Feeling my darkness – longing for light

Vulnerability is the birth place of all we hunger for

joy creativity faith and love

and there is none of this without risking failure

Be open enough to take the risk to fail.

Brene Brown

Ever since beginning this breast cancer journey I have been more and more aware of the degree of pain and suffering of my life, I notice also that a lot of my focus at times is on the pain and suffering.  It seemed from adolescence onward so many difficult experiences transpired, things that isolated me and took me away from others that it was almost as if I was captured by the darkness.  I now see however I wish to reach for light, for joy, for happiness but could it be that not being too familiar with these things at times I get stuck in a darkness rut?

Lately I am also realising that because my own relationship with my mother was not easy (there were already many hurts in place by adolescence) my ability to connect deeply with girlfriends was damaged to a degree.  I found it difficult to reach out and trust.  To open my heart to connection again.  I can see all of this now in hindsight and because of the amount of work I have done in therapy.  There were always reasons for what happened and life was really a healing journey in which pain would be a very powerful teacher.

In early recovery from addiction I was already very interested in astrology and archetypes, those eternal patterns of human psychological process, understanding and symbology, myths and stories which give meaning to the profound passages we humans go through on the soul’s journey.

When I came across Roger Woodger’s book on the Goddess archetypes and read about Persephone who in astrology and mythology is the feminine aspect of the archetype and planet Pluto I became aware of the underworld themes of my own life reflected in her story.  I became aware that I was a Persephone woman myself.

Persephone is a goddess who lived in the underworld, she has a strong connection to the underground psyche, the great unconscious both personal and collective.  She underwent painful profound passages of loss and stripping away which marked her for this kind of knowing of cycles of birth, loss, death and transformation.  Persephone women are no strangers to suffering, the may have gone through abuse which leads them to become addicts.  They may have had to relegate huge parts of themselves to the Underground.  They may not have been fully accepted by family or culture and this may have sent them out on a journey where they had to be alone and in knowing aloneness they came to know their own soul well and through this understanding of human pain and vulnerability they end up developing insight into others too.

As I am writing this it has occurred to me that understanding and acceptance of this life journey, painful as it can be at times enriches us.  I also means we can be more accepting of our need for alone time to reconnect with the self and don’t have to struggle as hard to be liked or be one of the crowd.

As a young person feeling different this was not how I felt.  I longed to belong to the crowd, to be attractive, easy to get along with and popular but now I see that if I had been these things I would not have been totally me.  Also due to my own negative self concept I may have also judged myself to be less liked or loved than circumstances are now revealing to me that I am.  I also misunderstood that standing on the sidelines and observing did not necessarily mean I was disconnected,  in a way I was more connected to insights and impressions.

My recent hospital stay has brought up for me so many aspects of my damaged past.  The scary near death motor crash of 1979, the three months of hospitalisation pinned to a bed where I could not leave and my range of motion was restricted.  The months of isolation from friends and school, my tentative return and then very close to the coming out of hospital my sister’s cerebral bleed which over the next two years fractured our family relationships and in four years led to my father’s death.  My trip over to the other side of the world where more difficult relationships ensued as I struggled to live and connect.  The four painful abandonments by partners who in leaving blamed me, after treating me cruelly.  My loss of belief in myself and descent into addiction and then my painful realisation that I needed to enter recovery.  The attempt to turn my life around over the next 10 years, the ending of my marriage, entry into a narcissistic relationship and two other accidents.  My entry into therapy and struggle to find the right help.  My sister’s suicide attempt, mother’s illness following major surgery, my older sister’s death and my recent diagnosis with breast cancer.  Phew, that is an enormous amount of suffering and difficulty.

As I write all of this down today I am filled with awe in a way that something in me that is strong has survived and lived through all of this and today I am reminded too that in time all of these conditions passed.  I do believe that despite the dark I have known I can still find the light on many  days.  Indeed it seems the reward for being in the dark and passing through painful feelings or allowing them to pass through and transform me I find the light.  And this is one of the functions of Persephone/Pluto.  We are transformed by opening up to vulnerability and pain and allowing ourselves to be transformed by the darkness which can scare others.

Deep in my soul I know that due to my own Pluto Moon in true mythological Plutonian fashion I am the one whose path has led into the burning flames many times and that after time I do come out transformed, even if black at times and covered in soot and dismissed, disregarded and rejected by those who never knew the full extent of my journey.   And in this I am most certainly not alone as there are so many of you out there enduring your own dark passages and living to tell the tale, with learnings to speak of and share.  I read about all of your journeys here.  It truly is a long and winding road.

Many times over the past few days in hospital the words of that Beatles song have come to me:

Many times I’ve been alone

And many times I’ve cried

Anyway you’ll never know

The many ways I’ve tried

But still they lead me back

To the long winding road

I am still walking the road, even if at the moment following my time in hospital I am resting more.  In some miraculous way in my hour of greatest need people I have felt abandoned by or who did not understand have showed up to support me.  I don’t know if even a year ago I could have opened my heart to allow in this support and love of me in.  I don’t know if I would have felt worthy enough or had healed enough of my own co-dependence.

A few years ago I could not have reached out and expressed my sadness and need at not receiving help, nor given people a chance to know how I was truly feeling.  Its been scary at times to unmask this vulnerability and need and to tell the truth of my story.

I lately often get told by one family member that I am lucky but the truth is I think I have expressed myself more than this person and asked for help.  I have shown that I am vulnerable in a way they have not and it feels a bit invalidating to be told I am lucky when in fact I have taken steps even on the darkest days to reach in some way for the light.

Through blogging, through trips to the park with my dog, through making phone calls to connect with others by life has expanded a little more towards happiness and joy.   By leaving my prison of isolation and pain which at times seemed too large and by taking risks to be truthful and express the dark even though my fear was I would be judged and rejected I have found support and love.

