Dear ones –
Welcome to the River of Uncertainty. At least, that’s the River I feel as though I’m traveling right now. A river that’s flowing and growing in ways I can’t seem to predict and that feel scary and worrisome.
The world around me/us seems to be crumbling into pieces. Children are sick and dying crossing the border and in concentration camps in the United States. The republican senators in my state (Oregon) have fled the state to avoid doing their jobs by voting on a climate bill. There has been more upheaval in my tradition of Unitarian Universalism.
And while I don’t want to look away from those things, I also notice that my own self is unsettled, disturbed, concerned, and in danger of feeling hopeless. For all my talk and study and use of discernment tools, I have felt dangerously close to despair.
Many emotions, thoughts, and behaviors surface in me when I am faced with a time like this. I find myself unable to work. I judge why I can’t work. I stare at blank screens. I search for a word to share and find that I’ve got nothing.
Nothing for you, my beloved.
One of my teacher/coaches and colleagues, Steve Mattus, from Actual Infinity, wrote the following in his love notes last week:
“When you notice something moving in you – perhaps it’s fear, anger, or uncertainty – remember that this too is a part of you, and it’s here to help you.
The natural inclination is to retreat away from these more uncomfortable emotions. However, what’s really happening is an invitation to come closer.”
What if what you notice is overwhelm?
What if what you notice is procrastination?
What if what you notice is “laziness”? (Julia Cameron reminds us that there are no “lazy artists, only blocked artists.”)
What if what you notice is anger and frustration?
What if what you notice is a sense of emptiness? Of loneliness?
I prefer to hide from these emotions and run away. I like to dive into the hole of my work and lose myself in attention-“deficit” hyperfocus when I can. To push through. To show myself and others that I have a “good work ethic.”
It’s all such bullshit.
Laziness does not exist, my friends. What Steve says above is absolutely true…all that you feel is an invitation to come closer, not to run away into judgments of your character or pushing through. Calling yourself lazy is just a judgment. It’s not a feeling. It’s the thought that you’re not worthy of care. It is a judgment that invites punishment.
What happens if we invite our senses of inadequacy, frustration, and judgment to come closer. What might they tell us?
An exercise that can be very effective, though also scary (and get the support you need if you need it), is to ASK one’s thoughts what they’re about.
Are they trying to protect you from something?
Are they concealing something?
Is there something utterly not work-related that you need to do before you can move forward?
Is this a work issue or a spiritual or relational issue?
What is called for?
Sometimes the answer is SO much simpler than we think. If we’re tangled up and stuck, maybe we just need to turn to something else for a bit. If we’re hungry or thirsty, for heaven’s sake, let us eat or drink. If we need a nap (and we’re one of those people who can nap) let us lie down for a while.
My wife says that if we all just treated ourselves like cherished toddlers we’d be so much better off. She’s right, right?!
Enough gentle, respectful touch.
Enough warmth and coolness.
Enough music and enough paint.
Learning how to name one’s feelings and figure out what to do with them.
If we’d just treat ourselves with the care and tenderness that toddlers need and deserve (and even, in some families, get), I think we’d be much better off.
But the only way we can do that, the only way we can get to “what does my toddler self need?” is by inviting the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings to come closer. Closer. Closer still. Listen close, close, close to what they are saying and why.
And then we need to use that skill that lucky, cherished, blessed toddlers ultimately grow to learn—we need to identify and name our feelings and act responsibly.
Perhaps, given these times, getting in touch with our own cherished toddlers will lead us to an outrage that can act on behalf of others.
Or perhaps our very own communities.
Perhaps the watersheds where we live.
Perhaps our very own toddlers. Not just our inner ones, but the ones we hold close to us, skin to skin, heart to heart.
I don’t yet know what my feelings of overwhelm, my behaviors of procrastination, or my judgments of “laziness” are telling me. But I’m listening.
I’m trying. And that’s all any of us can do until we know what is ours to do, know how it is that we are to act.
So tonight, as I write to you, my dear ones, I will move from here into asking my own self, my own toddlerself, my feelings and beliefs what they’re trying to do for me and how I can respond to them.
That’s what I’m going to do.
And it’s what I’ve got.
So much love, even in these times of uncertainty—
PS – If you’ve got a few bucks extra to rub together, you might consider donating them to RAICES. Their mission is to help separated families, detained families, unaccompanied minors, and others who are seeking asylum in the United States.
PPS – Remember that Making Hard Choices and Tarot for Discernment are coming up in August and September, and I’m happy to answer any questions you have about them. I’d really, really love to see you there. Does your toddlerself need some help? Making Hard Choices, in particular, may have some helpful tools to help.
PPPS — You can find Steve Mattus at Actual Infinity. He’s a great coach, compassionate human, and beautiful spirit. If you’re feeling stuck, as I was when I wrote this, he’s a great person to turn to!