finding my FIERCENESS

Last weekend really took it out of me. You know...it…the stuffing, the feathers, the air. It wasn’t seeing mom; feeling her vulnerability and loneliness. It wasn’t feeling my own helplessness and sadness. No, what left my nervous system in a state of code orange was the encounter with my brother.

A lifetime of fear of his physical and verbal aggression lives in my cell tissue. I am undone every time I encounter his hostility toward me. I end up mad at myself for giving him such power. I fantasize my ability to square off with him, face to face, and with no quiver in my voice tell him, “Shut the fuck up.”

Instead, I have jello legs, my heart beats out of my chest, and I can’t breathe. I hate him and then myself for responding like a wimp…again. My body responds to the danger by shutting down when my head wants me to either take him out or run away…quickly. My head and my body are at odds with one another.

After my encounter, Tom and I headed back to our hotel, stopping on Hope Street (how appropriate) to browse in some of the cute shoppes we had driven by for the last two days. Tom went into the men’s shoppe, I found PB&J’s, a woman’s boutique. It seemed a bit high end for me, but touching the soft fabric soothed me, doing something mundane, like shopping, helped me feel normal.

Then I saw it. A coat. Not just any coat. A great coat. Hanging there, against a wall, so beautifully displayed in it’s isolated simplicity. I knew, as I walked toward it, hands outstretched like I was headed toward the Light, I did not need a new coat. Again my body and mind begged to differ. My feet walked toward the coat regardless of my recent decision to reline and revamp my favorite 10 year old alpaca overcoat.

“Oh, what the heIl,” I cajoled myself as I tried it on. In the mirror looking back at me I IMG_0917good enough to eat saffron satin lining sealed the deal. I felt carnivorous. “Don’t mess with me, I will eat you!”

I pulled out my Visa and bought the coat. Thanks to an after Christmas sale it was 25% off. See…it was meant to be. Tom, who had wandered into the store to find me, foolishly asked if I thought the coat would be warm?

“Warm? Really? Who cares?” I responded. I left the store, my totem coat casually draped over my arm, embodying Audrey Hepburn’s understated glamour.

Yesterday, I shared my weekend with my dear women’s group. I cried with them as I told them about my terror. I admitted adrenaline was still running through my veins making me forgetful, easily startled and exhausted. They listened and loved me as only wonderful woman friends can. They soothed my self loathing by assuring me it was smart to trust my bodies reaction of terror when facing my brother’s disowned malevolence. They said when someone is being terrorized they are supposed to feel terrified. Feeling understood opened my airways.

As I prepared to leave, throwing my coat over my shoulders, they shared my excitement in buying such a powerful, sharp clawed cat coat to made me feel safer. Stronger. Fiercer. With cheetah speed to run faster.

RRRRROOOOAAAARRRRR

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I AM NICE!

Many years ago-sounds a bit like the beginning of a fairy tale-the foundation of who I was, or thought I was, crumbled. I grabbled with the question, “Who am I?” I felt the enormity of the question, as well as, my terror of not knowing the answer or, worse yet, how to find the answer. My illusions had died and I didn’t have a replacement reality. I felt like a blank slate.

 

Because I am a visual person (that much I did know about myself) I envisioned my blank slate status as a big, yellow legal pad. With that image in mind, I drove to Staples, found a tablet and bought it. My plan was to notice myself and document who I met. I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed by the project and a lot scared at the blankness of the tablet before me. I also remember some excitement at the prospect of defining myself rather than being defined by others.

 

So, I took my pad with me where ever I went.

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And We All Fall Down

I try not to, but still do. In Mexico, this fall (no pun intended), I missed a step down walking into a courtyard. I did my best to catch myself, hopping on one foot, while forward momentum propelled me into the legs of an unsuspecting Mexican man. He did his best to catch me while saving himself from being knocked over. I did my best to right myself to save what little pride I still had. “Perdon,” I gasped leaning against his legs.

 

This past December, for my 54th birthday, I was given The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo by 2 different friends. (I pay attention when the same gift comes from multiple people. I assume I must need it.) It is a daily meditation book. I highly recommend it.

 

Yesterday, adhering to my new spiritual practice/new years resolution, I read the entry for the day. It was about letting go so we don’t fall down. The line I was drawn to was, “…in a moment of ego we refuse to put down what we carry in order to open the door.” The author was referring to a friend of his who refused to put down two opened gallons of paint, drop cloths, mixing sticks, and paint brush to open a door. As a result he lost his balance and fell. You can imagine the mess. It was red paint. Continue reading