My Leo North Node lesson in any case is all about this.  Its about developing a voice and a will and a power of self expression that is assertive rather than aggressive.  When I started my recent chiropractic treatment which involves breathing and connecting into the navel, heart and throat centres it was my throat centre that was still more blocked than the other two.  I was taught to connect to my gut and tapping it a few times to “speak up”.  My mother’s generation’s pain (1920-1930) was silenced. They could not speak up. They had to endure.  Later generations are turning this around.  Deep inside me there was so much pain it was hard to vocalise or ‘cough up’.

The reward over the last few weeks for opening up my throat and asking and expressing has been love.  I have never felt more surrounded with love and for this I feel so grateful.

At times when I blog I still criticise and judge my own darkness.  When I publish some raw pieces and I don’t get many likes part of me feels I should change my expression, not be so raw.  But I know that this would not be right because I need to be authentic and my value does not rest on anyone else’s opinion.  Learning and living that truth is part of co-dependence recovery.

I feel the journey that we take into the dark is the journey to rescue ourselves.  In the end no one else can do it.  We have to face the fear of the dark and embrace it anyway and we have to be honest, even if our vision is dark and challenges other people. They have a right to their vision, we have a right to ours.  Once we take self responsibility others seem to be more willing to show up.  At least that is my experience.

Opening up and asking has meant having to feel a lot of fear.  One of my deepest fears has been that if I asked for help I would be overpowered.  I now know that was an old fear.  I have the boundaries to say something now if my boundaries are transgressed.

In a moment of synchronicity while writing this I checked my Reader in WordPress and following a shame link came across the Soul Sunday video interviews between Oprah Winfrey and shame researcher Brene Brown.  In one video Brene spoke about our cultures fear of vulnerability and the dark she also spoke about how it is the birthplace of all that we hunger for.  Some of her words headlined this piece I was writing this afternoon.

Today after four or so dark days the light is returning for me.  It feels as though Persephone is coming up for air on one of her upper world visits just in time for the Pisces New Moon tomorrow that falls not very far away from opposition with my natal Pluto in the first house.  So I guess this blog is right on time.  And the day ends with me feeling so much stronger  and lighter than I was this time yesterday, aware of so much more, grateful too for so much.

Facing Fear

I wrote this post just over a week ago.  It turns out that the diagnosis my sister was awaiting was a positive test for breast cancer.  I am posting this today as I walked through the fear of going with her to receive the results on Tuesday.   I am learning that when I feel fear I must reach for a place to love myself through it and take the steps to move forward, rather than letting it paralyse me or hold me back :

I am reaching a point where I want to embrace my fear and take action and still feel hope and love for myself and everyone even in the midst of this fear so that I don’t spin out totally and loose touch with my safe ground.  I also do not want to allow my fear to paralyse me like it does at times.  I think the further I go on this journey the more insight into myself I obtain.

Today I felt a lot of fear as my sister had to go for a biopsy following a routine mammogram.  The results will not be known until Tuesday but I felt immediately scared and began to spin out a little. I used self talk to calm myself and contain the negativity and fear that was arising.  The other thing was the sadness that came up when I spoke to my sister and the realisation, after I got off the phone,  that all of this is occurring at exactly the same time of year as my father was diagnosed with cancer in 1984.

Those memories are pertinent at this time of year, even though it was so many years ago.  I am powerless really over the outcome of the test for my sister.  I can only be there to love and support.  My sister sounded so strong and positive on the phone.  As we spoke she said she had been in melt down earlier, especially after she had spoken to her sons.  I am reminded of the day my mother called to ask me to come and visit her and Dad and Dad had to give me the news of his own cancer.  How hard that must be for a parent.  How painful it was for both of us but the love that was felt too as I crossed the room to hug my Dad and he dissolved in tears.

Until the outcome of the biopsy is known I can do nothing and worry will rob my day from me and keep me paralysed.  At times like this I always think of the serenity prayer

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference

The first step is to figure out if it is something I have any power over to change.  If it is not I can pray for acceptance and serenity and take active steps to put those in my day by engaging in something that brings joy and good energy for me.  If it is something I can change and need to find courage for I can take a deep breath and go forward holding my fear by the hand and acting anyway.

Even if it is a negative result I know I have the resilience to cope.  I was able to be by my other sister’s side in the last days of her life and accept it was time to turn off the life support and let her go.  I could cry and tell her all the things I didn’t get to say to my Dad, as his death was sudden under an emergency procedure and I had been unable to visit him the night before.

Many years ago I could not work through these feelings.  It took until 15 years later for them to come out of the deep freeze and numbing of my addiction.  These days though I miss him, I know I have grieved.  Some days I am still grieving for my sister who has died.  Some days I am grieving for myself and other days for my Mum too.  Grief will not destroy me.  I do not need to fear it.  I need only feel it and know it as part of what it means to love and face the final earthly separation.

Waiting

Waiting

this will be my place of waiting

as the caterpillar waits

in its submission

upon an inner alchemy

the inward transformation

of pain and difficulties

Does the caterpillar rebel?

Does it twist and turn

as it dissolves and burns

clean of its old form

growing gossamer wings

here in the darkness?

Does it fight the darkness

or use it

submitting itself fully

to its transforming power?

Does it not rise again

from this cocoon

on wings to fly skyward?

Let me remember this

as I wait

and hold through

in the midst of difficulties

struggle and pain

that these experiences

have an inner power

are working their alchemy

upon my own soul

Let me also remember

that death is not only an ending

but has hidden within it

the seeds of a new beginning

of new life and wisdom.

An end of running

I think for so many years, I ran

because deep inside it felt as though

there was nowhere to be held

no where to feel safe

a safe harbour

from the tumultuous churning seas

around me

so often I see there has been

only this restless running

today when I sat with you

while they gave you the diagnosis

with deep compassion in their eyes

nodula carcinoma

I realise there is nowhere to run to

and neither do I want to

I only want to be here

close by your side

I want to love you and give you all that I have

in my heart

no more defences

we need a place to rest

I know how tired you are

so how will you cope

with this cutting

you have already been told to swallow poison

hoping it will cure

an invisible malaise

they don’t truly understand

is this your body’s silent rebellion?

I sense my powerlessness

and your fear for a time

becomes my fear

this is not happening to me

so why do I feel it so deeply?

It was hard to leave you this afternoon

it felt as if there was only peace and safety

in this togetherness

and out there a raging sea

that might swallow me whole

tears fall as I leave

and I drive the short distance home

where my puppy’s soft downy fur

is my first greeting

the soothing he gives

worth more than any other gift

there is here

the falling leaves

the gentle breeze

afternoon’s soft light

and peace

beyond all the thoughts and fears

and I realise I have found

my safe harbour

 built over these long and painful years

of feeing my true feelings

and now

there can be an end of running

Loving through Letting Go

Last night I dreamed of the lover who last broke my heart and launched me on the deepest dark night of suffering. I was no stranger to loss and the meeting with him triggered all the pain of past losses, although I was not yet fully conscious of this suffering and much of it was replayed out over the four and a half years of our relationship.

He needed me to be without the wounds and scars that I bore, I still was capable of love and of loving but there were oceans of pain buried in my body and of anger too. He had his own anger, I am sure this is why we found each other.

In a strange way it would take the loss of this relationship to lead me to the place of suffering where awareness would grow and where I could find love in the understanding and empathetic embrace of therapy, writing, solitude, new understanding relationships and deep in the sanctuary of my own home.

In the dream last night we were together again but there was the awareness that it was only for a time, and if the relationship were to survive I would need to let go and him too, no longer making demands. So it was in the dream.

This dream was probably prompted by listening to the song Heartbeats by Jose Gonzalez last night. This song and the album it appeared on was the soundtrack to our relationship and takes me back in a most powerfully evocative and haunting way to that first winter on the coast of our relationship : beautiful love making, dinners shared, picnicking and lying on the beach while he surfed, cuddling his lovely dog, Sally and listening to him play guitar.

This idyll did not last. Arguments began after many months of bliss. He wanted me to change into someone I was not. He could not explore that my being different was not a threat to him, most especially my sadness, I had gone through a lot of loss. Probably it was not the right time for us. But in a way it was the right time to try again for me, even if it failed and lead to even deeper loneliness and heartbreak for a long time.

The agony following his decision to end it for me was the worst I had known, containing within it the buried pain of three other heartbreaks as well the pain of my father’s death at 23 still not fully grieved, only grieved more fully through enduring echoing losses (of his father and mother).

This week I tapped most deeply into this pain. I became once again the deep sea diver of my own soul. The feelings of deep sadness in being fully felt passed. I must say this weekend even though it is dark and overcast here I am not feeling the deep soul ache of suicidal pain that has been with me from time to time over the past four years. My soul is healing. I can feel it and with the Sun passing through my twelfth house memories from times long past are rising up to the surface of consciousness like flotsam and jetsam.

I’m glad to have the astro awareness as it helps me to navigate and accept these cycles in my psyche and soul. And I am conscious too that soon Venus which was been navigating the second half of the sign Leo and has recently passed over my North Node in the first house will move forward to approaching square with my natal Chiron in the seventh where it will in the 0 degree of Virgo station to turn retrograde. This will be a time of navigating self value, of understanding where my pain has taken me, of the essential lessons of solitude have been necessary for me to live truly as the soul I need to be for me, while still part of the collective (my Sun Venus Mercury Jupiter and descendant are all in the seventh house in Aquarius opposite natal North Node in the first).

I see clearly this morning that the relationship I nearly tore myself apart to hold onto was not meant to last. I was meant to have this time alone and now I can remember the beautiful times before the fights without the terrible aching of pain and longing in my soul. All of this has been transformed for me. It has taken not only time but work. I needed to feel that pain and the other pains too, so intimately connected like a painful lattice tapestry in my soul.

This dark night is not a path I would have chosen but one I was destined to take and travel and was prefigured in a dream where an African woman with deep soul suffering in her eyes told me she had lost a baby the knowing was a dark light of acceptance around that loss.

And that we cannot hold onto love but must in letting go allow it its own time and space to effect the necessary dark alchemy on our souls.

An Inner Alchemy

Moon Voodoo

Following on from the post I wrote yesterday and having read a comment made by Ursula I am prompted to write this blog.

Yesterday, partly as a response to reading Therese Borchard’s blog : Dear Friend, This Is Depression, and partly as an instinctive response to sadness bubbling up from deep inside, I wrote a blog that mentioned my own death thoughts and the feelings I struggle with in a family and culture where it has been hard to find acceptance of deeper, darker feelings.

The Jungian therapist, James Hillman, has spoken about what he sees as our culture’s manic defence against depression. It helped me to understand this many years ago when I began to face my own grief swallowed down following years of addiction.

A lot of people just don’t want to be faced with the idea of death, of loss, of endings, with things that confront them with their powerlessness (even if only for a time).  Maybe they have endured these and found the pain a little too hard to face.

I can also understand that in facing death, depression, illness and loss some people make a commitment to enter more fully into life, others can wallow around in the muck and get some kind of negative pleasure from it.   And it can be very difficult to judge, especially when you meet someone who is defended against deep feeling, they may judge you for wallowing when in fact you are just deep in process and it may be a process that does not suit their timing. At other times we may be faced with a martyr energy that is deriving some kind of negative pleasure from the dark.

