Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What It's Like to Soften

Tonight I received a card from a fellow sober traveler in honor of my eight years of soberiety.  She wrote:
"I love hearing your honesty and watching you soften."
It's funny because I often have found in the past (and even now) that it was my honesty that hardened others to me.  Yet somehow this witness was able to see beauty in both my truth & my vulnerability.

What rang in my head from this acknowledgement is that I no longer have to be afraid of my beauty.

Though it may be clich√© to compare oneself to a flower, especially an orchid, this is exactly the image I have when I think about this phase of my development.  An orchid displays both soft colors and contours upon it's lips and petals.  Yet there is a bold roughness to the bright color contrasted on the edges of the lips.  Not to mention a wild streak of yellow that crashes through the flowers lip and pouts in front of the stigmatic surface.  The orchid is both completely suasive in getting you to think boldly about the nature of our nature and yet delicate enough to be taken out by brute forces within nature.  Orchids challenge our sense of discomfort while at the same time they completely open to our love.

Image courtesy of unprofound
For the last few weeks as I have prepared emotionally for a trip to the city in which I was raised.  I have consulted with mentors and friends, received body work and floated in flotation tanks, come up with exit strategies and code words with my spouse, and have already set some boundaries and have in mind more boundaries to set with a few people I'll see.  In some ways I suppose I've prepared for a kind of battle.  Not with others but for my own sense of dignity and integrity.  In the past my trips to this city have ended with emotional explosions and resulting psychological hangovers.

Regardless of all this prep work I have also become aware that I cannot avoid the pain that may come as a result of taking this trip.  There are aspects I'd like to run away from like seeing a dear loved one whose cognitive functioning is diminished enough that she may not fully know who I am.  That I may be seeing someone for the last time.  That I'll be surrounded by everyone but my aunt who died last year.  These are all things that may cause me pain.

My old reactions to pain was fleeing or rebelling.   Yet now I see the beauty in softening to the pain.  The nice thing is that while I'm in this city with people who mean so much but can also trigger me so deeply, I have choices.  Not just because of all the emotional preparing I've been doing but because I can be both honest and penetrable now.  I can let someone have their truth, their reality, and disagree with them while not judging them, regardless of whether or not their judging me.  My heart can be as soft as orchid petals.  My spirit can be as bold as the brightest of colors and yet I don't have to attempt to change anyone or change myself to make anyone happy.  From this pain may come but I can be with that too and not judge it.

One of the lies I once believed about myself was that there was something inherently wrong with me and I could point to several real and imagined flaws of mine to justify such thoughts.  But thanks decades of cultivating self love (not the same as ego) and a loving spouse and various angels along the way it has become less necessary to fear failures or mistakes.  I know they will come.  Even with all the preparedness I can muster, I will likely at some point mess up in my hometown.  But if I can debar my self judgement and not use it as a means to deflect my real feelings, what might I learn?  If I am bold enough to endure pain and be honest about my experiences and responses, I may find myself open further to beauty.  And as I wrote earlier: I no longer have to be afraid of my beauty.

On this trip all I have to do is show up.  I just have to be there and willing to practice connecting to whatever music is present in a given moment.  I can be soft enough and honest enough to deal with what may be hard.

With me on this adventure to a place I once called home, I'll take the wise words of Sufi poet Hafiz...

“Admit something.

Everyone you see, you say to them
"Love me."

Of course you do not do this out loud:
Someone would call the cops.

Still, though, think about this,
This great pull in us to connect.

Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying,

With that sweet moon 

What every other eye in this world
Is dying to 

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