Vision & Hope


“Where there is vision, there is hope.  Where there is hope, there is energy to bring that vision to life” V.E. Wilde

2018 was the end of a 12-year long life chapter, I life to refer to as my own personal phantasmagoria, equally beautiful AND terrifying.  The fears I faced were the ugly ones. The joys I experienced were fairytale like, beyond my imagination and far more rich and interesting than anything I prayed for.  And there was even a period, just last year, that I experienced bitterness.

If you've never felt bitter, good for you. I hope you never do.  If you have, you know it is small, brittle and confining. Like many shadow emotions and experiences, it keeps you in the dark by convincing you there is no light.  But I knew enough to promise myself at the beginning of my midlife-makeover that no matter what happens, I will become more loving, not bitter, as a result of whatever is to come.  

So when this emotion hit me, I was a little surprised. I thought my intention of love would help me avoid it, but as you might already have guessed, it’s not quite what happened.

One night, I was walking Oliver and all of a sudden became aware of a heavy darkness encasing my inner world. My heart felt so cold, it hurt. My hips and legs felt like trees, so heavy and tight, with no intention of moving anywhere quickly.  Loud and clear, the rapid fire fraidy-cat thoughts spun out of control, and for the first time ever, I felt old and bitter. I hated god, I felt alone, I was terrified of more loss after the brutal death of my sweet little dog, Ozzie, and forget about romantic love, all hope for anything good was obliterated.

I wondered: Is this what it’s like when spirit dies?  When what animates us decides to leave?

My body felt stiff and old. I couldn’t shake it off or convince myself I was okay. It was a completely new feeling that clearly needed airtime.  It felt like it wanted to wreck me. I was sure I’d wake up one morning with the notorious patch of white hair on my forehead and look 40 years older, or maybe I’d just die in my sleep.

I became curious.

Several weeks of bitterness, curiosity and journaling, I tapped into a deep empathy for those struggling with unrelenting sadness and regret and had a visceral understanding of how emotions impact the body, my own included. My legs still didn’t want to move and I didn’t have the energy to force them.  Bitterness, I decided was not only a dream killer, but also a life sucker. A vitality stealer. A destroyer of vision and hope. Death.

When asked how I turned out so normal after my childhood, I like to say “I had vision and hope”.  These two besties were unrelenting and gave me the energy to get through it all, even sometimes bypass the shit show of my childhood, in particular.  In tandem, they supported me through my experience as a single teen-mom, and carried me on through the decades.

But something happened in my 40’s, when everything fell apart and bitterness came for her visit, I truly felt all was lost, and my precious vision and hope were dead.  I didn’t have a back up plan, all I could do was surrender and play along.

What I came away with, it’s not that vision and hope were every truly gone, but my focus had shifted so much to the shadow-self, I was blinded by my insecurities and fears that kept me in the dark. Bitterness was a necessary part of the process, the complete opposite of vision and hope. I learned that to face bitterness is to appreciate the value, power and importance of vision and hope.

The reality of a rich and fulfilling life is the integration of the opposites.  The realization of self embraces the chaotic, dark, maniacal, with the tender, loving, vulnerability that is distinctly human.  While bitterness was a new experience that took a long time to process, it does not sum up this chapter of my life, but played a vital role in creating a sense of wholeness. As I rebuilt my life, reset my beliefs, I reinvigorated my vision and hope.

My mom introduced me to the world “phantasmagoria”.  I don’t remember the specific contexts she used the word, yet it was so often it became symbolic of my childhood experience, life with her, and the last 12 years: beautiful and terrifying, as if something in a dream.

2018 may mark the end of a chapter, but certainly not the story.  For the first time in awhile, I have a budding vision that energizes me, and a seedling of hope that will carry me through the inevitable adventures of 2019 and beyond.

A note to you: Don’t let anyone dampen your vision and hope - they are the sacred duo that harbor and guide your dreams. Protect them, out your fears, and try to trust the process. If you happen to lose either one, just remember that maybe it’s simply a shift in how you’re looking at the darkness.