Sadness can have a gravitational pull.  Maybe those of us with a strong Saturn Pluto energy are more subject to this pull.  Having the door shut on you, because you are too angry or sad for someone hurts a lot.  Often we just need acceptance and validation for our feelings. Often its a reality that we just cannot hope for it from certain people.

In my own experience is its miraculous and amazing to watch darker feelings transform when they are bathed in the calm light of acceptance.  This is the practice of mindfulness but sometimes mindfulness practiced alone does not heal as much as the calm and open acceptance of someone who is willing to just be with us and sit with us in our darkness, sadness and depression until it transforms.

I used to find it very interesting when I would visit my sister in the care home and when she was crying or raging a lot of the staff would look for something to put down her throat.  I would just rub her back or hold her hand.  There were really no words to say that met her in the place she needed to be met.  Often if you used words with her in this situation she would just go silent or scream even louder.  She was screaming in anguish at not being met, at not finding presence.

I’m remembering this now as I face the first Christmas without her.  I must be honest, many of those visits were very painful, often I left crying but following the shedding of my tears a lightness would come.  I guess each time I met my sister there I entered a little into death, it was a brief visitation that then made appreciation of life and light so much more precious.  And I understood her dark feelings a lot more after two relationships ended and that pain triggered earlier pain.

Today when I listened to a song that reminds me so much of her and the burden of pain she carried I felt the conflicting pull of sadness of death/past and life/present vying with my soul. I know both have their place are maybe hidden in each other.

For me, I am grateful for those who are willing to allow a place for the dark, for deep feelings of sadness, who give me permission through their calm acceptance of what is, rather than a rigid, manic defensiveness, rejection or leave taking.  I will and have survived being left alone with pain, but it is comfort to receive, understanding, affirmation, support.

The other day I came across a beautiful piece of writing from Henri Nouwen.  Henri was no stranger to breakdown, depression and suffering so he wrote this from his own experience.

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our own powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

Sometimes we need to die and go through periods of facing death in order that we can, through this deep alchemical process shed the skin that has grown too tight, or transform the dark matter of suffering into something new.  This is a process that can take years and whose schedule is not really under our conscious control, though we are able to assist it by surrendering.  In her blog the other day Therese used the metaphor of depression as a firing process whereby clay was transformed into porcelain. That was a powerful alchemical image that spoke to me.

With strong Saturn I relate to the nigredo which is the dark depression that is one phase along a spiritual path through which suffering is transformed into gold.  Its fucking hard and painful, we do not enter it willingly, in a way it is a tearing away of all that was comfortable, stable, predictable and known.  We are being subjected to forces acting on us that we must endure while we hold still.  We need trust, which is hard when we have been betrayed but I guess even trust isn’t essential.

We do the best we can even when it feels like the very worst.  Sometimes we just have to wait, not knowing, not hoping even, until the darkness becomes light and the stillness, the dancing.  Then and only then is our dark black star transformed into one of burnished light or tarnished gold.

Rage and grief : Letting Go Into Healing

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I’ve been wondering a lot lately about the connection between rage and grief.   Following an outburst several months ago at my support group where a lot of anger came up about being the end in line and there being no time to share because others had not considered the time and other people’s need, a week in which I had faced reading about my mother’s reactions to me as a small child that showed a theme of misunderstanding and rejection a friend in group told me that her sponsor had said to her of her own healing process. “Follow the anger and there you will find the grief.”

Lately, following a foot injury that came on the back of some very hurtful stuff said about me to someone by my sister, I’ve been feeling a lot of hurt amidst the gratitude for other positive gifts in my life.

Today as I sat on the floor in the kitchen crying with my dog Jasper sitting very close and protectively holding the space for me, the thought came to me as a voice in my head “at the moment you need to let yourself mourn”.

There is a lot to mourn, and in this I don’t want to seem like I am turning a blind eye to the many things I have to be grateful for, but there have also been many things to grieve.  I had a conversation with my nephew who is also struggling with issues of rage which he has connected to deep grief around his relationship with my older sister who died this year.

In the middle of the night this week I had an urge to do a google search on the connection between rage and grief. What came up was an excellent talk by the writer Judith Butler where she explores the connection between the two. She expresses many deep psychological truths so eloquently in this talk and she speaks of the letting go process which I guess to me relates to the letting go of that which is outside of our power to control in life : death, endings, betrayals, lack of affirmation all fall under this umbrella.

What we do have the power over is to allow ourselves to let go into the process of mourning, rather than resist and deny. I don’t think it is very easy in our culture to do this, but I think so many of us want and need to do it. Where we get stuck in the anger and rage (which is a natural phase of the process of facing grief and change) we may hold on too tightly to that rage as a way of maintaining control but then the process of deeper transformation can be aborted and we can end up more wounded

In a way held anger that isn’t resolved is like a saying to life that difficult, people, things and circumstances should not be. The truth is that when painful things happen to us it hurts. We don’t like being hurt and so we rage, but what if we felt the hurt and allowed ourselves to enter the heart of it, not by holding on but by letting go into it, allowing it to work its way out and lead us in the direction we need to go? That is perhaps a direction which would not have occurred without enduring that loss or painful experience.

In her talk, Judith Butler talks about mourning and grieving as being a process of undoing, a transformative journey which every fibre of our being can resist and yet into the heart of this transformation is the very place we need to go. So much of grief is out of our control, loss takes us to a space and place where the world we knew is irrevocably changed. And by that change, we too, are irrevocably changed.

