are straining under the weight of hilarity and refusing substantial reply options to one “hilarity-barely-kept-in-check-artist-lady” who has clearly understood that the antidote to gray day doldrums is gay repartee.

          • oh, lookie here – reply button does know what it’s doing. Imagine that!

            It appears at the top, beckoning, and when you flirt back, it puts you right at the bottom where you are supposed to be. Technology never ceases to bring tears of joy to my eyes…

          • Sari says:

            Ok, I confess, the guilt is killing me…I knew you must have been referencing a movie, so I looked it up, informed myself of the plot points, understood the gyst of the lesson, fed that thru my brain filter, & applied that to your situation…I am a thief, a con…But a very very good one…But at the time I thought you needed someone who had shared a similar experience-the film, so I didn’t want to say I hadn’t…The illusion of shared experience is a good placeholder until something realer comes along…But I got the picture…I did watch some scenes on Youtube too…(in between commenting!)

  3. susan says:

    Thank you for being so honest. It’s difficult to share fears and doubts about one’s self. I struggle every day with my sense of what the real past was and the version that my mother insists is correct. Hers is straight from “Little House on the Prairie” while mine is something that Dickens would have written. Confusing, negative, and crazy-making, the past (as you said) needs to make room for the present. I am not a failure, nor am I mean or cruel. I am not the person that my mother thinks I am but rather a smart, creative person who works to bring joy to others through my art. Once again, thank you for bringing your honesty to all of us during a time of emotional callenge.

    • Oh, Susan, I so appreciate you mentioning the sharing about self doubts. It’s my new thing, to come out from behind the smARTist curtain all the way – not half way.

      Of course, when I first started on this revelation path, I had all kinds of excuses:
      – why would this be interesting to anyone but myself (translation: I’m scared.)
      – will I be able to walk the professional/personal line without falling off (translation: they’ll think I’m too intense)
      – will I be able find any gold to pass along so it doesn’t come out all whiny (translation: will I be less respected)

      So here you are, all smart, creative, and joyful (also full of the Dickens–meaning, besides the double entendre, it’s all of you who is valuable.) and I thank you for that!!

  4. “I know, with absolute certainty, that what I’m avoiding, feeling confused about, fuzzy and unclear is a simmering caldron of delicious awareness waiting to increase my life energy.” I can relate to this #5 because that is where I am currently with my series of paintings. Perhaps, since I have been here before, it is not a feeling of failure but feelings of impatience.

    So, I am going back and reading the art books I have read before – Remedios Varo is a sheroe – to acquire a deeper level of understanding, and maybe just the inspiration I need.

    I journal a little, I paint something that is not that challenging – a holiday note card – and I am purging my studio. The latter requires letting go of previous media I have worked in, throwing away stuff, etc.

    Perhaps I am like a snake – needing to shed my skin though the essence of who I am remains…..???

  5. Carol, my good woman, I have a thought for you.

    What if you played a little game with “impatience?” A writing game.

    Write the question, “What do I mean by impatience?” Then write your answer, looking for the next hot word that jumps up, then ask “What do I mean by x?”

    You can also ask “What do I mean by impatience?” up to 5 times and see how the responses shift.

    … just a thought…

  6. Delores Rhodes says:

    I’ve joined this conversation a bit late, 3 months late, but just wanted to say how appropriate it was for me to read today.

    1) I am completely amazed that someone who seems so together would have crisis of confidence! This somehow made my melt down this morning easier to survive.

    2) Amazingly enough, I decided that along with all the other issues that lead to the melt down, the ridiculous diet I have followed for the past week is partly to blame. I’ve been starving for a week!

    So, I’ve left the crazy diet behind and have adopted a more reasonable one from Weight Watchers. (Yeah, actual food, not powdered ‘shakes’!)

    Thank you so much for sharing the fact that even you, a person who seems to have it all together, can have a melt down too! I guess misery really does love company.

    • Welcome to the party, Delores. In virtual reality, you can play 3 months like as if it was yesterday (which, technically, it was.).

      I wasn’t thinking at all about misery loving company because, if you read my post, you’ll see I never use the word “misery.”

      It isn’t as intentional as it is organic. I love the light and the dark, equally, as one cycle of inhale… exhale….

      Up and Down define each other. So, the more we identify at the personality level, the harder the Down feels, and the less exciting the Up feels.

      I prefer to coast, sliding from light to dark and dark to light as easily as the Spinner dolphin leaps from the water, twirling in the air before dropping back into the sea.

      I’m delighted to have you join the conversation.

      Have you checked out my outrageous (sometimes) “Blue Stocking Art Salon,” an online conversation about the artist’s life that’s rich and deeply satisfying.

      You can check it out here: http://bluestockingartsalon.com/

      • Delores Rhodes says:

        I love the poetic way that you get your point across.

        Yes, I understand/understood your meaning and only meant that it made me feel better to realize I wasn’t the only one who had to go through the ‘down’ portion to obtain the ‘up’ portion of my life/psyche/whatever. It’s easier when you’re not alone.

        I will try to think of these not as jarring and jagged turns of events, but as you say, sliding from light to dark and back again in a gentle rhythm.

        Even though my meltdown was painful, it did force me to reevaluate some things, which then allowed me to make some changes in my life, so, in the end, it was a positive process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *