Again with the Tension?! (Or, It’s OK not to know)

It’s happened again. An old theme has come circling around, adding another new level of understanding.

June 2009: I wrote this post on a different blog, which I then re-posted here in July 2011. This is the gist: During a Journal Therapy training I wrote (well, it kind of wrote itself while I held the pen) an Alphapoem which included the phrase, “Resume the Stability of Tension.” Not knowing what the hell that meant, I played with it for a while using other writing exercises. Then a few weeks later I was provided with the answer while reading Christina Baldwin’s Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest:

… you need to envision a lifeline between [where you are and where you want to go]. It needs to be tense, like a tightrope, something you can walk along. The necessity for tension requires we develop a different attitude about tension: this is creative tension. Creative tension is what creates the path. When we lose tension, we wander without focus (my bolding). We have to decide over and over again to stay close to the tension, to walk the wire.

In response I wrote:

I was wandering without focus. I was trying to split myself between a job that was sucking the life out of me and the longing to pursue a writing/teacher career… [but] I choose to put my Longing back in charge. Together we will walk the high wire of creativity – up where Potential and the Higher Self lives.

And so I went on my way. Two years later, I am writing, teaching and learning amazing, life-changing things.

Today: I pick up the copy of Marion Woodman’s Leaving My Father’s House: A Journey to Conscious Femininity, and casually flip to a page. I read this:

Knowing [the eternal feminine] has nothing to do with blindly stumbling toward a fate we think we cannot avoid. It has everything to do with developing consciousness until it is strong enough to hold tension as creative energy.”

Having read a lot about the Sacred Feminine or Feminine Divine (or in pure psychological terms, the feminine aspects in both men and women, or our more Right-Brain-associated functions), it is that part of us that can deal with mystery, with the not-knowing, ambiguity, paradox, contradiction, irrationality, possibility… i.e. what creates art  – or stresses us completely out!

Personally, I don’t deal well with Not Knowing. It makes me tense, as it does many people. We like answers, truth, predictability, logic. We are, after-all, a predominantly and proudly Left-Brained culture. Woodman’s use of the word “tense” in the above quote reminded me of that kind of tension, the stress kind. The kind we are told is not good, the kind not to sweat. But here she is telling us that Not Knowing, that being tense, is a way to produce creative energy.

And doesn’t that make sense? We can only come up with new ideas, create new possibilities, think outside that proverbial box, if we don’t have an answer already, if we are not concretely certain and convinced and determined that we already have The Truth. No great change, no great art, no great invention, no discovery, no shift towards better was ever made by those who already had The Answer.

And so, two and a half years after writing that strange phrase and then having been given The Answer, I am given Another Answer, on the surface contradictory but equally good, equally empowering. The one does not exclude the other, they can live side-by-side, providing me with new possibilities of thought.

“Resume the Stability of Tension” = Only a tense rope (a focused life) will carry you forward, and it is only when letting go of what you think you know that you can move forward. It is OK –  indeed good – not to know.

Maybe next week, next year, tomorrow, I’ll be offered another equally truthful meaning of the poem that was given to me…

Prompt: “It is a contradiction, but equally true, that…

P.S. Just hours after publishing this post I picked up where I had left off in the other book I am reading, The Chalice and the Blade and read this:

tension between pairs as well as opposite is a frequent theme. The dynamism of nature and its periodic rejuvenation through the seeming opposites of death and birth… unity and the duality of life and death… motherhood and virginity… femininity and masculinity… juxtaposition and essential unity of the creative and destructive powers… this [is the] all-encompassing transformative character of the … ‘goddess of opposites.'”

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Tolerating Fear

This is a recycled post from a couple of years ago. With summer in full , hot swing, the kids are home most days of the week leaving me very little chance to write (the beach and my laptop aren’t great friends). I am yearning to write but when I do have a moment I find myself wading through the ever-deeper seas of social media promoting upcoming workshops instead. 

I have chosen this post because of some particular events this week. One: I truly wrote through some fear in my journal – and came out not only unscathed on the other side but feeling much better; and Two, Three and Four: Some amazing things have landed in my lap this week that I wasn’t even looking for after I stopped worrying about, well,  EVERYTHING! Fear is a crazy, life-blocking thing and it’s time to stomp it on the head. I have written many posts about Fear and over the next little while I will re-post them (Recycling is Good!).

Oh, and P.S. Two years later my daughter is a fabulous belly-dancer (I can boast about my own child, right?) and the only one in her class who can balance a sword on her head while standing on one foot! Fear conquered!