The letting go into grief for me at the moment feels like an acceptance of the pain and through this acceptance is a letting be so the feelings can work through. For me, it is a saying NO to certain involvements around this time of year. For me I am feeling at this time a real need to be in the centre of my own life, for it is here that I am connected to my own heart and healing. I need the silence and stillness of this place to hear my own song, to see how it differs from the songs of others and yet also connects me to humanity.

When I touch this place where everything is allowed to exist and to BE I am no longer caught up in the doing, much of which I am now seeing is a distraction from the place of stillness and wholeness which feeds me at a very deep level.

I am aware of the damaging voices of the collective which try to tell us there is something wrong with being alone,   “be careful you aren’t isolating”, that who we are only depends on what we possess, our relationships, outer circumstances. Why can’t we see that in being alone we are not really alone but rather at home with ourselves; that in choosing to be we are not contracting but expanding into something infinite and large. We aren’t shutting out the world in defence, just seeking a place of quiet, solace and sanctuary within which we can know our true home and experience our deeper selves.

Need for quiet time, is for me one of the most essential of needs. Quiet time leads me home and refreshes me and makes the next involvement possible.

The retreat within to feel the truth of sadness and grief as well as the joy and peace that are the outgrowth of acceptance of things as they are enables life to move forward. It is not a deathly retreat but a retreat or regression for the purpose of moving forward.

It is where I am choosing to live now especially as my wounded ankle tries to heal and I feel the reverberations of that experience that have run like a thread not only through my life, but through the lives of others.  Today I am feeling such gratitude for this place of sanctuary and feeling the love that comes with the process of allowing and letting be.

What is so wrong about sadnesss?

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I am having a very slow, deep, sad time at the moment and still things are not totally dark.  There is so much light around, but its just that I am so aware of this weary, deep rooted sadness, like finding myself at the end of a long journey that seemed to take me in the very wrong direction and caused so much anguish along the way as I flailed this way and that, trying to find a way through the world, while feeling deep within the intimation or pull of something far, far deeper that could not be fully expressed or communicated.  But maybe in some way all is not lost or sad as this blog of mine which I started at the end of last year is helping me to find some avenue of expression, a way to be naked and transparent about what I am feeling really, with no inner censor there to put the stops on that.  (Not that I don’t get that still on some level.  Just reading back the second sentence my inner critic said that it was too long and ran on.  Never the less I’m going to leave it as it is 🙂 ).

I have felt that the true expression of who I am and what is in my soul, is just not okay for certain people in my life. I’m not one who is going to control the way you express yourself. I see that as your right to live as the person you want to be and feel yourself to be.  Maybe that’s why it troubles me like hell when I see other people doing it and have it done to me, over and over and over again.  And yet at some deeper level I know I cant even argue with that, that is, with certain individual’s way of expressing against me because the reality is this : that way of being is part of who they are.  On some level it has nothing to do with me anyway.  It is beyond my control. If it bugs me to the point of hurting me. these perceptions help me to let go and move away from what hurts.  I still need to honour my feelings, otherwise depression results..

In one way I am still in a learning process around feelings and other people’s reaction to them.  I’m still learning about my feelings and finding ways to feel okay about having and expressing them.  Sometimes too, I realise I don’t really know what my feelings are about, they just start to burst out of me.  That’s the way it is with feelings they are of another realm to thought.  Instinctive, body centred.  It is only much later after some time has passed that I am more aware of where my feelings come from and what triggered them. I am also aware that with the level of loss and trauma I have had there are layers and layers of feeling and sometimes feelings and reactions, such as lashing out in anger, hide other deeper feelings of powerlessness and grief.  While sometimes lashing out is a cry of my soul to be free from bondage and misunderstanding,

These reflections are all prompted by some time away in the city I moved to following my father’s death.  I moved from a smaller town to the closest big city after returning from two years overseas in Europe when I was in my mid twenties.  My father had died in 1985 and it was in 1987 I returned to my home town to find I wanted something more than the life on offer there,  My mother had remarried very quickly, in a bid to escape the depth of her own grief, there was no place for me with her and her new husband.  And so I made the decision to move to the city.  I now know I was carrying a lot of inner struggle and was well on my way to becoming a binge drinker and alcoholic.

This city was the place I endured a lot of things and in time I was married and found recovery there.  I began to start the journey of self discovery.  Time led me over to Europe again and then back to the coast of our country to the family home the was at the centre of six years of trauma and loss following my accident.  When my husband and I moved back to the coast things were tough finding work.  I was still stuck in trauma and  could not really face moving back to the city. My marriage ended as a result.

And so on returning last week there were many memories and complex emotions kicking around inside me.  I felt a sense of aliveness and promise being back there, a realisation that the tough times there were all for the purpose of me growing as a person.  But the depths of feelings were more complex.  Perhaps I was feeling sad because back in 2003 I could not find the courage to return there and so a phase of life ended and was closed.  Moving back to the city would have saved my marriage.  And yet there was something deep within me I was trying to honour by remaining on the coast and journeying inward, a journey my husband could not support.

Sometimes I have questioned:  did that choice really carry me to a place of greater life and love?  Or was it a resistance to moving forward on some level.  As I question this I realise resistance speaks of something important that was going on and even my self doubt and questioning is a reflection of much earlier invalidation.  In the end I wish to be a person who embraces the wholeness of life and doesn’t just slice it into manageable pieces and so loose something in that translation. But might this be part of my problem?  Is it a problem?  Or is it just part of what makes me, me?  So many questions.   And yet it is what it is. It became what it now is due to the choices I made.  All of which now make me, me with the feelings I have.

