A New Lens

Today’s message is brought to you by Self Love. Actually, the message came through two separate bloggers who shared the same theme for today’s posts and through my boss who shared a message about the unique purpose that fits each of us into the world. Let me see if I can make sense of my rambly thoughts.

Have you ever built a rock wall? Maybe just a stone step? Maybe you gazed at the end result, stunned by the tiny miracle. How on earth did the builder fit those stones together? The answer lies in patience, in listening, in truly observing with an open mind and heart. Each stone is turned and handled until it is known. Only then, is the perfect fit understood that allows that stone to rest and hold its place among others.

My recent rock work was not so zen. I started out fine; the rocks worked together reasonably well and I built a self contained step to aid hikers climbing the trail. My step was solid, with an even top, wide enough to receive the hiker’s tread. The trouble came with connecting the step to the whole of the trail. I needed to anchor each step into the hillside and the last piece to connect a step with earth always eluded me. I chiseled and fussed and hunted new rocks until I finally completed a step solid enough for horse traffic. It took me days to complete the five steps I built. By the end, I was tired and not entirely certain I’d done a good job. What would it have been like if I’d spent more time observing and less time doing? If I’d built only three steps instead of five, would they have been better steps? Would I have appreciated my own work more? I think so.

Have you caught the analogy yet? We’re the rocks. You, me and the two bizillion other humans on this planet, we’re always trying to figure out how we fit, what our purpose is, whether we got it right. We need to take more time to truly see and know ourselves and each other. Then, we’ll understand how well we already fit.

I was challenged, recently, to write fifty amazing things about myself. I didn’t succeed…yet. My list grew longer today, when I was able to see myself just a bit more clearly than before. To explain, we need to visit my childhood.

I am an empath. I often feel what others feel, discerning the discord between what they say and the emotions they try to hide. I’ve often been able to pull those feelings into myself and return them to a person as something different, something calmer, less painful. Imagine a small child, so sensitive to others’ emotions, raised in a home of abuse and neglect. Confusing to say the least. My family taught me that feelings were an offense worthy of painful punishment. I learned to lock my feelings away in a dark tomb. I learned to observe others without being seen or felt, to always know my environment while staying hidden. I cloaked myself so well that, years later, it was difficult to find my own emotions when I wanted to call them.

Before I called to my own emotions, I attempted to use my ‘gift’ for a brief time. I was trained as a healer and I believe I did bring comfort to some people then. As a healer, I was taught to keep my own emotions in check and focus on the person I was trying to help. I blossomed during this season, receiving good vibes from my teachers and those I helped, when I only did what came naturally to me.

As you might imagine, I was setting myself up for a disaster. How could I be a healer when I hadn’t even looked at my own wounds, let alone tried to heal them? Unwittingly, I drew ever more troubled people into my life. I didn’t know why they were drawn to me. I didn’t seek them out. They just found me. (This is what I truly believed.) When disaster finally struck in wave after crashing wave, the tide sucked all of life back out to sea, leaving me behind.

I watched as those I’d helped sailed off to happiness while I was left behind. I resented those who’d sucked me dry and hated myself for being such a fool. I locked myself down. Completely. I swore that no one would ever use (abuse) me again.

On the surface, I had a decent social life. I balanced myself between hanging with good friends and exploring the world as a single person. I’ve had some pretty darn good solos. But something was missing. I had no connection to another human. Not really. Everything was on the surface. The empath craves the deep. I realized that it was time to learn my own depths and try to heal my past. Only then would I be able to connect with another human.

For the past two years, I’ve done exactly that. Deep soul searching and therapy have helped me dive in and discover what I’m all about. I didn’t like what I found. That same person who only attracts the weak was still reflected back to me. I began to see some of my good traits, but it was as though they were contaminated by a covering of shame. No one would ever be able to see my good parts under all of that oily slime.

