"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Drips of Awareness


At first it was a bit like a drop of water from a leak that registers just below consciousness. Discomfort, annoyance, anxiety. Creeping in drop by drop until the puddle on the floor is too big to ignore.

The sense of well-being, contentment, and joy I've enjoyed these last months being disturbed by some unseen and uninvited source.

The first drips of awareness were connected to an all too familiar stretched connection in my marriage. The warmth and growing closeness born from our new dependence upon one another had become the tight, false smile of a desperate clinging to illusion. Attempts to communicate were met with stone walls which were in turn walked away from in defeated silence. Familiar, frustrating, infuriating.

A one-word commentary from a friend on a piece of writing became the drop of water that made it impossible for me to ignore the puddle. "Nice." Such a neutral word and yet I feel slashed by it. And I want to be angry about it. And I know the only power it has is the power I'm giving it.

Yesterday's yoga class had me drowning in the puddle. I've been practicing for almost four months. My body was so tight I kept falling out of poses, couldn't get fully into poses that I've been doing with ease for weeks, and for most of the session the moisture dripping from my face was more tears than sweat.

And finally the puddle was big enough for me to name. Fear.

Fear of never being able to accomplish my dream of weaving a whole life from the silk threads of marriage, career, health, love, adventure. Fear that I'm not good enough, loving enough, young enough, smart enough, strong enough, willing enough, spiritual enough, open enough, trusting enough. Given enough voice, fear will tell me I'm not enough of anything that matters to me and too much of everything that does not.

My habit has been to believe that the absence of fear means I'm doing well, and the presence of fear means I'm doing something wrong. One of my best survival skills was to reject fear in favor of anger or one of her cousins: indignation, rage, indifference. But I'm not living in survival anymore. I live a thriving life whose purpose is to heal and help others heal. I no longer believe in either/or, black/white, right/wrong.

So what do I do with this fear that will not leave me alone? That waits in ambush like the Indians lined up along the walls of a box canyon in the old Westerns. That nibbles away at my peace and equanimity like the mice hiding in our attic, unnoticed until something precious is ruined. That encases me in concrete so that I feel alone, unreachable and immutable.

The first step is to not reject or ignore her, my companion fear. At this point she's only water. Rejecting, trying to mop up without seeking the source, means there will be another puddle all too soon. Ignoring would mean that she could eventually soak into and destroy whatever she touches. And so I sit with her, try to see my face on her surface, caress her lightly. I crawl into the attic seeking the source - what unhealed and untended wound invited the safety and security she offers?

The attention seems to soothe her for now. I have some patching to do in the attic that will reduce the need for her presence. I consider for one of the first times how many others there are who feel this same pain. Instead of refusing to acknowledge our common bond (as has been my habit) because that feels like weakness, I embrace the humanity of us all and offer love and forgiveness as balm to myself and to my fellow travelers.

photo from Flickr


13 comments:

colbymarshall said...

I know that feeling- I want so badly to achieve my dreams, and I get anxious a lot wondering if I'll be able to. But, we press on. I think it's wise to acknowledge fear, simply because once you acknowledge it, you can kick it's butt :)

The Unbreakable Child said...

deb, i, too, am not the easy -breezy black and white. fear ... fear of failing ... is what most fear, but like the saying; 'what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?' i like to think of it as; do what you would do as if you could not fail.

hugs and email me if i can help.x0

Wanda said...

Speaking for myself here: I've found that fear is information. Sometimes information that I am looking in the wrong direction. Sometimes that there truly is danger that I need to be protected from. (See the book: The Gift of Fear.)

Being aware, looking it in the face is the first step to healing.

deb said...

I think you're doing the right thing, sitting with it, it's also called holding the tension. Just breathe.

Jerri said...

It's going to take some time and several more readings for me to absorb all the wisdom of this piece.

You are enough, Deb. You are more than enough. Believe in yourself as I believe in you, and all will be well.

Amber said...

"Given enough voice, fear will tell me I'm not enough of anything that matters to me and too much of everything that does not."--

You have a way of saying things that shoots to the bone. The.Bone.

;)

Jessica said...

I love what you said about seeking the source of the puddle! Very wise. ;-)

As for black and white, in many ways I'm that way, but in some ways I'm not.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

"I embrace the humanity of us all and offer love and forgiveness as balm to myself and to my fellow travelers."

Nice. (LOL)

No, seriously, I love this post and that sentence. And while I do agree with Wanda that fear is information, before it can be informative, it must be identified and "touched with gentle awareness."

You've done both.

Pirate Wife said...

Deb - your writing is so much more than "nice". You touch me deeply and I pray for your success. I, too, feel that fear. Today it has brought me tears. But I know that we are stronger than our fear. One minute at a time we can conquer it. Hugs to you.

M said...

Fear is such a powerful force...and one that you made perfectedly clear we love to name other things. I'm glad that you you are willing to face her head on and recognize that it only has the power that you give it.

For what it's worth, I have great confidence that the areas of your life that bring you the greatest fear are areas that you will look back in the not-to-distant future and bask in an unfathomable glow of success.

I love you...and your willingness to continue to seek healing and share your path with the rest of us.

Mark

Ask Me Anything said...

Thank you for writing this piece.

JenWeprin said...

"So what do I do with this fear that will not leave me alone? That waits in ambush like the Indians lined up along the walls of a box canyon in the old Westerns. That nibbles away at my peace and equanimity like the mice hiding in our attic, unnoticed until something precious is ruined. That encases me in concrete so that I feel alone, unreachable and immutable."
You amaze me. I am so thankful to have met you for I believe you are part of my path to healing. Thank you Deb!!! if anything, we will face our individual fears as a team!!! So looking forward to the workshop!!!

kario said...

You are enough.
Who you are is enough.
What you are is enough.
"Doing" won't change who you are or what you are and it won't make you "more" than.

The trick, I've discovered, is finding the belief inside yourself that you are enough and being able to say it to yourself without the mean voice contradicting you. Until then, you can count on me to remind you.

Love you!