As happens when I start to write I travel down a path with many twists and turns and what prompted the starting of this piece was the experience I had of a river of sadness opening up for me, on the last night in that city. I was with my family, which is never really very easy.  This was trip my sister had arranged to give my mother some light relief from a year of pain. The loss of my sister, my other sister’s hospitalisation and recovery and my mother’s own health issues.  So as you can imagine they were not very impressed when on the last night I met them in the bar and a flood of sadness poured out.

“What’s wrong” my mother said.  “I thought we were here to have a happy time.”  (implication : you are now spoiling it by your sadness.)  Inside I’m thinking I FUCKING HATE THAT QUESTION.  FOR GOD’S SAKE I AM FEELING SAD,  I DONT HAVE WORDS FOR ALL THE SADNESS, ITS JUST SADNESS.  I COULD TALK TO YOU ABOUT THE SADNESS BUT I DONT KNOW IF THAT WOULD HELP AND TO SEE SADNESS AS WRONG AND BAD, WELL I JUST FEEL EVEN SADDER ABOUT THAT. WOULD IT KILL YOU TO EMBRACE ME AND JUST GIVE ME A HUG.  (I was able to say these things to my Mum a few days later in a calm manner, but it took some reflecting and sorting out to do so.)

Needless to say a ten minute agony ensued as an argument took place over whether they even wanted me at dinner if I was feeling so sad.  And ended with me seeking a hiding place in the convention room in floods of tears and very close to packing up all of my bags and heading home on the late night bus.  Instead I endured the morning of upset stares, starchy responses from my sister and sidelining from everyone else.  I felt so alone when I got home and very depressed.  I am still working my way through this depression and I am in and out of it. Less in it when I share with more empathetically attuned people and my support group.

Over the weekend, one of my very wise friends explained to me that she finds people get very threatened and confronted by people who show raw emotions, especially sadness and grief.  (though I do feel this applies to anger as well, so much we equate anger with insanity ie. you’re “mad”)  They hate it as it makes them feel inadequate, powerless and that things are out of control  Rather than acknowledge that they feel that way, they start to get really angry and hostile. ” It has got very little to do with you really”, my friend said “and I know this might seem difficult but, in the end, its not personal”.

I think I can be okay with that if it means that is okay for me to have my sadness and to feel deeply about things. Where it bites me and enrages me is when my family try and turn it around to make me feel there is something wrong with me for feeling as I do and emphasising how painful it is for them, when really my feelings had bugger all to do with them, before they started personalising them.  And yet I realise that I also need to accept the reality, that getting upset about this and reaching the conclusion that I am wrong or bad in some way leads me to a very painful, dark, lonely, hurting place.  This is the land of no empathy turned back in on itself.  This is a place I now realise and I have lived for years especially when their mistreatment, misunderstanding, lack of empathy and hard line responses led me into panic and a resulting serious accident the PTSD symptoms of which have troubled me over nine long years and caused the bust up of many friendships.

Having chewed over this experience over the past four day I realise that how may family respond to me is not something I can argue against,  And what I have realised too, is that personal  feelings, just are.  I cant expect that just because someone says they love me they understand how I feel totally.  That probably isn’t even their job.  It is, however healing and causes me less sadness to be around more empathetic, emotionally aware people.  My feelings aren’t bad or wrong.  They are just feelings and when I can accept them and allow them to be, they usually pass through and don’t get all mixed up and complicated, as happened in this experience with my family.  (An astrological note might be appropriate here, both my sister and Mum’s Saturn in Scorpio sit on my natal Neptune and square my Moon, Sun, Mercury, Venus and the North Node in Leo and my sister has Mars square the Sun and Venus and my Chiron is squared by her Mars and is conjunct her Sun/Venus.  I must represent a part of her that she rejects in her quest for onwards and upwards.   Says it all really 🙂  Her Mars cuts into me like a knife.  But that’s not personal either, just affects me that way )

Why do we make feelings so wrong and demonise people who express them?  I think so much more freedom could come for us, and especially me, if I can just accept that I feel a certain way.  And what happened on that night shows me why, in my family, I learned not to feel what I felt and know what I know.

My family and particularly this bi polar sister like to portray a certain image to the world.  My mother makes a point of being especially well turned out. She also comes from a generation that might not only have taught her to hide her real feelings, but gave her no place to express them.  Her father died of war injuries her mother was left alone with a small child.  My mother learned to cope by being strong and looking as good as she could  On some level as an empath and her youngest I feel I connect to some of those buried feelings.

The sadness I felt at the end of our stay away, does not negate the happiness.  We did have some enjoyable time in the trip, but as usual, there was no place for sadness.  And the sadder thing is, the sadness that needed to be felt could have passed much quickly if permission was given for it to flow, instead it got banked up again and I had another restless few nights of twisting and turning and little sleep.  When tears flowed the hurting passed but when they got banked up, I was in pain again.  This makes me angry because I have fucking suffered due to going to the wrong places in trying to have feelings acknowledged.  That pattern now can end as I have realised the lesson which has repeated over and over to drive its point home.

I do feel that the feelings issue is problematic in our culture.  The Jungian psychoanalyst,  Robert Johnson talks about our feeling wounded culture.  How much better it might be if we were allowed avenues of sadness. given a place to feel what we need to feel. I am going to become a warrior for this, because I feel so passionate about it.   My true feelings lead me home to me.

The walls we build around us to keep sadness out

also keeps out the joy.

John Rohr

I was touched on Monday night to watch a performance of the Veronicas, an Australian sister duo.  When asked about the song they sung one of the sisters said it was about sadness.  “There is something beautiful in sadness”, she said.

Wow I thought.  Thank You.  What is the problem we have with being sad?  Isn’t it just another feeling?  It wont kill us.  I’m not talking about being morose, negative and down beat all the time, although I am sure there are reasons for being this way too.  I just have a problem with those who have a problem with sadness.  Cause as I see it the doorway to happiness often opens once we have fully walked the avenues of sadness we feel.  That’s just my experience.