Until now. Three lovely people let splashes of Dawn fall into my slick and broke through. With their help, I finally embraced what I’ve heard a million times. Compassion is a gift. My natural instincts as an empath and the pain of my past open me to see and know another person’s pain. And really, isn’t that what we all want? To be seen? To be known? I can do that. Sometimes, just listening and sometimes encouraging, sometimes being a thirty-second bright spot.

Now is different than before. Now, I acknowledge my own feelings instead of hiding them away. Now I understand that I need others as much as they need me. Now, I begin to see how I fit into this world. Being able to help another human is an amazing thing, something I can love about myself.

Taking Off the Mask

A recent dating experience became the catalyst for a pretty significant experiment. Hell, dating itself is a pretty choosey experiment theses days, but I’ll save that for another time.  Anywhooo

Date and I had some serious conversations about where we were at individually and relationship wise.  On the surface, this seemed like a great sign that this woman would prove to be good relationship material.  The ability to have these conversations seemed mature and all that.  Sadly no….  A clue was one comment that she repeated enough times that I felt the need to change.

Date kept encouraging me to drink, because (from her POV) I loosen up with alcohol.  I’m known to enjoy gin on a regular basis.  I taste gins like wines (I like wine too).

I have two favorite gins: Bombay Sapphire for everyday and Wheeler’s Western Dry as a special treat.  Wheeler’s is made with sage instead of juniper – really different and it takes getting used to.  Magellan’s is a nice treat too.  I drink my gin chilled & neat or on the rocks.  no mixers – just a slice of lime – fresh enough to be juicy please.  The Wheeler’s doesn’t need lime.

ok – so you get the idea – I know my gin.  I not only know what I like, I know when and how much I’m going to drink.  I hate getting drunk – been there done that – not fun.  Yes, drinking mellows me out- of course – why else would I drink – except that I like the taste of the gin….and now I’m making myself a little nuts…. I should stop and get back to the experiment.

Date’s comments really bugged me, because I don’t want alcohol to change or mask who I am.  Dammit, I’m going through therapy to deprogram myself from alcoholic parents right?  It seemed I was just following in their footsteps and that really freaked me out.

On Friday the 11th, I left for a trails project with NMVFO.  These trips are awesome!  Joining NMVFO is the best thing I did for myself this year.  Hiking has been an integral part of my life for 30 years.  Now I have a consistent way to give back.  About once a month I join a group of great folks to either build, repair or maintain a section of trail in cooperation with various park service organizations.

NMVFO weekends are usually the highlight of my month.  I’ve seldom combined alcohol with hiking or camping.  Just being outdoors is enough for me; that’s where the world makes sense, I find peace and I relax.  So, that Friday became day 1

No gin.

That was 14 days ago.

I don’t really know where this experiment is going.  I didn’t have a theory, a plan, a set of variables to test.  I just stopped.  I don’t think I intended to stop forever.  I don’t know yet.

Actually, eliminating gin may be a variable in a larger experiment.

Being authentic….

Most of my life was very controlled.  I showed only the parts of myself that a given situation warranted.  The A student, the caring mother, the efficient volunteer, the mid-life baby butch, the driven executive.  Very few people saw inside and those that did only saw a small portion.  There was one woman who immediately saw ME, pretty damn near all of me.  scared the crap out of me and thrilled me at the same time.  I am sooooo grateful she’s still in my life.  Chosen family is the best and she is my forever family.  My one really authentic relationship.

That’s the experiment.  I want more authenticity.  I want to really know the person I engage with.  Now, this is partly defensive, having been burned by surprises.   Mostly, it’s about a desire for connection.  After a 25yr marriage to a gay man, followed by a handful of lesbian lovers; only one of those people knows me.

Being seen, known, acknowledged, accepted and gasp – maybe even loved for who we really are is a basic human need.  That’s what I’m after.  I want to know you and I want you to know me.  No masks.

Scary huh?  Big time scary!!  Vulnerable….risky….yeah yeah all that

So, gin had become a mask and I took off that mask.  What happens now?  I dunno…I’ll let you know when I find out.