Fragile

I’ve been feeling small the last few days. Fragile. Young. Sensitive. I want to be held, snuggled, tended. And I’m tired. And weepy. I’m fighting off a skin infection and I’ve had a busy couple months—that must be it. Why must I always search for a reasonable explanation for feeling under par? I’m disappointed to see how hard it still is for me to truly rest. Without anxiety or guilt. To mother myself, with warm blankets, food that strengthens, loving words. Apparently I still do not trust that my body knows what it’s doing and what it needs. That letting go of a week’s responsibilities will not make me into a lazy slob who will never do anything responsible ever again. I know it’s ridiculous. We all have ups and downs—in a month, in a week, in a day—but somehow those times of feeling small, sensitive and fragile still seem shameful, illegitimate (unless, of course, I can find a “legitimate reason” for them). Ok, in this culture we are addicted to productivity and strength–I know that. And we don’t respect our bodies, that’s true. Or mothers and mothering. Or our own cycles, or the cycles of nature. But something else is niggling at me. A memory from last week flashes into mind: during an intuitive painting retreat a little girl emerged from within me, eager to paint, full of play, tantrums and great love. In fact, she embarrassed me by tearfully telling everyone there how much she loved them, that they were beautiful. And she insisted on painting big bubblegum-pink hearts on the canvas, decorating them with paint and...

Putting It On

It’s Halloween! Are you dressing up? Even as a kid, the juiciest thing about Halloween for me was the costume. I’ve always loved costumes. Over the years I’ve donned them for skits and performances at church and school, for Halloween, and just for play. Every few years I ponder throwing a midwinter costume party. I love how costumes transform and surprise. When I put on a costume, suddenly my voice changes pitch and tempo, I stand and gesture in new ways, and my desires and attitudes shift too. (Try on sturdy cowboy boots and see if you don’t start lumbering along, bow-legged, and begin to drawl. Wrap a black boa around your neck, even over a t-shirt, and notice how your sense of yourself changes, how racy new ideas and fantasies pop into your head. And then adorn yourself with a pink one instead; any changes?) How freeing to let go of the confines of my usual self! How exhilarating, to act how I think I can’t or mustn’t. Or to allow a mysterious Other to emerge and come alive. Even “playing a type” can be fun relief from a tight self-concept. I guess costumes also tickle my creative funny bone. I like the challenge and playfulness of pulling together the ensemble, usually out of whatever I have on hand. I’ve always kept a “dress-up box,” even before we had kids, and still do though they’ve grown and gone. Donning a costume I’ve created and letting it expand me feels like writing a play in real time using my body and voice to generate the script. I especially love...

Fish Out of Water

Several days ago, on a cool rainy afternoon up on the north shore of Lake Superior I sat at a cabin table, enjoying the music of the surf and doodling idly. At one point I looked at my drawing in surprise. When my drawing or painting looks  like a person or animal, I assume it represents some hidden part of myself, so imagine my chagrin when I saw this in my notebook: It looked to me like an angry fish, probably a bottom feeder. I had intended to fill the entire page with doodles, but as soon as I saw this creature I gave up that idea. I was almost afraid to mess with him because he seemed so cranky.   Irritated at how we’ve been trashing the waters of the world perhaps? This guy’s arrival was particularly surprising because I was feeling good when I drew him. Maybe ironically I could only draw such a creature when I was feeling good. Now I try to talk with him, ask him what he wants or why he showed up, but he is intimidating to talk to. And he doesn’t want to talk to me. He won’t negotiate with me. He won’t be appeased because he doesn’t want to interact. He just wants to bully his way through to what he thinks he wants. It makes him look a bit crazed, don’t you think? Well, he certainly feels alive to me, with his anger and his stubbornness. I appreciate the intense energy of his unchecked, inflexible crankiness. I’m not sure he can be simply pushed away, denied, or changed by...

A Conference Of Voices

I’ve been working on creating a workshop but I’m stalled. I was excited about it in the beginning, but over time I’ve also been feeling increasing resistance and heaviness about it. Both the “go” signals and the “stop” signals seemed equally strong, so I knew it was time for a conference with the various parts of myself.  I would invite the personalities within me to speak in my journal so that I could discover any disagreements between their perspectives and try to negotiate some truce between them. So a few nights ago I began a dialog by writing “Who is excited about the workshop—and why?” Immediately an animated, confident voice (coming through my pen) enthused about the fun of discovery in the workshop and the many probable benefits to others and myself, stating all the reasons I began working on it in the first place. Then a thin, timid voice said I needed to finish the workshop because didn’t I commit to it,  it would be “weird” to back out, and it might make some people mad.   Sensing no other voices waiting to speak, I then asked who was not happy about the workshop and why. One voice seemed a bit overwhelmed by its scope. Another was testy, sensing she was losing the control she likes. While I was discussing this with her, an exasperated voice cut in “why can’t we ever do anything just for ourselves! Why do we always have to try so hard all the time? What if you forgot about getting stuff done, helping other people, doing all the right things, and just did...