“First recognize that you’re afraid and slowly build your tolerance for fear…

… You may still feel it, but you become willing to bear it as you write. You keep your hand moving, you stay there, you move closer and closer to the edge of what scares you.” – Natalie Goldberg, Thunder and Lightning

I have been working on an article for the past couple of months. It’s a biggie for me – the first one for one of the “Glossys” – and I am petrified. First I had to write the query and that scared the bejeezus outta me. But I wrote it and it was accepted. Toe in water. But now I have to swim, and swim damn well. The fear of writing something mediocre and having it rejected has me swearing never to call myself a writer again. I admit I am afraid that I’m not really a writer.

My daughter starts a belly dancing class tonight but she’s scared. What if they don’t like me? What if they laugh at me? It hurts my belly when I hula-hoop – won’t this hurt too? What if I can’t do it right? I try to convince her that everyone has to start somewhere (and sometimes hurt somewhere, like those en pointe ballet dancers who suffer through bloody toes for the love of their craft). I ask her, do you really want to not try this just in case you will have a bad experience? Why are you scared about something you don’t even know about yet?

Um, Mom? Do you hear the words coming out of your mouth? Maybe you need to be having this pep talk with yourself!

Natalie Goldberg was of course referring to writing in the above quote, but isn’t there a message for us all, for our life?  Get close to fear and experience it, feel it. Splash around in it. Like the ocean, its chill eventually becomes tolerable, even enjoyable. Run into a cold sea enough times and you get to know it will get better. Fear turns to “Frust” (faith + trust). And once you have faith there can be no fear.

Recently I experienced some Serendipity that slapped Fear right out the door and allowed Faith back in.

Anxiety and exhaustion over self-promotion, high-achievement, perfectionism, and self-doubt found me standing at the sink blubbering what-ifs over the dirty dishes. The lack of response from one particular cold contact and my insatiable need to save the world ten workshops at a time had triggered the melt-down. I was overwhelmed by all the possibilities and by my own potential to make a difference. What if I was missing opportunities to help people by not following up on every collaboration suggestion? Was I failing at my work by not contacting all the non-profits in town? It was suddenly all too much.

The networking and marketing was taking too much time and producing far too much stress. My name and work was getting known. So, I decided to let it go. To let people come to me.

And they did.

Four days later two lovely ladies walked in to the coffee shop where I was running an informal writing circle. They were from the very non-profit that had unintentionally instigated my fears. And the most amazing thing is that they weren’t there because they had received my email but just because they had seen my brochure somewhere and thought my work would be a good fit for one of their projects.

As I write my article for the “Glossy” I am thoroughly submerging myself in the Fear of it not being good enough. As I slowly let go and just write for the pure joy of writing and spreading my message, the Fear becomes more tolerable and starts to feel a little more like “Frust.” I have to trust that I do have talent and something important to say, and the faith to know that even if the article is rejected it is not a personal failure – rather a lesson for the next time.

Prompt: What are you afraid of? What are you willing to tolerate in order to move to a place of acceptance and growth?

 


Quoting Natalie: Tolerating fear

“First recognize that you’re afraid and slowly build your tolerance for fear…

… You may still feel it, but you become willing to bear it as you write. You keep your hand moving, you stay there, you move closer and closer to the edge of what scares you.” – Natalie Goldberg, Thunder and Lightning

I have been working on an article for the past couple of months. It’s a biggie for me – the first one for one of the “Glossys” – and I am petrified. First I had to write the query and that scared the bejeezus outta me. But I wrote it and it was accepted. Toe in water. But now I have to swim, and swim damn well. The fear of writing something mediocre and having it rejected has me swearing never to call myself a writer again. I admit I am afraid that I’m not really a writer.

My daughter starts a belly dancing class tonight but she’s scared. What if they don’t like me? What if they laugh at me? It hurts my belly when I hula-hoop – won’t this hurt too? What if I can’t do it right? I try to convince her that everyone has to start somewhere (and sometimes hurt somewhere, like those en pointe ballet dancers who suffer through bloody toes for the love of their craft). I ask her, do you really want to not try this just in case you will have a bad experience? Why are you scared about something you don’t even know about yet?

Um, Mom? Do you hear the words coming out of your mouth? Maybe you need to be having this pep talk with yourself!

Natalie Goldberg was of course referring to writing in the above quote, but isn’t there a message for us all, for our life?  Get close to fear and experience it, feel it. Splash around in it. Like the ocean, its chill eventually becomes tolerable, even enjoyable. Run into a cold sea enough times and you get to know it will get better. Fear turns to “Frust” (faith + trust). And once you have faith there can be no fear.

Recently I experienced some Serendipity that slapped Fear right out the door and allowed Faith back in.

Anxiety and exhaustion over self-promotion, high-achievement, perfectionism, and self-doubt found me standing at the sink blubbering what-ifs over the dirty dishes. The lack of response from one particular cold contact and my insatiable need to save the world ten workshops at a time had triggered the melt-down. I was overwhelmed by all the possibilities and by my own potential to make a difference. What if I was missing opportunities to help people by not following up on every collaboration suggestion? Was I failing at my work by not contacting all the non-profits in town? It was suddenly all too much.