To dreams in bloom,

Vanessa-

P.S. If you have an experience you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you.  Please comment below. I read all your stories. If you do share your story, please remember to include your take-away as well - what made it all worth it.

Closure

Not having closure in a romantic relationship is like a hangnail. It makes everything hard and painful.

The good news is, I finally removed the hangnail.

That’s what closure feels like.

Still tender.

But good.

Narcissism

Now that narcissism is firmly rooted in our collective consciousness and national vocabulary, it’s starting to get a little annoying.

At first, it felt like an important distinction, a characterization for someone who is frankly, acting like a jackass, leaving you totally confused and frustrated. It was helpful.

Then it became this serious and intense description that required meetups, counseling sessions (to make sure I’m not one), and copious amounts of yoga, you know, to digest the fact that we’re pretty much swimming in a cesspool of fucked up people.

Now, the word is overused and ridiculous. Anyone with a character flaw, emotional outburst or poor social behavior is a narcissist. Which is too bad, because it’s a serious condition and a totally fucked up experience (when you’re not one and you’re dating one, married to one, or your parent is one, or a child). It’s crazy making.

One day I was reading about the qualities of a narcissist. All of a sudden, the guy I was married to seemed like one, and the guy I’ve been with the last couple of years seems like one.

WTF?! Two in a row? What the hell am I trying to work out by marrying and dating narcissists. It’s been years since this word entered my vocabulary. I love psychology and trying to understand how trauma affects the brain, and the impact and disorderliness of a modern lifestyle. In my experience, most people have suffered some kind of trauma, some people get stuck in that trauma. Some people develop narcissist traits while others don’t. But is everyone who is sad, angry, violent, obsessive or otherwise poorly behaved a narcissist? When is someone just angry? When is someone just afraid? When is someone just totally into you? When is someone a know-it-all and not a narcissist?

These questions have plagued me as I try to wrap my brain around the implications. I went to my counselor one day and asked her If I’m one too. I was terrified that my traumas had me so stuck, that I might be a narcissist too, capable of manipulating the world around me with delusion and intention and that my charm was a terrible thing instead of, well, charming. She assured me I am not one, but only after I made her promise she would be honest and tell me the truth. I trust her. So I believed her.

In my sessions we mostly work on childhood traumas. I want to free up my disk space for more entertaining patterns and fun and if there’s a glitch in my hitch, I want to fix it.

In all seriousness, narcissism is dangerous. Being involved with someone of this particular malfunction, is crazy-making. Until the strength builds to steer clear, it’s a messy ride that requires years of untangling, self-love and support.

I don’t throw the word around lightly anymore. When the red flags start flying, I’m the first to do a little research. I now understand the extent and impact of narcissism in my life and only now understanding how I was the perfect partner for a narcissist.

Understanding it is helpful. The extrication process is a bitch.

If you’re in a relationship that makes you feel crazy, good luck to you.

There’s lots of support. Find it. Use it. Trust it.

Till next time.

Defiance

From an early age, I learned to perform, kind of like a circus monkey. Do this, do that, go here, wear this, color it this way, think this or else, say this not that, be like this, put this on your head, that’s not how you should feel, think, be, look like, dress like…

And on and on it went.

I am also a survivor, which is to say, I adapt, quickly and easily. Put me on the crazy stage and I’ll embrace the role no one else is willing to take on. In my childhood, that role was the “trouble maker.” I performed the role whenever it was needed, and for whatever reason it was appropriate. I wanted to be part of the troupe, to blend in, to survive. I managed this for awhile. And eventually, I found a way to escape the elaborate circus of my childhood, but it took some bending, twisting, and becoming something I am not naturally, defiant as fuck.

As a kid, my only real escape was defiance. It set me apart, it was my go to survival skill. It made me different. Someone fucked with me, I played the role of an impenetrable, rude, loud, defiant female. You see, I’m not made of “fuck with people” ingredients. It’s takes some creativity to fight back against meanness, ignorance, bullying, hypocrisy and people who seem like they not only hate themselves, but you as well. Defiance may not have been a natural talent, but creativity was, and I did find my way out, and into my life. Eventually.

Defiance is an act of rebellion. A standing in one own’s power, for good or bad. To be defiant is to defy, reject or fight against something or someone pushing something, an idea, a way of being, that is fundamentally incongruent with who you are. It’s an important act of self-expression, self-preservation, and self-actualization.

While the dictionary may say something different, this is my own definition, based on my experience and reason for being defiant.

As a child who was defiant, this skill developed as a response to ideologies that included making women feel like total shit about themselves, so pervasive and convincing, that those beliefs were unquestioningly taken on and owned by women themselves. Then taught to the hundreds of girls being raised in tucked-away ashrams, with very little outside influence.

The visual orgasm of americanized-indian culture hid any signs of abuse. Flowers, incense, melodic sanskrit mantras, beautiful fabrics and out-of-this-world delicious food were the intoxicants of the masses . The pleasure of burfi, or a gulab jamun, fried properly and soaked in sugar/honey water was to the hare krishna brain as was an orgasm to a karmi (non-hare krishna person).

Alongside the beauty, a darkness grew, as immoral and unethical as any tax exempt institution gets to be in plain sight, at least here in the U.S.

Defiance was, and still is a powerful way to stand against the worst of it, and for something better. We see it in our current state of corporate leadership and political theatrics. Advocates are typically the defiant ones, those who stand up for something or someone, and against oppression, in whatever glorious manifestation it takes on.

Now, smattering an entire tube of toothpaste in the girls bathroom may not be comparable to a jedi defiantly refusing darth vader, or harry potter fighting against voldemort, but in that moment, at the age of 11, the toothpaste was my weapon and it was messy. It was a good enough weapon, and made a point. I was uncontrollable. Enough said.

That was one of many times I took a stand against the system, and it was a fun one!

The best part, my favorite memory of this, was standing in front of my rapid-spitting, finger-pointing ashram teacher and defiantly telling her I had no idea what happened, I didn’t do it, and it wasn’t my problem. I also added that I no longer wanted to be a Hare Krishna, and that I probably want to eat meat (honestly, I didn’t really want to, but to an 11 year old, it was the perfect way to fuck with her teacher). I also wanted to be called my karmi name. All in one act of weaponized toothpaste, not only did the toothpaste spill, my role of a trouble maker became much more than a role, it became an identity.

Smattering toothpaste everywhere was totally scary, because I knew I’d get in trouble, and it very fun because really until now, toothpaste was simply substitute vomit. This day, it was my paint. My heart beat fast, my knees were shaking the whole time - it was like I drank too much caffeine, you know that whacky feeling? I still remember it. It was the perfect adrenaline rush, a defining occurence in a moment of definane.

Defiance saved my life once.

Not long after the toothpaste incident, my mother and her guru tried to coralle me into being a good devotee (someone who worships and follows someone else, someone devoted to an ideology or belief system.) In my case, they thought marriage would cure my defiance.

Haha! If it weren’t a true story, it’d be hilarious assumption that marriage would have ever been what controls me.

That’s another story though.

For now, I’ll close with this, defiance, in its many variations: art, music, toothpaste smatterings or other such rebellious forms, is an invaluable skill, a worthy attribute in a character, a bold role to play, a valuable survival skill for circus monkeys and little girls fighting for their freedom.

Quicky: When you’re pushed against the wall, you have a choice: fight back or become part of the stagnant, stiff wall, integrating fully into the very institution that pushed you so hard, that the only way to deal was to become the wall. Sadly, this is too often what happens.

That would simply suck.

Be defiant.

Till next time.

Loneliness

The hole you feel inside your being, that dark strangely comforting place that has you believe you’re all alone and no one is here for you, and that you’re better off not being here, well that fucker is a liar. Let me tell you. One thing I’ve learned about loneliness is that it’s not anyone’s fault, it’s the black hole of beingness. It’s hard to get out of and you’ll never fill it up.

The anti-dote so to speak, is to do all the things you love, to laugh more, to hug more trees, and float down rivers, to star gaze and cloud watch, to smile at strangers and let their response soak into your bones because whether or not they smile back, you made a connection and they felt it, and that’s all that matters.

What I’ve come to believe, is that connection really is the anti-dote to the human ailment of loneliness. Connection to what you love, nature, someone you enjoy, an activity you want to pursue. It boils down to connection to something meaningful to you.

I don’t feel lonely often, but when I do, it’s always traceable to a deep sense of disconnect, that weirdly, quickly leads to a really fucked up sense of despair. Therefore it is imperative that I create, that I play, that I engage with positive people and do things I actually want to do.

Maybe you can relate to this, but I’ve noticed the disconnect can also appear when I’m too caught up in shit I don’t like doing, a life-plan that just isn’t fun anymore, a relationship that feels unsafe or that takes more than it gives.

I know too many people who think the hole of loneliness can be filled up with someone else’s love, ice cream, shoes, more money, bigger house, better car, and the list can go on. Sure, anything new feels like it’s filling something up, but I’ve personally learned is that it’s not actually filling up anything, it’s distracting me for a bit, allowing me to focus on something I enjoy, But as you know, ice-cream melts, it’s fucking temporary, alas, so is the enjoyment of it. Which brings us back to that shitty feeling we’re all trying to escape from.

My solution, and mine alone, is to take the focus off anything and anyone outside of myself, including god, unless god is a concept you’ve wholly digested ('I’ll explain that in another entry). If I write while I feel lonely and lost, like today, it helps me connect to myself, and that fucked up feeling slowly dissipates.

And once again, I feel connected to the only thing that ultimately matters, me.

Once I’ve reconnected, loneliness either dissipates or becomes something useful, rather than something I’m afraid of and trying to get rid of. I use it for something better than itself, guiding it and giving it purpose.

Now the black hole can’t destroy me.

In talking with my son over the christmas holiday, and hearing about his pain, I had this thought that pain simply needs a purpose, and can totally be put it to use. Too often, we lost in the pain, making it an identity rather than an experience.

I want to harness that shit into a solution, a business, a painting, a book, a kickass run, something better than itself.

Then go take a nap.

Loneliness might be telling us something is missing. It might be telling us something valuable. One thing I can guarantee, is that whatever it’s telling us, isn’t what we think. What if we feel into that aching black hole and get super curious. Loneliness has a voice and wants to tell us something.

My commitment: Listen for a bit. Just listen. Listen with the intent to hear something I’ve never heard before.

Loneliness isn’t here to hurt us. It’s definitely not meant to destroy us, but it can and will if it’s not harnessed.

I believe, it’s an alert system. A beacon. A guiding light towards something important. Or maybe it’s a pile of playdough ready to be made into something else.

I don’t really know what it is for anyone else. Only you know what it is for you. But definitely, absolutely don’t buy into the bullshit that it’s here to hurt you. In my experience ,that’s a misrepresentation of the message. Don’t fall for it.

I’m curious today about my own fowl mood. On top of a blustering headache, I feel a little lonely with a side of emptiness, despite the fact that my life is pretty awesome. I’m in a black hole. So I wrote this. Tomorrow I might read this and think holy-shit this is super dumb, but right now it’s helping me stay grounded while being curious about whatever fucking invitation this is for.

Shitty moods are really not that fun. Earlier today, I felt like I was swimming in a swamp of sadness, after holiday blues perhaps, but as soon as I started writing, it felt like all that energy and emotion was being harnessed into something better than itself. And I’ll be damned if this icky feeling fucks up my day.

My prescription for bad mood ala headache on top = Write till I can get out of bed. Get dressed at some point today. Hit the steam room. Smile at a stranger. Sing a song I know the lyrics too.

If I”m still lonely and feeling fowl after all this, I’ll write some more and maybe distract myself with a scoop of peppermint ice-cream.

Till next time.