We would not know light without the dark and deep and there is always, I have felt, in fully felt sadness a bright light at the end of the tunnel.  Feeling sad is just one part of the experience of being human on this planet.  It can be a path that leads us home, to authenticity, to spirit, to life, to love and even to joy.

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Taking comfort from silence

Things have been inwardly and outwardly turbulent and tumultuous ever since the April eclipse. I lost my sister, reconnected with my nephews, had a falling out with my therapist, found two new counsellors, deepened connection with certain friends and made a move away from others, walked my puppy, made new connections at the park and cared for my home, cried some days, hibernated on the foggy peasouper ones (like today), revelled in the infrequent sunny ones,  lit the fire, read some lovely books and bought myself a new pair of  sheepskin boots and an electric blanket.

These have been the mundane aspects of my daily life and very precious to me when I reflect, that while caught up in them I have not always been aware of the preciousness of the fact I am alive on such a beautiful planet.  Today I am being reminded of the wonderful quality of gratitude. The warmth it bestows.  I am grateful for the days on which I can be grateful.  And also, what is emerging in me is the realisation that I am relishing moments in silence, when I can  just be with what is occurring.  Modern life seems to me these day so busy. There is much we can do, a hundred diversions, thousands of blogs to read and yet beyond all this human busyness and activity it occurs to me that the silent stillness of nature and the present moment is calling out to my soul to be heard, witnessed, reverenced and loved.  Today, I am feeling the deepening calling in my soul  of presence.

Its a bit of a paradox that here I am writing about presence, silence and stillness.  Often when I am with people and there is a lot of noise the words of this song come into my mind :  “Everybody’s talking at me, I can’t hear a word they’re saying, only the echoes of their mind”.   Perhaps I have been in deep grief and crying and someone asks me what the tears are about. At that moment I don’t want to say anything or be taken away from what is emerging in and through the vale of tears.  I long for the other person just to be able to acknowledge the feeling of what it is, beyond all of the words.

Possibly its a Neptune thing.  When people are talking I am not just listening with my ears to the worlds but listening with my heart and feeling in more deeply to the emotional subtext of what they are saying, into the energy of their expression.  It occurred yesterday when I was in a meeting and certain people were sharing from their experience, inside my body something was vibrating, attuning and responding and perhaps even amplifying that energy.  It may be a quality that I have always possessed and was not aware of before, perhaps part of being an empath.  At the moment I am more aware of this quality of receptivity and of how important it is for my soul to have times of quietness and stillness times when I move away from all the energies out there which form a sea that can infiltrate me and pull me in. I seek a dynamic balance of inward and outward and feel that struggle as it has played out over many years, especially as Saturn, planet of boundaries stations to move forward, three degrees from natal Neptune in the third.

In the middle of writing this, my puppy Jasper came up to me and looked at me with his gorgeous deep brown eyes.  I picked him up cuddled him and sang him a song which he liked I think. That experience was so beautiful to me, a gift beyond words  And somehow he tuned in to todays’ energy of quiet stillness, as he is now sitting quietly patiently by my side waiting for his walk that has been a long time coming.  I’m grateful today for an overcast peasouper with gentle rain which gives me the  permission to dwell inward, reflect and write, much as Jasper needs his exercise. Sharing such a day is such a sweet solitary pleasure, one I long for and which has not occurred over the past week.

And I am so grateful for Jasper.  The lovely one who does not search for an explanation for tears, who is happy to draw close to my side when I am sad and just be with me in the present moment, not asking for any explanations.

I remember getting really annoyed with a lady in a writer’s group of which I was a part who one day was trying to tell the group that people were superior to animals.  As Carolyn Baker writes in her essay on the wild self.

Every animal with whom I have developed a relationship . …has been a teacher.  Each has “spoken” to me in a different way, whether by lying beside me as I cried, warning me of impending danger, or just looking deeply into my eyes.  Similarly, animals I have encountered in the wilds of nature have instructed me, comforted me, warmed me, and enchanted me.

Enchantment, now there is a beautiful word.  I think I will leave you with it.

Its taking a while for the fog to clear

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In my part of the world we are heading towards the shortest day of the year, and also the coldest time of the year.  Each morning of the week we have been having real pea souper fogs and on one of my early morning awakenings, that time when all kinds of thoughts are flowing through my brain, I got to thinking of how metaphorical this image of deep fog was for my own life and journey.

In the world of recovery from addiction and healing of narcissism and  narcissistic issues, the acronym of FOG on some sites stands for the concepts of Fear Obligation and Guilt which can beleaguer so many of us on this journey of healing from the wounds of  emotional scarring, loss of care and love for self all of which are part of co-dependency.  There is the shame and fear of feeling not good enough which can lead us into some very painful patterns.  In the work of my own recovery from addiction the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have played a huge part.  The Fourth Step speaks of a searching and fearless moral inventory, one in which we get down and honest with the prime drivers that propel us emotionally in order to understand who we are and how we are motivated to take certain actions, to manage difficult feelings.  Feelings which motivate  may not even be conscious for those of us who grew up in dysfunctional families with parents who found it hard to express their own feelings effectively, let alone mirror and help us understand our own.  The legacy of this is that it is can be very hard to identify our feelings, to understand and make sense of them, and yet this is the work that we engage in when we take the 12 step journey.  In this part of the work we begin to explore what may be our primary coping strategies, what are termed so called “defects of character”.  I have never really liked that term but I guess it is one way of trying to describe patterns that trip us up.