The networking and marketing was taking too much time and producing far too much stress. My name and work was getting known. So, I decided to let it go. To let people come to me.

And they did.

Four days later two lovely ladies walked in to the coffee shop where I was running an informal writing circle. They were from the very non-profit that had unintentionally instigated my fears. And the most amazing thing is that they weren’t there because they had received my email but just because they had seen my brochure somewhere and thought my work would be a good fit for one of their projects.

As I write my article for the “Glossy” I am thoroughly submerging myself in the Fear of it not being good enough. As I slowly let go and just write for the pure joy of writing and spreading my message, the Fear becomes more tolerable and starts to feel a little more like “Frust.” I have to trust that I do have talent and something important to say, and the faith to know that even if the article is rejected it is not a personal failure – rather a lesson for the next time.

Prompt: What are you afraid of? What are you willing to tolerate in order to move to a place of acceptance and growth?

(For my article based on this quote go to Examiner.com)


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Perpetuating our own truth

Even before I got out of the car I questioned why I was here. I had pulled myself away from a cozy fire and good company to go out into a chilly, damp December night. I was about to walk into an overheated crowd of locals, some of whom I hadn’t seen for twenty years or more. Immediately we have two problems with the scenario: 1) I’m an introvert. I don’t like crowds or rowdy parties. I’m more of the intimate dinner party type where you can have deep, interesting conversation. How’s the weather? and What have you been up to for the last twenty years? strike me dumb. 2) I don’t drink (that much). And 3) at this particular point in our lives I was painfully aware that the money passed across the bar for the wine or Malibu and Coke that might have relaxed me a little could have fed my family a nice dinner.

It was my high school class 20th “preunion” held in advance of the official July reunion in deference to the few class mates who were shipping out to Afghanistan  in January. Hubby and I had spent Boxing Day (the British name for the day after Christmas) with my parents and so were in town anyway, I thought we should go.

I worried that I looked slim enough, 37 and not 45, and if my hair wasn’t too poofy. And I worried I wouldn’t know what to say to anyone. The very few people I was close to in high school weren’t going to be there and any others were in reality only acquaintances. Yes, we had spent four years knocking around the same halls and suffering under the same teachers, but I did not know them. And they don’t know me.

I hadn’t spent my formative years with them. Our mothers did not chat over coffee, our fathers didn’t watch the Game together. I never went to high school parties because back then I was “religious” and probably wouldn’t have been allowed to attend even if I had been invited. I wasn’t a cheerleader or soccer player. I attempted to play field hockey but that was only because a friend had told this newly arrived “English girl” that you weren’t anybody in high school unless you played a sport (she also told me that it was imperative that I wear a turtle neck under a button-down oxford – and I thought there wasn’t a school uniform here). So upon arriving at the school, I signed up for the only sport I had any experience with in my former school. I spent the next three springs sprinting (which I was good at) up and down the side of a field, stick in hand, praying the ball wouldn’t come anywhere near me. The only compensation was that I knew I looked good in the little pleated skirt.

I was too shy to join any other groups other than drama and the peer help group called Students to Students. Not one student ever came to talk to me. I question whether that was because no one had any troubles or because I sent out vibes that declared I was unapproachable? I’m guessing the latter. The truth was I was so anxious and unsure of my place in the (American) world that I erected a protective wall of which I was unaware but very few people penetrated.

Where I really belonged was in the music room. Once dear Mrs. LaPlaca heard me sing that’s where I and my closest friends spent a lot of  time. It was here I felt freer to be me.

That was twenty years ago. My high school friends are living their own lives and we are no longer physically or socially close. I have been away from the area for more than 15 years and I am not the shy, unauthentic, uncertain 16 year old I was. Or am I?

Walking into that bar, seeing faces from another time, another life time, bought it all back. The discomfort of not knowing where you fit, how you fit, or if you should even try. If I was an extrovert I would not only have had more friends in high school to begin with but I would be able to walk into a room of almost-strangers and initiate conversations, chat about football or kids, and throw caution and money to the wind for a few drinks.

But as it was, I felt like running away I moment I stepped over the threshold. Not because of the people there but because of me. I didn’t like being reminded of the lost little girl I once was. Just like the pathetically bad field hockey player who missed out on being in two plays because she was trying so hard to be a “somebody,” and the socially awkward student mentor, I felt uncomfortable and ostracized. And who made me feel this way? Me. I was once again the self-conscious “English girl” who didn’t belong. And so I made it so.

We make our own beds. What do you believe about yourself that you know in your heart isn’t true? How do you continue to perpetuate your own truth? How can you change this “truth” in 2010?