As I explored my own inventory it seemed to me that fear and shame played a huge part in what was driving me.  It did not even occur to me that before entering recovery that it was okay to admit to fear, that in admitting to it and accepting it would be the best way through.  Most especially when I was engaged in a relationship with someone not in recovery and with narcissistic tendencies, the mere mention of fear was a huge no no.  Fears were to be banished since they made you an inferior person, they were not embraced and understood or held in the healing attention of awareness.  Luckily in my Al Anon  support group I was to learn about the three A’s which are necessary to deal with every single defect or difficulty.  They are

Awareness

Acceptance

Action

In order to understand a thing and to grow I need to have an awareness of what it actually is that I am dealing with.  For most of my life I have been told exactly the opposite.  Don’t worry about that, I’m sure it won’t be a problem, just act as if its not a problem, ignore it, discount it or dismiss it and it will go away.  Sorry to offend you now but that is not actually for me a recipe for emotional growth and self understanding.  Certainly it is not helpful for me to be possessed and controlled by fear but until I actually have that awareness and can accept what is occurring I am not actually in a position to do anything about it.

Part of growing up in a dysfunctional way is that we are told not to trust the evidence of our own instincts, feelings, intuitions and senses.  Sure enough, at times we can, due to fear, see and imagine things that just aren’t there, but at times those things we see, feel, intuit and sense are right on the money and we need to be affirmed in understanding that we got it right and that we do have the power to seel, feel, intuit and understand in the way that is right for us.

I am coming to understand that for the Obligation and Guilt aspects of Fog to work we need, especially for the narcissists purposes, to be possessed by fear.  To be manipulated we also to have a disordered or back to front understanding of our own rights and responsibilities, at least when it comes to our relationships with others.

At the moment I have a sister suffering with depression.  As I see it at base her depression is a symptom of her disempowerment or her deep disconnection from her own sense of value and needs.  It is  also symptom of her disordered relationship to her own feelings and sense of responsibility, to her personal power.  My own fears for her often cloud this clearer vision, I sense it in my gut, but am powerless over it too.   When our collective family fears coalesce and solutions are force out of fear I find myself easily co-opted into the caretaking or rescuing role by these fears.  Then I suffer from  deeply unconscious feelings of anger and frustration that have no other avenue but through my own twisted body.  Fear Obligation and Guilt keep me stuck in trying to make better something that is outside of my own hands, my sister’s well being and happiness.   But Fear Oblligation and Guilt have kept me stuck in a fog for some time.

I was so thankful today to be referred to the following link by Ursula of Unupturned Soul today:  http://www.angriesout.com/grow20.htm.  It is an extremely detailed article on the roles we play in the family and most especially the triangulaged roles of Perpetrator, Rescuer and Victim.  In my own case I would say I most identify with the last two roles.  For those of you who are astrologically minded I have a very strong natal Neptune which is configured with the personal planets of relationship, communication, self expression and need, Venus, Mercury, Sun and Moon.  Tie that in with the nodal axis and the planet Jupiter which magnifies it to an extreme and I am set up for both of these patterns, but most especially the rescuer

I am having to watch my tendency to get into this rescuer pattern in my family at the moment.  In our particular family the roles of victim and rescuer seem to alternate depending on how much running from feelings is being done at any one time.  We are all set up for it by fear of loss, since we have all suffered a huge amount of loss over the years.

I must confess it is with the victim role, too that I have had to do a lot of work over the past few years.  Victim keeps me in a disempowered place where it is not possible to find solutions, in which personal unhappiness is passed off onto others, making then responsible for what they are not.  Its taken me some years to get it.  When the fog clears and the Sun starts to shine out the key truth it illumines is that I am responsible for taking the actions which lead to my own personal happiness.  In short others can support and love me, but ultimately they have little power or control over my own happiness or unhappiness, unless I give that to them.  And the truth is the longer I stay stuck in FOG the less likely am I to find and embrace my own happiness.

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Guess what?  The sun is now shining out on the day here in Canberra, Australia.  The sky has turned from foggy grey to the clearest blue.  A few wispy clouds are about being pushed by the breeze and as I sit in what was a cold room there is now light and heat, energy and warmth that was not here before.  I am no longer needing to cuddle little Jasper to keep warm.

It never ceases to amaze me lately how the weather seems to mirror inner conditions and circumstances.  Is this coming out of the Sun a reminder for me of the strength and energy that comes when I take action to dispel the forces of FOG in my own life?  I seem to think so.  I have a strong Saturn so shame and guilt have been huge motivating factors in my life, all the more so in all the years they were so unconscious.   At I see it this fear shame guilt dynamic is not just personal but deeply a result of our collective conditioning too.  Don’t such forces underlie what is an deeply narcissistic culture?  The only freedom I find from them is in having the awareness and acceptance around their role in my life.

Acceptance does not mean I need to love a thing but only with it can I take action to change what I can, and only with that awareness and acceptance will action will be likely since so much energy is no longer being put into denial of what is.  Understanding the forces of guilt and shame as well as other aspects of FOG, being around others who are writing about it and dealing with it too. That is where I find my healing.

The following quote comes from the above link and it really spoke to me:

Start with yourself to accept that you are a person with strong feelings that were born of trauma and injustice that call out now for transformation.

I don’t have any control over the incidents that led me to develop a powerful load of shame and guilt, but I do feel that a powerful shift for transformation is being triggered as transiting Chiron stations to turn retrograde in opposition to natal Pluto.  Pluto in the first house gives me the desire to transform the dark corners of my soul and dig deep to excavate my own identity outside of roles and relationships.  Pluto too, brings a fire to pierce the fog of Neptune illusion and bring clarity and light.   I am drawing great warmth from lighting fires as we head towards the depths of winter here in the Southern Hemisphere.

Armed with that understanding I’m off to enjoy some sunshine. 🙂